'One of the greatest we've had': COP26 Spanish walkers overwhelmed by public reception at Wakefield Cathedral

A group of Spanish activists marching to a key climate change summit say they've been overwhelmed by the reception they got in Wakefield on Friday.

Friday, 15th October 2021, 3:40 pm

The 12-strong group are heading north to the COP26 conference in Glasgow next month, having started walking from their homeland a fortnight ago.

The walkers were greeted by a climate action rally outside Wakefield Cathedral as they arrived in the city centre at lunchtime. They'd earlier stopped off at the city's Hepworth Gallery.

Organised by the group Just Transition Wakefield, a crowd of around 100 people gathered to hear speeches from the walkers, schoolchildren and union officials.

Dozens gathered to listen to the walkers and various other speakers on the impact of climate change.

Activists are demanding world leaders take swift and meaningful action to avert the climate crisis facing the planet.

Addressing the crowd on the Cathedral steps, one of the walkers, British expat Becky Stoakes, said: "We've had plenty of challenges over our journey.

"Our support vehicle has broken down four times. We've had very long days of up to 21 miles with no rest days.

"But what's really made the march worth it has been the welcome we've had. We've had local groups supporting us and people coming out of their houses to greet us.

The 12-strong group are on their way to the COP26 conference in Glasgow, having left Spain a fortnight ago.

"We've really seen how many people care about this issue and our planet.

"That's been inspiring and gives us a lot of hope for our march."

The walkers later headed to a reception at Wakefield College, where they were fed and watered before making their onward trip to Leeds.

Asked for his thoughts on the reaction of the Wakefield public to the march, walker Carlos Buj said: "It's been one of the greatest we've had so far.

Campaigners are demanding urgent action from world leaders.

"It's very surprising.

"There've been many challenges. The distance to walk, 20 miles a day, is very long. We're very tired. It's been difficult.

"But it's amazing to see this reaction. Little things like this make us feel very good."

Fellow walker Nicky Brooks, who moved to Spain from Greater Manchester said: "The turnout here is marvellous. The people who walked on the road up with us, the response to leafleting, it's all been great.

"I think it's been the biggest turnout we've had, it's been brilliant."

Just Transition Wakefield was set up in 2019 as a coalition between the local Trades Council and Friends of the Earth groups.

Group spokesman Stuart Boothman, who co-ordinated the rally said he believed the message on climate change was "getting through" to the public.

He said: "Things have changed. Years ago when we're doing engagement events as Friends of the Earth we'd have some great converstations, but a lot of people walked on by.

"That doesn't happen anymore. Everyone wants to talk.

"The reaction when we speak is better, the crowds are growing."

Pupils from Lawefield Primary School were also among those present at the rally. They held up a banner alongside the walkers which read, 'The sea is rising and so are we'.

Amber, a 10 year-old student at Stanley Grove Primary School, also addressed the crowd, and was loudly applauded as she urged world leaders to ensure "my generation can enjoy this wonderful planet".

Local Democracy Reporting Service