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october 2012

Exmoor – by moonlight! Ireland's top trail The Big Boot Test How to tackle your first night hike

The wondrous Wicklow Way Don't buy before reading! issue 307 swaledale | hill ranges in a weekend | leather boot test | exmoor night walk | OCTAVIA HILL'S KENT | autumn deer walks | wicklow way

Britain’s best-selling walking magazine

Best of the Dales REVEALED: Our favourite ever walk in God's own county

stride into autumn... Three hill ranges you can conquer in a weekend Where to spot wild deer & red squirrels plus

Explore a secret woodland oasis on London's doorstep


And get Craghoppers trousers worth £35! uTurn to page 26 october 2012 £3.99

theview Miles of ideas for a brilliant month outdoors


25 YEARS ON: HOW NATURE FOUGHT BACK FROM THE GREAT STORM OF '87 If you like makeover shows, head to a beautiful corner of deepest Kent this month to see how a real master does it. When the great storm of October 15th 1987 swept through Scords Wood, near Westerham, it was merciless. A staggering 95 per cent of the woodland's ancient oak and beech trees were smashed sideways or uprooted. But instead of starting a clean-up operation, a decision was taken to stand back and see what would happen if nature did the job. Trees were left where they fell, shrubs were not replanted and grazing was restricted. The result has been extraordinary. Even from their fallen state, the ancient trunks began to sprout new life, while species which

had never thrived in Scords Wood before, such as holly and birch, rushed in to fill the gaps. Piers Pardoe, a National Trust countryside ranger who has watched the process for 25 years, says: "It's wonderful. The majority of the fallen trees are re-shooting from the stumps, and in 100 years the majestic high canopy that made the wood so special will be restored. Nature knows best how to repair itself – in this case we were right to leave her to it!" You can join Piers on October 29 for a walk through the wood to see the change for yourself, starting from nearby Emmetts Garden. Details at, or call 01732 750367. And for more on this fascinating area, see p28.

Photo: Tom Bailey




Responsible for the brownish golden hues in ancient woods, beech leaves are very regular in shape, with parallel, symmetric ribs. Young beeches keep their dead leaves through the winter. The bark is smooth and grey and its twigs are slender, with buds shaped like an arrowhead.




Their mottled white bark lends them a ghost-like presence in ancient woods. Birch leaves are smaller than beech, roughly triangular and turn a vivid yellow in autumn.



Part of the olive family, ash trees are found across Europe fom the Arctic Circle to Turkey. The leaves are light yellow in autumn and the bark is smooth and a pale grey-green. OCTOBER 2012 COUNTRY WALKING 15

Leaves: iStockphoto

If you're finding your ancient woodland walk a little spooky, grab a hazel rod, believed in ancient times to protect against evil. Easily identified because the almost round leaves, which turn a yellow-brown in autumn, feel scrubby, hairy and quite floppy to the touch.



Photo: Anna Stowe Landscapes UK/Alamy

Autumn glow in the ancient Savernake Forest, near Marlborough, Wiltshire



utumn is the perfect time for a walk in the woods, but it’s also the best time to ‘read’ a woodland. As leaves change colour, it’s easier to tell one species from another, and this is also the best season to spot the tell-tale evidence that reveals whether or not the wood you’re in really is an ancient one. So how does a wood rate as ‘ancient’? The experts class any tranche of trees that dates from before 1600 as ancient. Many are very much older – and in some rare cases, woods are surviving fragments of the forests that grew to cover Britain after the last Ice Age.



The one that everyone knows. The mighty oak has leaves that are rounded at the edges and turn khaki-brown in autumn. The trunk and branches are gnarled and the bark is rough. Look out for acorns if extra proof is needed.

LOOK OUT FOR… Old trees It sounds obvious, but veteran trees – often with dead boughs or a hollow trunk – are a sign that land has been wooded for at least as long as the life of the oldest tree. Shape On the OS map, is your wood curvy edged? Curvaceous woods are likely to be older than ones with straight sides. Woodland plants Some species are a definite marker, because they generally only survive in very old woodland. They include the wild service tree (sorbus torminalis), the wild daffodil, wild garlic and the native British bluebell. Banks As ground vegetation dies down in autumn you can find remains of the old banks or ditches used by woodland managers during the Middle Ages. They’re often at the wood’s edge. Lovely Eaves Wood, on the Lancashire coast near

WALK HERE! Silverdale, dates from the 17th-century or earlier.

Look out for all the trees featured here on our 10.5km (6½-mile) ‘Silverdale’ walk, downloadable for free at




Elm leaves are nearly round with a sawtooth edge. Each jagged tooth has a smaller tooth beside it. They turn golden-brown in autumn. The world's oldest English elms, known as the Preston Twins, grow in Preston Park, Brighton.


