Kate Ashbrook opens the Church Stretton celebrationsAnother town has joined the growing band offering a warm reception to walkers.

Kate Ashbrook opens the Church Stretton celebrations

John Corfield

Church Stretton in Shropshire is the seventh town to gain the Walkers Are Welcome status which guarantees a walker-friendly environment. The town lies at the foot of the Long Mynd range and in an Area of Outstanding Beauty.

The first Walkers Are Welcome town was Hebden Bridge in West Yorkshire which, as grough reported gained the accolade in February last year. Since then, Moffat in Dumfries and Galloway, Prestatyn and Melinden in north Wales, Mytholmroyd, just down the valley from Hebden Bridge, and Market Weighton in East Yorkshire have gained the Walkers Are Welcome mark. Kilsyth in Lanarkshire was the last town to achieve the award in April this year.

Ramblers’ Association chairman Kate Ashbrook kicked off the celebrations at Church Stretton’s railway station yesterday. The day included three guided walks around the area.

Ms Ashbrook said: “The Ramblers’ Association is delighted to see Church Stretton designated as a town which welcomes walkers.

“Walking is great exercise and, with obesity on the rise, it is more important than ever for people to make walking part of their daily lives. We hope this initiative will be a model for other towns in Britain, encouraging as many people as possible to go for a walk, and encouraging the local authorities to get their paths in good order.”

To earn Walkers Are Welcome status, towns have to meet six conditions, including keeping footpaths in good repair, providing facilities for walkers and encouraging and promoting the use of public transport.

At least five other towns, in Wales and England, are due to get the award this year, with a further five working towards achieving status.