BRITAIN’S BEST COAST WALKS THREE SENSATIONAL WEEKEND STRIDES BY THE SEA, ALL PLANNED FOR YOU
ISSUE 305 SECRET LAKE DISTRICT | BRITAIN’S BEST COAST WEEKENDS | CADAIR IDRIS | GPS TOTAL GUIDE | PHOTOGRAPHY MASTERCLASS | DAVID HEMPLEMAN-ADAMS
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A walker’s masterclass with landscape legend Joe Cornish
AUGUST 2012 £3.99
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STEP INTO SUMMER: Butterfly walks l Picnic spots l Wild swims
theview WILD THINGS
AUGUST IS FOR THE...
Butterfly ball From fat grub to flirtatious flier – the annual dance of the butterflies is one of nature’s great magic tricks. So get out and enjoy the show.
rom caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly. From fat hairy grub to gorgeous, slinky supermodel. Every child knows about the life cycle of the butterfly, and as a lesson in the transfiguring power of nature, it’s hard to beat. August is the month to enjoy the results, because most species live only for one summer and the butterfly ball is in full swing. Their finery is on, and you’ll see them in woods, meadows and hedgerows, basking in the sun then darting from flower to flower and fanning out pheromones as they seek a partner with which to dance and mate. It’s worth buying a pocket photo-guide for your daysack, because Britain has just 54 native species to get familiar with – plus the clouded yellows, red admirals and painted ladies that fly in from the continent for their summer holidays. Many are surprisingly friendly, spiralling around the elbows of human visitors as they check out an eye-catching movement or a tasty-looking shirt. What’s more, every habitat has its butterfly: swallowtails love the fens, mountain ringlets the moorland; chalkhill blues like downland; and the gatekeeper patrols fields and verges. Below are four sites all aflutter with August action; wait for a still, sunny day and go early for easy identification, as that’s when the insects will be sunbathing – their bodies must reach 30°C to fly. ◗Find your nearest woodland butterfly reserve: search at http://www.wildlifetrusts org/woodlandbutterflies.
FOUR BUTTERFLY WALKS FOR AUGUST 1
EAST DARTMOOR DEVON
The humid oakwoods of this nature reserve near Bovey Tracey are soaked in summer with jungly undergrowth and fluttering with silver-washed fritillaries. These inquisitive orange butterflies make a big splash, and there’s a chance you’ll also see dark green fritillaries and elegant white admirals on the wild honeysuckle. Walk it: OS Explorer OL28; 01626 832330, naturalengland.org.uk
This old chalk quarry, in the Chilterns near Tring, has transformed into wide wetlands, busy with 1 butterflies. Old-fashioned field-edge flowers such as the corn cockle and venus looking-glass thrive here, luring marbled whites, ringlets, small blues and green hairstreaks. Walk it: OS Explorer 181; 01442 826774, bbowt.org.uk
MARTIN DOWN HAMPSHIRE
The mighty Romano-British fort of Bokerley Dyke is now a stronghold for some 36 species, including the tiniest, the small blue, and the most brilliant, the adonis blue, plus whole squadrons of chalkhill blues and marbled whites patrolling its flower-rich grassy escarpment. Walk it: OS Explorer 118; 01590 674656, naturalengland.org.uk
COLLEGE LAKE BUCKINGHAMSHIRE
GAIT BARROWS LANCASHIRE
It’s been a washout up here so far this year, but a few days of sun will unleash the reserve’s high brown fritillaries – golden greats which love the limestone hills of Morecambe Bay. More reliable are the amazing graylings, expert at disappearing before your eyes. Walk it: OS Explorer OL7; 01539 531604, naturalengland.org.uk
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A marbled white poses for its close-up. Meet one yourself on the Hampshire Downs this summer.
Photo: Tim Gainey/Alamy
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Destinations | Lake District
A PATH LESS FANTASTIC LAKE DISTRICT WALKS
The rocky knoll of Cofa Pike, with St Sunday Crag behind and silent Deepdale below.
