ONE OF the most picturesque areas of North Wales saves the National Health Service more than £700,000 a year, according to a survey.

NEF Consultants were commissioned to carry out a study of the economic, social and environmental impacts of the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB) which attracts growing numbers of visitors each year.

Within the area there are six key visitors sites – Chirk aqueduct and viaduct, Loggerheads Country Park, Moel Famau Country Park, Panorama, near Llangollen, Pontcysyllte aqueduct and Trevor Basin, and the Horseshoe Falls and Llantysilio Green.

The six sites combined produced an estimated £24.1 million in direct expenditure by visitors in 2018, about 19 per cent of all tourist expenditure in rural Denbighshire.

Almost 92 per cent of those questioned agreed that living in or near the AONB was good for life in the community, helping people to relax.

Many visitors commented on how well-maintained the sites were compared with other areas they had visited, but local users and site managers voiced some concerns about litter, including dog waste, erosion and damage to vegetation, the cost of maintaining paths, and attacks on livestock.

An estimated 1.3 million visited the area each year, the majority being day-trippers, though those visiting the World Heritage Site at Froncysyllte tended to stay overnight.

The vast majority come to the area to enjoy “non-commercialised activities” and for walking, with daily expenditure put at £13.34.

The consultants were able to place a monetary value on the health benefits derived from visiting the area, as 86 per cent said they had done some walking during their visit.

“Like other forms of exercise, walking has a number of important health benefits, including the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and type-2 diabetes,” says the report.

“By estimating the extent to which these two categories of risk are reduced, and using the typical cost of treating such health conditions, it is possible to put an approximate monetary value on the health benefits associated with walking while visiting the AONB.

“Our analysis suggests that during their time in the AONB most people’s physical activity amounts to the equivalent of one week of exercise, according to government guidelines.

“Therefore, we can estimated that visits to the AONB could lead to £733,000 in reduced health expenditure per year, made up of approximately £23,000 from reduced incidence of CVD and £708,000 from reduced incidence of type-2 diabetes.”