THROUGH rain or shine, a group of dedicated Friends of Settle-Carlisle Line walking guides give up their time to offer guided walks around parts of the railway.

These walks, all carried out for free, bring thousands of people to the Dales each week; many of them spending money locally and boosting the economy.

A team of around 17 guides take groups of between 10 and 20 people on a range of outings which offer varying grades of difficulty from a fairly easy six-mile, half day walk, to a strenuous full day 13-miler.

One of the guides - as well as being the FoSCL guided walks co-ordinator - is 62-year-old John Carey, from Menston, who juggles the walks between his 'paid' job as a chartered loss adjuster.

"The walks are very well received and are open to anyone of all abilities. We never know who is going to meet us at the start.

"The guides are trained in first aid and two accompany each walking group; a leader and a back-marker.

"Safety of the group is important and after a brief pep talk we set off on the walks offering historic facts of the places we are visiting and point out places of interest and landmarks along the routes," he said.

Mr Carey, who leads walks mostly around Dentdale, said it is always good to see new people come along though they also enjoy welcoming their 'regulars' who take part each weekend or each mid-week walk.

"It is a very social occasion and a life-line to a lot of people, some of whom become members of the Friends.

"People do enjoy being introduced to the Dales and taking part in a walk which has been organised.

"They do help bolster the local economy too as they generally pay for a rail ticket to the starting point of the walk and even though they will bring a packed lunch we may stop off at a cafe along the way. Most people generally like to end up at a pub or a tea shop afterwards."

The guided walks take place throughout the year, occasionally on days when most wouldn't set a foot out of the door.

On Saturday, March 16, when the area was hit by torrential rain and flooding, six people turned up at the starting point for a walk. Fortunately for them the guides braved the weather and went along too on the off-chance people would turn up and the small group went for an excursion around Kirkby Stephen.

The guides are responsible for mapping out the routes to follow and can map out each new walk on foot twice before adding it to the itinerary on the FoSCL website.

"We are really appreciative of the efforts of the volunteer guides who do a marvellous job. Without them the walks would not happen. People often do thank us afterwards and it is enjoyable for us to introduce new areas to people."

Although the guided walks have been taking place for several decades, last year put a great strain on the timetable through the RMT strikes which came to an end recently.

From October last year almost each Saturday, prime walking days for the F-SCL group, had train cancellations affecting the Settle-Carlisle line.

Mr Carey added: "When nearly each Saturday affected we at least managed to swap the walking days to Sundays. Before then it was difficult to organise and people just didn't come.

"Before the strikes there was also the chaos caused by Northern and the timetable changes.

"It was terrible for the whole economy and not just for our walks."

Strikes and timetable changes are now a thing of the past and the walks organisers are looking forward to welcoming more people to join them, as well as continue recruiting additional walking guides to lead the busy itinerary.

The FoSCL is currently working on its summer walks programme.

For details of future guided walks as well as a series of historical walks go to: