As the annual "Welcome to Walking Week" celebration approaches it has been revealed that more and more routes across the North East are being opened up to walkers with the support of Defra's agri-environment schemes.
Organised by the Ramblers' Association, Welcome to Walking Week (17-25 September) is the national festival of walks, designed to introduce people to the joys and benefits of walking with hundreds of walks and events across the country to suit all members of the family.
The North East already boasts an impressive network of footpaths and rights of way including the popular Hadrian's Wall Heritage Trail, while the Pennine Way and Cleveland Way pass through the region.
Many of the region's farmers and landowners are adding to this network creating new routes through Defra's Environmentally Sensitive Areas and Countryside Stewardship Schemes (ESA/CSS), delivered by the Rural Development Service, (RDS). These closed to new applicants last year but have been replaced by the new Environmental Stewardship, (ES) Scheme. Access options continue to feature in the Higher Level element of the scheme.
In the last year more than 20 new walks have been opened up to the public in the North East as part of these agreements. These include coastal walks in Northumberland, routes through wildlife-rich farmland and others offering an insight into our cultural and industrial heritage.
James Bolton, Regional Access Co-ordinator at the RDS in the North East, said:
"We now have more than 100,470 hectares of land under agreement across the North East, with more than 82km of permissive access routes, opening up experiences such as the wealth of wildlife supported by farmers and historic sites from abandoned villages to areas once alive with industry.
"There are paths and bridleways to suit all tastes and abilities, including new routes that are suitable for wheelchair users, and others close to urban areas providing easy access to the countryside for all. We aim to promote access to features of interest and to complement the public rights of way system where it would be desirable to link existing routes.
"The Ramblers Association and its members already know and enjoy the benefits of walking, and Welcome to Walking Week is an ideal time for those who have perhaps not tried it before to get out and about and enjoy the countryside around them."
To find out more about Welcome to Walking Week log onto the Ramblers' Association website at: www.ramblers.org.uk/