Dec 242016

First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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Seatown lies tucked into a crack in the Dorset coast, right at the heart of a spectacular run of crumbling cliffs that stretches west from Chesil Beach to well beyond Lyme Regis. This is walking country so superb that it came as a surprise, even on a weekday morning in mid winter, to find ourselves climbing away westward from Seatown’s cosy old smugglers’ pub, the Anchor Inn, with only a handful of walkers to share the South West Coast Path with us.

The weather matched the landscape for magnificence, a cloudless blue bowl of sky, upturned over a coast of close-cropped pasture fields and tall bitten-off cliff faces. The whaleback of Golden Cap is the highest piece of land along the Dorset Coast. Up there, more than 600 feet above the sea, the view was sublime – east along the yellow wall of cliffs to the long curve of Chesil Beach and the distant wedge of the Isle of Portland, west over a great sloping rampart of rock steps smothered in scrub, to Charmouth and Lyme Regis sprinkled in white cubes down their valleys, and the tottering coast beyond.

This is one of the most dynamic coasts in Britain, the greensand and chalk toppings of the cliffs constantly slipping and sliding seaward on the treacherous layer of skiddy gault that underlies them. Rainfall and hidden springs lubricate the clay layer, making things even more wobbly. Falls are frequent, landslips commonplace. The angled flanks of the cliffs and the skirt of fallen material and rocks at their feet bear witness to their remarkable instability.

A young robin, emboldened by hunger, followed us down the steps from Golden Cap, pecking at fragments of chocolate that we let fall. We followed the Coast Path west along the shaky rim of the cliffs, looking down into the chaotic jumble of the undercliff where sedges, willows and brambles flourished in the untrodden ground.

At last we turned inland past lonely Westhay Farm, up to the ridge of Stonebarrow Hill and the homeward path. At Upcot Farm chickens roamed, the farmer dug his muckheap, and a handsome bull stood unmoving beside the stile, contemplating space and his own internal rumblings.

Down in a cleft below Golden Cap we found the broken walls of St Gabriel’s Chapel, built 800 years ago to serve a remote agricultural community in this isolated hollow. Most likely those medieval peasants never had the time or leisure, as we did, to drop down onto the beach at Seatown and watch the red ball of the winter sun sink below the horizon and leave a track of wrinkled gold across the sea.

Start: Anchor Inn, Seatown, Bridport, Dorset DT6 6JU (OS ref SY 420917)

Getting there: Seatown is signed off A35 Lyme Regis to Bridport road at Chideock.

Walk (6¾ miles, moderate, OS Explorer 116): From Anchor Inn, inland up road. In 250m, left (fingerpost/FP, ‘Coast Path’/CP’, ‘Golden Cap’) on path also marked ‘Monarch’s Way’. Follow CP for 2½ miles, over Golden Cap (407922) and three streams (398923, 389926, 386926). In field that follows 3rd stream, Westhay Water, bear right just below Westhay Farm at 3-finger post (385927, FP ‘Stonebarrow Hill’). 200m above farm, drive bends right; ahead here (382930, ‘NT car park’), up bridleway to car park (381932). Right on track along Stonebarrow Hill.

In ½ mile at next car park, fork right (390935, FP ‘Chardown Hill’). In 20m, through gate (‘St Gabriel’s’); fork right, diagonally downhill, path soon becoming a track, for ⅔ mile, to Upcot farm. Left (397930, FP ‘St Gabriel’s’); in 150m, right (FP, stile); follow hedge on right to bottom corner of field; right over stile (399927) into lane. Right, down to St Gabriel’s.

Opposite St Gabriel’s House, left (401924, FP ‘Seatown’) past chapel ruin (blue arrow) and on (‘Langdon Wood, Seatown’). In 250m, right (404925, FP ‘Langdon Wood’) up to 3-finger post (405924). ‘Langdon Wood’ points left, but bear half right uphill, following top hedge to gate (408924). Forward (FP ‘Langdon Hill’) to gate (410923). Forward (‘Seatown, Chideock’) along edge of Langdon Wood. In 300m, right (413923, FP, ‘Seatown’) down to CP (415921); left to Seatown.

Conditions: Some short steep climbs; unguarded cliff edges

Lunch/Accommodation: Anchor Inn, Seatown (01297-489215, – friendly, comfortable, superbly situated.

Info: Lyme Regis TIC (01297-442138);;;

Britain’s Best Walks: 200 Classic Walks from The Times by Christopher Somerville (HarperCollins, £30). To receive 30 per cent off plus free p&p visit and enter code TIMES30, or call 0844 5768122

 Posted by at 01:37
Dec 172016

First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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The Crag Inn at Wildboarclough lies tucked down in a quiet valley of easternmost Cheshire. The wild gritstone hills and moors of the Peak District rise all around. The farm buildings of the district are dark and solid, but the field walls sparkle with chips of mica on sunny afternoons such as this. Old stories say that the last wild boar in these hills was hunted down to death in this steep little valley. That might not be strictly true – but when were local legends ever the better for being plain, provable fact?

I followed a field path west along the flanks of the Clough Brook, then up the cleft below Oakenclough. Stopping to listen, I could not hear a single sound but the trickle of the brook. Over the damp shoulder of High Moor and down to the Hanging Gate Inn on its escarpment edge, with a most tremendous view out west over tumbled farmlands to the Cheshire plain stretching into misty distance.

