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Tranquil Flit River, wooded fringes of Flitwick Moor, quiet villages, the De Grey Mausoleum, Wrest House and Gardens, the Greensand Ridge (views), and the heart of Flitwick Moor.
Bedfordshire SWC Walk 231 • Toughness: 5/10 • Length: 14 miles (24 km)
This Central Bedfordshire walk just north of the easterly end of the Chilterns initially follows the tranquil Flit River along the shady wooded fringes of Flitwick Moor, one of the most important wetland sites in the south east of England, and then veers away from the river through a couple of quiet villages, en route passing the Grade I-listed De Grey Mausoleum in Flitton and the also Grade I-listed Wrest House and Gardens in Silsoe. This is followed by a longer stretch through rolling fields with views to the Greensand Ridge. After crossing the Flit near Clophill the walk leads up the Greensand Ridge, descending for lunch back into Clophill.
After lunch it’s back on to the ridge for a long stretch through and along Maulden Wood, at times with far views south to the Chiltern Hills. The highlight of the return route from Maulden to Flitwick is the passage through Flitton and Flitwick Moors, including a stretch along a narrow path through the very heart of Flitwick Moor.
A much shorter walk option, with less ascent as well, and rated 3 out of 10, is described.
A very short out-and-back to the De Grey Mausoleum and Wrest Park is also possible, pubs in Silsoe and Flitton – or the Café in Wrest Park – would provide nourishment (12.3 km/7.7 mi).
Greensand Ridge Walk along grassy tracks, woodland trails, and 2 pretty villages with pubs - Northill and Old Warden
Bedfordshire SWC Walk 264 • Toughness: 4/10 • Length: 12 miles (20 km)
An undulating route through Berkshire with lunch at The Bell, a refreshingly traditional pub.
Berkshire SWC Walk 17 • Toughness: 4/10 • Length: 10 miles (18 km)
Leaves Goring with a pretty vista over the Thames, before following the Ridgeway path up on to the Downs.
Lunch is at the excellent Bell Inn (cosy in winter, beer garden in summer)
The route back ends with a steep climb, and a lovely view over the Thames, before a steep descent, and re-crossing the Thames into Goring
Please note that due to sensitive wildlife, access to Streatley Warren is only between 31st Oct and 1st March (at the time of writing). If you wish to find out more information about a particular restriction, telephone the Open Access contact centre on 0845 1003298, quote OS grid ref. (for Streatley Warren) SU551810 or contact English Nature who look after Streatley Warren. (Only about 1km of the route is affected, and the detour around it is very easy)
An easy walk along gentle hills above the Misbourne valley to the attractive village of Chalfont St Giles.
Buckinghamshire SWC Walk 36 • Toughness: 3/10 • Length: 8 miles (14 km)
Halfway round, there are several possible lunchtime pubs in the attractive town of Chalfont St Giles. A recent walk report on the usual place, Merlins Cave, wasn't particularly encouraging and you might want to try a small pub called the Fox and Hounds on the lane leading out of the town.
In Old Amersham, Seasons Cafe Deli (formerly Carringtons) is worth seeking out for tea; there are also several pubs in this part of the town but nothing much up by the station.
Gentle hills, Chalfont St Giles, and Jordans, a hamlet with Quaker links
Buckinghamshire TOCW Book 1, Walk 10 • Toughness: 4/10 • Length: 11 miles (19 km)
This walk is close to London. It passes the cottage of the poet John Milton in Chalfont St Giles and comes to Jordans, a hamlet with Quaker links. In between, there is typical Buckinghamshire countryside to enjoy – gently rolling wooded hills – enough to provide interest without being too tiring! Navigation through Hodgemoor Woods in the morning can be challenging, so bring along a compass to help you keep to the correct paths.
Strenuous walk linking several hill top villages in the rolling landscape of the north westerly Aylesbury Vale, with splendid views throughout.
Buckinghamshire SWC Walk 191 • Toughness: 8/10 • Length: 16 miles (28 km)
This is a long and strenuous – but very rewarding – walk through the pleasant rolling countryside of the north westerly parts of Aylesbury Vale, just north of The Chilterns, with some far views on clear days. The walk first crosses the Thame Valley north of Haddenham and then passes through the area of the ancient Bernwood Royal Hunting Forest on a wide circular route to return south on a different route back through the Thame Valley to Haddenham.
The lunch stop is in any one of two charming pubs in the ancient hilltop village of Brill. A short loop around the village, providing far views into five counties, passes its well-preserved windmill in a prominent position on Brill Common, before a long descent from this steep-sided village follows.
There are a few ascents throughout the walk at regular intervals, with the third one – up to lunch in Brill – the longest, as the walk links a total of four hilltop villages and crosses one other hill chain. It also contains several arable field crossings.
A shortcut reducing the effort to 5 out of 10 is described.
The name is Anglo-Saxon Hǣdanhām, "Hǣda's Homestead" or, perhaps Hǣdingahām, "the home of the Hadding tribe". Haddenham is renowned for its ponds which were used to breed Aylesbury ducks, and it is also the home of Tiggywinkles, the animal welfare charity and veterinary hospital. Haddenham is the country’s biggest village.
Haddenham is known nationally as one of only a few wychert (or whitchet) villages. Wychert is Anglo-Saxon in origin (wit chert), meaning ‘white earth’, and refers to the local clay soil deposits. It describes a method of construction using the wetted clay mixed with straw to make walls and buildings, which are then thatched or topped with red clay tiles. The method is similar to that of a Cob building. To maintain the rigid nature of wychert it must not become too dry for risk of crumbling, nor too wet for risk of turning to slime. Keeping wychert well ventilated and not subject to...
The Chilterns: the Ridgeway Path over an open ridge, returning by peaceful and secluded valleys.
Buckinghamshire TOCW Book 2, Walk 2 • Toughness: 6/10 • Length: 10 miles (17 km)
This walk through a peaceful part of the rolling Chiltern Hills has one or two steep hills, but otherwise gradients are gentle and there are many fine views out over the valley and plain. The first part of the walk follows the valley bottom before following the Ridgeway to lunch at Bledlow. In the afternoon you pass through a series of secluded valleys before reaching Radnage and then over Bledlow Ridge and back along the valley to Saunderton.
The Chilterns: wooded forests (very muddy in winter), Hughenden Manor (NT), West Wycombe Caves (of Hellfire club fame), finishing with a short ridge walk
Buckinghamshire TOCW Book 2, Walk 3 • Toughness: 4/10 • Length: 9 miles (16 km)
This walk combines a fairly easy stroll in the Chilterns through a mixture of woodland and sloping meadows, with an optional visit to Hughenden Manor and West Wycombe Caves. The route heads south east over the Chiltern Hills to Bradenham, and continues through Naphill Common, and Flagmore Wood to Hughenden Manor. The route from Hughenden heads west across Downley Common to West Wycombe Caves for the recommended tea stop. After a brisk climb from the Caves up to Dashwood Mausoleum, it is then an easy level stroll back into Saunderton. If wishing to visit Hughenden Manor or West Wycombe Caves, please note the seasonal opening times below.
The Chilterns: An open ridge walk to Ivinghoe Beacon, gentle forests, and a classic village pub for tea.
Buckinghamshire TOCW Book 2, Walk 5 • Toughness: 4/10 • Length: 10 miles (16 km)
The first part of this route - following the Ridgeway along the Chiltern escarpment to Ivinghoe Beacon - is exhilarating, offering downland scenery as fine as anything on the South Downs. From the Beacon itself, it seems as if you can see half of England on a fine day.
Then, by way of contrast, you are plunged into the ancient Chiltern beechwoods of the Ashridge Estate. Lovingly preserved by the National Trust, they provide fine autumn colours in late October or early November. Tea is at the Brownlow Café, a popular kiosk with outside seating on the Ashridge Estate. All of the climbing is in the first half of the walk: the second half is all flat or downhill.
Towards the end of April and more particularly in early May, this is also a magnificent bluebell walk - arguably the best in the south east. The star attraction is Dockey Wood, just off the main walk in paragraph 32. But Flat Isley (to the right in paragraph 51: also reachable via a diversion from option a) is just as good and less well known or frequented. Lastly, Old Copse to the south of the Brownlow Cafe (on option b, but also reachable from the main walk as a short stroll) also has extensive displays. Being further north and higher up, all these woods are at their best a week to ten days later than others in the south east.
The Chilterns: gentle wooded hills and ridges.
Buckinghamshire TOCW Book 2, Walk 1 • Toughness: 7/10 • Length: 11 miles (19 km)
This energetic walk serves as a fine introduction to the Chiltern Hills, first passing through woodland, then descending into hidden vales and fields before emerging out onto the Chiltern escarpment above Princes Risborough at a spot that commands panoramic views of the countryside below. After lunch in Whiteleaf, a pretty village with many ancient cottages, the return to Wendover goes through wooded valleys and hills reminiscent of an earlier age. Then the walk continues along a fine open section of escarpment, with grand views north, before descending to the plains for a leisurely finish, in contrast to the landscape passed earlier. This walk is particularly pretty in autumn when it is a riot of russet hues.
Along the Ridgeway through the Chiltern Hills and through many splendid woodlands, a conservation village and idyllic Lee Common
Buckinghamshire SWC Walk 140 • Toughness: 6/10 • Length: 12 miles (20 km)
This walk combines some of the finest elements of the Chiltern Hills, while having very little overlap with other walks in the area. After leaving Wendover in a south easterly direction on the Ridgeway the walk rises into woods, which are rich in Bluebells in springtime. It then passes along fields to get to the picturesque green in The Lee, a conservation area village. From there it continues through woodland and the beautiful Lee Common to a 16th century lunch pub at Swan Bottom. After crossing some more fields, the afternoon section then leads entirely through woods right up to the outskirts of Wendover: it re-joins the Ridgeway for a while and then descends steeply off the escarpment down an ancient Holloway. Only to rise again, on forest tracks with some magnificent panoramic views , until getting to the highest point of the walk in the middle of Wendover Woods. From there the route to Wendover meanders through the woods, passing a wildlife hide and an ancient hill-fort site, before descending steeply to the plains.
Cambridge and its Colleges, Grantchester, Trumpington and the University Botanic Gardens
Cambridgeshire SWC Walk 105 • Toughness: 1/10 • Length: 9 miles (15 km)
This walk starts with a City Centre tour of the University Colleges before you head out to Grantchester on a walk besides the River Cam. You stop for tea at the famous Orchard tearooms, and then you have a choice of a return walk to Cambridge, either via Trumpington or back beside the River Cam. Gardeners amongst you may like to visit the Cambridge University Botanic Gardens at walk end before taking the short walk which remains to Cambridge Railway Station.
Footwear: as most of this walk is on footpaths and paved paths you may prefer to wear stout walking shoes or well cushioned trainers instead of walking boots
An easy walk through open Fenland, The River Great Ouse, 'big' skies, tree-lined farm tracks, historic Ely Cathedral and a quayside stroll at the end
Cambridgeshire SWC Walk 118 • Toughness: 2/10 • Length: 11 miles (18 km)
This walk is centred around Ely, the second smallest city in England, and the low-lying land of the Isle of Ely, the site of the supposed ‘Last Stand of the Saxons’, led by Hereward the Wake against the Norman Invaders, a landscape reminiscent of the Low Countries or Northern Germany: open fenland, largely flat, former marshy and boggy ground now drained for intensive agriculture, with long straight tree-lined farm tracks, hedge-lined meadows and big, cloud-filled skies. The River Great Ouse, ditches, dykes, embankments and catchwater drains all help to create the special atmosphere of Fenland.
The walk leads into the prevailing wind direction in the morning, and on a windy day the raised banks beside the river can feel very exposed as the wind sweeps in from the Fens, so you may have to work hard to get to lunch in the ‘hilltop’ village of Stretham.
In the afternoon there may be some traffic noise from the nearby A10 initially, while you see Ely cathedral rising above the Fens like a castle, or a ship ahead of you, the towers seeming like masts. It dominates the area for miles around and shows from everywhere an outline different from any other English cathedral, largely due its famed central octagonal tower.
Ely’s Old Town, the Cathedral and numerous tea options are passed before a quayside stroll and the finish back to the station. Stile Count: 2.
Easy walk beside the Great Ouse river to the attractive village of Houghton and its restored water mill, returning through water meadows and a nature reserve.
Cambridgeshire SWC Walk 31 • Toughness: 2/10 • Length: 11 miles (19 km)
This is an easy walk from the historic town of Huntingdon to the attractive twin villages of Houghton and Wyton. Much of the walk is close to or actually alongside the River Great Ouse, and at Houghton you can visit the last working water mill on the river. Houghton Mill is operated by the National Trust and is open on weekends and some weekdays from mid-March to the end of October (with milling demonstrations on Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays); admission (2016) is £5.
Oliver Cromwell was a pupil in Huntingdon's old grammar school (as was Samuel Pepys). The building now houses the Cromwell Museum (free entry); it is open daily (except Mondays) but note that its opening hours are limited, especially in winter.
The Long Walk option (see below) goes via the neighbouring villages of Hemingford Abbots and Hemingford Grey to the interesting town of St Ives. In Hemingford Grey you can visit The Manor Garden, designed and planted by the author Lucy Boston and recreated as Green Knowe in her books for children. It is open 11am-5pm (or dusk); admission (2016) is £4.
St Ives has been an important market town since Anglo-Saxon times, when it was the last site where the River Great Ouse could be forded before it reached the sea, 80 km away. The 15thC town bridge has several unusual features, most notably the survival of its late-medieval Bridge Chapel. The town's Norris Museum (free entry) “tells the story of Huntingdonshire from earliest times to the present day”; it is open daily (except Sundays in winter) until 4pm.
A relatively high proportion of this walk is on tarmac paths and lanes, with the whole route never more than 20 metres above sea level (the area is popular with cyclists). Water meadows are obviously prone to flooding and so this walk may not be feasible in the winter months, or after very heavy rain.
A peaceful walk through the Cotswolds with a choice of lunch stops
Cotswolds SWC Walk 115 • Toughness: 5/10 • Length: 12 miles (20 km)
A peaceful (anti-clockwise) circular walk with a choice of lunch stops.
This walk is recommended only for those who are (or are accompanied by someone) reasonably proficient at map reading.
Pre-historic landscape of the Dorset Downs with splendid views out to the Jurassic Coast from the South Dorset Ridgeway. Longer extension to the Valley of (Sarsen) Stones
Dorset SWC Walk 275 • Toughness: 7/10 • Length: 14 miles (24 km)
Maumbury Rings, an ancient British henge earthwork converted by the Romans for use as an amphitheatre (the largest of its kind in Britain), is walked through early on. Then Maiden Castle, the largest – and one of the most complex – Iron Age hill fort in Europe, with its up to four banks and three ditches and remains of a Romano-Celtic temple, is explored in detail. Settled from 4000 BC, it was one of the most powerful settlements in pre-Roman Britain, the Durotriges were the last tribe to have lived there.
From there the route follows the narrow South Winterbourne Valley to lunch in Martinstown before a long ascent up to the heathery Black Down, crowned by the 22m-high Hardy Monument (to Sir Thomas Hardy the Admiral, not the writer), with some stunning views to the Jurassic Coast and the Isle of Portland. Continue with views out to sea atop Bronkham Hill, with an interesting group of barrows and shakeholes on its ridge. On the descent from it you pass more barrows, en route back to Dorchester.
