Drink in the Gillingham Walking Festival. Food too

THE festival will be held this year from September 4-8 with a theme of Exploring Local Food & Drink. There are 12 organised walks of varying lengths, from a one-mile potter to a 9.5 mile circular walk from Templecombe to Gillingham.

One walk starts at Melbury Vale winery, followed by a climb up to Shaftesbury, through Motcombe and back to Gillingham – fortunately, the organisers will collect any wine purchases for you! Other walks take in Mere Fish Farm, a beekeeper and a community orchard.

A particularly interesting walk is a visit to a County Farm visit in West Stour, five miles west of Shaftesbury. County Farms are farms owned by Local Authorities and let out to young and first-time farmers, sometimes at below-market rents. They’re a vital ‘first rung on the farming ladder’ for newcomers to a sector.

There are 46 ‘starter’ farms in Dorset – the first was acquired in 1911 in the parish of Marnhull. The estate is managed by Coast and Countryside, who provide advice on agricultural and estate management issues to local councils. The five-mile walk to the farm, home to 350 dairy cattle, from Gillingham is partly along The Stour Way.

On the Friday night (Sep 6), there will also be a Walking Festival Supper Quiz at The Olive Bowl in Gillingham. Tickets cost £10 from Sheila (01747 821269).

  • The Festival comes a week after the final leg of the 50-mile White Hart Link is walked, the 6.5 mile stretch from Fontmell Magna to Shaftesbury. The trail links the five market towns of North Dorset and villages in between via existing footpaths: many stiles and bridges have been restored to make access easier.
  • Kate Ashbrook will be joining the walk: Kate is General Secretary of the Open Spaces Society, and Vice-President and Chair of the Ramblers Association, Patron of the Walkers are Welcome Towns network, and a tireless campaigner for many causes. All are welcome to join the walk, leaving Fontmell Magna Village Hall on Monday August 26 at 10.30am. More details here.

Nb: the Beekeeping walk on Sep 5 now starts at 10am, not 2.30pm.
Update Aug 13: The following tours are now fully booked: Sep 4 – Gutchpool Farm; Sep 5 – Mere Fish Farm; Sep 7 – Winery visit

Exploring local food and drink is our theme this year. Visit a winery, a fish farm, apple orchard, dairy farm and more. Experienced walk leaders from a range of local groups are looking forward to sharing their interests.

How to Join a Walk

» Walks listed as BOOKING REQUIRED must be BOOKED IN ADVANCE and mini bus places paid for.

» Book by ringing 07731 468428 or Email: gillwalkfest@gmail.com.

» If no booking required arrive at start point in good time.

Finding Us

» Most walks start from the Town Meadow, the grassy open space next to the river at the bottom of Gillingham High Street.

» Public parking is available for a fee across the High Street from the Town Meadow (long and short stay) and behind the Library, which is opposite Waitrose (long stay).

» Toilets available in the High Street car park or at The Phoenix Inn nearby.

» One walk starts at Peacemarsh on the northern edge of the town, one at St Mary the Virgin Primary School and one at the Ship Inn at West Stour.

» Mini bus pickup is outside Waitrose.

» Train walk starts from the Rail Station.

» Note earlier times for minibus and train walks.

Please note

» Most walks are FREE but donations are most welcome towards costs of putting on the Festival.

» Bring water and snack or packed lunch as appropriate.

» A hat, sunscreen and waterproofs are advisable on longer walks.

» All ages welcome but if you are under 15 you will need to be accompanied by a responsible adult.

» We do not accept dogs, except guide dogs.

» Please wear suitable footwear. Walk leaders can refuse to accept walkers who do not.

Walking Grading

» ONE GREEN BOOT: short fairly level walk on good surfaces, no stiles.

» TWO BOOTS: walk up to 3 hours, usually no hills, maybe some stiles and/or livestock.

» THREE BOOTS: longer walk, could be uneven surfaces, steep hills, several stiles, livestock.

If you need more information before deciding whether a walk is right for you please, contact us and we will link you to walk leader.

Web: gillwalkersarewelcome.btck.co.uk Facebook: Gillingham Walking Festival Tel: 01747 821269 or 07731 468428 Email: gillwalkfest@gmail.com