March 23rd 2019 was the 50th Anniversary of the first public walk on the Dales Way, the 80 mile walk from Ilkley to the shores of Lake Windermere. Today around 4,000 walkers a year complete the trail making it one of Britain's most popular long distance paths.
|Our Jess at the start of the Dales Way in Ilkley|
|The end is in sight|
In 1968 an Act of Parliament, the Countryside Act, gave local authorities powers to allow public access to riversides. Members of West Riding Ramblers approached the Countryside Commission and the old West Riding County Council with a plan to create a path that followed the banks of the river Wharfe. The authorities turned down the idea but undaunted WRR went ahead anyway and the idea of the Dales Way was born - a long riverside trail from Ilkley to the source of the Wharfe high on Cam Fell.
|High on Cam Fell|
Colin Speakman and the late Tom Wilcock took on the job of surveying and planning the route and Colin went on to write the first guidebook which has been in continuous publication ever since.
They quickly realised that Cam Fell isn’t a great place to end a walk so continued across the watershed and followed the River Dee down Dentdale and the River Lune from Sedbergh to finish on the shores of Lake Windermere. An 80 mile walk from the edge of the industrial West Riding to the Lake District through the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
On Monday March 10th 1969 an article appeared in the Yorkshire Evening Post about this new path inviting readers to join members of the Ramblers Association to walk the first section from Ilkley to Burnsall on Sunday March 23rd returning by bus. Colin remembers the group expecting a dozen or so walkers. Around 130 turned up and the bus company had to put on extra buses to get everyone back. Sadly no photos survive of the day.
The Dales Way Association is planning a series of events to celebrate the 50th Anniversary year including a recreation of the first walk that Colin will lead.
You can see them on the website at www.dalesway.org