28 May 2016

Making A Difference

Sometimes even the little things can make a difference.
Recently we've donated signed copies of books as rewards for donations to 2 crowdfunding appeals - Mend Our Mountains and Raising the Standard - both close to our heart. 

The Yorkshire Dales Mend Our Mountains money will improve the Swine Tail approach to Ingleborough, the route of A Dales High Way, and Raising the Standard aims to pave over the notorious swampy Nine Standards Rigg on the Coast to Coast.

Both campaigns have been successful raising £100,000's and we're very proud to have helped - between them our books raised over £500. Thank you everyone.

16 March 2016

Shout it from the Roof Tops

I love Can-Do people.  People who get an idea and run with it without stopping to write strategy documents or call meetings or develop policy. People whose enthusiasm takes everyone they meet along with them, whose smile draws the doubters in and whose upbeat message infects us all. 
I met someone like that this week. His name is Cameron Gordon and he's had the brilliant idea of promoting the North Pennines as "The Roof of England". It's a clever way to market a beautiful, remote part of the country that is often overlooked, surrounded as it is by the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales, the North York Moors and Scotland. 

The North Pennines is already a designated area of outstanding natural beauty but that doesn't exactly trip off the tongue does it:

"Where shall we go for the weekend? - the Yorkshire Dales? the Lake District? Oh I know, what about the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

But "Let's go to the Roof of England" - now that does have a ring to it.

The name has already been taken up by cyclists who love the quiet open roads, the swooping hills and killer climbs. The B&B's and cafes are starting to use it and when Cameron talks passionately about the simplicity of it you can see the nods and smiles in the audience.

For walkers the area is a joy. Wild and remote you can spend all day with only the curlews for company. 
Ettersgill Common
The landscape is dotted with the remains of a rich industrial heritage, lead mining and iron ore extraction were prevalent in the mid 1800's, and much more can be done to help visitors understand and appreciate the history and culture of this region.
Sikehead Lead Mines

Bolts Law Engine

Bolts Law today

One of the best ways to explore the Roof of England is on foot - well I would say this wouldn't I. Take a train on the Settle Carlisle line to Appleby then a short 3 mile walk to Dufton where you can join the Pennine Way. Climb out of the lush Eden Valley and onto the Roof where the next 20 miles will take you over Dufton Pike, Great Dun Fell, Cross Fell and on to Alston. Spend the next day in South Tynedale before reaching Hadrian's Wall and train links home.
Cross Fell

It's a great way to spend a long weekend. Away from it all in the Land of the Natural High.

5 March 2016

Neither a leader nor a follower be

"Neither a leader nor a follower be" as my old gran used to say, or something on those lines - what she really said of course was neither a lender nor a borrower be but what's a couple of consonants between friends. Anyway her wise words popped into my head as I spent the afternoon vacillating between whether or not to walk this weekend. The problem isn't the weather, although the forecast is uncertain, nor is it the public transport links which will be unreliable if the weather worsens. It's not even my (un)willingness to get soaked for the 4th week in a row. No, the problem is that I'm taking somebody else. Someone whose inexperience means that they will happily go along with whatever I suggest: climb Ingleborough, walk round the park, go to the pub. And I will feel responsible for their enjoyment. If I make the wrong decision and we end up cold and wet or waiting for a train for hours or walking miles further than expected to catch the bus I'll feel that it's all my fault. That I led the way and she followed. 
I'm not the greatest follower either. I really enjoy the company of walking in a group, you meet some great people and the chat's always good, but I'm always ready for my sandwiches about an hour before the designated stop. Of course I'm lucky, I have a partner who loves to walk, we're well matched in pace and distance and generally get hungry about the same time, and on days he's not around I have a dog whose middle name is Ever Ready. If I didn't I'd join a walking group in a flash. 
Me and "Ever Ready"
A group like Friends of the Settle Carlisle line or Friends of Dales Rail whose walk leaders are out there a couple of times a week, in rain, snow, hail and occasionally shine, meeting walkers from the train and leading them into the fells - and back again. And I take my hat off to them. They do a fantastic job and give hundreds of people the chance to walk in sometimes difficult conditions with the confidence that they will be safe, looked after and have company should they desire.

