It is with great sadness that we heard the news of the death of our friend and former long-term Footpaths Officer Alex McManus, who died at the end of March aged 92.
Alex first joined the DWA committee in 2003 and became Footpaths Officer in 2005. He also served as Newsletter Editor from 2010 to 2014 and turned his hand to a number of other roles, including Minutes Secretary for a while.
He helped steer the Association through two major crises – in 2008 and 2012, when the DWA faced closure. As Footpaths Officer he was particularly busy following the disastrous floods in the winter of 2015, when several bridges and sections of the path were swept away. Alex worked tirelessly to help walkers find their way around detours, in some cases engaging in a spot of guerrilla waymarking.
Over the years, through his dedication, hard work and persistence, he built up the respect and admiration of many of the local authority Rangers who look after the trail.
Alex retired from active duty in 2018, and was unanimously awarded a “Honorary Life Membership” certificate at the AGM in October.
The presentation was made by the chairman of the Dales Way Association, Colin Speakman, at a special lunch attended by most of the DWA committee near Harrogate in November 2018.
Colin said: “Alex is one of the heroes of the Dales Way. For so many years he has been our tireless Footpath Secretary, doing great work working with all the local authorities along the Dales Way to ensure that stiles, gates and bridges were in good order, waymarks were in the right place and problems sorted as soon as possible, not to mention his work as a great ambassador for the route, in person and on his DVDs. In making him only our second Honorary Life Member in our history (the first was the legendary cartographer Arthur Gemmell) the Dales Way Committee is merely recognising his outstanding achievement over so many years”.
On April 1st 1974, at the stroke of a pen, the ancient county of Westmorland disappeared, along with the adjoining county of Cumberland. They were replaced by Cumbria.
The old county town of Appleby, in a defiant move, renamed itself Appleby-in-Westmorland.
Now, almost 50 years later, Westmorland is back.
As of 1 April 2023, Cumbria County Council was abolished. As were the councils of Allerdale, Barrow-in-Furness, Carlisle City, Copeland, Eden District, and South Lakeland District.
Cumberland Council has since taken over the area previously covered by the Allerdale, Carlisle City, and Copeland authorities.
Meanwhile, Westmorland and Furness Council is in charge of the area formerly covered by Barrow-in-Furness, Eden District, and South Lakeland District authorities.
The boundaries are not exactly the same – around a quarter of historic Cumberland around the town of Penrith is in the new Westmorland and Furness council.
Cumbria will remain as a “ceremonial” county and the name will remain in the names of various organisations such as the police force.
Lord Eric Pickles, who championed traditional counties during his time as communities secretary, said: “This is great news. People live in Cumberland and Westmorland – they don’t live in Cumbria. Cumbria was a creation of the madness of the 1970s when politicians and bureaucrats decided people live in different places.”
The Dales Way passes through Westmorland in it’s final stages, taking in Sedbergh and Windermere.
The saddest news for the Dales Way Association was to hear of the passing, at the end of February, of our President, Frank Sanderson, at the age of 94.
Frank was a remarkable personality. Born in Rochdale, Lancashire, he kept his lovely soft Lancashire accent throughout his long and active life but was equally passionate about Yorkshire and Cumbria. He was of an age to have briefly served in the RAF in the Second World War in that most dangerous of occupations, a bomb disposal unit. After demobilisation he trained as a motor mechanic soon opening his own business in Accrington, but found free time to pursue his passions for both flying, gaining a pilot’s licence and even flying his own plane – and sailing, becoming a skilled mariner. In the 1970s he switched careers to open a hotel in Scotland, which soon included caravan and chalet parks, and a coffee shop nearby. He was also a keen artist eventually opening his own small gallery in the Lake District to where he had moved to in the mid 1980s, having bought Blenheim Lodge, a boutique hotel in Bowness – directly on the Dales Way.
