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We have had two major cycling boosts recently that have firmly put our area on the two-wheel map!
Firstly, we are very proud that Yorkshire has become the first place in the country to receive official recognition as a UCI Bike Region. This accolade has only been awarded to eight regions across the world since it was re-launched in 2015 by the Union Cycliste Internationale - cycling's world governing body.
The UCI grants the status to locations that demonstrate an outstanding commitment to growing and promoting cycling, as well as hosting major events. Yorkshire was under the spotlight of the world when it hosted the Grand Depart of the 2014 Tour de France and has since gone on to popularise the Tours de Yorkshire. In 2019, the county will see the UCI Road World Championships, with 12 races taking part over nine days, and 75 countries set to compete.
Then, very close to home, we have heard that nearby Richmond has been announced as a host venue for next year's Tour de Yorkshire. The historic market town will be either a start or finishing destination for one stage of the event which will run from 3-6 May 2018. Full details, including the exact route, will be revealed in December but there is no doubt that it will bring many people to the area for a cycling extravaganza.
We have the most amazing cycle routes here in the Yorkshire Dales and many of our guests choose to avail themselves of the extensive network of quiet country roads or follow the many multi-terrain routes available. Bikes can be hired locally but we also have secure outside storage areas for those who want to bring their own wheels.
The Yorkshire Dales provides an abundance of rich and wonderful wildlife habitats and we are lucky to have a wide variety of animals and birds on our doorstep.
Amongst the smallest of our residents is the hazel doormouse (think Alice in Wonderland!), which is also one of the country's most endangered mammals. A report by the People's Trust for Endangered Species published last year found numbers of doormice had fallen by almost 40%, nationally, since 2000 due to the widespread loss of woodland and hedgerows, and fragmented habitats.
The dormice were reintroduced into this area in 2008 and 2016 and have become established in two hazel woodland areas in neighbouring Wensleydale.We are delighted to learn that a project to link the two sites has just received £123,000 of funding, which will enable the planting of more than 1,700 metres of hedgerow to provide dormouse-friendly corridors so that populations can spread out.
The work at Freeholders Wood near Aysgarth and a woodland site nearby will take place over the next three years and will be funded by grants of £75,000 from the People's Trust for Endangered Species and £48,000 from the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust.
Dormice are usually found in hedgerows and woods, where they weave ball-like nests over the summer before hibernating at ground level between October and May.