Our general secretary Kate Ashbrook has slated government plans to cut local-council spending on public rights of way.
Kate, who is also patron of the Walkers Are Welcome Town Network and a trustee of the Ramblers, was launching the South Pennines Walk & Ride Festival in the Walkers Are Welcome town of Ilkley, West Yorkshire, on Saturday morning, 11 September.
Addressing the gathering, Kate said: ‘This fortnight’s festival demonstrates just how valuable public paths and access land are for the life and livings of rural communities.
‘Over the next two weeks, people will flock to the South Pennines, to enjoy the festival’s magnificent programme of walks, horse rides and bike rides. Whether they come from nearby towns or make a holiday of it, these visitors will contribute significantly to the local economy.
‘To enjoy their activities, they need paths to be in good condition, and access land which is accessible. They need a warm welcome.
‘Yet at the very time that the festival demonstrates the importance of outdoor activities to the economy, local authorities across the area are set to slash their budgets on public paths and access land, driven by the government’s pressure to make cuts. The paths will undoubtedly deteriorate and we shall all be the losers.
‘The network of Walkers Are Welcome Towns in this area—Hebden Bridge, Mytholmroyd, Otley, Ilkley, Marsden and Bradfield, to name some—show the benefits that come from promoting the walking opportunities of your community.
‘All of us who enjoy walking, riding or cycling must speak with one voice. We must emphasise that good paths are vital to the rural economy. We must demonstrate that walking is the best and most cost-effective prevention for ill health, saving millions of pounds on the NHS budget.
‘We must call on the government and our local authorities to recognise that cutting the budget for paths and access land is shooting us all in the foot,’ Kate concludes.
. The two-week South Pennines Walk and Ride Festival runs from 11-26 September, with more than 100 events ranging from guided walks and nature rambles to cycling events, mountain-bike rides and horse rides. It has been organised by the regional rural regeneration champion Pennine Prospects, www.southpenninesfestival.co.uk