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Walking in England

For a country that’s known for its ordinary weather, the UK is a surprisingly wonderful destination for walking. There are thousands of miles of public footpaths across rural Britain, which enable walkers to access farmland, forests and quaint villages. The best seasons are between mid-spring and mid-autumn (April to October), with summer having the most daylight hours and more chance of warm weather.

Possibly the most reliable and easily accessed walking paths are those along rivers (the Thames Path is especially good for finding pubs when you need rest and refreshment) and canals, of which there are many. These waterways were once a major transport route and are now populated by narrow boats which for some people, are a way of life, and for others, offer an alternative style of holiday. For those on foot, the canal birdlife and flora can be just as captivating as the man-made scenery.

Most walks require very little planning: it’s usually wise to bring water and snack food as well as layered clothing in case of changes in the weather. A good map is often useful (or a smart phone with a map app, provided the location has a reliable signal for accessing data).

One-way day walks may need more preparation, particularly with transport arrangements. The London Outer Orbital Path (LOOP) is a great aid to day walkers, as each section of this extensive path begins and ends near public transport (bus or train). Hence it is possible to follow signs to enjoy semi-rural and parkland scenery whilst skirting the perimeter of the metropolis.

London has a surprising number of other walking options, including the big green spaces such as Hampstead Heath in the north, Hyde Park and Regents Park in Central London, Richmond Park and Kew Gardens in the south and my favourite, Windsor Great Park near Windsor Castle.

On a fine summer’s day, the sight of the castle seen from the Long Walk was a highlight of my visit to Windsor. Away from the crowded souvenir shops and cafes in this historic town, Windsor Great Park covers thousands of acres with many miles of pathways. Within a few hours I enjoyed quiet lakeside strolls and many shaded avenues, stopped for lunch in a cafe within a plant nursery, and later sipped on a pint of cold beer in a pub overlooking a cricket pitch. Windsor Great Park (which surrounds a working farm) is open to the public for free (courtesy of Her Majesty).

And if the weather had turned bad on my day out, then the castle and museum of Windsor would still have made the day-trip worthwhile. I could also have spent more time in the visitor centre, and enjoyed another pot of tea. It’s good to have a plan B, and even better when it’s not needed.


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