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Walk with a Shepherd

Five years ago Jon Monks, a full-time shepherd in Northumberland, was chosen as one of the faces of a £200,000 marketing campaign to attract walkers back to the region’s footpaths after the foot and mouth crises.

His part-time Shepherds Walks business was included in its literature by the Northumberland Tourist Board and was known as Northumberland Shepherds Walks in this lovely part of northern England, aimed at every level of walker from a short walk for the family to the ascent of some of the highest peaks in the Cheviot Hills for the serious walker.

At that time he was looking after 1,500 black-faced sheep on a farm near Rothbury, having had experience for a year in Australia caring for 80,000 Merino sheep on a remote farm in New South Wales and then shepherding for Lord Carnarvon.

As time went by, enthusiastic walkers came in their hundreds and in 2006 Jon was getting so much interest that he set up business headquarters in a Northumberland courtyard near Kirkwhelpington. His Shepherds Walks company has now become a full-time career for himself and his wife. They have two young children.

Every landowner and farmer who owns or rents any land that the walks cross has been individually contacted. Some walk routes have been changed to incorporate their views such as avoiding environmentally sensitive areas and grouse moors that may be awkward to cross at certain times of the year.

Rangers from the National Park have walked each route and their views have been incorporated into the guides. Wherever necessary they have also undertaken restoration work, improving signs and stiles.

The Department of Trade and Industry have given Shepherds Walks a large grant and Jon can now arrange guided walks for individuals or a group, tailored to their expectations and dates of their choice. So this is a really personal service in one of the loveliest parts of Britain.

One-day courses have been arranged at the headquarters in Kirkharle Courtyard to teach visitors how to use a GPS and digital mapping. A GPS refers to a small device, a Global Positioning System, which tells you exactly where you are on a walk. There is also a good stock of suitable clothing, equipment and maps for the keen walkers in the Kirkharle headquarters.

To give you an idea of what Shepherds Walks holidays now offer, you can go on the Hadrians Wall Walk for six days, St Oswald’s Way for nine days or two to three days for the Northumberland Coastal Walk.

Shepherds Walks include a personal service and now participants can be met on arrival at a station if required or airport if needed. Accommodation can be booked and visitors are provided with information and maps relating to the region they visit. Dogs are welcome.

Visit www.shepherdswalksholidays.com or ring 01830.540453 for more information.