Whittaker hamlet

WHITTAKER HAMLET

Local Groups Discuss New Future for Station Buildings

The Littleborough Historical & Archaeological Society have been offered the use of the buildings on Littleborough Railway Station platform on a long term lease at a peppercorn rent. The Littleborough Historical & Archaeological Society is considering a number of possible uses for the buildings including storage and exhibition space for their collections. However, due to the current state of the buildings and inadequate access facilities, any project would require a considerable amount of funding in the form of grants which could only be obtained if the whole community was behind it. For this reason, the Littleborough Historical & Archaeological Society arranged a meeting on Monday 2nd October 2006 at Hare Hill House to which Littleborough Civic Trust was invited, along with the Moorend Trust, Friends of Littleborough Station and Littleborough in Bloom.

Chairman Bernard Pratt of the Littleborough Historical & Archaeological Society advised that he had been appointed project manager on behalf of the Society and spoke about his expertise, based on forty years of working in the railway industry. He said that they were keen that good use be made of the redundant buildings. His reasons for calling the meeting were to set out the societys aims and to determine the aspirations of the other major groups in the Littleborough community. He started by producing a flowchart detailing the complexity of the Railway Industrys criteria for station upgrades.

The Station Buildings Today

The Station Buildings Today

Graham Pearson, Littleborough Historical & Archaeological Society Secretary, outlined the stages they had gone through with various buildings and projects since 1994, culminating in them being offered the use of the station buildings. He also outlined the various dealings that they have had with the Heritage Lottery Fund and the constant moving of goalposts until, on their last project, the message was that the Heritage Lottery Fund would fund the fitting-out if the society finds a building worthy of preservation.

The other groups at the meeting made the following representations:

Littleborough Civic Trust Iain Gerrard said that any changes should take into account that the buildings fall within the Conservation Area and that designs should be sympathetic with that. The green area that currently fronts the station should either remain or new landscaping should be introduced.

Moorend Trust Sue Thornton outlined the benefits that could be forthcoming if the project came under the Trusts umbrella as far as funding was concerned. She also said that involvement with the various RMBC community initiatives would go a long way towards satisfying the Community Aspect of Heritage Lottery Fund policy.

Friends of Littleborough Station John and Rae Street said their group was formed to press for better access, adequate shelters and improved safety and they both supported the project if it could deliver those ambitions.

Littleborough in Bloom Iain Gerrard explained that although Elaine Gerrard was unable to attend this inaugural meeting, Littleborough in Bloom would support the project.

Several attendees said they would like to see the inside of the buildings before committing fully to the project.

Bernard Pratt said that the society would be meeting with railway executives on the 19th October and would be outlining their plans to them. There are two main proposals. One is to use the existing buildings only and the second would be to add a structure to the end of the buildings using the same 'footprint' as an original structure, part of which has been demolished. Graham Pearson produced a set of architects drawings of the original designs, copied from the originals that are in the safe keeping of a society member. One idea being considered is restoring the original General Waiting Room features including the booking window.

Subsequent to the meeting the Littleborough Historical & Archaeological Society reported that the meeting with the railway authorities did take place, but unfortunately Northern, the train operating company, could not attend and therefore the society is in the process of arranging a specific meeting to obtain their views. Once this has been held the society will arrange a further meeting with all interested groups.

I am sure we all look forward to hearing more of this project.

Tony Smith.

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Notes from the Secretary

Wind Turbines

Here we go again! The proposal to erect wind turbines on the area northwest of Watergrove has raised the spectre of another fight for the preservation of our delicate uplands. I am beginning to realise just what is meant by 'battle fatigue' at the prospect of another scrap.

Coronation Power has recently had public exhibitions to promote its intentions. I didn't bother going to any of these which, I realise, lays me open to the accusation that my opinions are ingrained: "Don't try to change my mind with the facts!"

I would defend myself as follows.

What questions need to be asked that have not been asked before, without satisfactory answers? We have been through all this three or four years ago when another heavily subsidised company attempted to place wind turbines on Great Hill and Hogs Head Law Hill.

