The towns of Crickhowell and Hay-on-Wye in the Black Mountains have just gained Walkers are Welcome status, a title afforded to less than 100 communities around the UK.
The Walkers are Welcome initiative is an accreditation scheme for walk-friendly towns, which aims to bring communities together and strengthen a destination's reputation as a place where visitors can enjoy outdoor activities. It helps ensure footpaths and facilities are maintained, as well as contributing to local tourism plans and regeneration strategies and providing the opportunity to engage with fellow towns who have also been awarded the status.
The recent award sees Crickhowell and Hay-on-Wye join Talgarth in becoming members of the Walkers are Welcome network – making it a hat-trick of Black Mountains communities to win the sought-after status. All three towns were supported through the accreditation process by Brecon Beacons National Park Authority as part of its 'Walking with Offa' project.
Anna Heywood, Secretary of Hay Tourism Group, said:
'Hay-on-Wye is well known for being on the crossroads of the Offa's Dyke Path and the Wye Valley Walk, so we get a lot of people staying here for the night. The Walkers are Welcome status will help to promote Hay and the surrounding area as a great place to go walking, and we hope it will encourage people to stay for a number of nights, supporting local businesses while they do. For a small town there is a lot going on in Hay, and several different groups organising their own activities connected with walking, and the Walkers are Welcome status will also act as an umbrella for these groups to work together.'
Andy Johns of Walkers are Welcome in Crickhowell echoed these comments, saying:
'We aim to promote Crickhowell as a year-round outdoor destination, building on the great reputation of our annual Walking Festival in March. The Black Mountains area brings not only wonderful walking, but also fine history, wildlife and hospitality. We want to promote walking to benefit all local businesses, and we will also help visitors to appreciate and respect the countryside they are enjoying.'
The status will act as a catalyst to publish walking guides promoting routes in each area, says the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority. They also raise the possibility of developing exchange visits with fellow Walkers are Welcome towns and villages from around the UK.
The 'Walking with Offa' project which supported these winning bids is a partnership project which has received funding through the Rural Development Plan for Wales 2007-2013. It is supported by the Welsh Government and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development, and match funded by Brecon Beacons National Park Authority.