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Art and Walking go Hand-in-Hand in Kington

As a centre for walking, and a community of local artists and makers, Kington regularly celebrates the relationship between art, walking and our local border country landscape. Kington Walks, the  organisation that runs the Kington Walking Festivals, maintains local footpaths and leads our membership of Walkers are Welcome, is closely connected to the Marches Makers, the local collective of artists and makers. The annual Big Draw, and landscape art such as the image of a giant walker cut into the hillside bracken are examples of our longstanding collaboration.

In 2023, we welcomed a new addition to the Kington Arts and Walking Scene when the Marches Makers group, with support of Kington Walks, secured funding of £12,000 to commission and install a bronze sculpture by local artist Rachel Ricketts, of Fly, the Walking Dog of Kington. He now stands on a plinth of locally hewn stone donated by nearby Gore Quarry and was formally unveiled this year by the mayor of Kington.

The conception of Fly began with local stories about the ghost of Black Vaughan, which inspired Conan Doyle to write The Hound of the Baskervilles. Notable mythologies involving hounds in the region go back to the Mabinogi and are still raising the hairs on our necks to this day. Fly carries none of the darker historic connotations of the Hound stories but was inspired by the tale of Black Vaughan’s ghost, reduced to the size of a fly and interred in a snuffbox, invoking the power of positive transformation. Fly represents the spirit of an enthusiastic walking companion, ideally suited to his location in Kington, where he stands outside the Kington Museum. You can find out more about Fly, and Rachel’s work.

Just around the corner from Fly, walking and art in Kington are also visibly linked in the work of Kathryn Moore a Kington‐based artist who draws her inspiration from the local landscape, especially as she experiences it through walking and sketching. Kat and Fiddle Studio is her workspace and gallery in the centre of Kington. It is a great showcase for Kington’s wonderful walking country. Kathryn is closely involved with the Kington Walking Festivals, leading sketching walks and putting on her Six Pix Challenge, in homage to Kington’s 8 Peaks Challenge, and Kington’s Six Great Walks.

Kathryn has painted six views along Walk 1 of the Six Great Walks around Kington and asks participants to identify these locations with either What3words or an Ordnance Survey grid reference. The winner will be drawn from the correct answers and will receive a £50 prize.

The six images can be found on the Kington Walks website from 11th September and the originals displayed in Kathryn’s Kat and Fiddle Studio window, 37 Church Street, from 11th September to 1st October 2023.

Describing the interplay of art and the land in Kington, Kathryn says: ‘Many artists use landscape as their starting point for their chosen practice; Kington artists are no exception. The breadth of creativity among the artistic community in ceramics, printmaking, sculpture and painting, draws influences from the area’s rich abundance of material. Some may respond to the lie of the land in hills and valleys, others through the physical substance of materials in flora, pigments and minerals. The primary source is in our landscape, therefore walking, exploring, charting, documenting and discovery are an essential part of this creativity. Becoming familiar with the environs through walking, whether in a professional capacity or for relaxing pastime, increases one’s awareness and sensitivity to our surroundings.’

New Beech Trees booklet

Inspired by local nature conservationists, Nigel and Lois Harbron’s research into Kirkby
Stephen’s ancient beech trees, Kirkby Stephen Walkers are Welcome have published a new
booklet Kirkby Stephen Beeches. This is the fourth publication in the Upper Eden Discovery
Walks and is available at the Upper Eden Visitor Centre at £2.
The booklet gives the locations of ancient beech trees and groups of them around the town.
There is a walk mapped which will take about 1.5 hours to wander the streets and lanes of
Kirkby Stephen or may be broken down into shorter strolls. The route is also adaptable for
wheelchairs and disabled scooters. From the spring bright green, wonderful autumn colour
and food for our red squirrels, these old beech trees bring joy to residents and visitors alike.
If you fancy a little more adventure, details of the Kirkby Stephen vintage Wych Elm and the
ancient Wharton Oak have been included.

New website for Langholm

It was over 20 years ago that Langholm Walks Group produced a website for their 14 way-marked walks in the Langholm and Eskdale area. In that time they have produced 4 walks booklets each one with a print run of 1500 and each one bigger and better than the last. The last booklet was produced in 2014 and this consisted of 14 walks on A4 sheets with description on one side and a route marked OS map on the other. These were in a plastic folder. A new website was launched on 8th July 2023 and within the next year a new Langholm Walks Booklet will be printed. The new Tarras Valley Nature Reserve (TVNR) is progressing well and this will be the catalyst that will bring many new walkers to this lovely area. 
Langholm say “Please come and visit us in this lovely part of Scotland”.