The bare stone bluff of Tegg’s Nose lifted its dark grey hump ahead as I walked north along the waymarked Gritstone Trail that knits together a fine string of these coarse sandstone hills. Hawthorns were thick with scarlet berries, or ‘peggles’ as the great naturalist Richard Jefferies used to call them. I tested them with a squeeze of the fingers: still hard as rock, so that I wondered how the fieldfares and redwings of winter were going to gobble them down.

Ridgegate and Trentabank reservoirs gleamed dully between their pines and silver birch trees. A tremendously cheery party of U3A walkers met me on the way up to the moors, their cheerful chatter and rosy cheeks the perfect advertisement for the benefits of walking in one’s riper years.

I forged ahead across the sedgy uplands on a pitched path that led to a scramble up to the gritstone peak of Shutlingsloe, the ‘Matterhorn of Cheshire’. At the summit of this mini-mountain I was lord of a hundred-mile view from the Pennines to the Trent, the Long Mynd to the Clwydian Hills of Wales. A few minutes to stand and stare, and I was scrambling down for the homeward path to Wildboarclough.

Start: Craig Inn, Wildboarclough, Macclesfield, Cheshire SK11 0BD (OS ref SJ 981685)

Getting there: Wildboarclough is signed from A54 Congleton-Buxton road at Allgreave.

Walk (7½ miles, moderate, OS Explorer OL24):
From Crag Inn car park, right along road. Immediately right through wicket gate (yellow arrow/YA). Bear left, parallel with road, and follow grassy path across 7 fields (gates, YAs, coloured circles). 2 fields beyond High Nabbs farm, path rises to angle of wall (970681). Right across stile (circles, YA); left along lane. In 600m, right at road (964685). In 300m at Greenway Bridge, right (963687, YA) along river. In 300m, cross Highmoor Brook by footbridge (963690). Follow YAs, then permissive path below Oakenclough house. Cross drive (961695); left through gate (YA), up by wall. Through gate at top; ahead on grassy track to corner of wall (959696). Ahead with wall on right; at end, right through gap; left over stile, down fenced track to cross road at Hanging Gate Inn (952696).

Down side of pub; right through kissing gate on path down to road (951698). Left for 150m; right over stile and follow Gritstone Trail/GT markers north for ¾ mile. Approaching Greenbarn, fork left (952710); in 100m, right through gate (GT). Skirt to left of house; through gate onto drive. Left; in 50m, GT on telephone pole points left, but fork right down through wicket gate. Left (YA) to cross footbridge; on up steps to path junction at Ridgegate Reservoir (952713).

Right (‘Shutlingsloe’); follow path along south edge of reservoir, then through woods to road (959711). Turn right on ‘Walkers Only’ path on right of road. In 200m pass Macclesfield Forest info board; in another 150m, bear right (963711, ‘Shutlingsloe’). In 100m fork right uphill. Follow ‘Shutlingsloe’ for 1½ miles through trees, then across moor to Shutlingsloe summit (977696 – short steep climb to top). Follow path to south end of summit; short steep scramble down and bear left; path across moor down to farm road (983691). Right to Crag Inn.

Conditions: Some boggy bits; steep ascent/descent of Shutlingsloe peak.

Lunch: Crag Inn, Wildboarclough (01260-227239, or Hanging Gate Inn, Potlords (01260-400756, – both closed Mon/Tues

Accommodation: Stanley Arms, Bottom of the Oven, Macclesfield Forest SK11 0AR (01260-252414, – warm, cheerful place; good food and welcome

Info: Macclesfield TIC (01625-378123);;;

 Posted by at 01:52
Dec 102016

First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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At first acquaintance, Bedfordshire seems a rather nondescript county to walk in. It’s hard to get a grasp on the character of this low-rolling region with its large arable fields. But once you develop a taste for the many old copses and hedgerows, the slow-flowing brooks and sudden, unexpected viewpoints from ridges you hadn’t thought were there, Bedfordshire’s a place you find yourself looking forward to revisiting on foot.

An absolutely glorious afternoon helps, of course. The sun blazed down out of a clear blue sky on the cottages and dark ironstone church at Church End, the southerly node of the scattered village of Eversholt, on the eastern doorstep of Woburn Park. To balance the wintry nip in the air there were pictures of springtime in the village phone box, featuring improbably shaped lambs and unfeasibly yellow daffodils painted by the pupils of Eversholt Lower School.

We set out across a wide field of ploughland where we picked up shards of ancient pottery and a nacreous fragment of Roman glass. At Herne Green Farm a tractor ground along the furrows, turning dark soil like roughly broken chocolate and drawing a long white wake of gulls behind it.

An easterly wind began to rise, thrashing and hissing in the sycamores around Herne Green. A red kite circled the newly cut fields, looking for small creatures exposed by the plough. One of those unforeseen Bedfordshire views opened across a rolling plain to the north-east as we stumbled across crusty ploughlands down to the trees and half glimpsed house of Toddington Park.

Here handsome James Scott, Duke of Monmouth and by-blow of King Charles II, lived with his young lover Henrietta Wentworth, heiress to Toddington estate. Stories say they sold her property and jewels to fund the rebellion in 1685 that attempted to put Monmouth on the throne after the death of his father. It ended badly, with Charles’ brother James installed as King, and Monmouth himself sent ignominiously to the block.

