National network of rail walks seeks support from communities

Communities across Britain are invited to help develop a network of walking routes and trails between railway stations that will feature on a new website, RailWalks.co.uk. Seasoned walkers, walking groups, transport planners and others interested in getting involved are encouraged to attend a workshop in Worcester on Saturday 9 March to find out more.

RailWalks.co.uk was formed by Steve Melia, the green travel writer, and is now joined by Andy Stevenson of Point2Guides, linked to his research at the University of Worcester, and Kieran Seale, creator of Walk by Rail in the Chilterns. The group bring a wealth of experience and knowledge of mapping and walking long-distance routes while encouraging green, sustainable travel. Other partners involved in the initiative include Slow Ways and Community Rail Network.

Through RailWalks.co.uk, communities will have the opportunity to share insights and local knowledge to upload existing routes or develop new trails for walkers to enjoy.

Once launched, RailWalks.co.uk will help to raise awareness about rail as one of the greenest ways to travel for walkers to reach new routes – while avoiding traffic jams, parking and pollution.

The 9 March workshop will provide more details on how communities can get involved and feature there own walking routes on the Rail Walks website, including a hands-on workshop. Anyone interested in getting involved can join the mailing list and sign up for the meeting via www.railwalks.co.uk.

Steve Melia said: “Over the past 15 years, I have walked across most of Southwest England – and much of the rest of the country by public transport, mainly by rail.  I had no idea how easy it is, and how much of Britain you can walk by rail, until I moved to a city, gave up the car and started doing it. I’ve walked through wild, remote and wonderful places and that gave me the idea for a national network.”

Jools Townsend, chief executive of Community Rail Network said: “Many people don’t realise the scope for using our rail network to explore Britain on foot, and making use of our wonderful, often little-known, community railway lines is a great way to do this. I’m passionate about it, knowing the sense of enjoyment, empowerment and freedom that walking adventures can bring, and the importance to our climate and local places of shifting journeys from car to rail. Hence, we’re delighted to be working with RailWalks.co.uk to encourage more people to take greener, healthier journeys by rail.”

Andy Stevenson said: “After helping to create ‘Rail Trails Worcestershire‘, a series of freely-available recreational walking guide materials, I was delighted when the idea of a larger UK-wide network of rail walks was suggested. The positive reception to our walks in Worcestershire showed me there’s real potential to extending this concept nationally.  I’ve always loved the countryside and walking since I was young.  My research at the University of Worcester examines how walkers use visual guide materials, so this new project covers all bases for me.”

Kieran Seale said: “Walking in the countryside brings great benefits for physical and mental health. There are many advantages to using public transport – you don’t have to end the walk where you started, so you can see much more – as well as the obvious environmental benefits. This network has the potential to bring countryside walks within the reach of millions of city dwellers. It is a really exciting initiative.”

Dan Raven-Ellison, founder of Slow Ways, said: “Slow Ways is a giant grassroots initiative to create a national walking network that connects all of Britain’s towns, cities, villages and national landscapes. We’d love to add every train station into that mix. Like people across the country, I love walking from station to station to get outside and explore places. This inspiring project will make it even easier for more people to share that joy.”