Centenary of the inscrutable Lis Hawkins

The late Elisabeth (Lis) Hawkins, would have been 100 today, 29 October 2017.  She died on 27 April 2011 aged 93.  I knew her for 38 years as a staunch campaigner for Dartmoor.

Oboe_modern

Oboe by Hustvedt – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3547115

Lis was a proficient musician.  In the 1940s she was first oboe in the Hallé orchestra.  She must have had many a tale to tell of her experiences but, sadly, she was reticent about that period of her life.  This may be because she dropped her career to care for her widowed mother who lived in Dunsford, Devon.  Her father had been a vicar.  She gave up her oboe completely and never returned to it.  It must have been a terrible wrench to relinquish her music, so suddenly and prematurely, but she never complained.

Thick and thin
After her mother died, Lis moved to a cottage in Lustleigh.  She was a close friend of Sylvia Sayer whom she supported through thick and thin, taking part in all the Dartmoor public inquiries with carefully-produced and beautifully-typed evidence.  The many threats to the moor made her furious.

Watern Tor

Watern Tor on north-east Dartmoor

Always very upright and smiling rarely, she gave the impression of being serious, but behind this somewhat daunting appearance lay a wicked sense of humour.  Lis could have us all in stitches with her stories and mimicry.  But she had tough principles and if you displeased her you could be met with a hard stare, known by her friends as ‘a light fuser’.  I suffered her silent opprobrium when I did something of which she disapproved, and she would ignore me for days.  It was a great relief when she forgave me.

Lis served on the committee of the Dartmoor Preservation Association from 1964 to 1998 and could be depended upon to speak and vote in defence of the moor’s wilderness.  She abhored compromisers.

She never let her dependence on public transport stop her from getting about the moor, nor from visiting her scattered friends one of whom lived in Australia.  She also regularly visited her brother Marcus who lived in Botton Village near Danby in North Yorkshire.  They were devoted and he came to stay with her at least once a year.

6 Jun 1975 HHW bracken Hil, Lis, Marcus, SS cropped

Bracken-bashing expedition to the Dartmoor Preservation Association’s High House Waste on south-west Dartmoor. Left to right: Hil Scott (now Marshall), Lis Hawkins, Marcus Hawkins and Sylvia Sayer, 6 June 1975

Lis roamed the moor, especially the north-east quarter, until old age and she loved being alone there—walking miles to connect with the limited buses.  Special spots for her were the Small Brook on the south-west side of Cosdon Beacon, and the Manga Brook, west of Fernworthy Forest.  But she was also pleased to walk with me, and my little white mini enabled her to be more flexible.

Small Brook, 16 Aug 2002

The Small Brook, looking north to Belstone Tor

On 28 June 1976 she and I walked to Cranmere pool, on a boiling day.   She fell into the bog in Jackman’s Bottom and we both laughed a great deal.  She later said that the cool waters of the bog had been her saviour; she had been wondering how to keep going in the heat.

My diary records that on 12 August 1976 we walked from Batworthy (west of Chagford) to Shovel Down, Teignhead Farm, Whitehorse Gate, Whitehorse Hill, the peat pass, and back via Hewlake.  I noted that ‘we discussed music!‘ and I wish I had recorded what exactly we did discuss.  I recall Lis telling me that as I got older I would enjoy chamber music more (true) and that Brahms’s quintets and sextets were rather too orchestral.  She once mentioned a nerve-wracking experience of having to do an oboe solo from the gods in the Albert Hall as an introduction to an orchestral piece, but I cannot remember what the music was.

Lis hated being photographed, consequently I cannot illustrate this with photos of her.  Unless taken by surprise she resolutely turned her back on the camera, as she did in the picture below, on a visit to the tin mine at Bachelor’s Hall, east of Princetown.

14 Feb 1976, Bachelors Hall tin mine cropped

Colin Kilvington (second from right) explains the Bachelors Hall tin mine to (right to left) Lis Hawkins, Guy Sayer and me, 14 Feb 1976

I remember the enigmatic Lis with much affection and gratitude—for her fine defence of Dartmoor, her strong principles and the fun we had together.

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Posted in campaigns, Dartmoor, Music, Obituary, wild country | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The impact of Walkers Are Welcome

In the last ten years, Walkers Are Welcome towns have developed 1,200 walks totalling over 6,342 miles—the distance from London to Lima—and raised massive sums of money for their local economies.

PrintThis information is revealed in a recent survey of the 111 Walkers Are Welcome towns in England, Scotland and Wales.

