During this, the most indulgent season of the year, we’re all well accomplished at smoothing over our protruding bellies and declaring how full up – local colloquial phrases apply – we are. No better time then, to embark on a healthy cobweb-blowing walk. We thought you may like some ideas for classic walks across the UK.
At BCH Camping we’re often asked for recommendations for places to go and things to do in the great outdoors. Being a company with customers located throughout the UK, it can be a little tricky to make recommendations for all, but we thought we’d start with classic walks in the South West and Wales. For those of you in other areas, stand by for future articles, or where possible pay a visit to the South West where you’re assured of a good welcome (particularly in our stores!).
The South West Coastal Path
At 630 miles long, The South West Coastal Path is the longest national trail in the UK. It wraps around the English South West peninsula, stretching from Minehead in Somerset to Poole in Dorset, and is a visual and physical experience of heritage, wildlife, geology and scenery.
If you’re not feeling quite fit enough to complete the whole 630 miles in one go, there are many short walks you can take, most of which are less than 5 miles long. It’s estimated that if you did want to walk the entire path as an extended holiday, it would take anything from 30 days if you’re speedy, to around 7 to 8 weeks.
The first 86 miles from Minehead to Westward Ho! take in the rugged high moors and woods of the beautiful Exmoor National Park, before reaching the surf beaches of Woolacombe and the Taw and Torridge Estuary.
After Westward Ho!, the walk becomes tougher, but the rewards are worth it! There are dramatic cliffs, and several hills and valleys to cross, all of which offer stunning views and challenging terrain. You should check the weather forecast and ensure you are prepared for all conditions, particularly with your footwear. Once Padstow is in sight, the difficult terrain is completed.
The rest of the walk takes you through many different landscapes. From St Ives you find yourself in a wild section of coastline until Land’s End, after which the south coast valleys offer a semi-tropical feel, which you are just about getting used to as you reach the wild landscape of the Lizard Peninsula.
From Lizard to Portsmouth you will pass through picturesque fishing villages, prominent headlands, beautiful estuaries with their crossing ferries, and a mix of wild and farmed landscapes. The scenery is ever-changing, with the added attraction that this is the less taxing section of the walk.
As you walk from Torcross to Seaton in South and East Devon, you pass through farms and seaside resorts. This particular area is famous for its geology as it takes you through the English Riviera Geopark and the start of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site.
The final 100 miles or so take you along Dorset’s Jurassic Coast until you reach Weymouth where you have a choice of either continuing along the coast, or following the South Dorset Ridgeway through the ancient ceremonial landscapes.
While the South West Coastal Path is a beautiful experience, it is also challenging so the general advice is to manage your expectations and plan for less mileage each day than perhaps you’re used to!
The Two Moors Way
Spanning the moors of Dartmoor and Exmoor, just like the South West Coastal Path, this 102 mile path can also be used for short walks, or as one hike undertaken over several days. The path was officially opened in 1976 by Joe Turner. After his death in 2004 two halves of a granite boulder were erected in memoriam, facing each other 30 miles apart, on the edge of Dartmoor and Exmoor.
The route was made into a coast to coast path when, in 2005, the Erme-Plyme trail was linked to the route, adding an extra 15 miles. The recommended starting position for the full coast-to-coast Two Moors Way is either Wembury on the South Devon coast, or Ivybridge on the North Devon coast. To take the shorter, original path, the North coast start/end point is at Lynmouth.
The path is clearly marked but it is advised that if you’re taking on the full hike from start to finish you should take relevant maps and a compass in preparation for the wild moorland and remote countryside, where the weather can change quickly. For such excursions layering is highly recommended. Have a look at our previous blog about this, and for any clothing recommendations see our website.
There are many places of interest along the route. Wembury Beach, at the start or end of the path depending on your route, is owned by The National Trust, and is known as one of the best locations in the country for rock pooling.
There are many beautiful villages along the way. Hawkridge is one of Exmoor’s oldest and most remote villages, West Anstey is home to a 12th century medieval church, and Ivybridge is the largest town on the route with its original Ivy Bridge across the River Erme still standing.
Pembrokeshire Coast Path
One of 15 national trails in Britain, the Pembrokeshire Coast Path was opened in 1970 as the first national path in Wales. The route stretches along 186 miles in South West Wales from St Dogmaels in the north to Amroth in the South.
Along the route you will encounter limestone cliffs, red sandstone bays, beaches and volcanic headlands. There is a wide variety of coastal flowers and bird life, along with historical references to Neolithic times, up to the present day.
The full 186 miles will take 10 -15 days to complete. It is said that the ascents and descents are the equivalent of climbing Everest’s 35,000 feet. Should you decide to backpack and complete the path in one expedition, it is important that you have the most suitable equipment, particularly along the section between St Dogmaels and Newport Town which is 15.5 miles long, with many very steep hills. There is a wide selection of food and equipment available on the BCH Camping website.
Along the route there are hints of historical references with its fishing and farming villages, which in the past linked Pembrokeshire to the major highway of the sea. There are lime kilns and warehouses to be seen that are reminders of industrial activities, with the Milford Haven waterway still operating as an industrial hub today.
The biggest industry along the trail, however, is tourism. In the quieter, more remote and wild areas there are many species of birds and, on occasion, grey seals have been known to pay a visit.
For all of these walks we would strongly advise that you research the terrain and the equipment you will need to safely enjoy the scenery and exercise. If you would like any additional advice, don’t hesitate to contact us, we’d be delighted to help!