A long extension adds more pre-historic highlights – the Valley of (Sarsen) Stones, one of the finest examples of a boulder ‘train’ in Britain, several impressive barrows and two stone circles – and leads through the very pretty Bride Valley.
Dramatic coastal scenery, Lulworth cove, hidden beaches, a cliff arch, and a ghost town. Travel by car only.
Dorset SWC Walk 54 • Toughness: 10/10 • Length: 14 miles (24 km)
This is a very beautiful and dramatic coastal walk, which takes in the iconic Lulworth Cove, Durdle Door (an arch), Purbeck's dramatic coastal scenery, and the abandoned coastal village of Tyneham.
The walk is a 'dog bone' shape, centred on Lulworth Cove by the Castle Inn (lunch pub)
The Tynham Loop
The Tyneham loop starts at Povington Hill, a ridge with a 360° view of Purbeck (and a car park). It then descends into the abandoned village, which is worth exploring (church, museum), and climbs the other side of the valley to the cliff edge. It then follows the rollercoaster South West Coast Path (SWCP) along the cliffs to a beach, and more dramatic viewpoints. It then steeply re-ascends the Povington Hill ridge to Flowers Barrow, a stunning viewpoint (and the link point to the coast path 'in between' to Lulworth Cove)> Finally, there's a gentle ridge walk back to the to the start.
The Coast Path in between.
This part of the walk is done twice to link the 2 loops. This is a lovely walk over Bindon Hill with stunning coastal views (and Lulworth Cove) in one direction, and a cliff side path for the return. The killer though, is the steep descent to sea level and equally steep re-ascent back up to the ridge at Arish Mell beach.
The Durdle Door Loop
The Durdle Door loop is much gentler. It follows the SWCP west along cliffs to Durdle Door (an arch) and a nice beach below. The return is slightly inland, on a higher path (with less ups and downs) over open grassland, with fine views of the coast.
This is a 'car walk', as its not very suitable for public transport. There is a rare bus service from Wool Station, about 4 miles away. See below for details. For groups, there are reasonably priced taxis.
Lulworth Army Range
The eastern half of this walk (around Tyneham), and the coast path in between, is through a Danger Area (Army Tank Training Area). It is sometimes closed - check the opening times before travelling. If closed, you can always do the Western part of the walk from Lulworth...
Weymouth's harbour, the South West Coast Path, a disused railway path, industrial archaeology and a grandstand view of the Devon and Dorset coast.
Dorset SWC Walk 77 • Toughness: 4/10 • Length: 9 miles (16 km)
This walk was inspired by a BBC 'Railway Walks' program featuring a disused railway line between Weymouth and the Isle of Portland. It also features the sea, and industrial archeology - the quarrying of Portland stone.
It is in 2 distinct sections: 1) from Weymouth, south to the causeway by train or SWCP, and 2) the Isle of Portland Circular path
Weymouth has a pretty harbour, with many pubs and cafes. There are 2 routes south to the causeway over to Portland, the South West Coastal Path (SWCP), and a disused railway line turned into a cycle path. Railway walks buffs suggest doing the walks twice, once in summer for the greenery, and once in winter to appreciate the engineering, but once is enough for most. The causeway is part of Chesil beach, a pebble beach forming a long spit.
The Isle of Portland is a tall wedge shaped slab of Portland Stone, high at the north end, and sloping slowly into the sea at the south end at Portland Bill. The hill on the north side is the Verne. On top of it is a citadel (a fort housing a prison). The Verne has stunning view over Chesil Beach, Weymouth harbour, The Isle of White, and a large stretch of Devon and Dorset's coast - a 1/4 of the entire SWCP.
Note there is no route to the east of the prison, the path shown on the OS map is a dead end. You need to go around the west side of the citidel to join the coast path. On the south side of the prison are remains of WW2 gun emplacements, and much evidence of quarrying, disused tramways and the like.
Furthur south along the east coast, you can choose between the cliff-top SWCP or the route of the railway line, which goes as far as Church Ope, the island's only beach. At the southern tip, is Portland Bill and a lighthouse.
There is a regular bus service for most of the route, so it is easy to cut the walk short at any time.
Weymouth to Portland and back is far too long for 1 day, so 3 day walks are suggested.
77A : Weymouth to the Isle of Portland and Portland Bill (linear walk)
Head south from...
A walk via Pooh Bridge to the attractive Wealden village of Hartfield, with a longer option over the elevated heathland of Ashdown Forest.
East Sussex SWC Walk 29 • Toughness: 5/10 • Length: 11 miles (19 km)
This walk starts along the Medway valley and soon comes to the small village of Withyham for an early lunch at the Dorset Arms. After passing Withyham church (which is well worth visiting) there is a choice of three routes to the neighbouring village of Hartfield, associated with the author AA Milne and his most famous creation: coachloads of tourists regularly descend on Pooh Corner to buy all manner of Winnie-the-Pooh memorabilia.
The Short Walk heads directly for Hartfield, while the other variations continue through the extensive Buckhurst Estate into Five Hundred Acre Wood. This is the furthest point for the Main Walk, which crosses the famous Pooh Bridge on its way round to Hartfield.
The Long Walk climbs steadily through the wood and continues around the rim of a valley in Ashdown Forest, the largest area of elevated heathland in south-east England. It goes past some recognisable features from the children's stories and a memorial commemorating AA Milne and his illustrator, EF Shepard. From this viewpoint the Long Walk descends to Hartfield, also crossing Pooh Bridge.
After a tea stop in this attractive Wealden village the circular options go back along the Medway valley to Ashurst station.
Both in the Medway valley and on Ashdown Forest the ground can become waterlogged after heavy rain, so this walk is much more pleasant in relatively dry conditions.
The 1066 County Path, picturesque Battle and its Abbey
East Sussex SWC Walk 30 • Toughness: 3/10 • Length: 11 miles (19 km)
If wanting to visit Battle Abbey at the end of this walk, then you should plan to set off early and take the late lunch stop. Otherwise this walk is suited for a late start and consequently an early lunch stop and a longer afternoon section, which should give you a healthy appetite for an evening meal at one of the many establishments in Battle.
A gentle walk through the Weald to Poundgate, with some nice views of the Weald and the distant South Downs.
East Sussex SWC Walk 95 • Toughness: 3/10 • Length: 10 miles (16 km)
This is a gentle walk over a mix of fields and woods from a quiet station on the quiet Uckfield Line in East Sussex.
It heads north for lunch at the rural Crow and Gate pub at Poundgate. It tends to get very busy on Sundays. If walking with a larger group it is best to make a reservation, or avoid Sundays during winter, when dining outside is not an option.
There are views of the distant South Downs ridge for most of the walk
At the end, there is choice of 2 pubs for a drink
A short walk through an interesting part of the High Weald.
East Sussex SWC Walk 120 • Toughness: 4/10 • Length: 9 miles (15 km)
This walk covers similar ground to the western part of Extra Walk 19 (Tunbridge Wells Circular), using a different railway line to access this attractive part of the High Weald from the opposite direction. The stations at Eridge and Tunbridge Wells (West) are now connected again by the heritage Spa Valley Railway, and on days when it is operating you are likely to see and hear steam trains at several places along the route.
The morning section is an undulating route across typical High Weald territory, starting with a slightly longer route to Mottsmill Stream than that in Extra Walk 109 (Eridge to East Grinstead). You can then choose between a high-level open route with fine views, or a lower route through a secluded valley with good displays of bluebells and other spring flowers. Both routes combine on the approach to Groombridge, one of many rural villages which developed around its railway station. The original hamlet (now called Old Groombridge) is just across the county border, in Kent.
The afternoon section starts by going past Groombridge Place, a beautiful Jacobean manor house surrounded by a medieval moat. You then follow the railway line a short distance up the Grom valley before turning into Broadwater Forest. Much of this area was acquired by the RSPB in 2007 and is now the Broadwater Warren nature reserve (free entry). The southern end of the wood is also a nature reserve (managed by the Sussex Wildlife Trust) and the Main Walk goes past one of the massive sandstone outcrops in the area, Eridge Rocks.
The RSPB have been undertaking a ten-year restoration programme in Broadwater Warren to bring back its original heathland habitat. Most of this work programme has now been completed but be aware that you might be required to take an alternative route through the reserve.
The heathlands of Ashdown Forest. Travel by Bus.
East Sussex SWC Walk 23 • Toughness: 4/10 • Length: 10 miles (18 km)
This walk explores the interesting high heathlands of Ashdown Forest, with extensive views both south and north (there is for example a fine distant view of the South Downs in the early stages of this walk).
The heaths are particularly beautiful from mid August to mid September, when the purple heather is at its best, and from March to May when there is plenty of gorse in bloom. In the afternoon the walk passes the Ashdown Forest Visitor Centre, which has lots of interesting displays about this unique habitat.
The walk is not all heathland, however. Interspersed with it are sections across some pleasant green valleys, as well as some woodland. For lunch there is a pub with a fine garden.
Special note : these directions aim to be comprehensive, but need careful following on the heath sections, where once you are lost it is very hard to re-discover the route. A compass and the Explorer map is certainly useful for emergencies (as is a GPS, obviously).
Hilly cliff top path via remote Fairlight Glen naturist beach to Fireheights. Return by the same path, a gentler inland route, or along the seashore
East Sussex SWC Walk 169 • Toughness: 10/10 • Length: 8 miles (13 km)
This is a dramatic and hilly coastal cliff top walk from Hastings to the hidden and very pretty Fairlight Glen beach (which is used by naturists), and on to to Fireheights beacon - with fine views of the surrounding coastline. There are 4 options for the return: a) by the same strenuous route, b) a beach route past a newly formed undercliff, c) a forested route which contours around some of the steep glens of the coast path, and d) an inland route via North's Seat (hill). In fact any of the 4 routes could be used for either the out or return journey. Finally, at the start (or finish) of the walk, there is are options to visit Hasting's working sea front with its art gallery and shingle beach launched fishing boats, its old town with shops and cafes, and a city centre hill to visit the ruins of Hastings' castle.
There are already 2 SWC walks in this area, TOCW2 Hastings to Rye, and TOCW1 Rye to Hastings - this walk, and they, all share the dramatic cliff top walk out of Hastings. This walk aims to make a circular walk back to Hastings, giving time to visit Fairlight Glen beach, and further explore this very pretty coast. Why? Beyond Fireheights (the route onwards to Winchelsea and Rye) by Fairlight village, the coastal path has fallen away, and the new "coast path" is actually inland along (quiet) roads for quite some distance - an anti-climax after the coastal views at the start of the walk.
The walk starts in Hastings. Here you can either walk along the slightly tacky seafront to the old town, or climb over a hill to visit Hasting's castle
The 2 routes meet up at the old town, a narrow pedestrianised lane full of old pubs and small independent shops. In front of the old town is the working beach, with its distinctive black clapperboard houses, beach launched fishing boats, Jerwood Art Galley, and a nice view from the sea wall.
From here, there is a choice of 4 routes through Hastings County Park to Fireheights beacon, each is around 6 km / 4 miles
Cliff top path via...
An energetic walk over the South Downs with great views, 3 hills, 3 pubs, and a ridge.
East Sussex SWC Walk 47 • Toughness: 7/10 • Length: 14 miles (24 km)
This is an energetic walk (550 metres or 1,600 feet of ascent) over three distinct downland ridges, with magnificent views throughout. One of the pleasures of the walk is that the entire route is in view for much of the walk, so you can look back at the terrain you have already done or ahead to the delights to come. Navigation is easy, the walking is over wide and distinct paths, and while there are three substantial climbs, most of the walk is flat, gently undulating or downhill.
As well as plenty of grand downland walking, the route includes a start and finish in historic Lewes, quaint corners of which you see both at the start and end of the walk, an optional detour to Mount Caburn (Iron Age fort) with its dramatic viewpoint of the whole circuit, and the pleasant small village of Glynde. You also pass the remote station of Southease, with its YHA cafe nearby.
The walk passes 3 good pubs, and 3 train stations on the way (between the 3 hills, so if you want to drop out, its quite easy). You can do the walk either clockwise or anticlockwise, and directions are given for both in the attached pdf
Long. A steep hill (views) to Glynde. Lunch in quiet West Firle, then the South Downs Way (chalk ridge), with a flat valley walk back to historic Lewes
East Sussex TOCW Book 2, Walk 25 • Toughness: 7/10 • Length: 14 miles (23 km)
Each of the three sections of this walk makes a fine walk in itself. Put together, they make a grand day's circuit in stunning scenery.The main walk starts in the historic town of Lewes with the early section having fine views over the town and castle. After reaching a secluded valley, skylarks can often to be heard whilst hovering in the sky. The mid section along the South Downs Way offers extensive views both inland and towards the port of Newhaven with the Channel beyond. The final stretch re-enters Lewes along the levee beside the River Ouse.
The walk has 360 metres of ascent spread over three steepish hills, but in between there are long sections which are mainly level. The main walk is not well suited to December and January due to the limited daylight.
A varied High Weald walk with stretches through parkland, restored heathland and woods containing massive sandstone outcrops, finishing alongside the Spa Valley Railway.
East Sussex SWC Walk 19 • Toughness: 5/10 • Length: 11 miles (19 km)
This walk through the High Weald near the border of East Sussex and Kent has plenty of interest and variety. After escaping from the suburban charms of Tunbridge Wells you climb through woodland to a possible early lunch stop in the elegant hill-top village of Frant, dominated by its large triangular green. The walk continues with an attractive but potentially muddy section through the landscaped parkland of the Nevill Estate's Eridge Old Park. On the edge of the park Forge Wood has a particularly fine display of bluebells in spring.
After the alternative lunch stop in the hamlet of Eridge Green you pass the first of several massive sandstone outcrops, Eridge Rocks. The Main Walk then goes through Broadwater Warren, an RSPB nature reserve (free entry) which is undergoing a ten-year restoration programme to bring back its original heathland habitat. You glimpse another sandstone outcrop at High Rocks and the final stretch is alongside the Spa Valley Railway (SVR), a restored branch line.
The route into Tunbridge Wells goes across its large wooded common into The Pantiles, a famous colonnaded walkway with interesting shops, galleries, cafés and (sometimes) market stalls. This spa town developed in the 17thC after an influential nobleman staying nearby became convinced that the iron-rich water from its chalybeate spring had curative properties. Its popularity waned in the 18thC when sea bathing became more fashionable than ‘taking the waters’, but revived after regular visits from Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. The town's popularity with the royal family led to it being granted the “Royal” prefix in 1909.
Most of the RSPB's work programme has now been completed but be aware that you might be required to take an alternative route through Broadwater Warren.
This walk follows the Sussex Border path to Bewl Water, then follows its banks back to Wadhurst for tea. Gentle gradients but never flat.
East Sussex SWC Walk 5 • Toughness: 5/10 • Length: 10 miles (17 km)
Apart from at the very end, this is a completely different route from the Wadhurst short and main walks in Time Out Country Walks Book two. It follows the Sussex Border Path to the large reservoir of Bewl Water, and then follows its banks back to Wadhurst village for tea. This is beautiful country, full of hidden valleys and picturesque farms. Being the Weald, the route is almost never flat, but the gradients on this route are always gentle.
