Craven Herald - DalesLife, 18 July 2019
Book marks 50 years of the Dales Way walk
A walk which attracts thousands of people each year and which brings welcome tourism to the district celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.
The Dales Way covers 80 miles from Ilkley to Windermere.
The occasion is a celebration of those who had the vision to create it for all to enjoy.
THIS year it is 50 years since the creation of the Dales Way, the wonderful long distance trail that starts in Ilkley and follows the rivers Wharfe, Dee and Lune all the way to lake Windermere.
The Dales Way Association has produced a limited edition commemorative booklet ’50 Years of The Dales Way,’ to celebrate the anniversary year. With chapters on the history, the people and the path it is a fascinating account of a trail that grew out of the fight for rights of way in the 1950s and 60s to become one of the UK’s best loved walks. Around 4,000 people from all over the world set off from Ilkley each year.
In her foreword to the book Kate Ashbrook, chairman of Rambler GB said: “The Dales Way takes us across splendid but less-known countryside. It brings the national parks to people’s doorsteps.
“It is no coincidence that in 2019 we celebrate both the 70th anniversary of the National Pars and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 and the 50th anniversary of the Dales Way, because the two are very much connected.
“The 1949 Act legislated not only for the national parks of England and Wales, but also for definitive maps and public paths. In the immediate aftermath of the Act, walkers and riders worked tirelessly to claim paths, to ensure they were recorded and this protected for ever.
“The Ramblers in the West Riding of Yorkshire set a fine example. It was no mean feat to gather details of routes and their usage, in days when there was little private transport available to reach remote spots.
“The Dales Way was born from this effort.”
Ms Ashbrook says once paths had been recorded in the 1950s and ‘60s, local volunteers wanted to create riverside routes.
Much of what became the 80-mile Dales Way already existed, but ramblers had to lobby for the creation of additional linking routes to make it continuous.
One of the people responsible for the creation of the route all those years ago was Colin Speakman.
He said: “Long distance walking dates back to ancient times as people travelled and traded, as pilgrims journeyed and armies marched.
“Walking for pleasure, however, is only a recent phenomenon, made popular by the Romantic poets who saw walking as a way to connect with the natural world.
“In 1968 the Countryside Act gave local authorities new powers to create public access to riversides and we in the West Riding area of the Ramblers’ Association saw it as a heaven-sent opportunity to create a new route.
“After some discussion with senior planning officers of the old West Riding County Council it was agreed that our priority would be to follow the River Wharfe. But a walk from Ilkley to the source of the Wharfe on Cam Fell would end in the middle of nowhere.”
The group eventually came up with a plan of extending the walk to include the Rivers Dee and Lune, and end the walk at England’s biggest lake, Windermere.
“It would be a wonderful walk. Inspired by Tom Stephenson’s iconic Pennine Way, we would call it the Dales Way which would provide a magnificent traverse of the Yorkshire Dales,” added Mr Speakman.
“I would be different from the rugged Pennine Way, with plenty of places to stay and refreshment in B&Bs, pubs and cafes.
“By encouraging people to walk the Dales Way we hoped to create awareness of the remarkable heritage of Definitive Rights of Way, newly established and available for everyone to enjoy, as well as our recently designated national parks.”
On Saturday, August 3, Mr Speakman will lead a walk along the first section. Walkers are invited to meet at Ilkley Old Bridge at 10am to walk six miles to Bolton Abbey, returning by bus to the Manor House in Ilkley where at 3pm Ilkley MP John Grogan will open an exhibition celebrating 50 Years of the Dales Way.
The exhibition contains information about the history, the people and the path itself and will run for the whole of August, free to enter and open at weekends.
Details of the limited edition book marking the anniversary, the walk and the exhibition are on the Dales Way Association website at www.dalesway.org
Copies, made possible through the national park’s Sustainable Development Fund grant, are available from www.skyware.co.uk for £4.99 post free. Proceeds will go towards the upkeep of the paths.
Walkers taking part should dress appropriately for the weather and wear walking boots or strong shoes.