Users of the Acorn Wensleydale Flyer rural bus have been sharing in a specially-commissioned film what it means to them that the lifeline service has been saved for at least another year.
The Dales Bus 856 service runs on a 40-mile route between Northallerton and Hawes on Sundays and Bank Holidays, but was threatened with closure due to lack of funding. Now Acorn Stairlifts has stepped in to sponsor the Flyer for the whole of 2017, securing its survival.
For one of its first outings this year, a video crew from Yorkshire-based Good Call Media joined regulars aboard the newly liveried Acorn Wensleydale Flyer to gauge their reaction to the good news.
“I don’t drive. I’ve got nobody to take me, so I rely on my bus pass,” said passenger Pamela Wood. “It means everything because otherwise I wouldn’t get anywhere. I’d stay in at home. I’m 77 so it’s no good staying in is it?”
Fellow passenger Helen Borrows told added: “We come up nearly every Sunday. It’s a ride out and we go for lunch and have a walk around. It’s ideal because if this bus wasn’t here we’d be stuck at Bedale.”
Another regular Wensleydale Flyer user, Sheila Simms, agreed saying: “I’m on my own and at weekends, on Sunday particularly it’s a day when you can be very isolated living on your own, and this bus is a lifeline to various people along this valley.”
Three-quarters of the people who use the year-round Wensleydale Flyer service are local residents, although it is also popular with visitors and walkers, especially in the summer. Another keen advocate is Sir Gary Verity, the man who brought the Tour de France to Yorkshire. In the video he tells presenter Nik Wood of the importance of rural transport networks in boosting local economies.
Speaking from his cottage close to the route, Sir Gary said: “Rural economies, and particularly upland rural economies like the Yorkshire Dales are pretty fragile economically and it wouldn’t take much for something to start to unravel it. The Wensleydale Flyer is the tread that pulls it all together and enables people who haven’t got access to a motor car to move around the Dale.”
Dales Bus, which runs the Wensleydale Flyer and other rural bus services, is a not-for-profit subsidiary of charity The Yorkshire Dales Society. Unfortunately fares alone do not cover the cost of these vital services, so Dales Bus continually seeks backing from other organisations, local authorities and community-minded businesses.
Late last year, with the Flyer’s funding due to run out and the service under threat, a crowdfunding website appeal raised more than £6,500, demonstrating the strength of local support. That money kept the Flyer running from October to Christmas and would have lasted until Easter, but thanks to Acorn Stairlifts’ intervention most of it can now be kept as a financial safety net for the future.
It was an Acorn employee, herself a public transport user, who persuaded the firm to step in and sponsor the Flyer, initially for the whole of 2017. In the video Acorn’s marketing manager Simon Webster draws a parallel between the company’s primary objective of helping people get up and down their stairs and its support for the Wensleydale Flyer helping people get out and about.
“The removal of this service would have left a lot of people isolated and perhaps stranded and our whole company ethos is that’s what we try and avoid,” he said. “Although Acorn Stairlifts is the world’s largest manufacturer of stairlifts, we have to remember where we came from – the Yorkshire heritage – and we’ve always had the desire to put something back into the community.”
To see the full video for yourself, click here or search for “Wensleydale Flyer” on YouTube.