Richard Hercock: Fartown and Boulevard walk conjures up happy memories

RL Founders Walk, at the George Hotel, Huddersfield. Pictured from the left are Gary Schofield, RFL Chief Executive Nigel Wood, Alex Murphy and Adam Fogerty. (Picture: Simon Hulme)
RL Founders Walk, at the George Hotel, Huddersfield. Pictured from the left are Gary Schofield, RFL Chief Executive Nigel Wood, Alex Murphy and Adam Fogerty. (Picture: Simon Hulme)
0
Have your say

This is one for rugby league historians: How many of the Northern Union’s 22 founding clubs actually still play at, or on the site of, the stadiums used in the first Northern Union season of 1895.

The answer is four, and three of those clubs fall in West Yorkshire.

They are Leeds, Wakefield and Batley, with the fourth club being Widnes.

That is the Saturday morning quiz over, but that fact came to light as I read about the Founders Walk which takes place later this month.

It’s a rugby league charity event to raise £120,000 in celebration of the sport’s 120th anniversary.

Starting Sunday July 19, in Hull, the walk will take in the 22 original home stadiums of the clubs that founded the Northern Union on August 29, 1895.

Those 22 founding clubs were Batley, Bradford, Brighouse, Broughton, Halifax, Huddersfield, Hull FC, Hunslet, Leeds, Leigh, Liversedge, Manningham, Oldham, Rochdale, Runcorn, St Helens, Stockport, Tyldesley, Wakefield Trinity, Warrington, Widnes and Wigan.

The first day is an eight-mile stroll around Hull, starting from the Walton Street car park and taking in The Boulevard before ending at the KC Stadium.

Monday starts in Huddersfield, the birthplace of rugby league, with the town’s George Hotel the venue of the historic meeting of the breakaway clubs 120 years ago.

Fartown is the venue for the start of day two. The stadium may once have hosted two Challenge Cup finals and a 35,000 crowd in 1947 for a semi-final tie, but these days it is the home of Huddersfield community club St Joseph’s.

From Fartown the walk passes through Brighouse, Batley and Dewsbury before reaching Wakefield Trinity at the end of the 20-mile stage.

The longest section of the six-day hike is day three, covering 24.5 miles between Hunslet and Halifax, taking in Headingley, Manningham, Bradford Park Avenue and Illingworth on the way.

The next three days wonder over the wrong side of the Pennines, and my interest fades.

But for those who can cross the border into Lancashire, day four on Wednesday, July 22, starts at Rochdale and ends at Edgley Park, via Oldham.

Twenty-four hours later, it is a trek from Wheater Street in Broughton to the DW Stadium in Wigan.

The final day sees the walk crawl from Fletcher Street in Warrington to Langtree Park in St Helens.

Anyone who manages to complete all six days deserves a proper man-of-the match prize.

The Founders Walk is held in association with the sport’s charity Rugby League Care.

Other activities to mark the 120th anniversary include the installation of a blue plaque at the grounds of each of the 22 founding clubs; the unveiling of a statue at Wembley Stadium on the day of the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup final, Saturday August 29; and the induction of two more of the sport’s all-time greats into the Rugby League Hall of Fame.

Fans can take part in any of the different stages to help raise cash, which will go to various good causes.

For more details of the route or to register for the Founders Walk you can visit www.rugbyleaguecares.org/founders_walk_2015