Something very interesting and uplifting is happening out in the Dales and I almost stumbled upon it by chance. Last Summer I joined a new walking group called Onna Walks with which I used to walk every Tuesday evening. As you can imagine, come winter time we had to stop unless we wanted to walk with torches. So I was very glad when I received in the early new year an email from Mumtaz, our group leader, who invited me for a walk on Saturday 7 January starting in Linton near Grassington in the Yorkshire Dales. I just assumed it would be with our regular walkers and was like a get back together sort of thing. I accepted without asking many questions and thought to myself it would be a good way to get back in shape after the festive period anyway.
So I was relatively surprised to discover on arrival that there were quite a lot of people who turned up. Mumtaz was there and I congratulated her for this. To be fair, the clue might have been in the rendez-vous point which was the Anderton Memorial Institute, also know as the Linton Village Hall. A bit unusual for our regular settings. So who were these people then? Well I soon found out that they were mostly members of the Yorkshire Dales Society (YDS) and that they had organised an event in conjunction with the Mosaic Project. OK great but what are they? Well why don’t you find out by talking to people on the walk Mumtaz suggested. Very good point! So after a short introduction to the day ahead by the Yorkshire Dales Society chairman, we were off for the walk. In his introduction, the chairman had told us that after the walk there would be a talk about the Mosaic Project and I thought I’d ask him about it first. So on our way towards the river, I caught up with him and found out a bit more about the Yorkshire Dales Society. It was founded 30 years ago as a charity and its aim is to “advance the public knowledge and appreciation of the social history and the physical and cultural heritage of the Yorkshire Dales and to preserve its condition, landscape and natural beauty”. This is now quite well summed up in their motto: “Campaign – Protect – Enjoy”. I was already converted and started to talk about my own experience of the Dales and how I fell in love with it when walking the Dales Way almost 3 years ago. When I said that he was really delighted and to my surprise I discovered that I was actually talking to the man who created the Dales Way, Colin Speakman! The Dales Way is probably one of the most popular long distance paths in the UK so I was quite impressed and delighted with this encounter. If you want to know a bit more about the man, there’s an article about him in Walk Magazine.
Once at the Linton Falls car park, I was appointed photographer by Mumtaz and took a group picture (see above). As you can see it was quite a big group after all. Not bad really because many of them are smiling. Could it be because I told them to say “fromage” while taking the picture. I know it’s a bit cheesy. After that we passed the church, carried on towards the river and started walking up the hill. That’s when I noticed a guy with some Three Yorkshire Peaks challenges badges on his rucksack. We had a good conversation about it and he explained to me like many other people I’ve met, he had done it for charities raising money. I have attempted the Three Yorkshire Peaks challenge myself three years ago but failed (done 2 out of 3) so this reminded me that it’s something I should do this year. I believe that Mumtaz has planned something for us around Easter and this guy’s story has now motivated me to try it again. So bring it on! After that our walk came to a bit of a halt when we realised that we were following the wrong path. But it was fine, we just followed the walls around a field and got back on track pretty soon. That’s when I had the chance to talk to Nurjahan Ali Arobi one of the Mosaic Project people for Bradford. She came with her two young daughters to the walk who I could often see right at the front. We had a good chat about her work and the project and I learnt that it was a National Park campaign with the aim of getting people from black and ethnic minority communities out of the cities to enjoy the natural beauty of the UK National Parks. I understand how important it is because according to the Mosaic website, in the UK “about 10% of the population is of an ethnic minority background, only about 1% of visitors to National Parks are from ethnic minorities”. Nurjahan is also one of the Yorkshire Dales Society Council members and I have no doubt that she is responsible for the Society’s involvement with the Mosaic Project.
After my chat with Nurjahan, I realised that we were going back to the village and thought that it was already the end of our walk. But no, Mumtaz was taking us towards the dismantled railway line at which point I started talking with a very nice fellow from the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority. We talked about various things and especially about how people from Leeds, Bradford or even from far afield used to come to Grassington by train up until the 60′s! It made me realised that the Dales have at least since the industrial revolution been used as an escape for city dwellers. Being able to get away from the harsh reality of our urban environment is definitely not a new thing then. And our walk went finally to its conclusion when we reached the Linton Falls. What a treat! The water was in its full glory. It’s probably not the most impressive waterfall in the world but I can tell you that it put a smile on anyone who had never seen it before. After a few pictures, we eventually made our way back to the Institute where we could all have our packed lunch seated in a dry and relatively warm room. That was probably a relief for many of us!
While having my lunch I met Tony Smith, another YDS’ Council member who explained to us that after 30 years of the Society’s existence they decided to “rebrand” their publication and logo in order to appeal to a new audience. As pointed out, there are about 1400 members in the Society but the members’ demographic is unfortunately not in their favour and they have recently seen a trend towards the decline of their members number. What they would like to achieve is attract a younger audience really and especially a family one. Well judging by the audience attracted today to the walk, I couldn’t but notice the generation gap between YDS people and Mosaic people. How incredible, could people from ethnic minority background be the “saviour” of this ageing Society? Well what I haven’t told you yet, is that the Yorkshire Dales Society has actually secured some funding to have a Sunday connection from Bradford on the DalesBus starting this Spring. That funding has been obtained through the Mosaic Project and you might now understand the reason of this event. After the walk, Nurjahan gave a presentation about “bringing city dwellers from Bradford to the Yorkshire Dales” which gave even more sense to that event. Having a direct public transport link from Bradford to the Dales will clearly allow more people from the Bradford area to discover the National Park. Bradford has a strong ethnic minority population and this is definitely a move in the right direction to increase the number of visitors from ethnic minority background to the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
I hope that these new visitors will like me be enchanted by the beauty of the Dales and who knows, thanks to this initiative the Society might be in a demographic transition too. Well I have decided to get myself a membership so their numbers will at least go up by one tomorrow I have only one favour to ask: the bus timetable has not been published yet but I hope there will be a stop in Bingley so I can hop on too!
For those interested, I have actually mapped our route. I must say it was a rather gentle walk but not suitable for all since we encountered a few stiles. Oh and we got a bit lost too You can find all my pictures of this walk below too.