WALKING festivals are a good way to enjoy the great outdoors, whether exploring the countryside near you, or discovering the delights of somewhere new.

There are plenty to choose from during this ideal walking season. Here are four of the best autumn walking events in Dorset and the New Forest.

1. Purbeck Walking Festival, September 14–16.

The Isle of Purbeck has been featured on Julia Bradbury’s top 100 walks, Spring Watch, and Countryfile just in 2018 alone. Now in its eighth year from September 14 -16, for the first time as a weekend rather than a week. Stroll along a beach in Swanage or hike up the South West Coast Path, covering the stunning Jurassic Coast. The area is home to rare species of birds, wildflowers, butterflies and reptiles. If you fancy a challenge, why not take on the Purbeck 16, a 16-mile hike along the coast, starting and finishing in Swanage? Walks start at as little as £4.50 and a full programme and booking information as well as accommodation can be viewed at walkpurbeck.com.

2. New Forest Walking Festival, October 13–18

More than 80 guided walks led by knowledgeable local experts to help you discover more about the history, heritage and wildlife of the Forest.

Led by the New Forest National Park Authority, this event includes various themed walks, with subjects including wildlife, history, accessibility, activity, and family walks – plus short strolls and long hikes. Local experts will be on hand to lead the walks and tell visitors all about the heritage and wildlife of the New Forest. Prices vary. For more details, see newforestnpa.gov.uk

3. Gillingham in North Dorset is a Walkers are Welcome town, a nationwide initiative to encourage towns and villages to be welcoming to walkers by offering people and visitors excellent walking opportunities, well maintained footpaths and promotion of health benefits. A number of events and organised walks take place throughout September and October. For more details, visit gillwalkersarewelcome.btck.co.uk

4. The South West Outdoor Festival from October 5–7.

A celebration of outdoor activities, adventures, pursuits and pastimes – plus fine food, great music and inspirational speakers – that takes place every year at a different wild site around the South West organised by the National Trust. See nationaltrust.org.uk.

A number of organised walks are held at Studland Bay. Woodland Walk and Draw is a free event on Sunday, October 21 from 10.30am to 3.30pm. Come to the woods and dunes for inspiration and get creative using the natural things around you.