Varied walk around a unique island in the Thames Estuary: mudflats, creeks, river traffic, sandy beaches, seawall murals, grassy marshland, oil terminals & refineries
Essex SWC Walk 258 • Toughness: 3/10 • Length: 14 miles (23 km)
A flat walk, that starts and finishes with a busy road stretch, features a fair amount of hard surface paths and some A-road noise near the end, and passes - in succession - a golf course, a static caravan park, an ex-landfill site, housing estates, another caravan park, a sewage plant, an LNG terminal, an oil product terminal, an oil refinery, the site of a never-finished oil refinery, another oil terminal and another - larger - landfill site?????? And yet, and yet...
This is one not just for the Industrial Romantic, or for fans of the Pub Rock legends Dr. Feelgood, or for students of the lives of the ex-East End White Working Classes.
Without navigational challenges (as all you do is: walk to the seawall and follow it) you experience an ever-changing scenery of tidal creeks and mud flats, river marshes, salt marshes, flood barriers, sluices and sandbanks, get views of the Benfleet Downs, of Hadleigh Castle & Country Park, the Essex cliffs, Southend with its Pier, the North Sea and the busy river traffic, of ships big and small, boatyards, yacht clubs and marinas, pass sandy beaches and enclosed pools on the foreshore, jetties, extensive seawall murals telling Canvey Island stories and - post lunch - long tranquil stretches past grassy marshes with abundant birdlife.
The recommended lunch options are the iconic Labworth Beach Bistro in its modernist building with panoramic views of the Thames estuary, or the legendary smugglers' inn the Lobster Smack.
A walk like no other? Most certainly.
Hadleigh Castle, Leigh on Sean, and Benfleet Creek
Essex SWC Walk 268 • Toughness: 4/10 • Length: 9 miles (15 km)
This Essex excursion is a companion walk to the short 5.6km (3.5m) Benfleet to Leigh on Sea amble along the Benfleet Creek shoreline which was devised to coincide with the Leigh on Sea folk festival and which usually takes place at the end of June. You can find more information about this walk here. Another related walk is SWC Walk 258; a Canvey Island circular starting and finishing at Benfleet Station.
This is a flat walk of 23.2km (14.5m) essentially following the sea –wall around the island in an environment of tidal flats, marshes and sandbanks. This day walk covers completely different territory: the higher ground north of the estuary and Canvey Island, and is a walk of contrasts. In the morning you go along narrow, grassy paths through the dense, hilly woodland of Benfleet Downs and Hadleigh Country Park. You visit the ruined Hadleigh Castle which is an excellent picnic spot and has superb views; on a clear day you can see all the way across Canvey Island to the Hoo Peninsula and the North Downs in Kent. You have lunch at Leigh on Sea; a town rapidly gentrifying with boutiques and up-market restaurants.
After lunch in Leigh on Sea you walk back to Benfleet along a wide track adjacent to Benfleet Creek with fine views of the flat open estuary waterscape and the hilly woods away to your right which you walked in the morning. You can also incorporate a circular walk of Two tree island which has fine bird-watching opportunities.
The undulating hills of Hadleigh Country Park were the venue for the mountain bike events in the 2012 London Olympics and there are a large network of bike trails of varying severity criss-crossing the area. This walk however uses “walkers only” paths and routes with just short and unavoidable stretches on bike trails.
This walk is best done from May to October. In winter, stretches of the narrow woodland paths are likely to be very muddy with some short sections quite tricky to navigate.
Gentle Essex walk through the quiet Blackwater Valley to historic Coggeshall, with 300 listed buildings, for lunch.
Essex SWC Walk 216 • Toughness: 4/10 • Length: 14 miles (23 km)
This walk is centred on the gentle landscape of the Blackwater Valley, close to Constable Country, and includes some very tranquil and scenic stretches along the river itself, interspersed with long stretches along country lanes, green lanes or field boundaries with wide and extensive views across the rolling Essex countryside of fields and woods.
A pre-lunch north westerly loop explores the valley cut by Robin’s Brook, leading to Marks Hall Gardens and Arboretum, with its atmospheric early lunch stop in a converted barn.
There are a further four recommended lunch stops in Coggeshall itself (two pubs and two cafes) plus an upmarket Brasserie to choose from.
Coggeshall is one of Britain’s most historic market towns. It has 300 listed buildings, amongst the ones passed on the walk are Britain’s oldest barn and one its finest medieval buildings, built on the remnants of a 12th century abbey, an impressive carved timber-framed Wool Merchant’s house as well as a couple of photogenic watermills and an outsized church.
A much shorter walk of 16.3 km length enables extended visits to the NT properties en route.
A scenic extension in Coggeshall leads west from Grange Barn along the Essex Way and back along the wooded Blackwater valley, closely following the river.
Essex Hills, wooded Nature Reserves and panoramic Thames Valley Views
Essex SWC Walk 114 • Toughness: 6/10 • Length: 12 miles (21 km)
This is an energetic and varied figure-of-eight walk through some tranquil, hilly parts of Essex, mostly through woods, both ancient and modern, and through flower-rich meadows and some farmland, which are all parts of Langdon Hills Country Park and the neighbouring Langdon Nature Reserve (which itself consists of five separate reserves). The hills form a crescent shaped ridge running West-to-East, giving panoramic views over the Thames Estuary from many points: out to Canvey Island and Fobbing Marshes in the East, across to Kent and to London’s Skyline in the West.
The lunch destination Horndon-on-the-Hill is a conservation area and features several noteworthy buildings as well as a multi-award winning pub. On the return you walk through more beautiful, undulating woods and then through the Dunton Plotlands part of the Nature Reserve, an interesting area formerly full of bungalows and chalets for Londoners.
This walk contains some arable field crossings around lunch (about 1000m in total), where it is also afflicted by some road noise from the nearby A13 for a short while.
A couple of shortcuts cut out 2.4 km (1.5 mi) and 2.6 km (1.6 mi) respectively. Taking either of the shortcuts reduces the rating to 5/10, taking both shortcuts reduces the rating to 4/10.
River Stour - Constable country
Essex TOCW Book 1, Walk 39 • Toughness: 4/10 • Length: 10 miles (17 km)
This is a walk through the Stour valley that Constable loved, passing by the settings of some of his most famous paintings, a landscape now protected as the Dedham Vale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Lunch is in the beautiful village of Dedham. In the afternoon the route goes past Dedham Lock and Mill, and from Essex into Suffolk, along the River Stour to Stratford St Mary and its church; and from there to East Bergholt, Constable's birthplace, which has a church with an unusual bell cage and an old friary that is now an organic farming community. Tea is by Flatford Mill and more Constable connections.
After prolonged heavy rain, the river may overflow and you may have to make a detour to avoid flooded water meadows.
Coastal walk from a faded grandeur Victorian seaside resort with pier to a fast eroding, fossil rich headland and a sand spit. Return along the beach or through a nature reserve.
Essex SWC Walk 98 • Toughness: 1/10 • Length: 7 miles (12 km)
This is a short and easy but varied costal walk is as much a day out as a walk. It starts in a faded grandeur Victorian Seaside resort with a long pier. But its real star is the Naze - a headland with fine views and red cliffs of London Clay subject to rapid erosion and a fossil hunters paridise after stormy weather.
After leaving the pier, arcades, beach huts, some nice Victorian architecture, and good swimming beaches behind, you quickly reaches the Naze - a wild headland with good sea views. There is a small tower with a tea room, which is visible for much of the walk as a landmark. Due to the erosion on the headland - by up to 2m a year - walking along the beach is quite interesting, and can be rich in fossils after storms. After the Naze is a sand spit out to Stone point (closed May 1st to July 31st in case there are any ground nesting birds)
The Naze and spit protect the backwaters, shallow waters with salt flat islands, which inspired Arthur Ransome's Swallows and Amazons books. The return route is either along the beach, or optionally around a nature reserve's sea wall overlooking the backwayers (good for birdwatching, but a bit hard going in summer as overgrown)
Depending upon tide times, walk out along the cliffs, and back along the beach or visa-versa
After returning to the town centre, head out to the end of the pier. For a longer walk, head south along the coast and beach huts to Frinton (station)
Your opinion of this walk will be in part how you see Walton-on-the-Naze - faded grandeur, or tacky amusments which may be busy and noisy during summer evenings. In winter, the town would be very quiet, the amusements closed, and beaches empty
North West Essex hills and pretty villages
Essex SWC Walk 116 • Toughness: 5/10 • Length: 14 miles (24 km)
This is a relaxing walk in the quiet chalky uplands of north-west Essex, on the borders of Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire, very much off the beaten track, and with gently rolling hills, plenty of woods and copses as well as some pretty villages. Right from the start the walk takes you past picturesque thatched cottages with ample examples of pargeting, a decorative medieval plastering technique, and on through some farmland to the early lunch stop in Arkesden, one of the prettiest villages in Essex with one of the best pubs and loveliest churches.
The route then gently ascends to Chrishall, the dedicated lunch stop on the full walk, along field boundaries and green lanes. Chrishall village is close to Essex’ highest point and the approach offers fine views into a corner of the Cambridgeshire plain and back down the wide ‘winding valley’ that gives Wendens Ambo its name. After lunch you follow the Icknield Way to Elmdon, with more views north out across the Cambridgeshire plain to Cambridge, then later alongside a high hedge with views off to your right into the winding valley back to Wendens Ambo.
2 circular walks on either side of the Colne estuary. **check ferry times in advance**
Essex TOCW Book 1, Walk 30 • Toughness: 2/10 • Length: 9 miles (15 km)
This walk is made up of two loops, one on the Wivenhoe side of the river Colne and one on the Rowhedge side. However, there is no bridge - you need to take a ferry. This means the full walk is only possible at weekends and on bank holiday Mondays between Easter and the middle of October when the ferry at Wivenhoe is working (although you might be lucky enough to thumb a lift across from a boat at other times). You also need to get there at a time to suit the tides (see the travel details below). But it is well worth making the extra effort to fit in this unusual walk. Both parts of the walk are about 7km, so allow 2 hours for each.
Wivenhoe, perhaps because of its proximity to the University of Essex, is a remarkable village bursting with community spirit, with volunteers out there constantly manning the ferry, re-roofing the boat house or washing down the slipways. There are always half a dozen dinghies being made by amateurs in the riverside’s Nottage Maritime Institute. From the church and town, the morning’s walk is along the mudflats of the River Colne past zones of former dereliction (now in the course of regeneration through new housing), past a £14.5 million flood surge barrier, and past sand-extraction works and lakes created in old extraction craters. Returning to Wivenhoe, catch the ferry over to the village of Rowhedge.
Rowhedge must be the only village in the UK where swans frequently block the main high street. But having circumvented this fearsome obstacle, you go via the church into a wood controlled by the Ministry of Defence and used on occasions as a firing range. The last part of the return journey is, for me, the highlight of the day: passing the lovely Norman Church of St Andrew in Fingringhoe, with its chequerboard design of banded flint, to the former Fingringhoe Mill and on along the John Brunning Walk – mudflats and saltmarshes beside Roman River and a haven for heron, redshank, lapwing, shelduck, kestrels and barn owls.
2 short circular walks 1) East along the South West Coast Path past Foreland Point 2) Along the narrow, steep sided River Lyn gorge to picturesque Watersmeet (NT)
Exmoor NP SWC Walk 123 • Toughness: 5/10 • Length: 9 miles (16 km)
This walk consists of 2 short walks from Countisbury (nice pub, car park) on the main Exmoor coast road, with a regular summer bus service from Minehead and Lymington. The walks can be done together as a figure of 8, but they both are exellent walks in their own right.
The Foreland Point loop heads to the coast via Butter Hill to reach the point, then follows the South West Coast Path east along the side of a partly forested hill sloping own to the see. It returns over the top of the hill
The Lymington/Watersmeet Loop is something quite different. It follows the SWCP west along the coast, gently descending to Lynmouth. It then follows the River Lyn through a very narrow steep sided, forested gorge. The gorge is 200m/600 feet deep in places. After 2 miles, at Watersmeet, which has a popular NT cafe, the gorge splits in 2 to form the East and West Lyn rivers - both in narrow, steep sided gorges. A little further, there is a steep climb out of the gorge to return to the pub at Countisbury.
Short walk to Heddon's Beach, and along the South West Coast Path from a remote country pub. Travel by car only.
Exmoor NP SWC Walk 124 • Toughness: 4/10 • Length: 5 miles (9 km)
This is a popular walk from the Hunter's Inn - a remote country pub - along a valley to Headon's Mouth beach. Then its along the South West Coast Path (SWCP) to Woody Bay. Then its back along a parallel but higher path at the top of the cliff.
Optionally, you can walk down to Woody Bay, returning on the same path.
This is a car-only walk - the local roads are narrow, and not served by buses, which have to detour inland at this point.
The source of the Thames, an overgrown canal, quiet tracks, a pretty village, and the Thames path
Gloucestershire SWC Walk 256 • Toughness: 2/10 • Length: 9 miles (16 km)
The main feature of this tranquil walk is a visit to the source of the Thames (the Thames head) which is in a field just 3 km from Kemble station
Beyond the source the route continues along a section of the disused Severn and Thames canal which is not a typical towpath walk but more like a trail through dense woodland as the canal is completely overgrown and has become an important wildlife corridor, particularly for butterflies. You reach Sapperton Tunnel and the aptly named Tunnel pub for your lunch. Leaving the pub you go over fields to the village of Coates and then on rarely walked tracks along field edges to pick up the Monarch's Way and then cross the busy Fosse Way (Roman Road). From here you head south on quiet tracks and lanes to the lovely village of Ewen where you can have a refreshing drink before walking through the village and picking up the meandering Thames path for the final stretch back into Kemble. Adjacent to Kemble station there is another pub for any final refreshments while you wait for your train.
This is a summer walk best done between June and September. In winter the source of the Thames and surrounding fields often flood and other sections of the walk will be very muddy.
Long but gentle walk visiting Selborne and Chawton, which inspired Jane Austen (writer) and Gilbert White (naturalist)
Hampshire TOCW Book 2, Walk 10 • Toughness: 4/10 • Length: 12 miles (20 km)
The New Forest - A mix of dense and more open woods.
Hampshire SWC Walk 163 • Toughness: 3/10 • Length: 10 miles (17 km)
This mainly level walk from Brockenhurst Station crosses Balmer Lawn to the north of Brockenhurst and enters a densely wooded part of the New Forest using wide cycle-ways through Parkhill Inclosure to emerge South of Lyndhurst. The lunch stop is at The Oak Inn in Bank, south west of Lyndhurst. After lunch the route retraces your path through the village of Bank and Brick Hill Inclosure before crossing the more open Black Knowl to return to Brockenhurst for tea.
Shortening the walk: There is an hourly bus service on Saturdays (every two hours on Sundays) from the Crown and Stirrup in Clay Hill to Brockenhurst Station.
North Hampshire hills and Jane Austen's literary landscape
Hampshire SWC Walk 97 • Toughness: 4/10 • Length: 11 miles (19 km)
This is a walk through gently undulating scenery in the north of Hampshire, passing several quaint churches and a fine country house or two, not to mention the source of the River Test. But it also has a big interest for literary fans as it takes to the place where the writer Jane Austen grew up, and past several places that she would have known.
This is in fact Jane Austen's literary landscape. In a letter to a niece, she famously described her novel-writing technique as "getting two or three families together in a country village", and in doing this she was recreating the place where she lived for the first 25 years of her life.
On this walk you pass the site of her childhood home in the village of Steventon (the actual house was demolished soon after Jane's death by her brother Edward, who was adopted by rich relatives and inherited the Steventon estate), and can walk up the lane to the surprisingly small and remote church where her father was vicar.
