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All About...Malvern Walking Festival

28 May - 5 June 2016

With more than forty walks ranging from a stroll to a 60 mile hike, there’s something for everyone at the Malvern Walking Festival. Derek Starkey has been involved since it started and tells us more.

How do you decide on a programme of walks?

The planning begins in September when we all put our ideas together to produce the programme with the intention of printing the brochure, updating the website and beginning the publicity by the end of the year. We look for local interest and over the years we have developed the festival according to the ability and needs of the people who come along. Some people wanted something more ambitious which is where our 60 mile walks come from. We even had people who wanted 20 miles or more in a day, so we introduced an end to end walk of the hills and back again. We’ve done 35 miles along the Worcestershire Way in a day, which is well supported. Some people just want to walk two miles and hear the dawn chorus, or a walk around the town learning about its history, so we make sure we always meet the demand for themed walks.

Together with the district council we also do the Malvern Munch, part of the Food Festival, where we take people on a six mile walk with stops to sample local food and drink.

How did the Walking Festival start?

We began in 2002 and originally everything took place over one weekend. We had no more than ten walks, starting and ending in Malvern, whereas now we have in excess of forty walks over nine days. For the first two or three years things were patchy but Robin Elt was instrumental in getting things going, and arranging our first brochures. Ray Roberts created a website for us and took on a co-ordinator role, making a big difference.Although the festival is now larger, we have stuck with the original intention which is to attract tourists to the area. Today, I believe we stand up against any of this country’s best walking festivals.

Who comes along?

We have quite a few local people from the immediate area as well as people from Gloucester and in the future we’d like to push towards Birmingham. In the past we had a lady form America as well as people coming from Wales. Some return year after year and stay in the town which is what we want. We want to attract tourists who might stay for two or three days and spend money locally. There’s a feeling in the local tourist industry that visitors might pull up in a car park, walk a few hundred yards on the hills before returning to their vehicle and driving home. Our aim is to take people on the hills and show them paths and places they might never otherwise discover.

What’s the future of the festival?

We’ve only got a future if new people can help with the organising. I am now 75 and several other members of the organising committee are of a similar age and we need some successors! We also welcome new walk leaders, our pool of dedicated volunteers have been with us for some time but we’re always looking for new ones, so if you’re interested then please get in touch.

Malvern Walking Festival runs from 28th May until 5th June 2016. You can book walk places online or at Malvern Tourist Information Office on Church Street, (01684) 892289. For further information visit www.malvernwalking.uk