Record numbers of walkers learnt about the New Forest during the National Park’s two week festival of expert-led walks this autumn.
Run by the New Forest National Park Authority and partner organisations, the Walking Festival saw more than 1,000 people learn more about the wildlife, history and culture of the National Park.
The festival took place between 17 October and 1 November, attracting locals and visitors eager to experience the health benefits of walking while learning more about the area’s special qualities.
Unlike many other walking festivals, walkers in the New Forest were rewarded with discounted tickets if they left their car behind and arrived by public transport.
The Festival included a diverse range of activities, including a wild play for children, tours round historical sites, bird watching and even alpaca walks.
Stephen Tarling, who attended two walks with his partner during the Festival, said: “We had a wonderful time on a wildlife walk around Sway and a history hike around the site of a World War Two prisoner of war camp. Our walk leaders were impressive ambassadors for the Forest, informing us all and leading the walks at an appropriate level and pace; altogether a difficult balancing act.
“Our two walks were very different, but the stunning similarity was the benefit of the wonderful professional insights into the New Forest from the expert guides.”
Oliver Crosthwaite-Eyre, chairman of the National Park Authority, said: “I’m pleased that the Walking Festival was such a success and that many participants chose to use public transport, helping take cars off the road and protecting the special qualities of the National Park. I hope the walkers enjoyed learning more about the New Forest from their expert guides and that it inspires them to take care of this special place.”
The New Forest Walking Festival is sponsored by Stewarts garden centres, and funded by a Department for Transport grant to promote car-free travel in and around the New Forest National Park.
Partner organisations for this year’s festival included the Forestry Commission, New Forest Association, Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, Hampshire County Council, Ramblers New Forest and Community First New Forest.
Dates for the 2016 New Forest Walking Festival will be announced later this month at www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/walkingfestival