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Once you have travelled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.
- Pat Conroy
We are a family run ‘tour operator’ based in the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in the UK. Walk Awhile was founded by Derek Bright in 2002, who gave up the daily commute to London to follow his love of hiking and establish the business. It now continues through the work of other close family members, including the next generation. Since 2002 we have welcomed visitors from around the world including America, Canada, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, France, Belgium and the Netherlands, as well as many people from the UK. In addition to supporting individuals, couples and families, we have run walks for large groups including some of the major charities. We pride ourselves on being able to offer personal support, and are always pleased to welcome back customers for a second or third holiday.
Once Walk Awhile was up and running, Derek started to research the history of the Pilgrims' Way and his book 'The Pilgrims' Way: Fact & Fiction of an Ancient Trackway' was commissioned and published by the History Press in 2012, and still continues to sell. He appeared on the BBC Countrysfile programme, Simon Reeve's Pilgrimage series, and Tony Robinson's Britains Ancient Tracks. Our sons helped explore the routes in the first few years, and they continue to maintain a great interest in the countryside and environmental matters (and to pass on their enthusiasm to our grandchildren). In 2016, not long after returning from America where he was researching his next book, Derek suffered a severe stroke, and the reins were taken over by Mandy (Derek's wife) and eldest son, Jack. Despite this, Derek has continued to take a keen interest in Walk Awhile, in particular access to the landscape and engages with several groups for those with mobility problems, including Carers Stepping Out and Wild with Wheels. Although not all of the North Downs Way is accessible for wheelchair and mobility scooter users, we can offer advice on the sections that are, and find suitable accommodation options, based on our own experiences.
We became interested in organic and sustainably produced goods before our children were born, and it was logical to build the company ethos on a Sustainable Travel Policy that is supportive and in sympathy with the local communities and environment. We have been proud to work for the Green Tourism Award since 2006, and continue our journey, for example we have moved on from delivering home made lunches daily to providing walkers with details of local provision on the route, which supports the local economy (and has drastically reduced our own mileage). We support a number of local environmental campaigns, particularly where developments are detrimental to the landscape and not meeting local need. - something that our next generation have experienced and have campaigned on too.
Our experience of organising large sponsored long distance walks for the benefit of nationally recognised charities, (which since 2002 has included The Children’s Society, John Grooms, Christian Aid & Motor Neurone Disease Association) brought home to us the friendships that can build up as the traveller progresses along the route, as well as the benefits for the charities themselves.
Walk Awhile enjoys working in partnership with the North Downs Way Trail Officer and Ambassadors, and the Kent Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Team. We were delighted to be promoted by Englands Great Walking Trails, and to have involvement in the Green Pilgrimage movement.
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