An innovative project that provides an opportunity to put family fun into exercise is in line for a major expansion in the months ahead with plans to extend it to assist communities worst affected by coronavirus in North Yorkshire.
Discoveries on Your Doorstep has been operating in Scarborough and Selby successfully, having grown out of a scheme, funded by Public Health and working with partners, to encourage people to use public rights of way.
The scheme encourages people to make the most of the outdoors in their local area by offering a series of planned walking routes, which take in heritage, cultural and natural landmarks.
They range from castles to canal towpaths, but all offer a fascinating glimpse at parts of communities residents might otherwise overlook.
A partnership between the County Council and the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust is expected to see that idea replicated at many more locations in the months ahead and the intention is to target schemes at communities most affected by coronavirus.
One scheme, featuring wetlands walks, is due to launch soon in Ripon and has involved Yorkshire Wildlife Trust, with the focus on nature rather than the heritage theme of the two existing options.
A co-ordinator, Josh Wood, has been appointed and will be in place for the next 15 months to help oversee the development of new Discoveries on Your Doorstep trails over that period.
In Scarborough and Selby, the routes, designed to cover a variety of distances and categorised for their suitability for different users, have been put together with help from a range of sources. It is expected various organisations will be involved in future schemes to make each project as successful as possible.
Josh said one objective was to provide opportunities for families to enjoy each other’s company outdoors, while getting exercise as a secondary benefit.
He said research suggested that for some people “motivation for wanting to be outside and exercising was driven by discovering the local area, rather than wanting to be outdoors for health.”
Since the coronavirus pandemic struck, data has been compiled which suggests some communities are more affected than others by a lack of physical activity. “We think it is most appropriate to target the communities which have missed out most,” he said.
That could include areas with large numbers of children, who have missed PE lessons and the chance to burn off energy at school play times, those with long-term health conditions and the elderly, who may have seen many of their traditional activities ended because of lockdown restrictions.
“We want to be creative in the way we promote these projects,” said Josh.
The aim is to move away from exercise as the principle benefit, but instead to “leave people with fond memories of being outdoors while exercising and being active without that being the main reason for being outdoors.”
Cllr Caroline Dickinson, Executive Member for Public Health, said: “Discoveries on Your Doorstep has been a great success in both Scarborough and Selby and it is wonderful that the idea will now be repeated elsewhere.
“The trails offer people the opportunity to go out and get some exercise while learning something new about the neighbourhood where they live.”
Details of the Scarborough Trails and Selby Trails schemes are already available online and research suggests they have been highly popular, with measures of footfall showing spectacular increases on some routes after the Discoveries on Your Doorstep routes were devised and promoted.