Take a walk on the wild side at annual festival

Liz Young (left) GMDT's Heritage officer and Nicola Wallace from the bird of prey centre.

Liz Young (left) GMDT's Heritage officer and Nicola Wallace from the bird of prey centre.

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OWLS, falcons and hawks, churches and castles, history and heritage sites and even exotic animals from the far side of the world.

Walkers could spot them all when they’re out and about in the beautiful countryside and woodlands around Morpeth later this month during the town’s ninth annual walking festival.

Organised once again by Greater Morpeth Development Trust (GMDT), the festival starts on Monday and runs until Sunday, September 30.

This year there are more than a dozen walks to choose from that are graded in length, time and suitability for walkers of all ages, abilities and fitness.

Some of the walks are old festival favourites but there are some exciting newcomers such as one to a bird of prey centre near Longhorsley.

The centre is run by four trustees including Nicola Wallace, who says they currently have more than 100 birds resident with them, some of which have been rescued after being ill-treated or are returning to fitness following injuries.

Festival walkers will be able to get up close to many of the birds as well as watching others taking part in flying demonstrations.

Some of the birds are also taken out to local schools so children can learn more about them, something which Nicola says they are keen to expand by visiting more schools.

The walking festival is a rare chance to visit the centre which is generally open only by appointment.

Or how about taking a walk on the wildside around Elsdon and meeting up with some South American alpacas on the Liberty Hill Farm of David and Paul Rippon.

Last year they gave up their office jobs to run the 220-acre Northumbrian hill farm where they now have a herd of 65 alpacas they are raising for their fleece that can be woven or knitted into a variety of garments.

The couple and their animals are regular visitors to local farmers’ markets but the walking festival will be the first chance for any group to visit their farm and see their exotic animals at close quarters.

Over the seven days of the festival there will be walks around Morpeth town centre; to local beauty spots, historic and heritage sites; and even taster sessions to try out Nordic walking poles which enhance the health benefits of walking by exercising the upper body.

Liz Young, who has been organising the festival for the trust, said: “The series of walks we have organised showcase just how lucky we are to have such beautiful countryside, fascinating history and incredibly interesting sites and places to visit right on our doorsteps around Morpeth.”

Full details of all the festival walks, their costs and how to book them can be found in a handy booklet available from GMDT at The Lodge in Carlisle Park, Morpeth – telephone 01670 503866 – or by logging on to the Trust website at www.gmdt.net