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Step into the present and rediscover the past with the North Devon and Exmoor Walking Festival

If you love walking and beautiful countryside then The North Devon and Exmoor Walking Festival, taking place from Saturday 2 May to Saturday 9 May 2015 offers 28 reasons why you should grab your walking boots and head for this spectacular corner of West Somerset and North Devon this spring. www.exmoorwalkingfestival.co.uk

Now in its 15th year, the Festival has a great choice of 28 guided walks to choose from, arranged into helpful categories depending upon level of ability, whether you want to spend a half day or a full day walking or would like to choose walks which welcome our four legged friends. This year the Festival has an excellent mix of walks, keeping many of the popular walks and including some which will revive memories for fans of the earlier walking festivals. For the first time there will be a free day on Thursday when walkers will have the opportunity to undertake their own self-guided walk, or perhaps will take the chance to visit some of Exmoor’s other attractions ranging from National Trust houses like Arlington Court or Knightshayes Court to the steam powered West Somerset Railway or the Exmoor Owl and Hawk Sanctuary. For more ideas check: www.visit-exmoor.co.uk

A unique Island experience starting with a marvellous boat trip kicks off the Festival on 2 May with a visit to Lundy Island, a granite outcrop which lies off the coast of North Devon and marks the point where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Bristol Channel with nothing between it and America. Three miles long and half a mile wide, Lundy is famed for its plant and animal wildlife and is peaceful and unspoiled. Walkers will be taken on a fascinating tour around the Island with a chance to go to the top of the Old Light where there are amazing views around the whole island and beyond. The walk continues with the opportunity for refreshments at the social hub of the Island – the Marisco Tavern - before returning to Ilfracombe. Lundy Island has offered festival-goers a discounted ticket which they can get by quoting code “DAYADTWF” when booking with Ilfracombe TIC.

On the same day, 2 May, for those who like to keep their feet on the land, there is a walk entitled “Old Tracks for Coach and Train”. This walk takes participants up the old railway from Ilfracombe to Mortehoe, passing the Slade Reservoirs. There is a very knowledgeable guide who is keen to share his passion for the history of the railway. The walk then goes to the coast at Lee village to follow the old coaching road across the Torrs back to Ilfracombe.

For those who can’t get enough of old railways, on 8 May there is a linear walk using the famous West Somerset steam train to take walkers out to the start. And on the same day there is an interesting walk discovering the West Somerset Mineral Line and its unique way of getting ore down to the harbour. The Old Mineral Line is an amazing legacy of Victorian engineering which carried iron ore via a 1:4 incline down to Watchet harbour and reminds people of Exmoor’s fascinating industrial heritage.

Walkers who prefer their Exmoor peppered with more countrified images, can join an Exmoor National Park Ranger on 4 May to have a leisurely walk over Molland Moor searching for the native red deer and Exmoor ponies. As well as the traditional images of Exmoor, the sounds are also iconic. On 9 May the Exmoor Society has made its bird song walk available for the Festival walkers. Listen out for the Dartford Warbler, Skylark, Whitethroat, Stonechat, along with more common birds such as Wren, Robin and gulls.

Available on 4 May, another walk guided by a National Park Ranger gives an insight into how the difficulties experienced by one family have left a legacy that gives the Moor the character we see today. In the 19th Century, the Knight family tried to turn a large piece of barren moor into a farming estate. Starting from Simonsbath the walk will go to some remote and hard to reach places to show how they tried, and ultimately failed, through farming and mining to make their investment pay off.

After all that walking you may feel inclined to settle down and read a good book. On the final day, 9 May, the two activities could be combined as Dulverton bookshop Number Seven invites Festival goers to join its Walking Book Club – walkers are to read H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald (available at a special price from Number Seven). The aim of the walk is to obviously enjoy the scenery and of course to discuss the chosen title along the way.

For more details about the North Devon and Exmoor Walking Festival, and how to book visit: www.exmoorwalkingfestival.co.uk or contact Bryan Cath, Walking Festival Coordinator, Tel 01271 883131; Twitter: @bryancath

For more information on Exmoor, attractions and places to stay, visit: www.visit-exmoor.co.uk . For further information about the ETP, contact Dan James, Sustainable Economy Manager at Exmoor National Park Authority; DTJames@exmoor-nationalpark.gov.uk T: / 01398 323 665 or Robert Downes, Tourism Officer, West Somerset Council (rdownes@westsomerset.gov.uk / 01984 635 249).

Find out more about Visit Exmoor

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Release Date: 8th April 2015

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