Recognition at last – The Wakefield Way
In February 2018 the hard work of members of Wakefield Ramblers was rewarded when the Wakefield Way was recognised as an official route by OS Maps.
Originally conceived by Douglas Cossar, the recognition had not been achieved due to some parts of the route not following paths adopted as official public rights of way. Members of the Wakefield Ramblers have worked since 2016 to formally put the route on the map!
The accompanying book, published in 2004 and now out of print, is out of date, with much of the landscape having undergone changes, such as areas becoming Country Parks and nature reserves.
However, the underlying social and cultural history, the unexpected vistas and pleasant woodland that the path visits, remain, and a key reason for undertaking this project, according to Christine Stack, was to preserve these pathways for future generations to use and enjoy.
Two years ago the group began to reconnoitre the 70-mile boundary route and re-routed it in several places to follow official rights of way. They also identified stretches that needed maintenance, and luckily it would appear the Wakefield local authority [LA] have been very helpful; putting, at the request of the Ramblers, some paths on their twice-yearly path maintenance schedule.
The LA has also paid for fifteen new finger posts along the Way and the project has received additional funding from the Health Improvement Team within the LA which helped to fund the placement of information boards, so far erected at three of the five desired locations. The remaining two, however, have been delayed by concerns of park rangers at Newmillerdam Country Park about the location of subterranean gas and electricity pipes and the proximity to the proposed notice board location, and at Frickley Country Park, where the landowners, Land Trust, have requested that insurance policies be taken out by the Ramblers before erecting the notice board.
Officially launched on Good Friday, 2018, the reaction to the Wakefield Way has been predominantly positive thus far. The Wakefield Ramblers have produced, with support from the West Riding Area Council, over 1000 Wakefield Way ‘Walking Packs’ that contain leaflets detailing the various stages of the walk.
Minor grumbles have included, in places ‘too much tarmac underfoot’ however, the leaflets, condensing each walk section to a single page, have been welcomed as an eye-catching and easy-to-understand route map. The Ramblers have re-written the original text to ensure it is up to date; they also drew the maps and took the photographs that appear on the pamphlets. Additional photographs have been provided with permission from the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. The walks can also be downloaded from the website [ramblersyorkshire.org] which the Ramblers pledge to keep updated, i.e. if a stile is replaced by a kissing gate, for example.
An additional 3000 walking packs and leaflets have been paid for and distributed by the Health Improvement Team across the region into doctors’ surgeries and community centres, as well as the Ramblers sending them to schools with accompanying letters to the Headmasters, to encourage all to use the new route.
Positively, it appears there has been, due to the Way’s publicity, an uptake in those participating in voluntary path maintenance projects along the route, and even landowners have erected new fences and gates to guide people along the way.
Described as a route that follows, passes and visits woodlands, riversides, places of interest, including Pontefract Castle and Britain’s only suspension aqueduct at Stanley Ferry; this mostly leisurely walking route is being walked in full next year, beginning May 11th at Anglers Country Park, on led walks by the Wakefield Ramblers. Therefore, if, like me, you’re unfamiliar with the area, perhaps these walks led by those full of local knowledge and information, could introduce you to a serendipitously delightful place to take a stroll.
My thanks to Christine Stack, Walks Coordinator, and Derek Lowery, Group Secretary, who were both instrumental in the delivery of this project and provided me with the information for this article.