A group of Cotswold Voluntary Wardens will be marking the launch of the Cotswold Way National Trail by holding a relay walk along the 102 mile route. The wardens are the voluntary arm of the Cotswolds Conservation Board, the organisation that exists to conserve and enhance the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

The Cotswold Wardens give up hours of their time every year to carry out practical work across the AONB and an entire section of the service, the Cotswold Way Warden's district, dedicated itself to helping ensure that the Cotswold Way was up to National Trail standards.

The wardens will start the first stage of their nine leg relay at 1030 am on Wednesday 16th May at Bath Abbey and will be carrying a Shepherd's Crook. The crook will be passed by relay to Stanway House for the opening ceremony of the National Trail, by Natural England the government agency responsible for National Trails, on Thursday 24th May.

Chairman of the Avon Valley District of the Cotswold Voluntary Wardens Service Nigel Locke said:

"The launch of the Cotswold Way National Trail is a chance for people to enjoy an improved walking experience along the route and learn more about it. The Cotswold Way has been a long distance walking trail from Bath to Chipping Campden for 40 years and in that time thousands of visitors and local walkers have enjoyed the stunning views out across the Severn Vale from the Cotswolds escarpment.

A launch like this provides a good opportunity to reflect on the heritage of the area. The historical wealth of the Cotswolds was founded on the wool trade, the grazing land for the Cotswold Lion sheep and the hillside streams to power the woollen mills. The Shepherd's Crook with a sheep's head carved into it signifies a connection between the present tourist industry and the old woollen industry. "


Notes to editors:

For more information contact Nigel Locke, chairman of Avon Valley District. Cotswold Voluntary Wardens. 01225 481308 or 07710 514928 or Phillip Coates on 07969 862501.

There will be nine stages to the relay walk: Bath to Dyrham 16-17th May, Dyrham to Hawkesbury Upton 17th May, Hawkesbury Upton to North Nibley 18th May, North Nibley to Kings Stanley 19th May, Kings Stanley to Painswick Beacon 20th May, Painswick Beacon to Leckhampton Hill 21st May, Leckhampton Hill to Cleeve Hill 22nd May, Cleeve Hill to Hailes Abbey 23rd May, Hailes Abbey to Stanway House ( Launch of Cotswold Way National Trail) 24th May.

The Cotswold Way National Trail is over 102 miles (164 kms) long with its starting point at Bath Abbey and end point at the Market Hall in Chipping Campden. National Trails provide some of the nations favourite rambles and rides, offering some of the best walking, riding and cycling experiences in the country. The Cotswold Way is a National Trail promoted for walkers.

26 patrollers from the Cotswold Way District of the Voluntary Wardens Service check the 102 mile walking trail on a monthly basis and report back to the Cotswold Way National Trail team on the condition of the route. The Cotswold Voluntary Wardens Service was formed in 1968, there are 340 Cotswold Voluntary Wardens and the service is part of the Cotswolds Conservation Board. The wardens have been leading guided walks in the AONB since 1975. Between them the wardens worked over 40,000 hours last year.

The Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is cared for by the Cotswolds Conservation Board - an independent organisation with 40 members, 17 nominated by local authorities, eight by parish councils and 15 appointed by Government.

With its rolling hills and valleys the Cotswolds is the largest of 40 AONBs in England and Wales and is protected to ensure that its beauty and special character are conserved. It covers 2,038 square kilometres (790 square miles), stretching from Warwickshire and Worcestershire in the north, through Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire, down to Bath and Wiltshire in the south.

Press contact: Claire Cunningham

Tel: 01451 862003

Cotswolds Conservation Board Fosse Way, Northleach, Gloucestershire GL54 3JH

Tel: 01451 862000 Website: