Almost 700 people enjoyed 45 walks led by 28 leaders over the week-long inaugural Petersfield Walking Festival.

And the numbers and support mean the festival organised by Malinka Van der Gauuw over the week of August 20 to August 27 is set to become an annual event.

Malinka said: “This inaugural Petersfield Walking Festival has been exhilarating – so many beautiful moments shared, friends made and the beauty of our area appreciated.

“We have well and truly put Petersfield on the walking map as a gateway to the national park.

“The smorgasbord of choice clearly whetted people’s appetite as 688 people signed up to join us, far exceeding our expectations.

“Walkers came from Southampton to Brighton, while others came down from London, up from Waterlooville and across from Alton, Alresford and Farnham.

“On the first day, we were thrilled to meet some people from Dorset and Essex, but they were trumped many times over on the Sunday by April from Australia! She was here as part of a European tour. Keen to experience the area at grassroots level, with local people, she thought a festival walk would be just the ticket.

“Well, she chose well on our sunset walk from Old Winchester Hill, and we couldn’t have ordered better weather.

“And if you didn’t get to join us this year, all is not lost.

“Along with the thanks and appreciation, there have been plenty of calls for the festival to become an annual event.

“So once the muscles have enjoyed a well-earned break, we’ll gently start thinking about what round two might look like – perhaps it will be something slightly different, we shall see!

“For now, though, the final word has to be one of thanks to the 28 walk leaders who gave their time and expertise, and also Richard of JustGreatShots Photography.

“Also huge thanks to sponsors Petersfield Town Council, South Downs National Park, Hampshire County Council and the Petersfield Society, and to everyone who helped pull the event together behind the scenes – your support was invaluable.”