WALKERS taking part in one of the region's biggest fundraising events this weekend have been given advice on how to keep a cool head.

Hot and sunny weather is predicted for the Tesco Great North Walk on Sunday - held in Darlington for the first time this year - prompting organisers to issue tips on how to cope with the heat.

They have advised the thousands of participants to wear damp hats and neck scarves to ensure heat is lost through the head more efficiently.

They are also urged to use sun screen and drink plenty of water.

A total of 14,000 bottles of water have been provided for walkers by sponsors Aqua Pura, which should be more than enough for the expected 3,000 participants.

Organisers are also asking walkers to bring their own water so they can drink in between designated water stops.

Smoking has also been banned on the route because of the dry conditions.

Last night, organiser Max Coleby said preparations were going smoothly.

"Everything's going well. We are expecting all-day sunshine. We have 4,000 bottles of water at the finish and 10,000 along the route," he said.

"There are more bottles of water than there are walkers," he said. "Wear a wet hat and keep it damp and moist."

There will be three water points on the nine-and-a-half mile route - one after two miles, a second at four miles and a third between the sixth and seventh mile.

Portable toilets will be provided at two points during the walk and there is a picnic area at the four-mile mark.

St John's Ambulance and Teesdale and Weardale Search and Rescue will be on hand to give medical assistance, if needed, while 50 marshals will be stationed along the course to give advice and help.

Darlington is the most southerly place in the region the walk has been held since it started in 1988.

The Great North Walk is part of The Northern Echo's Chance To Live campaign, in partnership with Darlington Borough Council, Darlington Primary Care Trust and Northumbrian Water.

The newspaper won the accolade for best event organised by a publisher at this year's Newspaper Society Awards.

The route for the event, which is supported by the British Heart Foundation, takes walkers through the village of Barmpton, to the north of the town, and passes some of Darlington's most picturesque scenery.

It also follows some of the town's most ancient routes, including Salters Lane and Ketton Bridge, used by 19th Century travellers and packhorses.

Mr Coleby said: "It is a lovely walk and shows the proactive nature of the council about getting people active."