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THE

BIG WALKS

OF GREAT BRITAIN

DAVID BATHURST

 

 

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THE BIG WALKS OF GREAT BRITAIN

First published as THE BEATEN TRACK by Summersdale Publishers
Ltd in 2001
Copyright © David Bathurst 2001
This edition published in 2007

Reprinted 2007

The right of David Bathurst to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with sections 77 and 78 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.

All rights reserved.

Condition of Sale
This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out or otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent publisher.

Summersdale Publishers Ltd
46 West Street
Chichester
West Sussex
PO19 1RP
UK

www.summersdale.com

Printed and bound in Great Britain

eISBN 9780857653116

About the author

David Bathurst has been a keen walker all his adult life, and as well as his completion of numerous long-distance routes has also walked the entire coastlines of Sussex and Kent. By profession David is a solicitor and senior legal adviser to the magistrates sitting in Chichester and Worthing, and he has written books on a wide range of subjects. His chief claim to fame is the recitation of the four Gospels from memory in July 1998 and then the recitation of the complete surviving works of Gilbert and Sullivan from memory in August 2004.

By the same author

The Selsey Tram, Phillimore, 1992
Six of the Best!, Romansmead, 1994
The Jennings Companion, Summersdale, 1995
Financial Penalties, Barry Rose, 1996
Around Chichester in Old Photographs, Sutton, 1997
Here’s A Pretty Mess!, Romansmead, 1998
Magisterial Lore, Romansmead, 2000
Poetic Justice, Romansmead 2001
Walking The Coastline Of Sussex, SB Publications 2002
Best Walks Of Sussex, Summersdale 2003
That’s My Girl, New Theatre Publications 2003
Let’s Take It From The Top, Romansmead 2003
Walking The Disused Railways Of Sussex, SB Publications 2004
Once More From The Top, Romansmead 2005
Sussex Top Tens, SB Publications 2006

Acknowledgements

I would like to thank Jennifer Barclay and the team at Summersdale for their support and encouragement; Sarah Cook for her photograph of the Speyside Way; Dr David Holland, Rob Holland and Linda Spanner for their photograph of Glyndwr’s Way; and to my wife Susan and daughter Jennifer for their love and understanding.

Further Reading And Bibliography

AA Book of Britain’s Countryside (1998, Midsummer Books)
AA Book of British Villages (1980, Drive Publications)
AA Illustrated Guide to Britain (1977, Drive Publications)
Betjeman, John Collected Poems (1958, John Murray)
Dillon, Paddy Trail Walker Guide to the National Trails of Britain and Ireland (1994, David and Charles)
Hutchinson Encyclopaedia of Britain (1999, Helicon)
Jenkins, Simon England’s Thousand Best Churches (2003, Allen Lane) Marriott, Michael Footpaths of Britain (1981, Queen Anne Press)
Millar, T.G. Long Distance Paths of England and Wales (1984, David and Charles)
National Trail Guides and Recreational Path Guides (1989-96, Aurum Press) Nicolson, Adam The National Trust Book of Long Walks (1981, The National Trust)
Pevsner, Nikolaus et al. Buildings of England series (1951-74, Penguin) Pilton, Barry One Man and his Bog (1985, Corgi)
Plowright, Alan Plowright Follows Wainwright (1995, Michael Joseph) Wainwright, Alfred A Coast to Coast Walk (1992, Michael Joseph) Wainwright, Alfred Pennine Way Companion (1992, Michael Joseph) Wainwright, Alfred Wainwright in Scotland (1988, Mermaid Books with BBC)

Contents

 

Cover

Title Page

Copyright Page

About the author

Acknowledgements

About This Book

Chapter One – The South Downs Way

Chapter Two – The North Downs Way

Chapter Three – The Ridgeway Path

Chapter Four – The Thames Path

Chapter Five – The Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path

Chapter Six – The Cotswold Way

Chapter Seven – The Yorkshire Wolds Way

Chapter Eight – The Cleveland Way

Chapter Nine – Hadrian’s Wall Path

Chapter Ten – The Coast to Coast Walk

Chapter Eleven – The Pennine Way

Chapter Twelve – The South West Coast Path

Chapter Thirteen – Offa’s Dyke Path

Chapter Fourteen – The Pembrokeshire Coast Path

Chapter Fifteen – Glyndwr’s Way

Chapter Sixteen – The West Highland Way

Chapter Seventeen – The Southern Upland Way

Chapter Eighteen – The Speyside Way

Chapter Nineteen – The Great Glen Way

Postscript: The Next Big Walk

About This Book

Despite the increasingly sophisticated range of leisure pursuits and interests available to us, walking still enjoys huge popularity as a form of recreation. At its most basic, it may consist of a stroll around the block to walk off an excessively large Sunday lunch. Real devotees, however, will head for the hills or the mountains every weekend whatever the weather, clad in the most expensive equipment, only happy when they have completed their regulation twenty-five miles for the day, and regarding anyone content with less as a sad couch potato. Whatever their degree of devotion, most walking enthusiasts will agree that it is nice to have an objective to aim for. It may just be the windmill on the hilltop above the town which rewards its visitors with a beautiful view on a clear day. It could be a high mountain that requires several hours’ toil and effort to reach the summit or the desire to walk further in a single day than you have ever done before, or simply the desire to put as much distance as possible between yourself and your neighbours’ Saturday afternoon barbecue party.

