Stocksbridge Walkers: by Royal Appointment – Walkers are Welcome wins a Duke of York’s Community Initiative Award

Stocksbridge Walkers are Welcome (SWaW) have won one of the coveted 2019 Duke of York’s Community Initiative (DoYCI) Awards.

The Royal Award is presented to a small number of local community projects based in Yorkshire and the Humber, organisations that have been subjected to rigorous and robust scrutiny and are deemed to be: ‘of real value to the community, well run and an inspiration to others.’

After coming second in the 2018 Ramblers, ‘Best Walking Neighbourhood Awards,’ Stocksbridge has become the new ‘go-to’ place for recreational walking. The countryside is open, walks are varied, clear instructions are available, and the area is relatively unspoilt. The SWaW website has detailed downloadable instructions for almost fifty walks in, and around, North Sheffield.

Founded by the Duke in 1998, the Initiative focuses on encouraging and rewarding innovative and inspirational community projects. His Royal Highness the Duke of York will make presentations and meet the successful applicants at an Award Ceremony to be held at Catterick Camp, on Wednesday April 3rd.

HRH The Duke of York: ‘The Community Initiative which bears my name is a great success story throughout the whole of Yorkshire with over 400 first class community schemes having received my Award. They have been encouraged informally to act as mentors and examples of best practice to other communities, spreading far and wide the message that often the remedy for short comings can be generated at community level.’

Bridge Cut Up

Kirkby Stephen Walkers are Welcome noticed in December that the footbridge over the gill on their Poetry Path had been cut up with a chain saw. Initially, they believed that the bridge department at Cumbria Country Council, Countryside Access had decided to renew the bridge which had been reported on several occasions over the last year as the top planks deteriorated.
Eventually, into January after chasing this up, they were informed by the Senior Countryside Access Officer:
‘The bridge that was damaged wasn’t on our asset but it was removed to prevent risk to the users. With the nature of the stream crossing we have no current plans to construct a new structure at this location.’
This bridge was built by East Cumbria Countryside Project when the Poetry Path was installed. We are devastated, had we been advised, it was quite possible that we would have raised funding to have the bridge repaired ourselves. We are now left with a wobbly plank while deciding how to progress.

Llanwrtyd Wells Square Wall Hanging

Llanwrtyd Wells has completed its wall hanging square to join the national wall hanging.The art work was designed and made by the Sewing and Handicraft group in Llanwrtyd Wells. The square depicts a Red Kite above mountains, patchwork fields and a river in the Cambrian Mountains. The Red Kite is the iconic bird in Powys. The Kite was persecuted almost to extinction and the last remaining pair survived in the hills above Llanwrtyd Wells. There are now 1600 pairs in Great Britain and they are protected under a Schedule 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. They are a constant presence in the landscape and beautiful to watch as they effortlessly glide over our hills and fields. They are one of the great conservation success stories of recent times.

Charlbury – a Cotswolds Gateway Town

Along with other places at the edge of the Cotswolds AONB, Charlbury will become a Cotswolds Gateway Town. Funding associated with this will allow them to provide better visitor information, to create and improve footpaths, and to promote their position at the Easternmost edge of the Cotswolds. They say “We will focus on improving and creating new shorter routes and will provide road free routes from local accommodation into the town. To celebrate this, we will be holding our first walking festival in June this year. More news and details of this to follow. Charlbury has a main line railway station with frequent trains along the Cotswold line and we also have a bus service from Oxford. We are also on a National cross country cycle route and the Oxfordshire way long distance footpath goes through the Town. Being a Walkers are Welcome Town has encouraged local businesses to cater for visitors and there is a range of accommodation and choice of refreshments now available”

2019 Annual Get-Together 12-13th October

The next Walkers are Welcome Annual Get-Together will be held in Kirkby Stephen, Cumbria. This small old market town with its Conservation Area is surrounded by the spectacular countryside of the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the new Westmorland Dales extension to the Yorkshire Dales National Park. You can enjoy peaceful river walks, popular disused railways and explore ancient lanes or climb nearby fells and moorland with open access and outstanding views. The town’s Market Street provides independent shops, cafe’s, pubs and accommodation. The residents love their quirky projects and arts events that bring added vitality.
Whilst the north might seem a long way to come, there are easy motorway links or mainline railways including the famous Settle-Carlisle railway with the traffic easing and landscape unfolding as you near your destination. We hope you will be able to visit us and stay a while. We assure you that the welcome will be warm. further information to follow.

