There was a large turn out of thirty one walkers when Wakefield and District Group launched its summer programme of walks by doing the first stage of the Wakefield Way.
Starting at Anglers Country Park, Wintersett, on Saturday, 7th May, the walkers led by Christine Stack on a glorious spring morning followed the route of the Wakefield Way through the woodland of Haw Park and along a charming stretch of the towpath of the former Barnsley Canal (no longer a canal, but a nature’s paradise). Nearing Walton, the walkers left the Wakefield Way (to be covered the following Saturday), and completed a 6 miles circular walk back to the Anglers Rest via Walton Park (where the bluebells were still in full flush) and a circuit of the country park lake.
As a major part of their programme of walks this summer, the Wakefield Group will be doing walks which contain a section of the Wakefield Way. The 75 mile mile circuit will be completed on October 29th when the walkers return to the Anglers Rest (not October 22nd – please note!). Some of the highlights which will be enjoyed along the richly varied 75 mile route are Haw Park, Newmillerdam, Bretton Park, the Mining Museum, Coxley Valley, the Rhubarb Triangle, the Aire and Calder Navigation, and Pontefract Castle. There are prizes for those who walk the most mileage along the Wakefield Way, and it is hoped that many will manage the whole distance.
The Wakefield Way was planned in 2004 but never became an official route because some of the proposed paths lacked definitive map status. Now the project has been revived by the Wakefield District Group of the Ramblers to promote the profile of the Ramblers in the Wakefield area.
The book, “The Wakefield Way” by Douglas Cossar in association with Trevor Hiles the footpath secretary of Wakefield Group, published in 2004, described an attractive 75 mile route close to the boundary of the metropolitan district. An added feature of the book was the inclusion of 21 circular walks and 3 linear walks all linked to the route of the Wakefield Way and enabling attractive local walks to be undertaken within a leisurely day’s timetable. The book has proved to be the backbone of the Wakefield Group’s walks programme each year. One downside of the exercise was the reluctance of Wakefield Council to adopt the route, largely on the grounds that parts of the boundary walk could not be identified as rights of way. It has also been the case that the local landscape itself has changed drastically with the establishment of country parks in many parts of the district.
It seemed the right time to approach Rights of Way staff at Wakefield to discuss how the Wakefield Group might secure the council’s recognition of the Wakefield Way boundary walk, having regard to the nearby Barnsley Boundary Way, the Kirklees Way and the Leeds Country Way. It was also the Group’s aim to persuade the staff to enter Wakefield’s boundary walk on the Ordnance Survey map. There have now been two meetings with the ROW staff, and they have been supportive while indicating that the Ramblers Wakefield Group would need to carry out the necessary work on the ground to ensure that a revised boundary walk would meet the criteria of an entirely ROW route. They added that where the route crossed a country park for which the council had a responsibility, this would not be an obstacle. The Group’s initial research has indicated some technical issues, and walk leaders are being asked to look into alternatives that would meet the ROW criteria.
The current position is that the Group has a two-prong strategy. Walks leaders will ensure that the route of the Wakefield Way will use recognised rights of way, and during the summer walks programme this activity will be combined with a walk on each of the individual walks described in the Wakefield Way book. Walks leaders have been asked to highlight interesting historical or landscape features as well as identifying the condition of stiles on the walks. In this way the the walks will be updated to reflect changes since 2004 and will be ready for uploading to the Ramblers website, with some hard copies being available as well.
Full details of each walk along the Wakefield Way are in the current West Riding Area Walks Programme.
Mike O’Donnell, Footpath Officer, Wakefield Group