An award winning Pendle volunteer working group which has fettled footpaths, set up stiles and tended to trails is to disband after 20 years.
The West Craven Environment Group, founded by Kelbrook woman Pat Dickins in 1994, is folding this month after two decades working in the great outdoors, helping to maintain and re-introduce routes for ramblers and walkers throughout Pendle.
Over the last 20 years, the group which has never had more than six members, has helped replace 238 unserviceable stiles and installed small bridges, steps and boardwalks.
The group’s first job was at Sough Park, installing gates on the footpath and repairing it by putting down 15 tons of gravel.
Since then, work has been completed in conditions from brilliant sunshine to torrential rain and gale force winds.
It was sometimes frosty in every sense of the word too, from blizzards on Bleara Moor to unwelcoming landowners, but tasks were always with a before-and-after photograph.
Environment group Chairman Laurie Laughton said: “We started out as West Craven and extended our range a bit further into Pendle to Colne, Trawden and Barrowford.
“We’re all walkers, we were doing it for our own good as well as the community. It’s been a labour of love. It has been appreciated by a lot of people.”
That appreciation extends to the Ramblers’ Association, who acknowledged the West Craven group’s “outstanding” efforts with a prize in 2003 in its annual Footpath Work Awards.
The group’s job became easier in 2000 when Pendle Council appointed countryside officers Tom Partridge and Chris Chapman who took over responsibility for the area’s footpaths while the council provided transport, insurance, helped with grant applications and took over the task of negotiations with land owners.
But the work undertaken to improve routes and make them more accessible for dog walkers, particularly with the now nationally acclaimed Pendle Walking Festival, has left the group’s founding member proud.
Mrs Dickins said: “It was atrocious when we started, some of the footpaths and stiles were in an appalling state. I’m very pleased with what we have done. It’s a tremendous achievement.”
Mr Laughton added: “Old age and infirmity is taking its toll on the few original members left in the group and with council cutbacks we are to lose the valuable help we have enjoyed from Pendle Council. For this reason we have reluctantly decided to disband our group.”