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issue 316 cairngorms wildlife | the original wainwright country | robert Macfarlane | waterfall walks | wild devon | the south downs way
britain's best-selling walking magazine
Easy walks in
wild places The Cairngorms • The Lake District • Snowdonia Northumberland • The Kent Coast
The original Wainwright country South Devon with BBC Coast's Miranda
free 32-page camping guide! june 2013 £3.99
Walk behind this waterfall on a spectacular Brecon Beacons trail
the south downs way
The best sections to walk over a day, a weekend or a whole week
theview Miles of ideas for a brilliant month outdoors
ROOM WITH A VIEW
TO LET: S/c appt. Sleeps up to 6. All mod cons. Out of the way location but excellent transport links. Backs onto open country. Impressive views.
passenger numbers to such an extent that the then Secretary of State for Transport Michael Portillo was persuaded to grant a stay of execution. Since then, walking tourism has seen a dramatic increase in passenger numbers on the line and it is now a major freight route to Scotland. ◗ The house can be booked through the Trust’s website at sandctrust.org.uk/stayatastation and provides vital income for restoration and maintenance of other buildings along the line.
Photo: Settle & Carlisle Railway Trust
alkers looking for an express getaway to some of England’s wildest walking country can now rent a unique holiday cottage slap-bang in the middle of one of Britain’s most iconic landscapes. The former station master’s house at Ribblehead on the famous Settle to Carlisle railway line has been completely transformed into self-catering accommodation that can sleep up to six people. The iconic Ribblehead Viaduct is visible from the upstairs window and the cottage has direct access to the wonderful walking country around Yorkshire’s famous Three Peaks: Pen-y-ghent, Ingleborough and Whernside. Its proximity to the line also opens up wider walking opportunities in Yorkshire and Cumbria’s Eden Valley. Local walking clubs helped saved the Settle to Carlisle line from closure in the 1980s by organising walks from stations along the line and boosting
The perfect base for exploring some of the Yorkshire Dales most spectacular scenery.
Photo: Robert Harding World Imagery/Alamy
JUNE 2013 Country Walking 7
Easy walks in
wild places Longer days mean you can set your sights on bigger, wilder horizons. But does wild walking have to mean damp clothes, Primus stoves and 25 mile a day treks? We say no, the wilderness welcomes all walkers, and it’s easier than you might think to go really wild. Read on and we’ll show you how…
Alone again, naturally: walking into the heart of Glen Affric. Photo: Tom Bailey
HEN HE FINISHED writing Oscar-winning movie scores, composer John Barry started writing music for landscapes; he called it 'The Beyondness of Things'. And that wonderful phrase, evoking distant lands and the adventures we might have in them, inspires the stories you’re about to read. This is the time of year when walkers – all walkers, not just hardy backpackers – can look beyond the usual and the accessible. When we can challenge ourselves to find something further, deeper or stranger, and to get closer to the natural world. So here we’ve assembled a series of magnificent wild adventures for every walker, taking you from the doorstep of London to the wild corries of the Cairngorms. Join us on these fabulous walks and you’ll tap into that ageless quest for a deeper connection with nature; for a fresh understanding of who we are and the nation we live in, and for a close encounter of the wild kind. We can think of no better way to spend a summer.
