Pen-y-ghent

Is Horton the 4th most popular place to start a hike in Britain? I’m not so sure.

Thursday 14 March, 2019, by Andy Kay

It’s the traditional start of the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge route and yes it gets very busy in the peak season, but is Horton-in-Ribblesdale really the fourth most popular place to start a walk in Britain?

As reported by the BBC this week, data from users of the Ordnance Survey app suggests just that. Using data from over 800, 000 routes Horton joined Edale (Peak District), Fairholmes (Peak District), Pen-y-Pass (Snowdonia), and Ambleside (Lake District) to make the top 5 most popular starting points. At face value that looks quite conclusive, but there are a couple of caveats.

Firstly, the data comes from users of the app. Whilst not exclusively, they are more likely to be from a certain demographic. To put it bluntly – the younger generation. So we are already missing a large section of the walking fraternity from the results, who are arguably more likely to be out walking.

Secondly,  it’s probable that this data doesn’t necessarily include start points for shorter walks. Would you get out your app to take a leisurely stroll up Malham Cove, for example? Perhaps you are the type that counts every inch as you work towards your daily 10,000 step goal, but I suspect most don’t. It’s far more likely that it’s those setting out on a longer, more challenging route that are going to hit the start button on their tracking app.

Perhaps a more suitable statement would be:

‘Horton is the 4th most popular start point for a certain demographic of user, taking on a typically longer route, and based on a limited data set from the Ordnance Survey app’

But then that’s not so punchy.

Panoramic shot oof the sun coming up over the Three Peaks

Sun hitting all of the peaks

With all that said, this is still a large enough dataset to be indicative of something that we are already aware of. The Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge is as popular (if not more so) than ever, with over an estimated 100,000 people walking the route each year. And this means large numbers of people descend on Horton most weekends, peaking in the summer months. Many of these taking part in large organised events.

Understandably this is leading to friction with some local residents. Noise early in the morning and late in the evening from  people starting out or coming back from the walk, cars parked on road verges, public urination, and even verbal abuse have all been reported in recent years.

NB: It’s worth pointing out at this point that the Three Peaks is also seen as providing a boost to the local economy, so it’s not all bad. 

Despite the issues with the results it only goes to backup what we already know from anecdotal and actual evidence. Horton is a very popular starting point and we are working with the community to manage the issues.

Recently we launched a Code of Conduct that was drawn up with people from the community. We have also created a guide for event organisers . We now need to get this to the people before they arrive.

Our next step is launching a new FREE notification scheme, open to all people wanting to come and take on the Three Peaks Challenge. Whether an individual or an organisation planning a larger walk we want to hear from them all. Anyone who registers will receive the useful information mentioned above and also discounts on our Three Peaks app (iOS and Android) and on Three Peaks merchandise.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andy Kay

2 Replies to “Is Horton the 4th most popular place to start a hike in Britain? I’m not so sure.”

  1. Tom says:

    What a miserable interpretation of data. I’m well aware that all data should be presented in context, however I don’t see you doing this in other areas. For example, your headlines in your public documents relating to visitors to the National Park don’t acknowledge that they’re based on surveys undertaken at a limited number of popular tourist spots in the park, and answered primarily by the type of people that are inclined to answer such surveys, and have the free time to be in the park on a Tuesday afternoon.

    Less catchy I guess.

  2. Andy Kay says:

    Thanks Tom. I wasn’t trying to be miserable about it, just trying to offer a more balanced view. It’s still worthy data and a large dataset (I hope I got that across). The way that it was reported was what I was questioning.

    You make a fair point about how we report our own data. Though I can’t comment on our processes for gathering it as that’s not within my remit.

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