TIMES are hard – and everyone is feeling the pinch.

Public services have seen their budgets slashed by 40 per cent during the past five years and more severe cuts are forecast.

It is no wonder people are concerned, with many fearing rural communities will be particularly hard hit.

There is no doubt there are difficult challenges ahead.

And, with that in mind, more than 70 people took part in a protest walk at Ribblehead on Saturday, which had been jointly organised by pressure group 38 Degrees and the Campaign for National Parks (CNP).

The two groups wanted to highlight their Stop the Cuts campaign, which calls on the Government to stop slashing national park funding and to make enough money available to conserve the country's iconic landscapes for future generations.

The CNP claims cuts have already led to more than 225 job losses and have had huge impacts on national park services, including reduced work on footpaths, climate change, flood defence and conservation.

It is a shame because the UK's national parks – described as the soul of Britain by Environment Minister Rory Stewart – welcome 90 million visitors each year, who are keen to escape city life and enjoy glorious countryside with uninterrupted views, rare wildlife and cultural heritage.

Tourism is vitally important to the country's economy. Since 2010, it has been the fastest growing sector in the UK in employment terms, and it is estimated by 2025, the tourism industry will be worth more than £257 billion.

And let's not forget the national parks are living landscapes, too. The Yorkshire Dales, alone, is home to 20,000 people, as well as a thriving business community.

As CNP chief executive, Fiona Howie, says, national parks should be supported so they can deliver important environmental, social, economic and cultural benefits to the nation.