MP welcomes return of walkers to Coast to Coast trail

Rishi Sunak on the route of the Coast to Coast Walk in Richmond with, from left, Mark Sandamas and Bill Sylvester of Coast to Coast Packhorse and John Wilbor and Heather Poole of Sherpa Van.

Richmond MP Rishi Sunak has welcomed the return of walkers to the Coast to Coast trail in North Yorkshire.

The walk which runs for 190 miles across the North of England and through the heart of the Richmond constituency, is widely recognised as one of the most scenic and beautiful walks in the world.

After a four-month period when the trail from St Bees in Cumbria to Robin Hood’s Bay fell largely silent, walking enthusiasts have returned to bring much-needed customers to businesses along the route created by Alfred Wainwright.

Mr Sunak met two of the companies which provide vital porterage and booking services for the walk – Coast to Coast Packhorse and Richmond-based Sherpa Van – to hear how they were co-operating to operate safely during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Normally rivals for the business of booking accommodation and transferring walkers’ bags between overnight stops, the companies have agreed to share the job of bag pick-up and drop-off so that only one driver visits accommodation providers.

Mr Sunak said: “It makes a lot of sense to reduce possible contacts between drivers and accommodation owners and I applaud the companies for decision to work together during this Covid-19-affected season.

“It is good to hear walkers are returning in numbers and bringing with them the business the rural areas the walk passes through really need.”

Mr Sunak said he was pleased to hear that more than 90 per cent of walkers unable to tackle the route in March, April, May and June have re-booked, either for later in 2020 or next year.

With booking enquiries for next year already coming in to the two companies, Mr Sunak added: “2021 promises to be a bumper year for the Coast to Coast.”

Mark Sandamas, owner of the Coast to Coast Packhorse, said the collaboration with Sherpa Van meant an immediate reduction in contact points and transmission risk by 50%, and demonstrated a positive response to the challenges that the Covid-19 pandemic had brought on the whole adventure travel and holiday sector.

Tali Emdin, manager of Sherpa Van, said:  “We very much welcomed the chance to meet Rishi in our own backyard of Richmond to discuss hospitality and tourism and how we are working together during this devastating crisis.  We are pleased to be collaborating with Packhorse to provide a uniform health and safety protocol for our accommodation partners and drivers.”

Coast to Coast Packhorse has also launched a late-season running festival. A ten-day running challenge over the route will operate in a Covid-19-compliant way and will be limited to 30 people.

Mr Sandamas said: “With many people increasingly taking up running during lockdown, unable to put their training into competitive action, and an increase in staycations, we believe this is the ideal solution.

“This new running package offers a unique opportunity to run in the company (socially-distanced of course) of other like-minded adventure-types”.