South Downs National Park hits back at criticism of ‘hello’ campaign

Walkers and cyclist at Kingley Vale
Walkers and cyclist at Kingley Vale

The South Downs National Park (SDNPA) has hit back at criticism of its £34,500 ‘share the path’ campaign teaching walkers to be polite to each other.

Despite disparaging comments in national newspapers, a spokesman said there had been a ‘great response’ to the campaign.

Launched at Easter it urged walkers to say ‘hello’ and ‘excuse me’ as they met on footpaths.

People in the area were involved in the promotion including members of the Midhurst Area Cycling group who were featured.

The SDNPA paid an agency £11,500 for a two minute film showing a man with his dog chatting to fellow walkers. Another £15,000 was spent promoting and developing the campaign and a further £8,000 on employing people dressed in bright colours to wave signs saying ‘hello’ at visitors to the park over the holiday weekend.

The Daily Telegraph reported one park user saying: “It’s a lot of money to spend on addressing a problem that doesn’t exist.”

Walker Jo Foulser added: “It’s already a friendly area and people really don’t need to be told to say “Good morning”.

The Telegraph also reported Alex Wild, of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, saying: ‘The authority has clearly lost touch with reality. This is an utterly pointless and patronising campaign - they should pull the plug on it.”

But a park spokesman said: “This is a light-hearted campaign to spread the word the park is here for everyone, encouraging people to explore the landscapes and enjoy the health and wellbeing benefits they bring. With 46 million visits a year, celebrating friendly and responsible behaviour as ‘normal’ is far more effective than telling people what they should or shouldn’t do.

“We’ve had a great response to this campaign which is just one small part of what we do to help people to enjoy and appreciate their time in the country’s most visited national park.”

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