Towns are accorded national Walkers Are Welcome (WAW) status by the network’s national committee, once they have proved that they have demonstrated their commitment to promoting facilities for walkers.  They must show they have support from local businesses and a broad-based committee, and that they help to keep paths open and waymarked and encourage the provision of public transport.

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Walks panel, displayed at Hebden Bridge station and in the town. Hebden Bridge in Calderdale was the first WAW town

The survey was undertaken during the summer of 2017 and a total of 69 WAW communities responded, representing 76 per cent of the current members.  The responses reveal the many benefits which WAW towns provide to their communities.

Walk near Market Weighton

Walkers near Market Weighton, a WAW town in the East Riding of Yorkshire

For instance, WAW status has helped to boost the numbers using cafés, pubs and accommodation and the income from car-parks; it has helped to keep public toilets open; it has raised massive funds for local economies.

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The WAW quilted banner

Some towns do practical work on paths to ensure that walkers will truly feel welcome and not encounter obstructions, poor waymarking and broken stiles.  Some run walking festivals to attract visitors.  They provide and lead a range of walks—for recreation, health, families and people with disabilities.  They explore local history, nature and other features of interest.  WAW towns work in partnership with local businesses to promote walking and an attractive environment.

Walkers near Devil's Bridge

Walkers near Devil’s Bridge WAW in Ceredigion

The results of the survey are impressive.  If you scale up the responses, the money raised from WAW in a year are likely to be over one million pounds.  The energy and activities of these towns are phenomenal.

This survey shows that by promoting walking, the towns are putting themselves on the walking map, with all the benefits which follow.  It should encourage more towns to recognise the value of Walkers Are Welcome and to apply to join.

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Examples of feedback from WAW towns

England
Baildon, Bradford: WAW believes the WAW status has helped to persuade the council to keep the public toilets open.

Baildon Moor, E of Baildon small

Baildon Moor, east of Baildon

Bingley, Bradford: WAW uses the café on the Leeds/Liverpool Canal as the destination for a number of walks.  Many walks start and end in the Market Square with surrounding pubs and cafés benefiting from additional custom.

Burley-in-Wharfedale, Bradford: promotes local refreshment providers in each of its published walks, and includes a local pub or café in each of the Sunday walks.

Mytholmroyd, Calderdale: walkers’ shops offer discounts to walkers’ groups, there is web FP signmore trade for the cafés and pubs.

Alston Moor, Cumbria: visitors state that the WAW website brought them into the area.

Dursley, Gloucestershire: traders’ meetings consistently report that WAW is helping to promote the town with increased footfall.

Winchcombe, Gloucestershire: car-park takings are up 60 per cent in the last four years.  International guidebooks refer to Winchcombe as ‘the walking centre for the Cotswolds’.

Kington, Herefordshire: joining WAW lit the fuse for the town’s festival which is now in its sixth year.  Tourism has increased dramatically.

walking through Kington

Walkers in Kington

Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire: WAW provides walks programmes and leaders for numerous visiting groups.  WAW estimates it brings £120,000 to the local economy each year.

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On Coppett Hill near Ross-on-Wye

Loftus, Redcar and Cleveland: the contribution of WAW has increased footfall in the town.

Dunster, Somerset: WAW has worked with the local council to keep the public toilets open in the village, and has pushed to ensure paths are recognised on the old Crown Estate land.

Dunster

Dunster

Wellington, Telford & Wrekin: WAW holds events involving local businesses, with walks ending at local cafés and quiz nights at local pubs.

Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire: WAW has sold Walking Wheel maps, generated revenue for cafés and pubs before, during and after walks, and for car parks.  There is use of local accommodation during the walking festival.

Scotland
Newton Stewart, Dumfries and Galloway: the walking festival has resulted in an extra spend of £12,000 per year.

Cree_Bridge

The River Cree with Newton Stewart beyond. Copyright: Wikipedia commons

Wales
Trefriw, Conwy: pubs, cafés, bed and breakfasts, the hotel and village shops all report increased footfall and income since the town won WAW status.

Chepstow, Monmouthshire: new backpackers’ hostel has opened, and local accommodation providers have seen an increase in walkers.  WAW was the winner of the Monmouthshire Business Social Enterprise Award in 2014.  WAW succeeded in keeping the local tourism office open because of the local support shown.

