A FESTIVAL aims to promote sustainable tourism in the unspoilt beauty of the South Pennines.

The South Pennines Walk and Ride Festival runs between September 10 and 25.

And it includes 130 guided walks, cycle tours, mountain bike rides and horse riding events.

Special guided walks will mark the launch of the festival in Marsden.

Hosted by Marsden Walkers Are Welcome, they will include a walk with Roman soldiers, a storytelling walk for all the family and a National Trust-led walk on Marsden Moor.

Festival co-ordinator John Manning said: “Marsden’s Walkers Are Welcome group will be hosting some fantastic events to get the festival off to a terrific start.

“Members have been working hard to improve paths in the Colne Valley and this is a great way to celebrate their success.

“Roman soldiers will lead a walk on to Marsden Moor in full uniform and give demonstrations of road surveying and signalling.

“The National Trust will also be exploring their moorland estate, and for the family there will be storytelling along the canal towpath, to tie-in with the 200th anniversary of Standedge Tunnel.

“The launch events spill over into the Sunday as well, with a Ramblers-led cream tea walk and a walk over to Diggle with Bilbo Baggins the canal boat horse.”

The festival area encompasses rural communities such as Marsden and Holmfirth, Todmorden and Hebden Bridge, Ilkley and Haworth.

It also features Lancashire spots in Burnley and Bacup, Whitworth and Ramsbottom, Rawtenstall and Haslingden.

Along the routes the festival programme include cafes, pubs and breweries with locally sourced food and drink.

Featured establishments include Compo’s Cafe in Holmfirth, Calderdale’s Little Valley Brewery, Holmfirth’s award-winning Handmade Bakery, a Littleborough small-holding and a CAMRA-recommended Greenfield pub.

Mr Manning said: “The South Pennines offers some of the finest walking, cycling and riding opportunities in England but it’s a relatively undiscovered area for people who live further afield.

“In some ways, the fact that we’re sandwiched between two busy national parks has worked to our advantage – the South Pennines remains a peaceful quiet area for uninterrupted outdoor recreation.

“Yet the landscape – upland gritstone and heather moor, cut by tranquil wooded valleys straddling the Yorkshire-Lancashire border – is quite exhilarating.

“The hills are always close at hand, and this is the perfect location for a family adventure holiday or adrenalin-filled weekend with friends.

“Hopefully the festival can communicate that fact to people from further afield, as well as encourage locals to make the most of what they have on their own doorstep.”

The printed programme, highlighting more than 90 festival-specific events, will be available in mid-July. Full details of those and a further 40 events can be found on the website now.

The annual festival is put together by Pennine Prospects, the area’s rural redevelopment company. Its aims are boosting the local economy, promoting sustainable tourism and use of public transport, and encouraging people to take outdoor exercise for improved health and well-being.

Visit www.walkandridefestival.co.uk for more information.