Step into autumn at the New Forest Walking Festival from this weekend (17 October) with 80 guided wildlife walks, history hikes and family adventures.
Autumn in the National Park is a wonderful place for a stroll, with landscapes filled by fiery foliage and free roaming pigs and ponies.
Held over a fortnight from 17 October to 1 November, including half term, the expert-led walks will reveal the history, heritage and wildlife of the Forest.
Prices vary, but many walks are free or discounted for those who travel by public transport, by bike or on foot. Many walks also finish near some wonderful local pubs and cafes.
Established by the New Forest National Park Authority with support from Forest organisations and businesses, the festival is sponsored by Stewarts, more than just Garden Centres.
Booking is required at www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/walkingfestival as there are limited spaces and some walks are fully booked.
Available walks include discovering:
• Free-roaming pigs, ponies and the traditional rights of commoning
• Ancient woods and the Forest’s largest oak tree
• The Japanese practice of ‘Forest bathing’
• World War II secrets from the real ‘Dad’s Army’
• Guided packhorse and alpaca walks
• Wild play and family adventure walks
Martin Stewart, owner of Stewarts, said: ‘We’re looking forward to this year’s walking festival as autumn can be a wonderful time for a walk in the New Forest. The changing colours of the leaves and bracken are quite a sight; deer can often be seen and heard during the rutting season, whilst pigs are let loose in parts of the Forest to eat fallen acorns. As a local family business, we’re delighted to sponsor the walking festival for another year.’
Oliver Crosthwaite-Eyre, Chairman of the New Forest National Park Authority, said: ‘Many people enjoy a walk in the New Forest, but what’s unique about the Walking Festival is the range of guided walks on offer. They are led by local experts who know the best spots for an autumn amble, as well as revealing surprising stories which have shaped the Forest’s unique landscapes.
‘The walking festival also encourages sustainable travel, reducing carbon emissions by starting many walks from train stations or bus stops and offering car-free discounts. This will help protect the National Park for future generations.’
The New Forest Walking Festival is partly funded by a Department for Transport grant to promote car-free travel in and around the New Forest National Park.
The festival is also supported by many local organisations including New Forest Destination Partnership, Brand New Forest, the Forestry Commission, New Forest District Council, New Forest Association and Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust.
For full details, including booking, visit www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/walkingfestival