Chepstow bridge

Chepstow Bridge across the River Wye

Posted in Access, Public paths, Walkers Are Welcome Towns, walking | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Scalloping at Common Wood

Common Wood: part 12

On 23 October  the Dartmoor Preservation Association’s conservation volunteers returned to my land at Common Wood, near Horndon on west Dartmoor, to improve the habitat for butterflies.  We were accompanied by Megan Lowe, the community engagement officer from Butterfly Conservation’s All the Moor Butterflies project. 

Eleven of us gathered at Hillbridge Farm at 10 o’clock and sorted out the tools.  Then we walked along the leat to Common Wood.

1 getting ready

The gathering at Hillbridge Farm

 

The weather was grey and slightly damp, with a mist hanging over the valley.

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The view across the valley, lost in the mist

Derek Collins put out our ‘at work’ sign by the leat.

sign

We worked above the leat, clearing large clumps of gorse, or ‘scalloping’ as Megan called it.  By creating an uneven edge to the gorse we increase the sheltered area where the butterflies can feed.  Our aim is to encourage Small Pearl Bordered and Pearl Bordered butterflies to breed here.

Claude Williams cleared some paths with the strimmer so that we could drag our cut material down the hill more easily.

2 Claude and strimmer

Claude and the strimmer

We tackled the gorse with bow saws and the brambles with loppers.

4 cutting gorse

Cutting the gorse

3 clearing bramble

Cutting brambles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We enjoyed coffee and lunchbreaks on the side of the hill.

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Lunchbreak

We kept going for about four hours, cutting and dragging.

 

8 Hil in the gorse

Hil Marshall tackles a gorse bush

9 Hil after

The gorse has gone

 

 

 

 

 

 

The stumps are difficult to remove, but John and Elaine Viant do a brilliant double act.

7 double act, Viants

Double act

We left this stump because it could provide a useful perch for birds.

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Bird perch

Hil Marshall found a caterpillar which Megan later identified as an early instar (pre-hibernation) Drinker moth.

Instar Drinker moth

Drinker moth caterpillar

We also noticed an interesting deep-blue fungus on some of the dead branches.  It may be Terana caerulea (Cobalt Crust) which, according to this website, is uncommon.

Terana caerulea perhaps

Possible Terana caerulea

We dragged our cuttings down the hill to pile onto the windrow. We had made this on previous occasions and the material had rotted down.  Derek tidied it up to make a neat job.

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Sylvia Hamilton takes cuttings to the windrow

We made significant inroads into the hillside that day, and it was rewarding to see the difference we had made.  We plan to return in February.

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At the end of the day

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A humane, welcoming landscape

The contributions of our Japanese guests to the Walkers Are Welcome tenth-anniversary get-together were outstanding.

Takashi Oda, interpreter and tour guide, spoke about Hebden Bridge in Calderdale seen with a foreigner’s eyes.  Hebden Bridge was the first Walkers Are Welcome Town and hosted the tenth-anniversary event.

13 Takashi

Takashi Oda

He began by summarising his talk.

The first gift of Hebden Bridge to the world: a town full of small businesses.  It is a humane landscape because the economy is, more or less, in your own hands.

The second gift of Hebden Bridge to the world: the heritage and continuation of co-operative spirit.  I believe it also contributes to the humane landscape.

Understanding of the history of a place and the meaning of monuments is necessary to appreciate the landscape of the area.

Takashi said that on his first couple of visits to Hebden Bridge he was ‘a shallow passer-by’; he did not notice much about it.

Bridges
But on later visits he took an interest in the history of the place.  For instance, he noticed that the bridges had balcony-like projections and he learnt that this was for the refuge of walkers when the packhorses, bringing goods between Lancaster and Hull, were passing through, their loads filling the width of the bridge.

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Hebden Old Bridge, erected c1510, with its balcony-like projections

He appreciated the many independent shops, and wished that his home town of Sapporo had the same.

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Valley Organics Co-operative

Contradiction1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He explained that in Japan each town has the same three stores: gas station, convenience store and pachinko (game) parlour.

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Pachinko parlour in Tokyo, Wikipedia

It is a homogenous landscape and it is widespread, with franchise chains and international brands squashing local shops.  Takashi had studied the co-operative movement which started in Rochdale in 1844 and was prolific around Hebden Bridge.  This, he said, is a humane, welcoming landscape.

Walkers Are Welcome Japan
Yukiko Kamiya, director of the Japan Footpath Association (JFA), told us how Walkers Are Welcome in Japan is a solution to economic decline.

