The Yorkshire Dales National Park was designated in 1954 and is managed by a sub-committee of the County Council. The area of the Park is vast: square miles. Its boundaries enclose the finest of the Pennine Dales, but exclude the towns and villages on the fringe. More attention is paid to the county boundary than to natural ones.
Many of the features making up the lovely pattern of the Dales landscape are unique: its hay meadows, hamlets and villages, its limestone scars above the valleys and its sombre moorlands. Though this landscape needs protection if future generations are to enjoy it unmarred, protection must be done with restraint lest parks become museums.
The people who live there have to move with the times to earn a living, and the protection of the landscape is often at some social cost to them.
The Parks Committee controls development using the powers of the Town and Country Planning Acts. For example, it can control the position and style of new houses and thus protect attractive villages and views. Advice and even financial assistance may be given to farmers to enable them to maintain a certain characteristic type of landscape, but as farm buildings are not subject to planning permission, control is limited.
In many ways Kettlewell is the most picturesque village in the Dales. It lies in a deep cleft on the flank of Wharfedale and has many fine old houses nestling close to the beck side. Yet its church and school, often noteworthy buildings, are Victorian and uninteresting. By contrast, it has a surprisingly large number of old pubs for so small a place, a reminder of the days when Kettlewell was a market town on the coaching road from Keighley to Richmond.
It was involved in lead mining but never to such an extent as Grassington.
In 1967 the youth of Huddersfield was invited to take part in a 30 mile sponsored walk around the boundary of the town - Marathon '67 - in order to raise funds for the Cheshire Home at Edgerton. Believe it or not, but this was one of the first sponsored walks in the country - how times have changed.
We raised so much money that the organisers decided that another walk would be held in 1968. For this, I and my fellow 9th Venture Scouts joined with the 43rd — and pulled a bath round! Money raised from Marathon '68 was to be used for our and future generations of Huddersfield youths.
The result was that an old guest house was purchased in Kettlewell and subsequently converted into a hostel. The remaining funds were put into a Trust Fund for the running of "Wharfeside House".
Our first visit was in February 1976 when Dick Prior, Jonathan Whittaker, and Dave C took 18 Scouts for the weekend.
It was the time of the "potato crisis", so we used catering packs of Smash. While it was simmering, Mount Vesuvius was put to shame!! If you've tried scraping mash from a ceiling you'll understand our problem! For the same meal we had peas - Surprise dehydrated peas, in fact. We started with one 3 gallon pan - and ended with 2 full ones!
It was also the first time we had used catering packs of custard. Unfortunately, the instructions were for making 5 gallons, not 5 pints. We did try to sell the resulting bricks to a local builder, but to no avail!
It also started snowing on the Sunday morning, but lucklessly it had stopped by home time.
I could write a book full of similar anecdotes such has been the success of our visits. Space and time prevent me.
The Dales lend themselves exceptionally well to both walking and speleology. The U-shaped valleys, formed as the ice retreated in the last Ice Age, offer an unlimited choice of picturesque low-level walks. The upper moorland gives a challenge to the more experienced and better equipped hiker. Whilst below ground, the very nature of the limestone rock forms passages and caverns which are marveled at by all who dare venture along them.
Other less adventurous(?) activities include orienteering, nature trails, fossil-hunting, treasure hunts, river-crossing, Super-Scout contests, wide-games, indoor quizzes and challenges, etc etc.
All Scouts are fully covered by insurance when taking part in any Scout activity.
Whilst we always try to make Scouting FUN, everything adventurous has a certain element of danger in it. Accidents do, and always will, happen. So with hiking and pot-holing we like to think that we take every precaution necessary to ensure that the same number of Scouts return to the hostel (and in the same condition) as set out earlier.
I have been hiking for many years, am trained in First Aid, and am permitted to take Scouts walking in the Dales all year round. There is always one other adult in the party - usually 2 or 3. Scouts are not allowed out on the moors unless they have the correct gear.
I usually go underground with every party. However, I am not experienced enough, nor competent enough, to lead trips down caves. Consequently I bring in experienced help in the form of Pete Farnell. He is the caving advisor for the Scout County of West Yorkshire and has caved for many years. I trust him explicitly with my life down there - and if it's safe enough for me it's certainly safe enough for Scouts & Explorers!
I must point out that no Scout is forced to go pot-holing. If he does not want to go he simply joins in with the activities taking place on the surface.
Please feel free to call in on us at any time. There should be someone around all the time — apart from the full day's hike.
We usually have one or two spare places. If you would like to come along to lend a hand and try some of the activities please let me know - I'll try to fit you in.
A printable version of the above can be found here.