You also pass Ashe House, where Jane famously flirted with Tom Lefroy (an event that was used as the basis for the film Becoming Jane, which suggested - almost certainly erroneously - that this was Jane's great thwarted love), and Deane House, which is typical of the kind of grand house where the Austens would have socialised.
Further information about each place and the associations they had for Jane can be found in panels within the main walk directions. All of these places are in the first five miles of the walk (ie up to and including Steventon church).
A historic Cathedral City, St Catherine's Hill and downland.
Hampshire SWC Walk 15 • Toughness: 4/10 • Length: 11 miles (18 km)
This walk takes in all of its major historical points of interest in the ancient city of Winchester, and some of its prettiest streets. It then carries on out along the idyllic River Itchen to St Catherines Hill, the iron age hillfort, from where there are spectacular views of the city. From here the route crosses some typical Hampshire downland, before descending to a section of ancient watermeadows and to a newly refurbished riverside pub for lunch.
In the afternoon, the walk again climbs up onto the downs, giving fine distant views of Winchester Cathedral, before descending to the ancient Hospital of St Cross, along the watermeadows and past Winchester College to tea in the Cathedral refectory.
The walk directions pdf (see link in the button menu above) includes a detailed history of Winchester and the historic sights visited
A flat walk across vast Hertfordshire farmland fields in an area filled with clues to Britain’s Iron Age and Roman past. Follows part of the Icknield Way.
Hertfordshire SWC Walk 91 • Toughness: 4/10 • Length: 12 miles (20 km)
Iron Age and Roman Settlement, Ashwell and the source of the River Cam and the Icknield Way: this is an almost flat walk across vast Hertfordshire farmland fields between villages in an area filled with clues to Britain’s turbulent and colourful past. Follow part of the Icknield Way, Britain’s oldest, long-distance footpath on this walk exploring the far north of Hertfordshire. Once a Roman road, the footpath takes you between the ancient village of Ashwell, an Iron Age and Roman settlement abandoned in the 5th Century but reclaimed in medieval times. In Ashwell, mentioned in the Doomsday Book, the Parish Church dates from the 14th century and there are inscriptions relating to the plague. The Church tower is the highest in England and is a prominent landmark for many miles around. There is also a museum and the Springs in Ashwell which are the source of the river Cam.
A strenuous walk through the Spital Brook valley into Broxbourne Woods National Nature Reserve and an assortment of ancient and wild woods and diverse woodland setting.
Hertfordshire SWC Walk 168 • Toughness: 7/10 • Length: 14 miles (24 km)
After winding its way out of Broxbourne along a canal and through a park, this strenuous walk ascends through the Spital Brook valley into Broxbourne Woods National Nature Reserve, an assortment of varied, ancient and wild woods, serrated by a plethora of streams. A circuitous route linking up separate woods follows age old trails, paths and green lanes through a magnificent and diverse woodland setting. While broadly following a well signposted trail through the Nature Reserve, the walk often diverts from it to take more interesting directions. Most of the distance and the ascent are covered before lunch, but the lunch pub serves food all afternoon, so a leisurely pace is entirely possible.
There are plenty of signed and unsigned paths in the woods, thus following the detailed written directions is essential, and a map and a compass are recommended.
An easy walk through south east Hertfordshire.
Hertfordshire SWC Walk 55 • Toughness: 1/10 • Length: 8 miles (14 km)
Grassy lanes and woods across the most north easterly Chilterns ridge to Pegsdon Hills and Knocking Hoe. A motte-and-double bailey and an abandoned medieval village, alder and willow woodland, Oughton (chalk river), Hitchin’s old town with Tudor and Georgian buildings
Hertfordshire SWC Walk 234 • Toughness: 7/10 • Length: 15 miles (26 km)
Quiet rolling Hertfordshire countryside, a haunted, ruined church and long stretches in scenic river valleys.
Hertfordshire SWC Walk 165 • Toughness: 5/10 • Length: 15 miles (26 km)
This walk leads along ancient tracks and green lanes through some very quiet, rolling East Hertfordshire countryside defined by wheat fields and woods, in-between extensive stretches along the Ash, Rib and Lea rivers. Cold Christmas hamlet and a haunted, ruined church are passed just before lunch, taken in one of three recommended pubs, either in Wadesmill or High Cross. Long parts of the afternoon route are spent in the scenic Ash valley, before passing through Amwell Nature Reserve, a bird watcher’s paradise. The final stretch leads along the Lea Navigation back to St. Margarets.
A considerably shorter version with lunch in Wareside is possible.
The rolling hills of Hertfordshire, the River Beane, and Watton.
Hertfordshire SWC Walk 94 • Toughness: 2/10 • Length: 11 miles (18 km)
This walk is in the rolling hills of rural Hertfordshire.
Lunch is at the The Boot pub in the village of Dane End.
There is a short cut option late in the walk, more for those who find that they are tiring. An 800-metre section of it is along a twisting road.
If you do the full walk (i.e. not the shorter ending) there's a particularly attractive stretch alongside the River Beane near the end. The George and Dragon pub in Watton's High Street is a good place to stop for tea (or a meal) while waiting for the train back. Incidentally, the town's unusual name derives from a local variety of puddingstone.
An easy walk through Hertfordshire countryside, visiting Ayot St Lawrence and an an ivied Gothic ruin of a church.
Hertfordshire SWC Walk 69 • Toughness: 2/10 • Length: 10 miles (18 km)
The Isle of Wight coastal path, Tennyson Down, a nature reserve, and a disused railway.
Isle of Wight SWC Walk 72 • Toughness: 5/10 • Length: 11 miles (19 km)
This walk follows the Isle of Wight Coastal Path from Yarmouth to Alum Bay, then along Tennyson Down to Freshwater Bay. Leaving the Coastal Path, the route turns north through Afton Marsh Nature Reserve and returns to Yarmouth via a disused railway line along the Yar estuary. Swimming may be possible at Colwell Bay and Totland Bay, in the first part of the walk.
This is not an original walk. There are plenty of walking guides to sections of the Coastal Path (eg. see Yarmouth-Brighstone), and the section back to Yarmouth is also featured in other walking guides.
Ancient villages, churches and pubs in a classic Kent landscape
Kent SWC Walk 121 • Toughness: 2/10 • Length: 10 miles (17 km)
Starting and finishing at a station just beyond Canterbury, this is a beautiful walk through a quiet corner of Kent, taking in a series of ancient villages, each with a similarly ancient pub and church. The village of Wickhambreaux in particular is so quintessentially English that it might be a film set.
The terrain is most flat, with only a few gentle hills, but there are still some good views just after Stodmarsh. There walk has a variety of landscapes, from woods to arable fields, and from a farm growing strawberries in polytunnels to fields with grazing cattle.
There are good displays of bluebells in late April and early May in the woods before and after Fordwich, and in late March and early April you can also see some wood anemones here.
Some of these woodland stretches are on bridleways that can become very muddy and churned up in winter, but the walk also has many dry sections on quiet tarmac lanes and tracks.
On the original map-led version of this walk there is an awkward 300 metre walk on a busy road near the start of this walk. In this version, it has been given a slightly different start which eliminates this problem.
A climb into the Kentish Downs and a descent to two historic houses.
Kent SWC Walk 138 • Toughness: 5/10 • Length: 9 miles (16 km)
This walk is in some ways a companion to the Walk 53, Wye Circular in Time Out Country Walks Volume One, as it shares the same remote lunch pub (which sadly now insists on advance booking). Otherwise, however, it takes an entirely different route, starting from Chilham station, crossing the River Stour and then climbing up into a pleasant area of downland and upland fields and woods.
Perhaps the finest section is just after lunch, when the route takes you along a downland escarpment with panoramic views. You then descend to pass through the attractive estate of Godmersham Park, a house that was owned by the brother of writer Jane Austen, and where she often stayed. The walk finishes along a quiet back lane which takes you to the picture postcard hilltop village of Chilham, dominated by the stately home of Chilham Castle.
All the climbing is in the morning half of the walk, with the afternoon largely downhill or flat. There are a few small bluebell woods in the central section of the walk, flowering in late April and early May.
A contrast between hidden valleys in the North Downs and the Darent Valley Path through three interesting villages.
Kent SWC Walk 59 • Toughness: 7/10 • Length: 13 miles (22 km)
Some of this walk will be familiar from the two Book 1 walks which start in Otford, but most of it covers new ground. It starts along a country lane through the secluded Austin Lodge valley, climbing to the isolated settlement of Romney Street. It continues on an undulating section to a ridge with fine views of the Darent valley, from where you descend into Otford, passing its scale model of the Solar System. The village has many interesting old buildings and the full route takes you past the ruins of Otford Palace, a rival to Hampton Court in Tudor times.
There are two possible routes back to Eynsford. The longer takes a similarly undulating route along the western side of the Darent valley, weaving in and out of Book 1 Walk 23 (Otford to Eynsford) on its way to Lullingstone Park, an attractive landscape of chalk grassland and ancient woodland with an internationally important collection of veteran trees. The route into Eynsford goes past Eagle Heights, one of the UK's largest Bird of Prey centres which is open daily to 5pm from March to October, 4pm on winter weekends. Admission (2016) is £9 but you might be able to see something of the afternoon flying displays from the public footpath.
The shorter return route mostly follows the Darent Valley Path, with some stretches alongside the river itself. The route goes through the attractive Kent village of Shoreham where The Mount Vineyard is sometimes open for tastings, and later passes extensive lavender fields at Castle Farm.
There are several interesting buildings in the valley near the end of the walk:
- Lullingstone Castle (01322-862114) is a historic manor house with limited opening hours, but its grounds contain an unusual parish church (open to the public at all times) and a World Garden with plants from around the globe which is open Fri–Sun afternoons between Easter Saturday and end-October (Sun only in October); admission (2016) is £8.
- Lullingstone Roman Villa (0322-863467) has two well-preserved mosaic floors...
A short walk across three commons in South East London
Kent SWC Walk 281 • Toughness: 1/10 • Length: 6 miles (10 km)
This short walk crosses three commons which have been used for hundreds of years as a source of wood as evidenced by the many coppiced trees. Today coppicing is still practised but the mix of woodlands also provides habitats for a variety of animals. The walk follows in part the River Ravensbourne which fills the three Keston ponds and flows into the Thames at Deptford. Charles Darwin carried out parts of his research on Keston Common. On the way you get a glimpse of Ravensbourne Lodge previously owned by the Bonham-Carter family. The most ancient remains encountered on this walk are from the iron age. The walk was inspired by the marked Three Commons Circular Walk and broadly but not exactly follows it.
The walk crosses several roads some of them quite busy. Cross them with care !
An attractive woodland estate at the top of the North Downs and a circuit through the grounds of Leeds Castle to finish
Kent SWC Walk 253 • Toughness: 5/10 • Length: 10 miles (17 km)
For much of the train journey you can see the North Downs ridge off to your left and from the station you are soon striding across vast farm fields towards this open downland. A fairly steep little climb then takes you straight into the Woodland Trust's Hucking Estate, an unexpected oasis of grassland and woodland in a landscape dominated by arable farming.
The walk continues with a figure-of-eight circuit through this attractive estate, going out along gently sloping open valleys to the tiny hamlet of Hucking before looping back along woodland paths and grassy rides. After leaving the estate you join the North Downs Way as it slants down the hillside to Upper Street, one of the three settlements which make up Hollingbourne village.
The walk concludes with a contrasting section on the other side of the village. After going through the deceptively peaceful Hollingbourne Meadows you have to suffer the constant roar of motorway traffic, high-speed trains thundering past and a dreary stretch alongside the busy A20. This dismal link route is the price you pay for some stunning views of a famous castle as you traverse its grounds on public rights of way.
Modestly describing itself as “the Loveliest Castle in the World”, the moated setting of Leeds Castle is certainly spectacular. Built by a Norman knight in 1119, it became a royal residence for 300 years in the Middle Ages, then a private home in Tudor times. Its last private owner was an American heiress who undertook extensive renovations and left it to a charitable trust in 1974. If you want to visit the castle buildings or deviate from the public footpaths in any way you would need to buy an entrance ticket for £24.50 (2016), although this is effectively an annual pass as it allows unlimited repeat visits for a year.
This walk has been split off from Extra Walk 221 (now Hollingbourne Circular via Thurnham). The two-year closure and uncertain future of the Hook & Hatchet pub (see below) made the original walk's...
Views from the North Downs ridge on the way out, returning across farm fields and finishing with a circuit through the grounds of Leeds Castle
Kent SWC Walk 221 • Toughness: 7/10 • Length: 12 miles (21 km)
A short stretch through Hollingbourne village brings you to the North Downs Way (NDW) and up the side of the downland which you will have seen for much of the train journey. After a short detour through the edge of the Hucking Estate (explored more fully in this walk's companion: see below) the walk follows the NDW through a mixture of open downland and woods, with undulating stretches across a succession of sunken lanes and hollows in the hillside. Another short detour off the NDW takes you past some medieval castle ruins in a small country park before you drop down to the lunch pub in the village of Thurnham.
The return leg along the foot of the downs should be less taxing, although the paths across large farm fields can be heavy going on wet ground. After going back past Hollingbourne station you have the chance of another refreshment stop in the village of Eyhorne Street before the full walk concludes with something quite different. A dreary link route (across the high-speed railway and a motorway; two stretches alongside a busy main road; back through muddy woods and along overgrown field edges) is the price you pay for some stunning views of a famous castle as you traverse its grounds on public rights of way.
Modestly describing itself as “the Loveliest Castle in the World”, the moated setting of Leeds Castle is certainly spectacular. Built by a Norman knight in 1119, it became a royal residence for 300 years in the Middle Ages, then a private home in Tudor times. Its last private owner was an American heiress who undertook extensive renovations and left it to a charitable trust in 1974. If you want to visit the castle buildings or deviate from the public footpaths in any way you would need to buy an entrance ticket for £24 (2015), although this is effectively an annual pass as it allows unlimited repeat visits for a year.
This walk was originally the Long Walk option of another circular walk from Hollingbourne. After a major revision forced by the closure of...
An enjoyable day out in the country within zone 6, thanks to those who campaigned for and legislated the Green Belt policy.
Kent SWC Walk 7 • Toughness: 5/10 • Length: 11 miles (19 km)
Despite its starting point being within London Travelcard Zone 6, this is a completely rural walk, passing through a succession of lovely open fields full of wildflowers in spring, and through a number of bluebell woods. After lunch there is the opportunity to visit Down House, the home of Charles Darwin, the naturalist.
A short walk packed with variety and fine views, bluebell woods in season, a pretty village and a short train journey
Kent TOCW Book 1, Walk 43 • Toughness: 5/10 • Length: 7 miles (12 km)
Being short in length, this walk makes a good, brisk, autumn or winter walk, although the walk is also delightful in bluebell season as the route passes through lots of bluebell woods during the morning. The route at the outset is steeply uphill, for a time following the North Downs Way, with views back over Otford and the valley, then going through Greenhill Wood, with a glimpse of Oak Hall, before heading north to Romney Street.
In the afternoon, Shoreham village is worth visiting, with its four pubs - for your late lunch option - and twelfth-century church.
The route onwards is the Darent Valley Path into Otford, which offers a tearoom, a palace (in ruins), a church and many ancient buildings. It also contains the Otford Solar System, which claims to be the only scale model of its kind in the world; it shows the relative position of the sun and planets at the start of the new millennium.
