In Walks

Winchcombe Welcomes Walkers

Another year, another walking festival

So bookings are open – again! Can it really be 11 years since we held our first Winchcombe “Cotswolds’ Walking Festival?

When our Walkers are Welcome steering group came up with the idea of holding a walking festival, we had no idea what we were letting ourselves in for. Not only had none of us ever been involved in organising a walking festival, none of us had even been to one! But how hard could it be? Advice from other Walkers are Welcome towns was to start small, maybe just one or two days, so we went for three.

Putting together a programme of walks was relatively easy, we are spoilt for choice in this area. Recruiting walk leaders and back markers wasn’t too hard either, thanks to a small army of Cotswold Voluntary Wardens living in and around the town.

That first year was a baptism of fire, there was so much to think about – funding, publicity, venue, helpers, insurance, safety, transport, refreshments ….. the list went on. We had to make decisions that would affect the future running of such an event. Should people just turn up or should we take bookings? Should we charge for walks or offer them free of charge? Should we have a central registration point or just advertise meeting points in various car parks?

We agreed that we wanted to create a ‘festival’ feeling, so a central meeting point was essential. We wanted bunting and displays, we wanted to offer tea, coffee and biscuits and give walkers a chance to socialise before and after walks.

This all costs money and we didn’t want to have to fundraise every year before putting on the next festival, so charging for walks was the answer. The booking process went ‘live’ and we held our breath. Would anyone want to come? Gradually word got round and local bookings started to trickle in, then a few from a bit further afield, then one from Devon and another from Leicester. Wow!

We obviously had beginners luck because our first walking festival in 2010 was a resounding success. We were blessed with beautiful weather, the countryside was ablaze with wild flowers and local people offered help and made visitors very welcome.

Since then very little has changed, we believe ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, we’ve just tweaked a few things and added the Winchcombe Way 21 mile challenge. Eleven years on it’s still a three-day event, despite customer’s pleas to make it longer or to hold another in the autumn. More - you’ve got to be joking, planning the May festival starts in October!

Amazingly, after 11 years we are still coming up with new ideas for walks. Every year we welcome back people from far and wide, many of whom have become friends.

If you’ve never tried a walking festival before, why not give it a try. Each event is far more than just a walk. Our guides impart their local knowledge, some walks visit places that are normally ‘off bounds’, others have a theme such as wildlife or history. The best advice I can give is ‘Book Early’ because numbers are limited and walks do sell out.  

www.winchcombewelcomeswalkers.com

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