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Page last updated at 11:08 GMT, Friday, 11 September 2009 12:08 UK
Step out with a walking festival
Walkers on a mountain
Conwy Walking Week, now a successful annual event

A new walking festival in Snowdonia has attracted interest from as far away as China.

It reflects the growing popularity of organised walks, with similar events already running successfully in Conwy, Anglesey and Barmouth.

"Being with someone who knows their stuff makes for a more interesting day," said Bernard Owen of October's Snowdonia Walking Festival, which has been organised by Betws y Coed Tourism Association.

"People want to get out and exercise," said Siân Williams, organiser of the Conwy Walking Week. "Walking seems to be an easy way of doing so."

The festivals are particularly popular with visitors who don't know the area.

"If I was visiting Snowdonia and didn't know my way around, I'd appreciate turning up at 10am, being told 'you're going on this walk' and all I've got to do is have a great day in the mountains with someone who knows the area," said Bernard Owen.

The Snowdonia event has attracted interest from all over the UK and even three enquiries from China since its website was launched this summer.

We've had people - particularly ladies - contacting us saying they're single and would it be alright to come
Bernard Owen

With bed space for over 500 people in the village, they hope to extend the tourist season and show off Snowdonia in 'the fall', New England-style.

"We don't make enough of autumn in this country," said Bernard. "Before the November winds, we often have nice weather, particularly after a wet summer.

"The area looks very pretty as the colours change and people like to do something active before they hang up their boots for the winter."

Even though the driving force behind many walking festivals is tourism, locals are welcome too.

"A few people who live locally won't want a guide because they know the mountains like the back of their hand," Bernard said.

"But a good 80% don't and they want to be educated on the area by qualified mountain guides."

Younger people

Walking in a group also offers social opportunities. "We've had people - particularly ladies - contacting us saying they're single and would it be alright to come. It's definitely a chance to meet new people and make new friends," said Bernard.

The festivals seem especially popular with middle-aged walkers, but Allison Williams, organiser of the Barmouth Walking Festival which has more than 200 walks in 10 days every September, would love to attract younger people.

"There might be a bit of an image problem, but we do find a lot more younger people are getting interested in the environment, history and nature through programmes like Coast," she said, "so we're thinking of holding an under-40s walk."

Encouraging fitness is important too. "We're trying to get people to think about their health, given the obesity levels in the UK," said Bernard Owen. "We've got our posters up in hospitals to encourage people to get out into the countryside and get fit."

But if you're thinking of taking your dog it's best to check first. The Barmouth organisers allow dogs but the Snowdonia festival won't.




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