Here in Nether Stowey and Over Stowey we have been accredited members of the Walkers Are Welcome community for just over a year now. Walkers Are Welcome nationally is now celebrating its tenth anniversary. In the last ten years, Walkers Are Welcome towns have developed 1,200 walks totalling over 6,342 miles—the distance from London to Lima—and raised massive sums of money for their local economies.
This information is revealed in a recent survey of 69 of the 111 Walkers Are Welcome towns in England, Scotland and Wales. Towns are accorded national Walkers Are Welcome status by the network’s national committee, once they have proved that they have demonstrated their commitment to promoting facilities for walkers. They must show they have support from local businesses and a broad-based committee, and that they help to keep paths open and waymarked and encourage the provision of public transport.
The survey reveals the many benefits which Walkers Are Welcome towns provide to their communities. For instance, Walkers Are Welcome status has helped to boost the numbers using cafés, pubs and accommodation and the income from car-parks; it has helped to keep public toilets open; it has raised massive funds for local economies.
Some towns do practical work on paths to ensure that walkers will truly feel welcome and not encounter obstructions, poor way-marking and broken stiles. Some run walking festivals to attract visitors. They provide and lead a range of walks—for recreation, health, families and people with disabilities. They explore local history, nature and other features of interest. Walkers Are Welcome towns work in partnership with local businesses to promote walking and an attractive environment.
In Nether Stowey and Over Stowey over the past year we have been working closely with the local authorities and local businesses to help improve the local rights way, particularly along the Coleridge Way trail which starts in Nether Stowey. We have created a website with a series of local walks for visitors and local people to use as well as information on local businesses, local amenities, transport, local heritage and wildlife. We also worked with Sedgemoor Ramblers on the Quantock Walking Festival last summer showcasing the beautiful scenery here in the Quantock Hills.
Says Kate Ashbrook, patron of the Walkers Are Welcome Towns Network: ‘The results of the survey are impressive. If you scale up the responses, the money raised from Walkers Are Welcome in a year must be over one million pounds. The energy and activities of these towns are phenomenal.
‘This survey shows that by promoting walking, the towns are putting themselves on the walking map, with all the benefits which follow. We hope that many more towns will recognise the value of being part of the Walkers Are Welcome family and will apply to join us.’
For further information on Walkers are Welcome nationally, contact:
Kate Ashbrook, patron 07771 655694
Ann Sandell, secretary 01768 371976