Four local Walkers are Welcome groups are celebrating the publication of the second edition of a best-selling guidebook detailing the popular Welcome Way long-distance trail. The 36-mile circular route linking Otley, Burley in Wharfedale, Bingley and Baildon, was devised in 2015 by a joint committee representing the four communities in order to encourage more people to explore the many delights of the surrounding countryside.
The name, ‘The Welcome Way’, was chosen to reflect the aims of the national Walkers are Welcome network, which accredits small towns and villages annually who can demonstrate that they are providing a warm welcome to walkers. This can be done through various means, including ensuring that local paths are well maintained and signposted, by providing guided walks, and through providing online and printed walking guides – such as the Welcome Way booklet.
John Sparshatt, co-editor of the booklet and chair of the group that devised and now oversees the maintenance and promotion of the Welcome Way, said ‘We are delighted that this has become such a popular route for people of all ages and walking abilities and very pleased to have sold 1500 copies of the guide to date. We devised the Welcome Way so that it not only goes through some of the most stunning scenery and important historical sites between our four communities but is also very accessible by public transport. This means it can be easily undertaken in short bite-sized chunks of say 3 or 4 miles, or longer sections for those wanting something a bit more strenuous or challenging. We even have groups such as ultra-marathon runners completing the route in one day!’ Some major improvements have been made to the route which is reflected in the latest edition of the guide. A potentially dangerous railway level crossing between Burley in Wharfedale and Menston has been replaced after reaching an agreement with the landowner to create a new right of way using a nearby cattle arch. A long stretch of permanently waterlogged footpath in the Little London area between Bingley Road and Baildon will now be avoided through the creation later this year of a safe off-road path following an agreement reached with Bradford Highways.
Many other improvements have also been made such as bridges built and stiles repaired or replaced with kissing gates. Although the majority of the route lies within Bradford Metropolitan District such as Burley and Baildon Moors, Bingley 5 Rise Locks and Spring Wood near Esholt, sections also pass through the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in North Yorkshire, and through rural areas of Leeds such as the Chevin Countryside Park. The group, therefore, liaises regularly with Rights of Way teams from all three councils in order to agree on steps to improve the route, and whether work will be undertaken by Walkers are Welcome volunteers or by council staff and contractors.
John Sparshatt added ‘The path is very easy to follow thanks to Welcome Way waymarks and the use of Ordnance Survey maps in the guide that links to the numbered paragraphs. We were also very pleased to recently learn from Ordnance Survey that they will be showing the route in future as a named long-distance trail in all their electronic and printed maps of the area. This is quite an achievement given how relatively young the Welcome Way is. With many more people wanting to explore their locality during lockdowns over the past year through walking and running, we can now ensure that the Welcome Way will continue to make an important contribution to our local footpath infrastructure for many years to come.
The Welcome Way booklet can be purchased for £5.99 from outlets in towns and villages throughout the area and via the website www.welcomeway.org.uk