Bampton welcomes walkers and celebrates the heritage of 30 years of the Exe Valley Way

The Exe Valley Way is a long-distance route exploring the length of the beautiful river valley.  It is almost 80km/50 miles in length stretching from the Exe Valley estuary in South Devon to Exford in Exmoor National Park, Somerset. The route takes in beautiful valley scenery, following the river Exe, from the broad estuary, pastoral landscapes and moving into narrower, heavily-wooded valleys to open moorland. The terrain is a mix of quiet country lanes and footpaths, woodlands and moorland, with some strenuous climbs. The route can be split into 10 stages, each of which can be walked in half a day by experienced walkers.

Bampton is on stage 6 of the route, taking walkers from Tiverton to Bampton, with stage 7 continuing on to Brushford in Somerset.  On Bank Holiday Sunday, 28th May, Bampton Heritage and Visitor Centre ran two free walks both of which took in part of the Exe Valley Way.  There were  24 walkers in total, enjoying between them a shorter route of 4.5 miles or a longer route of 6.8 miles.  Starting in the centre of the town, walkers were able to get free water refills in local cafes and a toilet stop before setting off.  The circular routes returned to Bampton Heritage and Visitor Centre, where tea and cake provided welcome refreshment.

If the challenge of the long distance Exe Valley Way attracts you, you can find out more at this link https://www.exploredevon.info/wp-content/uploads/2021/10/exe-valley-way_2021amended-2.pdf  Bampton makes a perfect overnight stopping off point, with plenty of B & B and Air B & B accommodation, award winning cafes and restaurants and a variety of local independent shops. You can call into the Heritage Centre to learn more about the story of Bampton over past centuries.

Bampton Heritage and Visitor Centre runs free walks every bank holiday weekend. The skills of the walk leaders include bird identification and rural landscape and map history. There are bus services to Bampton from Tiverton and Bampton to Dulverton. There are  public toilets including an accessible toilet and most of Bampton’s cafes and restaurants offer free water refills.

See the website https://www.bampton.org.uk/BHVC/index.html and social media platforms https://instagram.com/bamptonheritagecentre    and https://www.facebook.com/bamptonheritage   for more information and to book your place on one of the  bank holiday walks.

Walkers are Welcome Patron visits Wellington

Wellington Walkers are Welcome were delighted to welcome the Walkers are Welcome National Patron, Kate Ashbrook, to Wellington yesterday. She was there primarily for the Telford T50 50-mile Trail’s 5th anniversary celebration on Saturday, but, on Sunday, did the honours of putting in a waymark at the start of Telford Coronation walk no 9.  The project is run by the Friends of the Telford T50, but Wellington WaW are responsible for this route. It explores the Ercall which is famous for its unconformity, where the  Ercall Granophyre meets the sedimentary Wrekin Quartzite. Wellington is proud to be part of Telford, which has an unjust reputation, as it is home to The Wrekin  (an old hill fort and well known to Midlanders in the phrase “going all round The Wrekin”),  the world’s first iron bridge,  Blists Hill victorian town , and many nature reserves and open spaces. 

The Quantock Hills Walking Festival

Another successful event took place last week for Walkers are Welcome group Stowey Walking in Somerset. This year was their fifth walking festival showcasing the beautiful walks available on the Quantock Hills and West Somerset coast. Seven guided walks took place over five days with themes such as local history, archaeology, and wildlife. Over fifty walkers took part from all over Somerset and further afield. Ten participants also took part in a four-day challenge walk taking in the fifty-one miles of the Coleridge Way from Nether Stowey to Lynmouth. Stowey Walking would like to thank all the walk leaders and everyone who helped to make the event a success. They say  special thanks are due to this year’s  main sponsors the Quantock Landscape Partnership Scheme who provided funding and expertise and to Somerset Passenger Solutions at EDF who provided transport to and from some of the walk locations.  They say ‘We hope everyone enjoyed themselves and that we will see you all again next year.’

#Coleford working together gets results

A Collaboration with Steve Gooch Estate Agents/Coleford Branch

Coleford Welcomes Walkers prides itself on its ability to collaborate with and build relations among the local community – be it volunteers, local businesses, or other organisations. It puts great effort into networking and developing a dialogue with those who share its vision of putting Coleford on the map as a destination for walkers and to raise the towns profile as a destination for visitors.

