WAW has come across a blog by Cedric Farineau, a Frenchman in Yorkshire who’s been living here for a while now and really loves it. Cedric passion for the Great Outdoors is completely fulfilled in Yorkshire. Read his blog.
Yorkshire is a great place to walk but did you know that it also boasts the biggest number of “Walkers are Welcome” towns and villages in the UK? There are now 23 towns and villages in Yorkshire accredited to the scheme and the latest ones to have joined the scheme are:
- Baildon (December 2013)
- Burley in Wharfedale (March 2014)
- Bingley (January 2015)
With Ilkley and even Otley also members, this corner of West-Yorkshire is really becoming a place to be for walkers!
I am actually really proud that Bingley has got the official status now. It’s been my adoptive home town for the last seven years and I’ve been on many beautiful walks in the area. I’ve published some in this blog if you are interested.
About the Scheme
To come back to Walkers are Welcome, the initiative started in 2007 in Hebden Bridge, a small town in the South Pennines and in the heart of Calderdale, West-Yorkshire. At the time a small team of people from an existing group called “Hebden Bridge Walkers Action” led the way to something that now includes a network of over a hundred towns and villages throughout the UK. There is an archived page on Hebden Bridge Walkers Action website detailing the launch day of the initiative. What’s really interesting is that they came up with a sshort-list of criteria and to this day towns and villages wanting to become members of this network, have to meet the following six criteria:
- Demonstration of popular local support for the concept.
- Formal endorsement of application for WALKERS ARE WELCOME status by local council
- Action to ensure that rights of way are maintained in good condition
- Adequate marketing of WALKERS ARE WELCOME status
- Encouragement of walking using public transport
- Demonstration of mechanisms in place to maintain WALKERS ARE WELCOME status
- This shows the scheme is a strong community-led initiative and as explained in the official website:
Gaining the status is dependent on the Executive Committee being convinced that any application is a ‘bottom-up’ initiative from within the local community. This is to ensure that there will be on-going continuity of support for the project.
Why is it so popular in Yorkshire?
As mentioned previously, today there are 23 towns and villages in Yorkshire sporting the Walkers are Welcome status, that’s almost a quarter of all the network. Why is the scheme so popular in Yorkshire then? I might have my own explanation for this:
A sense of community: since I arrived in Yorkshire (and the North in general), I’ve seen how local people have this feeling of belonging to a place and wanting to care for it. It’s probably because people love the place they live in and are proud of it.
A fantastic landscape: Yorkshire has a really diverse landscape. From flat terrains to gentle hills and even peaks battered by strong winds,. All of this makes this county heaven for walkers
A reasonable public transport system: although not perfect, the public transport system in Yorkshire gives access to most of the remote places in the county. Being by train or bus, you should be able to go wherever you want, even for that walk in the middle of nowhere.
Thriving local businesses: this has probably more to do with the “chocolate box village” effect but I find that many small towns and villages in Yorkshire are really attractive thanks to their local businesses. Being a shop, a pub or a restaurant, there are some real local gems out there. This is really important in times when city centres become filled with the exact same replica shops everywhere and have lost their diversity.
So “Vive Walkers are Welcome” and I hope Yorkshire will get its 24th member very soon!
Facts updated for Jan 2015