The New Forest Walking Festival has made great strides in its fourth year, with 1,900 walkers learning about the New Forest during the two week event.
Led by the New Forest National Park Authority and supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Walking Festival saw a 70 per cent increase in walkers compared to last year. Attendees joined expert guides to go behind the scenes and find out more about the wildlife, history and culture of the National Park.
The festival took place between 15 and 30 October, with crisp and bright autumnal weather encouraging locals and visitors out for a healthy stroll.
Many of the 80 walks rewarded walkers with discounted tickets if they left their car behind and arrived by public transport.
The Festival allowed people to find out something new about the Forest in the company of archaeologists, wildlife experts and rangers. Walks covered a diverse range of activities, including wild play events for children, tours round historical sites, bird watching and even alpaca walks.
Rebecca Burns from Ringwood, who attended a World War Two themed walk round Beaulieu with three generations of her family, said: ‘As we are local to the New Forest it was great for all of us to discover the history of where we live. The Festival is a great idea, especially during the school holidays.
‘We had an informative and thoroughly enjoyable tour of Beaulieu and it was perfectly pitched for all ages. Our three and six year old kids could easily understand and felt involved enough to ask lots of questions. They left feeling inspired and were excited enough by the history to ask to visit the other historic sites in the New Forest.’
Oliver Crosthwaite-Eyre, chairman of the New Forest National Park Authority, said: ‘It is heartening to see a record number of people attend this year’s Walking Festival to experience the special qualities of the New Forest. I hope each and every one of them was inspired to take care of this special place whenever they visit. The Festival is becoming an established event in the Forest calendar and I look forward to seeing it go from strength to strength in the years ahead.’
The New Forest Walking Festival is funded by the £4.4m 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.
The New Forest Walking Festival will return from 14 to 29 October 2017, with walks announced in July 2017 at www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/walkingfestival