The Pennine Way on the approach to Pen-y-ghent in the Yorkshire Dales

The Pennine Way on the approach to Pen-y-ghent in the Yorkshire Dales

Walkers will gather this weekend to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Britain’s first long-distance national trail.

Edale will host several events and walks to mark the setting up in 1965 of the Pennine Way, which starts at the Peak District village.

To mark the 50th anniversary of the opening day on 24 April, a new starting point has been created and children from the local school have contributed to a time capsule.

The Moorland Visitor Centre in the village will be the focal point for community celebrations over the weekend, with talks and displays, demonstrations of local crafts and folk music. Three guided walks of varying lengths and difficulty, depending on demand, will be on offer on Sunday.

The Pennine Way originally began at the Old Nag’s Head pub and climbed Grindsbrook, but erosion problems mean the route now promoted ascends Jacob’s Ladder.

Martyn Sharp, The Peak District National Park Authority’s Pennine Way ranger, said: “The anniversary seemed the perfect time to do something about a new formal starting point.

“The drystone wall has been rebuilt by myself and another ranger, Terry Page, and we have had a one-off oak gate made by Andy Bentham, from our countryside maintenance team, with the central panel showing the route. Mark Priestley from the team has also been a big help in getting everything in place.

Andy Bentham, Terry Page, Martyn Sharp and Mark Priestley at the new starting point in Edale

Andy Bentham, Terry Page, Martyn Sharp and Mark Priestley at the new starting point in Edale

“The children and staff from Edale Primary School really got behind the project and they have had great fun putting the time capsule together.”

Author, journalist and British Mountaineering Council hillwalking ambassador Chris Townsend, and former Ramblers Scotland director Dave Morris will also join the celebrations on Saturday for the third annual Spirit of Kinder event at Edale Village Hall, commemorating the mass trespass of Kinder Scout, the first hill tackled by Pennine Way walkers heading north.

The events kick off on Friday with a gathering at Edale Moorland visitor centre where ‘Pennine Wayers’ can share experiences with fellow walkers and rangers. Food will also be on sale. There will then be several speakers and, from 8.30pm a chance to sample a glass of special Pennine Way ale in the Nag’s Head.

On Sunday, three guided walks, ‘Up the Old and Down the New’ with rangers will take place, over five, nine and 11miles. Booking is essential and details are on the Peak District national park website.

One man with a special interest in the celebrations is Mark Reeves, who runs the authority’s Fieldhead campsite at Edale with wife Samantha.

Mark, already a keen hillwalker when he moved to the village at the end of 1999, completed the Pennine Way in 2006, along with dog, Ziggy, and two other Edale residents, father and son Geoff and Shane Townsend.

Writer, journalist and campaigner Chris Townsend will speak at the Edale event

Writer, journalist and campaigner Chris Townsend will speak at the Edale event

They did the walk the other way round, starting at Kirk Yetholm and camping along the way, arriving home about three weeks later.

Mark said: “We called it the Long Walk Home. It was a bit different because we had about 100 people on the site every year intending to do the walk from Edale.

“We walked for 18 days, stopping at just about every place of interest along the way, and we got a really warm welcome when we walked back into the village.’’

The anniversary this year coincides with the setting up of a partnership to coordinate the management of the entire length of both the Pennine Way and the 205-mile-long Pennine Bridleway.

The new partnership is led by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority with support from all the local access authorities and other partners. A new Pennine national trails partnership manager has been appointed to oversee budgets, route maintenance and improvement work.

The anniversary is being marked by a mass Walk the Way in a Day event on Saturday. People can choose from 50 circular walks that cover the entire Pennine Way. Full details of the walks are available on the National Trails website.

Ilkley-born TV presenter Alan Titchmarsh said: “The word iconic is over used, but it most certainly applies to the Pennine Way and to the terrain it traverses.

“I’ve always been proud that it passes through some of my favourite native haunts, and my copy of Alfred Wainwright’s astonishing guide is well thumbed.

“I hope that hardy walkers continue to be uplifted by walking even a part of it, and to feel a sense of achievement and wonder as they marvel at the beauty of the countryside around them.”

The 431km (268-mile) Pennine Way was opened near Malham in the presence of the then Minister of Land and Natural Resources, FT Willey, and Tom Stephenson, the author and writer whose dream of a path running along the Pennines inspired its creation.

Stephenson’s article Wanted: A Long Green Trail, was, published in the Daily Herald in 1935. The trail ends at Kirk Yetholm in the Scottish Borders.

Most walkers take between 16 and 19 days to complete the full length, but the record is held by Mike Hartley. In 1989 he completed the Pennine Way in two days, 17hrs, 20mins and 15 secs. He did it without sleep and only stopped twice, each time for 18 minutes, and enjoyed fish and chips on the second stop.

An estimated 1,500 to 1,700 people complete the full distance each year, with more than 200,000 using the trail in total.

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