Covid-19 for walkers 25-Sep
The southeast of England contains the Chilterns, the North and South Downs, hidden valleys, forests, bluebell woods, ancient pubs, quaint villages, rolling tidal hills, remote heaths, historic houses and gardens, White Cliffs, and much more. This website contains a wide variety of walks to help you discover it.
Nearly all the walks start and finish at trains stations, so are public transport friendly, and features a country pub for lunch, and a tea room or pub to finish. Uniquely, most of the walk contain details walking instructions (no map required), although there are a few 'map walks' which do require an OS map.
The walks on this website come from 3 sources
SWC (Free to download and use) walks
Over a 100 walks, which you may download and use for free
Time Out Country Walks near London, volume 1
53 walks, 1 for every week of the year. The detailed instructions are online, but not the maps.
Time Out Country Walks near London, volume 2
30 walks, more car friendly and with shorter options, than volume 1. Only a few of the walks are online.
Planning a walk
Putting one foot in front of the other is one of the simpler leisure activities, but even so a little planning and preparation can make a difference to your enjoyment of the experience. This section contains some practical advice and tips on how to get the most out of this book:
What to bring
There are no high mountains in the south east, so you do not need expensive equipment.
Footwear is the most important piece of gear to think about. In summer, on even paths, trainers can be fine but most of the time you will be more comfortable in proper walking boots. Do wear them in before tackling long walks and wear proper walking socks.
Keep a waterproof jacket and lightweight over trousers in your backpack, just in case it rains during your walk.
In the summer you will need a hat and sun screen (you will be outside for several hours) and a large water bottle. On hot summer days, drink plenty of water, more than you think you need – it makes a big difference.
One walking pole or a pair can be a useful addition to help you go up steep ascents, down steep descents and over slippery terrain.
Walking equipment can be purchased from high street chains like Millets and Blacks. For specialist retailers, the best concentration in London is in Covent Garden, where you will find Ellis Brigham, Field and Trek, North Face, Kathmandu and Rohan.
All the Time Out Book walks, and most of the SWC walks, include all the directions you need without having to refer to a map. That said, we recommend the excellent Ordnance Survey (OS) Explorer Maps (with orange covers). The OS Landranger series are less detailed but also useful. For the few SWC 'map walks', you will of course need a map! Map segments can be printed for free from this website.
Many of the walk directions include compass bearings and you should bring a compass with you to be able to confirm your route in places where there are few other landmarks.
We recommend you start with the shorter walks, and ones with a lower toughness rating. Don’t go from no walking, to walking 13 miles a day every Saturday and Sunday – build up to it.
Getting to the walks
Train Times: www.nationalrail.co.uk or 08457 48 49 50
Bus Times: www.traveline.org.uk or 0871 200 22 33
The walks in this book all start and end at a railway station. See the Travel section at the start of each walk for details of where to catch the train if starting from London and an idea of what time to set off from London if you aim to reach the suggested pub by lunchtime.
Train times and ticket prices can be checked at a local train station, online, or by phone. Be sure to confirm the return journey times as well since a few stations only have a two-hourly service. Finally, check for planned engineering works, when slow buses, with lengthy waits for connections, replace trains.
If the walk starts and finishes at different stations on the same line, you just need to buy a day return ticket to the more distant of the two stations.
That does leave some walks where the start and finish are on different railway lines. For these walks there is no easy advice to offer. While ticket inspectors often accept a day return to the station furthest from London, some railway companies take a harder line and make you buy a separate ticket. The safest (though not always the cheapest) approach is to buy a day return to the station at the start of the walk and then a single from the station at the end of the walk to the point where the return route merges with the outbound one.
Where the train journey is not straightforward, the walk’s Travel section contains specific advice on which ticket(s) to buy from the London terminus.
The cost of train tickets can be reduced by using a railcard. In 2011, a Network Railcard cost £25, and gives a 1/3 discount for up to 4 people on weekends/bank holidays, and weekdays after 10am but with a £13 minimum. Information on the various other types of railcard can be obtained from most railway stations and can also be found on this website.
For non-railcard holders, there are other options, including Groupsave, where four people travel for the price of two (but you must travel together). It is also worth checking the websites of the individual rail companies (see links on the National Rail Enquiries website) for advance fares and temporary special offers which can sometimes give substantial savings.
Even with current petrol prices, for 2 or more people, driving is usually cheaper
We have given brief details on possible parking places near the start or end of some walks, but car drivers are advised to check this information locally.
For non-circular walks, we have given brief details on how to get back to the start of the walk by train. There are a few walks where the start and finish stations are on different rail lines and do not connect, which makes these walks unsuitable for drivers.
It is possible to combine the car and train travel, especially if you live in outer London – drive to a station on the train’s route (e.g. Sevenoakes, Woking) and take the train from there.
Following the walks
Each walk has been given a rating between 1 (undemanding) and 9 (the most effort required). They take into account the amount of climbing, if there are exceptionally steep sections, and the length of the walk. These ratings are only relevant to the walks published here (all of them would be considerably lower if put in the context of hillier parts of Britain) but they can help you choose which ones to do depending on how fit you are or whether you feel like more of a work-out.
