Come rain, hail or shine, over the past five decades, members of Clitheroe Ramblers have laced their walking boots and conquered challenging terrains, as well as fighting to save paths!
Now, the thriving walking group is set to make great strides as it celebrates an impressive milestone in the presence of civic dignitaries and special guests.
Clitheroe Ramblers, which was founded in March 1969, marks its golden year on Thursday and what better way to celebrate 50 years of walking by holding a birthday dinner with fellow walking enthusiasts at Whalley Golf Club.
They will be joined by special guests from organisations which have supported them over the years, as well as Ribble Valley and Clitheroe Town Mayors.
The group, boasting over 250 members, has much to celebrate. The Clitheroe Advertiser and Times has reported their many walks and their successes and disappointments during the past 50 years.
Spokesman for the group, Frances Prince, said: ‘The group has always been proud of what it does and wanted people in the Ribble Valley to share our enthusiasm for walking. As walk leaders we are encouraged to report their walk to the Advertiser, we have a comprehensive press cuttings file which allows us to look back on our history.”
Founder member and well-respected Valley resident, Pat Parrot (91), who unfortunately cannot attend the celebrations, said: "We were established before the A59 was opened. One of our first jobs was to check all the footpaths crossing it were not obliterated. We started in a very small way, but we soon grew. It was astonishing, but a lot of hard work went into running the group. We have had some fantastic committee members.
"The early days were a marvellous period of exploration. We were walking paths which had been neglected and ignored for years. We saved those paths by walking them."
In the early days the walks either all started from Clitheroe or the members caught a bus. This resulted in some adventures when members missed the bus or the bus company changed its timetable! They were among the first to take advantage of the "DalesRail" and the extension of the railway beyond Blackburn.
Frances added: "Reading the reports you get a real sense of their discovery of the countryside when in those pre-car-owning days it was not so well known to a lot of people. The weather has always influenced our walks. However, very few have ever been abandoned because of it. The very first three were walked in rain and storm conditions, so the members must have been determined.to establish the group!"
In those early days extensive areas of Ribble Valley were in private lands and closed to walkers. This included large parts of the Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which is now promoted as a tourist destination. Clitheroe Ramblers were at the forefront of fighting to open up such areas and working with other organisations with plans to do so.
Frances added: "The Ramblers have worked to keep paths open for other walkers by just walking them! In addition, they are the local organisation which, works with Lancashire County Council, helping landowners to divert or improve footpaths. However, when a solution cannot be found, the local group has fought to save paths. Clitheroe Ramblers were at the heart of a disputed path closure in Barrow which the association won in the High Court in 2014.
Roger Sagar, chairman of the group, said: "That’s what makes our group different from other walking groups. Saving our footpaths costs money. We have some non-walking members who are in Ramblers because they know we do that.”
“Walking is surely one of the best ways of keeping fit and appreciating our countryside. Clitheroe Ramblers are looking forward to the next fifty years!”