The Dales Way, the trail that follows the rivers Wharfe, Dee and Lune from Ilkley to Bowness, is still one of the loveliest long distance walks. And after all these months of lockdown its gentle terrain is quite challenging enough. I am certainly nowhere near previous levels of fitness and a riverside walk is just what I needed this week when we set out to walk from Addingham to Barden Bridge. The weather was perfect, cold and crisp with the sun glinting on the water and lambs following their mothers across the fields alongside.
We had an ulterior motive. To check out the accessibility of the Bolton Abbey estate to Dales Way walkers. The estate is currently charging £10 per pre-booked group for people to enter the grounds whether they arrive by car, bus, bike or on foot. This they say is to control numbers and ensure social distancing during the pandemic. A better way I suggest might have been to issue 90% of the available capacity as car park tickets knowing that a small number of visitors would arrive by foot. Charging a single walker or a couple £10 for getting off the bus in the village and walking down to the river seems very excessive to me. The Dales Way Association has been assured that these charges do not apply to anyone walking the Dales Way so long as they walk through the estate on the Dales Way route from Bolton Bridge to Barden Bridge or vice versa. We are happy to report that this is true and we had no problems doing just that, even stopping off for ice cream on the way.
I hope that once lockdown is lifted we will also see the lifting of these charges otherwise I'm afraid many people may be accusing the Duke of Devonshire of making money out of a global pandemic.