Thirty eight people representing 22 towns.
Many had a similar structure to Hebden Bridge Walkers Action, a group of committed volunteers, with an e mail list of interested people. Some had a representative of the local council on their committee.
There seemed to be limited involvement from the local council tourism department. However there are now 117 towns in the Walkers are Welcome network, with new towns joining all the time so the gathering might not be fully representative of the whole network.
Many groups have published local walking guides and introductions to their areas. A lot of publications are given away, funded wholly by the local council or, in some cases, funded by fund raising activities. Some groups have struggled to find outlets to sell publications. Some council tourist information centres no longer have the facility to take payments. Let’s hope Hebden tourist information doesn’t go that way.
Otley, Burley in Wharfedale and Baildon groups have combined together to develop a 28 mile ‘Welcome Way’ that goes through their towns and surrounding villages. They hope to have the publication ready by the Spring. Worth a thought for the Upper Calder Valley maybe.
Barry Southwell from the Ramblers Charitable Trust, an offshoot of Ramblers Holidays Worldwide explained to everyone that they had grants available to help walking groups such as ourselves.
Kate Ashbrook opened the short AGM in the afternoon with a talk about the importance of ensuring that all the paths in your area are on the definitive map or there is an application in to register them.
If there is an outstanding application that has not been processed they will not be extinguished in 2026, the deadline for all applications. She felt however that every area needed to start doing their research now. She also encouraged people to join the Ramblers path watch scheme.
The reduction in Rights of Way department staff was common throughout the country but she encouraged everyone to continue to register footpath problems with them, using court action if necessary. Wales is attempting to get around the problem by trying to designate large areas as open country. However the aim in this case seems to be to reduce the need to maintain the rights of way network. She felt this should be resisted because our footpaths are our heritage.
The WaW national organisation is now a Community Interest company, registered with the Charity commission. This status has taken a lot of committee time to achieve. Nevertheless it is a thriving organisation with some financial security although they are hoping to use the majority of the surplus funds to match fund for a part time administrator to relieve the burden on the volunteer committee.
Mo Ludlam, secretary HBWA