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No more doom and gloom

No more doom and gloom

Thu 18th August 2011

With lots of gloom in the press at the moment it is great to see one rural business in Northumberland going from strength to strength.

Shepherds Walks, now based at Kirkharle Courtyard, has certainly grown since its humble beginnings 11 years ago. Jon Monks, then a hill shepherd, began by writing walking guides in the evenings, in a shepherds cottage just to the south of the Simonside Hills.

Move forward a decade and this hi tech business is now the largest walking provider in the region with over 1,500 people attending their guided walks, events, courses and walking holidays.

Over the past two years this has happened as they have really grasped technology, with walkers now being able to download the famous ‘shepherds walk’ walking guide directly from their web site. For those who are really up to speed with technology, GPS waypoints can also downloaded, to use with the equivalent of a ‘walkers sat nav’.

One of the growth areas has been the events they now run, from a 26 mile linear challenge walk down the Northumberland Coast, which attracts well over 200 people,  to the Rothbury Walking Festival which consist of over 15 guided walks in 1 week.

Jon Monks, from Shepherds Walks, said  ‘ It has been great to see how the public have welcomed our events and by using technology we really try hard to keep every single participant up to date as any of our events are approaching’. He went on to say ‘Having so many people on any particular event can be a little daunting and we work with both private first aid companies and also the mountain recue to support our customers, just in case. With the press of one button we can send a text message to everybody on an event, whether this is before or even during the event and this could prove invaluable to warn participants of something that was ahead’. It all makes for a quality and safe experience for everybody taking part.

In 2012 Shepherds Walks will have over 1000 people on these kinds of events. It is amazing to see people already booking on events for August 2012 as they realise places are limited and they are getting sold out well in advance. New for 2012 is a linear challenge walk along St Cuthbert’s Way, where people will start their epic journey in Scotland and finish in England, a true cross border experience.

One of the other large growth areas has been the educational side with both children and adults.

Nordic Walking is the big buzz currently running through the business with two members of staff currently teaching over 100 children a week to Nordic walk in schools in Northumberland. With health and exercise being so important for children Shepherds Walks are being welcomed into schools with open arms to get the children outside and active in a fun and friendly manner.

Not only is Nordic Walking for children, but adults are also wanting to experience what it is all about and with two fully qualified instructors they spent many weekends teaching the technique to adults, who then go on to try some of the Nordic Walks that Shepherds Walks lead around the county.

Navigation is also a key area they have covered with both GPS (global positioning system) and Map and Compass courses still proving very popular as people want to gain skills, or take their skills to a higher level. ‘With safety always being of utmost importance in the hills people are always hungry to improve their skills’ said Jon.

When you feel the energy, passion and vibrancy in the business it makes you understand why so many people want to join Shepherds Walks on all their different activities and when there is so much doom and gloom around it is great to see a small rural business in Northumberland delivering quality experiences and going from strength to strength.

You can find out more about Shepherds Walks by visiting www.shepherdswalks.co.uk or by calling 01830 540453

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