A new, free walking festival in Hampshire promises a chance to explore Downs, Weald and Heath this summer with a host of walks from a sunrise stroll to sunset shots.
This August sees the inaugural Petersfield Walking Festival stage 47 walks over eight days led by volunteer leaders, featuring everything from a family-fun Heathland Superhero Safari to a wellness walk with the Happea Vegan Man and a Walk with Wheels, an inclusive route for disabled and able-bodied walkers alike.
Plus, this new festival will also provide the chance to take an amble along the Serpents Trail to the Sky Park Deer Farm to meet a ranger and feed the deer; follow in the footsteps of local resident and poet, Edward Thomas, and even have a go at bat detecting.
Nestled at the foot of the South Downs – where dramatic chalk scarp meets patchwork weald, heavily wooded sandstone ridges and colourful open heath – Petersfield is a striking location for the new festival, being staged between 20 and 27 August.
Regarded as having among the best road and rail connections within the South Downs National Park, Petersfield is the central point for the week of walks, all designed to appeal to as many walkers as possible from habitual hikers and weekend wanderers to amateur adventurers.
Among the wide variety of trails are circuits around pubs and areas of historical interest; rambles showcasing the natural environment; long-distance linear routes for the more athletic; as well as family-friendly strolls and even romps for four-legged friends, each revealing different aspects of the Downs and Weald area.
Along with featuring some of the most picturesque views of the South Downs, there is also the chance to learn more about The Weald, once a vast forest that sits between the North and South Downs, on The Weald Revealed (27 August), billed as a ‘voyage of discovery’ of the western edge of this rolling countryside.
For early risers, Monday 22 August will see both walkers and runners set off separately at 5.15am to tackle the Shoulder of Mutton hill to hopefully both reach the Poet’s Stone in time to watch the sun rise over the South Downs.
Or for those who prefer sundown, Just Great Sunset Shots (21 August) will be a circular early evening walk from Old Winchester Hill down to the Meon Valley and back up again to watch the sunset from the hilltop. Famed for its Iron Age fort and Bronze Age barrows, Old Winchester Hill provides a striking vantage point to watch the sun go down on a summer’s evening.
For full details of the festival programme, as well as links to sources of self-guided walks in the area, visit www.petersfieldwalkingfestival.co.uk
For tourist information about Hampshire see www.visit-hampshire.co.uk