Our homeward path lay across a succession of enormous fields, mostly of thick dark plough. There were old hedges of hips and haws, and a thread of a brook winding under elder bushes. The lichens that scabbed the elders glowed so incredibly yellow in the evening sun that it looked as though the young artists of Eversholt Lower School had been that way with their paint-boxes.

Start: Green Man PH, Church End, Eversholt, Beds, MK17 9DU (OS ref SP 983325)

Getting there: M1 Jct 12; A5120 into Toddington. Opposite church, right to Milton Bryan and Church End.

Walk (5½ miles, easy, OS Explorer): From Green Man, left along road. At crossroads, ahead through kissing gate/KG. Cross field to KG (984320, black arrow/BLA); up slope, to KG in a dip at far top corner of field (986317). Across rushy patch; through KG, then right through another KG into wood.

Bear left (yellow-topped post/YTP). In 100m cross grazing ride; in 100m cross another (BLA); leave wood at YTP (988314). Half left across field to hedge corner; ahead with hedge on left to stile (992309, BLA). Aim left of Herne Green Farm to double KG. Half right to stile; in 20m, left over stile, right along hedge, following ‘Monmouth Way’/MW signs. In ¼ mile, at farm drive (995302), aim across field towards double roof in valley below. Through gate by buildings (997299; YTP, MW); half right to KG (MW); half right across paddock to KG. Half right across drive to railing gap (998297, BLA). Cross large field, aiming between two electricity poles, to road on far side (003293, fingerpost/FP).

Right for 200m; left along track (FP); in 70m, right (BLA) across field, aiming for rails of footbridge (997293). Cross; aim to right of lone oak to cross Herne Grange drive (994295). Through gate (FP); across field to gate (BLA); across next field to gate under trees (989297). Follow right-hand hedge downhill for 2 fields to cross footbridge in valley bottom (984298, YTP). Right through KG; keep brook on right for 3 fields (YTP, BLA) to cross Park Road (984303).

Ahead with hedge on right. In 300m (985306), level with large oak at hedge end on opposite side of field, fork left and aim half right across field to hedge gap (BLA). Across next field to far corner (984310). Through hedge gap (YTP, BLA); follow path through plantation. In 250m fork left across field to post beside Palmer’s Shrubs wood (983313, BLA). Ahead through wood to KG (983317). Ahead across field past oak tree; down to KG (984320); cross field to Church End.

NB: Many arable fields to cross; lots of mud!

Lunch: Green Man, Church End (01525-288111, – closed Mondays

Accommodation: Long’s Inn, Bedford St, Woburn MK17 9QB (01525-290219,

Info: Dunstable TIC (01582-891420);;;

Britain’s Best Walks: 200 Classic Walks from The Times by Christopher Somerville (HarperCollins, £30). To receive 30 per cent off plus free p&p visit and enter code TIMES30, or call 0844 5768122

 Posted by at 01:45
Dec 032016

First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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Walking through the pine trees towards the sandhills of Hadston Links, we could hear the sea pounding the sands of Druridge Bay. A big roaring wind was building in the south, and once we were through the dunes and heading down the beach we had a half gale in our faces and the whole enormous bay – give or take a handful of dog ball throwers – to ourselves.

Druridge Bay is designated a Heritage Coast and a Site of Special Scientific Interest. This seven-mile curve of beach from Amble to Cresswell is totally unspoiled, a simple and grand arc of dull gold sand backed by flowery dunes, with crashing steel-grey waves coming in off the North Sea under huge overarching skies.

This is a beach for runners and kite-fliers, joggers and diggers, idlers and strollers. Black matchstick figures of men, women and dogs pushed hard into the wind. The sea rolled in, roaring softly on the sand and hissing up the beach in diminishing flounces of white foam. The air over the bay was laced with spray, lending a diffused pearly glow to the sky.

A flight of ringed plover went twinkling in black and white across the ribbed pools that had collected in the sands. On the landward side of each sandy ridge in every pool, a skin of gritty black had collected – tiny flecks of coal, sifted out of the low-lying hinterland behind the beach and filtered through the dunes by the trickling flow of tiny burns. The richness of the bird and flower life here, the windy solitude of the beach, make it easy to forget that this is coal-bearing country.

A couple of miles along the beach we cut inland through the dunes and past the wetlands and wildfowl lakes of Druridge Pools. Isolated in the fields beyond stands the lonely ruin of Low Chibburn Preceptory, a medieval chapel and hospital of the Knights of St John built on the ancient pilgrim route to Holy Island. The Hospitallers’ refuge has done duty in its time as a grand dower house, a cattle shed and a Second World War pillbox.

Before setting back for the beach and the return walk, we wandered slowly round the ruin, admiring its finely carved piscina, its arched windows and handsome stonework, survivors of changing fortunes over the course of seven hundred years in this remote corner of the Northumbrian coast.

