The walk will be launched at Otley. Photo: Linden Milner CC-BY-SA.20

The walk will be launched at Otley. Photo: Linden Milner CC-BY-SA.20

An access champion will officially open a unique long-distance walking route at the weekend.

Kate Ashbrook will walk part of the Welcome Way from the West Yorkshire town of Otley to mark the establishment of the 45km (28-mile) route.

The walk links three Walkers Are Welcome Towns, and has a loop linking a fourth in the county.

Ms Ashbrook, general secretary of the Open Spaces Society and vice-presidents of the Ramblers, will step out with fellow walkers on Saturday along the circular route which leads from Otley to Burley in Wharfedale and Baildon. All three are Walkers Are Welcome towns, along with Bingley, which is on an additional 14km (9-mile) loop.

Walkers are Welcome is a non-profit making community interest company launched in 2007 to encourage towns and villages to be welcoming to walkers. The network has expanded rapidly and there are now over 100 locations across the UK that have joined scheme to benefit from Walkers are Welcome accreditation.

The Welcome Way is the first to link three separate centres in the scheme. Ms Ashbrook, who is a patron of Walkers Are Welcome, has written the foreword to the route’s guidebook.

She said: “This is a first. Three Walkers Are Welcome towns have collaborated to produce and promote a route which not only introduces walkers to their splendid countryside, but takes them into the heart of the towns themselves.

“From the breezy heights of The Chevin and Baildon Hill, to the wooded valley of Glovershaw Beck, this walk takes you through fascinating, varied landscapes right on the doorsteps of the three towns, which has become four with the addition of Bingley.

“I am confident that the Welcome Way is the first of many inter-town initiatives. As Walkers Are Welcome Towns grow in number, they will increasingly be able to forge partnerships which will provide great opportunities for walkers, as well as demonstrating to their local businesses that walkers is excellent for the local economy.

“The Welcome Way is a fine example of what Walkers Are Welcome towns can achieve and is a fabulous experience for all who enjoy walking in our glorious countryside. I am delighted to declare it open.”

John Sparshatt, chair of the Welcome Way project, said: “This is a collaboration of keen walkers coming together to share their passion with others.

“As well as creating a circular walk that people will enjoy, we’re helping to support the local economy and contribute to the infrastructure of walking communities.”

The route passes through moorland landscapes, alongside rivers and reservoirs, across farmland, through woodland and local communities.

The official launch of the Welcome Way will take place at Otley Parish Church at 9am on Saturday 25 June.

More details are on the Welcome Way website.

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