The more recent proposal for Scout Moor went through the same process of course and was also thoroughly rejected by the local population and our democratically elected councillors but was reinstated by the government inspector - so much for local consultation or democracy!

I would like to know just what has changed in the interim period except that the government is even more determined to 'show its colours' when it comes to the fight against global warming - no matter what the other costs to the environment this may entail.

Wind turbines are a blot on the landscape, particularly the huge machines intended here. They provide little power to justify the land they occupy or the devastating effect they have visually and audibly on the landscape. They would need to be positioned all over the area to be even slightly useful in the overall scheme of power provision - and when I say all over the area I don't just mean locally, I mean every piece of windy land from Lands End to John O' Groats! Some of the finer hills and mountain scenery in Wales have already fallen to these 'triffids' marching across the skyline and I, for one, don't wish to see this happen hereabouts.

The efficiency of all wind turbines is, in any practical terms, less than 30% of the rated power output. This is because they can only operate within a band of wind speeds, yet the companies promoting them continue to suggest that the electricity from them will serve 'a third of Rochdale' or whatever. Much of the power is produced at night when it isn't needed. It can't be stored so while it has to be used when it's produced and some of the conventional power generating stations may be shut down for a period, they have to be maintained on stand-by: we can't get rid of them!

I have heard some people say they think they are interesting and beautiful and would invite all their friends up onto the moors to see them. If, as I suggest, these things become ubiquitous you wouldn't need to travel at all to see them! They would be in everyone's 'back-yard'.

Turbines, at least land-based ones, are not in my opinion the way forward. There are other less intrusive methods of energy production and of course there is much that can be done to initiate a sea change in people's attitudes towards energy consumption. I really see no point in destroying our uplands when the airlines continue to pour enormous and increasing amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere and everyone drives their vehicles without thought as to whether their journey is either necessary or could be achieved by some other form of transport. Too many people forget that their feet are not just for wearing socks!

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Coach House Tree

On a minor note, although no less important, we were sad to see our commemorative tree at the Coach House had died. The tree, a red hawthorn, was planted in 1996 to celebrate 25 years of the Littleborough Civic Trust. It has been decided to replace this with another red hawthorn. Littleborough in Bloom has offered to cover any costs above £50.

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Railway Viaduct

We recently queried the appearance of a large container at the Viaduct. The Local Authority told us that it was there to facilitate work being carried out by Network Rail. While checking this they told us that they had found that the listing of the structure, according to their records, only extended to the main arch over the roadway and the adjacent pedestrian arches. While we don't think that this puts the remainder of the viaduct in any immediate danger we were concerned that our understanding on this matter was not correct.

Any listed structure not only has protection from casual alteration but a similar protection exists with respect to its immediate environs, which in this case ought to include the whole viaduct. Nevertheless we have asked for clarification on this, as the work done by Network Rail appears to have been the addition of safety fencing along the parapet which not only appears crudely unattractive, but also might have been done without planning permission.

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Local Development Framework

The Local Authority has asked us if we would like to be involved in the creation of the Local Development Framework. This is the intended replacement for the current Unitary Development Plan which has only just been adopted by the Council.

It had been intended that the Plan would run until 2016 but the government has made more recent changes in how the planning system should work and this has resulted in the Plan's earlier demise. The new Framework is meant to be in place by 2010. We felt that we needed to be as thoroughly involved in its creation as we were allowed to be and so we naturally said we would be involved.

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Flower Meadow

This has unfortunately hit a problem. Our application to the Lottery was rejected but it was felt that this was due to a misunderstanding on filling the application form and it is intended to reapply. Our application to Pilsworth is still being processed.

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Rochdale Canal

Amber Rose tranquily passing Rock Nook

Amber Rose passing Rock Nook

You must have been aware of the kerfuffle recently over the possibility of the canal being closed. If not I should explain that, because of ineptitude by the Department of the Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs, some £200 million pounds has been lost and they have decided to cut the grant-in-aid funding on a number of their responsibilities. British Waterways has lost the equivalent of £60 million over the next five years, money it could ill afford to be without. There is at present quite a campaign going on to get the funding reinstated but don't hold your breath.

