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Thursday, 31 July 2014

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Boot-iful festival

WHEN Ulverston Walking Festival started out life 13 years ago, it was little more than a group of friends – and friends of friends – enjoying a handful of organised walks together.

Today it is a 10-day programme of nearly 40 events, that has had national recognition and attracts people from around the country.

In the past it has been lauded in national newspapers for the beauty of the location and variety of walks on offer and this year’s programme, which runs from next Friday April 27 until Sunday May 6, sees the festival branch out in different directions.

Overseeing the whole thing for the final time, having been the driving force behind its inception and the running of the event ever since, will be festival organiser Jean Povey.

When she passes on the torch to her co-organiser Linda Marshall at the end of the event, she knows it will be in good hands.

Jean says: “The festival has always been a really nice thing to do, and as walking festivals go it has a bit of a unique feel.

“By and large it is more for local people with a common interest in walking and local history, though we always welcome people from outside the area and down South.

“When we started up I was hoping it would take off but you never can tell. There has never been a shortage of volunteers and people willing to lead the walks.

“Although I am passing on the organisation to Linda, I will definitely keep going on the walks because there is a great sense of community and you meet lots of interesting people.

“I know that Linda will do a great job, because she is very capable and enthusiastic and she has already had some great ideas for next year’s event.”

As ever, this year’s festival features a host of educational walks around Ulverston and the local area, ranging from short strolls to longer treks for more experienced walkers. Old favourites, such as the Bat Walk in Ford Park and a sketching stroll with Dudley Clark, return once more, but there are new aspects to the event, which Jean believes will serve it well long after she bows out.

Local author Paddy Dillon will be taking the festival way beyond the confines of Ulverston and Furness with a presentation about his visits to the Arctic Circle, while sound artist Dan Fox and his mother Sue Gill have developed a smartphone app guide to a walk around Baycliff (see panel right).

Jean says: “I’m a really low-tech person – I don’t even use a mobile phone.

“But I think it’s great that Dan and Sue have worked together to make this application, which seems like a whole new take on how to do a walk.

“The beauty of it is that people can do the walk whenever they like, not just as part of the festival – it is bringing it to a new generation, and I think the festival needs that.

“The bat walk is back again, and it’s been a tremendous success in the past.

“This year we also have Paddy Dillon, who has written a lot of walking books, and he’ll be doing a slideshow about walking in the Arctic Circle. It’s difficult to imagine something so different from the Ulverston Walking Festival, but I think it is something that a lot of people will find very interesting.

“I always look forward to the Ulverston Circular, which is an 11-mile walk around the surrounding area.

“For about five years I used to plan it out in my head to see if it was do-able, and I decided just to go for it and it is a fantastic way to see the whole town.

“It has always been my personal highlight of the festival.”

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