'Walkers Are Welcome' Status Boosts Local Economies

A recent survey of Britain's Walkers are Welcome (WAW) towns has concluded that the accolade brings many benefits to local communities.

Stoodley Pike, 93 kb
Stoodley Pike above Hebden Bridge, birthplace of Walkers are Welcome. Photo: Bulls Crack

The survey, carried out in 69 of the 111 designated towns in England, Wales and Scotland, suggests that WAW status has helped to boost the numbers using cafés, pubs and accommodation, and the income from car-parks; it has helped to keep public toilets open; and has raised funds for local economies.

In the ten years since the scheme was established, Walkers are Welcome towns have developed 1200 walks, totalling over 6342 miles.

WAW logo, 155 kb

"The results of the survey are impressive" says Kate Ashbrook, patron of the Walkers Are Welcome Towns Network.

"If you scale up the responses, the money raised from Walkers Are Welcome in a year must be over one million pounds. The energy and activities of these towns are phenomenal."

"This survey shows that by promoting walking, the towns are putting themselves on the walking map, with all the benefits which follow. We hope that many more towns will recognise the value of being part of the Walkers Are Welcome family and will apply to join us."

Towns are accorded the status once they've demonstrated a commitment to promoting facilities for walkers. They must show they have support from local businesses and a broad-based committee, and that they help to keep paths open and waymarked and encourage the provision of public transport.

Some towns do practical work on paths to help walkers feel welcome and not encounter obstructions, poor waymarking or broken stiles. Others run walking festivals to attract visitors. The idea of the Walkers Are Welcome scheme is that participating towns work in partnership with local businesses to promote walking and an attractive environment.

Walkers are Welcome is a non-profit making Community Interest Company. Launched in 2007 in Hebden Bridge (where else), it has grown to become a nationwide initiative. The network has expanded rapidly and there are now 111 locations across the UK.

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