Despite the millions already spent on the Rochdale, parts of it remain in a parlous state just this side of collapse. It will need a considerable quantity of repairs and maintenance for the foreseeable future.

Even if this grant is replaced, however, it seems to me that it wouldn't be the end of the story. Since the present Chairman of British Waterways took over there seems to have been a move away from community involvement in the canal and away from having proper in-house canal-bank staff allocated to and based on a specific canal or part of a canal.

The idea appears to be that there will be groups of roaming bank staff who will be sent to any area where there is a problem. This means that the ready communication between the local people and the local BW employees is lost. The problems are solved, if at all, reactively i.e. they wait until a disaster happens and then go and try to sort it out. Locally based staff, on the other hand, would know of impending problems before they become expensive disasters.

The three locks which collapsed catastrophically two years ago were all in poor condition and I understand had been identified as in need of urgent repair beforehand. There are more of these although only BW knows how serious the condition of them is. These changes are all being done in the names of 'efficiency' and 'economy'. The new Chairman and probably the government wish to make British Waterways a self-financing business without the need to rely on government grants. Well the government would, wouldn't it? But it seems to me that this is pie in the sky. A business which has a 200 year old infrastructure, much of which has been left without maintenance for over 50 years is unlikely to be able to rely solely upon its own income for many years to come, if ever!

The Rochdale Canal is suffering severely and could possibly close but it probably won't be entirely down to DEFRA!

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Durn Apartments

Another 'here we go again'. The developers have put in yet another application for the old Green Brothers dismantling yard. This time it is for 'only' 55 apartments.

They are clearly unable to see beyond the need for them to achieve the maximum return on this development. They disregard that it goes against the Unitary Development Plan, The Littleborough Town Design Statement, The Canal Corridor recommendations or just good planning!

Last time an application was made the planning department went its own way and recommended approval. Protests by ourselves and by local residents at the planning meeting received unanimous backing from the Councillors and it was rejected.

Aspects of that proposal were open to interpretation from the planning point of view and the Planners chose to interpret generously in favour of the developer! One would have hoped that if nothing else concerned them the Planners, being the 'professionals' in these matters, would go for the solution which would result in the best planning solution from the point of view of the town as a whole. Yet here we had proposals for casually placed blocks of apartments, up to six storeys in height, and with a density of development which, despite government requirements that there ought to be greater densities, exceeded the recommendations by almost 50% (maximum densities suggested by the government are 30 to 50 dwellings per hectare. These came to 80!)

The Green Brothers site: An eyesore,
but would badly planned high-rise housing be an improvement?

This new proposal, based upon the same area of the site as before, has reduced this figure to 73.33, still way too high. It has also reduced the heights proposed for the main blocks by one storey, still way too high. It appears that when you say "This is too high", the developers shrug and come back with a slight reduction, but clearly with no intention of conforming to our definition of what is reasonable.

Objections to the use of various finishes and materials have been ignored. Concrete tiles on the roofs, some walls of stone, some of brickwork and some of render give a mishmash that will not meld in with the local area.

The developer held his own meeting in the Littleborough Community School on the 22nd of November and invited everyone who had written in with an objection to the previous application. A bit late in the day for discussions with another proposal already before the planners!

Nothing significant came out of this, not that I would have expected it to, except that the developer had been totally flabbergasted at the reaction he had seen from all the objectors at the last application when it came before the Pennines Councillors. It seems the Planners had not warned them of the groundswell of opinion against it. I have to ask whom the Planners think they are serving by substantially ignoring us and the local public.

We have written another letter of objection but it can say little that wasn't said in our previous letters because so little has altered.

Iain S Gerrard

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Planning Gain

The Government has fairly recently introduced the concept of Planning Gain into the planning process. In essence this means that a Local Authority can ask of a developer that some item be funded by him as part of the approval of his application.

This is meant to secure that when there are increases in the number of houses built in an area, this results in sustainable communities supported by new investment in transport, schools, health centres and other local services.

To help to finance these vital parts of any infrastructure the recommendation (based upon Kate Barker's 'independent' revue of housing supply) was that the Government should capture a portion of the land value 'uplift' arising from the planning process. In other words a proportion of the wealth created by the planning system should be released for the benefit of the community.