The Greensand Hills on the Surrey/Kent border to historic Westerham, with a choice of routes for the return leg.
Kent SWC Walk 63 • Toughness: 5/10 • Length: 11 miles (19 km)
Much of this walk is on the wooded Greensand hills running parallel to and just south of the North Downs, which you can see across the valley for much of the outward route. The return route is closer to the southern escarpment and has far-reaching views out to the High Weald.
The route out of Oxted is via Limpsfield, where a stained glass window dedicated to St Cecilia in St Peter's Church commemorates the celebrated musicians who are buried in its churchyard. The walk continues across the National Trust's Limpsfield Common, the High Chart (some of which is part of the Titsey Estate) and Squerryes Park.
There is a choice of lunchtime pubs in Westerham, described by Daniel Defoe as a “neat, handsome, well-built market town”. Memorials in the 14thC St Mary's Church and two statues on the Green honour its most famous residents, General James Wolfe and Sir Winston Churchill. Wolfe was born in the town and his childhood home, named Quebec House after his famous victory in 1759, is owned by the National Trust. The house is open Wed–Sun afternoons from mid-March to October; admission (2016) is £5.50.
The afternoon route starts with an attractive section up the open Darent valley and climbs onto the wooded Crockhamhill Common, from where an optional extension (see below) loops out to Churchill's family home Chartwell, also owned by the National Trust. The garden and restaurant are open throughout the year, but the house is only open from March to October; admission (2016) is £13.40 or £6.70 for the garden only.
This walk began as an attempt to extend Book 2 Walk 16a (Hurst Green to Oxted) to take in the attractive town of Westerham. As some of the more direct routes proved unsuitable it has evolved into a separate walk, almost as long as the main Walk 16. Some sections inevitably overlap with the route of the Book 2 walk, but these are mostly done in the reverse order and only the final section is the same as Walk 16a.
The sections of this walk around Chartwell had to be revised...
Gentle walk through quiet Kent Orchards with ancient pubs - Darling Buds of May territory. Hilly afternoon options.
Kent TOCW Book 2, Walk 21 • Toughness: 1/10 • Length: 7 miles (12 km)
This is a gentle walk in a low lying area of Kent, made famous by the writer H.E Bates, who lived in the village of Little Chart Forestal, passed on this walk. This is quiet country: there are no great landscape features, no grand houses, and yet this is a quintessentially English walk, with fields, orchards, a couple of ancient pubs (one allegedly the most haunted in England), and towards the end, a fine and unexpected view over the Kentish landscape.
The walk is at its most perfect in late April or early May when the apple blossom is out, the lanes are full of drifts of cow parsley, and there are not infrequently vast fields of yellow oilseed rape somewhere or other on the walk. Interest on the walk is provided by the arched ‘Dering windows’ seen on many of the houses, which reflect the fact that this land was owned for nearly nine hundred years by the Dering family, who received it as a grant from William the Conqueror.
Quiet, rolling hills, Bodiam Castle (NT), with a gentler finish.
Kent TOCW Book 2, Walk 20 • Toughness: 4/10 • Length: 11 miles (19 km)
This High Weald walk passes through classic Weald countryside of rolling hills, woods, hop fields and orchards. A highlight of this walk is arriving at Bodiam Castle for tea, a perfect picture of a castle, nestling in the Rother Valley, with the hooting of the steam trains of the Rother Valley Railway nearby. From there the route continues on a gently undulating course to Salehurst, before a leisurely finish back into Robertsbridge.
A walk through Jack Fuller Country
Kent SWC Walk 222 • Toughness: 3/10 • Length: 11 miles (18 km)
A shortcoming of this walk is that there is no lunch stop. That over, if you are happy enough to picnic along the way, then this walk should make for an agreeable enough outing finishing with a refreshment stop at one of the various pubs in Robertsbridge. Further to the lack of a lunch stop, all is not lost if you are happy to make an earlier start for the Battle or Stonegate ending and take lunch approximately ⅔ of the way into the walk.
Out via the National Trust's Knole Park, House, and Igtham Mote. Back by the Greensand Way along the escarpment of the Kent Downs.
Kent SWC Walk 21 • Toughness: 4/10 • Length: 9 miles (15 km)
This is an absolute favourite Sunday outing of mine, passing two National Trust properties (Ightham Mote and Knole House) and traversing gentle countryside on the Greensand Ridge that somehow seems quintessentially English. In early spring it has interesting wildflowers - wood anemones, bluebells and wild garlic - and in the afternoon there is a fine (but gentle) climb up along an escarpment with magnificent views.
Remote, rolling Hills, Burwash for Lunch and Batemans (NT, Rudyard Kipling's home)
Kent TOCW Book 2, Walk 19 • Toughness: 3/10 • Length: 9 miles (16 km)
This walk is an good introduction to the Weald, a part of East Sussex which is less well known by walkers than the Chilterns. But its relative quiteness is one of its attractions. Passing over gentle hills and into tranquil valleys, through classic English wood and pastureland, its attractions include the unspoiled village of Burwash for lunch, and Bateman's, the one time rural retreat of Rudyard Kipling. In summer one stretch before lunch through Upper Collingtons wood can become quite overgrown with nettles and brambles, so wear long trousers and select a suitable stick on entering the wood. For those venturing on the long walk section after lunch at Burwash Common, this could with some justification be described as a wilderness walk.
The High Weald, quiet countryside - woods and rolling hills, the Sussex Border Path, and historic Mayfield for lunch.
Kent TOCW Book 2, Walk 18 • Toughness: 4/10 • Length: 11 miles (19 km)
The prime attraction of this walk is the pleasure of walking through the unspoiled countryside of the High Weald through a region classed as an area of outstanding natural beauty. In August and September the hedgerows are rich with blackberries. The route at the outset follows the Sussex Border Path, but soon diverts south to Tidebrook, and continues south to the pub in Mayfield. It is worth spending some time in Mayfield as it has many attractive old buildings and the 15th century church is now a grade I listed building. The route after lunch heads north east before continuing north to Wadhurst village for tea. The long walk takes you past Bewl Water, which lies just north east of Wadhurst. Bewl Water is the largest area of open water in south east England and host to a huge variety of wildlife; it is one of the region's most popular attractions.
Out over the North Downs with breathtaking views to lunch in Sole Street. Back up over the Downs, then returning along the Great Stour river. Muddy in winter.
Kent TOCW Book 1, Walk 53 • Toughness: 7/10 • Length: 11 miles (18 km)
This walk goes high up on the Crundale Downs (“crun” in Old English meant chalk, and ‘dala’ meant dell or valley), with breathtaking views. The walk comes to an isolated Norman church at Crundale, then on to a fifteenth century inn for lunch (though sadly this pub now insists on advance booking: if you are not eating at the pub you can save 2km off the route by a shortcut). The walk then passes Crundale House and the manor of Olantigh, crosses the River Great Stour and returns to Wye through its churchyard, for tea at a teashop at the bottom of Church Street or at a pub next to the railway station.
Beware that parts of the route can be very muddy in wet weather, so be prepared.
The green spaces of West London, including The Grand Union Canal, Boston Manor, Syon House, The Thames towpath, Kew Gardens, and Gunnersbury Park.
London SWC Walk 104 • Toughness: 1/10 • Length: 11 miles (18 km)
This is a walking tour of green spaces and interesting places to visit in West London. Starting and finishing at Ealing Broadway, served by British Rail, London Underground and local buses, it is particularly suitable for a Bank Holiday outing or for a local outing for West Londoners. The route is rich in places of interest, passing Pitshanger Manor, the Grand Union Canal, Boston Manor, Syon House, the River Thames, Richmond Old Deer Park, Kew Gardens, Kew Bridge Steam Museum, Gunnersbury Park, Lammas Park and Walpole Park. Boston Manor tube station and Brentford main line station are close to the route (see A-Z) and Kew Bridge is directly on it, so portions of the route can be used as half day or evening walks.
Two royal parks and Britain's finest surviving Tudor building
London SWC Walk 240 • Toughness: 1/10 • Length: 8 miles (13 km)
This walk explores the two royal parks next to Hampton Court Palace before making its way back to the palace itself. Although Historic Royal Palaces decided to end the free winter opening of the formal gardens in 2016, the grounds to the north and west of the palace building are still freely open to the public.
After a short stretch past the palace on the Thames Path the walk enters Home Park, the local name for Hampton Court Park. It was originally enclosed as a hunting ground for Henry VIII and still contains a herd of fallow deer, but its appearance has changed significantly since Tudor times. The Long Water was added by Charles I and the three lime tree avenues by William III & Mary II, completing its transformation into parkland typical of the 17thC baroque period.
The annual RHS Flower Show is held in Home Park in early July and the suggested route through the park will not be possible around this time.
The walk leaves Home Park at Kingston Gate and crosses the A308 to enter the larger Bushy Park. This too started as a royal hunting ground and has had a similar evolution into more formal parkland. Its many water features were the result of Charles I ordering the construction of the Longford River through the park to bring fresh water from the River Colne to Hampton Court Palace. In the 20thC two attractive plantations were created along the course of the river and the walk goes through these Woodland Gardens to the recently-restored Water Gardens, another reminder of the park's baroque history. It then loops back through the centre of the park and goes along part of the mile-long Chestnut Avenue (with the iconic Diana Fountain as its centrepiece) to Hampton Court Gate, opposite the palace's Lion Gates.
The Water Gardens are closed on Mondays (except Bank Holidays, when they are closed on the Tuesday).
The final part of the walk is through the grounds of Hampton Court Palace. This was originally built for Cardinal Wolsey but when he fell out of favour in 529 it...
Urban walk through Central London - passes many famous tourist sites
London SWC Walk 122 • Toughness: 1/10 • Length: 9 miles (15 km)
A walk through the heart of tourist London - Leicester Square (bars and cinema) - Trafalger Square - St James Royal Park - Westminster Abbey - Parliament - South Bank of the Thames past London Eye, National Theatre, Globe Theatre, HMS Belfast - Tower Bridge - St Catherine's Dock - Tower of London - The City (Financial District) - Bank of England - St Paul's Cathedral - Lincoln's Inn Fields (Legal District) - Covent Garden (Opera House, and shops/bars in an old food market)
The official start of this walk is the centre of Leicester Square, but if you are meeting friends on a not sunny day, a better start might be the tube station or cafe
Ownership of the walk seems to have passed from the Jubilee Walkway Trust to Transport for London, who quitely promote it as 5 separate circular walks. Don't worry, though, both historic and modern London are both still there!
Get away from it all without leaving Greater London - Richmond Park and the River Thames.
London SWC Walk 188 • Toughness: 1/10 • Length: 7 miles (12 km)
This walk is not in the country, but it offers a real chance to get away from it all without leaving Greater London. It starts in Richmond and joins the Thames, before exploring the varied and less visited landscapes of Richmond Park. It returns to Richmond via the views and pubs of Richmond Hill. The day can be rounded off with a visit to the town of Richmond with its many cafes, pubs and restaurannts.
Meadows, woods and villages on the Northern Heights
London SWC Walk 228 • Toughness: 2/10 • Length: 8 miles (14 km)
This walk, reachable by Underground, explores an area of greenbelt that would have been engulfed by the 1930s expansion of London's suburbia but for the resistance of local residents. The result is a large chunk of countryside that intrudes into London on the so-called Northern Heights - the hills above and behind the more famous ones of Hampstead and Highgate. At one point on this walk you can actually look down on Alexandra Palace and Highgate Hill, and have the illusion that everything in between is still countryside.
Traditionally this area was haymeadows, providing fodder for the horses used for transport in London. These meadows are now the subject of benign neglect for the most part. Some are even returning to woodland, though others are still cut annually and produce some wild flowers in late spring. At one point on the walk you can see grazing cattle, and you visit two villages that still manage to retain their character despite suburban London lapping at their doorsteps. There is also some woodland and the former boating lake of a grand house, now turned to a wooded wetland.
This is a good walk at any time of year, but is particularly nice in early spring when the woods around Darlands Lake have wood anemones and extremely rare wild snakeshead fritillaries growing. Early April sees the many blackthorn bushes on this walk erupt into white blossom, though catching this at its best is tricky as it only lasts a couple of weeks. In late May and early June the fields after lunch are awash with buttercups, and also in June the wooded wetland has huge giant hogweed flowers and in autumn there are lots of sloes to pick. From November to March the paths can in places be very muddy - the underlying soil here is clay, which retains water.
One other caveat: though this is a proper rural walk, urban noises do intrude a little bit. Depending on the wind direction and atmospheric conditions you can sometimes hear traffic noise from the (largely unseen) suburbs over the...
Get away from it all without leaving Greater London - Wimbledon Common.
London SWC Walk 206 • Toughness: 2/10 • Length: 6 miles (10 km)
This walk is not in the country, but it offers a real chance to get away from it all without leaving Greater London. It starts in Wimbledon and features a loop around Wimbledon Common with lunch at its Wimdmill Cafe.
A leisurely stroll through Northamptonshire with ample refreshment.
Northamptonshire SWC Walk 176 • Toughness: 3/10 • Length: 10 miles (17 km)
This circular walk passes through four small villages each with a good pub serving real ale. During the longer days you can take the opportunity to visit all. For the first 2-3km, depending on the speed and direction of the wind the nearby M40 can be noisy. On other days it's a far off sound.
A walk in Oxfordshire, taking in Dorchester-on-Thames and the Clumps. Can start from Appleford.
Oxfordshire SWC Walk 44 • Toughness: 3/10 • Length: 13 miles (22 km)
This walk takes in an attractive part of the Thames Valley south of Oxford, with a lunchtime stop in Dorchester-on-Thames. This handsome village is now bypassed by the traffic but used to be an important staging post between London and Oxford. It has retained a large number of coaching inns and other pubs, so there's plenty of choice for refreshment. You should be sure to visit Dorchester Abbey, one of the few large monastery buildings to survive the Dissolution; it now functions as an impressive parish church. In the afternoon the walk comes to the Wittenham Clumps, the name given to a pair of Iron Age hill forts set in a nature reserve managed by the Northmoor Trust.
The Thames Path in the morning, historic Hambledon for lunch, and back via the hills above Henley in the afternoon. Short but pretty.
Oxfordshire TOCW Book 1, Walk 1 • Toughness: 2/10 • Length: 10 miles (16 km)
This is a very pretty walk, out along the Thames, and back via the hills above. Its mainly flat morning follows the Thames path to the quaint and well preserved hamlet of Hambleden with its brick and flint red roofed buildings. The return is via the wooded geological terrace above river. Historic riverside Henley, with many tea rooms and pubs, is a nice place to finish
The walk starts in Henley (famous for its rowing regatta in late June or early July) and goes along the Thames towpath, with rowing instructors on bikes shouting instructions to their crews, past Temple Island with its neo-folly, to the 250-metre footbridge over the weir at Hambleden Mill, where canoeists practise in the stormy waters. Route finding is easy! From there the route is northwards to the suggested lunchtime pub in the well-preserved hamlet of Hambleden, which has a huge church out of all proportion to the population.
After lunch, the walk for the next 2.5km is through the Great Wood, the endlessness of which gives an inkling of how most of Britain must once have been. From the village of Fawley with its church and mausoleum, the walk returns along the Oxfordshire Way, past the manor of Henley Park, to Henley for tea.
