Przegląd Geograficzny (2022) vol. 94, iss. 3

Development of the hiking-trail network in Poland’s Sowie Mountains since the Second World War

Krzysztof Kołodziejczyk

Przegląd Geograficzny (2022) vol. 94, iss. 3, pp. 373-396 | Full text

Since 2014, there has been a rapid development of the network of hiking trails in Poland’s Sowie Mountains, which forms an element of broader processes taking place in various parts of the Sudeten Mountains, especially the Central Sudeten. These changes have here been analysed, i.a. by using elements of graph analysis. So that a full picture might be obtained, changes in the degree of development and coherence of the hiking-trail network in the whole period since World War II were determined, with the reasons for marking new routes examined, account being taken of both attractiveness of the area to tourists and the roles sections in the network play. Moreover, the ways of routing new trails and changes in the courses of existing ones were analysed in relation to patterns indicated in the literature. In the face of the long period of analysis, it is notable that the period from the 1970s to the beginning of the 21st century brought hardly any development of the network of hiking trails in the Sowie Mountains (Fig. 2). This in essence comprised two long-distance routes leading along the entire range, together with local trails running perpendicular to these, connecting the ridge with the south-western and north-eastern forelands. Given the overall extensive nature of the Sowie Mountains, the lack of connecting sections between local trails made it impossible to plan a trip using official routes without the main ridge being reached, and hence considerable distances covered. This arrangement failed to correspond with the notion of recreational use being made of the area under study (mainly weekend walks), as a reflection of the proximity of several cities, Wałbrzych being the largest. Changes to that situation were only brought about in recent years (Fig. 2). The length of hiking trails in the Sowie Mountains in 2022, as compared with 1974 and 2005, almost doubled, with an approximately threefold increase in the number of nodes and inter-node sections (Table 1). The increase in network density is reflected in a decrease in the average length of inter-node sections – from 2.45 km in 1974 to 1.56 km in 2022, with a mid-period increase in 2005 to 2.48 km. As a result of these changes, network coherence decreased slightly (though it is still appropriate to apply the classification of lattice system characterised by quite good cohesion), even as there was a clear improvement in the possibility for trips, especially shorter trips, to be organised, with there no longer being any requirement for the highest parts of the range to be reached, and with circular routes made possible. The existing network of access routes from towns surrounding the Sowie Mountains was developed, but most of all, trails were laid down to traverse the slopes of the main and side ridges. The development of the network encompassed both: 1) areas that had been very popular hitherto, and 2) less-visited parts, altogether devoid of marked hiking trails as recently as in 2005. As previously, the network remains less-developed in the south-eastern part of the Sowie Mountains, with only two new routes added by 2022, as compared with in 2005. However, trails created recently often in fact correspond with routes in existence prior to World War II. There are many positive aspects to this development (or reconstruction) of the hiking-trail network in the Sowie Mountains. New routes relate clearly to sightseeing assets, many of which have only now been encompassed by the network. Moreover, the scenic values of selected parts of the range (the slopes of the main ridge, north-western part of the region) have gained further appreciation. Routes do make reference to the locations of public-transport stops (especially railway stations), as well as car parks located at the foot of the mountains or in passes. There is a clear tendency for the share of trails covered in an asphalt surface to be limited, with this applying to both new trails and course changes involving older ones (Table 2, Fig. 3, 4). The routes are equipped with information and leisure infrastructure, with new routes often marked to include these investments in the network. The example of the intensive development of the network of hiking trails in Poland’s Sowie Mountains serves to highlight how there remains further potential in this regard, in other selected parts of the Sudeten Mountains, with features valuable from the point of sightseeing that have still not been reached by the official network of hiking trails.

Keywords: szlaki piesze, zagospodarowanie turystyczne, sieci, grafy, Góry Sowie

Krzysztof Kołodziejczyk [], Uniwersytet Wrocławski, Instytut Geografii i Rozwoju Regionalnego