When Frank began to notice increased numbers of walkers walking past his hotel entrance with loaded rucksacks, or even staying at the Lodge, he soon learned about the Dales Way. In response to repeated requests, he produced a simple printed “Certificates of Achievement” for anyone who had walked the route. Members of the Ramblers who had first conceived and developed the Dales Way heard about this and as a result, in April 1990 several of us were invited to Blenheim Lodge to join Frank for a meal and discussion about the future of the Dales Way. From this meeting came the idea of a Dales Way Association which was established on 3rd February 1991 also at Blenheim Lodge, with Frank Sanderson as its first Secretary. Uniquely among UK long distance walk support groups, there was at least initially equally balance in membership between walkers and accommodation providers, for mutual support and benefit. Frank used his influence both as a member of Windermere Town Council and within SLOT (South Lakeland Organisation for Tourism) to build support for the Dales Way within Cumbria, including contacts with the Lake District National Park. He had the brilliant idea of persuading the Park to allow the conversion of a section of derelict wall and old gate post (thereby not requiring planning permission) into the first Dales Way Seat, designed by Frank and dedicated “for those who walk the Dales Way”. The site, overlooking the lake at Windermere, has become an iconic place where many thousands of people rest to celebrate their (almost) completion of the Dales Way. He even organised painting and colouring competitions for local children to promote the route in Cumbria.
Throughout his long involvement with the Dales Way Association, as first our Secretary and later our President, Frank’s energy and bubbling enthusiasm have done much to establish the popularity of the route. He even had a theory that the Dales Way long predated modern walkers but was an Iron Age trade route linking the Celtic Kingdom of Elmet (including what is now the site of Leeds) with Cumbria, which is why he designed Celtic stone heads, carved not only on the Bowness seat, but also at Ilkley Bridge.
Even though, in his tenth decade and with reduced mobility, he found it hard to drive to committee meetings and even AGMs, he kept in close touch with the Committee, always ready with advice and common sense, a true father-figure for the Association. He played a key role in our 40th celebrations in 2009 and we shall all remember his witty and impromptu speech at our 50th anniversary luncheon a decade later in Appletreewick (at the fine age of 91), and his book of memories. We shall miss his experience, his humour and enthusiasm for everything to do with the Dales Way. But it will be perhaps those two iconic stone seats at each end of the Dales Way that are truly Frank Sanderson’s lasting and living memorial for our own and for generations to come.
Some newly engineered steps mark a major improvement to the footpath between Addingham and Farfield.
The stepway has replaced a difficult, steep sloping section of the path leading down to the rivers edge. Thanks go to rangers at the Bradford Countryside Service for the work.
The tricky section has been the subject of a number of comments from Dales Way walkers, which have been passed on the the council by the Dales Way Association Footpath Officer for the area – Gordon Tasker.
Gordon said “Walkers and local users inform us when they identify issues on any stretch of the path. Please continue to do so through the website email contact address. We can then work with the appropriate stakeholder to progress. It may not always be possible to complete immediately where land owners and boundaries and responsibilities are involved, but jobs are completed as this one shows.”
Ramblers throughout Yorkshire are delighted to be welcomed back to the Yorkshire Dales, especially now that inns and guest houses can welcome walkers along the 81-mile Dales Way.
The Dales Way footpath, linking Ilkley in Wharfedale with Bowness on Lake Windermere, has long been one of Britain’s favourite walks, attracting many repeat visits and also visitors from overseas. Sadly, the pandemic had virtually closed much of the route for staying visitors since autumn 2020, but now that hotels and guest houses are open, walkers can once again enjoy a wonderful short break along the magnificent scenery of the Dales Way.
The first group to do so was a group of ten people from the Leeds-Bradford area who set off from Ilkley on Monday May 17th the first day guest houses were open and arrived in Bowness on Saturday. Members of the group, all “empty nesters”, people of a certain age whose teenage children had left home allowing their parents new freedom, had planned the walk and booked their accommodation months ahead.
Tim Barber, from Burley-in-Wharfedale, leader of the group commented: “Everything was great and the welcome from all the accommodation providers was wonderful – they were so happy to be back doing what they do best, providing a great warm welcome”.
