DOZENS of children found a new route to school this week in Welly Walk Wednesday.
The initiative was organised by Abbeyfields First School as part of an ongoing campaign to reduce congestion around its gates at drop-off and pick-up times.
A number of Go Smarter To School measures were adopted in September, with families urged to walk, cycle or scoot to school instead of making the journey by car.
Yesterday, around 60 children met at Morpeth Riverside Leisure Centre to walk to the Abbots Way school through Carlisle Park and it is hoped that the idea could develop into a regular ‘walking bus’.
Headteacher Sandra Ford said: “There was a big response to the welly walk, which was supporting National Road Safety Week.
“In common with many other schools, we have big issues with parking and traffic around the school so we wanted to try something different.
“We decided to walk from the leisure centre, whatever the weather, to test the possibility of setting up a walking bus.
“It was a bit of fun and raised awareness that it doesn’t take long to walk from Morpeth up to the school, but it was also about looking at what we can do long-term to ease the congestion.
“Everybody entered into the spirit of it and there were at least 60 schoolchildren there. With their siblings and parents there were more than 100 people taking part, which was lovely.”
The school has set up a five-minute walking zone to encourage those living closest to the site to leave the car at home, as well as a park-and-stride initiative calling on parents to park further away. A traffic and parking working party has been set up and the school council has produced leaflets and donned sandwich boards to spread the message.
Mrs Ford said: “We are starting to notice a difference. We do think people are more aware of the problems and more aware of the initiatives that we are trying to introduce.”
A parent whose children attend the school had contributed a large banner, urging ‘show you care, park elsewhere’. It had been damaged, but a replacement was unveiled this week by town councillors David Clark and Bob Robertson.
Coun Clark said: “The idea is to encourage more people to either walk to school or park their cars further away from the school and reduce the congestion and road-safety risks.
“I live in the town centre and my kids are at Abbeyfields, but they never go in the car. If it’s raining they wear raincoats, if it’s snowing they get wrapped up. The kids can get all the silliness out before they get to school, it fills their lungs with oxygen and they thoroughly enjoy the walk.”