Spilsby and Hundleby has officially offered a big welcome to walkers.
Forty-eight walkers turned out this morning to explore the countryside and take part in the launch event to celebrate the area achieving Walkers Are Welcome status.
They met at the Franklin Hall in Spilsby and had the choice of four routes - some across the countryside and one on footpaths through town that was suitable for wheelchairs.
The destination was the Elm Tree Guest House in Hundleby, where a cup of coffee was waiting for walkers and the venue became the first to officially display the Walkers Are Welcome sticker.
Stephanie Round, of the steering group behind the new status, said: “I’m amazed 48 people turned out today and how well it’s gone.
“We are delighted to have achieved Walkers Are Welcome status.
It was interesting to see pathways around Spilsby that I didn’t even know existed.Gary Beighton, chairman of the Markey Rasen Walkers Are Welcome group
“The scheme encourages towns to offer a warm welcome to walkers and to maintain their local footpaths in good condition.”
The steering group of keen local walkers, led by Stephanie, put together the application to the nationwide initiative with support from Spilsby Town Council, Spilsby Methodist Meeting Point and The Elm Tree. A variety of guided walks for all abilities is planned, together with a website that will highlight local accommodation and refreshment providers, and feature downloadable local walks.
Today the steering group were guides and wore hi-vis jackets kindly provided and sponsored by J&A International of Spilsby, who printed their name on the backs.
To show the area at its best, members undertook a litter-pick last Friday down the side of Woodlands Primary School, collecting 14 bags of rubbish as part of their undertaking to keep the footpaths clean.
Among the walkers at the launch event were members of Walkers Are Welcome groups from Market Rasen and Horncastle and Stephanie’s 90-year-old mother Vera Lawrence, who took the one-mile footpath walk. Vera said: “I don’t do a lot of walking but I do walk from home to Sainsbury’s and the distance is about the same.
“Going on these walks is certainly something I’ll consider in the future.”
Elaine Lowe, a member of the Spilsby led Community Plan group, was also there to show support. She said: “I came along today to support the group and it’s been really nice chatting to people.
“I’ve been thinking about getting more active and this is perfect.”
Retired teacher Mary Flynn, a member of the local U3A group, also joined them. She said: “I must admit I am a fair weather walker but I do enjoy walks with friends and at a fast pace. It’s a nice area to walk in.”
There was also a representative from the Lincolnshire Countryside Services team. Debby Braund said: “It’s been a great turnout and so nice to see other Walkers Are Welcome towns - people from Market Rasen and Horncastle - supporting the event.”
Gary Beighton, chairman of the Markey Rasen Walkers Are Welcome group, said: “I came along to show our support and have been really pleased to see the turnout.
“It was interesting to see pathways around Spilsby that I didn’t even know existed. I’d really encourage people to get out and explore their local countryside ... and Market Rasen too!”
Jonathon Wilkinson-White, one of the partners at the Elm Tree, accepted the Walkers Are Welcome sticker and said: “We are absolutely chuffed to welcome the walkers and wish the group every success.
”We’ve just added a one-bedroom dog-friendly apartment to the guest house and are really looking forward to welcoming walkers.”
Just how important the status could be for the town was expressed by Coun Victoria Ayling, UKIP spokesman for tourism who lives locally. She also joined the walkers and said: “I was delighted to join the Spilsby and Hundleby Walkers for their inaugural event. The initiative is a brilliant idea to attract tourists and is done without any big budgets or infrastructure.
“Walkers can enjoy the beautiful buildings and countryside but also spend in local shops to buy provisions and souvenirs. Good local food and drink will also no doubt be a hit, with excellent cafes and pubs enroute. Spilsby is explorer Sir John Franklin’s birthplace has huge historical significance and any initiative to encourage more visitors is to be welcomed.
“The organisers have done well to get such a good turnout and know they must have worked very hard.”
The owner of a new cafe in Spilsby was watching the event with interest. Caroline Bray opened her Bijoux cafe in the High Street just two weeks ago and said: “I’m planning to open on a Sunday in the summer and it’s really good news Spilsby now has Walkers Are Welcome status.
“We’ve already had some walkers in who have lunch with us and them came back for ice-cream.”