IN YOUR COMPLETE GUIDE TO WILD WALKING... Why we walk in wild places Robert Macfarlane, author of The Wild Places, explores our desire to seek out wilderness. PAGE 22
DISCOVER THE CAIRNGORMS Walk in the ancient forests and stunning glens which make this our wildest national park. PAGE 26
INTO THE great wide open From Glen Affric to Romney Marsh: time to discover Britain's wildest places for walkers. PAGE 32 JUNE 2013 Country Walking 21
Easy walks in wild places
Why we walk in
In an exclusive interview, Robert Macfarlane, best-selling author of Mountains of the Mind, The Old Ways and The Wild Places, explores our desire to seek out wilderness on foot… Can you remember what triggered your fascination for wild places? Reading my way, as a child, through the classics of mountaineering and polar travel (Edward Whymper on the Matterhorn, Ernest Shackleton on Antarctica), which my grandfather – a diplomat and mountaineer – had in his huge library of exploration literature. That and the Cairngorm mountains, where we went most years from our home in Nottingham: curlews on the moor, deer horns in the heather, salmon leaping in the river-falls. It was a landscape that cast a powerful spell – and still does. Your books on walking and wild places have all been bestsellers. Are you heartened by the public appetite for seeking out the wilderness? Yes – hugely so. Especially as we are often told (especially by Americans) that there is no wildness left in Britain. Mind you, this week I was reading the new edition of the works of Aldo Leopold, the great American conservationist and wilderness expert, and he defines a wilderness as “a continuous stretch of country preserved in its natural state” that is “large enough to absorb a twoweek pack-rafting trip” without seeing a road or other sign of infrastructure. That we certainly don’t have any longer… Do you think walking in wilderness helps people reconnect with the natural world,
in a time when we’ve made it very difficult to do that? Yes, increasing numbers of people feel the need to experience wildness (what Wallace Stegner called “a sense of bigness outside ourselves”). Wild weather, wild creatures, the deep time of geology, the sense of remoteness that can still be found at sea or at altitude: such experiences remind us that the world is not made by us or for us, that it proceeds according to its own laws. You often point out that wildness isn’t just found in mountain areas – you can find it in the saltmarsh of Essex or the chalk ridges of the Icknield Way, or even in small woodlands. Would you encourage our readers to seek out wild places on their doorstep? Absolutely. I spent a year making a film with the BBC, entitled – ahem - The Wild Places of Essex. The aim was to get past the clichés of the county and explore its natural history. I was dazzled by what we found: peregrines nesting on nuclear power stations, ancient woodlands and field patterns, bitterns inside the M25, the vastness and age of Epping Forest, and out on the saltmarsh fringes of the east coast, where the geese migrate from Siberia, a sense of openness that was as surprising as anything I’ve known in Scotland. So yes – the unexpected country of the nearby, as we might call it, is almost always worth exploration. »
Left: Robert is handy with an ice-axe and a canoe blade – but he's just as happy strolling in the fields of Cambridgeshire. Photo: Jon Miceler
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Photo: Duncan Shaw/Alamy
“The sense of remoteness that can still be found at altitude reminds us that the world is not made by us or for us.”
"A landscape that casts a powerful spell." Robert is a big fan of Loch Avon in the Cairngorms.
Country Alfred Wainwright will always be associated with the Lake District, but a younger AW first set out over the fells of East Lancashire, where Mark Sutcliffe retraces his steps in search of a fresh perspective on the grumpy old man of the hills.
The distinctive outline of Pendle Hill - principal objective of the walking club the youthful AW founded.
Destinations | east lancashire
Ainwright’s association with the Lake District is as unbreakable and enduring as the granite fells over which he hiked. But before relocating to Kendal to pursue his passion, a youthful AW spent his weekends wandering across the moorland of East Lancashire. With transport options limited, AW was forced to set out direct from his family home in Blackburn, or catch the train to Whalley in the pretty Ribble Valley, just a few miles outside the smoke and grime-filled streets of his native milltown. While the terrain is similar to the southern foothills of the Lakeland fells or the rugged moorland looming to the east of the Eden Valley, the character who sauntered over this landscape was very different from the white-haired introvert who reluctantly achieved international fame in his twilight years. AW’s youth is reflected in a new book by Nick Burton, who has traced his earlier years in a long-distance route which starts in Blackburn and winds its way through Lancashire and Cumbria to finish at Buttermere church, beneath Wainwright’s last resting place of Innominate Tarn, on Hay Stacks. Affectionately known in the office as ‘Carrots’, owing to his shock of red hair, the youthful AW actively sought company for his walks – usually male colleagues from the town hall, but also comely young secretaries from the typing pool. In his 20s, ‘Alf’ as he often signed his letters, was something of a Jack the Lad, constantly joking with his