Walkers are Welcome Towns’ Network UK agreement with the Footpath Association of Japan
On Friday 6 February 2015 a historic agreement was signed between Walkers are Welcome UK and the Footpath Association of Japan, who will now start its own WaW Network.
This is a milestone for the Walkers are Welcome Towns’ Network UK, which began in 2007 in Hebden Bridge and has mushroomed.
In May 2013 Sheila Talbot, Chair of Winchcombe Walkers are Welcome, was invited to tour Japan to lecture about the benefits walkers can bring to rural communities. The Japanese were very interested in the concept of Walkers are Welcome and now starting their own Network, the first foreign country to do so.
Mr Kosei Hamada and Mrs Ruriko Izawa brought the Friendship Agreement from Japan, which had already been signed by Joichi Ishizaka, President of the Footpath Association of Japan. Sheila Talbot signed on behalf of Walkers are Welcome UK, in her capacity as Overseas Ambassador for Walkers are Welcome. Also present at the signing was Kate Ashbrook, Patron of Walkers are Welcome, General Secretary of the Open Spaces Society and Ramblers President, Mike Dawson, CEO of Tewkesbury Borough Council and Jim Mason, Chair of Winchcombe Town Council.
Sheila said “Having visited Japan, I can see many similarities between our two countries. Both have beautiful, varied countryside and friendly people living in rural communities, which are struggling economically. One big difference is that Japan does not have a public rights of way network like ours, so they have more work to do to secure better access. I witnessed the terrible devastation caused to the beautiful east coast by the earthquake and tsunami in 2011.
The Japanese Government now understands the huge benefits that walkers can bring to rural communities, so they are creating a new National Park and a National Trail in the area to bring back visitors. I believe Walkers are Welcome can help, not just in the affected area, but all over Japan. I wish them every success with WaW and I hope that in the future some UK WAW towns will twin with Japanese WAW towns.”