I was in Appletreewick in the dales recently and had the opportunity to go for a walk. Completely unprepared I parked in the village and headed off on foot at the first Public Footpath sign I saw. I had no map nor any knowledge of the area and thought it would be interesting to see how far I could walk without getting lost!
As it turned out it was very difficult to lose your way. The paths were waymarked to a very good standard and it was nearly always possible to see the next sign from where you were. Every stile or gate was in pretty good condition and I managed a 2 hour circular walk without any problems. A real pleasure.
On the way home I stopped on Pole Moor above Slawit in the Colne Valley and attempted a similar exercise.Albeit I know the path network well here. This is wonderful Kirklees countryside but under visited by walkers.
The first Footpath sign I came to had a stile choked with nettles and beyond that a heavily overgrown section which led to a mountain of manure completely obstructing passage. All this within metres of setting off. If it had been like this earlier at Appletreewick I’d have turned back.
The manure mountain blocks the junction of two public footpaths.One of them is the lovely Colne Valley Circular which, if properly maintained waymarked and promoted, could bring a steady stream of visitors to the valley. The manure mountain isn’t new. It is usually there blocking the path and oozing it’s liquid contents far and wide. The owner of the crap knows it’s on two public footpaths but there has never been any effective enforcement here.
I attempted to get back up to the road via Colne Valley Footpath 144 but this was impassable due to vegetation!
Forced to continue on I crossed a close cropped silage field to the next landmark – some building waste fly tipped on Footpath 144. Quite a handy navigational aid as there are no waymarks.
At this point anyone unfamiliar with the area would no doubt be full of regret at their decision to walk here. The paths are all but invisible. There is no waymarking. No helpful splash of yellow paint or wooden signs to guide you on. Just a pile of dumped rubbish in a silage field.
The contrast with the Appletreewick paths could not be more marked. I’m sure it has taken the Yorkshire Dales National Park (who have more than double the mileage of rights of way compared to Kirklees) many decades of work to get their paths in good order. Similarly the state of the rights of way network in Kirklees has not just come about overnight. It has of course taken many decades of neglect and abandonment by the local authority to create these large swathes of “No Walk” areas.
These Colne Valley paths should be teeming with people on a summer evening. The countryside is stunning as the images below show.