Walking festival starts on the right foot

An atmospheric mist added a magical dimension to the official launch of Blue Mountains Lithgow and Oberon Tourism’s annual Festival of Walking at Wentworth Falls on Saturday.

Light drizzly rain could not dampen the enthusiasm of the gathered crowd including dignitaries Blue Mountains Mayor Daniel Myles, new Lithgow Mayor Maree Statham, Blue Mountains State MP Roza Sage and Macquarie Federal MP Louise Markus.

The annual nine-day event celebrates the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area spanning through to Lithgow and Oberon and continues until October 14.

Promoting fresh air and the grand backyard of the Blue Mountains, Lithgow and Oberon region, the festival will feature treks and challenging bushwalks, history tours combined with local wine and cheese sampling, ambles through the day and walks at night, garden tours, singles walks, indigenous experiences, a phone film competition and family events.

The official launch was held at Wentworth Falls Picnic Ground and featured Discovery Wilderquest walks, the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) mascot Wanda the Wombat, launch of the NPWS Bush Trackers project and a barbecue lunch.

Blue Mountains Mayor Daniel Myles congratulated Blue Mountains Lithgow and Oberon Tourism for “another fantastic event” and the gathered crowd for attending despite the rain.

“We have the most fabulous wilderness and we have . . . an ancient and unique culture, and the two literally go hand-in-hand together through thousands of years,” he said.

Blue Mountains Lithgow and Oberon Tourism chairman Randall Walker thanked festival founder Marie Wood of Katoomba for instigating the original idea for the event, “a perfect fit” for the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area.

As well as major sponsor Bendigo Bank, he thanked the National Parks and Wildlife Service for its contribution, as well as festival director Sean Greenhill.

Mr Walker gave a preview of the soon-to-be-launched Aboriginal Cultural Experience Guide.

“We as a community can be proud of the engagement with all six Aboriginal groups of the World Heritage Area including the Darug in the Lower Mountains, Gundungurra in the Upper Mountains and Wiradjuri extending out to Lithgow, and culminating in the preview of this guide.”

The guide previews at least 10 cultural experiences to be announced within the next few months including Gundungurra songlines of the Upper Blue Mountains and another at Jenolan Caves.

Blue Mountains State MP Roza Sage congratulated BMLOT on “another great achievement” and said the Festival of Walking had the potential to become as popular as Yulefest.

“This festival is another way of showcasing the wonderful Blue Mountains to the greater community.”

The region, which had a tourist industry stretching back more than 100 years, would continue to entice visitors from around the globe because of its marvellous natural experiences and proximity to Sydney, Mrs Sage said.

NPWS regional director Geoff Luscombe said NPWS and Blue Mountains City Council were proud to be custodians of the most visited national park in Australia, with its 300km of engineered walking tracks begun in the 1830s and an integral part of the region’s tourism industry.

Macquarie Federal MP Louise Markus said: “Today we have seen the seed of an idea enter its second year very alive and well and active with so many sections and parts of our community involved. This is going to be something for many years to come, I’m sure.”

Visit www.festivalofwalking.com for more information.

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