Following in the steps of St Oswald

A new long-distance walk named after one of the most celebrated Kings of Northumbria is to be the latest tourism draw for the North-East.

A new long-distance walk named after one of the most celebrated Kings of Northumbria is to be the latest tourism draw for the North-East.

St Oswald's Way will stretch for 97 miles from Holy Island in the north east of Northumberland to Tynedale in the south west.

It will link sites associated with St Oswald, who was King of Northumbria during the early 7th Century.

The move comes after new figures showed that the Hadrian's Wall trail, opened three years ago, has been used by 400,000 walkers who poured £10m into local economies.

The Journal also revealed last month that spending in the North-East linked to walking activities stands at £240m a year.

St Oswald reintroduced Christianity to Northumbria after a key battle at Heavenfield near Chollerford against the pagan King Cadwallon of Gwynedd.

It is hoped to open the trail in August, with a set of leaflet guides and a full guide book in the autumn.

Once completed the new route will enable ramblers of all abilities and levels of fitness to explore many parts of Northumberland as the path runs along the coast south towards Warkworth, passing through the Coquet Valley and on to Rothbury.

The route then crosses a more remote landscape to reach its final destination at Heavenfield.

The project is one of a series supported by a European funding programme in North Northumberland and the North Pennines called LEADER+, run by Defra, and aimed at helping rural communities by backing grassroots projects.

Embleton Church Council spearheaded the original idea for the walk and Alnwick District Council worked with Berwick, Castle Morpeth and Tynedale councils to take the idea forward.

Leader has contributed £30,000 towards the cost of the £88,000 project.

Martin Paminter, St Oswald's Way project officer at Alnwick District Council, is leading the initiative.

He said: "This new route is a great idea for Northumberland and will be an excellent way of exploring the countryside. It will use existing rights of way and footpaths and form the final side of a square of similar walks in the area, the others being St Cuthbert's Way, the Pennine Way and Hadrian's Wall trail." It will now be possible to walk a 200-mile loop through Northumberland using the four trails.

"The best thing about it is that it's suitable for really keen hikers and also for the less energetic who might just like a gentle Sunday afternoon stroll in the country," said Martin.

"Short stretches of the route will be identified so that walkers can tackle as much or as little of the walk as they wish."

Neil Wilson, programme manager for Leader+ in North Northumberland said: "We saw this project as a great opportunity to finally link up North Northumberland by way of long distance walking routes. This will, in turn, offer a truly diverse walking tourism project."

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