It’s something most of us do without giving much thought – but walking is not just a handy way of getting from A to B, it can be a source of great pleasure and comes with huge benefits too
The act of putting one foot in front of the other comes pretty naturally to most of us and is something we’ve generally mastered by the time we’re about two years old. It allows us to control our destiny in as much as we can propel ourselves forward in a chosen direction, and for early man it was pretty much the only option. So whether we were trekking across the wilderness or hunting for food – we have relied on our ancient ambulatory skills since the beginnings of existence.
Unfortunately, the human being seems to be an inherently lazy beast. As soon as we could tame a horse to ride, we did it. Once we invented the wheel and worked out how to cover ground on a bicycle, we did it. And after launching the motor engine and spawning a global car industry that would transport us with minimal effort we embraced the sheer laziness of not having to walk anymore.
Nicety not necessity
Suddenly there was less of a need to walk – not a great thing for our health, but not
a bad thing for the act itself as even as far back as the 1860s, when steam trains were sneaking into existence and motor cars were still the stuff of science-fiction, walking became something of a hobby. Led by an American ‘famous pedestrian’ (which is not a title many people can lay claim to) Edward Payson Weston, the pastime of walking shot to popularity and Weston gained celebrity status for his walking habits, once being described as a ‘notable walkist’ when he walked 478 miles from Boston, Massachusetts to Washington DC in 10 days and 10 hours in 1861. He hit the headlines which spurred him to take on many more challenges and becoming a regular speaker on the benefits of taking a walk.
Walking has followed peaks and troughs of fashion, yet we have come back time and again to the simple pleasures of getting out in the fresh air, employing a little gentle exercise, and striding purposefully off on a walk. Walking has physical benefits but has also been shown to boost mental health with both the Department of Health and the MIND charity finding that regular walking improves mood, reduces anxiety, aids sleep and improves self-image. Plus it must be the most sustainable method of transport. So what’s not to like about a hike?
‘Anyone can walk. It’s free, like the sun by day and the stars by night. All we have to do is get on our legs, and the roads will take us everywhere.’
Edward Payson Weston
There is no shortage of walking routes across our region, and no reason to follow a path already trodden – so long as you are sensible you can head of on a walk wherever you like. To help, we’ve put together the following top five recommendations with a little help from the Ramblers’ Association
Snowdon is the highest summit in England and Wales, ranked second only to Helvellyn in a recent ITV poll of the top 100 walks in Britain. With so many accessible routes up the mountain, it’s hard to know which to choose. Hike via Moel Eilio, Foel Gron, Foel Goch and Moel Cynghorion for a great walking challenge with stunning vistas as your rewards before heading back down the Llanberis Path.
Not too far from Snowdon is Tryfan, a mountain in the Ogwen Valley which forms part of the Glyderau group. It is one of the most famous and recognisable peaks in Britain. Its classic pointed shape with rugged crags make it easily identifiable from miles. Tryfan offers an exhilarating climb and options for a proper grade one scramble if you head up the North Ridge taking in Adam and Eve and the Cannon Stone.
If you want a bit of history and heritage with your walk then look no further than this fairytale-tastic walk around the Nant Gwynant valley. Discover the legend of Gelert and Prince Llywelyn along the way, which gave the village of Beddgelert its name and explore the tumbledown remnants of Gwytherin’s fortress at Dinas Emrys, with a great viewpoint over the valley. Ascend the famous Watkin Path out into the open fields and pass the ruins of Cwm Llan House and head towards Craflwyn, watching out for feral goats in the wooded glades.
The seven-mile Long Mynd is a picturesque heath and moorland plateau, cut by steep-sided valleys that form part of the Shropshire Hills. Walk it via Carding Mill valley, and enjoy incredible views before descending into Small Batch. The surrounding area is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The Stiperstones and Long Mynd can be tackled seperately or make a great full day hike if you combine the two as the eerie, jagged ridges of the Stiperstones cut along one edge of the Long Mynd. The Stiperstones have been the subject of many a myth and legend. The route also boasts spectacular long-range views into Wales.
For full maps and details of any of our walks, or to access to hundreds more and get advice from experts, visit the Ramblers’ website at
As soon as we start thinking of heading off on a walk we have to think about our route. Most of us have heard of public rights of way but do we actually know who can go where and when?
