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Walk Online

Veronica Heath writes………

The countryside is open for business again. A full-time shepherd has opened his own Internet company and the webside is already attracting international interest. Jon Monks worked in Australia for a year with sheep, then spent time shepherding for Lord Caernavon.

Now, he looks after 1,500 pure black-faced sheep on 1,200 acres at Greenleighton farm near Rothbury, where he lived with his young family.

Jon has four border collies to assist him and needs them, because in the winter he walks all over the moor where the sheep are ‘hefted’, which in layman’s terms means they are in separate groups. In the summer, he uses a quad bike.

“I have always been a keen walker,” Jon told me. “My favourite walk is Windy Ghyll in the Coquet Valley. I write the walks from a shepherd’s point of view and have been supported by DEFRA during my first year online.”

“The shortest walks are two miles and the longest sixteen. I have two young children of my own, so the walks are aimed at every level of walker from a short but enjoyable walk for the family to the ascent of the highest peak in Northumberland – the Cheviot.”

“Each of the walks consist of detailed instructions, local history, points of interest and an easy to follow route map.”

“Two of my walks are particularly suitable for children, one explores the historic side of Hexham town, and another is a walk around Rothbury.”

The Internet venture was short-listed for the North East Travel and Leisure section in the E Commerce awards 2001, and the website is now attracting clients from all over the world, including the USA and New Zealand.

Jon has been chosen as one of the faces of a £200,000 marketing campaign designed to attract walkers back to the region’s footpaths and the Northumbria Tourist Board has included Jon in their literature as a local character.

As I write this, my dogs are now out of their baskets in the kitchen and peering round the office door. At last it has stopped raining. It is time to put on my walking boots and log-on to www.shepherdswalks.co.uk.