The Thames path in the morning. Gentle woodland after lunch in an NT Village, Historic riverside Henley for tea.
Oxfordshire TOCW Book 2, Walk 7 • Toughness: 3/10 • Length: 9 miles (15 km)
Long walk through the Chilterns over gentle rolling grassy hills. Historic riverside Henley for tea.
Oxfordshire TOCW Book 2, Walk 6 • Toughness: 6/10 • Length: 13 miles (22 km)
The Midsomer Murders Walk
Oxfordshire SWC Walk 223 • Toughness: 5/10 • Length: 14 miles (24 km)
This Thames Valley and Chilterns walk is inspired by the locations used in the Midsomer Murders TV series.
In many respects this is a similar walk to the Book 2 Walk 6 Henley circular via Stonor and Pishill walk. It’s a bit longer and a fair bit flatter but both go along one side of a valley in open countryside on the opening leg and return to Henley on the other side in the afternoon, often through attractive woodland. This walk, however, also finishes with a lovely, peaceful Thames path back to Henley
However this walk covers completely different territory to the Book 2 favourite visiting new villages and countryside not incorporated in other SWC Henley and Chilterns walks in the area. This is a high summer walk although shorter options can be done in autumn or winter given dry and sunny weather.
You should allow at least 11 hours for travel, refreshments and walking for the main walk.
Henley on Thames
This is a popular start and destination for a number of SWC walks and you can find details about the town in TOCW Volume 1 Walks 1, 9 and 51 and TOCW Volume 2 Walks 6,7 and 8.
This walk visits a number of places familiar to those who have done the relevant walks in Books 1 and 2 but after Hambledon you visit 2 or 3 villages that are not on the route of other Henley or Thames Valley walks in the SWC itinerary. These are:
An attractive hamlet where you pass a former flint church which has been converted into a home.
The village name of Fingest comes from the Anglo Saxon name Thinghurst, meaning 'wooded hill where assemblies are made'. The parish church of St Bartholomew's dates from the early Norman period. It has an unusual tower, with a double vaulted roof. The church is a Grade I listed building .
A picture post card village which has not only featured in the Midsomer Murders but also the series the Vicar of Dibley. There is an old windmill on a hill giving splendid views of the village and surrounding countryside.
The beautiful St Mary...
The Thames path in the morning, a classic pub for lunch, gentle hill afterwards.
Oxfordshire TOCW Book 2, Walk 8 • Toughness: 3/10 • Length: 13 miles (22 km)
Rivers Isis and Cherwell, Commons, a ruined Abbey, a Norman Castle compound and a stroll around Oxford and its historic colleges
Oxfordshire TOCW Book 1, Walk 13 • Toughness: 1/10 • Length: 10 miles (16 km)
This is an undemanding but enjoyable short Country Walk, ending in an exploration of this historic university city, with its University’s Colleges and the Norman Castle compound.
The walk’s route is easy and entirely level but can be muddy along the path beside the River Cherwell after Wolfson College while after periods of heavy rain, paths beside both the Rivers Isis and Cherwell can be flooded. The walk starts along the Isis to Binsey, a favourite walk for the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins (the ‘wind-wandering, weed-winding bank’), who lamented the felling of aspens along the towpath here in his 1879 poem Binsey Poplars (‘the sweet especial rural scene’). You can take a dip here if you want. With Port Meadow on the other side of the river, you walk to the ruins of Godstow Abbey, before coming to the Trout Inn at Wolvercote (a lunch option) then take in a bit of Wolvercote Common before coming to the Plough Inn (a second option for lunch).
After lunch the walk heads south along the Oxford Canal, past some houseboats, then across town and via a footbridge by Wolfson College to go along the River Cherwell through its Nature Reserve, where buttercups are abundant in May. Going through the University Parks, you come to the Pitt Rivers Museum. From here you start your walking tour of Oxford’s historic colleges and famous buildings, winding in and out of lanes and small streets as the walk fits in many of the colleges as well as the Norman Castle Compound with the Castle Mound and the former Victorian Prison (now a hotel), before you stop for tea and finally head for the railway station.
Pretty villages, a toll bridge, fine views of the Thames in the morning and a serene stroll through a rural idyll after lunch.
Oxfordshire TOCW Book 1, Walk 4 • Toughness: 4/10 • Length: 8 miles (14 km)
Pangbourne and its companion Whitchurch, on the other side of the River Thames – in Oxfordshire – are delightful villages, spoilt only by too much traffic. Passing on a toll bridge over the river, you come to St Mary’s Church, with the route continuing along part of the Thames Path National Trail (which opened in 1996) past Coombe Park, to a wood with views down to the Thames. From there it is up through a nature reserve and Great Chalk Wood, from where the original route diverts to Hill Bottom and a pub for lunch. After lunch you walk through a pocket park and then re-connect with the original walk's route to go through woods and fields, then head back down through Whitchurch and into Pangbourne for tea.
Hilly route to Pangbourne for lunch, shorter return along the Thames
Oxfordshire SWC Walk 170 • Toughness: 3/10 • Length: 8 miles (14 km)
This walk offers fine views of the Thames valley from the inland heights above Goring. It visits both Pangbourne and Goring, two interesting and pretty riverside villages. The walk can be done in either direction, but the anti-clockwise direction does the hillier section first, saving the shorter flat Thames Path for after lunch. The Thames Path provides a fine contrast with the inland section.
It is possible to do just a short walk to Goring, in which case buy a ticket to Goring which is one stop down the line (further from London).
Martyn Hanks beautifully drawn user-friendly map (used here with the permission of Streatley YHA) means you'll have less time with your nose in the directions and more time to savour the beauty of this lovely countryside. Download from the link above.
YHA - Streatley Youth Hostel - beds from £15, rooms from £25 (2013 prices)
Scenic ramble through quiet villages in the Thame Valley on the Oxon/Bucks border, north of the Chilterns.
Oxfordshire SWC Walk 190 • Toughness: 3/10 • Length: 12 miles (21 km)
A scenic and easy ramble north of The Chilterns through the Thame valley on the Oxon/Bucks border that involves a short bus ride (on a frequent service) at the start and the finish of the walk. Set off in a westerly direction from the charming market town of Thame through a nature reserve and soon pass through a beautifully laid out golf course to join the Oxfordshire Way through the ancient Rycote Estate. Head north through a few quiet villages to lunch in Worminghall or Ickford. After lunch continue easterly, largely following the waymarked Thame Valley Walk, to the numerous tea options in Thame and then the return bus journey to Haddenham & Thame Parkway station.
Cuttle Brook Nature Reserve
Thame's award-winning nature reserve is a unique piece of 'semi-wild' countryside. Meandering through the reserve is a tributary of the River Thame called the Cuttle Brook, which springs to life in the Chilterns.
A 108 km (67 mi) waymarked linear Long Distance path linking the Heart of England Way at Bourton-on-the-Water with the Thames Path at Henley-on-Thames across the rolling limestone countryside of the Cotswold Hills.
Rycote is Anglo Saxon and indicates a small group of dwellings amongst fields of rye. Rycote House was a great Tudor country house built on the site of an earlier mansion early in the 16th century, probably for Sir John Heron, Treasurer of the Chamber to first Henry VII and then Henry VIII. Henry VIII and his fifth wife, Catherine Howard, honeymooned here in 1540. It was long believed that Rycote House burned down in 1745 and that its remains were demolished in 1800, apart from one corner turret and some outbuildings. However, in 2001 Channel 4's Time Team investigated Rycote Park and established that Rycote had been rebuilt after the fire. Ca. 1920 the stables were converted into the present House.
Saint Michael’s Chapel
A Perpendicular Gothic building with a chancel, nave and west tower, founded as a chantry in 449 by the Lord and Lady of...
Walk/Cycle route via a disused railway, Devonshire and Combe Down tunnels, Tucking Mill Viaduct, the Kennet and Avon Canal towpath, Dundas Aqueduct, and historic Bath
Somerset SWC Walk 186 • Toughness: 2/10 • Length: 12 miles (20 km)
This walk uses a newly opened (2013) walk/cycle path along a disused railway line with 2 tunnels and 2 viaducts. The return route is along the Kennet and Avon Canal tow path, passing the Dundas Aqueduct. The final stretch through the centre of historic Bath. The entire route is surfaced.
The walk heads west from the centre of Bath. If starting from Bath Station, you can follow the riverside path.
Cross the river and join the railway path. Follow it via a mix of cuttings, embankments and bridges. The first tunnel is the 409 metre (0.25 mile) long Devonshire Tunnel. The path crosses a viaduct over Lyncombe Vale. The second tunnel is the 1,672 metre (1 mile) long Combe Down tunnel, which is now the longest pedestrian tunnel in the country. Both tunnels have lighting, but is would be prudent to bring a torch. Finally the railway path crosses the Tucking Mill viaduct over Horsecombe Vale before reaching Midford. Being a former railway line, the path's gradients are gentle
Just before the Tucking Mill viaduct, there is a footpath (only) short cut (avoiding Midford) to Monkton Combe, saving 2km
Lunch is at The Hope and Anchor. If you have a bike, you can continue south along the Colliers Way / NN24 partly off road cycle route.
Head north east from Midford, along a quiet lane, to the Monkton Combe and the Wheelwrights Arms pub. Carry on to join a canal spur - The Somerset Coal Canal (cafe, Angelfish Restaurant) which soon joins the Kennet and Avon Canal towpath for the return journey by Dundas Aqueduct (which takes the canal over the River Avon). Follow the canal path (initially north, don't cross the aqueduct) back to Bath. There is a popular canal side pub at Bathampton on the way.
Leave the canal to take a short cut to the station through the historic old town. The route shown is a cycle friendly one. Walkers should feel free to vary it
Note that this route is not completely step-free. Several bridges on the former railway route were removed while it was closed. Not all of them...
Narrow steep-sided valleys with fast flowing streams and rivers, rolling hilltops, Alfred’s Tower, Hauser & Wirth Somerset art gallery
Somerset SWC Walk 284 • Toughness: 8/10 • Length: 15 miles (25 km)
This excursion is centred on the remote Somerset town of Bruton, with its honey-coloured stone-built cottages, a large dovecote on a mound overlooking the townscape and a fine selection of lunch and tea options. It leads through a scenic South Somerset landscape of narrow steep-sided valleys and coombes with some fast flowing streams and rivers, with the route dipping in and out of the Brue, Alham and Pitt valleys. From the rolling hilltops you get some far views across to the range forming the boundary with Wiltshire and Dorset, with the local landmark Alfred’s Tower, a folly, on top of it. The route leads close to the renowned art gallery Hauser & Wirth Somerset, and a short version of the walk leaves enough time for an extended visit to it and/or its fascinating bar and restaurant. The recommended lunch stop on the main walk is a very fine country inn in Batcombe.A start from Castle Cary (with faster and more frequent trains) adds about 50 minutes of walking.
Strenuous excursion through the south westerly wooded valleys of Sheffield
South Yorkshire SWC Walk 267 • Toughness: 5/10 • Length: 9 miles (15 km)
This walk leads from the hustle and bustle at the centre of one of the most populous British cities through gradually less urban areas into excellent walking country – with ancient escarpment woodlands, tumbling streams and panoramic views – through the scenic, wooded valleys of Sheffield’s south west, the greenest and cleanest of Britain’s large towns.
Escape from Sheffield’s City Centre, first along streets and through the atmospheric landscaped Victorian General Cemetery, then the woodlands of the municipal Endcliffe Park and the narrow wooded Porter Valley (part ancient woodlands, part plantation or meadows) to a viewpoint on the edge of moorlands at the fringe of the Peak District, and from there to the early lunch option (with views) in Ringinglow.
Continue by descending through the steep-sided Limb Valley, Whirlow Brook Park and Ecclesall Woods to Dore, a late lunch stop and your first chance for an early finish: a train or a bus back to the City Centre. Several other opportunities for early finishes by bus arise in the further stages of the walk, whose following woodlands and valleys offer somewhat diminishing returns in pleasure and in ‘otherness’.
From Dore you climb once again through Ladies’ Spring Wood and Chancet Wood to Graves Park. From there the walk continues through the Gleadless Valley and Meersbrook Park back to the City Centre, but for the return to Sheffield Midland Station you’ll need to take a bus, regardless of where you finish.
The route includes large parts of the waymarked ‘Sheffield Round Walk’, but diverges in places. Opportunities to avoid most of the hard surface walking at the start are described.
Explore the remote Ash Ranges - what Surrey should really look like! (Usually open Bank Holidays only - Check!)
Surrey SWC Walk 237 • Toughness: 6/10 • Length: 13 miles (22 km)
This walk is largely within the restricted area of the Ash Ranges. It covers some of the same ground as Walks 96 (Ash Vale Circular), 107 (Ash to Brookwood) and 136 (Ash Vale to Worplesdon). Unlike the other walks, it delves more deeply in to this fascinating area, using paths which although generally clear on the ground are not marked (even as tracks) on the OS map - there in only one recognised right of way and that in the first 100 metres!
There are no sustained ascents and the altitude is never above 120 metres, but there are many short sharp climbs, particularly before and after lunch and some of the paths are stony so concentration is needed. The first section through the Ranges (heading North-East) is generally at a lower level (an alternative on easier paths over higher ground would be to follow the start of Walk 107).
You leave the restricted area by the Stoney Castle firing range and negotiate some muddy woodland by Hodge Brook. Your return route across the restricted area (generally South-West) is at a higher level with wider views, and a succession of climbs. The route leaves the restricted area a second time for a late lunch after 15.2 kms at The Swan on the Basingstoke Canal. The afternoon section is relatively short, but again includes some tough climbs – more direct alternatives are possible.
Access to the Ash Ranges is never guaranteed but they are generally open to the public over Bank Holiday weekends. One of the features is the colourful displays of bell heather, so this would be an ideal walk for any of the Bank Holidays in April, May or August.
Note that a fire in April 2015 devestated parts of the Ash Ranges and changed the character of this walk. In particular the references to 'encroaching heather' in Section D no longer apply and these hills now have a darkened appearance, though at least the path is clearer!
A circular walk starting and ending in the rarely visited Ash Ranges and including a section of the North Downs Way through the attractive village of Puttenham.
Surrey SWC Walk 96 • Toughness: 5/10 • Length: 15 miles (26 km)
The first 9 km (sections 1-5) takes you in a Southerly direction through the woods surrounding the Ash Ranges, along the Basingstoke Canal and a disused railway line, then across the busy Hog's Back (A31). You then follow the North Downs Way (NDW) eastward for 5 km (sections 6-7), from just East of Seale, through Puttenham Common and on to the Good Intent at Puttenham for lunch.
After lunch you stay on the NDW, which will be familiar from other Time Out book walks. For the last 12 km (sections 8-13) you head North or West, through fields leading back over the A31 and across Broadstreet and Normandy Commons. Finally you have a tough climb over the Ash Ranges, which should be open if you time your arrival for late afternoon (there is no official opening time, but you would be unlucky to find the Ranges still closed at 5pm). There is an alternate ending just in case the ranges are closed when you get there.
A fairly strenuous walk in a beautiful part of the North Downs
Surrey SWC Walk 64 • Toughness: 8/10 • Length: 9 miles (15 km)
Although they share the same station, this short but strenuous walk takes in a different area from Book 2 Walk 14b (Westhumble Circular). It climbs up a series of hills in a clockwise loop north and east of Box Hill & Westhumble station: Norbury Park, Mickleham Downs, Headley Heath (on the Main Walk) and finally Box Hill itself.
