29 October 2020

Not Better, Not Worse

Beer and chips in the Flying Duck

Dales Way Association members come from all over the country and one of the highlights of the year is our annual meeting. As a constituted small charity we have a legal obligation to hold an AGM but that section of the day has always been the least important bit for me.  Every autumn members travel to Ilkley from as far afield as Essex and Northumberland, some of them booking overnight accommodation and some spending a few days in the Dales. We have a morning walk together followed by a chips and sandwiches lunch in the Flying Duck, a short business meeting and lots of chat and laughter. Over the 10 years I've been secretary I'm proud to call these people friends. So it was with a very heavy heart we contemplated cancelling the 2020 meeting. Even without the rule of 6 and the ban on meeting indoors (Ilkley is in the Bradford District and has had local restrictions in place for most of the last 3 months) we couldn't ask members to leave home and travel across the country in current circumstances. What to do instead? Zoom was out of the question with over 300 members and several of the committee less than enthusiastic. Postponing felt a bit like a cop out and cancelling altogether would be letting down our members.

So last week we compiled all the reports we normally present at our AGM into an Autumn Newsletter packed with information about the year's activities. We sent it out with a voting slip asking members whether they accepted the Annual Report, Accounts etc. and waited. I was blown away by the response. A huge number of people replied. Members of the committee got involved, responding to the comments and questions about their area of responsibility and I compiled the votes and emails into a set of minutes. We very much hope we'll be back together again next year, walking and talking on the Dales Way and enjoying our chips but I'll look back on our virtual AGM with pride. It's been hard work but a real pleasure to be in touch with so many supporters and to know that they appreciate the efforts of our small voluntary committee. 

The annual walk


18 August 2020

Men at Work

This week I've been out on the Dales Way twice. Once to take a look at a section of riverbank that is going to be replanted and the other to photograph some men at work.

The first trip was to walk a stretch between Hebden suspension bridge and Howgill Beck. Local anglers are planning to replant the eroded bank and replace the dying trees - a project I very much support. They are however proposing a kilometre long permanent fence between the Dales Way footpath and the water with gates to allow anglers through. No thought seems to have been given to the impact of the fence visually on one of the most beautiful sections of the Wharfe nor of fencing the public away from a river they currently enjoy. On the day I was there children were playing at the waters' edge, families were picnicing and dog walkers were taking their pets down to drink and cool off.

My 2nd trip was to say hello to a group of Yorkshire Dales National Park volunteers who were hard at work resurfacing the path just north of the George at Hubberholme. The stone was paid for by the Dales Way Association using a generous donation from a member. 

Two trips, two sections of the Dales Way, two projects. One is for the good of everyone and the other mainly benefits anglers. Come on Appletreewick, Barden & Burnsall Angling Club, do the right thing and build gates for everyone not just for anglers.

There's more info at https://daleswaynews.wordpress.com and 


25 June 2020

Building Bridges

In a Venn diagram that shows the intersection between farming, country walking and tourism I find myself firmly at the centre, a foot in every circle. Walking gives me access to the fells of my Yorkshire Dales upbringing, my farming family provides an understanding of rural communities and the need for walkers to respect farm life, and producing guide books allows me to encourage walkers into the Dales, bringing in much needed income.
For many years this has been a joyful place to be. Until Coronavirus when tensions erupted.
Farmers were desperate for people to stay away, terrified of being struck down with Covid-19, especially at lambing time when they were working 20 hour days, often alone with no-one to take over in a crisis. Frightened village communities with their elderly populations and lack of medical facilities tried to ban visitors. Walkers resented footpaths being blocked and gates tied up when they were legitimately walking from home. People who’d never visited the Dales before descended on beauty spots in huge numbers, parking in gateways, lighting fires, leaving litter and worse. And in the middle of all this the government were encouraging businesses to continue to trade if possible.
How could I with a small business promote guidebooks that encourage people to walk in the Dales knowing the dangers to a way of life I love so much? How could I, a passionate champion of Rights of Way, condone a chained gate or ‘Keep Out’ sign however much I understood the fear? It was a difficult and uncomfortable place to be.
As lockdown lifts I hope very much that bridges can be built and good relations restored between town and country.  As more leisure facilities open up the pressure on rural beauty spots will ease. An afternoon in a beer garden will become more attractive to some than a drive to Ribblesdale. Holidays abroad will be possible by late summer. Holiday cottages, camp sites and caravan parks are opening as I write and will bring in much needed tourism £££s. Walkers will return, many of us avoiding farmyards and fields of stock if possible and heading for the fells.
And I will start promoting routes again – especially A Dales High Way.