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Suffolk Walking Festival boosted local economy by £176,000 say organisers

PUBLISHED: 16:20 02 August 2018 | UPDATED: 16:24 02 August 2018

Participants celebrate the end of this year's Challenge Walk at the Orangie in Holywells Park with Ipswich mayor Jane Riley

Participants celebrate the end of this year's Challenge Walk at the Orangie in Holywells Park with Ipswich mayor Jane Riley

Archant

This year’s Suffolk Walking Festival helped to contribute over £170,000 to the local economy, organisers have said.

Walkers take in the local flora during the Challenge Walk 2012Walkers take in the local flora during the Challenge Walk 2012

The celebration of the county’s outdoors, which took place throughout May and early June, featured 125 walks and events across the whole of Suffolk.

According to David Falk, Suffolk County Council’s Green Access manager, who manages the festival, this year’s programme was “the most successful event in its 11-year history” with over 2,000 people taking part.

Mr Falk added: “Walkers came from as far afield as North Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cornwall and the festival pulled in a whopping £176,000 to the local economy, benefitting shops, restaurants, cafes, and accommodation.

“It’s great news that the festival has grown and grown over the last decade. It now pretty much covers the whole of the county and I can’t think of any other event that is so pan-Suffolk. But it is not only well-established here in Suffolk - it is also now well-known beyond our county.”

The programme of walks and events that make up the festival has certainly developed since its inception when there were 30 walks. This year’s event included all manner of events from a Dawn Chorus Walk at Sizewell to a Twilight Safari in woodland near Barking. There were also a number of fringe events including poetry in woods near Eye and an outdoor photographic workshop in the Brecks. According to Mr Falk, half of the walk programme sold out, while many other walks were near capacity.

At the heart of the walking festival is the Challenge Walk, which this year was a long distance walk over four days following The Sandlings, a landscape between Southwold and Ipswich.

Suffolk Walking Festival's  Challenge WalkSuffolk Walking Festival's Challenge Walk

Mr Falk said he is planning a six-day odyssey for next year.

He said: “The Challenge Walk has built up quite a loyal following - there’s a core of people who do it as an annual mini-break holiday and look forward to meeting up each year. I like to make it an interesting walk - not just a frogmarch - so we include talks and visits to hidden areas. This year we visited Staverton Wood and had a guided tour of Sutton Hoo.”

With planning for the 2019 festival already underway, Mr Falk says there is likely to be more fringe events and family walks next year. New additions will also include a link up with the Orwell Challenge, organised by Rotary Ipswich east, which features a Marathon distance walk and an opportunity to try out forest bathing - a Japanese concept for fully engaging in the woodland environment.

The organisers are also seeking people interested in leading a walk themselves. If you are, you can find contact details on the festival website www.suffolkwalkingfestival.co.uk

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Rescuers in a helicopter battled the high winds and lashing rain of Storm Bronagh as they winched two lost walkers to safety from a pitch-black marsh.

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