Real Ale Ramble at Llanwrtyd Wells

Llanwrtyd Wells Real  Ale  Ramble  2018

The 32nd year of the annual Real Ale Ramble took place in Llanwrtyd Wells and surrounding area on November 24 and 25th, 2018. The Ramble attracted 200 walkers (which did include a few trail runners and runners with dogs) on the Saturday and 50 walkers on the reverse walks on the Sunday. Walkers came from all parts of the UK as far afield as Norfolk in the east and Cumbria in the north. As always the event was organised by Green Events, including Walkers are Welcome members, from the Neuadd Arms.
On the morning of the event the weather was misty with drizzle in the air and low grey cloud. The walkers had a choice of 2 routes: Route A 19.6 miles with 5618ft of ascent and, Route B 12.3 miles with 3231ft of ascent. There was also guided walks by Walkers are Welcome members of 5 and 8 miles on offer. On the route there were 3 checkpoints run by volunteers providing real ale from the festival and coffee. All of the walks proceeded North towards Abergwesyn and the Long A route took in the high point of the course at Cwm Henog and the old birds-eye viewing point at Spion Kop overlooking Llanwrtyd. In the evening local band In Transit played a raucous set to a packed audience at the Neuadd Arms. The feedback from walkers was very positive and many commented that they would return next year.

2018 Get-Together and AGM

So as we all journeyed to the east of England, we left behind the torrential rain and wind of the extratropical cyclone named Storm Desmond, arriving in Cromer to a sunny summer’s evening for the reception on the pier. From there on we all enjoyed a fun packed weekend by the sea. As usual, is was so great to meet up with Walkers are Welcome family friends and make new acquaintances.

Whilst there were many highlights, our Chairman, Sam Phillips. was particularly impressed to hold the AGM in the North Norfolk County Council chamber but we won’t let the raised dais and facilities go to his head. Thoughts of a May-bop entrance brought us down to earth with a smile. There was a charming personal message from Norman Lamb MP emphasising the importance of walking for health and mental well-being saying that many people never experience the joy of walking in the countryside.

Official formalities of the AGM over, our Patron, Kate Ashbrook, updated us with some of the current politics with Brexit, the Agriculture Bill and the future of public access. We enjoyed a members’ exchange of information on the benefits members have brought over the last year to their communities and shared information. followed by a networking lunch.

There were other presentations and favourite walks over the weekend with a gorgeous meal of Norfolk produce on the Saturday evening. The famous Cromer crab managed to be highlighted and formed an important part of the evening, not only to eat but featured it its own quiz. Our tremendous thanks to Hilary Cox, Gemma Harrison and the WalkCromer team for a super weekend. Perhaps let us know your own highlights.

The UK’s most unlikely export? Footpaths and recreational walking!

It’s a beautiful if cool start to the day, crisp and clear, with the warmth of the suntussling against a gentle Arctic breeze threatening a frosty edge to the day. Walking through grassy fields, I ponder my good fortune. As I’m here, well really because I want to be. Walking for leisure is a luxury that we almost take for granted in the UK.

We are fortunate to have a centuries-old tradition of leisure walking that many countries, particularly in Asia or Africa, do not. Where, outside a sometimes excellent set of long-distance trails or formal leisure areas, heading off into rural farmland is all but impossible without the landowners direct permission. Indeed, it is said that our rights of way are the envy of many parts of the world.

I am just above Bradfield, a stone’s throw from Sheffield along the Loxley valley. I’m walking with Chris Prescott, Secretary of the Bradfield group of Walkers are Welcome (WaW), and as he says, “It’s the green lung of Sheffield, giving breathing space to a large urban area”.

In conversation, he mentions a recent visit by Japanese academics to walk with another WaW group, down in Winchcombe. They were amazed to discover that our footpaths can go through farmyards, with one of the professors commenting that would never be the case in Japan. As Japanese farmland is privately owned with no right of access.

Indeed, until about 20 years ago, there was no tradition of walking for pleasure in Japan. Walking was just purposeful local transport, often to visit a sacred shrine. (Shinto, a uniquely Japanese belief system, holds certain mountains and other natural features of the landscape as sacred).

