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.
Walkers on the Dales Way can't fail to notice the huge granite slab that sits on the cobbled market place in the centre of Dent, with its simple engraving: "Adam Sedgwick 1785 - 1873". The memorial fountain commemorates the life and work of Adam Sedgwick - one of the founders of modern geology and Dent's most famous son.
The fascinating story of Sedgwick's life and work is told in the definitive biography "Adam Sedgwick, Geologist and Dalesman" by Colin Speakman - creator of the Dales Way and chair of the Dales Way Association. First published in 1982, the book has been reissued in 2018 by the Yorkshire Geological Society and Gritstone Press.
Sedgwick was the son of the Dent vicar who went on to study mathematics, classics and theology at Trinity College, Cambridge. A deeply religious man, he was ordained a deacon in 1817 and the following year was appointed Woodwardian Professor of Geology, even though as he remarked himself "I knew absolutely nothing of geology". That soon changed though, with Sedgwick carrying out important research work all over Britain, in what became known as the historic age of geology.
Sedgwick decoded the complex geology of the Lake District and became friends with Wordsworth.
In Wales he studied the oldest known rocks in Britain, formed in a period over 488 million years ago which he called the Cambrian. They contained the earliest known fossils, which no doubt influenced one of his field research students - Charles Darwin. Darwin's later work "On the Origin of the Species" would, however, appal Sedgwick's deeply religious convictions.
But for fans of the Yorkshire Dales, it is his 19th century accounts of his beloved Dentdale that hold particular fascination. His campaigning book "A Memorial to the Trustees of Cowgill Chapel" in 1868 even led to an intervention by Queen Victoria and an act of Parliament to change the chapel's name as registered by the church authorities.
The book is beautifully written and produced, and this timely new publication marks 200 years since Sedgwick's historic appointment as Woodwardian Professor of Geology.
"Adam Sedgwick, Geologist and Dalesman" by Colin Speakman. ISBN 978-0-9955609-4-0, published jointly by Gritstone Writers Cooperative & The Yorkshire Geological Society 2018, £12.00.
You can see Colin give an illustrated talk on Adam Sedgwick at the Ride2Stride Walking Festival 2018. Friday, May 4, 14.15. Friends Meeting House, Settle. £3.00 includes light refreshments, sponsored by the Friends of the Dales.