In trust forever

A century on from the death of its guiding light, the National Trust has returned to its Kent heartland to create a new walking weekend that celebrates her legend beautifully‌

Words: Nick Hallissey Photography: Tom Bailey


I'll name that county in one: these updated Kentish oast houses are among the unique delights of the new Octavia Hill Trail.


STONE WALLS The familiar patchwork pattern of the Dales is sewn together with ancient stone walls and decorated with handsome limestone barns.


Stone walls & waterfalls SWALEDALE, YORKSHIRE DALES

One walk in the Yorkshire Dales offers thundering waterfalls, rare wildflowers, drystone walls and two of the greatest long-distance paths in Britain. Words: Rachel Broomhead Photos: Tom Bailey


WALEDALE. EVEN ITS name is lyrical, bouncing off the tongue happily as if evoking a magical kingdom in a children’s story. As it happens, the reality of Swaledale really is like a fairy-tale. Rob, CW’s Art Editor, and I arrive in the upper fringes of the Yorkshire Dales at Muker to be welcomed by a scene of surreal beauty. Fresh-faced, shapely hills hug each other closely, letting the waters of the Swale slip through serenely on their journey to the North Sea. Gazing up in between the handsome stone buildings of the village, pure green meets pure blue on the rolling skyline. Yes, I think to myself, Hobbits and Teletubbies alike would be happy with this. Swaledale is our very own Middle Earth. Of course, it was more than just the promise of a pleasing name that brought us here. The walk we have planned is steeped in the glory of two titans of the walking world. Keld, just north of Muker, has the honour of marking the sole meeting point between the Pennine Way and the Coast to Coast. Our walk between the two villages squeezes both trails into one six-mile loop. It should be quite a ride. »

KISDON FORCE These small but breathtaking waterfalls are formed by the erosion of the soft carboniferous limestone next to the harder sandstone.


Welcome to the

COUNTRY WALKING GEAR REVIEWS I get really attached to my leather walking boots. When they are new I feel like a kid all over again: traipsing around the house in them as proudly as I used to in my wellies. Then as they start to age, and their once shiny uppers start to show the scars of all those shared hills, they take on the role of an old and treasured friend – I’ve even been known to talk to them. And Steph’s much the same. So we know what it’s like buying new boots, and we really put our all into testing them; hoping we can play a part in the formation of some long and fruitful friendships. We’ve also been out and about in shirts this month, enjoying their liberating coolness and protection from the sun. Read our thoughts further on.

Tom Hutton & Steph Duits Country Walking gear testers

CONTENTS Men’s leather boots 58 Women’s leather boots 60 Six of the best shirts 63 Long-term test 65 Gear Doctor 67 CW Recommends 68


Leather boots BOOTS MAY NOT be the most glamorous bit of walking kit you’ll ever buy, and these days they probably won’t even be the most expensive. But one thing is beyond dispute: they are the most important. Get the wrong boots and you’ll know about it every step of every walk. So how do you know which is right for you? When we test boots we try to take into account

all of the factors involved; from the kind of ground they are most suited to, to the kind of foot that will fit them best. Waterproofing, of course, is important – you don’t want them to leak. And looks matter to many people too. So read on to hear our thoughts, but don’t just look at the marks, check the comments too.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR... UPPER All the boots featured here have full leather uppers. As a rule, the thicker the leather, the more supportive the boot, but this will of course be at the expense of weight and cost. Generally, the higher up the hill you go, the thicker the leather you should choose but there will always be those who do things differently. Most of the boots here feature a waterproof membrane, such as Gore-Tex or eVENT, which is slipped between the leather and the lining. This will keep water out, but can also make the boot feel hotter and heavier. Non-membrane boots can work just as well but need to be treated regularly to stay waterproof.

FIT Fit is everything. It really doesn’t matter what a boot looks like, what features it has or even what we say here, if a boot doesn’t fit your foot properly, then it’s not the boot for you. With this in mind, try on several pairs before buying. Look for a snug fit all round: tight spots may rub and cause blisters; while any loose areas usually mean they won’t hold your foot as securely as you’d like. Try them on carefully in the shop, and even wear them around the house for a few days before taking them out. Remember: padding may feel comfortable to start with but it can cover up potential problems that will show over time. If in any doubt at all, use a shop that has a trained and experienced boot fitter.

PROTECTION A thick leather upper will provide a fair bit of protection for your feet but for anything other than the easiest walking, it should also be reinforced at the toe and heel to guard against knocks and bumps. A rubber rand will protect the leather from scuffs and cuts and keep the boot looking good longer.

