First NetWalking session in Kent, for business people, at St Margaret’s Bay, Dover, involving Kent Downs AONB

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Businesses people will hear about new support initiatives – then walk three miles.

The outdoor networking event, called NetWalking Kent, aims to boost the recovery of local commerce following the pandemic.

NetWalking founder Faye Smith, centre, with Charlie Lewis, of Kent Downs AONB, left, and Anita Sedgewick of White Cliffs Country DDC. Picture: Keep Your Fork Ltd

It offers a platform on which local business people can begin to re-connect with each other in person.

Tuesday, July 22, is its launch day in Kent.

Participants meet at 11am at the Pines Garden Tea Room at Beach Road, St Margaret’s-at-Cliffe.

They will walk 5km from St Margaret’s Bay to beyond the South Foreland Lighthouse and back and have lunch at the Pines Garden.

The event is by the Kent Downs AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) Experience project and is supported by White Cliffs Country, the tourism and visitor economy arm of Dover District Council.

Roger Walton, council strategic director for operations and commerce, said: “We are extremely excited to be able to launch NetWalking Kent in Dover district. as White Cliffs Country is the ideal place for this kind of business event.

Creating new business opportunities with NetWalkers: founder Faye Smith and Alexandra Le Rossignol of Creative Pilgrimage at St Margaret's Bay. Picture: Keep Your Fork LtdCreating new business opportunities with NetWalkers: founder Faye Smith and Alexandra Le Rossignol of Creative Pilgrimage at St Margaret’s Bay. Picture: Keep Your Fork Ltd

“The clean open spaces, beautiful landscapes and interesting walking trails of our world-famous coastline and countryside provide an environment where businesspeople can gather safely to find the breathing space, mental stimulation and creative inspiration to develop great business ideas and take them forward.

“Throughout the pandemic, Dover District Council has been working hard to deliver support to local businesses. Now White Cliffs Country and local partners are bringing businesses based around the Kent Downs AONB together, in person, for the first time.

“This is the opportunity to get away from their desks, make connections, hear about the extensive support available and learn from other businesses. I look forward to the outcomes of this initiative, which also supports our aims for boosting health and fitness across the district.”

The White Cliffs of Dover was recently classed as the country’s 12th most beautiful walking area by the outdoor clothes and equipment suppliers Millets.

NetWalking was first pioneered in Yorkshire by businesswoman and rambler Faye Smith, who moved to the Kent coast just before the first lockdown was announced last year.

NetWalking Partners; at St Margaret's Bay, check their rout. Picture: Keep Your Fork LtdNetWalking Partners; at St Margaret’s Bay, check their rout. Picture: Keep Your Fork Ltd

She said: “I moved for a part time sabbatical by the sea for the first time in my life, knowing almost nobody, only to be locked down in my flat two weeks later.

“Like many, getting into nature was essential for my mental health and nature and the outdoors became my sanctuary during the pandemic. I was thrilled the team at White Cliffs Country and the AONB caught the NetWalking vision immediately.

Ms Smith says that over five years, NetWalking grew to more than 400 members and around 40 entrepreneurs would regularly attend our monthly NetWalks.

She continued: “While walking, they could make new contacts, get business advice, relieve home-working isolation and get fitter, all without the stress of sitting indoors, dressing up and pitching to rooms full of strangers. ”

Rebecca Rees from the Kent Downs AONB Experience project, said: “White Cliffs Country has plenty of beautiful countryside and footpaths to explore.”

“Kent Downs AONB and the National Trail- the North Downs Way- are nationally protected landscapes and are fantastic outdoor tourism assets.”

To book to join the NetWalking Kent event visit the web page netwalkingkentjuly2021.eventbrite.co.uk

Read more: All the latest news from Dover

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