The Welcome Way – A story of collaboration and success
Four Walkers are Welcome communities of Otley, Burley in Wharfedale, Baildon and Bingley in West Yorkshire, are celebrating the publication of the second edition of the best-selling guidebook for the popular Welcome Way long-distance trail. The name was chosen to reflect the four communities belonging to the nationally accredited ‘Walkers are Welcome’ scheme.
The 36-mile circular route, which took a year to plan, was devised in 2015 by a steering group of volunteers representing the four towns and villages. Their aim was to encourage more people to explore the many delights of the surrounding countryside and each community and, to support their local economies.
The 60-page guidebook includes maps and easy-to-follow instructions for each section of the route, which can be completed in a series of either short and easy or longer segments, or as a single 36-mile walk. It is fully waymarked, taking walkers through urban paths, across moorland and woodland, through farmland rights of way, and along canal and river paths. The guidebook also includes information about each community along the way, transport links, points of historical interest, and many photographs.
The steering group has liaised regularly with Rights of Way teams from the three local authorities that encompass the Welcome Way to make regular, on-going improvements to the route. The steering group, and donations from sponsoring organisations have helped to fund new bridges, stile repairs and new kissing gates. Other major improvements to the route are also included in the new edition: by agreement with the landowner, a potentially dangerous railway level crossing has been replaced by a new right of way through a nearby cattle arch; and a long stretch of permanently waterlogged footpath in the little London area between Bingley Road and Baildon will now be avoided through the creation later this year of a safe off-road path following agreement reached with Bradford Highways.
To date, 1500 guidebooks have been sold nationwide and by visitors from abroad. Very soon, the entire route will be marked by the Ordinance Survey, identifying the route as a named long-distance trail in all their electronic and printed maps of the area. John Sparshatt, co-editor of the guidebook, says “We are delighted that this project has become such a popular route for people of all ages and walking abilities. The continued dedication and commitment of the steering group members, the collaboration with local authorities and support from sponsors has brought about the success of the Welcome Way, and we hope that this endeavour will make an important contribution to our local footpath infrastructure for many years to come.”
The Welcome Way guidebook can be purchased for £5.99 via the Welcome Way website. The website includes the outline of the route, transport links, photographs, information on each of the Walkers are Welcome communities, food and drink establishments, and local outlets selling the guidebook.