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A Walk in the Woods

 

MORE THAN A WALK IN THE WOODS FOR THE WHARFEDALE YOUNGSTERS.

 

JUST at an age when most people are thinking they should be slowing down, one group of rural devotees has been picking up its picks and shovels to help keep the countryside spick and span.

 

Eighty-one-year-old Jack Jowett and retired colleagues, who form the Lower Wharfedale Working Group of the Ramblers Association, are celebrating 15 years of putting their backs into repairing a broken-down collection of stiles, bridges, collapsed steps and gateways across Wharfedale and the Washburn Valley.

 

The group - which also counts members Walter Harford, Roger Stark, Jack Schofield, Barry Brand and the youngster of the group Richard Smith (64) are all in their 60s and 70s and are retired professionals.

 

Formed under the leadership of Jack (Jowett), a sprightly 81, the troupe liaise with the major local authorities and landowners in the region to fill in the gaps in their rolling programmes of much needed repair works on the walkways of Wharfedale.

 

Since they were established in 94, the team has replaced or repaired over 260 stiles, 43 bridges, 75 paths, and installed or made good over 60 gates steps or fallen trees in the region.

 

Colleagues Richard, Barry and Jack (Schofield), pictured here installing a self-closing walkers gate on a much-loved footpath above Arthington, say much of the credit for the back-breaking work - should be given to leader Jack Jowett, a retired chartered surveyor, who has worked tirelessly  - often in blizzard conditions - to improve the lot of the countryside.

 

Friend and fellow group member Barry Brand, paying tribute to him, says:

 

Jack really has been the driving force of the group. He is well respected by all who come into contact with and and above all he is a true gentleman.

 

He took upon the task some years ago of identifying the problems on footpaths in the region which naturally occur with wear and tear over time; since then he has been approaching, on behalf of the group, landowners, farmers and councils to gain permission to work on their land and identify access points and necessary repairs.

 

Materials have then to be sourced, which might include stile set planks or metal gates, and other tools, which have then to be transported to the site, often in his Jacks own car. And of course he has had to make sure everyone has been in the right place at the right time to start work. Hes certainty dedicated.

 

Jack is modest about his own contribution but admits the workable liaison between the group and the councils and the landowners has been the key to success.

 

He says: All the work is carried out by volunteers, occasionally helped by council footpath officers,

 

We started because we felt the local authorities - certainly back then - were not perhaps doing the work on footpaths that we felt they could do, usually because of a lack of manpower and resources.

 

When I joined the Ramblers Lower Wharfedale committee, I felt the only way to get something done, practically, was to do it myself - and this is how the group formed.

 

We get reports of the types of repairs needed from walkers and members of the public, and I approach the local authorities and landowners to organise a working group.

 

The councils we are in touch with then provide the materials and we set to work. Today, weve been installing a self-closing gate, the benefits of which are obvious, but some of the largest jobs have been bridge repairs up to 5m across, say.

 

Were obviously limited by what we can do in terms of sheer size, but the one thing we always do when we finish a job is to use it ourselves to check its safety and to make sure they are stock-proof with regards to animals.

 

Eventually I shall give up - Im 81 now, but there has to come a time when I pack away the tools for the last time. I just hope the Group doesnt collapse.

 

Nine times out of ten it is the case that we respond to the parish council or a report from members of the public, but sometimes the local authorities will approach us direct. Farmers and landowners are often a source of info.

 

The group covers all the major parishes of the Wharfedale area.

 

Jack adds: Were generally a good natured group but we can get a bit tetchy when the weather turns to driving rain - because its horrible.

 

We worked in whiteout conditions up near Little Almscliff one year  - people were cross-country skiing past us while we were working away in blizzard conditions. But we got the job done as we had someone coming from North Yorkshire County Council who was a volunteer organiser so we wanted to show him what we could be done!

 

The labour is always the thing that costs local authorities of course, and we can do the work far cheaper than if a council got the contractors in, especially on a bridge building, say. We carry out the work to their specification so its a win win situation.

 

The group normally meets throughout the year on Tuesdays.

 

Councillor John Procter, Leeds City Council executive board member for Leisure, says:

"The work of volunteer groups such as the Lower Wharfedale Group is greatly appreciated by the council and we value their contribution. By working together we can help improve and enhance the quality of the rights of way network for the future.

