Walking festival hailed a success

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The organisers of the 14th Newton Stewart Walking festival have hailed last week’s event a great success.

The week-long festival included a programme of 28 walks which explored all corners of Galloway. All aspects of the varied Galloway landscape featured in the programme, including the area’s remotest and highest hills, the dramatic coast of the Solway and the rolling countryside of the Machars and Stewartry.

Routes included Luce Bay and Glenapp in the west to the Solway Riviera around Kippford in the east, and from the tip of the Machars peninsula in the south to the wild expanses of the Rhins of Kells and the Merrick range in the north.

Joan Mitchell, chair of the group of volunteers who organise the event said: “This year’s festival featured around 350 walkers over the week. We welcomed back many long standing friends as well as new visitors, including several from Newton Stewart’s twin town of Marcoussis. We’ve been blessed with some of the best weather the festival has enjoyed for years. I hope we’ve now got a group of really happy walkers who will tell their friends how great Galloway is.”

The event also made for long days for the volunteers who organise it, with several walks starting early in the morning, while others ran late into the evening. It featured, for the first time, a night time walk, which explored Galloway’s Dark Skies Park accompanied by Mike Alexander from Galloway Astronomy Centre.

Joan Mitchell highlighted the important role of the festival to the local economy: “There’s no doubt that Newton Stewart has had a tough few months. We wanted WalkFest to help the town bounce back from the dreadful flooding of the new year. We’re proud that around three quarters of the cost of organising the festival was spent with local Galloway firms. We hope we’ve managed to make our own small contribution towards helping the town get back on its feet.”

“Of course the event could not have run without a huge amount of volunteer time, not least from the WalkFest committee. We’re also very grateful for the help we receive each year from members of Galloway Mountain Rescue Team and Wigtownshire Ramblers as well as the staff at WRDC, the Belted Galloway, Cunninghams and our drivers.”

“Staff from Cree Valley Community Woodlands Trust, the RSPB, the Council’s Countryside Service and other experts have also willingly helped us this year.”

“We could not run the event in it’s current format without financial support and we thank those who backed the festival financially this year, including Dumfries and Galloway Council, SE Balmurrie Fell through the Old Luce Community Trust, S R Cunningham Outdoor Stores and The Belted Galloway Visitor Centre as well as others who have made private donations. Their generous support allows us to not only run the festival itself but also to publicise Newton Stewart as a base to walk year round.”

“The warm welcome that walkers to our area receive encourages them to return again and again. This year’s festival included more routes than ever which finished at a pub or café, and we were delighted to receive a welcome at each venue.

“We’ll soon start to plan next year’s festival, which will run from Friday 5th to Thursday 11th May 2017 so we welcome your comments and ideas. You can keep up to date by signing up to our occasional electronic newsletter via our website www.newtonstewartwalkfest.com.”