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Click Here to read all about the 2012 Annual Conference held in Ross-on-Wye.
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Ross-on-Wye Walking Festival
27th to 29th September
Organized by Walkers Are Welcome
CLICK HERE for details of the planned walks and to book your place.
2013 Herefordshire Walking Festival
Organized by Herefordshire Council.
15th to 23rd June
For more information visit the Herefordshire Local Council Website
or CLICK HERE
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|2012 Annual Conference|
The sixth Annual National Conference of the Walkers Are Welcome Towns Network was held in Ross over the weekend of 20th and 21st October and can only be described as a triumph for the local organising committee, the Larruperz Centre and for Ross.
The weekend began with a programme of short walks in the local are. Local leaders took visitors up onto Coppett Hill, along the river to Backney and around the John Kyrle Walk. The weather was superb and the visiting walkers really enjoyed the super Herefordshire countryside.
On Saturday evening 29 diners sat down to a truly excellent meal at the Eagle Inn where Maria and her staff provided beautifully cooked, simple food that tasted great and was piping hot. This was a really good start to the main event on Sunday.
The conference “proper” took place at the Larruperz Centre on Sunday 21st October and the team of local volunteers was up early erecting banners and other informative material ready for the Delegates who began to arrive at about 9-00am.
Brian our MC for the day
They were welcomed at the door and directed to the Registration Station then into the Lounge for coffee or tea and biscuits. Members of the local volunteer team then ushered the 70 Delegates to the main hall where the Chairman of the local Walkers are Welcome Committee, Sam Phillips, introduced the Master of Ceremonies for the day, Brian Jackson. Brian, in turn, introduced the Mayor of Ross, Councillor David Ravenscroft. In his speech of welcome the Mayor emphasized the truly national nature of the event by welcoming delegates from Carmarthenshire, Dumfries and Galloway, Yorkshire, Somerset, Norfolk, Gloucestershire, Cardiganshire, Lancashire, Kent, Shropshire, Pembrokeshire, Lincolnshire, Cumbria, Hampshire, Monmouthshire, Buckinghamshire and Powys.
Delegates listening attentively
The Chairman of the National Executive Committee, Kate Ashbrooke, then ran a session in which representatives from the many towns reviewed their top achievements in the past year. These were many and varied, ranging from running walking festivals to erecting gates, producing descriptive leaflets/booklets and clearing footpaths.
Kate addressing the conference
Sam presenting Andrew with his cider
MC, Brian, then introduced Andrew Blake, from the Wye Valley AONB. Andrew gave a superb presentation of the “Walking with Offa” project. This is a project being run by the three AONBs along the route of the Offa’s Dyke National Trail that runs from Chepstow to Prestatyn. It is intended to promote walking and tourism along a corridor approximately 30 miles wide along the route of the path. A key element of the project is to encourage towns on or near the route to become Walkers are Welcome accredited.
David running leading Worksop two.
Tea and coffee then followed after which MC, Brian announced the first 2, of 4, Workshops. Workshop one, run by Sheila Talbot from Winchcombe and Ann Sandell from Kirkby Stephen, was designed to help prospective towns through the accreditation process. Workshop 2, run by David Collin from Ross, talked about many of the initiatives undertaken in the Ross area aimed at improving the walking environment.
Running Workshop one
There then followed a major turn around during which Delegates moved to Workshops 3 and 4.
The IT man does his magic!
In Workshop 3 local IT expert, Jeremy Hodges, talked the Delegates through the wonders and mysteries of some of the new technology that is available to organizations and individuals. Many delegates went away from this workshop with ideas that will be very helpful in promoting their towns.
Sam discussing where next?
Workshop 4 was run by Sam Phillips and explored what can be done once accreditation is obtained. This is often a difficult period after the euphoria of gaining accreditation, as a Walkers are Welcome town, has worn off. Sam reviewed a number of the things done locally and the delegates went away with many ideas.
Pat and Sharon preparing lunch
Lunch then followed and this too was a triumph. The catering staff at the Larruperz Centre led by Pat and ably assisted by Deputy Manager, Sharon, put on a spread that had the delegates dishing out platefuls of praise.
But eating and talking had to give way and MC, Brian, then called for everyone to return to the Main Hall for the afternoon session. This started with a presentation by James Turner, from an organization called “Hidden Britain”. Hidden Britain is a charity that specializes in helping less-known communities market themselves in order to encourage tourists in. This aim is much the same as Walkers are Welcome.
James giving his lecture
Kate with her cider and the new Chairman Nigel
After James’ presentation the AGM of the Towns Network was held and retiring Chairman, Kate Ashbrook was succeeded by Nigel Botting, from Market Weighton in Yorkshire. Ann Sandell of Kirkby Stephen was elected as Secretary, Geoff Kitt, of Moffatt in the Scottish Borders was re-elected to the position of Treasurer and Sam Phillips, of Ross was re-elected as Deputy Chairman.
The final open session of the day looked to the future of the organization. With a membership that is now very close to 100 towns and villages across the whole of England, Scotland and Wales, there is an urgent need for funding to provide additional administration support. There were a number of suggestions on where such support could be found.
The old and new committee pose for a photo
The last event of the day was a summary by outgoing Chairman, Kate Ashbrook. She concluded by saying that it had been the best planned, organized and run conference ever and the Ross Committee should be proud of what they had achieved.
At the end of a very long day the Ross Committee reflected on the event and concluded that the event had been such a huge success because of the enormous amount of detailed planning; the support of the local volunteers who worked tirelessly all day to make sure the Delegates were fully informed of what was happening; the excellent venue in the Larruperz Centre and the work of the small team of “Clock Watchers” who ensured that each element of the day ran to time. Our MC, Brian Jackson, smoothed things along as he linked each element of the day with anecdotes, witty remarks and even poetry. At the very end he read part of William Wordsworth's poem “Lines composed a few miles above Tintern Abbey”. One person was reported to have had a large lump in their throat as he referred to the “Sylvan Wye”, our river.
Local sponsors also contributed to making the day a success. The Garden Store generously donated plants that decorated the stage and Ross Cider and Perry Company donated presentation cases of cider and perry to Andrew Blake, James Turner and Kate Ashbrook.
Some of our sponsors
Over the past three weeks the Ross Walkers are Welcome group has really lived up to its aim of bringing visitors and revenue into Ross and district. At the end of September the Walking Festival brought visitors from the USA, Australia, New Zealand and Japan as well as all parts of the UK. In early October they brought a group of 50 walkers from Buckinghamshire to Ross for 4 nights accommodation and three days walking and, now, the Conference; truly a triumph.
Ross is quite good at running itself down. We should stop doing this as events such as this conference demonstrate, clearly, that when the people of Ross set their minds to doing something they can do it very well. Typical of the number of heartwarming complimentary comments about every aspect of this event and the town is as follows;
“We thought it was the best one we've been to, we found it well organised and so friendly. Well done, it will be a hard act to follow”
A representative from Swaffham, Norfolk, telling the attendees about next year's annual conference
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