A walking holiday will banish the winter blues and put a spring in your step. Chris Carter reports.
Joining a group of like-minded walkers is a great way to explore new countryside routes, says Jody Woolcock in Countryfile magazine. It’s understandable if you’re nervous about a solo expedition. After all, “when you’re prone to getting lost, heading out for 16km on your own somewhere you’ve never been before can seem quite daunting”. Having spoken to former Countryfile television presenter Julia Bradbury about starting a walking group, Bradbury advised Woolcock to go home and do it. Since then, “Cornish Ramblings” has morphed into “a wonderful following of loyal and like-minded folk”, who regularly enjoy getting lost across Cornwall. It is a good way to stay physically active, says Woolcock, and walking in groups is also good for your emotional and mental health.
On one particular Saturday outing, a new face approaches Woolcock and asks, “Are you Cornish Ramblings?” A total of 22 people turned up for a hike that day around a “gorgeous part of Cornwall”, Golitha Falls. The walk begins in Draynes Wood, an ancient woodland in the Fowey Valley, with its soft green mosses and lichen-covered rocks. Otters can be seen exploring the waterfalls. Then it’s up into open fields for “stunning views”. Before long, the end destination has been reached – an impressive Neolithic burial chamber called Trethevy Quoit. “It makes a perfect place to stop for a photo or two.”
Free (donations welcome); membership, £5 a year; CornishRamblings.co.uk
Dramatic scenery in northern England
If you’re still suffering from the winter blues, then a walking holiday is a sure-fire way to put a spring in your step, says Will Hide in The Mail on Sunday. In June, Mark Corney – a contributor to Channel 4’s Time Team, or leading archaeologist Tony Wilmott, will lead a nine-day walk along the length of Hadrian’s Wall, covering 13 miles a day and taking in some of “northern England’s most dramatic scenery”
From £1,995, AndanteTravels.co.uk.
Further north still, Wilderness Scotland is introducing women-only walking trips this year with the aim of helping women to “develop their confidence in the outdoors and meet like-minded adventurers”. One such walk is a week-long hike along the “spectacular” West Highland Way, starting in Milngavie, near Glasgow, and ending at Fort William 95 miles later.
From £1,545, WildernessScotland.com
Make hiking convivial with a walking festival
Around 150 walking festivals take place across Britain, which help to make hiking convivial, says Sarah Baxter in The Guardian. Most wait until May for better weather, “but they’re tough in south Wales”, and the Crickhowell Walking Festival in March is one of the first of the year. “We started in drizzle, progressed into blow-you-off-your-feet wind, moved into milk-chocolately mud, and finished in stair-rod rain.” But it was great to be outside.
Following the Black Mountains route with guides Anthea and Wally, and their energetic collie, along with “a bunch of waterproof-encased walkers”, the group covered 11 miles, three hills and one “legend-laced lake” – home to the Afanc, the Welsh answer to the Loch Ness Monster. “Had I been alone, I would have been lost,” says Baxter. But walking with others is a great way to spur you on and, more to the point, in the right direction. “We walked through a farmyard, wound uphill, crossed springy fields and looked down on the wintry drama of the Usk valley.”
A shard of late sunlight even managed to cut through the gunmetal-grey sky, combining brightness with foreboding. The walk ended in Clarence Hall, where homemade soup and chocolate brownies awaited.
Fees up to £12.50; 9-17 March; CrickhowellFestival.com