Walking festival grows attracts visitors from all over the world
SPRING is the time to stride out and explore the countryside with fellow walkers. The North Devon and Exmoor Walking Festival gives you the chance to do just that.
With 41 guided walks taking place from Saturday, April 27, through to Bank Holiday Monday, May 6, this year's festival starts in Ilfracombe with a special welcome evening on Friday, April 26.
Bryan Cath from West Country Walks, who organises the festival each year, is excited that the event is growing in popularity and size.
"As a keen walker with a great deal of experience in organising walking tours, I launched the first North Devon and Exmoor Walking Festival in 2000 with approximately 150 people taking part across 24 walks, mainly from the local area. Over the last 12 years the event has grown in participation, attracting visitors from all over the world and will see more than 40 walks this year."
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The festival starts with two days of walks around Ilfracombe, some of which include a visit to Verity, Damien Hirst's arresting new statue in the harbour.
Local guides, the town crier and rangers are also guiding a good choice of local walks in the area before the festival moves along the coast to Lynton and Lynmouth for Monday and Tuesday where walks include a visit to a garden and local produce lunches at pubs.
On Wednesday the festival moves on to the Porlock area for three days with a butterfly walk, a walk over Exmoor's highest point at Dunkery Beacon, walks on the shingle ridge and marsh and through the Holnicote Estate.
The festival finally moves along to Dunster on Saturday, for the bank holiday weekend, with three days of local events which include a breakfast walk, exploring the enchanting Dunster medieval village's hidden secrets, a walk along the beautiful Avill Valley, another to a deserted village and one to Bats Castle overlooking Dunster.
With a reputation as being one of the UK's most scenic festival, it is also one of the friendliest.
"We have achieved the Walkers Are Welcome Towns accreditation in Ilfracombe, Lynton and Lynmouth, Porlock and Dunster," added Bryan. "As the festival moves location there will be a welcome evening the night before the walks begin in that area, giving everyone the chance to meet me, my guides, each other and to ask any questions."
The walks range from one mile in length, around villages, to a full hike of 11 miles with something for all abilities and interests.The festival is open to all ages and every route featured is led by an experienced guide. Details: www. exmoorwalkingfestival.co.uk