Bosses join walk to mark 150th anniversary of the 'Thomas Cook and Billy Butlin of English holiday-making'

The Westmorland Gazette: Members of the walking group Members of the walking group

A GROUP of walkers marked the anniversary of the birth of a pioneer of outdoor holidays.

Thirty people walked from Ambleside to Grasmere, retracing the steps taken by a group of thirty Lancashire mill workers who enjoyed the first group walking holiday in 1891.

The occasion celebrated the 150th anniversary of the birth of Thomas Arthur Leonard, the group’s leader, who was widely considered to be the father of the modern open-air movement and innovator of the group walking holiday.

Leonard took the pioneering party of working class men and women on their historic excursion to the Lake District, persuading them it was a better alternative to a seaside trip to Blackpool or Morecambe.

More than 100 years later, the group following in Leonard’s footsteps included the chief executives of the Ramblers, Youth Hostel Association and HF Holidays, as well as rangers from the National Trust, all organisations that he was instrumental in setting up.

The party also included some of the 700 experienced HF Holidays’ volunteer walk leaders that devote much of their free time to keeping Leonard’s legacy alive.

Jim Forward, chief executive of HF Holidays, said: “TA Leonard ranks alongside Thomas Cook and Billy Butlin as one of the pioneers of English holidaymaking.

“Anyone that has ever taken a walking holiday is following in his footsteps.”

Benedict Southworth, chief executive of the Ramblers, said: “TA Leonard was one of the founding fathers of the Ramblers and its first president from 1935 until 1946.

“As a leader in the outdoor movement, I’m sure he would be proud that nearly 80 years on we are still championing the wonder of walking and continuing to protect and open up our great outdoors for people to discover.”

Caroline White, YHA Chief Executive said: “I was delighted to be able to join all of these other great organisations that TA Leonard helped establish on a walk to celebrate his life.

“As one of YHA’s first ever Vice-Presidents, TA Leonard would have been really pleased that the youth hostelling movement is doing so well in the modern era. YHA continue to welcome thousands of people to the Lake District and other beautiful areas of England and Wales.”

And Mike Innerdale, assistant director for the National Trust in the Lake District, said: “Here in the Lakes, we have had a connection with HF Holidays for decades through their operation at the historic Monk Coniston Hall near Coniston.

“It’s great to see his birth celebrated with a walk through some of the stunning scenery of the Lakes, scenery that we work hard to look after so that millions can enjoy it every year. It is thanks to people such as TA Leonard, that we have so much of the outdoors available for people from all over the world to enjoy.”

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