This is something which the Littleborough Civic Trust has been calling for from before any government initiative along these lines.

Of course, in its inimitable way, the Government has failed to give any real indication of what the value of this planning gain should be relative to the overall value of any development.

It has also limited the planning gain somewhat by restricting what might be obtained through planning gain.

The result of this is that recent proposals for planning gain have been, in our view, pitifully small. We don't expect the future developers to have to pay for all the infrastructure improvements needed in our town, brought about by a total lack of control over recent years, but we would expect that they pay a proportion relative to the extra demands their particular development will create.

We also think that the idea doesn't go far enough. Any monies gathered through planning gain should be placed in a 'pot' which would only be used for the benefit of Littleborough town, neither sinking back into the Government's coffers nor those of Rochdale Metropolitan Borough, never to be seen again.

This is admittedly still 'work in progress' to some extent, but attempts are already in hand locally to use this government-led idea hereabouts and not, so far, in any satisfactory way.

Iain S Gerrard

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New History Of Local Pubs

Littleborough Historical & Archaeological Society have recently published an illustrated history of the Littleborough's pubs. Based on Alan Luke's 1983 book A History of Littleborough Pubs, and his subsequent research, this revised edition by his nephew, Mark Pearson, delves deeper into the history of the area's pubs and beerhouses using new evidence that has come to light over recent years.

Illustrated with many fascinating photographs, the book gives a detailed A-Z of all the pubs and beerhouses in the area - those still existing and those that have 'disappeared into the alcoholic haze of time'.

Copies can be ordered via the LHAS website for £12.99, with free delivery to local addresses:http://www.lhas.org.uk/

 

 

 

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Bath Time at Pikehouse Cottages

Like most people who were children in the 1950s I can relate stories about having a bath in front of the fire. Mum would bring in the tin bath that hung on a nail outside the back door, we children first and Dad last. Working with coal, he was always the dirtiest of us. Indeed, when the water did get ladled out it was a grey colour. Of course the bath was only topped up to help to keep it warm, then, when we were all done, it would be emptied with a ladling can (whatever happened to those)? As soon as it was manoeuvrable it would be dragged out of the back door and emptied down the grate.

But few children would have had the experience that I, and some of my playmates would encounter when we bathed in the Trough: the Trough was a long, wooden, open topped box, which started near the Boiler House of Greenvale Mill and was built on stilts all the way down the canal to about the gate for the football field (about 300 yards). Into this trough poured the hot water left over from the great turbines that powered the Mill. It then ran all the way down to empty into the canal, just opposite the gate; I suppose the purpose of this trough was to cool the water down a little before it emptied into the canal.

The trough itself was, or seemed to be, about three foot wide, and perhaps two foot deep, with wooden bracing spars, or cross members, at intervals across the top, and was about half full of fast-flowing, warm water, and painted every few years or so with black coal tar. Well, on a warm summer's evening, as can be imagined, it was a magnet to us children. We would climb in about half way along and sit up near a spar with our arms over this bar, which then acted as a stop against the flow, someone would have the soap, and we would wash ourselves in a peculiar, one handed fashion, not very effective of course, but fun. As can be imagined, soap, being slippy when wet, would disappear at the slightest squeeze, and with the water flowing so fast there was no chance of catching it, and down the Trough it would go! Mother always said there was enough soap in the canal to keep Lever Brothers going for a fortnight.

It was a curious phenomenon that the canal at the end of the trough had a deep, clean, area where the water poured in constantly, and washed away the mud which was - and still is - prevalent throughout the canal. My Dad always said that the stretch of canal in front of Pike House Cottages was always free of weeds because of the Trough. Whereas further down and further up the weeds could always be seen growing upwards from the mud and floating on the top, always flowing with the current, like long grass in a mowing meadow waving in the wind. However, back to the Trough: one of our favourite tricks was to start well up the Trough, and, whilst holding onto a spar, let our body slide underneath it so that our arms would be above our heads with our body floating in the current. Then with eyes and mouth shut tight, let go of the spar and be carried by the flow down to the next one, and then grab onto it for dear life. Of course there was always one who could be egged-on to go two spars, or three, and so on (one thing I feel I should mention here is the fact that none of us could swim!). But I never heard of anyone being washed all the way down into the canal, the only danger we seemed to be in was the black tar sticking to us, and Mum having to try and get it off with paraffin or something.

