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Dales Way by Colin Speakman. REVIEWS

WALK - magazine of the Ramblers, winter 2013

Dales Way

Price: £11.99
Author: Colin Speakman
ISBN number: 978 0 95599877 5

Remarkably this is now the 11th edition of Colin Speakman’s original guide to one of northern England’s most attractive and enduringly popular trails. From Ilkley to Bowness-on-Windermere, the 80-mile Dales Way traces the length of Wharfedale and Dentdale and fully refreshed this guidebook is peppered with colour photos, excellent maps and an interesting and reliable text. Colin founded the Dales Way in the late 1960s and with new links to Leeds, Harrogate and Bradford the trail is better than ever.

- See the Ramblers website here.

Yorkshire Post, Saturday February 26 2011 

A colourful way to follow in the steps of a Dales' classic

The original guidebook to one of Britain's most popular long-distance walks is being republished. Roger Ratcliffe obtained an advance copy.

Colin Speakman's Dales Way reviewed in the Yorkshire Post, 26 Feb. 2011The art of walking books has come a long way in the last decade. 

My own guide to the Yorkshire Wolds Way, first published in 1982, was a pretty plain affair compared with the updated modern edition with its superior maps, photos and vignettes of special route features. 

And now one of the best of the entire walking guide genre, The Dales Way, has metamorphosed into a colourful handbook. 

Today's walkers demand less of a continuous narrative to a footpath, with precise stile-by-stile directions. Instead, they prefer a guide with information and graphics that leap off the page. They want something that not only helps them find a faint path over a barren hillside but also a book they can enjoy reading at home before setting off or while soaking in a bath at the b & b after a long day's hike. 

Colin Speakman's first crack at writing a guide to the 78-mile long-distance walk, from Ilkley in Wharfedale to Bowness-on-Windermere, resulted in one of the old-style books when published by The Dalesman in 1970. 

Printing costs then were high, and profit margins small. Full-colour maps were out of the question and attractive page designs would have made the book a luxury item which people would have been loath to take out in the mud and rain. 

The exception to this, of course, was the series of pictorial guides produced by Alfred Wainwright, but lesser mortals had their walking guides typeset commercially and printed as slabs of text broken up with the odd black and white photograph. 

However, the desktop publishing technology which first appeared in the late 1980s has changed all that, making it both technically and economically possible to produce beautiful books. 

And Colin Speakman's new Dales Way guidebook certainly fits that description. Maps, photos and sketches abound, with very few of its 112 pages looking identical. 

The original Dalesman book went through nine different editions, mainly to update minor route changes, but the style of the book hardly changed. 

The last one appeared on 2002, and since then the publishers had made it clear they were unlikely to bring out a new edition. 

The Dales Way makeover is the work of new Yorkshire walking guide publishers Skyware, run from Saltaire by the husband-and-wife team of Tony and Chris Grogan, but the book is very firmly rooted in Colin's original. 

Cleverly, the route is described both in the text and in map annotations, reducing the chances of walkers wandering off the path. 

And there are pen portraits of towns and villages and small articles on historical features encountered along the way. A nice touch is the reproduction of the route-at-a-glance graphic from the original 1970 edition. 

Since few people know more about the Dales than Colin, being the author of 50 walking books on the area and current chairman of the Yorkshire Dales Society, it is hard to imagine a more informed guidebook to the walk. 

He was also, of course, the route's principal creator - one of a small and illustrious group who will always be associated with a long-distance path. Wainwright (the Coast to Coast) and Tom Stephenson (the Pennine Way) are fellow members. 

In 1968, the Countryside Act gave local councils new powers to create public access on riversides, and Colin, then a leading figure in the West Riding Area of the Ramblers Association, and fellow walker Tom Wilcock, had the idea for a route that would follow the River Wharfe from Ilkley right up to its source on Cam Fell. 

But the boggy wastelands high on the east-west watershed seemed like an anti-climax to such a fine walk. 

So it was decided to continue the route down into Dentdale and, having got as far as Sedbergh, take it further west to a dramatic conclusion on the shore of Windermere. 