In recognition of the fact that walkers like to have an objective or purpose, a number of official long-distance walking routes (eighteen at the time of writing) have been created across Great Britain, designated in England and Wales as national trails, and north of the border as Scottish National Long Distance Walking Routes. What distinguishes these routes from the many other name paths in Britain is that the maintenance of them is funded centrally in recognition of their popularity and importance. They all aim to incorporate places and features of particular historic or scenic interest, and the completion of a single route is itself a worthy objective for any hiker. The purpose of this book is to give an overview of all eighteen routes and also to provide a sneak preview of what is likely to be the nineteenth, namely the Pennine Bridleway, part of which has in fact already acquired national trail status. Also covered in full in this book is Wainwright’s Coast to Coast Walk which although not a national trail nor properly waymarked, is still hugely popular nearly 40 years after its conception and is walked more frequently than many national trails.

The nineteen routes range in difficulty from the gentle 73-mile Great Glen Way, a very easy and superbly well waymarked walk through stunning Scottish highland scenery, to the formidable 255-mile Pennine Way and the massive 628-mile South West Coast Path which is likely to take you months if not years to complete. Every chapter begins with some basic details about the route described in it, brief information about its origin, and then a detailed but light-hearted description of the route itself, highlighting all the places of interest on or near it, and pointing out aspects of the walk that are of potential interest, challenge or even amusement.

I should make three other things clear about the book. Firstly, it is not enough on its own; I could not advise you to walk one of the described routes using this book alone. By all means have the book with you on your travels if you have the room in your rucksack, but you will need a guidebook dedicated to your chosen route that includes the necessary mapping. The best are those published by Aurum Press or Cicerone, easily available from bookshops or via Amazon on the Internet, although for both the Pennine Way and the Coast to Coast there is really no substitute for Wainwright’s’ companion guides which are classics of their kind. You will also need an up-to-date accommodation guide, and if you are planning to use public transport to get you to and from the route, you will have to check the latest timetables. All this information is easily obtainable from local tourist information centres or the Internet.

Secondly, the book makes no assumptions about your level of experience and fitness; it is written just as much for the uninitiated and inexperienced walker as it is for the super-fit, super-equipped traveller. You must draw your own conclusions, having read about each route, as to whether or not you feel sufficiently fit and able to attempt it.

Thirdly, there is certainly no rule which dictates that you must walk the whole route in one go, and in fact you may find it more rewarding to do bits at a time, taking each section slowly and making detours to places of interest. Accommodation is also, of course, a matter of personal preference. Hotels and guest houses are not always easy to come by, particularly on the more remote stretches of the route, and here campers have a distinct advantage. The freedom of erecting a tent on a remote hillside brings joys that others miss: seeing at first-hand the glories of a perfect sunset, suddenly feeling blissfully at one with the mysteries of night... and scurrying for the nearest shelter when a violent thunderstorm blows your tent away at half past three in the morning.

Bearing in mind that the shortest route described in this book is 79 miles, and many of the routes have stretches where even small settlements can lie more than ten miles apart with featureless countryside in between, you will quickly appreciate that if you are unable to manage more than six miles or so in one day, and even then cannot put one foot in front of the other for two days afterwards, long-distance walking is not yet for you. You will need to get fit.

While you are getting yourself fit, get properly equipped. Don’t be conned by the owner of the town’s outdoor-wear shop into thinking that for your modest rambling round the park you need an accumulation of gear that even Chris Bonington would regard as excessive for an assault on K2. The most important thing to get right is footwear. Get yourself a decent pair of walking shoes or boots. Until you get into really serious walking, comfort is more important than durability, so don’t get yourself anything too fancy to begin with. New boots are agony at first, so for goodness’ sake don’t set off on a major expedition in a pair of boots you only wore to try on round the shop.

If the idea of one of the walks described in this book is still daunting, there are an ever-increasing number of smaller long-distance routes available, in the 30–40 mile range, that can easily be broken into sections of say ten or twelve miles.

I would strongly recommend you start with the South Downs Way. It is very easy to get to, there are no route-finding problems, it is relatively short and can be completed comfortably in ten days by even the fairly inexperienced traveller, and the scenery is tremendous. Do not be tempted to go straight for the ‘big one’ and attempt the Pennine Way as your first major undertaking, or indeed any of the other routes described in this book as strenuous or severe. There will be plenty of time for those once you have experienced easier routes and the mental, physical and logistical demands that even they will entail. It really is not worth putting your life at risk.

I would also respectfully suggest that it is pointless to put your life at risk by venturing outside in the worst weather. If you do decide to keep going no matter what, ensure you have a good breakfast inside you, that someone knows where you are, you have sufficient clothing and high-energy food to keep you warm and sustained, and ideally that you carry a mobile phone in case of an emergency. When walking through featureless terrain in bad light, low cloud or mist, you should carry a torch and a compass, which of course you should know how to use.

A book of this nature can never be completely up to date. While I have made every effort to check information for accuracy at the time of writing, you may find things are different when you walk the routes described. Hotels or pubs may shut, visitor attractions may disappear or indeed spring up beside the route, and the routing of paths may change either temporarily or permanently, owing to erosion, bad weather, development or other unforeseen circumstances. The best advice is always to follow waymarked diversions carefully, and ring ahead to check the availability of food and accommodation. The more sadistic purveyors of torture equipment would be hard pressed to devise a nastier punishment than arriving at a little village after twenty miles of hard footslogging, only to find that the old inn advertised as offering a fine range of real ales and bar meals has now shut.

Enjoy.