- Getting started walking
- Tips for walking with diabetes
- How often should I exercise?
- How many calories will I burn?
- Is walking a good workout?
- Warm up for walking
- Walking for health
- Pregnancy and walking
- Walking can help our overweight youngsters
- Walking helps in fight against obesity
- Avoid travel chaos: walk to work!
- Diet Coke nutrition info
- 10 reasons to take up walking
- Walking facts
- Finding motivation
- How a good walk can help with stress
- A cliff with a view: New Quay walk
- St Nicholas, Vale of Glamorgan
- Bawsey Church near King's Lynn, Norfolk
- Walking Facts and Figures
- Rambling: how to get started
- Footpath Erosion
- Advice and Information for Leaders of Rambles
- An Introduction to the Hadrian's Wall Path
- An Introduction to the Pennine Way
- An Introduction to the Coast to Coast Walk
- An Introduction to the Cotswold Way
- Public Rights of Way FAQ
- A Guide to Walking in Britain
- More Than a Walk
A Guide to Walking in Britain
Great Britain offers a wide range of scenery for those wishing to walk in the countryside, from the mountains of the Scottish Highlands and the English Lake District to the gentle pastoral landscape of the Cotswolds and the South Downs. The countryside is rich in historical associations. You can follow Offa's Dyke, the great earthwork constructed about 800 AD to mark the frontier between Mercia and Wales; or walk along ancient trackways over the chalk hills of the south, first used by the earliest inhabitants of Britain.
WHERE TO WALK
Footpaths and bridleways: There is an extensive network of local paths throughout the country, with public rights of way extending for some 140,000 miles (225,000 km) in England and Wales alone. Walkers have the right to use any of these paths, but don't expect all of them to be clear. You may well find that paths in arable areas have been put to the plough and not reinstated. This may be illegal, and you are entitled to walk through the crops, sticking as close as possible to the original route of the path. Footpaths are sometimes waymarked in yellow, while horse riders and cyclists are restricted to bridleways which are sometimes denoted by blue signs. Scotland also has an extensive network of footpaths and tracks, but their full extent is unknown as the law does not require any records to be kept.
National Trails: A number of official long distance paths known as National Trails have been created by the Countryside Commission. Generally well signposted, they are described in a series of official guidebooks (and there are many unofficial ones as well). These books contain maps and are available from most bookshops. Eleven National Trails have been opened, and others planned include the Cotswold Way and Hadrian's Wall Path:
|Pennine Way||256 miles (412 km)||central/north England|
|Cleveland Way||110 miles (177 km)||north east England|
|Offa's Dyke Path||168 miles (270 km)||Wales/England border|
|Pembrokeshire Coast||167 miles (268 km)||south west Wales|
|The Ridgeway||85 miles (136 km)||central/south England|
|South Downs Way||106 miles (171 km)||south east England|
|South West Coast Path||600 miles approx(965 km)||south west England|
|North Downs Way||141 miles (227 km)||south east England|
|Wolds Way||79 miles (127 km)||north east England|
|Peddars Way & |
Norfolk Coast Path
|93 miles (150 km)||East Anglia|
|Thames Path||180 miles (288 km)||south England|
Long distance paths: There are hundreds of unofficial long distance routes that have been created by local authorities, walking groups and individuals, drawing on the existing path network. These range from gentle, lowland rambles of up to 100 miles (160 km), such as the ancient Icknield Way and the scenic Heart of England Way, both in central/southern England, to the more demanding Coast to Coast Walk (190 miles/304 km) across the open hills of northern England.
There are a number of recognised trails in Scotland, including the West Highland Way (95 miles/153 km) and the Southern Upland Way (212 miles/341 km). Official guidebooks and maps have been written for both these routes, and are available from most bookshops.
Open spaces: Besides the paths, there are extensive areas of uncultivated countryside in England and Wales where walkers have freedom to wander. These include: places intended for public use (town parks, country picnic sites, etc); some areas that have been defined as "open country" (where access orders or access agreements may have been made); some National Trust common land and open country; areas where there is de facto access (i.e. existing in fact, whether by right or not); some common land.
ACCESS LAND - This is where a formal agreement allowing public access has been reached, but there may be certain local restrictions. Such land is relatively rare, although there are approximately 80 square miles within the Peak District National Park alone.
COMMON LAND - There are 1.37 million acres of common land in England and Wales, most of which is in private ownership. The land is only "common" in the sense that certain people, other than the owner, have rights over the land - such as the right to graze sheep or cattle. But there is de facto access to much common land, and in some areas legislation has guaranteed public access (e.g. to parts of the Dartmoor commons and the Lake District fells).
In Scotland, especially in the Highlands, large areas of the uplands are accessible, but care should be taken during the deer-stalking and grouse-shooting seasons. However, the long-standing tradition of freedom of access to land in Scotland is not protected in law; nor is there any common land, and there are few access agreements.
National Parks: In England and Wales, much of the national park land is in private ownership, where people live and work. That means that, as in the rest of the country, access to certain parts is restricted, and you should keep to public footpaths, access or common land. There are currently 11 national parks with one more - the New Forest - announced in 1998:
|Brecon Beacons (south Wales)||North York Moors (north east England)|
|Dartmoor (south west England)||Pembrokeshire Coast (south west Wales)|
|Exmoor (south west England)||Lake District (north west England)|
|Snowdonia (north Wales)||Northumberland (north England)|
|Yorkshire Dales (north England)||Peak District (central/north England)|
|The Broads (East Anglia)|
There are also other designated areas which enjoy special legal protection: Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (such as the Cotswolds, the Sussex Downs and the Isle of Wight), and Heritage Coasts (which include some of the Dorset and north Norfolk shores).
