Volunteers needed for new hashtag project to help with parking problems in the Shropshire Hills

Volunteers are needed to get a new hashtag parking scheme off the ground in Shropshire.

The Shropshire Hills with Church Stretton in the distance
The Shropshire Hills with Church Stretton in the distance

After a heavy influx of visitors last year, the Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Partnership wanted to help get news out to potential arrivals in the area.

A new hashtag #ParkShropshireHills will be used by teams managing various well-known sites to give up-to-date reports on the parking situation.

This will hopefully inform incoming visitors of when sites are at capacity so they can make alternative choices and spread the load across the region.

Now, bosses are hoping people who live near popular sites will spare some time on busy days to monitor the car parks and inform the AONB.

Nigel McDonald, sustainable tourism officer at Shropshire Hills AONB Partnership, said the idea came about from discussions with the town and county council, the National Trust, Natural England and Shropshire Wildlife Trust.

"It's a pilot – I'm not sure of anywhere else that has tried to do this," he said. "The idea was developed as a reflection of the pressures we felt last year that were unexpected and we were unprepared for.

The Stiperstones

"We know from visitor surveys that day visitors don't spend too much time researching where they are going. So the information we put out on websites for visitors is not necessarily seen, but they are on social media.

"So we wanted to imagine visitors sitting on the M54 and it might be quite busy. A passenger is looking through Twitter and there is a picture of Carding Mill Valley, it's really busy but there is a message from us with alternative car parks or places to visit. It's just a way of trying to move people more easily and prepare them for the situation when they get here instead of sitting in traffic."

Last summer, beauty spots like the Shropshire Hills became popular as the coronavirus pandemic meant more people were exploring their local areas and getting outside.

Mr McDonald said the influx on sunny days last year was hard on local communities and they want to make sure everybody gets a good deal when they visit sites.

"Places like Carding Mill Valley, the car park is running at a reduced capacity and can't let as many people in as normal," he explained.

"We have been working with local landowners to set up a pop-up car park for overspill visitors which has worked well and we also have a shuttle bus that runs.

"The National Trust staff manage car parks wherever they can but they don't have officers for every place, the same with The Shropshire Wildlife Trust. So we discussed the possibility of trying to enlist some local people to report on the situation on the ground on these busy days.

"It would not take a huge amount of time but those who live locally could time it to coincide with their daily dog walk or walk to the shops. They can report the situation then we can get it out onto social media."

Mr McDonald said there was so much to see in the Shropshire Hills, not just the popular places, and there are 802 square kilometres of land to explore.

Some of the areas needing volunteer monitors are Earls Hill, Stapeley Common, Clee Hill, Mortimer Forest and The Wrekin. Contact Nigel.McDonald@shropshire.gov.uk to volunteer.

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