Swinsty Reservoir new mapboard unveiling

To mark their 50th anniversary in 2020, Lower Wharfedale Ramblers held a number of celebratory events but also wanted a permanent memorial to this important milestone. The decision was made to replace a footpath map of the Washburn Valley located opposite the Timble Inn which had been erected by LWR in the early 90’s. Over time the wooden supports for the map had rotted away and the information contained on the board was out of date.

The LWR Committee asked Richard Brook, who leads the LWR volunteer footpath maintenance team, to design and erect a new map which would include a plaque marking the 50th anniversary.

When the original map was erected, the Timble Inn was a popular rendezvous point for walking groups but this was no longer the case. Richard’s wife, Gina, suggested that it would be sensible to find an alternative location where the map would be more accessible. The obvious local location was Swinsty Reservoir which is heavily used by ramblers, dog walkers, joggers, cyclists and families. Richard approached Yorkshire Water who owns the car park. They readily agreed and have actively supported the project throughout.

A suitable location was located, near the main entrance, which meant most visitors would see the map. The existing Timble map is based on a standard OS map which is very familiar to experienced walkers. However as the new map was intended to be accessible to a much broader audience who might not be familiar with OS maps, it was decided to adopt a simpler design for the new board.

Richard Brook, supported by fellow LWR member, Richard Smith designed and built the board framework. The map was designed; free of charge, by Tim Coleman a retired commercial artist.

From the outset of the project, LWR decided to involve the Washburn Heritage Centre. The Centre actively supports walking in the valley and their walks map was incorporated into the final design. Yorkshire Water also reviewed the design and made a number of useful suggestions which were adopted.

The actual map board has an innovative two tier design. Artificial wood, made from recycled plastic material was used for the supports as these do not rot. The top tier which holds the map is made from wood. This means the map could be replaced in future without having to remove the legs.

Chris Tye, who rewrote the wording for the new map, explained why this two tier approach was important. “Much of the wording on the old map was out of date. All the contact information was based on analogue telephone numbers as the map pre-dated the internet and mobile phones. The new wording features both web addresses and mobile numbers.

In addition, Evelyn  Southwell,  Countryside and Recreation Advisor, Yorkshire Water, suggested providing QR codes which provide access to a huge range of walking routes and other information, via a Smartphone. Consequently the board is as up to date as we could make it but with advances in technology it could soon be out of date. The old map lasted 30 years and we hope this one lasts as long, but the two tier design makes it much easier to bring it up to date, if required.”

The map was officially unveiled on Friday 21st April by Keith Wadd, President of the West Riding area of the Ramblers. He was joined by Mike Church, Chair of the West Riding area and Lesley Hill, co-chair of Lower Wharfedale Ramblers.

Keith spoke of the long lasting commitment of LWR to providing access for walkers to the beauty of the Washburn Valley and mentioned some of his favourite walks in the area. He also praised the work of the LWR Footpath Maintenance Team who clear paths and repair stiles in the valley, working in close conjunction with North Yorkshire Council.

The map was funded by a legacy to the Ramblers from Gerald Hardwick who died in 2020. LWR were delighted to welcome a number of his friends and family to the ceremony.

Following the unveiling, the Heritage Centre hosted a reception for the guests who were entertained by a fascinating talk on the history and work of the centre by their Chair, Sally Robinson.

Speaking after the event, LWR Co-chair, Lesley Hill said, “The level of co-operation between Yorkshire Water, Washburn Heritage Centre and LWR has been outstanding. I hope it may lead to other joint-projects in the future. In the same way that the original map in Timble acted as a focal point for walkers, we hope the replacement will act in the same way. Over time, we hope many walking groups will decide to meet at the Ramblers map before starting out on their walk from Swinsty”.