Under Open Skies...

The pioneering Venture Scouts

Telegraph & Argus, Saturday, April 19, 1969. Page 5

T&A, Saturday April 19, 1969, page 5YORKSHIRE WEEKENDER

Blazing a trail to Windermere 


Trudging painfully on blistered foot, a party of ten exultantly stumbled into Bowness in the Lake District last Saturday. Behind them were three and a half days walking and the 73 miles of the Dales Way. They were the first people officially to complete this proposed long-distance footpath which stretches from Ilkley to Bowness.

With two of their number having dropped out at Sedbergh they were the "survivors" of a party of nine Bradford Grammar School Venture Scouts and three masters who set out last Wednesday to check the Dales Way route for the West Riding branch of the Ramblers' Association, which hopes that it will become the lowland equivalent of the Pennine Way.

The Ramblers' Association was well aware that certain access agreements would have to be negotiated before the footpath became a continuous one, and before the Scouts ever had set foot on the turf they were warned by a landowner to keep off one section, near Kettlewell.

At Buckden a farm labourer "gently directed" them to another footpath, which diverted them from their route. But the only roadwalking was the few miles between Conistone and Kettlewell and beside the stream at Dent.

The first part of the route runs alongside the Wharfe to beyond Yockenthwaite, and then over waterlogged Cam Fell to Dent. It was here that they hit their worst weather: first a downpour, then mist which hampered their progress along the zig-zag field paths towards Kendal.

What did the boys think of the route? "It was very much worth while. The scenery was marvellous" said 17-year-old Stephen Kerry of Cragg View, Leeds Road. Rawdon. "But it would be better done in four or five days. There are plenty of farmhouses at which you can spend the night."

"An excellent route," added Michael Crafer (18), of High Ridge, Otley Road, Eldwick, "but the section before Kendal is not very interesting and could be improved. Three-and-a-half days was too short a time to do it in. It is not difficult walking, but it is distance rather than effort. I would advise people walking it to choose better weather and to take longer about it than we did."

They will now submit a detailed report to the Ramblers' Association and to their school. And their next job for the RA: Walking footpaths in Bradford, and helping with the registration of common land in the Dales.

The Dales Way route



It was 8.30 a.m. when we left Ilkley railway station, but another half-hour passed before we could shake off the last of the photographers. Then, in bright sunshine, we walked along the banks of the Wharfe to Addingham, in the company of Mr. Colin Speakman of the Ramblers' Association.

As there is as yet no footpath along the riverbank between Addingham and Bolton Bridge we were forced to make our first diversion - over Haw Pike and then descending steeply to Bolton Bridge. To our surprise we found that our short walk of 5½ miles had taken us over 1½ hours.

Resisting the temptation to leap the rushing waters of the Strid, we pressed on and enjoyed a well deserved lunch break at Burnsall at 1.50 a.m. We had covered 12½ miles.

When we left we were glad of the cooling breeze which had sprung up, but it became stronger and as we tackled the steep climb up to Grassington there were a good number among us ready quietly to curse it. We were glad to sink into the seats of a teashop in the village, even though it was agony to get up again afterwards.

The small village of Kettlewell, built below Buckden Pike, was a pleasant sight. Waiting for us at the youth hostel there, was the "Telegraph and Argus" photographer, but I'm afraid we could muster up very little cheerfulness for him. I must admit we were disappointed that we had missed the Yorkshire TV cameras. And we were totally speechless when we learned they had arrived to film us - at 3 p.m.! Not even the most optimistic of us had imagined we could have covered the 25 miles in that time!


Ten hours of sleep, we discovered, had not cured our stiffness, aches and blisters. To add to our miseries, the weather had taken a turn for the worse and there was rain and mist. In drizzle we continued northwards. At least it softened the ground for our feet.

Shortly after passing Buckden a farm labourer politely informed us we were on the wrong path. However his dog wasn't deterred by our supposed trespassing and cheerfully followed us up to Hubberholme where we stopped for a break. The rain, to our delight, stopped too.

It was slow progress on our long, hard climb up to Cam Houses, where we were hampered by clinging mud, but our labours were not without reward when we joined the Pennine Way at the top of Cam Fell at 4.15 p.m. Before us was a wonderful panorama of the snowcapped Yorkshire Three Peaks - Ingleborough, Pen-y-ghent and Whernside and the deep valley of Langstrothdale Chase.

We had noticed before that the Wharfe was full, with traces of the previous week's flooding, and when we dropped down to Gearstones Lodge we discovered that the ford was too deep to wade and the bridge had been washed away. We had to walk up the Ribble and cross by what was probably a small farm bridge.

We were near exhaustion when we reached Whernside Manor, the National Scout Caving Activities Centre at Dent, at 8.15 p.m. Unfortunately I had stomach trouble that evening and had to drop out at Sedbergh next morning. It was surprising to discover how our fame had spread. Out of the four lifts I had as I hitch-hiked back home, three of the drivers had heard of our walk.



It was pouring down when we left the Caving Centre at 8.45 a.m. and spirits were at rock bottom. It is a bad time to hit weather like this. We had a quick 1½ mile walk into Dent Village where we had a welcome breakfast of bacon and eggs. Then out into the rain.