FAR FROM THE HOLIDAY CROWDS
It is high summer and Lakeland is at its busiest. Windermere, Patterdale and Keswick are packed with happy holidaymakers, and the hills bustle with boots. Don’t be deterred, though: we have found three tranquil walks just a stone’s throw away from the honeypots. So read on, go exploring... and don’t tell a soul.
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BIG WEEKENDS COASTAL WALKS
Blakeney to Burnham Overy Staithe, Norfolk Escape into North Norfolk’s empty skies and silken sands.
A place for reflection: the sands at Wells, hemmed with beach huts.
popular yarn in North Norfolk warns of old Black Shuck, a huge hound with one glowing red eye who prowls the Stiffkey marshes in search of his next victim. Depending on who you believe, a mere glance from the demonic dog spells either instant death or merely temporary petrification. Of course, this tall tale made a perfect diversion for the smugglers landing dodgy Dutch gin on the shoreline here back in the 19th-century. Regardless of the illegality of the bootleg booze, robbing people of the chance to walk the North Norfolk coast in peace would be downright criminal. This is a place to come to leave life’s mini-crises behind: overdue gas bills, that rattling noise the car makes, and any threat of murderous hounds should be off limits on Norfolk’s never-ending beaches. A walking weekend from Blakeney to Burnham Overy Staithe holds the promise of big views, lapping waves and pure sea air. The marshes of Stiffkey invite you into a
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different world, one of meandering channels and chattering reeds, while the beach at Holkham numbers the royal family and film directors among its fans. These pristine sands separating Wells from Burnham stretch forever, merging with the North Sea all the way to the horizon – an infinite space to empty your mind into. Along the way, there is birdlife and boatlife for entertainment. Their comings and goings can help while away blissful, carefree hours. If you fancy some extra mental stimulation, however, time your visit to coincide with Walking, a seaside installation on Holkham beach by the acclaimed stage artist Robert Wilson. Forming part of the London 2012 festival and running from August 20th to September 2nd, Wilson’s piece stretches three miles in all, and is mysteriously described as part-walk, part-theatre, and an experience which will thrillingly alter your perceptions of space and time (01603 766400, nnfestival.org.uk; tickets cost £15).
Watch the world drift by as you step out at Burnham Overy Staithe.
YOUR WEEKEND PLAN SATURDAY 9.30am: Your weekend dawns in the picture-perfect village of Blakeney, where fishing boats bob and the comely cottages are cobbled in flint.
Photo: Bob Atkins
1.30pm: The Red Lion in Stiffkey (01328 830552, stiffkey.com) serves excellent fresh seafood. Wash down local mussels or crab from Wells with a pint of Woodforde’s ale before surging on west alongside Stiffkey marshes. 4.30pm: Kick off your boots at The Old Charter House in Wells, your lodgings for the night, and admire the view of the town’s quaint quay with its characterful old granary. It won’t be long before you’re out exploring again though, sniffing your way to Buttlands, the village green once used for archery practice but now bordered by fine Georgian houses and a couple of decent eateries: choose between the Globe Inn (01749 939 137, theglobeinnwells.co. uk) and the Crown (01328 710209, thecrownhotelwells.co.uk).
The pristine sands separating Wells from Burnham stretch forever, merging with the North Sea on the horizon.
Photo: Bob Atkins
11am: Join the Norfolk Coast Path and strike out west, skimming the edges of the Morston Salt Marshes on your journey towards today’s end point, 13.8km (8½ miles) away at Wells-nextthe-Sea. Keep your eyes peeled for hen harriers, short-eared owls and merlin.
