QUAKERS will make their voices heard as they march almost 50 miles through Cumbria to protest against government cuts.

After months of careful planning, dozens of walkers will embark on a four day walk from Sedburgh to Barrow.

The walk is intended to highlight the plight of the welfare state, the devastating cuts which have been made to social care, and the ever-present funding crisis in the NHS.

Quakers and non-Quakers from across the South Lakes are expected to meet this morning ready to begin what has been described as a pilgrimage. Some will have travelled more than 300 miles to be a part of the event.

Jane McQuillin, clerk to the Swarthmoor local meeting in Ulverston, will be taking part in the walk as it moves into the Furness peninsula.

She said: "It's a heck of a walk, 10 to 12 miles a day. We are excited about taking part, it's not the first time I've taken part in a pilgrimage."

The walk will start at Briggflatts Meeting House near Sedbergh with 15 minutes' worship at 9am. The first step of the walk will be to Kendal Meeting House, then to Rookhow in the Rusland Valley, to Swarthmoor and finally finishing in Barrow at the town hall on Thursday April 13.

A spokesman for the walk said: "We are walking to give witness to our support for our welfare system, to assert, contrary to the present popular narrative, that we can afford to care. If we don’t, injustice results”.

“The welfare state grew out of a vision 75 years ago to reduce poverty, disease and lack of education and provide care for each of us when ill or unemployed or old. Despite the debts after the Second World War we chose to afford it. We believe we can choose to afford it now and we must."

Lib Dem leader Tim Farron and Labour Party representatives will meet the walkers at Kendal in support during the first stage of their walk.

Along the route, members of meeting houses will be on hand to offer support, as well as a roof over the head of any walker who needs it.

On Thursday the walkers will end their pilgrimage with a public meeting outside the town hall in Barrow.

The spokesman added: "Why Barrow? Once there was a tax office here, as in many towns. Taxation is the basis of our mutual support system, it is a social contract; we pay in return for the government’s provision of care whenever needed.

"We believe economic austerity is not necessary and is penalising the poorest in society. If there is a will for change, a way can be found."