 

 

JUST at an age when most people are thinking they should be slowing down, one group of rural devotees has been picking up its picks and shovels to help keep the countryside spick and span.

 

Eighty-one-year-old Jack Jowett and retired colleagues, who form the Lower Wharfedale Working Group of the Ramblers Association, are celebrating 15 years of putting their backs into repairing a broken-down collection of stiles, bridges, collapsed steps and gateways across Wharfedale and the Washburn Valley.

 

The group - which also counts members Walter Harford, Roger Stark, Jack Schofield, Barry Brand and the youngster of the group Richard Smith (64) are all in their 60s and 70s and are retired professionals.

 

Formed under the leadership of Jack (Jowett), a sprightly 81, the troupe liaise with the major local authorities and landowners in the region to fill in the gaps in their rolling programmes of much needed repair works on the walkways of Wharfedale.

 

Since they were established in 94, the team has replaced or repaired over 260 stiles, 43 bridges, 75 paths, and installed or made good over 60 gates steps or fallen trees in the region.

 

Colleagues Richard, Barry and Jack (Schofield), pictured here installing a self-closing walkers gate on a much-loved footpath above Arthington, say much of the credit for the back-breaking work - should be given to leader Jack Jowett, a retired chartered surveyor, who has worked tirelessly  - often in blizzard conditions - to improve the lot of the countryside.

 

Friend and fellow group member Barry Brand, paying tribute to him, says:

 

Jack really has been the driving force of the group. He is well respected by all who come into contact with and and above all he is a true gentleman.

 

He took upon the task some years ago of identifying the problems on footpaths in the region which naturally occur with wear and tear over time; since then he has been approaching, on behalf of the group, landowners, farmers and councils to gain permission to work on their land and identify access points and necessary repairs.

 

Materials have then to be sourced, which might include stile set planks or metal gates, and other tools, which have then to be transported to the site, often in his Jacks own car. And of course he has had to make sure everyone has been in the right place at the right time to start work. Hes certainty dedicated.

 

Jack is modest about his own contribution but admits the workable liaison between the group and the councils and the landowners has been the key to success.

 

He says: All the work is carried out by volunteers, occasionally helped by council footpath officers,

 

We started because we felt the local authorities - certainly back then - were not perhaps doing the work on footpaths that we felt they could do, usually because of a lack of manpower and resources.

 

When I joined the Ramblers Lower Wharfedale committee, I felt the only way to get something done, practically, was to do it myself - and this is how the group formed.

 

We get reports of the types of repairs needed from walkers and members of the public, and I approach the local authorities and landowners to organise a working group.

 

The councils we are in touch with then provide the materials and we set to work. Today, weve been installing a self-closing gate, the benefits of which are obvious, but some of the largest jobs have been bridge repairs up to 5m across, say.

 

Were obviously limited by what we can do in terms of sheer size, but the one thing we always do when we finish a job is to use it ourselves to check its safety and to make sure they are stock-proof with regards to animals.

 

Eventually I shall give up - Im 81 now, but there has to come a time when I pack away the tools for the last time. I just hope the Group doesnt collapse.

 

Nine times out of ten it is the case that we respond to the parish council or a report from members of the public, but sometimes the local authorities will approach us direct. Farmers and landowners are often a source of info.

 

The group covers all the major parishes of the Wharfedale area.

 

Jack adds: Were generally a good natured group but we can get a bit tetchy when the weather turns to driving rain - because its horrible.

 

We worked in whiteout conditions up near Little Almscliff one year  - people were cross-country skiing past us while we were working away in blizzard conditions. But we got the job done as we had someone coming from North Yorkshire County Council who was a volunteer organiser so we wanted to show him what we could be done!

 

The labour is always the thing that costs local authorities of course, and we can do the work far cheaper than if a council got the contractors in, especially on a bridge building, say. We carry out the work to their specification so its a win win situation.

 

The group normally meets throughout the year on Tuesdays.

 

Councillor John Procter, Leeds City Council executive board member for Leisure, says:

"The work of volunteer groups such as the Lower Wharfedale Group is greatly appreciated by the council and we value their contribution. By working together we can help improve and enhance the quality of the rights of way network for the future.

 

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