The Dales Way is a long distance footpath of about 80 miles (128 km) situated in the north of England and running from Ilkley to Bowness-on-Windermere.
By following as far as possible riverside paths, it offers a scenically attractive route from urban West Yorkshire to the Lake District, which any reasonably fit family can undertake in a week's holiday. Although not always well served by public transport the Way, by following natural and sometimes ancient lines of communication, passes through many villages, and so accommodation is not a problem, although it is advisable to book in advance.
The Dales Way Association was established in 1991 to help support, maintain and promote the Dales Way Long Distance path.
This Spring the Dales and Lakes will be resounding to the song of lapwing and curlew. Vivid colours will be returning to our hedgerows, meadows and woodlands. Bluebells, anemones and violets emerge above ground. It’s a process that’s continued for centuries.
However, walkers who have tramped the Dales Way for the past fifty years will be absent this spring, caught up in the unprecedented coronavirus pandemic.
Visitors on the trail are a lifeline for our rural communities. As fell farming declines and young people drift away to our towns and cities, it’s the income from visitors, who arrive from across the globe, that shore up our local economy, as well as re-energising us, after often long, hard winters.
But, it’s not only that. It’s our opportunity to mix with people, often from other countries, cultures and experiences. It’s invigorating. We also love to show off our unique countryside and heritage. We’re proud of where we live.
Over the past twenty years we’ve struggled with foot and mouth disease, the banking crisis and flooding, which now seems to be an almost annual event. We’re resilient and adaptable. We must be. Nevertheless, this is a crisis, almost unprecedented in most people’s lifetime.
We live in Burneside. For most walkers, if they’re walking the Dales Way from east to west, our village is their penultimate night on the trail, before they trudge wearily but triumphant, towards Bowness the following day.
We’ve been offering B&B for walkers for over ten years now. It’s a privilege and a unique experience.
Needless to say, we’ve never experienced anything like this before. Sadly, we won’t be welcoming walkers until the beginning of May, at the very earliest. Most have already cancelled their holiday. We can only imagine the disappointment and costs involved. Many will have been planning their adventure for months, pouring over maps and guidebooks. They will have been eager to embark on a special experience.
However, to all those disappointed folk, visitors and locals alike, let’s remind ourselves that the fells and dales, the rivers and becks, the meadows and woodland, the fauna and flora will always be here, waiting for life to return to some sort of normality. In fact, when we finally emerge from this difficult time, the English countryside and our national parks will seem all the more precious. Perhaps we will have a different perspective about our lives.
So come on you walkers, when the time is right, pack your rucksack, get yer boots on and blow away the cobwebs. We’ll be waiting, to give you a right royal welcome!
Tony Hill, The Lakeland Hills in Burneside
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Don't forget - you can still get copies of our special souvenir booklet:
- by Colin Speakman & Tony Grogan, £4.99, now available to buy online from Skyware Press here.
See full details of 50 YEARS OF THE DALES WAY here.