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Wednesday, 19 September, 2001, 11:10 GMT 12:10 UK
Ramblers return to the moors
Walkers will be disinfected before taking to the moor
Ramblers are being allowed back into an area of moorland seven months after they were banned because of foot-and-mouth disease.

Walkers had been barred from the North York Moors since the outbreak began in February.

The restrictions led to the loss of thousands of visitors.

Now ramblers are being coaxed back through a series of guided walks.

Mike Pratt, from the North York Moors park authority, said visitors would be subject to a strict disinfecting regime.

Sheep at a farm in Penrith
Sheep are being tested for the disease
He said: "The walks are specifically designed to get people back on to the moor without the risk of spreading foot-and-mouth.

"There is new confidence the disease is being beaten although we will not know for sure until all the sheep have been tested.

"We have worked with the Department of the Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the walkers will be accompanied by guides and kept away from any areas where sheep may be."

The first walk is being held around Hutton-le-Hole near Kirbymoorside.

The rambles are being held every Sunday and Wednesday and each group will be accompanied by a park ranger.

Business affected

Mr Pratt added: "We are trying to get things back to normal.

"The restrictions have meant we have lost thousands of visitors this year and that has an effect on businesses.

"On a good day we could expect up to 400 visitors and that has been reduced to nothing this year."

Disease in the UK
Total cases: 2,023
Slaughtered: 3,876,000
Awaiting slaughter: 5,000
Awaiting disposal: 3,000
The first cases of foot-and-mouth disease were recorded in the park in July.

A spokeswoman for Defra said: "We are delighted that walkers are coming back to the North York Moors.

"We are still working to eradicate foot-and-mouth disease from the country."

Foot-and-mouth restrictions have now been eased on almost 7,000 farms in the north of England.

The "blue box" of strict restrictions were lifted on 1,561 farms around the Thirsk area of North Yorkshire.

Autumn restrictions

And the so-called North England Infected Area restrictions have been lifted at 5,429 farms in Cheshire, Blackburn, Darwen, Bolton Bury, Salford, St Helens, Trafford, Warrington and Wigan.

Those areas have now been reclassified as "at risk", rather than "high risk" - which means farmers will be allowed to move more livestock under the autumn movement restrictions.

The "blue box" restrictions were put in place around the Thirsk area six weeks ago, after a cluster of the disease stubbornly refused to go away.

However two new cases of the disease have been reported on farms near Hexham, Northumberland, taking the total in the latest outbreak to affect the area to 28.

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