Born and brought up in a small village, Norton, near Doncaster in South Yorkshire in the 1940s and 50s, I was educated at Norton County Modern School and the King’s Grammar School, Pontefract. It was at the King’s School that I was first introduced to hill walking in the Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District through school-organised youth hostelling holidays. Other interests included playing cricket and football for the school and watching Wakefield Trinity Rugby League Football Club. On obtaining the requisite GCE ‘A’ level passes in 1961, and on the advice of my Geography Master, I enrolled at the University of Wales, Aberystwyth, where I gained an Honours degree in geography in 1964. I was elected a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society in 1965. Whilst at Aber, the Mountaineering Club offered the opportunity to pursue my interest in hill walking and take up rock climbing on various cliffs in North Wales; Llanberis, Idwal, Nantlle, Tremadoc and on Cadair Idris. Since then, I have spent a lifetime hill walking and climbing, particularly in Wales, Scotland and the English Lake District. I have been actively involved in mountain rescue in Scotland and in the Search and Rescue Dog Association (SARDA-Southern Scotland) as a dog handler.
On graduating from Aber, a career in town and country planning beckoned and I commenced my first job as a Junior Planning Assistant at my home town of Doncaster in August 1964. I went on to study town and country planning at the Leeds School of Town Planning and became a Chartered Member of the Royal Town Planning Institute in 1970. Moving to Edinburgh in 1969, I have pursued a career in both central and local government planning in Scotland, specializing in rural and countryside planning. I have lived in the Scottish Borders for over forty years and retired as Depute Director of Planning and Development for the Borders Regional Council in 1996 but continued to be involved with town and country planning as a self-employed Planning Reporter with the Scottish Government until 2015.
In 2008, following three years part-time study at the Centre for North-West Regional Studies at the University of Lancaster, I gained an MA in Lake District Studies, with distinction. This course of study, awoke my interest in the changing role of the early providers of accommodation for outdoor activities such as the Co-operative Holidays Association, Holiday Fellowship and Youth Hostels Association. My doctoral research at the University of Cumbria, which has its headquarters in the former St. Martin’s College in Lancaster, was completed in February 2015. I have presented papers on various aspects of my research at Doctoral Colloquiums at the University of Cumbria and at conferences organised by the Leisure Studies Association and the British Society of Sports History. I have also given talks to a number of clubs and societies on the life and legacy of T A Leonard. 2014 marked the 150th anniversary of the birth of T A Leonard and my research on Leonard and his achievements gained a mention in the Manchester Evening News and the Guardian/Observer newspapers. I have been heard on BBC Radio Wales talking on Leonard’s contribution to the outdoor movement in Wales, where he lived for over thirty years, and have spent a day in the company of Paul Heiney filming in the Lake District with the ITV ‘Countrywise’ team to re-enact one of the Co-operative Holidays Association’s first walks and visit Leonard’s memorial tablet on Catbells, where he is described as the ‘Father of the open-air movement’. My book on T A Leonard and the Co-operative Holiday Association was published in Hardback by Cambridge Scholars Publishing in January 2017. A paperback version is due out in early 2018.