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Jon opening up county walks

A shepherd from the Morpeth area was chosen as one of the faces of a £200,000 marketing campaign to attract walkers back on to the region’s footpaths after the foot and mouth crisis.

Northumberland County Council selected John Monks, 32, of Greeneighton Cottage, Longwitton, to provide a competition prize for Country Walking Magazine – a favourite among ramblers nationwide.

The winners spent a week at Farm Cottage Guest House in Thropton, near Rothbury, and enjoyed guided walks of Northmberland with the shepherd and father-of-two.

Paul Hemphill, Promotions and Marketing Manager at Northumberland County Council, said: “The competition was part of our campaign to raise the profile of the County after the foot and mouth crisis.”

“We were badly affected by the access restrictions on the countryside and tourism in Northumberland took a very heavy blow. The promotion was part of a £200,000 campaign to attract visitors back and boost tourism.”

Mr Monks set up his own Internet company, Northumberland Shepherds Walks, in February 2001 after the website he ran as a hobby attracted international interest.

He now writes walks for around 550 clients, offering a shepherd’s insight into the Northumbrian landscape and giving information on the changing face of farming in the region.

He also published a special booklet during the foot and mouth epidemic, advising people of the limited areas they could visit, including tarmac walks and tours of Kielder Forest.

The success of his Internet venture saw him short-listed for the North East Travel and Leisure section of the 2001 E-Commerce Awards, and his website now attracts clients from as far afield as New Zealand and the United States.

Mr Monks said: “I write walks from a shepherd’s perspective rather than just giving directions and telling people which stile to cross’”

“People who follow my walks get information on the history of the area and the farming methods past, present and future, which makes them much more interesting. I think that is why the business has been so successful.”

“Since I set the business up, Northumberland Tourist Board has included me in its literature as a local character and I’ve had a lot of positive feedback.”

“People seem to trust what I say about the best places to walk because I see things from a rural perspective. I love Northumberland and I’m always keen to do what I can to promote walking in the County.”

For more information on Shepherds Walks, log on to www.shepherdswalks.co.uk.