FIFTY years-ago providing for caravans and tents in the Yorkshire Dales was a hot potato as the Yorkshire Dales National Park struggled to reconcile the demands of townies wanting to camp in the "park" and the farmers equally keen to protect their land and animals. Clive White visits how the story was reported in the paper in September 1966.

AFTER a farmer claimed that on one sunny weekend day in September 1966 he counted 400 cars parked on his land, presumably acting like lemmings - where one car can go other must follow - it sparked a debate about how the authorities were going to "police" the problem and create a compromise between the demands of the public to have access to the Yorkshire Dales and to the needs of land owners and farmers for which the countryside was their livelihood.

The Craven Herald had recently reported on a spat between campers following a letter in the paper signed "disgusted camper" who complained campers and caravanners had dumped old bedding, tin cans and other rubbish beside a footpath near Stainforth Force.

Subsequent correspondence highlighted farmers' complaints about visitors leaving gates open, dropping litter, removing stones stones from walls to lob into the river and for "pinching" the stone to enhance their rockeries.

Later in the summer, the row reached its zenith over the forced removal of a caravan - chalet - from a field next to the Tennant Arms at Kilnsey - it had stood there for 50 years - prompting accusations the Yorkshire Dales National Park was undermining our inherent democratic rights and freedoms.

Supporters of the caravan, almost all the village, welcomed the appearance of a sign in the nearby field - the author a mystery - which read "Here lies democracy buried side by side with Freedom."

At the time the paper had been reporting calls for the YDNP to set up car park and picnic facilities in Deepdale near Buckden.

The aim was to build a car park for 20 vehicles between Yockenthwaite and a point 1,300 yards west of Deepdale bridge described as one of the one of the most superb stretches of Upper Wharfedale.

Many local people were opposed. They feared a tarmac car park would be a desecration of the landscape. It would clash with the countryside and would be used for only short periods during the year. And, anyway, a car park for just 20 cars would not solve the problem when up to 130 vehicles could be counted in the area at any one time.

The newspaper was in the compromise camp. It had been reporting on the startling rise each year in the number of visitors to Upper Wharfedale describing the influx as resembling a small army and like an army in retreat leaving behind damage and detritus. "Farmers are having to put up with visitors' ignorance" the Editor claimed in a leader.

Seemingly, many people at that time actually thought the national park was a "park", a public pleasure ground similar to the local authority park round the corner from their homes in Leeds and Bradford.

Many treated it as such and landed-up where ever they wished, yes, settling down in any field that caught their eye. Out came the picnic gear and the cricket bat and football and four or five hours later they disembarked, assuming the park keeper would clean up after them.

Some people, it is now incredible to believe, thought the they could put up their tent or lodge their caravan and make a few days of it, assuming every field barn was a sanctuary from the bad weather and regarded any landlord or farmer who protested as someone who was offending their right to use the "park" as they wished.

It had to be stressed to people that the National Park was neither a park in the sense of a local authority park nor a tract of wild country set aside exclusively for their enjoyment.

The paper may have broadly sided with the farmers but compromises had to be found or the situation would only get worse, the Editor argued.

He wrote:"We wonder if enough has been done for the visitors who spend more than a day in the park. Are there in fact enough properly organised sites where tents can be pitched and where caravans can come to rest?

"Visitors are sometimes at their wits end to find a suitable place where they can settle overnight. Families who dispair of finding a space on a site are apt to bring their vans to rest or pitch a tent in unauthorised places. And here, on open commons, in little used lanes just inside high pastures or even in lay-bys, there is no proper supervision on cleanliness or pollution of the countryside.

"More caravan and camping site are essential in the Dales area which will soon be taking a bigger overspill of visitors from the Lake District.

And he was correct. Since then there has been a plethora of camp sites springing up throughout Upper Wharfedale and a car journey along the high road from Kettlewell gives a vivid view of sites along the valley bottom near to the river..

In places like Appletreewick, the population of the hamlet throughout July and August especially, explodes.

The positive side of course is the economic boom these visitors - not just campers - but walkers and cyclists bring to the Dales.