ORGANISERS of the first ever Durham Dales Walking Festival hope hundreds of outdoor enthusiasts put their best foot forward and support the event.

The festival, planned for the autumn, is being linked to the 75th anniversary celebrations of the Pennine Journey walk by Alfred Wainwright.

The walks cater for all ages and abilities, with some fully accessible routes planned.

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Talks and other promotional events to encourage visitors to stay overnight are also on the agenda.

The festival has financial backing from North Pennine Dales Leader and Durham County Council, while Teesdale Marketing, the not-for-profit organisation which promotes Teesdale, has been instrumental in putting the event together.

One of its directors, Barbara Anne Johnson, said: “This is a first for the region and we hope to attract lots of people who already love walking – and many more who would like to give it a try - to take part in something which will give them more than just a map.”

Bill Oldfield, chairman of Teesdale Marketing, added: “The first week-long festival is planned for autumn 2013, but, if we're lucky, we may be able to organise a mini-festival this spring if time and finances allow.”

Organisers hope the festival will be linked to other events and initiatives in Teesdale and Weardale.

They hope this will have the knock-on effect of promoting the castle in Barnard Castle, surrounding villages, Stanhope and Auckland Castle and supporting the new-look Witham Hall in Barnard Castle, which is due to reopen in the summer.

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