The 2016 Suffolk Walking Festival kicks off on Saturday, 14th May and continues for three weeks until Sunday, 5th June.
The varied programme of 77 themed walks across the county range in length from a gentle stroll of one mile, to a challenging 60 miles in 24 hours and will take place along Suffolk's glorious coast, through scenic, gently undulating countryside and around our medieval towns and villages.
The annual walking festival is a partnership project supported by all of Suffolk's local authorities and is spearheaded by the Discover Suffolk project at Suffolk County Council. This year's festival launch, which is sponsored by Suffolk Coastal District Council, takes place at RSPB Minsmere on the Suffolk coast. The event will also mark the launch of Suffolk's Year of Walking, which starts in May 2016 and ends in May 2017.
“The Year of Walking will be celebrating two of my very favourite things: walking and Suffolk” says Lesley Dolphin from BBC Radio Suffolk and patron of the festival. “The aim is to inspire people to build more walking into their everyday lives and to discover what fun it is!”
“We are delighted that this year’s walking festival marks the beginning of Suffolk’s Year of Walking” adds Cllr Goldson, cabinet member for health at Suffolk County Council. “The purpose of the initiative is to celebrate walking in the county, promote walking events and encourage new walking opportunities. The festival does a wonderful job of demonstrating how easy and inclusive walking is, and what a fantastic county Suffolk is to walk in. It is making a very positive contribution to our ambition of becoming the most active county in England.”
There are three lots of challenge walks planned, which have been sponsored by the Suffolk Coast & Heaths Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). The Mega Challenge, for the ultra fit, is a walk which will be undertaken over a 24 hour period, covering 60 miles from Lowestoft to Felixstowe. The Classic Challenge, a firm favourite among regular festival goers, is made up of five walks of between 11 and 14 miles each. As with The Mega Challenge, the route goes from Lowestoft to Felixstowe, but will be at a rather more sedate pace and spread over five days. The Mini Challenge consists of three walks of around nine miles each: Oulton Broad to Beccles, the 'Trimley Loop' and a walk ending with refreshments at the National Trust's Sutton Hoo, near Woodbridge.
Other walks include two stress-relieving mindfulness walks; a 'prambling' walk for parents with prams; photography, birdwatching and Pilates walks; a gentle stroll for sufferers of dementia and their carers, a walk which includes views of early marsh orchids, a speed-dating ramble and the ever-popular 'Horrible History For Families' in Ipswich.
Some include a cream tea or other refreshments and all are an informal and sociable way to explore the county, meet like-minded people and to indulge in a leisure activity which benefits both body and soul.
To view the full walks programme and book tickets, visit the festival website www.suffolkwalkingfestival.co.uk Brochures will be available from Suffolk tourist information centres.