The impact of Walkers Are Welcome

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.

PrintThis 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.

1 sign

Walks panel, displayed at Hebden Bridge station and in the town. Hebden Bridge in Calderdale was the first WAW town

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.

Walk near Market Weighton

Walkers near Market Weighton, a WAW town in the East Riding of Yorkshire

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.


The WAW quilted banner

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.

Walkers near Devil's Bridge

Walkers near Devil’s Bridge WAW in Ceredigion

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.

Featured image

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.

Baildon Moor, E of Baildon small

Baildon Moor, east of Baildon

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 web FP signmore 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.

walking through Kington

Walkers in Kington

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.

Blowy hilltop. smallJPG

On Coppett Hill near Ross-on-Wye

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.


The River Cree with Newton Stewart beyond. Copyright: Wikipedia commons

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.

Chepstow bridge

Chepstow Bridge across the River Wye

About campaignerkate

I am the general secretary of the Open Spaces Society and I campaign for public access, paths and open spaces in town and country.
This entry was posted in Access, Public paths, Walkers Are Welcome Towns, walking and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to The impact of Walkers Are Welcome

  1. Richard says:

    Congratulations. We agree that encouraging people to walk and enjoy the local facilities is great for all….. Healthy, Wealthy & Wise!

  2. I like the idea that a bit of thought and minimal investment can reap larger dividends for communities which has to be a win-win. Walkers are happy to return to places where they enjoyed good walks and are made welcome. Checked the website and disappointed that no towns anywhere near me are in the scheme.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s