A MOVE to make one of the most famous long distance paths in the UK safer has taken a step forward.
Alf Wainwright's renowned Coast to Coast Walk across the North of England passes through the village of Danby Wiske, near Northallerton, to Lovesome Hill using busy public roads.
Parish councillors want to divert the route onto footpaths between the two villages to protect walkers from traffic on the increasingly busy roads.
Danby Wiske Parish Council enlisted the help of Richmond MP Rishi Sunak who is campaigning to have the Wainwright walk from St Bees in Cumbria to Robin Hood's Bay in North Yorkshire designated a National Trail.
Mr Sunak wrote to North Yorkshire County Council, which has responsibility for public footpaths, asking the authority to consider the parish council's request.
He said: "Wainwright used public roads on this section of the walk because he wanted to reach the North York Moors as soon as possible. But that was more than 40 years ago when there was much less traffic. The safety issue is clear and I fully support the parish's initiative."
Mr Sunak said he had received an encouraging reply from the county council. The council would judge which footpath was safest and consult with the Wainwright Society – the custodian of Alf Wainwright's legacy – about a possible diversion. It would decide what was necessary to bring the chosen route up to standard.
Margaret Goldie, chair of Danby Wiske Parish Council, welcome the county's response. She said: "There is a existing footpath route to Lovesome Hill across the fields but it is in a poor state and would need some work to make it suitable for the Coast to Coast Walk.
"The existing route along the roads is dangerous because there is no walkable verge," she added. "The parish council has erected signs along the road to warn motorists that walkers may be ahead but obviously the best solution is to avoid that situation altogether."
The parish council's move has also been backed by Mary Pearson, owner of the multi award-winning Lovesome Hill Farm B&B, whose business is supported by Coast to Coast walkers.
During a meeting with Mr Sunak she said 25 per cent of her guests were doing the walk and the parish council's suggested alternative route would bring the path almost to her businesses door.
"At present, they have a short but tricky walk down the A167 Northallerton-Darlington road to reach us, often with a heavy pack after a long stretch from Richmond. The footpath route would be so much safer for everyone."
Mr Sunak launched his campaign to have the Coast to Coast to Walk designated a National Trial – like the Pennine Way and the Cleveland Way – last year with the support of the Wainwright Society, former Countryfile presenter Julia Bradbury and fellow broadcaster Eric Robson.
The campaign has received cross-party support in the House of Commons and so far more 50 local authorities along the route – including North Yorkshire Council Council and Danby Wiske Parish Council – have backed the campaign.
National Trail designation would attract modest public funding for path maintenance, signposting and promotion.