The government’s own website offers some clarification on the ‘right to roam’ rules and what they mean to walkers
It reads: ‘You can access some land across England without having to use paths – this land is known as ‘open access land’ or ‘access land’ and includes mountains, moors, heaths and downs that are privately owned. It also includes common land registered with the local council and some land around the England Coast Path. Your right to access this land is called the ‘right to roam’, or ‘freedom to roam’. Here’s what you can and can’t do:
• You can use access land for walking, running, watching wildlife and climbing
• You can’t automatically use access land for horse-riding, cycling, camping, driving or taking animals other than dogs
• You can ride bikes and horses on the land if it is crossed by public bridleways or byways or it has been allowed by the landowner
• You can bring your dog if it is on a lead no more than two metres long between 1st March and 31st July – to protect ground-nesting birds – and at all times around livestock.
Within access land there are still areas you cannot access. You must use public rights of way to cross these ‘excepted areas’ such as:
• houses, buildings and the land they’re on
• land used to grow crops
• building sites or land that’s being developed
• parks and gardens
• golf courses and racecourses
• railways and tramways
• working quarries
For more information call 0300 0602091.
Boots on, bag packed and you’re off, right? Unfortunately in this world of red tape it’s not as simple as all that. Who can forget Madonna’s high court battle to stop walkers ‘invading her privacy’ by hiking across her £9 million estate in Scotland? The furore surrounding that case led to some clarification of the rules of engagement that should help most walkers avoid problems. It’s worth knowing your rights and routes to avoid being chased by a gun-wielding landowner.
SIGN OF THE TIMES
Stick to the right right of way and you’ll be okay. A right of way in England and Wales is a path that anyone has the legal right to use on foot. On a bridleway, the right of way is for walkers, and those travelling on horseback and on bicycle. After that there are ‘Byways open to all traffic (BOATs)’ paths on which you can walk, ride, cycle and drive vehicles, including motor vehicles. A ‘permissive path’ is one which an owner has given the public permission to use but it can be withdrawn at any time – so double check if you have an old map! Always check in advance or follow an established walking route, ensure you use signage and stick to the route marked.
DID YOU KNOW?
It would take one hour 43 minutes of walking to burn off a Big Mac
If you’re ready to go but would rather not go it alone, or just want to walk alongside some like-minded hikers, why not take part in a walking festival? Here are our favourites
Wirral Walking Festival
The Wirral Walking Festival is a series of exciting and varied walks throughout May each year. They all take place in the parks, open countryside, heritage sites and along Wirral’s coast. You can choose from nearly 200 varied walks so there’s something for everyone at every ability. Find out more on at www.visitwirral.com
Ironbridge Gorge Walking Festival
This event offers 53 walks over nine days and all of them are free. There is everything from short three mile strolls to all-day treks. Places are limited, so booking is essential and dogs are welcome on leads.
Llangollen Walking Festival,
Try Nordic Walking or join the eight-mile World Heritage Site walk or if you’re looking for more of a challenge, attempy the 12-mile Ugly Sisters Challenge Walk with free lager for finishers! www.llangollenwalkingfestival.co.uk
Bishop’s Castle Walking Festival
This is the 19th annual event to be held over five days in May, when the countryside is at its best. The area is a walker’s paradise, with local footpaths leading over open hilltops, through winding valleys, tiny hamlets, country lanes and sometimes the remains of ancient hill forts. There are many amazing views. www.walkingfestival.co.uk
Trefriw Walking Festival
Trefriw Walking Festival is Snowdonia’s most popular walking festival, with another 20 great walks full of variety for all ages and abilities. Choose from 135 miles of glorious walking and as 2018 is the Year of the Sea in Wales, there is a celebratory two-day walk to the sea. All walks are free but as fundraising for the Festival is always challenging, organisers do ask for a donation. www.trefriwwalkingfestival.co.uk
Llanelli Festival of Walks
Llanelli Ramblers organise and host the annual Llanelli Festival of Walks which has attracted hundreds of visitors to the town since its beginnings in 1995 and has established Llanelli as a popular centre for walking. The 2018 Festival of Walks is open to all, old and young, non-members and members alike and has a choice of 15 walks to suit all ages and abilities, in areas. www.llanelliramblers.org.uk
Wrexham Walking Festival,
A series of free walks over a week exploring the landscapes, beauty and history of North East Wales and the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley AONB. All the walks will be led by trained walk leaders and walkers will need to wear suitable boots and clothing. www.walksinwrexham.com
Church Stretton Walking Festival
Church Stretton Walking Festival is run by energetic and dedicated local volunteers who lead groups along favourite routes as well as lesser known ones. There is also a selection of themed walks, including the Map and Compass Course, the night time Stars in Your Skies Walk, and the Landscape Photography Walk.
