TA Leonard of Marple Bridge and the founding of HF Holidays

PUBLISHED: 20:57 16 January 2013 | UPDATED: 22:38 20 February 2013

Marple Bridge resident T.A. Leonard

Marple Bridge resident T.A. Leonard

A Marple Bridge man's legacy lives on 100 years after he founded a holiday fellowship, says Roz Hughes

A century ago, a man named Thomas Arthur Leonard, widely considered to be one of the fathers of the outdoor movement, established the Holiday Fellowship, now known as HF Holidays, a co-operative with almost 35,000 members and the UKs largest provider of walking holidays.

At that time, T.A. Leonard lived on Townscliffe Lane in Marple Bridge with his wife, Mary. The couple played an active part in Manchester society. While Mary was very involved with the womens suffrage movement, Leonard was good friends with J Lewis Paton, High Master at Manchester Grammar School and helped introduce outdoor pursuits to the school.

It all started back in 1891 when, during Wakes Week, he offered mill workers an alternative to a break in Blackpool or Morecambe. He felt they would benefit from the fresh air, exercise and companionship a walking holiday would offer. He formed a rambling club and took 30 people on a four-night break to Ambleside. His walks became an annual event and their popularity grew.

In 1913 Leonard realised his ambition to provide an all-inclusive holiday for the price of an average weekly wage, and set up the Holiday Fellowship with headquarters in Conwy, North Wales, where the couple later moved to. The company kept going and after the war began to prosper and extend the number of destinations at home and abroad.

Leonard died aged 84 in 1948. A pioneer of open-air holidays, he founded the Co-operative Holiday Association (CHA) in 1897 and had been instrumental in the setting up of the YHA, the National Trust and was the first president of the Ramblers Association.

He was a fascinating character who had many interesting ideas, including trying to buy Mount Snowdon for the nation - a plan that was rejected by the locals who thought there was gold in the rocks and he was after it.

HF Holidays has come a long way since those first trips to the Lakes, with comfortable en-suite accommodation in lovely country houses, and holidays right across the globe. Yet the values that Leonard believed in have never been lost.

Leonard passed his passion on to tens of thousands of people during his own life and today there are 700 dedicated volunteer leaders inspiring exactly the same philosophy on walks in 113 destinations in 46 countries all over the world.

The founding principle of the co-operative has also survived. Today, any profits from the trips are ploughed back into making the holidays and the experiences better for guests.

For more information on HF Holidays visit www.hfholidays.co.uk or to request a special centenary brochure call 0845 470 8559.

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