the first crossing of the DALES WAY
The first recorded walk of the entire route of the Dales Way was made in April 1969 by a group of young Venture Scouts from Bradford Grammar School.
Steve Kerry and Michael Crafer wrote an article about their adventures for their school magazine, see below:-
The Bradfordian - The magazine of the Bradford Grammar School - Vol. 45, July 1969, No. 283.
DALES WAY ‘69
In September 1968 the first announcements of the Dales Way appeared in the Press. . . seven months later nine Venture Scouts and three unsuspecting masters strode forth from the hallowed grounds of Ilkley Station, defiantly shrugging off the marauding photographers, bound for Bowness - upon - Windermere. The culmination of many weeks of planning, countless phone calls and letters, arid endless arguments, this seventy-three mile riverside walk marked the public initiation of the B..G.S. Venture Scout Unit.
Fortunately the fine Easter weather held out - at least for the first day - and gave us the opportunity to cover a long first day without any mishap, excepting blisters. Passing through Addingham Village, on the river bank, and then over Haw Pike, we reached Bolton Abbey at 11-0 a.m., to be greeted by yet another Press photographer. With only a short break for refreshments at the Cavendish Pavilion, we took advantage of reduced party rates at the Strid and walked on to Barden Bridge. At a slower pace, though still in the sunshine, the group continued towards the goal of Kettlewell and, on passing through Drebley, were able to reminisce about damper occasions. We were all glad to sink down outside the Red Lion at Burnsall for lunch, washed down, of course, by nourishing healthy. . . lemonade! (Was this the original ‘Pub with no beer’?). The intrepid band of footsore pioneers pushed on upstream, spurred on by the prospect of afternoon tea in Grassington. With tea-leaves still in the youthful beard of one of our leaders, the long walk to the Youth Hostel began.
Although some may maintain that mud and rain soothe aching feet, we were little encouraged the next day when we were thrown out of the Hostel, still clutching our renowned Y.H.A. packed lunches, and into the drizzle. With a dog clinging to our heels, and mud to our boots, we continued up Langstrothdale Chase, pausing only at The George Inn at Hubberholme. No one will ever forget the long, apparently unending drag up the fellside to Cam Houses, or the even harder climb up to the Pennine Way on the crest of the ridge. But we were compensated, for the magnificent view of the Three Peaks gave us the inspiration to quicken the pace towards Dent. However, we would have needed even greater compensation to cross the flooded Ribble by what was left of the bridge at Gearstones. Undeterred, we took an alternative route higher upstream and from there, Newby Head, we walked down the Dee Valley to the Caving Centre at Whernside Manor, where we were spending the night. Unfortunately, that evening, Steve Kerry developed severe stomach trouble.
Continuing along the bank of the Dee, we reached Rash Bridge after having to scramble over and, through a number of flooded tributaries, From here we walked over the hillside in the rain to Sedhergh, where Steve Kerry and Richard Ogden dropped out, the latter suffering from very painful blisters. After Sedbergh, the remainder of the party trudged on across muddy fields, unable to see the advertised views as the weather thickened. But the greatest of our miseries was our inability to buy any drink or food for lunch, as the official route religiously avoided civilised habitation. Consequently, when we did stop for lunch, it was only to crouch behind a wall and swop brown for white Kendal Mint Cake. Up the Lune Valley the route was very circuitous and hard to find-in fact one viaduct was in view for over an hour because walking was so slow. By 4-00 p.m. a thick blanket of fog shrouded all landmarks, but the racket of the contractors working on the new motorway drew us on towards our goal. But this seeming godsend turned out to be a devil in disguise, for in spite of the fog, on arriving at the motorway, we were able to see that the Dales Way had vanished into a sea of mud. After having been directed to the Kendal-Tebay Road, the official end to the third day, the thought of walking another seven miles to the Hostel in Kendal was too much, on top of the bad weather, and so the initiative of the typical Venture Scout was called on to acquire a lift into Kendal.
In defiance of the gale and hailstorms of the next day, the pace was brisk, and creaking joints were soon forgotten in the rush to save one of our assistant leaders from being blown away by the wind in his cape. Within an hour of leaving Kendal we were back on the Dales Way, and, walking alongside the flooded river Kent, passed through Burneside and Bowston on our way to Staveley. After a sharp squall of hail and rain we were pleased to eat our last scraps of mint cake under the arches of a bridge, and during this period the weather brightened and cleared, revealing, the panorama of Lake District Peaks capped with snow. Yet within yards of our goal we found Matson’s Ground to be private, and had to shun the official route in order to prevent a mass trespassing offence.
But, by 2-15 on Saturday, April 12th, ten members of the B.G.S. Venture Scout Unit had arrived, if limping, in Bowness-upon-Windermere, the first ever people to officially walk the complete length of the newest long distance footpath in Britain, the Dales Way.
S. KERRY and M. CRAFER (U6H).