It is with a degree of sadness that the Executive have decided to close down the PWA at the end of this year after over 40 years of giving advice and help to thousands of walkers over the years. There are several reasons for what to many will be a surprise decision and we can honestly state that the decision was not made lightly .It is no coincidence that this is taking place in the year of the 50th Anniversary of the Pennine Way which has received some greatly welcome publicity recently.
As we are all aware since its opening way back in 1965 there have been many changes in the walking world and there is now a plethora of other walks and trails as well as the National Trails. That is good to see and having walked one National Trail (The Ridgeway) and one local walk (The Ripon Rowel Walk) very recently it is easy to observe the huge impact that the opening of the Pennine Way has had, greatly assisted by organisations such as the Ramblers Association and ourselves. Every mile of each route was well waymarked and had good stiles and gates as well as a generally good walking surface. Albeit both walks were done after a spell of dry weather. The same can be also said of the Pennine Way and much of this can be attributed to the work of Natural England and the Pennine Way National Trail Officer Steve Westwood who always maintained good contact with us and attended our meetings. Unfortunately due to cost cutting this position now no longer exists.
Regrettably the quality observed on the National Trails is not the case for footpaths in general throughout the countryside as there has been a noticeable deterioration in some areas where footpath maintenance has slipped down the agenda. A further shift has been the massive changes in how people communicate, now having access to the worldwide web. In earlier days the PWA published a superb Accommodation Guide edited by John Needham which was invaluable to anyone contemplating walking on the PW. The use of the internet has largely made this aspect of our work less relevant and some of this work has been replicated by more commercial organisations. In addition there are now several outdoor walking magazines which cover many of the other news relating to the Pennine Way that we currently also cover and there are now many excellent guides published on the PW including one from our own Chairman Chris Sainty.
Another aspect which has had a major influence is that we have been unable, over quite a few years, to be able to recruit sufficient new blood onto the Executive to help run the organisation which has meant an increasing workload on the existing volunteers, with people such as Ron Powell having more than one role. Sadly this is becoming prevalent amongst many other groups not only among the walking fraternity but in other groups relying on unpaid volunteers which is indicative of the change in culture of the country. Last year we decided to review the thoughts on closing down the PWA to see what effect the Anniversary might have on us but this has had a very limited impact. We are currently in discussion with several groups regarding the closure and how best we can ensure that our past work and current expertise can be harnessed in the best interests of the walk that we have all enjoyed so much over the years. We hope that the walk will be achieving a hundred year anniversary and continue to give so much pleasure, and no doubt some pain, to countless numbers in the future. We would like to thank all members both past and present for their support and will continue to keep you posted as to what is happening.