Ramblers help launch first national Walkers are Welcome conference in Hebden Bridge.

A Ramblers Association (RA) trustee will help kick off the first ever UK-wide conference for “Walkers are Welcome towns” in Hebden Bridge, on Sunday, October 21st, as he hails the success of the pioneering scheme that has seen four towns sign up to - and achieve - full “Walkers are Welcome” status during the first year alone. 

The national walking charity, the RA, supports the ‘Walkers are Welcome’ accreditation system, which encourages local communities to promote walking within their towns and villages by working with their councils to meet six criteria.  These include demonstration of widespread local support, and the effective promotion and maintenance of a good footpath, public transport and walkers’ facilities network.

First proposed and implemented by Hebden Bridge Walkers Action in June 2006, the initiative has since gained considerable momentum in towns and villages throughout Britain, with Moffat (Scotland), Prestatyn (Wales) and Hebden Bridge and Mytholmroyd (West Yorkshire) achieving full Walkers are Welcome status. The concept is different from most top-down accreditation schemes as it is strongly community led.

Andrew Bibby, RA trustee and chair of Hebden Bridge Walkers Action, will help launch the conference at 9.30 AM. He comments: “The Walkers are Welcome idea is one which will appeal to many other towns and villages. Since gaining full status, Hebden Bridge has reaped real economic and social benefits from growing numbers of visitors. Meanwhile, local residents are enjoying the health and pleasure benefits of the increasingly accessible world of walking on their doorsteps.”

He will urge delegates from around the country to sign up for the scheme, commenting: “The scheme encourages towns to making walking – and walkers – part of the fabric of everyday life. This brings enormous health and social benefits to the community.”

The conference will take place from 9am – 4pm, and will include presentations by Pam Warhurst (Natural England), Colin Speakman (South Pennines heritage festival organiser) and Bruce Crowther (Fairtrade Foundation) on how to promote, market and implement the scheme.

For more information on the Walkers are Welcome initiative visit www.walkersarewelcome.org.uk

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