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Last Updated: Monday, 7 February, 2005, 19:41 GMT
'Middle-class' guided walks saved
Free guided walks in the Lake District were under threat
Free guided walks in the Lake District will be able to continue for another year - thanks to a cash donor.

Park chiefs wanted to stop the tours because they drew mainly "middle-aged, middle-class, white people".

But at a meeting of the Lake District National Park Authority on Monday, members were told there was "massive opposition" to the plan.

Clothing company Hawkshead pledged 38,000, enough to save the walks for the current year.

The meeting heard the cash would provide "breathing space" so that more research could be done on attracting other groups, especially from ethnic minorities, into the area.

The authority has been under pressure to cut costs and also to encourage visits from minority groups and the disabled.

It still faces a 9% cut to its 9m a year budget.

Monday's meeting was attended by about 60 voluntary rangers.

Packed meeting

Committee members of the authority admitted they had been wrong to consider axing the free guided walks.

However, the authority now has to find about 100,000 if it is to retain the guided walks in 2006 and expand their interest.

Chairman Michael Bentley told the packed meeting in Kendal that the private sponsorship deal would cover the 38,000 cost of the walks this year.

He said this would allow the volunteers to carry out their planned programme of activities, including walks, starting at Easter.

He added: "In the last few weeks I have been encouraged by the great public support for our guided walks programme and for the volunteers.

'Most welcome'

"This sponsorship arrangement will give us the finance to ensure this popular work carries on in 2005.

"Knowing that our budgets will remain tightly controlled, what we all need to do now is to use the coming months to co-ordinate all this support and goodwill to enable everyone - no matter what their background - to appreciate and enjoy for themselves England's finest landscape."

The authority provides around 400 free walks each year for some of the area's 14 million visitors.

John Tiscornia, director of Cumbria Tourist Board, said: "I'm sure it will be very welcome. It is absolutely vital and most welcome that the walks will continue for another year.

"It is unfortunate the National Park Authority would not have continued with them if this very generous benefactor had not come forward."

Ethnic group wants walks to stay
06 Jan 05 |  Cumbria
Lake walkers too 'middle-class'
04 Jan 05 |  Cumbria

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