A PAIR of Greenfield climbing experts has proved a multi-million dollar boost to the far-flung country of Jordan after helping create a walking trail.
Think of the middle eastern nation, where temperatures can reach 40 degrees and land reaches heights of more than 5,000 feet above sea level and depths of almost 1,500 feet below sea level, and the thought of Greenfield, with its lush greenery and frequency of rain, seems worlds away.
But Tony Howard and Di Taylor spotted a yawning gap when they visited the country and are the brains behind the Jordan Trail, which has brought upwards of $6million to the economy in the country and scooped the World Tourism Award for 2018.
Their idea and work over about 15 years has even been met with Royal approval and thanks from more than one ruler.
“When I saw the film Lawrence of Arabia with Di in 1983, I was amazed at the desert mountain scenery and thought, ‘I have never heard of anyone climbing there’.” said Tony.
“So we went with support from the Jordan Tourism Ministry and the area was stunning, both for climbing and walking, so Di and I went again and again and over the years.
“I wrote the book ‘Treks and Climbs in Wadi Rum’ and everything has just gone on from there.
“Most of Jordan is more than 3,000 feet above sea level and sits on a giant plateau. The mountains go up to more than 5,000 feet and the Dead Sea is the lowest place on Earth at almost 1,500 feet below sea level.
“After writing a guidebook to treks in Jordan with support from Queen Noor, Di and I realised it might be possible to link some of the routes to form a country length trail working together with Jordanians who had started trekking using our books.”
Husband and wife team Tony and Di, who live in the hills above Greenfield, were instrumental in the creation of the Jordan Trail, a 400-mile network of paths that stretches from one end of the country to the other.
From Um Qais in the north to the Red Sea in the south, the 36-day route takes in nature reserves and World Heritage Sites such as the ancient city of Petra and the desert mountains of Wadi Rum.
Since being established in 2015, it has brought new life to what were isolated villages and parts have even been walked by Queen Rania.
King Abdullah II has also told them: ‘Your support in introducing adventure tourism in Jordan is deeply appreciated’.
“It was never a money-making thing,” added 78-year-old Tony.
“I’ve been into climbing all my life and I’m extremely interested in exploration.
“But after wondering why there was no formal trail through Jordan as the people there just were not interested in the kind of thing, it was an obvious thing to do.
“Once established the Jordan Trail Association was formed and they set up a website with GPS info so visitors can walk the route, and established home stays and guesthouses and trained local guides.
“And the impact of the trail has been huge. When we first went, there was nothing there and the maps we had from then Queen Noor were old military ones from 1970.
“Nothing had really changed by the early 1980s. We first went to Wadi Rum in 1984 and there were half a dozen houses and some Bedouin tents – now it’s a massive village!
“It’s completely different and it’s all come through the number of trekkers and climbers that go through the area.
“Nearly every family in Wadi Rum is earning money through tourism. There were only four of us who went originally!”
Tony and Di’s impact has not been just one way. Some of the Bedouin folk they encountered in Jordan have spent time in Saddleworth.
“They loved it,” said Di, 74. “They went to some of the schools and talked to the kids there. They played football with them too.
“They loved the greenery and the wetness. People moan about it always raining around here but to them it was great.”
Tony, responsible for four books about trekking and climbing in Jordan, is no stranger to the bookshelves.
Being part of the first British team to ever ascend the Troll Wall, Europe’s tallest vertical north face, in 1965 – which climbing royalty Joe Brown describes as ‘one of the greatest ever achievements by British rock climbers,’ is the basis behind the book Troll Wall.
And he is also putting his life into words by penning his autobiography, Quest into the Unknown, which will be released in April.