At the end of April the FoSCL and FDR walk leaders are joined by others from a number of other organisations* to put on a week of walks, talks and music between Settle and Applebly - the 5th annual Ride2stride Walking Festival. 

We hope you'll come and join us. Go to www.ride2stride.org.uk to choose your walk.

*including Yorkshire Dales Society, Ingleborough Archaeology Group, Yorkshire Dales National Park, Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust

30 December 2015

Thank you

It's not quite the end of the year but today feels like a good day to say "Thank you". Thank you to everyone who has bought our books and kept our small family business afloat. And a special thank you to all of you who have bypassed Amazon and ordered directly from our website www.skyware.co.uk or gone into your local bookshop and bought a Skyware guide off the shelves. It is you that is keeping the specialist publishers and independent bookshops alive. 
Skyware guidebooks

And it is you, when you set off to walk your Coast to Coast path or your Dales High Way, that will be bringing life and hope and business back to the flood hit towns and villages of Yorkshire and Cumbria. Towns like Appleby that are clearing up for the third time in as many weeks and will be ready with pubs, cafes and bed and breakfasts to welcome walkers back in 2016. So don't stay away. Happy New Year and keep walking!
A Dales High Way 

15 October 2015

My Dales Way Week

This week has been largely devoted to the Dales Way. 

I'm on the committee of the Dales Way Association, a small charity set up almost 25 years ago to promote and support the Dales Way long distance path. The route was created in 1969 by Colin Speakman and the late Tom Wilcock just four years after the launch of the Pennine Way, and like Wainwright's Coast to Coast Path (1972), has attracted walkers from all over the world ever since. Unlike the Pennine Way neither the Dales Way or Coast to Coast are National Trails so receive no funding or support from the government. Instead they are both designated Regional Recreational Routes and each section is the responsibility of the local authority it passes through. In the case of the Dales Way, travelling east to west, this is Bradford District Council, North Yorkshire County Council, Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority, Cumbria County Council and the Lake District National Park. 

The existence of the Dales Way Association means that there is a single body that can be contacted by anyone interested in the route and liaise between walkers and the numerous authorities. On Wednesday 4 members of our small committee attended our annual meeting with the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority. This is an opportunity to meet with the rangers who are responsible for the path on the ground and share problems, ideas and successes.
A new section of path to keep walkers off the road outside Sedbergh
Three days later we were all together again, this time in Ilkley for the Association's Autumn Walk and Annual General Meeting.  Most of the committee, including Colin Speakman, who led the walk and chaired the meeting, were there. It was great to meet members and a tribute to their commitment that so many travel so far to join us for the day, including from Essex and Shropshire.
Colin greets walkers in Ilkley
Heading for Addingham
Finally on Monday I walked a section of the Dales Way, the climb over Cam Fell. I was with my sister-in-law, a walking newbie, who is walking the 80 miles from Ilkley to Bowness in bite sized chunks. The Dales Way is an ideal beginners long distance route, with its easy to follow riverside paths, the many villages offering refreshment and accommodation and the possibility of accessing sections by public transport. 
The river Wharfe near Burnsall
This summer we have walked from Ilkley to Buckden, catching the bus up and down Wharfedale, until this last leg over Cam required a lift to Nethergill Farm and the train home from Ribblehead. 

This section of the Dales Way is often the most daunting for walkers, including as it does the climb over wet and boggy fell to the highest point on the entire route at 520m. 
Told you it was boggy!
It is also one of the most rewarding as the watershed of England is reached and you get your first glimpse of Ingleborough, followed quickly by Pen-y-ghent, Whernside and the mighty Ribblehead viaduct.
Whernside and Ribblehead viaduct from the forestry road
I wonder what next week will bring.

22 August 2015

Confession Time

I've got a confession to make. 

Despite spending half my year helping to organise the Ride2stride Festival and the other half banging on about it I've never actually been to a walking festival. Other than R2S that is. So this week I decided to do something about it and headed over the border into Lancashire and the Pendle Walking Festival.  