Start: Druridge Bay Visitor Centre, near Amble, Northumberland NE61 5BX (OS ref NZ 272998)

Getting there: Visitor Centre signed off A1068, 2 miles south of Amble

Walk (6½ miles, easy, OS Explorer 325. Online maps, more walks at From car park, follow ‘Beach’. Path through trees, then dunes; down steps onto beach (273996). Turn right/south for 1½ miles. Where the dunes dip to a pool and Dunbar Burn, pass a pipe (broken in two) across the beach (277972). Continue along beach for 500m, then turn inland between tank blocks through gap in dunes (277965), past concrete blockhouse. Through fence gap (North Sea Trail ‘N’ waymark); right along road; in 200m, left between boulders (275966) on path (yellow arrow/YA) past Druridge Pools and on across 2 fields (YAs) to Low Chibburn Preceptory ruin (266965). Return same way. Nearing Visitor Centre, look for wooden steps up through dunes.

Lunch: Snacks at Visitor Centre café (open daily summer, weekends winter)

Accommodation: The Bridges B&B, 3 Togston Crescent, North Broomhill, near Amble NE65 9TP (01670-761989).

Druridge Info:, 01670-760968;;

Britain’s Best Walks: 200 Classic Walks from The Times by Christopher Somerville (HarperCollins, £30). To receive 30 per cent off plus free p&p visit and enter code TIMES30, or call 0844 5768122

 Posted by at 01:20
Nov 262016

First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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The blowy blue afternoon sky over Berkshire was patchworked with vast silvery clouds backlit by the sun. Along the hedges in the broad valley of the River Pang wind-dried umbellifers stood as tall as a man, each papery seedpod holding the blood-red streak of a single seed.

This is understated countryside, with a faint dip and roll to it. The sun put a glossy green polish on the wooded ridges of the valley. A jay, disturbed by our passing, swore like a trooper from its hideout in a thicket, and high overhead a stunting plane growled among the clouds.

We trod a carpet of gold and silver willow leaves beside the slow-flowing Pang. The water rippled as clear as gin over a gravelly bed. An angler had snagged his line in an elder bush; with great patience and dexterity he freed it and drew a flapping brown trout from the water. Then he lay prone, cradling the fish in a wetted palm, and slipped it very carefully back into the river.

Bradfield was a gorgeous dream of mellow red brick houses, the shaven playing fields of its college still smelling faintly of cut grass. Here we crossed the Pang and climbed the gentle slope to the north, into woods where horse chestnuts shone a rich mahogany in the leaf litter, as though freshly polished.

At a point where the sigh of wind in the treetops was overlaid by the seashore roar of the M4, we turned away through the silver birch and tall pines of The Gravels. This is sand and gravel country, a place of old heathy commons now overgrown with woodland, from which we looked out across the Pang valley to a rainstorm gathering in the south.

A tawny owl hooted among the hazels at Nightingale Green as we dropped down to recross the Pang and take the path through sedgy pastures back to Stanford Dingley. In St Denys’s Church we found red ochre frescoes 800 years old, and a medieval tile on which the Lamb of God gambolled with shaggy legs as unco-ordinated as a puppy’s – an image that bridged the centuries with charm and humour.

Start: Bull Inn, Stanford Dingley, Berks RG7 6LS (OS ref SU 576716)

Getting there: Stanford Dingley is 2 miles north of Chapel Row, west of Theale (between Jcts 12 and 13, M4)

Walk (7½ miles, easy, OS Explorer 159): From Bull Inn, left along road. At junction, left (fingerpost) on footpath (yellow arrows/YA) for nearly 1 mile to road (591719). Dogleg right/left across, and on (YAs) for 1 mile to road in Bradfield (604727).

Left; in 200m, left past ‘Private Road’ notice (603728; white arrow/WA; ‘Recreational Route’/RR). In 150m, right through gate (fingerpost). Aim half left across field to corner of hedge (599728); same line to gate through hedge, and on to cross road (596728). Up Greathouse Walk track (‘Bridleway’/BW). In ½ mile pass entrance to Great House Cottages (590734); in another 150m, at crossing of tracks, follow main track round to left (BW). In ⅓ mile, halfway up slope, left (585736, YA, RR) through ‘The Gravels’ wood. In 700m leave wood; forward to cross Scratchface Lane (577733).

Take path opposite (WA, RR); in 100m, right (WA, ‘Permitted Footpath’). Follow this path, ignoring side turnings. In 350m, at T-junction by post, left (574732, YA). Follow path (YAs) for ¼ mile; at wood bottom bear right (YA) to cross stile (574728). Down long field to lane (571727). Right; in 200m, opposite Mazelands Farm, left up track. In ¼ mile at 3 gates, right (567725; WA, RR, BW). In 200m, left through KG (YA), up fence and into House Leas wood (563725). Left (WA, RR), following wood edge south (‘Restrictive Byway’/RB) for ½ mile to Pangfield Farm (564719).

Skirt clockwise round buildings on marked ‘Preferred Pathway’, before turning left down drive. Cross road (566716); down track opposite. In ¼ mile, left at gate (569713, RB). Immediately left through gate (YA); half left across field to gate (571713, YA). Through trees; aim across field for St Denys’s Church; at road (575717), right to Bull Inn.

Lunch/Accommodation: Bull Inn, Stanford Dingley (0118-974-4582, – cosy, stylish and friendly

Info: Newbury TIC (01635-30267);;;

Britain’s Best Walks: 200 Classic Walks from The Times by Christopher Somerville (HarperCollins, £30). To receive 30 per cent off plus free p&p visit and enter code TIMES30, or call 0844 5768122

 Posted by at 01:51
Nov 192016

First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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On a lovely crisp morning we went up the narrow road from Bowden Bridge with Kinder Edge in our sights and old heroes on our minds. It was up this road that the Mass Trespassers came on an April morning in 1932, a righteous crowd of left-wing youngsters from Manchester and places around. Kinder was their aiming point, too, the great moorland plateau and its gritstone crags that had become symbols of exclusive privilege and the closing of upland country to ordinary folk.

