GUIDED walks covering nearly 500 miles of County Durham's outstanding countryside will start next month.

Durham County Council's programme includes more than 70 walks from April to June.

Ranging from two to 14 miles, they include easy strolls and day-long hikes.

The programme starts with a 12-mile medium-grade walk on April 2 that starts at Piercebridge and looks at Roman and pre-Roman forts.

Geographer and local historian Vera Chapman will lead an easy four-mile walk around Winston on April 6 and a mini-festival of walks has been arranged for Easter.

Good Friday has a four-mile easy walk led by local historian Donald Miller around Hawthorn and Kinley Hill, with two walks lined up for Easter Saturday.

One is a medium seven-mile Gaunless Valley Heritage Landscape walk, from Butterknowle, and the second is five miles from Dalton-le-Dale.

Donald Miller is out again on Easter Day to lead an eight-mile medium walk taking in Easington Village and the coast, while on Easter Monday there is a nine-mile medium Whorlton Circular walk from Barnard Castle.

Themed walks at Waskerley, Durham City, Ebchester and Frosterley are also planned.

A council spokesman said: "The aim of the programme is to enjoy the walk and learn something about the area at the same time."

Tickets are usually available on the day and cost £2, concessions £1. Copies of the programme are obtainable from libraries and Tourist Information Centres or Durham County Council on 0191-383 4144. It is also on the what's on section of the council's website, .