People flock to walking festival

IAIN SCOTT
Last updated 12:00 26/02/2014

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The first Manawatu Walking Festival, which begins this week, has attracted so much interest its organiser has confirmed that it is here to stay.

Destination Manawatu chief executive Lance Bickford was pleased with the booking numbers yesterday.

"We're well north of 100, I don't know exactly, and filling really fast now," he said. "I'm picking [that] all up we should have between 150 and 180, which will be fabulous for the first year."

He said walking festivals were becoming popular around the country, but the organising committee wanted to do things differently.

"Our points of difference are really two things. One is that every walk will be guided, so only up to 10 people in a group, relatively small groups.

"And we're getting people to decide which guide they'd like to go with. If somebody's into photography, for example, they can go with a guide who is a photographer to help interpret things better, or somebody who's more interested in social or geographic history."

The second point of difference was a fireside gathering on Friday evening. That would include music, storytelling and people sharing their experiences of the day.

"We're also going to have a big screen up there on the side where people are going to be able to put in a data stick and upload their photos from the day."

Each of the three days of the festival would have a different focus.

On Friday, the focus would be on the beaches and waterways to the west. "The Saturday focus is more in and around the gorge, and the Sunday focus is more up the Pohangina Valley and east of Apiti up into the ranges," Mr Bickford said.

The festival includes walks for all ages and fitness levels.

Among the 12 are the nine-hour Rangiwahia Track, a four- to five-hour vineyard walk, the 6 hour Manawatu Gorge walk, and a two-hour Esplanade walk.

There are also short city walks in the evening, as well as a twilight beach walk from Foxton Beach to Himatangi Beach.

"When you start these things there's always the hope that if it was successful and people wanted it we'd make it annual," Mr Bickford said.

"The answer is absolutely it will be annual because it's worked already. We know because we've got the numbers."

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- Manawatu Standard

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