There was a pioneering walk of the basic route by some venture scouts from Bradford Grammar School in 1969, after which Colin and his wife, Fleur, did the first detailed survey of the footpath that tens of thousands of walkers know today. 

That summer, still lacking official blessing form the Government's Countryside Commission and with 10 per cent of the route not on existing rights of way, the Ramblers Association nevertheless launched the Dales Way with a public walk between Ilkley and Bolton Abbey. 

Urgent amendments soon became obvious, particularly on the first leg of the route between Addingham and Bolton Bridge, where a field path was negotiated to take walkers off a busy stretch of the B6160. 

Later, another stretch of tarmac was bypassed with the creation of a new section in Dentdale, and there are hopes that yet one more minor amendment will be made there by offering walkers an alternative route along the new Pennine Bridleway. 

Extensions have also been added to it, notably from Woodhouse Moor, in Leeds, and another from Bradford. 

In his introduction to the new edition, Colin writes: "Unique among UK long-distance paths, it leads from the centre of two major cities into two national parks, by continuous waymarked footpath." The Dales Way is, he says, truly "The People's Path".

  • Dales Way by Colin Speakman is published on March 1 by Skyware, £9.99. It is available at bookshops or can be purchased post free from www.skyware.co.uk 
  • Roger Ratcliffe is author of the Yorkshire Wolds Way published by Aurum Press, £12.99.

See The Yorkshire Post website here.

Bradford T&A, Saturday 5 March 2011

Striding out stylishly

Colin Speakman - Dales Way 
(Skyware Ltd. £9.99)
Emma Clayton.

In 1970, Colin Speakman wrote the first guide to the Dales Way. 

More than 40 years later, his original book is in its tenth incarnation. 

This beautifully-written publication has a new look. 

Illustrated with more than 40 colour photographs to match Speakman's compelling, affectionate narrative, it features, for the first time, detailed colour strip maps of the entire route. 

Other new features include a brief history of "the People's Path", an alternative route between Cam Fell and Upper Dentdale, and detailed descriptions of the three link routes from Bradford, Harrogate and Leeds. 

* Colin Speakman will be signing copies of the book when it is launched at the Riverside Hotel, Ilkley, on Wednesday, March 30. 

See the Bradford T&A website here.

Ilkley Gazette & Observer, Thursday, 10 March 2011

Revisiting scenic Dales route after four decades of change

Amanda Greaves talks to the man who formed the 'People's Path' and finds out why he's back on the trail he first walked in 1968.

Over the course of 40 years, the Dales Way has gone from a little-known route marked on a map to being one of the major draws to some of Yorkshire’s finest landscape.

Where isolated communities were once seldom visited by hikers, there is now a rural economy thriving on the many long-distance walkers and visitors brought in by the footpath’s fame.

Decades after he first trod the Way, Ilkley man Colin Speakman has paid a fresh visit to the walking route he immortalised in print, with the tenth edition of his guide book to the Dales Way.

The Ilkley to Windermere route of around 80 miles is extended to major centres of population in Leeds, Bradford and Harrogate, by means of link routes.

Yorkshire Dales Society chairman, Mr Speakman, 69, was keen to include all link routes to the walk, an alternative route to a section of the Way, and a brief history of the “People’s Path” in the latest edition of his book.

Coincidentally, in keeping with today’s Big Society aims, the Dales Way was conceived and promoted primarily by individuals and ramblers’ groups. The help of local authorities and the two major National Parks authorities came later. “Feet form paths, not planners,” said Mr Speakman.

The seeds of the new path were sown when the 1968 Countryside Act gave local authorities the chance to give access to riverside paths.

Mr Speakman, and West Riding Ramblers colleague Tom Wilcock, chose the River Wharfe for the creation of a new riverside walking route.

But when they got to the upper reaches of the Wharfe, they found there was no natural conclusion to the route – and decided to take it further.

They continued their work over the Ribblehead watershed into neighbouring valleys, and eventually decided the most logical end to the walk lay at Bowness-on-Windermere, on the shores of England’s largest natural lake.

There had been formal plans by the authorities to create a Pennine path around this time, but those behind this initiative instead waited to see how the Dales Way would turn out.

Unlike the more hilly long-distance walking routes, the Dales Way is regarded as less strenuous.

