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Walking Festival puts best foot forward in aid of Rural Support

12 September 2018

The Sperrins will provide the scenic backdrop to one of the North West’s most popular outdoor experiences this month as the Sperrins and Killeter Walking Festival takes nature enthusiasts on a tour of some of the most stunning scenery in the country.

As well as providing the chance to explore the beautiful surroundings of Plumbridge and Killeter participants will be doing their bit to support the local community with Rural Support selected as the chosen charity for this year’s event.

A special charity walk will be taking place to raise awareness about the vital services provided by the organisation, the sixth and final walk of the festival, leaving Plumbridge on Sunday, September 23rd, at 1pm. The Vinegar Hill ‘Charity Walk has been rated as ‘Easy’ so everyone is encouraged to get involved.

Speaking ahead of the event, Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District, Councillor John Boyle, encouraged people to take the opportunity to explore one of the District’s most outstanding areas of natural beauty.

“The Walking Festival attracts a growing number of walking and wildlife enthusiasts each year, and as well as providing a great day out, this year it will also support a valuable local cause,” he stressed.

“Rural Support are an essential resource for people living in rural areas who have limited access to the services we all take for granted in towns and cities. The charity particularly played a key role in assisting those whose homes and businesses were affected by last August’s floods. I would really encourage anyone who wants to support their local community to come along and join in what promises to be a fun and fascinating event.”

Victoria Ross, Programmes Office from Rural Support, said: “I hope that the event will assist in raising awareness of the services the charity provides, and help support their ambitions to extend those services so what we can reach a larger audience”.

“Rural Support are delighted to be selected as the chosen charity for this year’s Sperrins Walking Festival in Plumbridge. Rural Support are an agri-charity based in Cookstown and we help farmers and rural dwellers across Northern Ireland dealing with financial pressures, mental health concerns, succession planning and paperwork to name but a few of our services.

“Plumbridge has recently been affected by flood damage and this has resulted in a range of issues for local people, from the effects on business, to the impact on mental health, which we as a charity have responded to in terms of support and guidance from our staff, volunteers and financial mentors.

“This event presents a great opportunity for us to meet with the rural community and discuss with them the help and support we can offer. It will help spread awareness of the services we can provide such as our financial mentors and our free and confidential helpline which is open Monday to Friday 9am – 9pm.

“The money raised from this event will be put towards our helpline so that we can train more volunteers and therefore help more of those who need our support.”

In a change from previous years, the Walking Festival will begin at the Killeter Heritage Centre on Saturday with the challenging ‘Beyond Borders’ walk starting out at 9am, taking in much of the border hinterland that Tyrone shares with Donegal and Fermanagh.

One hour later at 10am the Local and Neolithic Walk, rated as a ‘moderate’ challenge, will take in a range of interesting sites around the townland from the period when Ireland was settled by its first agrarian inhabitants.

Finally, on Saturday ‘The Bright and Beautiful Walk’ will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Mrs Cecil Francis Alexander, named after her most famous work ‘All Things Bright and Beautiful’.

Mrs Alexander lived in Killeter from 1850-55 while her husband was curate in St Bestius Church of Ireland and the four churches in the area have come together to create four community gardens in their grounds which are all included on this ‘moderate’ walking route which will leave the Heritage Centre at 12.30pm.

On Sunday the action moves to the Sperrins and the picturesque village of Plumbridge where three more walks will leave from Watt’s Bar on the town’s Main Street.

The ‘Jewel in the Crown of the IAT’ at 9am is a challenging route that will explore Sawel Mountain – a peak that is visible from counties as far flung as Down and is the highest mountain along the route of the International Appalachian Trail.

At 10am the Craignamaddy Nature Walk is a 10k hike that explores the ridge that rises between the Glenelly and Owenkillew Valleys and will be led by an expert in Flora and Fauna who will focus on the areas’ unique habitat.

Finally, the family friendly Vinegar Hill Charity Walk in aid of Rural Support sets off from Watts Bar at 1pm and will be guided by local walking enthusiasts who will provide some appetising home grown hospitality along the way.

Registration for the Sperrins and Killeter Walking Festival is open now at http://www.sperrinskilleterwalking.com/ where full details of each walk are available.