Japanese WAW logo

The JFA has promoted Machida, on the western side of Tokyo, as ‘the capital of footpath walking in Japan’ with an excellent map of the paths, and descriptions of what to see along the way.  Machida belongs to Walkers Are Welcome Japan.  Yukiko said that in the last two years more than 100,000 people have visited Machida, which came fourth in the 2014 ‘nice-to-live-in’ towns poll—no doubt because of the walking opportunities.

Machida footpath map

Machida footpath map

Footpaths and recreational walking were developed about 20 years ago, at a time of economic recession when people were looking for a better life.  The government supports this because it recognises that walking makes an important contribution to revitalising the economy.

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Map from walks guide to Misato, Saitama Prefecture, in the central Kantō region of Japan

In 2015 Walkers Are Welcome in the UK signed a friendship agreement with the JFA in Winchcombe, a fine Walkers Are Welcome town in the Cotswolds.  We hope this agreement is the first of many.

The towns which came to the Hebden Bridge get-together were impressed by the achievements of the JFA and were keen to discuss how our initiative can be extended internationally.  The problems of economic decline and impoverished communities are worldwide. Walking is a solution.  The potential is limitless.

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The friendship agreement

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Hand on the shoulder

Ten years ago I was on holiday in St Petersburg.  Our tour did not take us to the Finland Station, so we snuck away there late on the afternoon of 19 October.  This is where Lenin arrived in 1917 in a sealed train, courtesy of the German government, to launch the revolution and end Russia’s participation in the war on the side of the allies.

First we admired the splendid statue outside the station.

Finland Station

Statue of Lenin at the Finland Station

Then we ventured in and I spotted a mosaic of the great man in the station foyer.  I immediately took a photo.  The camera-flash went off and I felt a strong hand on my shoulder.  I was steered into a small room with three uniformed officials all jabbering away in Russian.  However, it was fairly obvious that they were telling me that it is an offence to take a photograph in a railway station.

Lenin2

Forbidden photo: mosaic of Lenin in the Finland Station

With difficulty, I explained that I was merely trying to record the image of the great Russian.  I offered to delete it from my camera.  But that was not what they wanted.  They charged me 100 roubles (about £2), and displayed in Russian and fractured English the text of the by-laws supporting this.

Fine
Having paid the fine, I was released with the photo still on my camera-card.  But a few minutes later one of these same officials had to help me through the mysteries of the Metro token-machines so that I could catch a train, which he did with good humour.

At the time it was quite intimidating, but I think they just wanted to frighten me and get some cash.  It is extraordinary that it is an offence to record one of the city’s most famous men.

When I got home and downloaded the photo onto my computer I was deeply disappointed.  It was just a dark smudge and Lenin was not recognisable.  But fortunately the Henley Standard came to my rescue and improved it, as well as running the story about my escapade under the heading ‘Picture from Russia without too much love!’

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The value of walking

Last weekend the Walkers Are Welcome Towns Network’s tenth anniversary get-together was held in Hebden Bridge, Calderdale.  Hebden Bridge was the first Walkers Are Welcome town, inspired by local residents Andrew Bibby and Gwen Goddard.

The event was hosted by the three Walkers Are Welcome towns in the Calder valley: Hebden Bridge, Mytholmroyd and Todmorden under the umbrella of Heart of the Pennines.

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We met at the splendid Birchcliffe Centre, a former Baptist chapel.

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Birchcliffe Centre

About a quarter of the towns were represented, and the banner made of embroidered squares from some of the towns was displayed.

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Banner

We were delighted to welcome three guests from Japan who are involved in the Japan Footpath Association.

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With our Japanese visitors

The event organisers had put on a series of walks through the week preceding the conference, using public transport and exploring the magnificent moors, valleys and villages.  I was sorry to have missed them, but I did enjoy a walk beside the Rochdale canal both mornings before breakfast, and the sight of two kingfishers flashing across the canal.

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Rochdale canal

The first speaker at the get-together was Andrew Bibby, who created Hebden Bridge as a Walkers Are Welcome town, based on Fair Trade principles, and who inspired the network.

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Left to right: founding members Andrew Bibby and Gwen Goddard, chairman Sam Phillips and treasurer Geoff Kitt

As patron of the network, I spoke next,  (roughly) as follows.

I have a soft spot for Hebden Bridge having campaigned for access, with Mo Ludlam and Andrew on the Access to Boulsworth Campaign, and taken part in rallies and photo opportunities on the forbidden moorland around Widdop reservoir.  I was here on 8 March 1999, the historic day on which Michael Meacher announced that the government would legislation for a right of access on open country.

