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.
The Dales Way Association 2017 Annual General Meeting in Ilkley on Saturday 11 November was a great success, with a group of 22 enjoying the morning walk around Ilkley, enjoying a light lunch of sandwiches and chips at the Flying Duck afterwards, before attending the talk and meeting.
Our walk around Ilkley was to celebrate the special history of the town where so many Dales Way walkers start out from but never have time to explore. It has a rich history in its own right and was known for many years as The Heather Spa.
Highlights of the walk included an ascent of Mill Gill to pause at Darwin Gardens opposite Well House, which was originally a Hydropathic Spa where Victorians took ice cold baths to improve their circulation. We continued towards White Wells, the 18th century bathing establishment to where gouty patients were carried by donkey for the water cure. Our walk then skirted the edge of iconic Ilkley Moor, symbol of much that is special about Yorkshire and scene of many ramblers' activities, including open air protest rallies in the 1930s and 1950s for public access. Its history in the walking movement made it a very appropriate place to start the Dales Way from.
We returned to Ilkley down picturesque Heber’s Gill, a natural Pennine ravine whose pathways and bridges were constructed by the Victorians to encourage walking as a way of improving health – anticipating modern medical science. Along Grove Road we called in to see Heathcote, the magnificent Edwin Lutyens Italianate villa which belonged to a former Bradford wool magnate, before returning to central Ilkley via the Memorial Gardens, relics of the old town spa in small park , and the Victorian Arcade to finish the walk at The Manor House, the fascinating medieval building at the heart of ancient Likely, whose foundations lie on the remains of Ilkley's Roman fort – Olicana.
In his chairman’s address, Colin Speakman highlighted how much of our work in 2017 had been dominated by the 2015 Storm Desmond and Boxing Day flood damage to the Dales Way in Cumbria. It had taken until this spring to get the Way fully opened and paths and footbridges restored. The Association continues to flourish, with an excellent, enthusiastic and efficient committee, very good newsletter and website that had been brilliantly adapted for use on held IT devices.
Of especial value is the close working relationship the Associating has with the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority. This was exemplified by the informative and entertaining address by Head of Park Management, Alan Hulme which formed the start of the AGM.