SUNDAY 9.30am: Today’s walk is 10.4km (6½ miles), and you’ll be treading the same sands as Gwyneth Paltrow in the closing scene of Shakespeare in Love. A dusty footpath on a raised bank leads all the way from town to the beach. 10am: Once there, the endless, empty views over sand and sea would inspire anyone to stride out. Look out for seals bobbing in the channel, then stroll west, admiring the row of technicolour beach huts set against the pine woods. 1pm: After a leisurely four miles, turn left across the dunes to pick up the boardwalk which skips over saltmarshes and grazing fields into Burnham Overy Staithe. If you’ve brought a packed lunch, here’s the place to eat it, while watching fishing boats rig up and push out to sea. For more substantial fare, head for The Hero and tuck into a traditional ploughmans (£9.95; 01328 738334, theheroburnhamovery.co.uk). 2pm: Norfolk’s self-styled ‘Chelsea-onSea’, aka Burnham Market, is only a short hop away on the Coasthopper 2 bus (coasthopper.co.uk). Have a look around its boutiques and galleries then hop the same bus back to Wells (last Sunday departure 3.43pm) and then the Coasthopper 3 on to Blakeney.
Photo: © age fotostock/SuperStock
TIME FOR BED Wells isn’t lacking for charming B&Bs, but many of them ask for a minimum stay of two nights. For a one-night stopover on this stretch of the coastal path, try The Old Custom House (doubles from £75; 01328 711463, eastquay.co.uk/ bb.htm), with its enticing harbourside location and Elizabethan roots. The views extend over the shimmering creeks and marshes and, given the changing tides, the scene at breakfast is likely to be refreshingly different from the one you saw the previous evening. At the end of the weekend, you may well be persuaded to stay on an extra night at the irresistible Cley Windmill (01263 740209, cleywindmill.co.uk). Just down the road from Blakeney, doubles there start from £129.
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Knowledge | Landscape photography
CAPTURE THE VIEW Ever tried to photograph a great view but been disappointed with the picture? Britain’s premier landscape photographer can fix that for you… Words: Nick Hallissey Photos: Tom Bailey, Joe Cornish And Nick Hallissey
Perfect composition, gorgeous light and everything in balance. This view of Sutton Bank by Joe Cornish forms a mural in the nearby visitor centre.
OOKING AT PICTURES afterwards should be one of the abiding pleasures of walking. But all too often, your picture of that sumptuous view that blew your mind turns out to have a squiffy horizon, a blurry tree, a smudge that might be your partner and (back in the day, anyway) the dreaded ‘Quality Control’ sticker slapped on it by some supercilious techie from Boots. Fed up with asking ourselves “why doesn’t it look like it did when I saw it?”, we’ve sought help from the best tutor in the land: Joe Cornish, Britain’s premier landscape photographer; the man the National Trust turns to when it wants to make its wild places look irresistible. So here we are, atop Sutton Bank, the tremendous western wall of Joe’s beloved North York Moors, pointing cameras at the delectable wooded cone of Hood Hill. “Your problem is that you’re cleverer than the camera,” says Joe. “As you look out there, your brain is doing incredibly complex work to balance the light and make that view amazing, things which a camera can only do with a lot of adjustment. So the trick is to make the camera see it like you do.” It helps, of course, that this is a truly special place to take a picture, and that we’ve walked to get here. u
THE EXPERT Originally from Exeter, Joe Cornish became captivated by photography as a student. He went on to become a travel photographer and has visited every corner of the earth from Alaska to the Middle East. He has worked regularly for the National Trust since 1990, and published dozens of books. He moved to Northallerton, North Yorkshire, in 1993 and established the Joe Cornish Gallery there (it’s well worth a visit – details at joecornishgallery.co.uk). His favourite landscapes remain the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors.
