In the last ten years, Walkers Are Welcome towns have developed 1,200 walks totalling over 6,342 miles—the distance from London to Lima—and raised massive sums of money for their local economies.
This information is revealed in a recent survey of the 111 Walkers Are Welcome towns in England, Scotland and Wales.
Towns are accorded national Walkers Are Welcome (WAW) status by the network’s national committee, once they have proved that they have demonstrated their 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.
The survey was undertaken during the summer of 2017 and a total of 69 WAW communities responded, representing 76 per cent of the current members. The responses reveal the many benefits which WAW towns provide to their communities.
For instance, 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; it has raised massive funds for local economies.
Some towns do practical work on paths to ensure that walkers will truly feel welcome and not encounter obstructions, poor waymarking and broken stiles. Some run walking festivals to attract visitors. They provide and lead a range of walks—for recreation, health, families and people with disabilities. They explore local history, nature and other features of interest. WAW towns work in partnership with local businesses to promote walking and an attractive environment.
The results of the survey are impressive. If you scale up the responses, the money raised from WAW in a year are likely to 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. It should encourage more towns to recognise the value of Walkers Are Welcome and to apply to join.
Examples of feedback from WAW towns
Baildon, Bradford: WAW believes the WAW status has helped to persuade the council to keep the public toilets open.
Bingley, Bradford: WAW uses the café on the Leeds/Liverpool Canal as the destination for a number of walks. Many walks start and end in the Market Square with surrounding pubs and cafés benefiting from additional custom.
Burley-in-Wharfedale, Bradford: promotes local refreshment providers in each of its published walks, and includes a local pub or café in each of the Sunday walks.
Mytholmroyd, Calderdale: walkers’ shops offer discounts to walkers’ groups, there is more trade for the cafés and pubs.
Alston Moor, Cumbria: visitors state that the WAW website brought them into the area.
Dursley, Gloucestershire: traders’ meetings consistently report that WAW is helping to promote the town with increased footfall.
Winchcombe, Gloucestershire: car-park takings are up 60 per cent in the last four years. International guidebooks refer to Winchcombe as ‘the walking centre for the Cotswolds’.
Kington, Herefordshire: joining WAW lit the fuse for the town’s festival which is now in its sixth year. Tourism has increased dramatically.
Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire: WAW provides walks programmes and leaders for numerous visiting groups. WAW estimates it brings £120,000 to the local economy each year.
Loftus, Redcar and Cleveland: the contribution of WAW has increased footfall in the town.
Dunster, Somerset: WAW has worked with the local council to keep the public toilets open in the village, and has pushed to ensure paths are recognised on the old Crown Estate land.
Wellington, Telford & Wrekin: WAW holds events involving local businesses, with walks ending at local cafés and quiz nights at local pubs.
Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire: WAW has sold Walking Wheel maps, generated revenue for cafés and pubs before, during and after walks, and for car parks. There is use of local accommodation during the walking festival.
Newton Stewart, Dumfries and Galloway: the walking festival has resulted in an extra spend of £12,000 per year.
Trefriw, Conwy: pubs, cafés, bed and breakfasts, the hotel and village shops all report increased footfall and income since the town won WAW status.
Chepstow, Monmouthshire: new backpackers’ hostel has opened, and local accommodation providers have seen an increase in walkers. WAW was the winner of the Monmouthshire Business Social Enterprise Award in 2014. WAW succeeded in keeping the local tourism office open because of the local support shown.