Walkers from Eye get ready to welcome rambling visitors

 Eye Walkers are Welcome launch

Eye Walkers are Welcome launch - Credit: Archant

The mid-Suffolk town of Eye recently became the third destination in the county to gain Walkers are Welcome accreditation. Ross Bentley reports.

A community in mid-Suffolk has put itself on the map as a destination for walkers.

Ramblers from the town of Eye have come together to gain accreditation from Walkers are Welcome (WAW) - a nationwide marque that lets tourists know that they will be greeted with open arms should they plan a walking holiday in that destination.

They are the third community in Suffolk to get the accreditation - after Shotley and Clare - and celebrated their new status with a series of events held last weekend and timed to coincide with the Suffolk Walking Festival.

Eye’s journey to becoming a WAW destination started last year when a group of active folk formed the Eye Outdoor group, who set out to show that the town had all the credentials to satisfy the WAW criteria.

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“The application form required us to describe what Eye had to offer, how we would encourage people to visit, what they could do and see when they got there and how visitors would benefit from a visit along with the businesses within the town,” said group member Judith Howard-Rees.

“There was a need to demonstrate that people living and working in Eye wished to support the application and this involved gaining signatures from businesses, and organisations such as the Eye Town Council, the local MP and county councillor.”

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As part of the exercise, leaflets detailing four different walks in and around Eye have been produced - and can be picked up for free from the bank and library.

Details of how walkers can use public transport to get back to their cars is now readily available while a number of businesses are promoting the initiative by displaying the WAW logo in their windows.

The group also had to show that the local pub - the Queen’s Head - was happy to receive and cater for a band of walkers who may be wet and soaking after a hike around Eye.

Judith says the aim of the exercise is to encourage more people to come to Eye and for locals to get out and about, explore their domain and boost their fitness.

She added: “We hope to increase footfall within the town and offer visitors a good experience leading to them spending money in the town and supporting Eye’s many businesses, such as the Co-op, café’s, the library, shops and B&B accommodation.

“We also want to encourage walking as a positive activity to improve and maintain health and wellbeing.”

On this latter point, Judith says the venture has received “huge support” from Suffolk County Council and One Life Suffolk, an NHS-sponsored organisation who are committed to getting people walking, especially those who have suffered from ill health – such as those who want to lose weight, give up smoking or who are recovering from illness.

Some of the Eye Outdoors group are training to be health walker leaders while classes in Nordic Walking - an exercise originating from Scandinavia where walkers keep their body toned by walking up right using poles - are also planned.

Judith added: “Our application was accepted almost immediately and we got our accreditation within a week. That was back in January but we waited until the Suffolk Walking Festival to launch it.

“WAW accreditation is great news for us - we are proud of Eye and wish to encourage people to visit it.”

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