After saying "goodbye" to Stephen Kerry and Richard Ogden, who also had to drop out, we continued on a boggy footpath beside the riverside. The river was in flood and we had to jump a number of small streams or spend time seeking footbridges. The weather was still grim, raining on and off.

Until we reached Luneside, we had trouble finding the way through the fields, and here the local farmers were very helpful. One gave us a drink of water (we passed four or five beakers among the party) for which we were very grateful.

Then came the mist: it was so thick we could hardly see anything, and of course, it completely ruined the view. From Sedbergh to Beckfoot was very slow going. Eventually we hit the motorway. It is in the process of being built and will eventually have a footbridge spanning it, but we were faced with a sea of mud.

We diverted, reached the road, and as luck would have it got a lift into Kendal in one of the contractor's Landrovers which managed to take six of us. The three masters and Tim Wontner-Smith, who were the fittest of us, set off to walk to Kendal Youth Hostel where we were spending the night.


Our last day, or rather half day's walking began with large driving hailstones, sleet and rain. But beyond Staveley Bridge the weather brightened up and we made better progress than we had done for quite a while. From the high ground we could see the Lake District peaks, covered with snow, which made the view fantastic, and particularly welcome after the fog.

We were all pretty tired as we approached Bowness. Mike Simms' leg had been giving him trouble for some time and he was flagging. He did very well to finish the walk. The ground rose and fell and we couldn't see much ahead of us. Tim Wontner-Smith was in front and suddenly he shouted "Water - It's the lake. We're there!"

We were in high spirits. We had completed the walk in time for the 4 p.m. train back home, and had kept to the route very accurately. We forgot our stiff muscles and blisters (to my cost, I had worn new boots!) and stepped out for the last hundred yards or so. We had done it!!

The Dales Way party

Members of the Dales Way party were: Michael Crafer (18), High Ridge, Otley Road, Eldwick; Robin Fozard (17), 20 Bargrange Avenue, Shipley; Stephen Kerry (17), Cragg View, Leeds Road, Rawdon; John Foster (18), 26 Kingsley Avenue, Bradford; Tim Priestley (17), 24 Moorhead Terrace, Shipley; Richard Ogden (16), 11 Belmont Rise, Baildon; Peter Graham (16), 12 Rooley Crescent, Bradford; Tim Wonter-Smith (18), 73 Moorhead Lane, Shipley; Mike Simms (19), 20 Sherwood Grove, Shipley; and masters Mr. Jim Jones, Cullingworth; Mr. Peter Kewlay, Wilsden; and Mr. M. S. Greenwood, Clayton.

The BGS Venture Scouts prepare to depart Ilkley train station (photo: T&A)

(Back Row from left: John Foster, Stephen Kerry, Pete Kewley (T), Malcolm Greenwood (T), Richard Ogden, Mike Simms, Tim Wontner-Smith, Jim Jones (T).
Front Row from left: Peter Graham, Tim Priestley, Mike Crafer, Robin Fozard.)

Telegraph & Argus, Saturday, 2 April 2011, page 18.

Telegraph & Argus 2 April 2011: Daels Scouts are reunitedDales Scouts are reunited

Schoolboys who made inaugural trip in 1969 meet instigator 
By Amanda Greaves, T&A Reporter

Schoolboys who battled through heavy rain to try out the fledgling long distance Dales Way walk have been reunited more than 40 years after the original hike.

Former members of the Bradford Grammar School Venture Scouts party, which first tested out the 70-plus mile trek, met walk creator Colin Speakman in Ilkley to retrace their footsteps over the first stage of the "People's Path".

Mr Speakman, chairman of The Yorkshire Dales Society, has just published the revised tenth edition of his guide to the much-loved Ilkley to Bowness-on-Windermere walk.

Mr Speakman, 69, of Ilkley, came up with the route, working with a fellow rambler, in the 60s.

But the nine venture Scouts and three teachers were the guinea-pigs for what has become one of Yorkshire's most walked paths, completing all of the mainly riverside route in three-and-a-half days.

Former economics teacher Peter Kewley, along with former Bradford Grammer pupils Mike Crafer, John Foster and Steve Kerry, met Mr Speakman at the starting point of the walk, next to Ilkley's Old Bridge, to walk the section from Ilkley to Addingham.

While waterproofs were a must for the reunited walkers, the rain on the day did not match the downpour the Scouts were faced with on their first walk in 1969.

Mr Kewley recalled: "It wasn't too bad until we got on to the last stage to Bowness, and it was tipping it down with rain. We sheltered under a railway arch at one stage, trying to dry out a little."

The swollen River Ribble presented them with problems, and with few guest houses about, they stayed overnight at a caving centre and two youth hostels.

* Colin Speakman's Dales Way: the Complete Guide, featuring maps and additional link routes, is published by Skyware Ltd, of Shipley, priced £9.99.

Colin Speakman and the Venture Scouts are reunited

(Front seated, from left: Peter Kewley, Colin Speakman. Back, from left: Mike Crafer, John Foster, Stephen Kerry.)