peers and ridiculing seniors with irreverent caricatures in his distinctive hand. Despite marrying in his early 20s, his union with Ruth seemed doomed almost from the outset, and chasing girls seemed to be an important aspect of his walking expeditions. Shortly before leaving for Kendal, he formed the ‘Pendle Club’ whose ostensible objective was conquering the iconic hill 10 miles up the valley from Blackburn, but as some of his prolific early correspondence reveals, its male members seemed far more interested in rather less lofty conquests. The youthful AW could almost see Pendle from his house, which still stands, now adorned with a blue plaque, amid a neat row of terraced two-up two-downs at the eastern end of Audley Range. There’s a mosque at the bottom of the road now, but wander a couple of hundred yards south and the great whaleback hump of Pendle appears away to the north-east. »
Illustration: Steven Hall; photo: John Sparks/Alamy
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Destinations | brecon beacons
waterfalls The snow has finally melted and the nation’s waterfalls are roaring. Julian Rollins explores the Welsh valley that offers more cascades per kilometre than anywhere else in Britain and one you can walk behind too…
or a moment I’m stuck between a geologist and a hard place. We’re (appropriately) a stone’s throw from our objective, a waterfall called Sgwd yr Eira, and the path is steep, narrow and hemmed-in. Ahead of me Alan Bowring, the Fforest Fawr Geopark Officer, has stopped in his tracks. Sgwd y Eira is an awe-inspiring wall of water and of sound so I have to lean in to hear what he’s saying. The fragment of rock on the flat of his hand doesn’t look like much. It’s flat and smooth, but with a finger he’s tracing three parallel raised lines that cross its surface. At first I don’t catch all of what he’s telling me, but the word “fossil” grabs my attention. It turns out that the lines on the stone were once reeds and that they were
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living, growing things around 320 million years ago. In its way that’s as amazing as the curtain of roaring whitewater 20 paces ahead. Clearly, when you’re having a first go at being a geo-tourist it pays to bring along an expert. Sgwd yr Eira, the Fall of Snow, is something special. It’s the main event in a corner of the Brecon Beacons that’s been dubbed ‘Waterfalls Country’ because there are so many eye-catching falls, cascades and rapids in one small area. Four rivers, the Mellte, Hepste, Pyrddin and Nedd Fechan, find their way through deeply cut gorges before coming together as the Afon Nedd. Along the way they stumble and tumble over falls, many of which would rate as headlining attractions in their own right anywhere else. »
Photo: Chris Tarling/Alamy
The Afon Heptse hurtles over the edge at Sgwd yr Eira.
Family Walks | Devon
Watching the tide roll away at Hope Cove.
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Photos: ÂŠ Adam Burton / Alamy
BBC Coastâ€™s Miranda Krestovnikoff discovers wildlife aplenty on a short walking break on the wild western coast of South Devon.
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farming | suffolk
Down on the
farm Mark Sutcliffe examines how farming shapes the landscapes we love to walk inâ€Ś and what walkers can do to make sure it stays that way.
Rural idyll: cows graze in the rich pastureland of Suffolk's 'Constable Country'. Photo: ÂŠ Kathy Wright/Alamy
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arming has shaped the British landscape for centuries, but modern, intensive farming methods are threatening to replace the traditional fabric of the countryside with a featureless monoculture where indigenous wildlife is elbowed out and public access discouraged. The fertile flatlands of East Anglia are at the forefront of this agrarian revolution and it’s here that you’ll find some of the most extreme examples of how agri-business is changing the face of the British countryside. To investigate, we headed to deepest Suffolk – past the massive sugar factory at Bury St Edmunds, which processes beet from thousands of acres of farmland to try to satisfy 21st-century Britain’s sugar cravings. We’re on the edge of Constable Country, a land of pastel-shaded thatched cottages and characterful country pubs in villages unchanged for a couple of centuries; yet although Suffolk is one of the most rural counties in England, increasingly it’s also
one of the most industrialised. Beyond British Sugar’s behemoth, you won’t see many factories, because it’s the land itself that’s industrialised. The pastoral landscapes that inspired the Haywain have been rationalised – cultivated to the nth degree and subordinated to the relentless efficiency of 21st-century agri-business. That means crops grown on a massive scale: sugar beet, cereals, oilseed rape and flax across huge swathes of land where hedgerows are rare and trees an endangered species. Diversity is discouraged in these massive monocultures, so insects, animals, nonproductive flora and, increasingly, humans are excluded. This is the reality of 21st-century farming geared to meeting the needs of the globalised market and maximising subsidies awarded under the Common Agricultural Policy. But among these monstrous factory farms is an oasis of sanity. A small family business that your grandparents would recognise as a working farm. »
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gear no-nonsense reviews for real walkers this just in...
