THE Ride2stride Walking Festival is an annual event now firmly fixed as a feature in the Settle Carlisle Railway's calender. This year, the week long festival of walks, talks and music along the line attracted more people than ever before. Lesley Tate reports.

A RECORD almost 200 people turned up for the first day of the Ride2Stride Settle to Carlisle Walking Festival.

The sixth annual event - listed by a national newspaper as one of its top ten walking festivals - also saw more than 800 - more than ever before - take part in the week long celebration of the western Dales and the Eden Valley.

And not just walks, there are also talks and music, all along the Settle to Carlisle railway line.

Diane Taylor, one of the organisers, said it had been a fantastic festival.

"I can't believe this was it sixth year and it was great when people came up to me and said 'do you member me from last year and before'. I had a great time meeting old friends and making new as well as showing off the wonderful Yorkshire Dales to visitors from all over the country as well as those from abroad," she said.

The festival - which takes place in late April and early May - is made up of lots of events, with much happening along the length of the railway line.

Walks start from stations along the line - to coincide with the arrival of trains from Leeds or Carlisle - and are led by experienced walk leaders, who share their knowledge of the area as they go along.

Speakers also share their local knowledge and love of the area, while entertainment was laid on in the pubs.

The festival, says Diane, is for everyone who loves the Yorkshire Dales - and whether people travelled to the event by train, lived along the line, or even booked a holiday to coincide with the festival, they were sure to have a good time.

And, for the first time this year, the festival has been filmed by David Halsall and Bridget Izod, and can be viewed on YouTube.

The festival was officially opened at Settle Station by Ian MacPherson from the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority open the 6th Festival, who then set off on a walk.

By the end of the day a total of 195 people had taken part – the busiest opening day yet.

People travelled to Ride2stride, either every day from Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cumbria or from further afield, staying in the area, with many basing themselves in Settle.

Some also came from overseas, including America, New Zealand, and Denmark.

The majority of people travelled by train at some point - and on the day of a planned strike by railway workers, went by car instead.

"The large numbers staying in Settle this year were already there for walks from Settle station but used the train when walks started further up the line," said Diane. " On the day of the strike most walkers travelled to Garsdale by car."

The festival included a total of 31 walks, ranging from the very strenuous, including the Yorkshire Three Peaks, some 'moderate' six to ten mile walks, and also some very popular tours around Giggleswick School Chapel, which attracted 47 people, and Settle Water Tower and signal box, which attracted 50 people.

There was also a walk to the site of the Jericho Shanty Town - which sprung up during the building of the Ribblehead Viaduct.

One who went along on the 'Jericho Shanty Town Experience' responded it had been excellent. " The volunteers were brilliant and having the presence of the guy who worked on the viaduct and the lady who grew up on Blea Moor was wonderful. As a retired museum educator, with an interest in reminiscence , my wife was full of praise for the mix of presentation approaches. I was impressed by the relaxed, efficient team work between the volunteers. When it works you hardly notice it happening but it takes a lot of effort to get it right.”

Highlights also included a talk by Dr David Johnson of Ingleborough Archaeology Group on 'how the coming of the railway changed the Dale” and Chris Grogan who gave an illustrated presentation called “90 Glorious Miles” about the creation of the long distance path A Dales High Way. Both talks had associated walks, a combination which people thoroughly enjoyed.

There were also singers and musician - a part of the festival which remains a highlight to many, and putting it not just on the walking festival calendar, but a part of the folk music scene.

Ride2stride events are put on by organisations in the Dales and Eden Valley and co-ordinated by a small steering group made up of representatives of some of the participating groups.

This year, they were The Friends of the Settle-Carlisle Line (FoSCL), Friends of Dales Rail (FDR), Yorkshire Dales Society (YDS), Ingleborough Archaeology Group (IAG), Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA) and Friends of A Dales High Way (FoADHW).

Music was organised by the Settle based Three Peaks Folk Club, while everyone involved in the festival is a volunteer.

"The walk leaders, the speakers, the musicians, the people who distribute the programmes, the steering group - no one gets paid," says Diane.

To help with the cost of the website, and the printing of 15,000 programmes, the group is helped out by the Friends of the Settle Carlisle Line, Northern Railway, Settle Carlisle Development Company and Castleberg Outdoors. It has also been helped by Briggs Bros of Cononley for reduced printing costs, and to Welcome to Yorkshire for giving Ride2stride free membership and to Skyware Press for maintaining the website and designing the programme.

Now, hot on the success of this year's event, plans are already underway for the seventh festival, which is due to take place from May 1, 2018. To find out more, visit the website