Montgomery Walking Festival is now in its third year and the 2019 event began last Friday with a short walk encompassing Town Hill. Walkers enjoyed a completely still and clear evening with far reaching panoramic views from the County War Memorial before descending via field paths back to Montgomery in time for the now traditional Oktoberfest. As ever, Monty's Brewery had organised great beer, including a special Festival brew, and everyone enjoyed the lederhosen-clad Brassic Oompah’s eclectic mix of music well-suited to the mood and occasion.
A week before the Festival, the weather had looked grim and, after heavy rain on the hills, the Severn had flooded low-lying field paths leading to serious mud in places. Vale of Montgomery Footpath Volunteers reassessed all the walks and successfully re-routed a couple that were impassable, and the walk leaders were undeterred.
Saturday morning dawned dry, if overcast, and first off from Montgomery on the 7.45am bus were the intrepid 19-mile Challenge walkers. A little later, the organisers were waving off a crowd of Old Fashioned Ramblers, then the re-routed Rivers and Dyke walk heading up to Castell y Gwynt and the Cefn y Coed hills on a slightly more strenuous but very scenic walk. The shortest walk took a large group to local castles and forts for a fascinating walk through history in the expert hands of Eric Fairbrother of Montgomery Civic Society. Some 40 walkers and leaders then joined Walkers are Welcome Montgomery for supper with entertainment from Côr Trefaldwyn and Monty Folk, who began the evening with a rousing rendition of the Festival theme tune, Clawdd Offa (Offa’s Dyke).
Saturday night brought worryingly heavy rain, but this was a distant memory when the two Sunday walks enjoyed lovely sunshine and fabulous sparkling Montgomeryshire views, fortified by scones, Bara Offa (bara brith made with Best Offa beer) and Katrina Collins’ well-filled sandwich boxes.
The 2019 Walking Festival was another splendid event made possible by the hardworking Festival team and the Footpath Volunteers who, working with local landowners, Powys Countryside Services and Shropshire Leisure and Recreation, keep the Rights of Way open and accessible for all.
Walkers joined the Festival from far and near, but it was again Alun from Bradford who won the accolade of attending the maximum number of Festival walks and events. Alun commented: 'A glorious weekend. Not only did the weather you organised turn out perfectly but the three walks I went on were great.'
For Judith, it was her first time at the Festival: 'I so enjoyed the Walking Festival. I have not visited Montgomery before and it was interesting to walk in such an attractive area with knowledgeable leaders and fantastic views. Your volunteers certainly do a lot of good work in restoring and keeping rights of way open.'
Far from putting their feet up, Walkers are Welcome Montgomery already have six routes sketched out for 2020 and – as soon as it stops raining – will be checking what work needs to be done to ensure next year’s Festival is just as successful.
All the Festival walks were fully booked again this year, so be aware that booking for October 2nd-4th 2020 opens on May 1st and keep an eye on www.MontgomeryWalkingFestival.co.uk
Image: Taking a break above Offa's Dyke path at Crow's Nest