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DOVER: WALKING CAPITAL OF THE SOUTH-EAST COAST

Dover  has been a port since the Romans arrived in AD46 and established their harbour Dubris.  Many of you will have passed through on your way to Calais, France but we suggest you stay a while or make it your chosen destination, just over an hour from London Paddington station by high-speed train. Dover is undergoing a revival with the regeneration of the town centre including a £3.6m Market Square and water feature opening this summer and the £250m renewal of the Western Docks, including a new cargo terminal and waterfront with the new Marina Curve, now home to street food stalls and bars.  This is attracting new businesses and artists, making for a very exciting time in the town.

The town does, however, retain its historical heart with the unspoilt Castle Street and medieval buildings such as the 800-year-old Maison Dieu currently undergoing restoration as part of the heritage quarter. Don’t forget the magnificent Dover Castle with Secret Wartime Tunnels deep within the White Cliffs  which offers hours of interesting history.

We are sure you will wish to hear about the area’s countryside and walking opportunities out of the town. There is the North Downs Way which after a section along the coast heads inland through Kent or, stay on the coast with this section of the England Coastal Path  or, a walk in the Kent Downs AONB Protected Landscape

Every summer the town hosts the White Cliffs Walking Festival  which this year is 25 to 30 August and brings together everyone involved in walking in the area.

Links with continental Europe have always featured as part of life in Dover with cross-channel projects. One such historical connection is the Via Francigena (Italian:ˈviːa franˈtʃiːdʒena]) which is an ancient road and pilgrimage route running from Canterbury Cathedral, Kent, through France and Switzerland, to Rome and then to Apulia, Italy, where ships sailed for the Holy Land. Last year’s celebratory “staff” handover to France for the next part of the journey, was a little spoilt because of COVID restrictions however, the organiser was so taken with the area that this year there will be a larger Pilgrim’s Festival hosted by Dover from  21 to 25 September.  Whilst the event is not all about walking, there will be walks as part of the festival.

Dover is so much more than a port.

FEATURE TOWN – KINLOCHLEVEN

We are delighted to present Kinlochleven  in the Highlands of Scotland. This small village lies at the head of the fjord-like, sea loch Leven and is surrounded on three sides by steep spectacular mountains.  To the north lies the Mamore Ridge and to the south, the mountains flanking Glen Coe.

The village was established at the beginning of the 20th century when the North British Aluminium Company built the Blackwater reservoir, hydro-electric plant, and aluminium smelter. Towards the end of the century, the community learned of forthcoming redundancies and worked together to secure a prosperous, vibrant future for the village diversifying, particularly into outdoor pursuits. The area is now popular with climbers and winter sports enthusiasts who come to the Ice Factor, ice climbing, and mountaineering centre.  Climbers head into the Mamores, and walkers back onto the West Highland Way, long-distance trail.
 

There is a series of footpaths winding their way around the village which lead to more challenging climbs including the Devil’s Staircase or for the super-fit, Binnein Mòr at 1,130m (3707ft).  Recognising the importance of walking and economic development, Kinlochleven were accredited as a Walkers are Welcome community in 2015 and has held popular regular walking festivals.  See events 2022.

It will be of interest to some walkers that part of a former coke bunker was transformed in 2002 into Atlas Brewery which is now a micro-brewery run by Harry Heskey providing River Leven Ales  .No doubt widely available locally.

 Not to be forgotten is the array of wonderful wildlife including tawny and barn owls, pine martens, pipistrelle bats, and otters. More unusually, stags regularly walk through the village, white-tailed and golden eagles soar the heights or the shyer hybrid wildcats. Or, just enjoy the views. 

Drone footage  to inspire your visit.

LOFTUS GEOLOGY WALK

On 7th June 2022 28 walkers from Loftus Walkers are Welcome set off from Loftus Town Hall on their annual Geology walk which this year was into the moonscape-like terrain of the former Hummersea Alum Quarries along the East Cleveland Coastline.