Colin Speakman, Chairman of the Dales Way Association added “We are so pleased that walkers are coming back as staying visitors to the Dales. Spending up to £100 per day on food and accommodation, Dales Way walkers will provide a significant boost to the Dales economy, helping struggling catering and other rural businesses to survive after what has been a dreadful 16 months of pandemic.”
However, he also warned would-be walkers to book accommodation in advance, especially evening meals, as demand in this summer of staycations is likely to be high, and there could be some pubs and cafes that don’t reopen because of the impact of the long lockdowns.
A new Dales Way Information Board has just been installed at Barden Bridge, after the old frame of the previous one finally rotted away.
The new frame was constructed at the National Park’s Maintenance shop in Grassington, fitted with the last of our new Information Boards and installed by National Park rangers. The frame is made of Accoya acetylated wood, sustainably sourced with FSC® certification and it has minimal environmental impact throughout its entire life.
The £675 cost of construction was covered by a donation from the Dales Way Association. This is one of 9 Information boards along the route of the Dales Way.
The boards first appeared in 2004 thanks to hard work by DWA members Margaret and Ken Staines. The sketch drawings are by Patricia Hickman.
The 2020 Annual General Meeting of the Dales Way Association, originally scheduled for November the 14th, has been cancelled due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
Instead, a “virtual” meeting will take its place, with members voting by email.
The Autumn e-newsletter is currently being distributed to all members. It includes all the reports normally given at the AGM meeting. The Association accounts are being sent out at the same time. Members are encouraged to respond to the standard motions by return email.
Association Secretary Chris Grogan said “Sadly it is not going to be possible to hold a face to face AGM this year. The AGM is more than just a formal meeting. It is the chance to walk and talk together and enjoy the social aspect of the day. We shall miss it very much this year.
The trustees of Otley Courthouse has made a donation of £100 to the Friends of Dalesbus – a group that campaigns for affordable public transport.
The donation was made following a public talk given at the venue on “50 years of the Dales Way” by Colin Speakman, chair of the Dales Way Association and Vice-chair of the Friends of DalesBus.
Hazel Costello from the Courthouse’s trustees said the donation was a token of thanks to Colin for giving a “very interesting and informative talk”. She said “The idea of the DalesBus is to encourage as many people as possible to get to the Dales on public transport, and using public transport is more important than ever with the need to use less cars and more buses and so contribute to lessening the effects of climate change.”
DWA committee members Kath Doyle and Gordon Tasker were also on hand to show the new mobile Anniversary Exhibition.
The donation was reported in the Wharfedale & Aireborough Observer at the end of last month.
A brand new beer brewed by Dent Brewery to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Dales Way is now available at the Flying Duck in Ilkley – just in time for our 2019 AGM!
Dales Way IPA has been brewed especially by the Dent Brewery, and first to sample it was our chairman Colin Speakman at the George & Dragon in Dent.
A couple of barrels have been sent down to Ilkley as a special guest ale at the Flying Duck, which will once again host the Dales Way Association Annual General Meeting this year on Saturday 19th October.
Gather at the pub from 1.15 p.m. for sandwiches and chips. the meeting starts at 2 p.m. sharp and will feature a presentation of the year’s events by Colin.
There’s a 4-mile walk in the morning to Mount Calvary and Middleton Woods – meet at the start of the Dales Way, Ilkley Old Bridge, at 10.30 a.m. (details on our Home page).
August 3rd – a bright sunny Saturday morning – saw over 70 walkers gather at Ilkley Old Bridge to help recreate the first public walk on the Dales Way – 50 years on!
Once again Colin speakman led the walkers from Ilkley as they snaked their way through to Addingham for a short break by the church.
Then it was on to Bolton Abbey, where 2 vintage 1960’s buses were on hand to ferry the weary walkers back to Ilkley.
At 3 o’clock people gathered at the Ilkley Manor House, where local MP John Grogan formally opened the month long exhibition – “50 years of the Dales Way”.
The free exhibition runs throughout August at the weekends.
A great day was enjoyed by all. Special thanks go to the team of volunteer stewards from the Dales Way Association, Friends of DalesBus, Friends of the Dales and Friends of A Dales High Way, who all helped ensure the day passed without incident.