The long path up to the moor led us above Kinder Reservoir through the heather and bilberries of White Brow, then steeply up the rocky cleft of William Clough where a beck came sluicing down over its boulders. The full sweep of Kinder Edge stood out to the east, a sharply cut skyline of dark rock outcrops traversed by diminutive figures of walkers. The flanks of William Clough opened out to shoulders of hillside, where in 1932 a line of keepers had waited with sticks to beat the trespassers back where they belonged.

These young men and women, many of them Communists, had had enough of staring up from the depression-hit, dirty and poverty-ridden cities of Manchester and Sheffield to the high open moors where grouse-shooting and water board interests forbade them to ramble. When they reached the higher slopes of William Clough the singing and chattering turned to angry shouting as they closed with the keepers. No heads were broken: some bumps and bruises were exchanged, and the trespassers broke through to rejoice as they reached the top at Ashop Head.

We pictured that excited, flush-faced crowd as we turned across the peat bog of Ashop Head and climbed to the start of the long escarpment of Kinder Edge. From here it was a question of following the edge for mile after mile, the wind nudging us, the gritstone crunching under our boots, looking out over a magnificent view to Manchester and the far hills of Wales. The rock outcrops had been cut and smoothed by wind and weather into multiple grotesques: chef hats, shark fins, dog heads, ogre noses.

We picnicked on a rock beside the trickling river at the head of the cleft of Kinder Downfall, and went on to where the Pennine Way fell away east towards its starting point at Edale. A good long stare down the delectable green Vale of Edale, and we were trudging westward down an endless lane home, thankful to those hearty lads and lasses from long ago whose bold law-breaking laid the foundations for today’s Right to Roam over all these high moorlands and mountains.

Start: Bowden Bridge car park, Hayfield, Derbyshire, SK22 2LH approx (OS ref SK 049870)

Getting there: Hayfield is at junction of A6015 from New Mills and A624 (Chapel-en-le-Frith to Glossop). Beside Packhorse PH, take Kinder Road; car park is 1 mile on left (£4.50 all day).

Walk: (9 miles, strenuous, OS Explorer OL1): Continue up road. At Booth Sheepwash cross river (051876); in 100m, ahead up path (yellow arrow, YA). In 250m, left across river; at reservoir gate, take cobbled bridleway on left (‘White Brow’). In 300m, by stone gateway, hairpin left (054882, metal ‘bridleway’ sign). Climb to gate; right (‘Snake Inn’, YA). Follow path for 1½ miles via White Brow and William Clough (steep near top) to meet Pennine Way/PW at Ashop Head (065900). Right along PW, following Kinder Edge, for 3½ miles. Beyond large outcrop of Edale Rocks (079867), descend to cairn at junction. Right on flagstone path; 150m short of junction on wide saddle, fork right off PW onto dirt track to junction (081861). Right through gate; follow lane for 2¾ miles down to Kinder Road and car park.

Conditions: Rugged hill walk, tricky underfoot – wear good boots!

Lunch/Accommodation: Sportsman Inn, Kinder Road SK22 2LE (01663-741565)

Kinder Scout mass trespass walk:;;

 Posted by at 01:38
Nov 122016

First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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The weatherman had threatened rainstorms over Wales, but enormous clouds of grey and silver were sailing in a patchy blue sky as we set off from Llandrillo up the old drover’s route into the heart of the Berwyn hills. This lonely range of high country sprawls across the borderlands of northern Wales, little walked and seldom ridden these days, but in times past crossed by a network of rough roads and tracks that brought mountain cattle and sheep east to the markets of the Welsh Marches.

The old drovers’ road from Llandrillo rose steadily eastwards, floored with rock, flanked by walls of slender split stones. Every so often, big lumps of quartz had been positioned among the dull green wall stones, their white glimmer a useful waymark for a benighted drover or late-working shepherd. Gradually the views opened out, north across the lush valley of the River Dee, ahead to where the great olive-coloured shoulders of Moel Pearce and Cadair Bronwen began to loom across the south-east skyline.

The wind rushed in the sycamore leaves and tossed the bright orange rowan berries around. A bunch of jackdaws went skeltering down the wind above the old road, whose numerous sheep gates separated the various flocks along these hillsides. Each barrier had its own ingenious home-made closing mechanism, slung with heavy weights – a cast-iron cylinder head, a baulk of timber, a necklace of heavy old ploughshares that clinked together as the gate swung to behind us.

From the little stone bridge of Pont Rhyd-yr-hŷdd the drove road snaked about to wind itself up for the last mile’s climb to the pass of Bwlch Nant Rhyd Wilym, where it tipped up and wriggled away through sombre moorlands towards the valley of the Afon Ceiriog. A shiny metal memorial lay beside the pass, inscribed to the memory of ‘Wayfarer’ – Walter Robinson, a cycling writer of the 1920s who enticed off-roaders in their thousands to explore these wild uplands of Wales.