From this land, Alum was quarried, processed, and exported from 1640 until its closure in 1870. Aniline, a derivative from coal tar distillation was found to be most effective as a carrier for dyes in textile manufacture. It was from these cliffs at Hummersea and Boulby that a young Scientist, Lewis Hunton, son of the Alum Manager, William Hunton, made an important discovery that developed from the skills of the Alum workers and their knowledge that fossils could be used to inform on the strata most suitable for making Alum.

Through meticulous study and recording, Hunton helped to lay the foundation for major biostratigraphic advances through his insistence that only fossils collected in situ should be used in such work. He then went on to propose that the species of ammonites in this Yorkshire strata, had particularly limited and invariable relative positions within the lithological sequence. From these quarries were extracted a fossilised Ichthyosaur which fed on ammonites also a Plesiosaur. This and neighbouring quarries also provided the raw materials to produce Epsom salts and Roman cement (now called Hydraulic cement).

During our visit, walkers found many fossilised ammonites within the shales. The fossil record from strata over 130 million years is contributing to our understanding of climate change. The group had a number of rests during the steep climb up to the Cleveland Way but the view out to sea often reveals Dolphins as they navigate along the coastline.

The Lewis Hunton self-guided trail and other fascinating walks around Loftus can be downloaded from their website. 

Marshall Best

SO JUST LET ME BE BESIDE THE SEA

As the days lengthen and the temperatures rise, our thoughts often turn to walking by the sea. This might be a walk on the pier, across the sands, along the cliffs, or in pretty unspoiled bays. 

Waves crashing against the rocks and swooping seabirds with bracing sea breezes are exhilarating but we also dream of the sun’s warmth on our backs, the sun sparkling off the sea, and the golden sand between our toes of our childhood summers.    

Walks along the coast are special in so many ways – we are highlighting a selection of Walkers are Welcome towns that offer so many different ways to enjoy the summer months ahead. You may even discover smugglers, ancient battles, shipwrecks, local foods, sandcastles, boats, storms, nature, and wildlife on your seaside adventure or a delightful walk inland.

When completed the England Coastal Path  will be nearly 3,000 miles with the Wales Coastal Path  already celebrating its 10th anniversary. 

Be inspired by the  Walk This Way Summer newsletter 

Photo: Lynton & Lynmouth, England Coastal Path

NEW HERMANESS VISITOR CENTRE ON UNST

The grand opening of the new Hermaness hill path and welcome area on Unst  took place on Tuesday 17th May, with NatureScot’s Operations Officer Juan Brown greeting a gathering of invited guests, including those involved in the construction, to the new visitor centre and enhanced walkway.

He handed over to NatureScot’s Chief Executive Francesca Osowska, who cut the ribbon to mark the formal opening, held by Lorna Leask and Christine Murchison from NatureScot’s Lerwick office. She said, “Hermaness is a truly special place, with spectacular cliffs that are home to internationally important populations of seabirds including puffins, great skuas and gannets.

“As Scotland’s nature agency, we aim to inspire many more people to discover and value our natural world. These fantastic new facilities will help locals and visitors alike connect to nature at Hermaness for generations to come, as well as protect the nature reserve and provide many benefits for Shetland communities.”

Francesca expressed her thanks to the various funders involved: the Natural and Cultural Heritage fund (£581,000), the Rural Tourism Infrastructure fund (£290,000) and Nature Scot themselves (£20,000). Further assistance came from SIC and Visit Scotland. The land is owned by Captain David Edmondston, who gave permission for the work to go ahead. She went on to pay tribute to the work completed on the reserve by Sandisons Ltd at the visitor hub and by Steven Johnson and Harry Cartwright on the walkway.

The National Nature Reserve has attracted roughly 9,000 visitors a year in the past, with a slight dip in the last two years due to Covid. This number is likely to increase to over 10,000 as the extended walkway through the middle of the reserve makes it more accessible and less damaging to the peat moor and bird nesting sites.