Merrell Proterra Sport walking shoe £90 Merrell brings barefoot technology to the masses with a shoe which shapes itself to the contours of your foot.
The concept of "barefoot technology" might sound like the preserve of trail-runners and athletes, but with this shoe, Merrell have set out to translate that fast, lightweight ethos into something a walker would be happy to wear. The barefoot phenomenon is an attempt to return to a more natural way of walking which is more in tune with the way the human body actually moves. The Proterra is minimalist and super-lightweight (around 400g, as compared to over 1kg for your average fabric boot) but it's also supremely comfortable. There's less padding in the sole than in a standard shoe, but what you lose in security you gain in natural movement and the sensory pleasure of feeling what's really going on under your feet. We don't think you'd want to climb Snowdon in them, but they’re ideal for shorter summer walks at low level. umerrell.com
Photo: Tom Bailey
COMING UP WALKING SHOES • HYDRATION PACKS • new season long-term tests april 2013 Country Walking 69
GEAR The big test
Walking shoes As the weather improves and the paths dry out it’s great to swap heavier, hotter boots for something a little lower, lighter and more agile. With lighter footwear you should be able to walk faster for longer...
Tom Hutton is an award-winning outdoors writer who has been testing gear for CW for more than ten years along with partner Steph Duits. Tom is author of several Welsh walking guides. He and Steph have explored virtually every inch of the nation, but are especially fond of the Brecon Beacons and Snowdonia – or as they know it, the back garden.
What to look for... Fit
If they don’t fit well, they really aren’t the shoe for you. Ideally they’ll feel snug around the whole foot with no real tight spots or big gaps. Lace them from the toes upwards and check your foot is held securely in place. Padding on the tongue and ankle cuff will make them feel great from the box but may mask a bad fit – check carefully.
Most of the shoes tested are leather with fabric panels. The leather provides strength and support like a skeleton, whereas the fabric panels are cool and light. Most have a waterproof, breathable membrane that keeps water out.
Outsole This provides the grip and traction, and performance depends upon the rubber used and the depth and pattern of the tread. When we’re looking at shoes, we are generally thinking about drier, warmer trails so traction and performance on dry, rocky ground probably trumps boggier, softer going.
Toe and Heel Protection Reinforcement at the toe, usually known as a toe box, and at the heel, which is the heel counter, will protect your feet and the shoes from knocks.
Illustration: Steven Hall
This sits between your footbed and the outsole and is basically a frame on which the shoe is built. It should provide lateral support so you have a stable platform to walk on. But it doesn’t need to be too stiff as you’ll need some flex front to back.
read the full test:
Sixteen men's and women's walking shoes tested and rated over the page...
