People in Falkirk stepped up to give the district their backing and help it walk off with the title of Britain’s Best Walking Neighbourhood 2019.
The public vote was the last stage in a competition to find the most walker-friendly urban neighbourhood in the UK and Falkirk beat nine other shortlisted contenders from across the UK to take the crown.
The results of the competition organised by Ramblers UK were announced at an event yesterday (Wednesday) held in the UK Parliament.
Experts from the walking charity chose a shortlist of ten, then asked the public to decide who was top of the walks, with Falkirk emerging a clear winner with 20 per cent of the vote.
Vanessa Griffiths, chief executive of the Ramblers, said: “Congratulations to Falkirk, a very worthy winner of the Britain’s Best Walking Neighbourhood Award.
“Our vision is of a country truly designed for walking, where everyone is encouraged to walk whenever they set out on a journey, whether they are popping to the shops or going to work.
“Falkirk is a fantastic example of how this can be achieved.”
Organisers said that Falkirk stood out from the competition thanks in part to a remarkable 383 miles of well-maintained and signposted paths, and described it as a “fantastic place to get around on foot”.
Councillor Cecil Meiklejohn, leader of Falkirk Council, said: “This is a fabulous award for the Falkirk area and being voted Britain’s best walking neighbourhood is an amazing achievement.
“We have some great areas to explore locally and with nearly 400 miles of paths on our doorstep, visitors and residents are not short of some great locations to enjoy.
“We’d like to thank everyone who took the time to vote for Falkirk and made us number one in the UK.”
Wraight Shepherd, chairman of Stirling, Falkirk & District Ramblers, who nominated Falkirk for the award, was delighted to hear about the success when the announcement was made in Westminster.
He said: “We are really proud that Falkirk has won the Britain’s Best Walking Neighbourhood Award.
“It’s a testament to the commitment of the council working together with local communities that Falkirk has been transformed in recent years into a place that is enjoyable and easy to walk around, building a real culture of walking.”
The area has become world-famous in recent years with the famous Kelpies sculptures, Helix Park and The Falkirk Wheel, which are at the centre of a network of paths leading to woodland, wetlands, canalside and the town itself.
But the nomination also highlighted the huge variety of less well-known paths that have been developed over many years, using the remnants of Falkirk’s industrial past, which are now maintained and promoted by Falkirk Council’s ranger service.
Other initiatives that contributed to Falkirk’s triumph included the council’s efforts to widen pavements and create more off-road paths.
The charity said that well-linked routes around the town’s shops, services, bars and restaurants means people can easily walk to the places they need to go to, while it praised the fact that residents also have great access to nature, with every community well-served by parks and green spaces.
The judges were also impressed by the planning standard introduced by the council which means that every house should be within 400m of an open space, now reduced to 300m for new developments.