Tuesday, 8 August 2017

No Fracking Way - Preparations January 2017

The date was set, the route vaguely agreed (between me and Googlemaps) and at least one walker recruited - me. There was clearly more to do. How many people could we get on the core group of walkers? Where would they sleep? How sure were we that the route Google picked would be suitable?

The first job was to test the route. So in January myself and Ann Forsaith, Coordinator of Yorkshire and Humber Green Party began a 2 day recce in her car of the route. We met at Leeds Station and made our way North to Kirby Misperton Protection Camp. We arrived pretty much first thing at Kirby Misperton. The camp was on land owned by nearby Flamingo Land and permission for the protectors to occupy the land had gone from no permission, dubious permission and now was assumed permission. Word had reached the folks at the Protection Camp and we met the head honcho Ian Crane to discuss our plans. Ian was clearly well connected. We met in a 'studio area' at the camp constructed out of reclaimed wood pallets and plastic sheeting with a comfy sofa and chairs. When I mentioned the Leo Sayer inspiration for the walk he clearly was on more than nodding terms with Leo. He was unsurprised Leo hadn't answered my emails asking him to join me on the No Fracking Way and reckoned my dreams of Leo strutting, singing and dancing with us the 120 miles to Blackpool were unlikely to come to fruition . He did however suggest that he might be able to rustle together a Samba Band to see us off which sounded nice.

 Me and Ann set off in her little blue car to map the route to our intended first stop Easingwold about 20 miles away. Ann had got a load of secondhand OS maps of various ages that covered the whole route which we could use to map out the route in more detail. Easingwold was the village where Fracking loving Tory MP (and once owner of 2 castles) Kevin Hollinrake had his office and perhaps we'd arrange something later in the walk there.  The route to Easingwold was lovely and flat, with quiet country roads, not too busy.if it was going to be like this all the way to Blackpool it would be fine.

We got some lunch in picturesque Easingwold and carried on to map Day 2 to Harrogate. Again not too bad until we reached Knaresborough then a bit of a steep patch up into Harrogate. So far so good. The next intended route was the A57 from Harrogate to Skipton. It looked fine on Google, a nice straight road. We drove along it for a while but it was clear that this was just plain dangerous. A dual carriageway, busy traffic, no pavement that went on for miles and miles. It was raining with heavy trucks when we did the recce. It could well be like this on the walk itself. "We would die on this road" I said with feeling. We would clearly have to find another way. Another way would mean Skipton as a place to walk to would now be out of the question. We would have to walk a more southerly route towards Ilkley and Silsden but there were no obvious roads that didn't take us well out of our way. We did however find a route across country which knocked miles off our route and took us off road all together which would be a relief.

Day 1 of the recce ended and we met up with Harrogate Greens at Shan Oakes and Bill Rigby's house where they were planning for a By Election in Knaresbrough with the exotically named Green Canidate Boadecea MacLeod. Shan and Bill were the owners of a beautiful Esse wood burning stove and oven that I coveted and Bill, the Mayor of Knaresbrough was the proud owner of the same name as my maternal Grandad 'Bill Rigby' who was an Independent councillor in Newcastle under Lyme (back in the day). The good natured meeting was chaired by the cheery Gilly Charters and there were a dozen or so of round the table. Ann and I explained where we'd got to with the No Fracking Way planning and the Harrogate Greens agreed to arrange an evening event and join us for some of the route. All good.

Ann went home to Leeds and I stayed with my younger brother Richard in Harrogate. Me and Richard have a lot in common. He trained as an election agent and so did I. We both were elected as Councillors on the very same day in May in 1999 and we both lead our political groups on our respective Councils. That's pretty much where the resemblance ends as he is the Tory Leader of Harrogate Council and is pro fracking. When the subject of me and my brothers differing politics comes up someone usually says something like "Christmas must be fun?" Actually we do usually get together as a family and things are pretty survivable and even pleasant. We did have one dodgy moment when my youngest son Toby at a family Barbecue said to Uncle Richard "Dad says all Tories are scum". Some time and some wine later we dealt with that issue. Our 2 boys have been exposed to our political views over the years and if something like the Bedroom Tax or ATOS assessments is featured on Channel 4 News the words "Tories are scum" may pass my lips. Actually if all Tories were like my brother and one or two other Tories I know then we'd be in a much better place. Well we would be remaining in the European Union at least.

Day 2 of the recce saw me and Ann carry on and work our way from Silsden to the Lancashire border. We found a lovely straight rising country road that took us up to remote 'Welcome to Pendle' sign. A symbolic and important point on our journey. We stopped and I posed with my passport by the sign. Not far beyond the sign at a junction was a pub. That might come in handy!

From there we had to cut short our recce to go and meet some Lancashire Greens in a cafe in Burnley to do some planning with them. It was a lovely break and we met about 8 Greens including longstanding stalwart Green Party member and all round good guy Dave Penney. A number of really good things came out of that meeting. Jai Redman of Burnley Greens said the whole of the Core Group of walkers could stay at his big house in Burnley on the last night of our walk. A meeting was arranged for the evening in Burnley and best of all we met George. She was a keen cyclist and route finder extraordinaire and would do the Lancashire recce to Preston New Road for us and send us a GPS Map of the route. This was great  Lancashire Green Party had done us proud. We left for home, back to Yorkshire in good spirits.

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