Walking Festival, Ross-on-Wye, Herefordshire
16:16 08 February 2010
Ross-on-Wye celebrated becoming a Walkers are Welcome town by staging what else but a Walking Festival.
This months article is a summary of 15 walks that took place in and around Ross-on-Wye over the weekend of October 3 and 4 when the towns first Walking Festival was held. In January members of the Committee of the Ross Group of the Ramblers Association embarked on a project to get Ross accredited as a Walkers are Welcome town.
A steering group was set up and it became apparent that it had to be independent as, in order to succeed, it needed representatives from numerous local bodies and organisations. In Ross this included the Ross Walking Group, Herefordshire Councils Rights of Way Department, Visit Herefordshire, Ross Tourist Information Centre, representatives from the hospitality businesses and Ross Town Council.
Walkers are Welcome (WaW) is a nationwide scheme that enables communities to prove they have something special that will encourage walkers to visit. The idea originated in the Pennine town of Hebden Bridge in 2006 and became a reality in the spring of 2007 when Hebden Bridge became the first WaW town in Britain. In July Ross-on-Wye became the 30th town in Britain, and the first in Herefordshire, to obtain accreditation after a huge amount of work selling the idea to many businesses, getting the support of Ross Town Council, obtaining more than 700 signatures on a petition supporting the idea and fundraising.
The money came from anumber of sources, notably Ross Town Council, Wye Valley AONB, Stagecoach Buses and the Wye Valley Brewery. Local businesses were invited to sponsor the scheme by giving amounts that ranged from 5 to 100. More than 40 companies provided funds. The money covered the costs of five new walks leaflets and booklets, display boards and advertising. The leaflets include a booklet of eight dog-friendly walks, with no stiles, around Ross. Bens Favourite Walks was written by the steering group treasurers black Labrador, with a little help from owner, David Collin. Many people think The Ramblers do not welcome dogs. This is not true, but do check with the walk leader before bringing your dog. We decided to celebrate obtaining accreditation by organising a two-day walking festival and this is where the 15 walks come in. The two large walking groups in the town, Ross Ramblers and Ross Walking Group, were asked to suggest walks and provide leaders. This produced a total of 13 walks and Herefordshire Footprints, which runs short walks for those recovering from illness, agreed to provide two walks. Ross Tourist Information Centre administered bookings.
The 15 walks varied in length from the two to three miles of the Footprints walks to a 10 mile trek round the second half of the 18 mile Ross Round. All 15 were compiled into a programme and advertising the festival began. This included producing an excellent web site www.ross-on-wyewalkersarewelcome.co.uk with links to the web sites of the WAWTN, the Ramblers, Herefordshire Tourism, Wyenot.com and others. Before the start of the festival walk leaders checked out the routes of their walks and reported problems to the Herefordshire Councils Rights of Way Department who cleared all the problems. A total of 88 walkers booked places. An excellent number. The festival was opened at a ceremony at Ross Market Place. As steering group chairman I thanked supporters for their hard work. The Mayor of Ross, John Edwards, accompanied by the Mayoress Sue Edwards, declared the festival open.
The Ramblers, Britains biggest charity working to promote walking, has four groups in Herefordshire: Hereford, Mortimer, Ross-on-Wye and Leadon Vale. Contact Tom Fisher, tel: 01886 821544 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
One of the innovations was to produce a leaflet of bus walks. This consists of 14 walks all of which start with a bus ride from Ross. The walker alights from the bus at a designated stop and then walks back to Ross using Public Rights of Way. David Collin led one of these walk that took the 35 bus to Kerne Bridge, much to the delight of the driver and other Stagecoach staff.
The walkers walked back to Ross alongside the river below the ramparts of Goodrich Castle, with good views of Ross as they approached the town. Gordon and Ann Titmas, of the Ross Walking Group, led a party through Merrivale Wood and the woods of Penyard Park, past Bollitree Castle towards Hartleton Lakes, back along Rudhall Brook to finish using the Town and Country Trail.
Di Long, of Ross Ramblers took her walkers to climb Garway Hill where they enjoyed the superb views of the Black Mountains, The Malverns and May Hill. On their return they visited the wonderful Knights Templar Church at Garway. Neville Littleford led walkers on the second half of the Ross Round on Saturday, climbing up Knackers Hole Grove and Howle Hill, and, on Sunday, used some of the super sunken lanes on The Doward where they visited King Arthurs Cave and enjoyed the ancient hand-operated ferry at Symonds Yat.
Heather Webster and Sally Northcott, of Ross Ramblers, on a walk entitled Romanesque grotesques and other masterpieces, took some of our visitors on a trip up Saddlebow Hill to and then back to the wonderful Norman Church at Kilpeck, where they were treated to a guided tour. Gill Moxham, of the Ross Walking Group, led walkers on a gentle walk starting from Ross Market House and taking in some of the town and the Countryside close to the town.
Following in the steps of Lord Nelson, Lesley Ward took an afternoon walk to Rudhall, returning through Kingstone. Bob Selmes worked hard to get his party from Bishopswood Village Hall then climbing the side of the Wye Valley, along a section of the Wye Valley Walk before emerging on the top of Howle Hill. Derek Williams took a party on a circuit from Brockhampton, along the river, then up to Fownhope, through Pagets Wood Nature Reserve and Capler Camp Iron Age Fort.
Malcolm Hill led both the Footprints Walking to Health walks using the John Kyrle Walk. Sam Phillips, of Ross Ramblers, took a group up Coppett Hill, where the views were spectacular. Returning via Welsh Bicknor, the visitors were amazed to hear that the derelict factory opposite produced over 15,000 miles of telephone cable for British Forces in World War One.
The highest attendance was for the walk entitled The Last Cream Tea of Summer. Led by David Collin, it included a sumptuous cream tea at Peterstow at the half-way point. All the visitors, many coming here for the first time, thoroughly enjoyed themselves and want to return. They were delighted with the walking in the area, the welcome they received and were very impressed by the local knowledge displayed by their guides. This festival could not have been organised without the efforts and sheer hard work of a great many groups and individuals working together. This is the key to the success of WaW. It is all about grass roots people, working together and making things happen, with the help, not control, of local government bodies and departments.
Another good example of this concerns the Ross Buggy Route. The Wye Valley AONB completed the last piece of this project, the installation of the ramp outside Ashfield Park School just before the festival started and, after four years work, it was available as one of the 15 walks in the festival. Knowledge gained will be put to good use at next years festival (note the dates: the 9th and 10th October) when more visitors will be expected as there will be much more time to advertise and spread the word. The Ross Walking Festival now has 88 advertising executives, all of whom can truthfully say that, in Ross, Walkers are Welcome.