A NEW 42 mile recreational trail linking Bradford and Ripon Cathedrals has been launched.

The Yorkshire Heritage Way also joins the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Saltaire and Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal.

Bradford’s Deputy Lord Mayor, Councillor Beverley Mullaney was one of a number of speakers at the recent event in Bradford Cathedral, when the trail - developed by the Burley Bridge Association (BBA)- was officially put on the map. She gave a warm welcome to the initiative, describing it as a “magnificent project”.

The BBA has been campaigning since 1976 for a footbridge over the River Wharfe in Burley in Wharfedale to complement stepping stones which form the current public right of way.

Bishop Toby Haworth, Bishop of Bradford, welcomed everyone to the cathedral and to the event which also marked the publication of a route guide for walkers to follow.

Although Bishop Toby was unable to join the inaugural walk, as a walker and someone who has undertaken pilgrimages himself, he identified the powerful value of people of different faiths and none walking side by side and experiencing nature.

Colin Speakman, President of the BBA, author and co-founder of the long distance Dales Way footpath, noted that the campaign for a footbridge in Burley in Wharfedale had begun in 1887, but had been thwarted either by landowners or lack of funding ever since.

He said the campaign had now progressed significantly with support from councils on both sides of the river and most key permissions granted. However, BBA trustees had realised that the position of the village, lying between the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Bradford district, meant the bridge would have regional as well as local value.

Through the Yorkshire Heritage Way connecting Bradford, having one of the most ethnically diverse and youngest populations in the country, with the small but beautiful city of Ripon, there was an opportunity to bring rural and urban communities and people of different faith closer together through a shared love of a beautiful part of Yorkshire.

Recently appointed Deputy Lieutenant of West Yorkshire Dr Kuldip Bharj hoped the new trail would strengthen the links between Ripon and Bradford, and build bridges between diverse communities. She called upon both cities to exploit the opportunity the trail would provide at fostering relationship, trust and respect across people of all faiths and none, and said she was profoundly proud and supportive of the initiative.

Sheena Campbell, Bradford Council World Heritage Officer for Saltaire said the trail was a fantastic idea and followed Titus Salt’s principles of promoting health, and active and green travel as well as celebrating local culture, landscape and heritage. She added that as well as being a UNESCO World Heritage site, Saltaire was also a wonderful vibrant community with lots of events throughout the year led by local people.

Iain Mann, manager of Nidderdale AONB said what was particularly special about the route was the brilliant idea of linking two cathedral cities from their very centres, passing through amazing countryside and stunning wildlife habitats. He noted also that the AONB team had recently completed conservation repairs on the 13th century Butterton Bridge near to Sawley, now adopted as the emblem for the Yorkshire Heritage Way.

Bec Evans, National Trust Visitor Operations and Experience Manager at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal said she was thrilleby the initiative. By encouraging walking to Fountains Abbey, the trail was following in the footsteps of monks at the Abbey who would have welcomed people on pilgrimage.

David Asher, Secretary of the BBA, finished the ceremony by thanking the City Connect team from West Yorkshire Combined Authority for providing half of the project funding, as well as the Long Distance Walkers Association, Burley in Wharfedale Parish Council, Burley in Wharfedale Community Trust and Ilkley Brewery for their financial contributions and sponsorship.

More than 60 walkers set out on the first stage of the route to Saltaire, with more than 40 completing the final stage to Ripon after four days of walking. They were welcomed by John Dobson, Dean of Ripon Cathedral, who also organised a tour of the cathedral and free entrance into the beer festival, part of the 1350th birthday celebrations. Mini bus support for the final stages of the route was provided by Ilkley and by Keighley Community Transport.

David Asher said ‘I’d like to congratulate every one of the 80 or so walkers who completed one or more stages of the route and thank everyone who contributed to the success of the launch.

"Special thanks to Aaron Okerie, Principal Engineer (Structures) with Bradford Council. One of the stepping stones at Burley Weir had been damaged recently by storms and would have meant the walk being diverted across Denton Bridge, a slightly longer option. Aaron stepped in at the last moment and organised his contractors, Jan Feathers Ltd to do the necessary repairs enabling the stones to be crossed, which was much appreciated by everyone.

“All agreed it is a magnificent route that deserves to be walked by anyone wanting to see the best landscapes and historical sites this part of Yorkshire has to offer.”

With way marking of the route shortly to be completed, and route guides now on sale for £5.99 at local outlets and from the BBA, the Yorkshire Heritage Way is sure to join the list of ‘must do’ long distance routes in Yorkshire, such as the Six Dales Trail, the Nidderdale Way and of course the Dales Way’.

For more information on the walk and details of how to purchase the Yorkshire Heritage Way route guide, contact burleybridge@gmail.com, or visit burleybridge.com