To this end, CWW has incorporated many opportunities for groups to get involved and support CWW aims. CWW has an expanding team of volunteers who help to maintain the Public Rights of Way and who participate in larger projects around the town (such as the clearing of the car park or the Big Help Out event); local businesses can financially support the group through a subscription which allows advertising on the CWW website and the use of a sticker in their window to showcase this support and the group’s Facebook page is updated regularly with news and other information.

Most recently, CWW is proud to have collaborate with the Coleford branch of Steve Gooch Estate Agents to raise the profile of Coleford as a Walkers are Welcome town to those looking to move into the area. With the permission of the seller, future property information profiles will now include details on the Walkers and Welcome accreditation awarded to Coleford as an indication of its warmth to visitors and adoption of the values of Walkers are Welcome.

This is an excellent opportunity to raise the profile of CWW among residents and demonstrates what can be achieved when working in collaboration with local businesses and organisations. The group are constantly seeking ways to collaborate with local businesses for the benefit of the town and firmly believes that working together as a community can achieve great results.

This collaboration has been reported on in the Forester  (a local newspaper) and CWW hope to imitate its success in the future where it makes sense to do so.

www.colefordwelcomeswalkers.co.uk

The Big Help Out

Coleford Welcomes Walkers (CWW) recently participated in Charles III coronation weekend by organising an event for the Big Help Out.

The chair commented that this popular recreational route into Coleford Town, “the Milkwall to Coleford Cycle track” was in need of some TLC to make it welcoming to not just residents but people using this route for the first time on visiting Coleford. First impressions count!

The entrance to the track was overgrown with vegetation and the surrounding fencing had fallen into disrepair, not to mention the grotty looking dog bin which  was rusty and covered in graffiti. With permission sought from the Forest of Dean District Council a project was born, supported by kind donations from Jewson, Light Fantastic, WP Service and the nearby Texaco Garage supplying much needed water for the cement!

Volunteers gathered on May 7th to prepare the site, clearing the vegetation, removing fallen down wire fencing, and digging holes for new fence posts. The dog bin was given a good clean and its first coat of paint – wow what a difference. By the end of day the entrance was vastly improved.

May 8th, saw more volunteers turn up with the new wooden fence taking shape, making the surrounding entrance secure and providing a support for people coming down the nearby slope if needed.

CWW volunteers found the response from people passing during the work incredibly encouraging, with the local press running an article and social media posts across a variety of local groups receiving much appreciation and thanks.

The towns mayor Nick Penny said of the work, “Thank you very much for all that you continue to do for the town of Coleford”,

CWW continues to pursue collaborations with authorities, agencies, local businesses and groups to ensure Coleford is welcoming to all.

CWW is looking forward to its next project whilst also ensuring the spring growth on the PRoW is kept at bay!

For more information on Coleford see www.Colefordwelcomeswalkers.co.uk

CLARE WALKERS’ NEW BOOK

Clare Walkers have published a new book entitled “Fifteen walks around Clare: exploring West Suffolk and North Essex”.
Clare is situated in the Upper Stour Valley with the river marking the boundary between the two counties and there is some wonderful walking to be had exploring both sides of the valley, with miles of rolling countryside, woodland and arable farmland.
The book features all the walks that Clare Walkers have scoped and produced leaflets for. These include 6 circular walks from Clare Castle Country Park, 4 short circular walks based on their regular Tuesday guided ‘wellbeing’ walks, and 4 ‘compass’ linear walks: north, south, east and west. The walks range from 2 to 8 ½ miles in length.
The compass walk south is the Magna Carta Walk from Clare to Castle Hedingham that was waymarked in 2015 to celebrate the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta.
The final walk in the book is the 50 mile Wool Towns’ Walk encompassing Clare, Sudbury, Hadleigh, Lavenham and Long Melford. The idea for this walk came from Clare Walkers who pitched it to Sudbury Ramblers. They liked the idea, scoped it and walked it for their 50th anniversary walk. And it is now the Challenge Walk in this year’s Suffolk Walking Festival, being walked over 4 days from 13 to 17 May.
The book contain directions, points of interest and OS mapping for each walk, as well as information about Clare, including a timeline of the town’s amazing 1,000+ year history.
It also contains lots of illustrations with over 80 photographs.
The book is available priced £8.99 on-line from www.clarewalks.co.uk, and from the Visitor Centre in Clare Castle Country Park, the TICs in Sudbury and Bury St Edmunds, and Harris and Harris Books, High Street, Clare.