31 December 2013

Sea to Sea

It's almost 19 years since I first walked Wainwright's Coast to Coast route and discovered a love of long distance walking that has stayed with me ever since. 

Walking from St Bees to Robin Hood's Bay in the spring of 1995 spawned not only a new hobby but a new career as well. It was the inspiration for the creation of A Dales High Way and the establishment of Skyware Press.

A Coast to Coast Route Guide is the 6th walk guide book to be published by Skyware and in many ways the most challenging.  We didn't want to replace Wainwright's original guidebook, updated in 2010 by Chris Jesty, but to complement it. To create a book of route maps that were light to carry, easy to follow and above all accurate to make the practical task of route finding as easy as possible. It took over a year of research, returning to each section again and again to walk the trail, to take photographs and make notes and to test the out the maps. 

Finally, when everything was complete we handed over the draft publication to our friends David and Bridget, who set off from St Bees in September 2013. Only when they safely reached Robin Hood's Bay two weeks later did we commit to printing. Our Coast to Coast Route Guide is published on January 1st 2014. Happy New Year to everyone who walks this wonderful trail.

Watch David and Bridget's Coast to Coast adventure here.

24 July 2013

Happiness is ....

A few weeks ago the lovely Susan Briggs @Dales_Tourism asked "What makes you happy?" She's writing The Yorkshire Dales Guide to Health and Happiness and was looking for stories to feature in her book.

And it got me thinking. What makes me happy? Well in no particular order (or there is a particular order but putting the dog first might upset a few people) my family, my friends, the dog, hot baths, cold beers, growing stuff, cooking stuff, eating stuff - and walking.

Any sort of walking.  It doesn't matter if it's an early morning dog walk, an afternoon stroll or a full day's hike.  I love 'em all. But the walks that make me feel happiest in a deep, lasting and profound way are long distance walks. Walks that take weeks of planning and thinking about. Walks where I leave home with my pack on my back knowing I won't be back for a week or more.  I have done lots of these walks and the magic works every time. I set off with my head crammed full of everyday worries and concerns and my body tense with anxiety.

Within a day or so that's all gone. My mind empties and my life slows down to the pace of the walk.  The purpose of each day is just that - to walk. There is no other task. No other jobs to tick off or goals to achieve. I eat, I walk, I sleep and tomorrow I do it all again. I begin to experience the true beauty of the landscape I am walking through, to notice the tiniest speedwell, the highest skylark. Every day brings a new adventure. My days are spent in splendid isolation on the fells, walking to a soundtrack of bleating sheep and the call of the curlew. At night I head for civilisation, to pubs and B&Bs, to warm baths and good food and real ale, and I return home at the end of my walk happy and at peace with myself and the world.

We are lucky here in the Yorkshire Dales to have some of the finest long distance footpaths in the British Isles. There’s the gentle riverside Dales Way and the exhilarating, challenging Dales High Way, the world famous Coast to Coast Path and the fascinating Lady Anne’s Way. There’s the granddaddy of them all - the Pennine Way and many many more. Go on – try it yourself.

19 June 2013

A question for us all

A few days ago I went for an afternoon walk around Grassington. I climbed up over the moor above Yarnbury before dropping down to the pretty little village of Hebden and returning along the riverbank. Perfect.

Hebden by Frank Gordon from Lady Anne's Way by Sheila Gordon

I reached Hebden just as a large group of walkers arrived in the village. They'd clearly had a long day and straggled a bit as they headed towards the line of cars parked by the stream. I watched as they shrugged off their rucksacks, changed their boots and squeezed the last drops from their flasks. Then they all climbed into their cars and with a cheery "See you next week" they drove away.

And it got me thinking.

Hebden Post Office cum village shop
Hebden's a small place with just 133 houses. There's a pub, a tearoom, a village hall and a Post Office cum village shop. Not one of the walkers called in at the shop before they went home. No-one had a cuppa or a scone at the tearoom although two of the women popped in and asked to use the loo. Nobody had a pint in the pub. This big group of people drove into Wharfedale with their packed lunches and their flasks of tea. They took advantage of free roadside parking clogging the village street with their Discoveries and Zafiras, they enjoyed their day in the countryside then they went home again.