More recently, private individuals or local footpath organisations have begun to develop “courses” – a uniquely Japanese take on the British footpath. These may be based on “rido” (narrow tracks which were historically constructed for local communal use), or they may be developed afresh where no path existed before. Often a printed map of the course acts as your “token” of right to access it. The Footpath Association of Japan (FAJ) is in the process of linking together the community groups who care for these new footpaths throughout Japan.

FAJ have turned to the UK’s Walkers are Welcome community-led network of towns and villages “with something special to offer all walkers” for guidance. The WaW network has now reached over 100 member communities and contributed an estimated £4.5million* to the local economy across the UK and FAJ hopes to emulate their success.

It all began in Hebden Bridge, just 12 years ago. Andrew Bibby, a long-time resident and keen walker, had seen how walkers who might otherwise be interested in the town were bypassing it on the high moorlands of the Pennine Way, while town centre business premises were closing down through lack of custom.

As he explains “The Walkers are Welcome idea benefits towns and villages as well as walkers. It brings money into the local economy. By spending money on simple things like coffee and cakes, parking and bus fares, walkers help to keep our rural communities alive.

To become a Walkers are Welcome town requires popular local support. This is very much a bottom-up idea, which relies on the substantial and usually unpaid efforts of local volunteers.”
Currently the network stretches from Liskeard in Cornwall to Unst in The Shetland Isles and St Dogmaels in Pembrokeshire to Cromer in Norfolk. There are even Gaelic and Welsh versions of the golden bootprints WaW logo.

As we rise towards the Dukes Road, named after the Duke of Norfolk who was keen on private access for grouse shooting rather than leisure walking for all, Chris reminds me this was the scene of Bradfield’s own Mass Trespass – some five months after Kinder. The Trespasses were driven, at least in part, by mass discontent with Enclosure Acts. These effectively privatised the countryside, excluded local people from many paths, and changed people’s way of life from small scale farming to urban employment.

There is a synergy in the idea of footpaths returning a degree of prosperity to rural communities. In Japan, recent significant rural decline is a hot topic, as villages empty when youngsters move to the cities for university education and stay there for work. Their government hopes footpath walking is the answer.

WaW’s association with the developing Japanese footpaths community has led to Chris and two colleagues from WaW’s national committee being invited to a Japanese walking conference. They will visit the length and breadth of the country from Hokkaido in the north to Kumamoto in the far south.

While out there Chris hopes to introduce the Japanese to one of England’s lesser known, but highly respected 19th Century Romantic poets, John Clare. Unlike Wordsworth, whose crowd of golden daffodils celebrates freedom of access to the countryside; Clare understood all too well the consequences of the loss of footpaths decimated through Enclosure Acts in his Northamptonshire village and “dreaded walking where there was no path”.

In Japan the footpath movement is just beginning – and each walking community will likely do things their own way, just as each WaW community does in the UK. Some WaW communities may put all their effort into maintaining existing footpaths and promoting what they have already; others may develop new routes or hold walking festivals.

All, however, tend to be the smaller towns and villages that people haven’t traditionally associated with walking, but believe they have something unique to offer too. But however each community prioritises things, the golden bootprint WaW logo guarantees that walkers are entering a community that has walkers interests at heart – whether in Kagoshima or Kirkby Stephen.

As we return over the Trespass bridge – hewn from timbers near the Kinder mass trespass site – it seems that one of the UK’s most unexpected exports is indeed the humble footpath. And with the help of Walkers are Welcome, footpath walking also contributes significantly to the health, economy and well-being of local communities back here too. Chiz Dakin

Whitchurch, Hampshire Launch Their New Heritage Trail

In 1888, the Star newspaper reported: ‘Whitchurch is in Hampshire. People who live IN it call it a town. People who live OUT of it call it a village. It is about as big as a good-sized pocket handkerchief. It has three shops and 19 public houses’. Today Whitchurch is still the smallest town in Hampshire, with rather less pubs, but a few more shops and a story to tell….

Much of the town centre is a conservation area and the Heritage Trail takes you on an easy two mile walk passing many of the surviving historic buildings and points of interest along the way. You will read about a notorious highwayman, famous authors, conflict and a first for the BBC! Historically always punching above it’s weight, did you know that it was Whitchurch folk that won the Right to Peaceful Protest for the country?

To find out more please do  visit. Guided tours can be arranged by contacting Walkers are Welcome Whitchurch, Hampshire via

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