Walks with Directions
Unlike some other walking books, the Time Out Country Walks books set out to give you all the information to follow a walk without having to refer to a map.
You may not always need all the detail provided in the text, however, and for this reason essential directions are in italics. With experience, you may well find that you can rely on the italics for stretches of the walk, dipping into the detail only when you are unsure.
Note that the seasons can make a difference to how easy it is to follow a walk. In summer, vegetation can obscure footpath posts or arrows on trees, and in winter, paths through woods can sometimes become confusing. Ploughed fields in winter also test navigational skills, while in summer you may have to decide whether to wade through a field of corn, or walk around the field edge. We have taken these factors into account when devising our walk directions, however, and given you as many navigational clues as possible.
Frequent compass bearings are given in the directions. They can reassure you that you are on the right route for example in a wood, when crossing a newly-ploughed field where you are unsure about your onward way or faced with a choice of paths.
Using a compass is not complicated. Simply align the needle of the compass with north (usually helpfully marked by a red arrow on the compass base), and then face in the direction of the bearing given in the text using the numbers around the edge of the dial. This, and the instructions in the text, should make the onward route obvious.
Many directions have distances. If you are uncertain about these, it can help to have a mental image of some known distances for comparison: 100 metres is about the length of a football pitch, for example. For longer distances, most people’s walking speed is between 60 and 80 metres per minute, so “in 300 metres” should be after about 4 or 5 minutes of walking.
Each chapter includes a sketch map, with numbers – e.g.  – referring to points in the text, so that you can check your progress along a route. Where a turning is less obvious or more complex, we alert you to that in the directions with a [!]
What to do if you get lost. All these walks have been checked several times and at all times of the year. Although things do change, the most likely explanation is that you missed a turning or hard-to-see signpost, read the same instruction twice, or perhaps skipped one.
The best thing to do if you are unsure, or the instructions no longer seem to make sense, is to retrace your steps until you reach a point you were sure of and try again.
These are the type of walks most of you will be familiar with. A few of the SWC walks just contain a route outline - you'll need an OS map. These can be printed for free from this website.
To ensure the walks follow rights of way, we have relied on OS Maps, particularly the excellent Explorer series. To the best of our knowledge, all routes follow public rights of way, permissive paths (paths where the landowner – usually the National Trust or a local authority – has given formal permission to use the path, but may withdraw it: such paths are usually marked on OS maps too), or are on common land. Still, it is impossible to guarantee that the books, or this website, is free from errors in this respect.
Our experience has been that the vast majority of rural landowners and inhabitants are perfectly friendly and accommodating to walkers so long as they keep to legitimate paths. Be civil to them and respect their rights and they are likely to reciprocate your courtesy.
The Saturday Walkers’ Club
The SWC is a "self-organising" group of walkers and you are welcome to join it. There are no joining fees, you do not need to book in advance, and everyone is welcome, especially visitors to London. Just turn up.
Despite the Club name, walks take place not only on Saturdays but on Sundays, Bank Holidays and in midweek slots. Each week sees several walks posted on the website giving you a constantly changing range of options. See “This Week’s Walks”. An extra advantage is that the poster will have checked the train connections for you.
All we ask is that you bring a copy of the instructions (one of the Time Out Books of Country Walks or a downloaded free walk) as the walks are “self-led” – i.e. the walks do not have leader with insurance, so you are responsible for yourself at all times. On the plus side, if you want to leave the main groups to walk faster, or slower, or spend longer in the pub, or stop for a swim, that’s perfectly fine.
All walks in the 2 book were fully revised in 2010. Information on pubs and attraction opening times was also updated.
If you have used previous editions of this book you will be familiar with the walks and generally the routes are the same except for minor changes to accommodate diverted routes, different lunch suggestions and general changes in land use.
However, changes do inevitably occur after publication. Stiles collapse (some local authorities maintain them well, others don’t) or get replaced by kissing gates. Footpath signposts fall over, are removed, or get covered by foliage. Pubs close or stop serving food, or (a worrying modern trend) turn themselves into upmarket restaurants. Rural tearooms, alas, often go out of business at short notice.
Where such changes come to the attention of the walking club, it records them on this website. In the separate ‘Time Out Country Walks 1/2’ sections of the website you will find a web page for each walk in the book, and an ‘Updates and Feedback’ button at the top of it.
Where necessary, updated versions of the walks will be posted on the site.
You can post your own updates using the comment feature – the walking club greatly appreciates your feedback.
The website also has alternative routes for some of the walks that are not available in the books and ideas about how to combine them with other walks.
Each walk also has a photos page, which can give you a better idea of what each walk is like. If you would like to share your photos with the world, upload them to the SWC group on Flickr (www.flickr.com/groups/swc ).
We are starting to collate GPS data for the walks. If you have a GPS enabled smartphone (or walker’s satnav), check the website for GPS data. If you have recorded the route of a walk, the walking club would be grateful to receive a copy.