What should they have done? Do we as walkers have a responsiblity to put something back? To try to use the facilities in the Dales villages we so admire and by doing so support local people in keeping their pub open or their bus running. Or is it ok to be completely self contained like the party I saw?

What do you think?

9 June 2013

My pal Jess

It's 2 years since I first wrote this and 9 since we went to the RSPCA and came away with a little scruff-ball we called Jess. She wasn’t our first choice. Oh no, we’d got our eyes firmly set on another – a sweet little puppy with take-me-home eyes – but when I knelt down to say hello, Jess jumped onto my knee and she’s never got off.

Jess 10 weeks old
She was the oddest looking pup – huge head, short legs, bent nose and when she walks her back legs wander along a good six inches to the right of her front ones. She looks like a bendy bus or Slinky from Toy Story. She’s also the happiest little dog I’ve ever known. Every day’s an adventure, everybody she meets is her friend. She's walked all of A Dales High Way, the Dales Way, the Cleveland Way and many many more. She's shared tents, slept in the van, kipped under the bed when B&B's would let her and in sheds when they wouldn't - in short she's been everywhere that we have. Until this week.

This week, for the first time, I went walking and left her at home. It was a very sunny day, we were going high onto the fells with no access to water, she's getting on a bit now and she's a hairy dog who hates the heat - need I go on?

I know it was the right decision but boy did it hurt. 

13 March 2013

More of the same

At the risk of repeating what I said in my last post I couldn't resist sharing these. They were taken yesterday on a section of A Dales High Way between Malham and Settle.

Through the Dry Valley ...

...and on to Kirkby Fell
I rest my case.

5 March 2013

A Spring in my Step

Like many people I think of long distance walking as a summer activity, best undertaken between Easter and the clocks going back. Long days to make the most of the light evenings, better weather, lighter packs with less jumpers to carry...

I've changed my mind.

This winter we've been walking both the Dales Way and A Dales High Way to check on the state of the paths and note any changes along the way. We publish guide books to both walks and like to make sure that the books and the websites - www.dalesway.org.uk and www.daleshighway.org.uk - are up to speed.

We've been walking both routes in smaller chunks to make the most of any decent weather and we've had some fantastic days out.

Barden Tower (Dales Way)

There have been snowy days and sunshine.

Taking a break on Coniston Pie (Dales Way)

The ground is has been generally firm underfoot, either with frost or more recently as it's begun to dry out.

Ingleborogh and Whernside from the Watershed Alternative Route (Dales Way)

The shapes of the fells are stunning in their naked state before the trees come into leaf and the waterfalls have been magnificent. Routes are quiet and accomodation easily available and the joy of watching the landscape begin to wake up has been immense.

Snowdrops and crocus coming off Frostrow Fell (Dales High Way)

And of course there's the lambs!

16 January 2013

I'm back

There's been a long, long silence from me in the blogging world. I can only blame Christmas and the pressure of work. After an intense couple of months I'm finally beginning to get my head out of the clouds though and it's a very fine view.

The Ride2stride Festival programme is finished and at the printers. We put it on the website at www.ride2stride.org.uk and we print 15,000 paper copies to leave in stations and tourist centres and walking shops and anywhere else that will have them.

It's our only real cost and we're grateful to Friends of Settle Carlisle Line and Northern Rail for paying for them. The timescales are ridiculous though - the train timetable for May when the festival is held comes out in December. All the walks start from a station on the Settle-Carlisle line at the time a train arrives. I have to firm up all the start times with the walk leaders just as everyone is disappearing into Christmas. There's 30 walks this year. You get the idea.

We've also got a new book out. It's just over 4 years ago in September 2008 that we published our first Skyware book. It was A Dales High Way Route Guide. Yesterday we took delivery of book number 5 - Lady Anne's Way. It's a beautiful book, a guide to a 100 mile long distance walk across the north of England which also tells the story of Lady Anne Clifford. It's written by Sheila Gordon and illustrated by her artist husband Frank and I love it.