The only evidence of the Trough left these days is a couple of large diameter pipes just above the water line, outside the building that used to hold the Boiler-House, and the much larger building where the Turbines were. I don't think these are the original pipes, but they are in about the right place.

As well as the Trough, there was also the changing room and bath, built for the sports teams of Fothergill and Harveys. This was behind the boiler house at Greenvale, but to access it, the key had to be obtained from the Firebeater working at the time. This made sense because the boilers were in use, and manned, twenty-four hours a day, for most of the year, so there was access - for authorised users - at most times. The main use of course was that anyone using the sports facilities could freshen up afterwards. The sports available, as far as I remember, were Tennis, Football, Cricket and Bowls. But, when Dad was working on a Two - Ten shift, my Mother would borrow the key and take us in for a bath. This of course was dangerous, because Dad never knew when some-one would ask for the key, and should one of the Bosses, or their families, come and we got caught, Dad could have been sacked. But with a certain amount of inside knowledge, Dad would know when it was fairly safe. So off we would trot, up Pikehouse lane, over the bridge down, and round the back of the boiler house, into the side door making sure no one saw us: as can be imagined, an eight year old boy and a three year old girl with as much hot water as we wanted, what a whale of a time we had in that large, adult size bath, with my poor Mother trying to keep us quiet and get us scrubbed at the same time, then it would be a dry down, get dressed and back down home again in time for bed, my little sister by this time would be falling asleep and would have to be carried part of the way. Oh how fondly remembered, those long ago summers, of few luxuries and rationing, but thrills and pleasures not available in today's Hi-Tech, Nanny State.

Russell Johnson

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Summit Lock House

This is an expanded article on the item originally published in the Newsletter

Before the Rochdale Canal was opened British Waterways went to considerable effort to approach local organisations and communities with the intention of getting them 'on side' to help and, on an informal basis, to be involved in the running of the canal.

As part of this policy the Summit Lockhouse was purchased, separately from the purchase of the canal itself, in order to house the lockkeeper who was then deemed necessary for the water management, to keep a check on and report on the condition of all the infrastructure, and to continue and improve upon the initial efforts made with those communities and organisations. This went beyond just involving the waterway 'users' i.e. the boaters and included amongst others our own organisation. The response from ourselves and others locally was enthusiastic and has developed into a useful working relationship beneficial to both ourselves and British Waterways.

More recently British Waterways has appeared less enthusiastic in continuing this dialogue and has, until December 2006, been threatening to sell off the house, quite literally from under the lockkeeper.

They have said that this sale would not inconvenience their employee as he would still have his job and indeed his residence - just under a different landlord. It may be argued that the relationship between British Waterways and one of its employees should not be our concern but I would disagree. Its lack of care of an employee who, by practically all who know him locally, has been and is considered to be an asset to both the company and the community is frankly awful. The cruel way they have treated him in this matter so far is in stark contrast to what he understood the original agreement to be between himself and his employer.

Suffice to say that they have been forced to relent, albeit not completely. Promised a home for his working life when he moved in he now faces the constant threat annually of being left to the mercies of an alien landlord. This is in addition to the loss to the canal of an important asset which we believe should remain in perpetuity with the canal. Careless and indifferent consideration has been evident in British Waterways' attitude with respect to retention of some quite ancient structures which they deem to be 'no longer necessary operationally'.

The situation is a symptom of a greater problem: that of the present direction of British Waterways nationally. It no longer appears to have as its main purpose the upkeep and repair of the waterways for which it is responsible. There is doubt in our mind whether it is any longer 'fit for purpose', to use a term currently in vogue but none the less pertinent to this matter.

