As the days get longer and the weather hopefully continues to get warmer, most of us will inevitably be getting out and about more.

Whether it’s a day out or just getting some fresh air after work or school in the evening, the summer months are a great time to enjoy the great outdoors.

And in County Durham, new routes for walking and cycling are emerging across communities and countryside, allowing us all to do exactly that.

The routes are the result of a commitment by Durham County Council to enhance cycling, wheeling and walking infrastructure – collectively known as ‘active travel’ - for the benefit of residents and visitors alike, as well as those who work within its boundaries.

The reasons for this approach, outlined within the council’s Strategic Cycling and Walking Delivery Plan 2019-2029, are many. Not only are walking and cycling good for your health, they are also environmentally friendly as they reduce people’s reliance on cars and make it easier for people to access sustainable forms of transport, both of which reduce carbon emissions.

A great example of the latter is the authority’s biggest project to date to enhance cycling and walking infrastructure, along the historic route of the Stockton and Darlington Railway line.

The council is investing £7m from its round one allocation from the government’s Levelling Up fund for the Bishop Auckland constituency, towards developing a new walking and cycling route along 19km of the old line, as part of celebrations of the bicentenary of the line opening in 1825.

The route will link to rail stations at Shildon, Newton Aycliffe and Heighington and, excitingly, will also connect to Locomotion rail museum, and in years to come the site’s New Hall development which is set to open in advance of the bicentenary. Boasting one of the world’s largest collections of historic railway vehicles, the new attraction is being delivered with funding from Science Museum Group and elsewhere, to provide a focal point for local celebrations of the bicentenary.

You don’t have to look far on a map to find more evidence of the council’s commitment to improving walking and cycling infrastructure. The authority has been successful with a bid to the Transforming Cities fund which is allowing £2.8m of improvements to be delivered in Durham. The work includes new and improved walking and cycling routes around the city, allowing people to access local employment sites by active travel.

Elsewhere, the council has recently announced the completion of £1.5m of improvements to the National Cycle Network Route 1 through the county, in partnership with Sustrans and funded by the Department for Education. The work has similarly involved improving active travel links to employment sites, with the resurfacing of a section of the route close to Jade business Park at Seaham.

The council could also soon be developing new Local Cycling and Walking Infrastructure Plans for eight of its communities, following the success of these at Durham City, Chester-le-Street and Newton Aycliffe. A report to the authority’s Cabinet later this month will recommend that these plans are devised with a view to identify cycling and walking improvements required to facilitate increased active travel for everyday journeys at grass roots level.

There truly has never been a time to get out walking or as Queen sang: get on your bikes and ride!