We sat by the cairn, watching sun-splashes chase cloud shadows across the flanks of Cadair Bronwen and telling ourselves we’d come back one day, better equipped and with more time in hand, to tackle the whole glorious ridge. Then we turned back down the old road and along a quiet forest track, wind and rain showers in our faces and a prospect of sunlit mountains far in the west to lift the heart and the weary legs.

Start: Village car park, Llandrillo, near Corwen, Denbighshire LL21 0TG (OS ref SJ 035372)

Getting there: Bus – service T3 (Lloyds Coaches) from Wrexham.
Road: Llandrillo is on B4401 between Corwen and Bala.

Walk (9 miles; a long, steady climb; OS Explorer 255. Online map, more walks at From car park, left along B4401; right at chapel; climb country lane (‘Tegid Way’/TW’) for 3½ miles. At sheepfold (083366) TW turns left, but keep ahead to Wayfarer’s Memorial at saddle (091366). Return down lane. In 1¼ miles, at TW post just before Pont Rhyd-yr-hŷdd, right (073368) on hillside path, to gate onto forest track (069375). Follow track for 1¾ miles to cross bridge; up to road at Melyn y Glyn (046382). Cross road; down lane to Ty Uchaf. Down left side of barn; stile beyond (yellow arrow/YA); along fence to gate (044378) above Ty-Nant. Cross footbridge and stile beyond. Follow succession of gates, stiles and YAs past Moel-is-y-goedwig-isaf to reach drive at Ty’n-y-cae-mawr (041373). Right to lane; right to Llandrillo.

Lunch: Picnic

Accommodation: Tyddyn Llan, Llandrillo LL21 0ST (01490-440264, – comfortable restaurant-with-rooms.

Info: Llangollen TIC (01978-860828)

Britain’s Best Walks: 200 Classic Walks from The Times by Christopher Somerville (HarperCollins, £30). To receive 30 per cent off plus free p&p visit and enter code TIMES30, or call 0844 5768122;;

 Posted by at 01:59
Nov 052016

First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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For a little island Jersey packs a big punch. Its north coast might have been designed specifically to illustrate the word ‘rugged’. The coves, headlands, cliffs and sea-stacks are of granite that is sometimes dark, sometimes pink and quartz-studded. They fold in on each other in a series of bays carved out by the storms and racing tides of the English Channel. This is a coast made for walkers, its well-signposted cliff path opening up one remarkable prospect after another.

Under high milky cloud we set out from the village of St Mary along a succession of ‘green lanes’ – roadways hardly wide enough for a car, leading us between hedgebanks overhung with oaks, sycamore, sweet chestnuts and beech, all pruned low by the constant wind. The lanes were walled with stout pink granite blocks, and the houses were of granite, too, solid and dignified. The small square fields of wonderfully fertile soil had been tilled for winter, and as everywhere in Jersey there was the sense of a settled, well-to-do community not too fussed by the world beyond the waters.

Jersey cattle cropped the pastures, their large dark eyes as beautiful as those of a Bollywood star. In the lush green cleft of La Vallée des Mouriers a stream went dancing and sparkling beside the path, and we followed it down towards the sea.

Out on the cliffs we set our backs to the blasting east wind and were buffeted along the coast path that rounded a deeply scooped bay and ran out towards the distant rocky neb of La Tête de Plémont. Views on this clear, cold day were astonishing – north-west to the Channel Islands of Sark and Guernsey, the green hump of Herm between them; north-east to the long flat reef of Les Écréhous with its fishermen’s cottages apparently perching in the sea, and beyond them the white beaches of the French coast fifteen miles away.

The Devil’s Hole made a fine spectacle from the cliffside viewing platform, with the sea hissed angrily between its jaws. Whether the Father of Evil ever did inhabit that dark, echoing cave is open to question, but the band of early Christian monks who built their retreat on the perilous rock of L’Île Agois just beyond were real enough. We carried away a vivid impression of the harshness of their lives, sustained by faith and a diet of shellfish, as we took the homeward path to St Mary.

Start: St Mary’s Country Inn, St Mary, Jersey JE3 3DS (map ref 603542)

Getting there: Bus 7 (St Helier–Devil’s Hole). Road – St Mary’s Country Inn is on B53 between St Ouen and St John.

Walk (7½ miles, moderate, Jersey 1:25,000 Official Leisure Map): Left from inn car park; cross B53; ahead down La Rue de la Vallée. In 300m pass ‘Jardin De Haut’ sign on left; left up path to cross B26 (605539). Continue on ‘Green Lane’; in 300m, left at archway. In 400m, right at T-junction to cross B39 (612542). On to T-junction; left, then first right to B33 (610544, ‘La Route de St Jean’).

Right, then first left (‘La Rue Es Abbès’). In 700m, left at junction (613552); in 100m, right. In 50m fork left up lane, soon becoming green lane. At road beside La Vue du Pré house, turn right, then fork right downhill. At ‘Le Hurel’ sign, fork right. In 200m, bend right across stream (613556); left along Le Chemin Des Hougues. In 300m, opposite lamp post by Les Hougues house, fork right along gravel lane down La Vallée des Mouriers. At bottom, through gate by reservoir pump house (608561). Just beyond, fork left/west along coastal path.

