Volunteers earned the town the status of Walkers Are Welcome in February 2007.
Volunteers earned the town the status of Walkers Are Welcome in February 2007.

THE group which helped Barnard Castle become the first Walkers are Welcome (WaW) town in County Durham has folded, blaming a lack of interest and support for its activities.

The small band of volunteers agreed unanimously to dissolve the group and withdraw from the national WaW network at their January meeting.

Secretary Peter Singer expressed sadness at the decision, which he said was taken after careful consideration of the group’s achievements to date and what the future might hold.

“In essence, we felt that after three years of hard work to gain Walkers are Welcome accreditation, launch the group and promote our objectives of helping to maintain the footpath network and attracting walking tourists to Barney – boosting the local economy – there did not seem to be enough interest and support within the town to make it worthwhile continuing,” he said.

“We have achieved some minor successes along the way, but we have been unable to attract new committee members or volunteers to act as walk leaders for a guided walks programme, despite repeated appeals by word of mouth and at promotional events.”

Volunteers led by chairman Allan Rayner – who has since moved out of the area – and Mr Singer spent a year working towards Walkers are Welcome status, which was achieved in February 2017.

As a result Barnard Castle joined a network of more than 120 towns and village across the country dedicated to providing top quality information on local trails, offering excellent walking opportunities for residents and visitors and ensuring footpaths and facilities are maintained, improved and well-signposted.

Mr Singer added: “It may be that the time was not right for something like Walkers are Welcome to take off in Barney or that we simply did not come up with the right ideas or sell them well enough.

Sam Turner

“We have certainly tried our very best and are disappointed that we have had to call it a day, but sometimes initiatives fail, however worthy they seem and however hard we try to make them succeed.

“Whatever the reason, we would like publicly to thank all those who have volunteered to help us with our annual footpath maintenance surveys and those businesses that have displayed our “Walkers are Welcome here” window stickers, sold our walk leaflets and given us encouragement.

“We are sorry our efforts have fallen short.”

Mr Singer said the walkteesdale.org.uk website would remain in place for the time being.

Although there would be no WaW content, there are downloadable leaflets and information about the town.

“Whether or not others might wish to pick up the baton and continue with Barnard Castle Walkers are Welcome remains to be seen. We would certainly help in any way we can,” said Mr Singer.

“It is a shame that the project did not in the end bear fruit and we wish the town council every success with their Making Barney Brighter Together initiative.”