DID YOU KNOW?
Humans started walking three million years ago to better carry goods
We asked Matthew Jones, editor of rambling magazine Walk, for his advice on the essential kit to wear and pack for a long summer of walking
You don’t need a lot of kit to go walking, which makes it one of the cheapest and most accessible leisure activities. However, there are various items that make a day walk easier, more comfortable and more enjoyable. The key to comfort is the principle of layering – adding or removing layers of clothing in response to changes in body temperature and weather conditions.
What to wear
This next-to-skin layer wicks away sweat to help keep you at the right temperature and as dry as possible. A collar helps protect the back of the neck from sun or windchill, and a zip aids cooling. Thumb loops stop gaps between sleeves and gloves.
This is a polyester fleece, which is light, warm, soft and quick-drying. Other midlayers include hard face fleeces and softshell jackets, hybrid garments (to warm your core and wick sweat in areas like the underarms) and active insulation midlayers (loosely-woven insulation that offers lightweight warmth).
In cold conditions wear a down or synthetic jacket instead of or in addition to a midlayer.
It’s always advisable to carry a hooded, waterproof jacket, as well as a pair of waterproof trousers with at a quarter-length leg zip to fit over boots if it rains.
Cushioned, wicking walking socks in different weights (thicknesses) for different conditions and seasons.
Boots or trail shoes
If you walk mainly on good-quality
paths, trail shoes can be a good lightweight option, but on rougher ground, wear comfortable and supportive walking boots.
What to carry
First aid kit, head torch, whistle, survival bag or storm shelter, water bottle or hydration bladder, food, mobile phone, portable charger, waterproof pouch, trekking poles, spare socks, hat and gloves, dry bag, sit mat, map, baseplate compass, gaiters, sun block, insect repellent, sun hat, sunglasses, flask and gloves.
• It is important to wear comfortable, good-fitting boots or shoes
• Wear good walking socks in the right size. Wearing two pairs of socks can help prevent or reduce rubbing
• Immediately remove anything causing irritation from your socks or boots
• Remove your boots and socks when you stop for a rest to give your feet a chance to dry off and cool down
• Act as soon as you feel any discomfort. Blisters can form very quickly. Stop walking, take your boots and socks off and check your feet. Apply some material cushioning or padding, or a plaster to the area that’s rubbing. If a blister has formed, either burst it carefully and immediately apply a sterile dressing, or clean the area and cover it with a blister plaster or a dressing.
Walk your way to better health
Dr Richard Cowell, a consultant cardiologist, encourages his patients at the Spire Yale Hospital in Wrexham to stay healthy by stepping up their walking activity. He explains why we should all make a point of it for the sake of our physical and mental health
Numerous studies are now highlighting what we’ve all known for a very long time – a daily walk, or more to the point a brisk daily walk, can dramatically reduce our risk of serious diseases in the future.
Walking gets the blood pumping without placing the cardiovascular system under unnecessary stress. Low impact activity like walking is particularly important those with pre-existing medical conditions or generalised mobility problems. All of the positive health benefits of regular exercise can be derived from a walk in the park.
A gym membership isn’t critical for keeping fit
Regular walking is believed to reduce the likelihood of serious cardiovascular events such as angina, heart attack and stroke. It helps to keep high blood pressure under control and promotes heathier blood flow while lowering levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and increasing levels of HDL (good) cholesterol. In fact, the Stroke Association says that a brisk 30-minute walk every day helps to reduce the risk of stroke by up to 27 per cent. Use a smart phone or fitness tracker and try to aspire to 10,000 steps a day.
One of the primary benefits of a regular walk is weight loss and weight loss by itself reduces the risk of a host of serious diseases. A simple 30-minute walk at a pace of 2mph will burn 75 calories while a 4mph pace will burn 150 calories. Regular walking cuts the risk of Type 2 diabetes by as much as 60 per cent and reduces the likelihood of developing cancer of the colon, breast or womb by 20 per cent.
Get a head start
Mental wellbeing is just as important for overall health as our physical condition and walking helps to naturally improve overall mood while combating stress and depression. It’s widely believed walking increases mental productivity and concentration by boosting circulation and increasing oxygen to the cells in the body – providing the perfect excuse for
a lunch break stroll.
Aim to walk 10,000 steps a day. A 20-minute walk, or about 2,000 steps, equals a mile.