Follow ‘Cliff Path’ signs for 700m to road at Priory Inn (606558). Follow ‘Footpath’ signs; then from car park ‘follow ‘Devil’s Hole’ signs for 500m down to Devil’s Hole viewing platform (602561) and back to car park. Sharp right and follow ‘Footpath’ and blue signs for 1½ miles to road just south of Crabbe Farm (592551). Right for ⅔ mile if you want to visit La Grève de Lecq harbour; otherwise left for ½ mile to T-junction (600547). In 150m fork right past Le Ronvillais house; in 600m, left on B33 (602543); in 150m, right to St Mary’s Country Inn.

Lunch: St Mary’s Country Inn (01534-482897,

Accommodation: Atlantic Hotel, St Brelade, Jersey JE3 8HE (01534-744101, – extremely comfortable and helpful; wonderful food.

Info: Jersey TIC (01534-859000);

Britain’s Best Walks: 200 Classic Walks from The Times by Christopher Somerville (HarperCollins, £30). To receive 30 per cent off plus free p&p visit and enter code TIMES30, or call 0844 5768122;;

 Posted by at 01:04
Oct 292016

First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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Clouds were pushing briskly north over Herefordshire in layers of slate grey and silver. The steeply folded countryside of the Wye Valley had settled in for the cold season with strings of scarlet bryony berries festooning the leafless hedges and the cattle gone from the pastures to their winter sheds.

Up in the trees above Fownhope the Wye Valley Walk traced the long ridge of Common Hill, looking south over steep quarrying ground – now thickly wooded – towards the rainy hills of the Forest of Dean. Fieldfares newly arrived from Scandinavia were pillaging the windfalls in long-abandoned cider orchards, their pale spotted breasts and smoky grey heads bobbing among the brown and yellow fruit.

‘We used to send all our cider apples to Bulmers,’ said the farmer who stopped for a chat. ‘But then they said, ”Tisn’t enough, don’t bother.” So now we just leaves ’em for the birds and the deer, and they go through ’em like nobody’s business!’

Through the ancient woodland of Lea and Paget’s Woods went the Wye Valley Walk, past old limekilns half buried among the tree roots. On the grassy slope beyond the woods a potbellied pig was champing the greenery with splayed tusks and plenty of squelching, his sagging stomach trailing along the ground.

A short, sharp climb to the elliptical rampart of Capler Camp, an Iron Age hill fort commanding a wonderful southward view across the Wye Valley. Down through pines and larches and we were finally at close quarters with the Wye itself, walking the bankside footpath round the wide bends of the river. The water raced by, swirling and bubbling, carrying a flock of Canada geese who trumpeted to one another as the river swept them away round a bend.

Back at Fownhope, the crooked broach spire of St Mary’s Church beckoned us. The 12th-century tympanum of the Virgin and Child inside the church displays all the idiosyncratic brilliance of the style known as the Herefordshire School of Sculpture. The wide-eyed Virgin delicately balances a mysterious fruit between thumb and forefinger. A Wye Valley cider apple? I’d like to think so.

Start: Greenman Inn, Fownhope, Herefordshire HR1 4PE (OS ref SO 578345)

Getting there: Bus 453 from Hereford
Road: M50, Jct 4; A449 (‘Ledbury’); in 1¾ miles, Fownhope signed to left on B4224.

Walk (6½ miles, moderate, OS Explorer 189. NB: Detailed directions are strongly recommended. Download them, along with online maps, more walks at From Greenman Inn, right along street. At church, left up Common Hill Lane. Pass Fownhope Medical Centre; in 200m, left through gate (584345). Dogleg right-left-right round 2 field edges (yellow arrows/YAs); up to cross stile and lane (585347) and on up bank (YA). In 50m, left (YA); in 30m fork right uphill (YA). In 150m, right by electricity pole (YA); in 100m, on ridge, right along Wye Valley Walk/WVW (586348).

Follow waymarked WVW east for ¾ mile to cross road on Common Hill (595346). Continue on WVW through Lea and Paget’s Woods for 600m to junction of paths at waymark post (599342). Blue and yellow arrows point ahead; but fork right, following WVW and ‘This Way to Ross’/TWTR. In 200m leave trees (599340); in another 250m, with Middle Green house on your left, bear right (601339), descending through successive gates with distinctive curly ironwork. Follow WVW down hedge on right into valley bottom (601337), then aim across field for kissing gate on skyline, 50m left of farm buildings at Overdine (600336). Ahead across field to B4224 (598334).

Left (WVW); in 100m, right down lane (‘Caplor’). In 150m, left into yard (597332). In 100m, right; follow WVW up fields, then steeply up steps to Capler Camp hill fort (596329). Bear right to barn; pass right end of barn; right along southern ramparts of fort. In 350m, enter trees (WVW); in another 70m, fork left (592329, TWTR) down through pines to road at Capler Lodge (591324). Left for 100m to viewpoint; then back along road and steeply downhill. At foot of hill, sharp left on path (587328); in 30m, fork right, steeply down past YA. At foot of slope, right along River Wye.

In ¾ mile, cross garden of Mancell’s Ferry cottage. At far side of garden, cross stile (576328).

If riverbank route clear:
Continue along riverbank for 1¼ miles. At entrance to wood (572337), don’t be tempted to continue beside river – the path is dangerously eroded in the wood. Instead, bear right away from river and follow southern edge of wood. In 300m descend to riverbank beside Leabrink house (575339). Follow path between house and river; continue on riverbank for 300m, then bear right inland (575342). Left through belt of willow; across field and through gate. Cross footbridge (576346); ahead (YA); in 50m, bear right up green lane past houses to B4224 (577346). Right into village.

