Have you got a great walk burning a hole in your knapsack? One you’d like to share with others? Or would you like to discover new routes to explore, or groups to explore them with?
This month the Eastbourne and Lewes Walking Festival, organised by the shared councils, is back for a third year – and it’s grown a lot since last time. “There are 75 walks listed this year, up from 47 in 2018,” Jack Brownell, who’s responsible for organising the 10-day festival, tells me.
“The idea originally was, of course, a push for health and well being. One very good, enveloping way to improve things is by encouraging people out and walking – including doing so in our beautiful natural surroundings, and in groups.”
So that’s the inspiration behind the whole concept. “We want to get people outdoors, exercising, and we want them to meet people”, Jack tells me. “The walks vary between about ½ hour and 6 hours long. They’re all graded on the website: easy, moderate or strenuous. The vast majority are moderate – between two and five miles long. And they all take place within this ten-day timeframe.”
They’re also mostly free, and led by volunteers, some of whom belong to existing walking groups – like the ‘Nordic Walking for Health’ group, whose practice is described as ‘a bit like cross-country skiing without the skis’, and is apparently fine for anyone ‘who can walk swinging their arms’.
Such groups are trialling their wares in the festival and offering sample walks. You might then choose to sign up for the rest of the year.
A number of the events in the Festival Walks Calendar also provide opportunities to learn. Highlights include a Colour in Nature walk led by Jacky Misson, where walkers learn about painting landscape as they go. Or a Cuckmere Haven walk where you’ll learn landscape photography in that most glorious setting, from Jane De Weck.
Or what about the enticingly-titled Historic Postbox Walk in Eastbourne? Stepping into the Past takes a map of the seaside resort from 1631 as its starting point. Or there’s Walking Football or Netball – if you’d rather go for something a bit more active.
“The Tingle’s Way Walk, from the Linklater Pavilion in Lewes up to Landport Bottom, is definitely worth a mention”, Jack tells me – and it’s bang on our issue theme of ‘Footprint’. i.e. you’ll be out walking, and gain a mini education while you’re at it into the brilliance and fragility of our eco system – including looking, for instance, at ‘the beautiful endangered Adonis blue butterfly’.
The dedicated festival website also provides a host of information on groups you might wish to discover, and potentially join, and a load of walks you can do on your own – under the banner ‘self-guided walks’. Or you might be interested in becoming a ‘walk leader’: it’s too late to sign up for this year now, but the organisers will be looking at next year’s proposals in March 2020. Get in touch through the website.
20th-29th September, eastbourneandleweswalkfest.org