There are many fine viewpoints on this circular walk and in several places you can see your earlier route from a new perspective. This part of the North Downs is deservedly popular and the famous sites are likely to be busy on fine weekends, but there are some quieter places in between.
Norbury Park Nature Reserve is described by Surrey Wildlife Trust as a ‘working landscape’ which includes a sawmill and three farms. The prominent house at its centre (in private ownership) was built in 1774 and has had several famous owners and tenants, including Leopold Salomons, who donated Box Hill to the National Trust in 1914, and Dr Marie Stopes, the family planning pioneer.
Box Hill and Headley Heath are both owned by the National Trust, which has introduced special breeds of sheep and cattle to restore more of the downland to its original ‘unimproved’ condition; unfertilized land is richer in wild flowers. This diversity also supports many butterflies: 40 of the 58 British species have been found on Box Hill.
Out along the North Downs escarpment and back through the Greensand Hills.
Surrey SWC Walk 274 • Toughness: 6/10 • Length: 10 miles (17 km)
The small market town of Dorking sits on the edge of the Greensand Hills, guarding a gap in the North Downs carved out by the River Mole. Many walks take in the famous Box Hill to the north-east, but this one covers the area on the opposite side of the town.
The walk starts with a long stretch along the lower chalk slopes of the National Trust's Denbies Hillside, a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) rich with wildflowers in spring and summer. The Main Walk then heads south into the wooded Greensand Hills, going through the extensive Wotton Estate to the picturesque hamlet of Friday Street with its large Hammer Pond, familiar from Book 1 Walk 42 (Holmwood to Gomshall). There are two possible lunch pubs on this route, in Wotton and Friday Street.
The return leg crosses a number of ridges on open access land managed by the Surrey Wildlife Trust and the Forestry Commission. Several rivers tumble down these hills and the highest of these ridges is a watershed, separating the Tillingbourne and its tributaries which turn westwards to the River Wey at Guildford from those which flow into the River Mole at Dorking. After passing the large ponds of Bury Hill Fisheries a final climb takes you along the top of The Nower, a semi-natural woodland reserve with splendid views. There are plenty of opportunities for refreshment in Dorking before the journey back.
The many rivers and streams are fed by natural springs in the Greensand Hills and you can expect to encounter muddy or even waterlogged paths at almost any time of the year (some otherwise pleasant routes in the area had to be rejected for this reason). Wet weather will also make the chalk paths on the first part of the walk quite slippery.
The North Downs ridge, a haunted pool, unusual churches and traces of an industrial era in the Tillingbourne valley
Surrey SWC Walk 185 • Toughness: 7/10 • Length: 15 miles (25 km)
This fairly long circular walk explores the area to the south-east of Guildford. The landscape is exceptionally varied, with water meadows, valleys, woods, heathland, parkland and fine views from the contrasting chalk hills of the North Downs and the adjacent Greensand.
The walk leaves Guildford via Shalford Water Meadows alongside the River Wey Navigation, then heads east from Shalford up the valley of the River Tillingbourne. This was once an important industrial area and the route includes a heritage trail through the extensive ruins of the Chilworth Gunpowder Mills, the national importance of which is reflected in its status as a Scheduled Ancient Monument. An attractive stretch along the quiet valley of Law Brook (one of the river's tributaries) and across the small Albury Heath brings you to a lunchtime stop in the hamlet of Little London.
The route now heads north through Albury Park, designed by the English landscape pioneer John Evelyn. In 1819 the estate was acquired by the banker Henry Drummond, who built a new parish church in Albury and closed the old Saxon Church, now isolated in the private parkland but accessible to the public. At the same time he became one of the founder members of a new religious movement and built the neo-gothic Catholic Apostolic Church for it. The route then passes the crystal-clear waters of Silent Pool on its climb up the North Downs, where a stretch along the North Downs Way leads to a mid-afternoon refreshment stop at the Newlands Corner viewpoint.
The final section of the walk includes one more climb to another famous church with a long history, St Martha-on-the-Hill, perched on the side of the Greensand hills. A gradual descent through Chantry Wood leads back to the River Wey and Guildford. An alternative return route to Shalford (see below) takes in another historical site on the Tillingbourne, the 18thC Shalford Mill, now managed by the National Trust (open Wed & Sun, by guided tour only; last tour 4pm); admission...
Chantries Hill and the North Downs Way to St Marthas Church (viewpoint). Albery for lunch, returning via mixed woods and the tranquil Wey navigation to Guildford.
Surrey SWC Walk 57 • Toughness: 4/10 • Length: 12 miles (21 km)
The walk explores pleasantly hilly scenery in the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It starts on the tranquil River Wey Navigation, briefly follows the North Downs Way, and then veers off up to climb the wooded Chantries Hill for fine escarpment views at the top. The hill has extensive bluebell woods in late April/early May, and glorious golden beech colours in autumn. You then rejoin the North Downs Way to climb to the hilltop church of St Martha’s, and descend from the escarpment to lunch in the pretty village of Albury.
In the afternoon, you are in somewhat different terrain – sandy heathlands and woods around the village of Blackheath. Finally you descend by an easy track through Tangley Manor for a further stretch along the River Wey into Guildford.
While it is not mud-free, the sandy soils in the first two thirds of this walk mean that it is drier underfoot in winter than many other walks.
Gentle woods in the morning and a climb to Black Down in the afternoon
Surrey TOCW Book 1, Walk 22 • Toughness: 4/10 • Length: 8 miles (14 km)
This short walk is through very beautiful countryside. It is mainly National Trust land - mixed woods with blackberries and bluebells and heathlands of bracken, gorse, heather and bilberry, with fine views from Black Down (280 metres/919 feet), the highest point in both Sussex and the South Downs National Park. It is particularly lovely when the rhododendrons are in flower in late spring, although the heathland is at its most colourful in late summer.
A path just after the lunch pub can be very wet and muddy, even in dry weather: use appropriate footwear.
There is a 5-way junction at the end of Black Down where a compass (or smartphone with the GPS file) can be useful to check your direction.
Mixed open and wooded chalk downland with several viewpoints close to London
Surrey SWC Walk 139 • Toughness: 8/10 • Length: 11 miles (19 km)
This walk over the National Trust's picturesque Headley Heath ("open heathland, woodland, and chalk downland") to Box Hill (also NT, noted viewpoint) feels very remote even though it starts within London Zone 6. The main walk returns via Headley Heath, the more strenuous longer option follows the North Downs Way, with views to the south. Drivers can park on the Heath, cutting out the walks to and from the station
The walk starts at Tadworth, just south of Epsom Downs, and crosses open downland (and under the M25) to Headley (early lunch pub).
At the start of Headley Heath, there are a couple of free car parks. The main part of the walk crosses the open heathland - with a mix of partly forested hills allowing nice views for most of the way. There is an option to visit White Hill (a steep climb) with unexpectedly fine views (also visited on the Boxhill Circular Walk). Both routes join to head south onto Juniper Top (more views), before following a forest track to the Box Hill viewpoint (NT cafe, car park), a perfect (if often crowded) picnic spot. Then its a short stetch of the North Downs Way along the edge of the escarpment to the late lunch pub.
After lunch is a choice. The main walk returns across Headley Heath along gentle forested paths, or there is a longer but much more strenuous option. There is a choice of pubs for tea about 20 mins walk before the station
A compass (or GPS) is recommended on this walk - its easy to loose your sense of direction on the heathland.
Rural valleys, the North Downs and the Titsey Plantation
Surrey SWC Walk 244 • Toughness: 7/10 • Length: 11 miles (18 km)
The start of this fairly strenuous walk is the same as Extra Walk 2 (Woldingham to Oxted): along the rural valley of Marden Park past Woldingham School and then up the side of the valley into Marden Park Woods, where the maze of paths laid out by the Woodland Trust gives you the opportunity to take a slightly different route through them each time. By the time you join the North Downs Way (NDW) at South Hawke the traffic noise from the M25 will be all too apparent and you will have to endure this for a good part of the walk; the motorway is less than 200m away from the NDW on a 1 km stretch along the foot of the North Downs. The morning section continues with a steep little climb up Oxted Downs, along a broad estate path through the Titsey Plantation and another climb to the top of Botley Hill for a pub lunch.
In the afternoon another section through the plantation takes you down to Titsey Place, a manor house nestling incongruously near the M25 at the foot of the downs. The gardens can be visited from mid-May to the end of September (Wed, Sat, Sun plus some BH Mon; 1-5pm); admission (2015) is £4.50. There are also guided tours of the house on Wed & Sat (£7, including the gardens). The walk continues with another climb over the downs and along the side of a remote valley to the hilltop village of Woldingham, high above the railway. A path along the open hillside then takes you to the unusual settlement of Woldingham Garden Village (which retains traces of its wartime history) before dropping down to the station.
Remote coastal walk with sand dunes, beaches, pine forests and salt marsh - ideal for rest day, or when there is bad weather on the tops.
Wales (Anglesey) SWC Walk 103 • Toughness: 2/10 • Length: 11 miles (18 km)
This is a short and gentle but very varied low-level costal walk around Newborough Warren (the largest area of sand dunes in Wales), a remote beach, a sand spit (with big open wiews along the Menai Straights to Snowdonia and the Llwyn Peninsular), salt marshes, a Pine Forest, Llanddwyn Island (with its lighthouse) and Maltraeth Sands.
This walk would make a good alternative walk if you have come to North Wales to visit Snowdonia, but there is poor weather or low cloud over the tops, but it is a lovely walk in its own right. It is suitable for children.
There are 2 options, a circular walk (public transport friendly), and for car drivers, 2 short coastal walks starting from a beach car park.
- The circular walks starts in Newborough village (pub, bus from Bangor). It crosses grassland, then sand dunes to reach the coast. At low tide cross the sands to Menai Point, or circle inland, along the dunes around a salt marsh. Menai Point is the end of a sand spit at the entrance to the Menai Straights between Anglesey and the mainland. The second leg of the walk is around the point and around Llanddwyn Bay - a long, sandy beach beach backed by sand dunes - to Llanddwyn Island. Half way around the bay, behind the dunes is a car park used by the short walks. Llanddwyn Island, at the far end of the bay, is only a few metres off shore, a long, narrow peninisular connected to Anglsey by sand. After walking out to the tower/lighthouse at end and back, continue past the island to Maltraeth Sands - more beach walking, or if you prefer, the pine forest behind it. Finaly, a short walk inland returns you to Newborough village. Bus travellers can continue on to the cob (a causeway) that leads to Maltraeth village (pub, bus to Bangor).
- The short walks are i) along the beach or sand dunes in 1 direction to Menai Point, and ii) along the beach in the other direction to the island.
Train travellers can start from Bordorgan Station, walk to Maltraeth and cross the cob to start the circular walk,...
Out through NT pine forest with salt marsh views to a lighthouse, back along sand dunes and a remote beach.
Wales (Gower) SWC Walk 89 • Toughness: 2/10 • Length: 7 miles (11 km)
This is an unusual but stunningly beautiful walk.
It starts in Llanmadoc, a small village on the north west corner of Gower, and heads into a NT Nature Reserve through a very pretty pine forest with salt marsh views on one side, and sand dunes on the other..
At the the end of the pine forest are lovely views over the sea / estuary to Pembrokeshire and the remains of a lighthouse (follow the tide out, don't stay long - dangerous tides!)
Return along the long secluded beach backed by sand dunes (or through the sand dunes). This area is discreetly used by naturists. Walking along the beacj is easy going, even at high tide.
Return through the pine forest along the base of a small hill, or walk a little further arouns the hill, and back over the headland.
There is a gastro-pub in the village
For a longer walk, climb Llanmadoc Hill, to the south of the village.
A gentle walk, up to then along he downs overlooking a stunning beach, and back along the beach itself.
Wales (Gower) SWC Walk 87 • Toughness: 3/10 • Length: 7 miles (12 km)
Rhossili is a truly stunning beach, regularly on best in the world lists
This easy walk starts in Rhosilli, a small village at the south west end of the Gower Peninsular, and climbs Rhossili Down (a treeless hill) behind the beach for a ridge walk parallel to, but above, the beach to Llangennith (pub). The route back is along the beach itself.
Tea is on the terrace of a pub with a truly stunning view.
A gentler cliff top headland walk a dramatic extension - a classic walk out to 2 small islands cut off at high tide, with stunning views of Rhossili beach.
Wales (Gower) SWC Walk 88 • Toughness: 6/10 • Length: 7 miles (11 km)
These 2 walks starts in Rhossili, a small village at the south west end of the Gower Peninsular. Rhossili is named after a truly stunning beach, regularly on best in the world lists. Both walks head out from the village (pub, tea rooms, bus to Swansea) to its headland.
The first is the classic walk out to the Worm's Head (NT), 2 small islands which are cut off by the sea at high tide. You must plan this walk in advance by consulting tide timetables.
The second walk is a gentle cliff walk around Rhossili headland (with stunning views of the beach), continuing past Worms Head, around to Mewslade Bay, and back across the headland to Rhossili village.
These 2 walks can be done together, but either is a spectacular walk on it own.
The walk, including Worm's Head is suitable for children, with adult supervision. Dogs should not be off the lead due to sheep, and cliff edges.
Tea is on the terrace of the Worm's Head Hotel pub with a truly stunning view.
Out along the foot of the South Downs above Wild Brook wetland to Storrington for lunch, and back along the ridge of the Downs.
West Sussex SWC Walk 11 • Toughness: 5/10 • Length: 11 miles (18 km)
This walk has the same finish along the crest of the South Downs as SWC Walk 8 Billingshurst to Amberley or SWC Walk 9 Pullborough to Amberley, but it takes in a slightly longer section of the ridge than those other two walks (5km or 3.1 miles). It also has a more varied and interesting climb up on the downs.
The morning is flat, first passing through the river meadows of the Arun to the picturesque village of Amberley, and then following a route along the foot of the downs, with fine views up onto the ridge one way, and down onto the marshland of Amberley Wild Brooks the other. You get a brief taste of the Brooks, before passing through the park of a stately home, Parham House, and to lunch in Cootham.
After lunch there is a long but reasonably well-graded climb up onto the downs (which is what earns this a toughness rating of 5), and then there is an easy walk with fine views along the top of ridge, ending with a descent to Amberley.
This is a good all-season route, with the only potential problem being the short section crossing the meadows from the River Arun to Amberley village, which can be very wet or even flooded in winter. It can be avoided by turning right out of the station and following the main road to the village. The road curves left and in 600 metres, you ignore a minor road uphill to the right. Ignore a signposted footpath to the left in 300 metres, but in 600 metres more, after the road makes a long curve right, take a footpath on the left. This brings you into the village at a road T-junction: go straight across the main village street and on up another road: this curves right to bring you to the site of the (closed) Black Horse pub, para 13 in the walk directions.
Nymans Gardens (NT), and the ruins of Slaugham
West Sussex TOCW Book 1, Walk 16 • Toughness: 5/10 • Length: 10 miles (18 km)
This walk is full of small delights: a nature reserve and lake with Japanese pavilion down by the stream below the impressive gardens and park of Nymans (National Trust) with its part-ruined manor house; a churchyard in Slaugham (pronounced 'Slaffam') with a 600-year-old yew tree some 10 metres in circumference; the ruins of Slaugham Manor; then a walk down to the River Ouse – with the incongruous sight of a Roman arch and columns in the middle of nowhere – and later up through fields and woods to the fine old village of Balcombe.