If riverbank route flooded:
Keep ahead from Mancell’s Ferry cottage (NW) across field, soon with a bank on right, to metal gate, then kissing gate (YA). Cross farm track (573330) and keep ahead with bank on right. In 300m, right over stile (571333, YA); uphill with hedge on right. In 150m, at tree with YA, cross field to barn (573335). Pass to left of barn, cross 2 stiles (no waymarks) and field to kissing gate (574338, YA). Bear right down slope to stile (YA) on left of gate above Leabrink (575339). Follow hedge on left to cross lane by sewage works (577340, YA). Follow footpath (YA) back to Fownhope.

1. Wye riverbank path can flood in winter – ring Greenman Inn to check.
2. Don’t follow riverbank path through the wood near Leabrink – it’s slippery, eroded and dangerous!

Lunch/Accommodation: Greenman, Fownhope (01432-860243, – very smart, stylish place

Info: Hereford TIC (01432-268430);;

 Posted by at 01:50
Oct 222016

First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
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When the National Trust do something really well, it’s an absolute treat to be there. The Wimpole Estate in western Cambridgeshire is a good example. On this soft autumn morning the beautifully kept lime avenues stretched away in gold and green and the formal gardens of Wimpole Hall lay immaculately groomed. Cyclists cycled, runners ran, and families sauntered along the parkland walks or conveyed children to sessions of pumpkin lantern carving.

We passed the handsome square-faced bulk of Wimpole Hall, all red brick and pale stone facings, with its fierce statue of Samson slaying his foe with the jawbone of an ass. Up on the hill beyond, the views down broad avenues to south and east caused us to stop and stare – exactly as Capability Brown (whose bicentenary occurs this year) intended when he ‘naturalised’ the low-lying landscape more than two centuries ago.

Subtly sloped ridges rose, cunningly fashioned valleys fell away, artfully leading the eye past spinneys and hillsides to the castellated towers of a ruined castle on a tump. Sanderson Miller, supremo of 18th-century folly architects, perched it there to add a pinch of Gothic melancholy to the scene.

We found a path threading the belt of woodland that girdles the northern half of the estate. It was a classic autumn walk, a soft shoe shuffle through fallen leaves under oak, ash, beech, lime and chestnut, the hedgerow blackthorn sprays heavy with ripe black sloes.

Estate walks map in hand, we puzzled our way out of the trees and down to where the mock castle stood with round towers, arched windows and artistically crumbling walls. A path led down across the wooden lattice of the Chinese Bridge that spans a long artificial lake. Beyond the bridge, fat white sheep with kohl-black eyes cropped the parkland grass, even-tempered enough to allow passing little girls to pat their dewy fleeces.

We climbed the ridge once more for a final stretch inside the woodland belt, then came down to Cobb’s Wood Farm along a grassy track hedged with bright gold hazels. In the farmyard a row of amateur wood turners was hard at work at their primitive, treadle-operated pole lathes under the eye of a National Trust expert. ‘It was supposed to be a Christmas tree,’ murmured one of the turners, ruefully contemplating his wonky creation, ‘but now – I don’t know… maybe a leg for a very short chair?’

Start: Wimpole Hall car park, Arrington, Royston, Cambs, SG8 0BW (OS ref TL 337509). £2 – NT members free

Getting there: Wimpole Estate is signposted from A603, 10 miles south-west of Cambridge.

Walk (5¼ miles, easy, OS Explorer 209. Estate walks map available at Wimpole ticket office): Leaving stable block (ticket office, shop, café), aim ahead on path past front of Wimpole Hall. Through gate beyond; follow fence round to right; opposite wrestling nymphs statue, left (west) up broad grassy avenue (‘Woodland Walk’/WW on Estate map). At top of rise, right (330510) towards folly. In 300m, where trees on your left bend left, turn left over stile (331513, ‘Wimpole Way’). Turn right past info board and follow WW through woodland belt for 1¼ miles to top of rise where woodland ends (331526).

Turn right here and continue on WW through belt of trees. In ¼ mile, turn right on Folly Walk (FW), past info board and over footbridge (335525), following path out of trees and along field edge with hedge on right. Through gate, and follow path to folly (334520). Head downhill between 2 lakes, to cross Chinese Bridge (334517). Left along lakeside; in 300m, left across east end of lake (337516). Aim half right to meet track descending eastwards from folly (337519). Right; just before road, left up grassy field headland. At top of rise, right onto road (338524).

Left for 50m; right along WW in woodland belt. In 400m pass info board on right (‘viewpoint’ symbol on OS map); in another 200m, at well-defined crossroads of tracks (344523), turn right on track out of woods. Follow track to Cobb’s Wood Farm (345517). Right along driveway, over bridge, past lodge to road at Home Farm (341514). Left, then right up Wimpole Estate driveway to car park.

Lunch: Old Rectory Restaurant, Wimpole Estate

Accommodation: Sheene Mill, Melbourn, Royston, Cambs SG8 6DX (01763-261393,


*’The Times Britain’s Best Walks’ by Christopher Somerville (Harper Collins) – 200 walks from the ‘A Good Walk’ column – is published 6 October.

 Posted by at 01:13