By Ellen Hill – Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism
A “no brainer’’ event which showcases the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area to nature lovers of all ages, budgets and fitness levels, the annual Blue Mountains Lithgow & Oberon Tourism (BMLOT) Festival of Walking will be held from September 20 to October 19.
Presented by the official regional tourism organisation and supported by the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS), local councils and Destination NSW, the dates of the festival this year have been shifted and extended to include the NSW school holidays.
As well as self-guided bushwalks, the Festival of Walking will include adventure walks with expert guides, Aboriginal experiences and non-nature walking activities.
BMLOT chairman Daniel Myles said: “The Festival of Walking will be a fantastic family event and a great opportunity to holiday close to home.
“Experienced guides and well maintained tracks will provide a safe environment for locals and visitors to explore our magnificent World Heritage Area. Our wonderfully fresh air and expansive vistas right on Sydney’s doorstep will provide the rest.’’
The festival was inspired several years ago by Katoomba resident Marie Wood who read about the award-winning Isle of Wight walking festival and believed “something similar would be perfect for the Greater Blue Mountains … good for encouraging people to stay for a few days’’.
Mr Myles said: “Really, it’s a no brainer for this region.
“We’ve got a one million square hectare backyard packed with more than 400 walking tracks and lots of expert interpretive guides – we should be exploring it, learning about it and playing in it.’’
In fact, the Greater Blue Mountains is one of Australia’s 16 recognised National Landscapes and the Blue Mountains, Lithgow and Oberon region is the richest destination for walkers and outdoor enthusiasts in the country.
Walkers can lace up their shoes and stroll through quaint townships and tree-lined residential streets to the breathtaking landscape of genuine rugged wilderness all in an afternoon.
Still remarkably pristine, the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area has long been a magnet for bushwalkers, from colonial walking parties around Jenolan Caves in cumbersome Edwardian and Victorian outfits and conservationist pioneer Myles Dunphy who tenaciously lobbied for designated national parks to modern day trekkers.
Staying for two or three days will mean visitors don’t have to choose just one walk and can also experience the many other wonderful attractions, dining and accommodation options available in the Blue Mountains, Lithgow and Oberon region.
The Festival of Walking is a celebration of the beauty of nature, the health and wellbeing benefits of walking, acknowledgement of Aboriginal custodianship and culture, and homage to the history, heritage and conservation of this special region.
Beginning just four years ago, last year the festival attracted more than 2000 recognised participants.
The Festival of Walking will be officially launched at a community event at Glenbrook on Saturday, September 20. The free event will include family-friendly activities, Wanda the Wombat NPWS mascot, educational stalls and a community barbecue.