OUTSOLE This acts like a tyre and provides the traction needed to keep you on your feet and moving. The tread pattern dictates the kind of walking the boots are best suited to. For all-round use in the UK, it should be deep enough to find grip on wet and slippery mud, yet not so aggressive that it won’t also grip securely on rock (think football boot studs on concrete).



MIDSOLE The handling characteristics of the boot are governed by the midsole: a plastic frame or chassis sandwiched inside the sole unit. If most of your walking is on smooth, flat paths, then a flexible midsole will feel light and comfortable. If you tend to prefer rougher ground, such as that found in the Lakes and Snowdonia, then go for something a little stiffer. Consequently, a medium stiff midsole will be best for all-round use.

Photo: Tom Hutton

Easily overlooked. Good lacing will allow you to get a comfy fit around the foot and a supportive wrap around the ankle. Check that you can get even tension across the whole foot and that you can somehow lock this off before setting the ankle cuff a little looser depending on preference. There is usually a locking eyelet that makes this easy to achieve.

The higher this is the more supportive the boot will feel, but of course at the expense of weight and to some extent clumsiness. Most of the boots here have medium height cuffs that will work well for all-round use. The cuff is usually well padded (as is the tongue). Lace it tightly in the shop and make sure that it feels comfortable around your ankle bone and also on the top of the foot.


Small is beautiful High peaks are all very well, but some of the best things come in small packages – and we've found three walking weekends that prove it. From a trio of little summits in the Scottish Borders to a gaggle of film-star hills near London, these miniature mountain chains pack a real punch.


Getting to know the Eildon Hills on a weekend in the Borders.

Some mountain ranges – Eildon Hills the Himalayas, the Scottish Highlands – take a lifetime Clwydian Range to get to know. Others, though, are a little more The Chilterns approachable. Here are three view-rich, bite-size hill-chains that you can make friends with in a single weekend. And we've done every bit of planning for you, so all you need to do is enjoy the climb...

THE WEEKENDS 72 EILDON HILLS, SCOTTISH BORDERS A favourite with everyone from the Romans to Sir Walter Scott, this distinctive trio of tops outside Melrose draws the eye for miles around. Discover its magic on a weekend walking its summits and foothills...

76 CLWYDIAN RANGE, NORTH WALES Step back several millennia as you stomp over sweeping heathery hills peppered with ancient forts. Be prepared to share, though, because this compact posse of summits is popular with rare wildlife too.

80 THE CHILTERNS, SOUTH EAST ENGLAND The Chilterns may be a bijou range of hills, but they pack in the celebrity scenery. Walk their lush slopes and spot scenes from The Vicar of Dibley, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Midsomer Murders… Photo: Tom Bailey





Emerald trail

The Wicklow Way is Ireland's favourite trail and you can enjoy the best of it in a long weekend. Jasper Winn walks from Glendalough to Dublin, in the company of saints, scholars and scribes.

Photos: Jasper Winn; Felix Zaska/ Alamy; Pics Inc - RM Content/Alamy


E JUST LOVE the way the scenery changes so fast,” Linnea says excitedly. She and her friend Caitlin are the only other passengers on the evening bus from Dublin to Glendalough. They both stare enchanted out of the window as we leave the city and skirt the rugged Wicklow Mountains, threading narrow lanes between hedges of fuschias and foxgloves. The two women are from Canada, a country of huge vistas and wide wilderness, yet they’re falling for Ireland’s ‘big landscape scrunched into a small space’ feel. I can understand that, but I’m surprised by their enthusiasm for the weather. “That changes so fast, too... ” Linnea says, as we arrive at Glendalough Hostel, “… and always for the better, right?”

I share their optimism. As I walk into the Monastic City, tattered clouds redden in the dropping sun, promising a perfect tomorrow. Glendalough is a Hobbit-metropolis of ruins, chapels and Celtic crosses built around the stone rocket of a round tower, its door ten feet off the ground for defensive reasons. It was founded in the 6th-century by Saint Kevin, who liked animals most, men less and women not at all. A folk song sums him up: "In Glendalough there lived an auld saint, renowned for his learning and piety, his manners were curious and quaint and he looked upon girls with disparity.” I am setting off in the footsteps of saints, scholars and poets to tramp the hills that separate the Monastic City from the modern city of Dublin by 30 miles and, roughly, 1,400 years. The »

Opposite page, clockwise from top left: Shades of green at the Luggala Estate; a boardwalk leads across the Wicklow Hills; Jasper enjoys day two on the trail, between Roundstone and Knockree; a Glendalough gravestone; St Kevin's Church at Glendalough, and the Round Tower behind. Above: The Wicklow Way near Luggala.


Country Walking magazine October 2012  

A preview of the October 2012 issue of Country Walking magazine.

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