WHAT YOU WILL NEED
For the walker, Britain is well mapped. The Ordnance Survey (OS) publish the following:
Landranger 1:50 000 (2 cm to 1 km or 1.25 inches to the mile)
These general purpose maps show public rights of way marked in red - except in Scotland, where they are not shown because of the absence of records.
Pathfinder 1:25 000 (4 cm to 1 km or 2.5 inches to the mile)
These are the most detailed maps available for walkers: public rights of way are again shown (in green), but with much more overall detail, including field boundaries. The OS is replacing this series by maps in the Explorer series (see below).
Outdoor Leisure 1:25 000 (4 cm to 1 km or 2.5 inches to the mile)
These cover a small number of popular leisure and recreational areas of the country, and show paths and bridleways in green, plus other useful visitor information.
Explorer 1:25 000 (4 cm to 1 km or 2.5 inches to the mile)
This series will cover, when complete, all areas not covered by the Outdoor Leisure range. Each map covers a larger area than the Pathfinders. The maps are colourful and carry a lot of tourist information.
Navigational skills are useful whenever and wherever you choose to ramble, and if you intend to walk in rough or remote areas it is important that you carry a compass and know how to use it (see RA Fact Sheet 2: Maps and Navigation). The weather, for most of the year, is generally mild throughout England and Wales, although it can be severe in the Highlands of Scotland. However, since it is frequently damp, always carry waterproofs, and in winter you will need to take extra precautions - particularly in the mountains of Wales, the Lake District and Scotland where wintry conditions can be treacherous. Make sure you check the daily forecasts before you set out.
Most walkers in the British countryside will need no specialist equipment, aside from the standard and sensible: stout shoes and a windproof/waterproof anorak. But if the ground is at hilly or rough, proper walking boots or shoes with moulded grip-giving soles are strongly recommended. (Some people prefer boots for any walk over three or four hours long.) It is also a good idea to carry a small rucksack in which to keep items you may need during the walk: a drink, some food, an extra sweater, first aid equipment, a compass, etc. Mountain or winter walking naturally requires greater care and consideration (warm clothing, extra provisions), and full details can be found in RA Fact Sheet 3: Equipment and Safety.
WHERE TO STAY
The RA produces the annual Rambler's Yearbook and Accommodation Guide, with over 3,000 bed & breakfast, farm and guest house addresses throughout Great Britain where ramblers are welcome. The Guide is free to members, or can be purchased from RA central office (price £4.99 + £1.00p p&p) and most bookshops.
There are special accommodation guides for some long-distance paths. The Information Officer can tell you how to obtain these (call 0171-339 8565) - quite a few are on sale from the Ramblers' office in London. Ask for the Publications List.
Youth hostels provide low-cost overnight accommodation. Further details from: Youth Hostels Association (England and Wales), Trevelyan House, 8 St Stephen's Hill, St Albans, Herts AL1 2DY; Scottish Youth Hostels Association, 7 Glebe Crescent, Stirling FK8 2JA, tel (01727) 855215. For general tourist matters telephone the British Tourist Authority on (0171) 730 3488, or visit the British Travel Centre at 12 Regent Street, Picadilly Circus, London SW1Y 4PQ. There are also over 800 Tourist Information Centres in towns and cities around Great Britain. They not only have local travel and tourist information, but provide accommodation lists and in some instances can make reservations for personal callers. A complete list is available from the British Travel Centre.
The Country Code
If you are walking in the countryside, please remember the Country Code:
- Enjoy the countryside and respect its life and work
- Guard against all risk of fire
- Fasten all gates
- Keep your dogs under close control
- Keep to public paths across farmland
- Use gates and stiles to cross fences, hedges and walls
- Leave livestock, crops and machinery alone
- Take your litter home
- Help to keep all water clean
- Protect wildlife, plants and trees
- Take special care on country roads
- Make no unnecessary noise
The Ramblers' Association
The Ramblers' Association is the campaigning organisation for all who enjoy walking in the countryside and wish to see its paths and beauty protected. The footpaths and national parks which you enjoy in Britain are safeguarded largely as a result of the Ramblers' work. Members receive the association's quarterly colour journal Rambling Today and the annual Rambler's Yearbook and Accommodation Guide, free of charge. Members can also borrow maps from the RA's map library for a small fee. Details of membership are available from RA central office or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Please note: the Ramblers' Association cannot provide specific walk schedules or itineraries, but we sell a small number of guidebooks and other publications. For details see Publications for Sale.
WHAT TO READ
Introductory books and local guides
The Rambler's Yearbook and Accommodation Guide has a broad range of details about walking in Britain, including a directory of long distance paths and equipment shops, notes on public access to the countryside, and of course a comprehensive digest of accommodation (see page 4). For a wide range of maps, charts and books contact Stanfords Bookshop, 12-14 Long Acre, Covent Garden, London WC2E 9LP, tel (0171) 836 1321; or Cordee, 3a De Montfort Street, Leicester LE1 7HD, tel (0116) 254 3579. Both Stanfords and Cordee offer a mail order service - contact them for further details of postage, etc.
There are hundreds of local guides to paths all over Britain: books, leaflets and maps devised by individuals and walking groups, the majority describe short and mostly straightforward walks and rambles and are available from bookshops, libraries, tourist boards and local RA groups. A region by region listing of all the relevant maps and local guides can be found in the RA's booklet series of Regional Walking Guides.
Long distance paths
In addition to the series of official National Trail Guides there are plenty of other titles that describe Britain's long distance paths. For a comprehensive long distance path listing consult The Long Distance Walkers' Handbook (6th ed) by the Long Distance Walkers Association (A & C Black, £11.99 - or available from RA central office, plus £1.50 p+p). Further information from the LDWA Membership Secretary, 63 Yockley Close, The Maultway, Camberley GU15 1QQ.