The Ride2Stride festival comes to Settle
- Credit: Alamy
Outdoor enthusiasts bring an economic boost to an historic market town in the Yorkshire Dales, reports Terry Fletcher
There was once a time when walkers were considered pretty bad news in the countryside. Wandering over farmers’ land, leaving gates open and apparently bringing precious little in return, they were barely tolerated. Now all that has changed, partly as a result of the foot and mouth epidemic which closed footpaths in 2001 and visitors stopped coming.
Rural communities suddenly discovered just how much they depended on visitors, including hikers and cyclists, to support business, jobs and local services such as buses. So now towns and villages all over Britain are putting out the welcome mat trying to encourage more walkers.
Nowhere is that more evident than in the proliferation of special festivals when programmes of guided walks are laid on to bring in even more people. Today there are more than 160 taking place up and down the country from the Isles of Scilly to the Hebrides and Yorkshire has not been slow to join in.
The week of the May Bank Holiday sees the Ride2Stride festival, built around the Settle-Carlisle railway with the lion’s share of events in and around Settle itself. Later there will be festivals in the South Pennines and at Pateley Bridge in Nidderdale. Ride2Stride was the brainchild of guidebook-writing couple Tony and Chris Grogan and this is the fourth year it has been run, with each one proving more popular than the last.
Chris said: ‘It is very much a cooperative effort by various organisations in the Dales and around the railway. We have a small organising committee but the walks and talks are all run by other groups such as the Friends of the Settle-Carlisle and the Friends of Dales Rail. We’ve been overwhelmed by the success. Last year we had more than 900 people taking part in the walks and at the various talks and they came from all over, not just Yorkshire or even the UK. We had people from America and Australia and mainland Europe and in this country they came from as far away as Scotland and Norfolk, though most were more local.
‘It’s a benefit on so many fronts. The town gains from the extra visitors. The only complaint we had last year was that all the accommodation was booked up with not a bed to be had, which is great news for the hotels and B&Bs, cafés and pubs. At the same time it’s extra business for the railway. All the walks begin from a station and many of those taking part come from the Bradford and Leeds areas and arrive by train. We also have live music every night which brings people into the pubs so they gain too.’
The walks, she said, attract all ages and all kinds of people with a preponderance of retired people taking part on the weekdays and an influx of younger walkers over the weekend. Some join the walks so they can learn abut the history or wildlife of the area from the guides while others enjoy the security of being in a group in what can be challenging terrain with walks taking in each of the Three Peaks of Whernside, Ingleborough and Penyghent and climbing up to the great canyon of High Cup Nick above Appleby further up the line.
This year’s programme ranges from a half mile stroll to Settle’s restored water tower to full blooded 15 miles tramps over the high peaks. It is expected a novel opportunity to climb the Three Peaks over three days instead of tackling the demanding 24-mile round in the usual less than 12 hours challenge will also attract plenty of walkers. Each of the peaks has its own attraction. The grassy whaleback of Whernside is the least dramatic but at 2,370ft is the highest, while Ingleborough with its huge flat top where horse races were once staged is the most imposing and Penyghent, with its distinctive ‘crouching lion’ profile is often considered the most attractive. Doing them separately also avoids the long moorland trudge from Penyghent to Whernside.
The festival is just part of the economic lift that Settle has got in recent years from an influx of outdoors enthusiasts. It has always had excellent walking and caving in Ribblesdale and its side valleys but more recently it has been gained the added attraction of being the start and finish of a new 247-mile long distance walk. The Pennine Journey retraces the footsteps of legendary fell walker and guidebook writer Alfred Wainwright who devised the route for a holiday in 1938.
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The town is also on long distance cycling routes such as the recently-opened Pennine Bridleway with its eponymous Loop day ride and the 170-mile Way of the Rose cycle ride from Morecambe to Bridlington.
Throw in the local climbers’ crags, including Castleberg, which looms over the market square and was developed partly with sponsorship from the town and Settle can fairly stake its claim as the adventure capital of the Dales.
Ride2Stride runs from April 28th – May 4th. Full programme from skyware.co.uk/scwf
For details of other Yorkshire festivals and events all over the country walkingfestivalsuk.com