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Walkers are Welcome

September 30, 2015 • Rural Innovation

Walkers are Welcome

banner Walkers are Welcome Chepstow, is the local branch of nationwide organisation aimed at encouraging villages and towns to be more welcoming to walkers and support the town’s economy with the benefits of additional walking tourism. Established in 2011 with support from Monmouthshire’s Rural Development Programme (RDP), they became part of a community-led organisation that has more than 100 accredited towns nationally.  Monmouth, Abergavenny and Tintern are also now Walkers are Welcome towns.

Chepstow has many excellent walks, including long distance walks, Offa’s Dyke Path, the Wales Coast Path and the Wye Valley Walk, a route stretching the entirety of the Welsh coast. Making Chepstow a Walkers are Welcome town would bring existing walking tourists into town and hopefully bring new walking tourists to area.

RDP funding provided officer mentoring and practical support from raising awareness of the scheme, the successful application process and support with events. 

Chepstow had many enthusiastic volunteers who were keen on walking and wanted to support Chepstow’s economy.  The group had an excellent balance of walkers, accommodation providers, town council, Chepstow business, Transition Chepstow and U3A.  They needed to evidence that there was local support for the scheme with a petition of 600 signatures but support was far greater with over 1,000 local people signing.

Additional support that the group received included funding to install eight lockers in the local tourist information office, help with networking with, and learning from, other Walkers are Welcome accredited towns (Kington & Winchcombe) and funding to attend classes on social media, designing leaflets and what makes a good walk.

chepstow-logoChepstow went on to host the National Walkers are Welcome Conference in October 2014 which brought delegates from all over the UK for a two-day event.    

Chepstow Walkers are Welcome felt that the group would not exist in the absence of the RDP support as adventa provided the inspiration, motivation and skills that the group needed to succeed. The support provided them with information and help for them to meet the accreditation requirements, become a properly constituted group and to gain skills, for example in designing a website.

The local community has also benefitted from the scheme with improved walking in the area and an increased number of organised walks, often in conjunction with other local groups, such as local history and geological societies. Increased activity levels and walking also have health benefits for local walkers and the group runs a weekly GPs referral walk.  Improved maintenance of local footpaths, increased awareness of local transport and an increase in walking visitors being encouraged to support Chepstow’s economy with tourists spending money in local shops, restaurants and accommodation.