Ross-on-Wye Walkers

In July 2009 Ross became the 30th town in the country to gain accreditation as Walkers are Welcome town. Walkers are Welcome (WaW) towns are villages that have something special to offer walkers. It is not organised by the Council; it is a grass-roots initiative, and is run by the communities themselves. Ross Rambles became aware of the scheme in 2007 and two members, Sam Phillips and David Collin, attended the first national Conference in October of that year. In January 2009 a Steering Group was incredibly successful in raising funds, so they set about getting new leaflets and brochures designed and printed. These brochures included a leaflet with 14 bus walks as well as a booklet on “Doggie” walks. These have been very successful and are now available throughout Ross in our many stores and cafes.Beneath the Goretex Jackets, rucksacks and big boots are people who get out and about and spend money in the local and wider economy. You may not know that Ross Ramblers has 140 members and the Ross Walking Group has a similar number. Add to that the many people who walk but are not members of any organisation and you begin to see that, in Ross alone; you have a walking population of several hundred. Expand that across the country and there are hundreds of thousands of walkers, many of whom walk away from their home areas and spend money when doing so. We want as much of that money as possible spent here in Ross.

With this goal in mind, in October 2009 the group organised the first Ross Walking Festival. It attracted 90 people and was a success especially for a first effort by people with no experience of organising a walking festival. The second festival, in 2010, saw a 66% increase in attendance, up to 150. The third festival runs from Friday 30th September to Sunday 2nd October this year and already numbers are up to 156.

A very important element of WaW involves helping to stimulate the local economy. This will not happen overnight but, already, there are more walkers to be seen in Ross and they spend money in the town. This year’s festival is already filling rooms in the local hotels, guest-houses and B&B’s. The local group supports the Ross traders through ART and two of this year’s festival walks promote British Food Fortnight. Not all of the activities of the group revolve around the Festival of the making of brochures. Members of the group have helped replace seven stiles with pedestrian gates in the Bridstow area, thus improving access to the riverbank for many elderly and less able residents, and there are plans to replace many more. Also, the group has just submitted a bid for Ross to be the host town for 2012 National Conference. If successful this may well bring between 150 and 200 visitors to the town.

In the two and a half years of its existence the Ross WaW group has achieved a huge amount.
If you need any further information please contact the Chairman, Sam Phillips, on 01989 563874.

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