Walk with an alpaca, discover weird and wonderful fungi and delve into quirky local history in this autumn’s New Forest Walking Festival.

The festival’s expert-led walks take you behind the scenes in the National Park to learn unusual facts and stories about the area.

With a new batch of walks just released there are now more than 75 walks in the festival. Led by knowledgeable locals, the walks reveal more about the history, heritage and wildlife of the Forest from 15 to 30 October.

Established by the New Forest National Park Authority with support from Forest organisations and businesses, the festival has proved popular with residents and visitors since it began in 2013.

More than 1,000 people attended last year’s event to gain behind the scenes knowledge of the Forest.

Bookings for the annual event have been strong this year, with walks covering the history and culture of the area proving particularly popular.

The National Park is a wonderful place to walk during the autumn, with flat, accessible routes that allow walkers of all ages and abilities to enjoy the Forest’s fiery foliage.

Prices vary, but many walks are discounted for those who travel by public transport, by bike or on foot.

Walks cover topics including:
• The ancient tradition of commoning
• Wild play for children
• Smuggling tales with a packhorse
• Top tips for dog training
• Fascinating fungi facts

New Forest National Park Authority Head of Recreation Management and Learning, Nigel Matthews, said: ‘These new guided walks widen the range of topics we are offering as part of our yearly festival of walking, meaning there really is something for everyone.

‘With walks of all distances and the insight of passionate local experts, the Walking Festival is the perfect excuse to get outside for a walk in the Forest this autumn.

We hope participants will learn more about the National Park and that this will inspire them to care for this special place.’

The New Forest Walking Festival is funded by the £4.4m Our Past, Our Future Landscape Partnership Scheme backed by the Heritage Lottery Fund to make the Forest fit for the future.

It is also supported by a Department for Transport grant to encourage car-free travel in and around the New Forest National Park.

The festival is run in partnership with many local organisations including the Forestry Commission, New Forest District Council, New Forest Association, New Forest Ramblers and Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust.

For full details, including booking, visit www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/walkingfestival

Image: New Forest National Park Authority Ranger Craig Daters talks to a group in Ashurst Woods during the 2015 New Forest Walking Festival.