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RESOURCES


  • 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 back.'

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • thetrainline.com 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 Village Ways.

  • 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 here.

  • 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 researching it:
             "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."

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