It's easy to overlook Pendle in favour of its more glamorous neighbours, the Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District, but it's an area full of charm and interest where walking is king. There's a comprehensive year round programme of walks and the annual Pendle Walking Festival is billed as the biggest free walking festival in the country. This year's programme offered 68 guided walks from a family friendly 2 miler to feed the ducks to the "very hard"  23 mile Pendle Marathon. There are plenty of references to witches including Alice Nutter's Way and the Lancashire Witches Walk. This is a 51 mile long distance walk from Barrowford to Lancaster Castle following in the footsteps of the accused to their trial and subsequent executions in 1612. The festival programme offered the walk over 4 days and I wish I'd seen it earlier. Definitely one for the to-do list. 

Instead I chose an 8 mile linear 'hard' walk from Colne to Gawthorpe Lodge, stopping at Smithson Farm for tea and cakes before returning to the start by bus. Eighteen of us, including a walk leader and back marker, left Colne along the Leeds Liverpool canal and headed for Barrowford. 
Crossing the canal

I was lucky enough to walk with a local man who had lots of information about the village and its history. The day was further enlivened by a fellow walker who greeted everyone we met seemingly by name. I'd just started to think she came from the biggest family in Lancashire when it was revealed she was the local councillor and we were walking through her patch. The route continued through a combination of lanes and tracks with glimpses of Pendle Hill shrouded in mist.
Pendle Hill

As someone said, "If you can see Pendle Hill it's going to rain. If you can't it's already raining". Finally we reached Smithson Farm where we found a mini mining museum, a campsite, rescue ponies and a tea room with the lightest scones outside of Yorkshire. The walk finished with a lovely 2 miles through open countryside and along the banks of the river Calder where we spotted a heron and were accompanied for much of the way by a flock of circling Canada geese. 

I arrived in Colne on my own but with no worries about spending the day alone. If our own Settle-Carlisle festival is anything to go by I was expecting a friendly bunch and I wasn't wrong. The first person I met was also a Ride2strider and everyone went out of their way to be welcoming. I came away no longer a walking festival novice and determined to seek out more events like this. It's a brilliant way to explore our wonderful countryside in the company of knowledgeable locals. Now where's that list. I think I'm hooked.

17 August 2015

Run for the Hills

I live near the Leeds Liverpool canal in Saltaire. So near that I can watch the boats go by from my office window and wave to the dog walkers on the towpath. It forms part of my own dog walk most days and a vibrant, lively place it is too. There are boats and bicycles, parents with toddlers and serious walkers. There's a floating cafe and a swing bridge and locks. There's football in winter and cricket in summer on the adjacent playing fields and all year round the stunning architecture of Titus Salt's Victorian mill village. 
Canals rock. So it was with no hesitation that I agreed to walk the Union and Foth and Clyde canals between Edinburgh and Glasgow. There was a logic behind this abandonment of my beloved hills to follow the same contour for over 50 miles. In the last year we'd walked the Pennine Way from Edale to Kirk Yetholm (for our Heart of the Pennine Way book), the West Highland Way from Milngavie to Fort William (for fun) and a combination of St Cuthbert's Way and the Southern Upland Way from Kirk Yetholm to Edinburgh - Are you keeping up? Maybe a map will help.

Our walks

Anyway we had a gap and although I can happily live with gaps in my life Tony likes to finish the job (it's a man thing) so, clutching Cameron McNeish's Scotland End to End guide, we set off to join the dots.

It was flat and long and pretty enough but although we made good speed it was surprisingly difficult to keep motivated.  We rarely met another soul. There were cyclists and local dog walkers around the towns and villages, there were the occasional walkers on the John Muir Trail and once in a flood a boat went past. For a major navigable waterway across the centre of Scotland it was seriously short of boats. The Leeds Liverpool it was not.

Add caption

The highlights were all off route. The pretty little canal basin at Linlithgow, the fabulous, amazing Falkirk Wheel and the climb (hurrah) up Bar Hill to the Roman fort on the Antonine Way. 

Falkirk Wheel

Bar Hill
The accomodation was great, we ate and drank well and everyone we met was welcoming and friendly. I enjoyed the psychological achievement of crossing the country and the little break from daily life but as we headed west into Milngavie and the Campsie Fells came into view my heart began to lift and my tired legs revived. 

Am I glad I did it? Yes, I think so. Would I do it again? No, I wouldn't. 

Am I looking forward to some fell walking? YES, YES,YES.