The Visitor Centre itself has large display boards about the history of Hermaness and the birds that can be seen there. Some of the photos were supplied by Unst Heritage Trust. There is a toilet block to one side of the building and on the other, a graphic display of the different bird’s silhouettes etched in aluminium. A listening post that forms part of the “Wild Skies Shetland” project has a recording of local man Tony Mouat telling a story connected with the area.

At a gate to the side of the Visitor Centre, the trail takes you up in to the Reserve itself, with the existing walkway taking you west to the puffin cliffs and now the new walkway taking you north on the “Muckle Flugga” trail towards a viewpoint overlooking the lighthouse. From there you can see the vast gannet colonies, as well as seeing the great and arctic skuas, and other seabirds.  There are over 50,000 gannets and 1,000 breeding pairs of great skuas or bonxies. Local bird counter and ornithologist Mike Pennington said that many species of birds were suffering from bird flu just now but that gannet numbers were still very high.

Steven Johnson and Harry Cartwright laid the entire two kilometre length of new walkway, which took them just under 24 weeks through the winter and spring of this year. The walking boards and other materials weighed 150 tonnes and were dropped in sections by helicopter, outwith the breeding system, to allow Harry and his boss to get to work. The boards are made from recycled plastic, are very hard-wearing and should last for fifty years.

VisitScotland Development manager Steve Mathieson commented, “The Hermaness project is a great example of an initiative that enhances the visitor experience and enables more people to access the incredible natural wonders of the UK’s most northerly nature reserve, whilst still helping to preserve the fragile ecosystem. The 2km of new boardwalk helps to create a fascinating circular route around the reserve, highlighting the amazing seabird colonies and providing spectacular views of Muckle Flugga lighthouse. The interpretive panels around the new shelter provide a wealth of information on both the natural and manmade history associated with the reserve. We all need to play our part in being responsible visitors and RTIF projects such as this one in Hermaness will help ensure our visitor destinations remain sustainable for years to come.”

Councillor Ryan Thomson, one of the councillors for the North Isles ward, said: “This is great news for tourism in Shetland and for Unst in particular. Hermaness NNR is an outstanding natural visitor attraction that draws many folk to the isles every year. These upgraded facilities will improve the visitor experience and help to protect the natural environment for the future.” 

Photograph by Mike Pennington

Showcasing Whitchurch on Test, North Hampshire’s Hidden Gem

They say a picture is worth a thousand words; the team at Whitchurch, Hampshire are hoping their fabulous new double-sided banners purchased with a Basingstoke & Deane borough grant will prove this correct.

Since achieving Walkers are Welcome accreditation in 2015, showcasing and promoting Whitchurch and North Hampshire to a wider audience has been an important part of the ongoing tourism development work (place shaping) being undertaken in the town. The borough Local Plan update currently underway, has presented the perfect opportunity to provide input to the Plan’s rural policies and develop a destination management plan for the town and with the recent publication of the Government’s Landscapes Review, our work locally has gained a new momentum.

Discover somewhere new in 2022…. Discover Whitchurch, Hampshire.

Commenting on the new publicity material, Jackie Browne, co-ordinator for the town’s Walkers are Welcome tourism accreditation said, “there’s more to Hampshire than the New Forest, the north of the county has so much to offer, not least walking without the crowds; these banners will help ‘sell’ that message at events within and outside the county and hopefully encourage more visitors to come and explore the fabulous North Wessex Downs and the valleys of the chalk streams”.

Wall Hanging in Winchcombe

Winchcombe walking festival borrowed the WAW National Wall Hanging to display at the hall where walkers meet to register for walks. It cheered up the hall, gave walkers something to admire while they waited for their walks to leave and it publicised all the other WaW towns around the country. The new stands made it so much easier to display and we received some wonderful comments about the standard of the needlework and the wide variety of ideas.

Sheila Talbot, Chair at Wincombe said:
“It’s a shame that not every WaW town is represented so I would encourage those who haven’t submitted a square to seriously think about it. If you don’t have the skills within your team, I’m sure there are other local groups such as the WI or a quilting group who would be only too pleased to help out. A huge thanks to Chepstow WaW for coming up with the idea and being custodians of it.”

