'It changes the way people experience the county' - tickets for the Suffolk Walking Festival go on sale
PUBLISHED: 07:00 02 March 2019 | UPDATED: 14:40 02 March 2019
Over 120 walks being held throughout the month-long May event uncovering Suffolk's hidden treasures and touching every corner of the county.
Tickets for this year’s Suffolk Walking Festival went on sale this week offering a huge variety of treks.
A quick flick through the festival programme shows a rich selection of walks and events featuring dawn choruses and hidden orchids, the landscapes of Arthur Ransome and John Constable, and revealing the history of the Anglo-Saxons and naval heritage.
Some of the highlights include a walk with Orford Ness sheepdog, Kite, and her shepherd owner who will be on hand to explain how sheep help manage the reserve for wildlife; a night safari in an ancient woodland just after sundown to experience the wood’s nocturnal life; a six-mile walk to Eye Airfield to reveal its war time history with a ride back in vintage military vehicles; and a discovery walk learning about the history of Ipswich’s Waterfront, followed by a Thames Barge cruise down the River Orwell.
This year also sees the second Fringe Festival - a series of events where walking takes a back seat to allow people to immerse themselves in the heart of the Suffolk landscape and experience the countryside in new ways.
“The idea is that not everyone wants to go on a walk but they might want to get into the countryside and experience it,” said David, who is Suffolk County Council’s green access manager.
“There will be a little walking involved but the focus is on another activity - it could be poetry, writing, photography or art.”
Events planned for this year include a photography workshop around Pakenham Mill, time spent with artist Kasia Posen at the former home of composer Benjamin Britten in Aldeburgh, and mindfulness experiences near Snape.
With such an eclectic and exciting programme, it’s little wonder the venture has become a major draw, providing a fillip for the county’s tourism sector.
Research after last year’s festival showed that the 2,000 people who took part contributed an impressive £176,000 to the local economy, benefitting shops, restaurants, cafes, and accommodation. A good return for an event that costs somewhere in the region of £10,000 to organise.
It’s all good, wholesome fun and just the kind of low impact tourism that should be encouraged. Mr Falk says one mathematically-orientated member of his team has calculated walkers taking part in the 2018 event left 24 million footprints across the county - but little else in terms of impact on the countryside.
“It’s a month – long event but we don’t build anything or take anything away - there’s no disturbance” he continued.
“It also raises awareness of why Suffolk is so special in terms of its natural environment, its wildlife - as well as the built heritage. “Doing our walks, like listening out for nightjars or taking a night safari - will change the way people experience the county and hopefully help them enjoy their walks the next time they go out.”
While walkers came from as far afield as North Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cornwall to enjoy last year’s festival, the vast majority of the those who take part - over 80% - are from Suffolk.
“I’m quite chuffed we are reaching so many people in the county because it’s about getting our residents out and about,” said Mr Falk.
“There’s people from Bury who will go to the coast, people from the coast who will go to the Brecks - they are getting out and experiencing their county.
“We are lucky: we have two AONBS in the county, we also have a bit of the Broads National Park and then we have a special designated landscape in the Brecks.”
He added: “A lot of the land is also very accessible, such as Thetford Forest, the King’s Forest, and Rendlesham and Tunstall Forests - all these are expanses of land that you can just go and lose yourself in. And attached to these are large areas of heathland - the Brecks and Cavenham Heath in the west and Westleton Heath and Dunwich Heath on the coast - these are all amazing landscapes but very easy to get into.”
The 2019 Suffolk Walking Festival and Fringe takes place from May 11 to June 2nd. All walks are ticketed, and all tickets must be purchased in advance. Brochures are available in various outlets including tourist information centres and Cotswold Outdoors.
To find out more and buy tickets visit www.suffolkwalkingfestival.co.uk