- Missing the outdoors during the 2020 lockdown, we have been watching videos of others walking. Our favourite guide is Abbie Barnes,
who videos the trails well, and speaks of her experiences with great emotional honesty. We suggest trying her
ascent of Ben Nevis and if you like it, any of her longer trails.
- Two very different sources of inspiration: A Woman Afoot
is by a solo walker and wild camper, which she does as an activity and as a way of improving her mental health (there are lots of tips and suggestions too). And
Rory Stewart's book on a winter walk through rural Afghanistan,
sleeping in village houses. He was going to be, we once hoped, the next Mayor of London.
- Weekend Walks in the Peak District by John and Anne Nuttall (Cicerone).
One of our inspirations, both in the walks the Nuttalls have devised, and in the way they
communicate not only the nuts and bolts, but also the qualities of the walks. (There are good
maps and lovely line drawings too.) It's out of print, and a few things have changed since
1993, but you can pick up a copy on the net.
- Walking Europe from Top to Bottom by the Americans Susanna Margolis and Ginger Harmon
(Sierra Club Books). Another inspiration to us, also out of print, and also obtainable on the net. It's a guide not just to the GR5 (The Hook of Holland to Nice), but to the whole philosophy of long-distance walking. Unusually for a travel guide, it's funny and sometimes moving.
The final appendix of this book has what the authors call 'Megawalking Laws and Principles'. We often discuss the
Megawalker's Absolute Law of Travel: 'the unentered café is not worth the
ground it stands on.' And we have broken The First Law of the Trail once or twice, to our cost: 'if
you haven't seen a trail marker for 200 meters, or even 100 meters, then no matter how
pleasant the path under your feet, no matter how sure you are that you are going in the
right direction, no matter that this is the only possible way the trail could go, go
- We are attracted to the slightly more adventurous idea of walking in Eastern Europe,
even though our trek through the Julian Alps
in Slovenia was washed out by rain. If this is you too, check out
Trail Lynx. Its authors, Julian and Claire Glover,
are enthusiastic about the Balkans and Eastern Europe, and have lots of suggestions.
- If you are not quite convinced enough by this website about the pleasures of a
long-distance path, there is an excellent coffee-table book to get you walking -
Walking Distance by Robert and Martha Manning. The subtitle is 'Extraordinary Hikes
for Ordinary People', and it expounds the benefits of such hikes in detail. It then gives
examples of walks from all over the world, including several in the US which we don't cover.
It is particularly good on photos that convey the quality of each walk. Excellent Winter
reading - it has given us three new ideas already! The cheapest net outlet is
Eurospan Bookstore which delivers free, worldwide.
- Local Authority websites can be a very useful source of ideas; part of
their brief is to encourage walking. We have been using PDF (printable) leaflets from the
Hampshire County Council, and a web search for Kent brings up leaflets with even
more detail. Worth a try for your area.
www.southernwalks.co.uk has lots of suggestions for paths in the South of the
UK. The author is, like us, independent, so you get an honest description of them.
- More independant walkers are a pair of Australians, Jenny and Keith, who have walked in
France a lot more than us,
and write up their experiences with a delightfully dry humour. Their ideas are also useful
if you have flown in from, say, Australia, and are looking for something longer than a week of walking. Their
shortwalks section (three to ten days) corresponds to our walks.
- Stanfords is a web
resource for ordering maps and guides, but more importantly it's a shop in the Covent Garden
area of London, a veritable Temple to Travel. If you're looking for new travel ideas, this
is the place to browse. A large, specialist bookshop like this can give a richer experience than the web can.
is where we buy our train tickets in the UK. If you get them far enough in advance, and look
at prices for different train times, you can pick up some real bargains.
- The man in seat 61....
For us this is the site for train tickets in Europe. He explains all the
possibilities and options in detail, before sending you off to the most appropriate site
to buy the tickets.
- If you like the idea of these kind of walks but don't want the bother of making the arrangements,
the nearest commercial version is Inntravel.
We have heard good things about them, and are particularly impressed with their walking holidays in India, in association with
- Perhaps you're really looking for a break from the northern winter.
We can recommend Gran Canaria for climate and variety of scenery. We used the map from
Discovery Walking Guides,
suggestions from Rambling Roger's Guide volume 2, and the number 18 bus.
- If, like us, you get interested in the English landscape and start to wonder why
it is like it is, we recommend two old books: The Making of the English Landscape
(1955) by W.G. Hoskins (Hodder and The Folio Society), which takes a historical perspective
(the Romans, Enclosures etc) and is beautifully written and illustrated;
and Geology and Scenery in England and Wales (1937) by A E Truman (Penguin). The line
drawings here are a bit dated now, but it's a genuine attempt at geological explanation without
drowning in a sea of technical terms, and it also has the most useful general glossary
we've seen. More recently, The Geology of Britain, an Introduction (2000) by Peter
Toghill (Crowood Press) is beautifully produced, and is very good on geological history, but
can get quite technical. There are good pictures and diagrams, too, in Granite and Grit
(2009) by Ronald Turnbull (Frances Lincoln Ltd). This book is subtitled 'A walker's guide to
the geology of British mountains', and therefore concentrates on the north and west of the
country. Ronald Turnbull's style is immediate, eccentric and engaging, but we sometimes
found ourselves wondering if more straightforward explanations might have been easier to grasp.
For the casual reader, the very best attempt to explain a complex situation in simple terms comes from the Holiday Geology Guide series of leaflets from the British Geological Survey, using the trademark Earthwise. Unfortunately they cover a relatively small portion of the country, but you might be lucky; the list is
- Two writers, two books: Robert Macfarlane has written a meditation on walking,
The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot, and in an article for the Cambridge University magazine Cam he says of
"I discovered that walking was still profoundly and widely alive as a
more-than-functional act: a vital means for people to make sense of themselves, to express
resistance or civil disobedience, to gain knowledge that would be otherwise inaccessible,
to seek joy or to encounter grace."
Some of Robert Macfarlane's walking was in Palestine, and British comic Mark Thomas
has gone further and walked the whole of Israel's barrier for his book Extreme Rambling.
In the introduction he gives his definition of a good walk:
"Anyone with any taste knows
that predictability is the woodworm of joy. And joy was what I was after. The joy unlike any
other in finding a good walk, is genuine bliss. It comes from a combination of the landscape,
the route, the company and exposure to the elements that stays on the right side of exposure.
Most of all, what makes a 'perfect walk' is losing yourself in a sense of freedom."