THINK of the local countryside and most people would see images of the majestic Peak District with its dramatic rock-strewn landscape.
But, as more than 900 people found out during last year’s Autumn Footprints walking festival there is much more to see right here on our doorstep.
The festival, starting this weekend, has a packed schedule of walks over 16 days, visiting some of Erewash’s and Amber Valley’s most beautiful hidden gems.
One of the festival co-ordinators is Marion Farell from Groundwork Derbyshire.
“The idea behind the festival is not only to get local people to appreciate the countryside on their doorstep, but also to show visitors that you don’t have to go racing up to the Peak District to walk through beautiful countryside,” she explained.
“Most of the walks are close to bus and train routes enabling everyone to get to the start point.”
The event kicks off on Saturday with a launch event at Shipley Country Park Visitor Centre, followed by a short circular walk of about 3.5miles from 10.30am around the park.
In total there are 32 guided walks until Sunday, September 25, catering for both seasoned and inexperienced walkers.
The walks, led by volunteers and members more than 20 partner organisations, are all free and take place in Amber Valley and Erewash boroughs – areas well known for their natural beauty, superb scenery, industrial heritage and attractive towns and villages.
A walk on September 16, called Castles and Coals, will take in Codnor Castle, Langley Mill and the Erewash Valley. Led by the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, the eight-mile walk will start out at Codnor Market Place at 10am and take in sites of both historical and wildlife interest.
The trust’s people and wildlife manager Tom Brooks said: “It’s a nice walk which takes in some nice countryside which is valuable habitat for birs in particular.
“It’s an area that people probably don’t know much about.”
There are also themed walks around wildlife in Stanley and heritage walks in West Hallam and Butterley.
Other highlights include Round about Alfreton on Monday September 12 and a strenuous exploration of the highlands of the borough on Wednesday September 14 from Alport Heights.
Erewash-based groups involved in leading some of the walks include Erewash Ramblers, Memories of Ilkeston and District Historical Society and the Friends of Kirk Hallam Lake and Meadows.
The West Hallam Rural and Walking Society will be leading a walk around the village on Friday September 23, taking in sights of historical and natural interest.
Chairman Roy Foulkes said: “The festival allows people to get out into the countryside and learn all about items of interest in their locality.
“The event is also published nationwide so it brings tourism and visitors to the area who will appreciate the countryside we have here on our doorstep.”
Many walks are suitable for all the family but there are some walks designed for children, including Points, Posts & Prizes On Sunday September 18 at Shipley Country Park at 10.30am, for which Booking is advised
A comprehensive guide detailing all the walks and events, is available free of charge from Groundwork Derby & Derbyshire by calling 01773 535232
Alternatively pick one up from Shipley Country Park visitor centre or log onto www.gdd.org.uk to download.
To book your free place on a walk call Derbyshire County Council on 08456 058058.