Mr Speakman and his wife, Fleur, set out to survey the entire route for the first time in 1968.

Tourist accommodation and information was decidedly scarce in those days, as the couple found in one village they stopped at.

Mr Speakman said: “We had to go to the police station, and the policeman said ‘I think Mrs Robinson takes people in’. At one time, there were hardly any places to stay.”

Today, he says, walkers can expect a warm welcome with many places to stay along the route, plus the benefits of better footpaths with signs pointing the way, thanks to local authorities and national parks.

The rural landscape and economy has also changed over the years since the Dales Way was born.

The growth of unnatural forests were a concern in the early days, says Mr Speakman, but these have been felled, and a lot more native trees have since been planted, making a more leafy landscape for walkers.

Mr Speakman’s first guide to the walk, The Dales Way – Ilkley to Windermere by Riverside Path, was first published in 1970.

A group of Bradford Grammar School Venture Scouts were guinea pigs for the new walking route in a rain-soaked April 1969, a month before the walk was officially launched. Some of the Scouts will be reunited with Mr Speakman later this month for the launch of the book’s tenth edition.

See the Ilkley Gazette & Observer website

Craven Herald, Thursday 24 March 2011

Author retraces his Dales route

The founder of a Yorkshire walk route has updated a guide book he wrote more than 40 years ago. The tenth edition of Dales Way - the 78 mile route between Ilkley and Bowness-on-Windermere - by Colin Speakman (pictured) is being published this month. The edition features colour maps and photographs, with additions including an alternative route between Cam Fell and Upper Dentdale, and a history of the People's Path. The Dales Way - the Complete Guide, published by Skyware, of Saltaire, is priced at £9.99.

See the Craven Herald website

West Riding Rambler No. 125, April 2011

"Dales Way The Complete Guide" Now Revised

By Keith Wadd.

The revised edition of Colin Speakman's Complete Guide has just been published, and what a charming book it is. As a guide it is excellent. There is a clear and detailed description of the entire route, and the accompanying full colour strip maps could not be bettered. Furthermore, the description and maps extend to the link routes from Leeds, Bradford and Harrogate. But it is so much more than a walking guide. For a start it is written by Colin who knows the route intimately, and cherishes every inch of it. Next, it is a mine of information, because you learn from the book so much about the places that the Dales Way visits - a brief history of Ilkley, lead-mining in Upper Wharfedale, "The Dales Rail Story", "Dent and its terrible knitters", and many more. The book also refers in more than one place to the contribution of West Riding Area of the Ramblers' Association. Present members and officers of the Area have inherited a great tradition of work for walkers.

The book is beautifully produced by Skyware Press of Saltaire with 47 stunning photographs in full colour, and lots more in black and white. The book is handily sized for going in the pocket of Dales Way walkers, and is on durable paper. It is also an enjoyable read for those who, nostalgically or not, want to spend some pleasant recumbent hours doing the Dales Way in the mind. It is really good value at £9.99, and can be ordered on line at www.skyware.co.uk or by post from Skyware, 48 Albert Avenue, Saltaire BD18 4NT.

See the West Riding Ramblers website

Walk - magazine of the Ramblers, Summer 2011

"Dales Way: the Complete Guide"

Colin Speakman,
£9.99, Skyware, ISBN 978 0955998720

It's more than 40 years since Tom Wilcock and Colin Speakman (interviewed on p77) of West Riding Ramblers began to plot a 125km/78-mile walking route from Ilkley in the Yorkshire Dales to Bowness on Windermere in the Lake District. It became the Dales Way, and Colin Speakman's original guidebook has now been updated. Combining text, photos and the same style of strip maps, it lovingly describes one of our most popular long-distance footpaths.

See the Walk Magazine.

Westmorland Gazette, 17th May 2011

Review: Dales Way, by Colin Speakman

THE DALES WAY - THE COMPLETE GUIDE: Colin Speakman, £9.99.

AS A Yorkshireman now living in Kendal, this book really captured my imagination.

Speakman’s guide is packed with fantastic images of the Dales Way, which begins at Ilkley, near Bradford and Leeds, and ends at Bowness-on-Windermere.