Two interlocking circular walks (one for Summer, one for Winter) around Balcombe, taking in Ardingly Reservoir, the Ouse Valley Viaduct, and fine Weald territory.
West Sussex SWC Walk 22 • Toughness: 4/10 • Length: 10 miles (16 km)
Balcombe is a great place to walk - the one stop on the Brighton line that feels truly remote and rural. The moment you leave the station you are in a Wealden wonderland of hills, woods, pasture and hidden farms. These walks also feature Ardingly Reservoir, romantically set between steep hills
"These walks" because this is in fact two walks - a Winter Walk and a Summer Walk, which intersect each other in two places. This allows you to switch between them at these points - for example, doing part one of the summer walk, part two of the winter walk, and part three of the summer walk, or any such combination that you like.
Both walks are not just circular walks in that they start and end at the same station, but also because they actually circle around Balcombe, departing westwards from the village, and skirting round its southern side to return to the village from the east.
Outlines of the two walks and their constituent parts are as follows:
WINTER WALK (16.2km, 10miles)
This route is suggested for winter because it has a shorter afternoon and includes quite a bit of walking on quiet lanes and dry tracks, so avoiding the worst of the mud. Ardingly Reservoir is also particularly beautiful in low winter sunlight, and the walk should enable you to get to the cosy Balcombe Tea Rooms before they close at 4.30pm.
PART ONE (2.2km or 1.4 miles) follows a quiet and pretty lane from near Balcombe station. It gives a shorter start to the walk than Part One of the Summer Walk.
PART TWO (6.3km or 3.9 miles) takes you down into the valley and under the Ouse Valley Viaduct - a surprisingly impressive structure, built in 1842 for the London to Brighton Line - before climbing up to Ardingly reservoir and village.
PART THREE (7.7 miles or 4.7 miles) goes from Ardingly village back down to the reservoir, and along its edge to Balcombe for tea.
Note that on this route, the pub stop is a bit of a dog's leg - that is, you have to go out and back by the same route to get to it. If you plan to have...
Tranquil, quiet and gently undulating countryside with fine views of the downs and weald
West Sussex SWC Walk 200 • Toughness: 1/10 • Length: 7 miles (13 km)
The walk starts and end at Berwick railway station, a 10 minute journey from Lewes. An idyllic ramble through tranquil, quiet and gently undulating countryside with fine views of the downs and weald, highlighting the footpath work of the Ramblers. Lots of opportunities for refreshment, but quite a few stiles.
Two walks in classic Weald territory, with an optional visit to the National Trust property of Standen
West Sussex SWC Walk 40 • Toughness: 4/10 • Length: 11 miles (18 km)
Like many towns in the Weald, ancient East Grinstead is perched upon a high hilltop. The old town is still there, though now surrounded by a modern development sprawl, and to the south of it is classic Wealden territory of woods and hills and open fields. There are two walks: an anticlockwise and clockwise walk. Both visit the National Trust property of Standen and both (but particularly the clockwise walk) have bluebell woods in late April and early May. It is also possible to do the morning of one walk with the afternoon of the other, or use these directions to do a short walk to the National Trust property at Standen. See the pdf download for full details
A gently undulating walk in the low hills around the Ouse Valley.
West Sussex SWC Walk 141 • Toughness: 4/10 • Length: 11 miles (19 km)
This walk takes in the low hills on either side of the Ouse Valley, on the southern edge of the High Weald. Earlier versions relied on buses to get to the start and finish points, but a route has now been provided to and from Haywards Heath station to make the walk feasible on days when there is no bus service. There is quite a lot of this expanding commuter town to get through but the link route takes advantage of the Scrase Valley Local Nature Reserve and a few open spaces to minimise the trudge along residential streets.
After passing through a second Nature Reserve on the outskirts of Lindfield the walk route follows the Sussex Ouse Valley Way along the hills to the south of the River Ouse. You drop down to the river at Freshfield Bridges, where the lunchtime pub's nautical name is a reminder of the canal traffic on the Ouse Navigation in the pre-railway era.
The Main Walk's afternoon route loops back to Lindfield on the opposite side of the river, with two chances of a close encounter with a steam train as you cross the route of the Bluebell Railway, one of the oldest and most successful preservation railways in the country. After a break for tea in this pretty Sussex village the full walk completes a circuit back to Haywards Heath.
As with any walk in the High Weald, you will need to be prepared for muddy or waterlogged paths at almost any time of the year.
The previous version of this walk started in Horsted Keynes and finished in Lindfield, but this made it impracticable on days with no bus service to these outlying villages. However, much of the new link route between Haywards Heath station and Lindfield is the same in both directions, so it is worth considering the bus for one of these legs on days when there is a convenient service.
A varied walk from the deep wooded valleys of the High Weald to the elevated heathland of Ashdown Forest, with a section alongside the Bluebell Railway. Travel by bus
West Sussex SWC Walk 132 • Toughness: 5/10 • Length: 11 miles (18 km)
This walk explores the undulating countryside between Ashdown Forest and the village of Horsted Keynes (pronounced canes: see Walk Notes), strung out along a broad village green with its interesting parish church of St Giles perched on a neighbouring hill. Harold MacMillan (Prime Minister 1957-1963) lived in Birch Grove House (passed on the walk route just before Chelwood Gate) and he and members of his family are buried in the churchyard.
After half a century walkers can once again access this area via a railway line, as the Bluebell Railway (one of the oldest and most successful preservation railways in the country) has restored the link to East Grinstead. However, you would need to check their current timetable to ensure that you can complete the walk before the last train back. Even if you don't travel this way all the walk options except those with the morning short cut go alongside the railway for almost 1 km, so there is a good chance of seeing a steam train chugging by. You also have the opportunity to visit the nicely-preserved Horsted Keynes station.
A more practical method for travel to and from this walk is on Metrobus 270 (Mon–Sat only: see Transport below), but the Bluebell Railway is the only public transport option on Sundays or Bank Holidays.
As with any walk in the High Weald, you will need to be prepared for muddy or waterlogged paths after wet weather.
This is a long but easy walk which explores the water meadows of the River Arun, with the South Downs as a dramatic backdrop.
West Sussex SWC Walk 14 • Toughness: 4/10 • Length: 12 miles (21 km)
The Main Walk climbs gently at first to give a panoramic view of the South Downs from the low hills above Pulborough. It joins the Wey-South Path to go past two medieval bridges across the canalised River Arun, which was part of an important transport link between London and the South Coast in the early 19thC. The walk then goes across the extensive water meadows of Amberley Wild Brooks, an important area for bird-life and wetland plants, coming to the unspoilt village of Amberley for a pub lunch.
In the afternoon, the walk continues through Parham Park with its Elizabethan manor house, then past the gliders at Parham Airfield. Towards the end of the day you have the opportunity to spend some time bird-watching in the RSPB Pulborough Brooks Nature Reserve at Wiggonholt, which has a tearoom in its Visitor Centre, before a final stretch alongside the River Arun back to Pulborough.
The water meadows are deliberately flooded in winter and can be boggy at any time of the year after heavy rain. This walk should therefore only be attempted in relatively dry conditions.
A demanding walk, first through park- and woodland, then through the remote westerly valleys of the South Downs
West Sussex SWC Walk 68 • Toughness: 9/10 • Length: 15 miles (26 km)
This demanding West Sussex walk in the undulating western part of the South Downs is characterised initially by a mixture of park- and woodland, then steep lonely valleys and some far views to the main South Downs Ridge.
It starts off towards Stansted House along a 1-mile-long beech avenue – one of the best in England according to Pevsner, and then heads north along the easterly edge of Stansted Forest and across fields via the hamlets of West, Up and East Marden to a very remote pub in Hooksway, with particularly nice views on the route between the hamlets, including up to the northern escarpment of the South Downs.
From lunch you climb back out of the secluded valley on a westerly route to Compton, from where another couple of hills need to be crossed to finish along the westerly edge of Stansted Forest back into Rowlands Castle, with its teashop and a choice of pubs.
The walk (especially the extended version) features several sustained, steep climbs and descents.
Undulating low Weald Countryside via the (now peaceful) path at the centre of a right-of-way battle between the Ramblers and Van Hoogstraaten
West Sussex SWC Walk 201 • Toughness: 3/10 • Length: 9 miles (15 km)
A 9 mile ramble through the undulating low Weald Countryside from Uckfield, featuring the footpath which was the cause of the famous battle between the Ramblers and Mr Van Hoogstraaten. Various shorter alternatives. You need not worry. There has been no history of any problem with the famous path for many years.
This walk goes through varied scenery and gives you the chance to look at a various ways that the countryside is changing in the modern world.
North Wessex Downs and the Vale of Pewsey
Wiltshire SWC Walk 127 • Toughness: 7/10 • Length: 16 miles (27 km)
This is an exhilarating excursion through the solitude of the Vale of Pewsey, which separates the chalk upland of the North Wessex Downs to the north from that of Salisbury Plain to the south, including an ascent up the southerly hill chain of the Marlborough Downs, from where there are stunning far views in all directions over this land of wave-like hills, with its scarps, ridges and valleys. It is a mysterious landscape, full of pre-historic earthworks and hillforts as well as barrows – burial mounds of kings and warriors. Part of the walk leads along the Wansdyke, an earth bank and deep ditch running east to west – which sporadically links Bristol to Marlborough. It was built by the beleaguered Romano-British Celts – after being deserted by the Romans in the 5th century – as a fortification to stem the Saxon advance. From there it is just a short walk to Wiltshire’s highest peak (Milk Hill) with its stunning steep serrated Down and then to the Alton Barnes White Horse – cut into the hillside in 1812. After a scenic descent into the Vale of Pewsey, the lunch options come late in the hamlet of Honeystreet, but food is served all afternoon. Finally, an undemanding stretch along the Kennet & Avon Canal leads back to Pewsey with its many tea options.
Shortcuts reduce the rating of this walk to 6/10 or even 5/10.
Long walk over Wiltshire downs to Avebury World Heritage Site
Wiltshire SWC Walk 255 • Toughness: 10/10 • Length: 21 miles (36 km)
This is a strenuous excursion into the heart of Neolithic Wiltshire, a mysterious landscape full of pre-historic earthworks, standing stones, sarsen fields and hillforts as well as barrows – burial mounds of kings and warriors. The route passes through or past four of the most important prehistoric sites in Britain: Fyfield Down Sarsen Stones Field, Avebury Standing Stones and Bank & Ditch Earthworks, Silbury Hill and West Kennett Long Barrow (two other sites, The Sanctuary and Windmill Hill, can be explored on extensions).
You walk out of the beautiful Vale of Pewsey over the southerly ridge of the Marlborough Downs, from where there are stunning far views over this land of wave-like hills, with its scarps, ridges and valleys, before heading through West Woods, England’s best bluebell wood (source: Forestry Commission), to Fyfield Down and Avebury.
Later the walk leads along the Wansdyke, a 5th century earth bank and deep ditch. It was built by the beleaguered Romano-British Celts as a fortification to stem the Saxon advance. From there it is just a short walk to Wiltshire’s highest peak (Milk Hill) with its stunning Down.
After a scenic descent into the Vale of Pewsey an undemanding stretch along the Kennet & Avon Canal leads back to Pewsey.
There are four different options to finish the walk in Avebury, with a rating of between 5/10 and 10/10.
Long walk. Gentle start via historic Salisbury, the Chalke Valley, pretty villages. Strenuous afternoon via the Downs, a Roman Road, and a noted Water Meadows view of the Cathedral
Wiltshire SWC Walk 254 • Toughness: 9/10 • Length: 19 miles (32 km)
This long walk explores the Chalke Valley in the Cranborne Chase Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty to the South West of the quintessentially English Cathedral City of Salisbury. It leads out of town through the Cathedral precinct, past some of England’s finest historic houses and through the Harnham Hill suburb into open fields with far views over the Chalke Valley to distant Downs. The morning route then largely follows the Ebble River upstream in the Chalke Valley through several pretty villages in this picturesque part of Wiltshire, with three good lunch pubs and two community stores conveniently spaced out along the route.
Most of the climbing is left for the afternoon, starting with a steady ascent with splendid views into pretty coombes, from Broad Chalke up to an ancient Ox Drove on top of the Downs. A long stretch with more views from the Down into coombes and valleys follows, largely along the course of a Roman Road, before the descent back into the Chalke Valley, followed by an immediate re-ascent up another Down. A Drove Track with views into the Nadder and Wylye Valleys leads past Salisbury’s Race Course and through the steep Harnham Slope Nature Reserve to tea at Harnham’s charming Old Mill.
From there the route back to the station goes through the town’s Water Meadows and provides ‘Britain’s Best View’ (Country Life magazine): Salisbury Cathedral across the meadows.
Shorter routes, reducing the length considerably and rated 8/10 and 7/10 respectively, are described.
An Iron Age hill fort, pretty coombes, and lots of ascent: the Vale of Wardour and West Wiltshire Downs AONB with views to the Cranborne Chase AONB and all the way to the coast
Wiltshire SWC Walk 250 • Toughness: 10/10 • Length: 15 miles (26 km)
This walk heads south from the Vale of Wardour through the southerly parts of the West Wiltshire Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which is spectacular walking country with some breathtaking views. The walk reaches the hilltop boundary with the Cranborne Chase AONB (with views all the way to the coast, around Bournemouth and Poole). You’ll find picturesque villages and atmospheric pubs in the beautiful undulating countryside, as well as a wooded Iron Age hill fort site and plenty of dry chalky U-shaped downland valleys.
The middle part of the walk especially leads through – or around the rim of – several very pretty coombes. The walk starts ascending pretty much straight from the platform and features a few short and sharp ascents as well as three more prominent ascents, spread out through the day, followed by a gentle descent across fields back into Tisbury, a remarkably unspoilt village.
A Shortcut, limiting the effort to 8/10, is described.
As the former recommended lunch pub, The Crown Inn in Alvediston, is now shut, on the full walk your pub lunch options are: the very early Royal Oak in Swallowcliffe, an earlier train (or doing the walk in reverse) to reach The Horseshoe Inn in Ebbesbourne Wake in time for food service.
The reverse walk in a clockwise direction is available in a separate pdf.
The Nadder Valley, Dinton Park, undulating countryside of the West Wiltshire Downs, with views to distant coombes, and the regimental Fovant Badges (large hill side figures)
Wiltshire SWC Walk 249 • Toughness: 7/10 • Length: 14 miles (24 km)
The Vale of Wardour in the Wiltshire Downs AONB. Wardour Park, Nadder Head, a neolithic hill fort, Barkers hill, Old Wardour Castle. Long and shorter version.
Wiltshire SWC Walk 252 • Toughness: 9/10 • Length: 14 miles (23 km)
The Nadder Valley, picturesque villages, some dry chalky U-shaped downs of the West Wiltshire Downs, wooded ridges and one of Britain’s largest thatched buildings
Wiltshire SWC Walk 248 • Toughness: 7/10 • Length: 13 miles (22 km)
The Upper Nadder Valley (Wiltshire Downs), Wardour Park and its ruined Castle, steep ascents to Win Green and White Sheet hills and Chalke Valley.
Wiltshire SWC Walk 251 • Toughness: 10/10 • Length: 16 miles (26 km)