Sidmouth ‘first’ to land footpath status

Hopes Walkers are Welcome boost will swell visitor numbers

SIDMOUTH has become the first place in East Devon to land Walkers are Welcome status.

The town is only the fourth location in the whole of Devon to be listed on the website – and it is hoped the news will boost visitor numbers.

Town councillor John Dyson said the validation shows Sidmouth looks after its 58 miles of footpaths and bridleways.

Councillor Dyson, also chairman of the Parish Paths Partnership, told the Herald: “It’s another way of showing we’re not just sea and beach. We really do have some wonderful countryside around, and we do look after our footpaths.

“I hope this will be able to draw more visitors in. The town will benefit from it. This was a no brainer – I can only see positives.”

Walkers are Welcome is a community-led scheme that demonstrates town and villages’ commitment to making tourists’ visit an enjoyable one.

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Membership of the initiative is �50 a year and Sidmouth Town Council will foot the fee in the future.

Cllr Dyson said the bid had the backing of the town’s chamber of commerce and hospitality association.

In fact, both were so keen for Sidmouth to net the status they paid the first year’s membership fee between them.

Mr Dyson hopes shops and hotels will display stickers in their windows advertising the recognition.

He added Sidmouth was the second busiest tourist destination on the South West Coastal Footpath and said a ‘walking week’ or ‘walking festival’ were future possibilities.

“Walking is a year-round activity here,” said Mr Dyson, who is also a member of the town council’s tourism committee and the Hopper Bus co-ordinator.

“You can quite easily take a bus eight or 10 miles from here to places like Branscombe, Budliegh or Ottery, and walk back – and you can’t do that everywhere.

“The combination of bus and walking is very popular.”

The Walkers are Welcome website will link to Sidmouth’s own tourism pages.