Prentice & Meacher, Boulsworth 1997

Gordon Prentice, Michael Meacher and ramblers on the approach to Boulsworth Hill, which was forbidden land then (1997).

I first came to Hebden Bridge in 1983 when I was gathering evidence to write the Ramblers’ contribution to the Countryside Commission’s Uplands Debate.  Hebden Bridge was already on the map as a heritage centre, before the brown signs sprung up throughout the country; it celebrated its industrial heritage and used this to improve the local economy.  That innovation has persisted ever since, and has brought us Walkers Are Welcome towns—which are now expanding internationally.  We are privileged to have with us Takashi Oda, Yukiki Kamiya and Keiji Maegawa from Japan to talk about the Japan Footpath Association and their brand of Walkers Are Welcome.

Demonstrate
The main strength of Walkers Are Welcome is to demonstrate the value of walking to the local economy and therefore the benefits of investing in paths and access.  We know that it pays.  The 870-mile Wales Coast Path cost £10 million to build and generated £32 million in its first year, paying for itself many times over.

WCP sign

Last year Prime Minister Theresa May wrote the foreword to the government’s Tourism Action Plan:

But many overseas visitors never venture beyond London, so over 50% of their spending is in the capital.  While we want tourist numbers to remain high, we also want the benefits of growth to be felt across the whole of the UK.  This is a beautiful country, offering so much to see and do throughout, and we must do everything we can to make sure that visitors are encouraged to explore beyond the capital.

Walkers Are Welcome towns help to spread visitor income—we are doing just what the government wants.

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Hebden Bridge from Birchcliffe Road

We know that we boost the local economies but we need facts and figures from our towns.  When you fill in your annual survey please give the best information you can about the difference you have made and the amount of money you have generated.

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Walks panel, displayed at Hebden Bridge station and in the town

There are plenty of access issues for us to get involved in.  Natural England is making good progress with the England Coast Path and has now started work on every stretch.  Volunteers can help to identify the route, study the plans and respond to the consultations.  We all need to be researching our historic ways before they are lost on 1 January 2026 with the closure of the English definitive maps.  In Wales the government is sensibly proposing to abandon the 2026 guillotine, and it has recently consulted on new measures for access, many of them good, some of them worrying—such as opening all footpaths to horse-riders and cyclists as a matter of course.  In Scotland, where the Land Reform Act gives freedom to roam, people are now turning their attention to improving the paths.

Prospect
And over and above all this looms the prospect of Brexit.  Whatever we think of it, Brexit provides an opportunity to direct the £3 billion of agricultural money to more and better public access.  That is something for which we must all lobby.

Walkers Are Welcome towns are unique in having such a broad base of support—walkers, businesses, councils and many other interests.  This means we are well placed to influence decision makers.  Locally you can put pressure on your councillors, Members of Parliament, health and wellbeing boards and others, to improve facilities for walkers.  Nationally with the backing of our towns we can lobby ministers and the three parliaments.

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Public transport is important for Walkers Are Welcome towns: Hebden Bridge railway station

Walkers Are Welcome is a movement whose time has come.  We must gather the evidence of the difference we make and use it to influence those who take the decisions which affect us.

Wuthering bytes

Hebden Bridge continues to be innovative!

Posted in Access, campaigns, Natural England, parliament, Public paths, Walkers Are Welcome Towns, walking | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Avoid the thorny Rose and Crown

I do not recommend the Rose and Crown hotel at Bainbridge in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.  We stayed there for three nights last week.

rose and crown

Rose and Crown

On the plus side, it was cheap (£85 for two people for bed and breakfast), and the location is good, with a view over Bainbridge’s large village green.

Bainbridge vg

Bainbridge village green

On the minus side, we logged the following for room 14.

Bathroom
Shower panel did not shut properly so water leaked onto the floor
Lamp over sink did not work
Bathroom door did not shut properly
No shelf over washbasin
Broken plug in washbasin
No hot water on Sunday evening and Monday morning

Bedroom
A large 4-poster bed in a small room was impractical
4-poster bed blocked overhead light
There were gaps in the construction (presumably flatpack) of the 4-poster which did not inspire confidence
Bedside lamp didn’t work repeatedly
They hadn’t cleaned under bed

Downstairs
The dining-room floor was not swept for more than 24 hours (I tracked some lumps of cheese there)
The downstairs ladies’ loo had no lock on the door.

The staff were pleasant but when I tried to report these things to the owner he just walked away.

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