The maps are also ridiculously easy to understand – so much so that I reckon a three-year-old could quite easily follow them.

And if history floats your boat, there is plenty of information to sink your teeth into about the many landmarks on the walk.

Speakman is not wrong with the title of this book – it really is a ‘complete’ guide.

See the Westmorland Gazette

The Dalesman, June 2011

Dales Way by Colin Speakman

£9.99. Published by Skyware. ISBN 9780955998720

If, like me, you still carry about an old Dalesman version of this publication on the Dales Way then it's time you updated to this latest guide. The 78-mile route from Ilkley to Bowness has been open for more than forty years now and this version of the guide includes new link routes from Leeds, Harrogate and Bradford. Easy to follow maps and colour photos. 112 pages.

See The Dalesman.

Strider August 2011


By Colin Speakman 
ISBN 978-9559987-2-0 111pp 2011 £9.99

Colin Speakman is the author of the original guide to the Dales Way first published in 1970 by Dalesman. He was also, with the late Tom Wilcock, the originator of the idea for the path from Ilkley to Bowness.

There have been nine previous Dalesman editions, there is the Dales Way Companion by Paul Hannon and in only the last issue of Strider there was a mention of a new guide published by Rucksack Readers. Google The Dales Way and you'll get 26 million hits. So why do we need another guide? Well, I guess one answer is that it depends on what the market will bear and if demand was there for all the previous editions and other author's books, then the market can certainly bear this one.

This is probably because the Dales Way, whilst not a National Trail, is, nevertheless, a national treasure. The reasons are many but foremost are that it is probably one of the most accessible long distance paths in the UK, is walkable by a wide range of abilities and, above all, is cherished by the Dales Way Association and the West Riding Ramblers. It is a beautiful 80-odd miles walk but made even more accessible and interesting with the development of the three links to the start at Ilkley from Leeds, Bradford and Harrogate.

Many LDWA members will have already walked this route but whether you have done so and graduated to tougher challenges or not yet done it, get hold of this book and start planning to do it (again) soon. Whether you run it in a (long) day or take a gentle ten days there are many ways to enjoy this walk and this guide with lovingly written details, good overview maps, detailed coloured strip maps and fine photographs is a model of its kind. What I especially like are the arrowed inserts on the strip maps to information like 'good view back to Simon's Seat', not intrusive but you can't miss it.

Don't be completely fooled by its benign reputation though, it climbs to 520m at Cam High Road (where it meets the Pennine Way) and the path as a whole can be very wet at times.

My only complaint is that my already well-thumbed copy is falling apart and it will not fit opened out into the standard map case so that it can be read easily whilst on the move. Apart from that it's a splendid up-to-date guide.

Justin Gutmann

See the Long Distance Walkers Association website

Settle-Carlisle Railway Journal, August 2011

Colin Speakman 
Dales Way: the complete guide 

Skyware, 2011 
£9.99 + £2.00 p+p

The Dales Way is a 78 mile long distance walk from Ilkley to Bowness-on-Windermere which was conceived by Colin Speakman and fellow West Riding Rambler, Tom Wilcock.

Some years ago, when I expressed an interest in walking the Dales Way, a friend gave me a copy of the second edition of this guidebook which was published in 1973. I still have the book but have never got round to completing the walk although I have walked several sections of it over the years.

The original book was a traditional-style walking guide with close-set print and a few black and white photos. This beautifully produced new edition is illustrated throughout with colour photographs and excellent strip maps of the entire route. The clarity of these maps is one of the outstanding features of the book. It would be possible to complete the walk using the maps alone but it would be a pity to miss the interesting facts and observations included in the text.

The route descriptions are clear and easy to follow. There are handy inserts containing information on the towns, villages and landmarks along the way and a useful list of accommodation, food stops and transport facilities.

The Dales Way link routes from Bradford, Harrogate and Leeds are included as well as a suggested alternative route from Cam Houses into Dentdale using the new Pennine Bridleway.

Reviewing this book has certainly reawakened my interest in walking the Dales Way and I would recommend it as an essential companion for anyone undertaking the walk.

Stephen Way

See the Friends of the Settle-Carlisle Line website