Coleford Welcomes Walkers

The Coleford Welcome Walkers (CWW) Steering group has been busy over the last few months.

They say  “We have been working with our volunteers to re-vamp our website, www.colefordwelcomeswalkers.co.uk which we are delighted to say is now live.

Local businesses have been incredibly supportive in advertising on our webpage highlighting what they have to offer, with more pledging their allegiance. A local business even sponsored our new Hi-Viz jackets so we are very visible now!

Some of our volunteers have the litter picking bug and have made a significant impact in reducing the amount of litter along our walking routes, posting their achievements on the “Forest Wombles” Face Book page as well as CWW’s social media pages on Facebook and Instagram. It’s a sad indictment of our society today that we need to do this exercise regularly and we are looking at ways to get a message out there to take litter home. What has been inspiring is the number of other people that have taken up the mantel and off their own accord started littler picking too.

CWW volunteers have been pounding the local Public Rights of Way (PRoW), having walked all 33; mind some are very short, logging all the many issues with the Gloucestershire County Council Highways PRoW officer, who has been amazing in his support. With this partnership two new kissing gates have already been installed, stiles repaired, vegetation cut back and “polite” reminders to land owners to re-instate the PRoW once ploughed sent.

We’ve just learnt that a significant grant has been secured by the PRoW officer via our County Councillors Build Back Better grant scheme for Coleford and neighbouring Staunton to improve our footpaths. We did do a little dance about this news!

CWW are looking at a plan of PRoW works over the coming months and will start in earnest come the end of September once the birds have finished nesting. In the meantime, improved signage with new way markers on the PRoW’s is being undertaken and CWW are working on producing some detailed walks to highlight the wonderful routes in and around our town, highlighting points of interest and the heritage, so watch this space.

CWW are teaming up with local walking groups and are looking at ways we can assist each other in promoting walking locally.

Finally, CWW made it’s voice heard with the Forest of Dean District Council who have been very supportive in listening to our comments on how CWW can make our town more welcoming, to this end the car parking bays in the main car park are being cleared of vegetation, the signposts cleaned and a review of our Public Conveniences undertaken under a wider current project within the district. CWW have highlighted a route into town that needs some TLC and we are hopeful to set up a project to do just that with the district council officers and local groups.

With the support of our County Councillor, CWW applied for a Build Back Better Grant itself and as we go to press, CWW can confirm this has been approved. It just goes to show that local authorities are willing to listen, support and action where required.

CWW were able to utilise the WaW banner in our town recently with local businesses putting up the bunting to highlight that Coleford really is a Walkers are Welcome Town!  “

Holmfirth Walkers Are Welcome enjoy a break atop Wolfstones

Holmfirth Walkers Are Welcome recently participated in a celebratory walk to Wolfstones. Following a public inquiry in August this popular walk to a beautiful local viewpoint was saved from diversion. The walk was one of Holmfirth’s  increasingly popular Sunday walks around their lovely valley.

Boroughbridge Easter Walking Festival 2022

Over 200 walkers took part in the Boroughbridge Walking Festival held over the four days of the Easter weekend.
People from as far afield as Leeds, Wetherby, York, Beverley and Thirsk joined walkers from the local community to enjoy fresh air, pleasant countryside and, this year, glorious weather!
The walks included outings in the Helperby, Whixley, and Great Ouseburn areas; a visit/guided walk around Staveley Nature Reserve; a short “Town Tour”; a Battlefield (Battle of Boroughbridge, 1322) walk; and two more challenging hikes, one to Myton-on-Swale via Kirby Hill (8.5 miles) and the Ripon Round (17 miles, completed by no less than 14 walkers!)
Organised by the Boroughbridge Area “Walkers are Welcome” group, part of the national WAW organisation, walks are sponsored by local businesses with the aim of encouraging visitors to the town and the enjoyment of its amenities, e.g. tea rooms and pubs
If you would like to help organise or participate in the leading of any walks; or generally help with next year’s Easter Walking Festival, please contact us. For further details, in addition to links to other walks in the area, visit Boroughbridgewalks.org.uk