A CHARITY dedicated to improving public health has been taking big steps forward by delivering free walking boots to pupils at North-East schools.

The Walk & Talk Trust spent the summer focusing on The Big Smile, a campaign featuring 50 fully-guided fundraising walks across the northern countryside.

Read more: Police 'deal with' youths causing trouble and egging cars in County Durham town

Proceeds from the walks are being used to buy boots for children to inspire a new generation of healthier countryside walkers.

In recent weeks, Walk & Talk Trust officials have been visiting North-East schools whose staff took part in The Big Smile. As well as delivering boots, they have also been spreading messages of encouragement to take up regular walking.

Geoff Simpson, the trust’s chief executive, said: “It’s been fantastic to talk to the children and see the excitement on their faces when they put on their walking boots.”

The Big Smile was backed by The Northern Echo, and the campaign attracted a host of sponsors, including boots supplier, Decathlon, Eversheds Sutherland, Greggs, Newcastle Building Society, North Star Housing Group, Northumbrian Water, SG Petch, and Ward Hadaway.

The Northern Echo: logo

“We’ve tried to involve our sponsors as much as possible in order to recognise the integral role they’ve played in making it happen,” Mr Simpson added. “A number of schools have already taken their children out on hikes and nature walks, which the children have thoroughly enjoyed.”

The charity still has a number of schools to visit due to shipping delays disrupting supplies of the boots.

Catherine Young, Headteacher at St Benet’s RC Primary School, in Ouston, said: “The Big Smile has inspired us to get outside and explore our local area whilst reaping those physical and wellbeing aspects of walking.”

The Northern Echo: Pupils at St Benet's RC Primary School, at Ouston, County Durham, admire their new bootsPupils at St Benet's RC Primary School, at Ouston, County Durham, admire their new boots

Alison Holtham, Deputy Headteacher at St Bede’s RC Primary School, in Sacriston, said: “As a staff we thoroughly enjoyed being part of The Big Smile, and to see the children receiving their boots is fantastic. We look forward to taking part again next year.”

Peter Locke, Head of Communities for North Star Housing Group, said: “We hope the boots the children have received help them to do many miles of walking and allow them to discover some of the beautiful surroundings the North-East has to offer.”

Jose Pons, store manager at Decathlon Team Valley, said: “Decathlon and The Walk & Talk Trust share very similar missions – to help people become healthier through activity. I hope to increase awareness of our brand while supporting a great charity.”

Keep up to date with all the latest news on our website, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

You can also follow our dedicated County Durham Facebook page for all the latest in the area by clicking here.

For all the top news updates from right across the region straight to your inbox, sign up to our newsletter here.

Have you got a story for us? Contact our newsdesk on newsdesk@nne.co.uk or contact 01325 505054