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Welcome to the
COUNTRY WALKING GEAR REVIEWS I’d wager that no outdoor gear has sparked more debate over the last decade than GPS. And with the speed of development in the sector, it’s a hot chestnut that’s not getting any cooler. But these are big investments – maybe the biggest a walker will make on a single item of gear – and they vary greatly in style and usage, so thoroughly testing the latest offerings is something we take very seriously. The following pages will help you to make sense of this confusing world, make a smart purchase, and answer what is fast becoming the biggest question in the gear world: can a GPS beat an iPhone? Elsewhere this month, you’ll find out how the CW team are faring with their long-term kit, and meet some chic shoes that will give Converse boots a run for their money…
GPS units M
ap and compass, or GPS? GPS with built-in mapping, or basic model? Smartphone or dedicated unit? Boy, does this subject raise a few questions. Yet it’s far simpler than it seems: it’s about identifying what features you need and then shopping around to find something that fits the bill. The difference here is that you’re in new territory: gone are materials, sizes, wind-resistance and warmth; you’re now comparing memory, software, interfaces, screen resolution, even computer compatibility. But these are just big words really, and the features they describe are nothing like as confusing as they sound. Putting aside the jargon, a GPS is basically a helpful navigation tool that can make life a little easier, enrich your walking, and help you record the walks you’ve done. The big question is: which one is right for you? Read on to find out...
CONTENTS GPS explained .............................page 70 GPS on test ....................................page 71 Smartphone options ..............page 74 Long-term tests .........................page 77 CW Best Buys ...............................page 78
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Now go to our website for two brilliant how-to videos: The Beginner’s Guide to GPS and Get the Most out of your GPS. Visit lfto.com/garmin.
What to look for... ACCURACY All GPS units are theoretically accurate to around 15m, and accuracy is often much higher than this. But if the signal you are receiving is weak, perhaps in a built-up area, under heavy tree cover or in a deep gorge, it could potentially be a lot worse. Accuracy can be improved by up to five times if your unit is WAAS-enabled.
COMPATIBILITY Tom Hutton Country Walking gear tester
WATCH GPS IN ACTION!
It is definitely easier to plan and plot your walks on a computer first, using mapping software or an online map service, and then ‘feed’ your route to the GPS unit. So if you’d like to do this, make sure your GPS will be compatible with your computer and your mapping. Also try and find out how easy the transfer of digital data really is – some are totally seamless: basically plug in and go, others require the removal of cards etc. If you need extra cables, memory cards or card readers, take that into account when comparing prices.
BATTERY LIFE This is critical. The best mapping devices literally guzzle batteries. If you only ever do shortish day-walks – no problem. If you like multi-day treks, make sure you can get spares, or better still, that you can use readily available AAs or similar.
MEMORY Most units have a slot for a memory card and these can be used to store extra mapping etc. Very basic units may not, and in this case, check how many waypoints/routes/tracks they can store on the internal memory.
EXTRA FEATURES Some units also have an electronic compass which works when you are stationary, unlike a standard GPS compass. Other models come with a barometric altimeter, which tends to be more accurate than the ordinary GPS type and also works when the satellite signal is weak. If you walk in high mountains, where knowing altitude can be useful and where you may be navigating in poor visibility, these are handy.
INTERFACE GPS units are either operated by touchscreen or using buttons. With the rise of smartphones, touchscreen models are becoming more common: they are easy to operate in the dry with bare hands, but can be a bit wayward in a rain shower or with gloves on. Buttons are more straightforward. You want a device that makes it easy to input a specific waypoint and which then leads you to it. It’s also useful if you can easily mark your specific location.
DISPLAY Screens should be bright and easy to read, even in bright sunlight. Colour is generally better than black and white but costs more. Check it with and without the backlight in the shop.
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Photo: Tom Bailey
Most new GPS designs run some form of OS mapping, which is obviously familiar and also extremely easy to use, as it will show you your exact position on a map. Some of the units also make it easy for you to mark an exact point – say the start of a descent path from a hill – and then navigate directly to it. The cheaper non-mapping units use very basic ‘base maps’ that aren’t really much use in an outdoor environment – but they give you an accurate grid reference which you can transpose onto your paper map. But even with all this wizardry, remember that you should always carry a map and compass anyway.
Destinations | Snowdonia
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WALKS TO DO BEFORE YOU DIE
THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN CADAIR IDRIS, SNOWDONIA
On the trail of star-gazing giants, rulers of the underworld and blood-baying hounds, Rachel Broomhead is blown away by the wonders of Cadair Idris. Photos: Tom Bailey
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