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national trails | south downs way
South Downs Way Walk up and away from it all this summer on the view-rich national trail across the tranquil chalk hills of southern England…
here can be few more perfect places than the South Downs in June: the lilt of skylarks in your ears, the warm sunshine on your skin, the velvet green hills billowing from your feet, the views spreading across a chequerboard of Wealden farms. And the South Downs Way lets you enjoy it all for 100 miles/160km, on a chalk-path that winds right across Britain’s newest national park, from Hampshire’s county town of Winchester to Eastbourne on the Sussex coast. One hundred million years ago this land lay below a warm sea – the less tropical waves of the Channel now lap to the south – and the chalk hills beneath your feet are the powdered shells of long-dead sea creatures. The white is seamed with flint, a nigh-on-diamond-hard material critical to human progress – knapped into tools and weapons, knives and arrowheads, and sparked against steel to create fire. The South Downs Way surfs the top of this ridge, tracing a well-drained, dry-foot route used for millennia, and you’ll pass Iron Age hillforts, Roman roads, Saxon churches and Victorian dewponds. Once cloaked with tight-treed forest, the downs are now a beguiling patchwork of arable and pasture, tidy woodlands and flint-built villages, flowered escarpments and wide valleys. The path never clambers above 250m – it tops out at 245m on the slopes of Hampshire’s Butser Hill and again at Ditchling Beacon in Sussex – but as it’s the highest land for miles the views sweep wide. Five rivers cut the line of hills – the Meon, Arun, Adur, Ouse and Cuckmere – so there’s up and down, but it’s never arduous. And with some of the best transport links of any national trail you can stroll it for a day, sample a weekend, break it into chunks for a summertime project, or trek the whole route in one glorious week… »
Walking high on the Seven Sisters, as sea mist winds into Cuckmere Haven and around the chalk cliffs of Seaford Head.
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Photo: Tom Bailey
25 ’ Britain s best
easy-to-follow walks with full ordnance survey maps cut-out & keep routes! JUNE 2013
Great Britain at its best!
Turn the page for 25 ready-made routes perfect for summer
inside this month uIrresistable Lakeland fells in Langdale uDiscovering Yorkshire’s highest peak uTall tales on Wenlock Edge in Shropshire u Northern Ireland’s Mourne Mountains and many more...
Summer sun falling on the Langdale Pikes in the Lake District. uTurn to route 15 Photo: © incamerastock/Alamy
the country walking promise: More walks, in more places, than any other magazine!
Britain’s Best Walks created by our experts
to Britain’s Best Walks, Country Walking’s fantastic routes section. Packed into the next 30 pages you’ll find 25 day-walks all over Britain, selected by our expert team and complete with OS maps, step-by-step directions and all the info you need to plan your next adventure outdoors. They’re sorted into nine geographical regions for easy filing: cut them out, collect them and enjoy brilliant walks for years to come.
south west south east midlands east North west 24
North east wales Scotland
Some hills are better enjoyed from below than from the top, and the Langdale Pikes in the Lakes surely vie for contention in this category. You can admire their crinkly loveliness without struggling to the top on Walk 15 this month, though a cracking stroll atop Blea Rigg will ensure fellwalkers won’t feel left out. For another must-do walk, consider mighty Whernside, the highest peak in Yorkshire (Walk 18).
03 01 02
There’s a great walk near you...
9 Derbyshire Nine Ladies Stone Circle family 0 walk 10 Cambridgeshire Abbotsley & Croxton 11 Suffolk Semer and the Brett Valley 12 Lancashire Longridge Fell
22 Denbighshire Prestatyn 23 Renfrewshire Gleniffer Braes 24 Highland Feshiebridge 25 County Down Slieve Meelbeg & Meelmore
2 Devon Soar Mill Cove 0 reader’s 03 Hampshire Beacon Hill CHOICE 04 Kent Leeds Castle 05 Oxfordshire Dorchester 06 Greater London Chingford 07 Notts/Leics Hickling & Grantham Canal
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Photo: Fiona Barltrop
08 Shropshire Much Wenlock Feature walk: Living life on the Edge
3 Lancashire Whalley Nab 1 14 Cumbria The River Leven 15 Cumbria Blea Rigg 16 South Yorkshire South Anston 17 East Yorkshire Millington Wood challenge 18 North Yorkshire Whernside walk 19 Durham Crook 20 Powys Pontneddfechan Waterfalls 21 Gwynedd Abersoch Feature walk: Marine life haven
01 Dorset Beaminster and Stoke Abbott Feature walk: Beech trees and legionaries
The view to Elter Water in the Lakes – Walk 15.