Walking festival

Early bird bookings are now being taken for the first 60 walks in the 2016 New Forest Walking Festival.

The expert-led walks will reveal the history, heritage and wildlife of the Forest during the festival from 15 to 30 October, which includes half term week.

Established by the New Forest National Park Authority with support from Forest organisations and businesses, the festival has proved popular with residents and visitors since it began in 2013. More than 1,000 people attended last year’s event to gain behind the scenes knowledge of the Forest.

The National Park is a wonderful place to walk during the autumn, with flat, accessible routes that allow walkers of all ages and abilities to enjoy the Forest’s fiery foliage. Prices vary, but many walks are discounted for those who travel by public transport, by bike or on foot.

Walks cover topics including:
• Free-roaming pigs, ponies and the traditional rights of commoning
• Wild play activities for children
• World War II secrets from a prisoner of war camp
• Guided alpaca walks
• Beginner’s tips for bird watching.

New Forest National Park Authority Chief Executive Alison Barnes said: ‘The New Forest Walking Festival is into its fourth year and its range of interesting walks have proven very popular, with over 1,000 people attending last year.

‘Many people are drawn to the festival by the prospect of bracing autumn walks through beautiful countryside. But what really attracts people to the festival are the local experts, offering behind the scenes stories of the area’s unique landscape.

‘The festival is a great example of what can be achieved by working in partnership, as walks are led by several local organisations. Many of these walks start from train stations or bus stops and offer car-free discounts, encouraging people to travel sustainably in the National Park.’

The New Forest Walking Festival is funded by the £4.3m Our Past, Our Future Landscape Partnership Scheme backed by the Heritage Lottery Fund to make the Forest fit for the future. It is also supported by a Department for Transport grant to encourage car-free travel in and around the New Forest National Park.

The festival is run in partnership with many local organisations including the Forestry Commission, New Forest District Council, New Forest Association, New Forest Ramblers and Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust.

For full details, including booking, visit www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/walkingfestival