The recent cuts from DEFRA have made a bad situation worse. We won't go into the why and wherefore of these here, other than to say that for DEFRA to put at risk investment valued overall in the billions of pounds and after many more millions of pounds have been spent in recent years is, in our view, tantamount to mismanagement on an industrial scale.

Even if DEFRA were to relent or be forced, by the weight of public opinion, to retract on its decision regarding the reduction in the grant-in-aid it wouldn't in itself resolve the problems, particularly those facing the Rochdale Canal.

When the Rochdale was taken over by British Waterways in 2002 the purpose of the company's involvement was viewed by most people to be that of managing, maintaining and repairing the canal as necessary. This approach was fine, but where was the money for this work? There appears to have been a complete lack of foresight by those charged with this job in British Waterways. Did they really believe that a 200-plus year old canal, lacking in proper or any maintenance for over 50 years could be expected to just carry on without any problems?

Much of the 23 million pounds spent in getting the canal to open was spent on major works such as the passage under the M62 and the removal of the supermarket in Failsworth which had been built over the original line. Although many lock gates were made and fitted to replace those which had been removed or had collapsed, many more were not. These last were just operational in many cases but decent forward thinking would have identified the need to plan for their early replacement. The catastrophic failures of three sets of gates in 2004, one of which could so easily have ended in a fatality, is indicative of this need.

There have been three or four failures of embankments of one kind or another, symptomatic of an ancient structure such as the canal; some of these could have been foreseen.

British Waterways is now embarking upon an attempt to become 'self-financing', free from the need to go to the government for any grant-in-aid monies. This is probably at the instigation of DEFRA, who presumably would be only too delighted to rid itself of this particular burden.

While it may be possible to achieve such a status in the future there can be little doubt that in the medium term there will be a need for the government to continue aiding British Waterways financially. For British Waterways to be chasing the goal of self-sufficiency at the present time is for it to take its 'eye off the ball' just when continuing investment in the existing structures is a must.

The parlous state financially that British Waterways finds itself in is probably totally down to DEFRA in overall terms but not, as I said above, purely because of the recent cuts.

British Waterways is almost in denial when it comes to water resources for the Rochdale.

There are none worth talking about yet there are no moves to obtain any. The old reservoirs which used to feed the Summit pound are still in existence along with the connections which allowed water from all four to feed the canal. Light Hazzles has been practically unused for years but maintains a connection to Warland. This latter reservoir, along with White Holme, has been reduced in volume in recent years because United Utilities don't want to spend the money to bring them up to European standards, but they still contain a lot of water. Blackstone Edge reservoir is fully up to its design level.

In the 1920s these reservoirs were practically given to the water company which eventually became part of United Utilities. We understand the water from them is no longer potable (drinkable) if it ever was, because of its acid content (peat you know!), yet there they sit, their water running away to waste.

British Waterways claim they have no money for such purchases but we have to ask why there are no attempts to get back these water resources, useless to the present 'owners', but almost priceless to the waterways. Part of the money received for all the works on the canal, some £1,250,000, was supposedly put on one side for the purchase of a water supply. Because of vandalism on the then-new Falkirk Wheel up in Scotland and which needed to be working when the Queen came to open it, this money was sequestered for that purpose. It was done with the agreement of the Lottery apparently but it never came back.

Unless British Waterways regains its old reason for being, and soon, it will not be long before the Rochdale becomes shut again. It may not be closed officially by British Waterways but when another failure of a part of the infrastructure occurs, as it will, British Waterways are on record as saying they will not have any money to effect repairs. This will put an end to through navigation and as less and less people use the remaining bits of the canal there will come a time when to argue for its continuing use in any form would be fruitless.

This all puts at risk the investment already carried out, but just as importantly, any future investment such as a Marina at Durn. This would have to be financed by private capital but would have far-reaching consequences for the area in terms of jobs and tourism. Who would put any money into such a project while the future of the canal itself is at risk?

The government should not consider the Rochdale canal nor all the canals in the system as just another business. They are a national asset which brings in tourism from abroad and gives pleasure to countless numbers of people in this country; their value cannot be judged just by numbers on a balance sheet

Iain S Gerrard

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Editor: Brian Walker