Newsletter > Newsletter archive > April 2015
50 years of National Trails
Last Friday our first national trail celebrated its 50th birthday. The Pennine Way was envisaged as a British equivalent to the Appalachian Trail, the first section of which had opened way back in 1923. Although much shorter than its American counterpart it became a rite of passage for many walkers, who could hike the backbone of England on a single uninterupted route for the first time. For many years Alfred Wainwright offered a half-pint of beer at the pub in Kirk Yetholm, an act of generosity that is said to have cost him over £15,000. Walkingworld’s David Stewart took him up on that offer many years ago, in spite of being a few month’s underage.
In the past couple of decades the popularity of the Pennine Way has been on the wane. You can walk sections of the route, especially those over the barren North Pennines, and not meet a soul. Ironically it is Wainwright’s personal creation, his Coast to Coast Path, which is not an official national trail at all, that has stolen the limelight. This may be because the Pennine Way at 267 miles is difficult to complete in a fortnight or perhaps because it is more aesthetically appealing to walk from one coastline of the country to the other. Maybe the 50th anniversary celebrations will encourage more to undertake the challenge, because it really is a fantastic walk.
It is fitting therefore that this month’s chapter from our Pathways book is the one on Britain’s leisure trails, focusing on an exhilarating section of the long distance path at High Force in Durham. In the chapter we tell some of the story of the fight for access to more of Britain’s countryside for walkers and the genesis of the Pennine Way. It’s an important tale, leading ultimately to the creation of open access areas in England and Wales’ uplands and the ongoing work to create a footpath around the entire coast of Britain. There are, of course, plenty of day walks on Walkingworld which take in sections of the Pennine Way.
Branching out from Ibiza
Those with experience of walking on the beautiful island of Ibiza or perhaps considering a walking holiday there will be pleased to see that the inventory of walks continues to grow. The latest additions include four walks on the outlying island of Formentera. Formentera is reached by ferry from Ibiza in 30 minutes. It is very modestly sized but there are sufficient facilities out of season to make this an excellent walking holiday choice or as a one off day visit from Ibiza. See Jim Arymar’s introductory article on Formentera for more details.
As nature intended
Walking at your own pace on an Inntravel Slow holiday provides some great opportunities to see the local wildlife at close quarters...
Explore the Three Faces of Green Spain amid the remote wooded valleys of northern Asturias and it’s not uncommon to see as many as 50 different species of bird on a day’s walk, including the spectacular golden oriole, according to local hotelier and keen ornithologist, Javier Morala. Birds thrive, too, in the silent forests of the Franco-Swiss border – look out for black woodpecker, goshawk, wryneck and red-backed shrike, as you spend a week walking through the magical landscapes of the Jura Alps.
Or head to Italy to explore the Olive Groves, Vineyards & Abbeys of Umbria, and discover the tranquillity of the Piano Grande, a spectacular amphitheatre in the Monte Sibillini National Park, where the sound of skylarks, quails and meadow crickets – and the rainbow colours of its wildflowers – make it a wonderful place for rewarding walks.
For more details on Inntravel’s walking holidays on the ‘wild’ side, see www.inntravel.co.uk or speak to their expert team on 01653 617034.
Step up to a Snowdon mountain challenge
You can do something special this year by taking part in the Snowdon 500 Challenge on the 13th or 14th June 2015. Choose either date to climb Snowdon, the highest mountain in England & Wales, and to help find a cure for prostate cancer.
The Prostate Cancer Research Centre, which carries out research into the causes of and treatment for the UK's most frequently diagnosed male cancer, is urging everyone to take part and points out that this unique charity challenge can be achieved by anyone of average fitness. A team of highly experienced safety marshals will be deployed on the mountain to keep everyone safe and on the right path. Registration for the event costs just £35. For more details and to sign up go to the Snowdon500 website.
Help WaterAid help in Nepal
Sign up for the WaterAid Mountain Challenge and raise money for WaterAid's work in Nepal. Following the devastating earthquake that hit Nepal on Saturday your support is needed more than ever before. By getting a team together and climbing a peak in the UK you will help WaterAid to provide the support that is so urgently needed in Nepal.
WaterAid's priority is to offer immediate water and sanitation assistance in the communities where they work. Working with their partner organisations, measures are likely to include the provision of safe water, water purification tablets, emergency sanitation measures and hygiene kits.
Memory-Map TX4 tested
For a long time we have thought that carrying a separate GPS is a bit of a faff. GPS receivers have become routine features in smartphones and the apps that utilise them have got ever smarter. If you use a GPS throughout the walking day as your primary means of navigating then battery life may be a concern, but for those of us who only want one to tackle the occasional tricky bit or in a true emergency, just having a phone seems a reasonable idea. Even so lack of waterproofing and overall ruggedness can be a worry. If you are in trouble you really don’t want your phone packing up on you just because it’s got wet.
Decent waterproof and resilient smartphones have been a long time coming. Last year digital mapping specialist Memory-Map launched their TX3 which offered a welcome first step into this market. We quite liked the product, although we felt it had some shortcomings. Now Memory-Map have followed up with their TX4, a bigger device that is much more like a standard GPS unit, but with mobile phone capability included. Is this the point at which dedicated GPS devices have finally been superceded? We’ve been testing it for a month now and we're ready to report on it. If you like the sound of it we’ve got a special offer from Memory-Map of a free waterproof Ventura Powerbank worth £35, capable of recharging your phone up to three times, with each TX4 and OS map bundle. Read our review
Get involved in coastal research
Large numbers of archaeological sites are located along the English coastline and in the country’s dynamic intertidal zone. By their very nature these sites are continually eroded by wind, waves and tidal scour and as a result much of England’s history is simply being washed away.
The Coastal and Intertidal Zone Archaeology Network (CITiZAN) project has been set up to address this problem by training volunteers in how to identify and record fragile and threatened archaeological sites before they are lost forever. Supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, National Trust and Crown Estate, the project has offices in York, Portsmouth and London. Starting this summer they are looking to recruit volunteers for this intriguing and nationally important work. Volunteers will be given full training in how to record and monitor submerged forests, the hulks of wrecked ships, military defences and many more sites under threat.
Knights of the North Highland Way
The North Highland Way project was launched in 2013 by a group of local business people. The route is now waymarked and promotion is well under way. The organisers are now raising money to improve the infrastructure and one of the initiatives is the Knights of the North Highland Way challenge. This is a self guided challenge which takes place until 30th September 2015 during which time you can walk the route and get your card stamped at some great places on the north coast of Scotland. It’s an opportunity to get in early while the Way is in its infancy. The total distance is 180 miles which can be done in stages. More on the Dunnet Head Educational Trust website.
The Malvern Walking Festival starts on Saturday 23rd May and offers over 40 guided walks over 9 days. They range from an energetic 18-mile walk from one end of the Malvern Hills to the other to an evening stroll visiting some of the buildings of Malvern that have associations with notable people and events. Sunday 24th sees the Malvern Munch Food Walk, a 6-mile easy walk with food and entertainment stops along the way. Walk leaders have the local knowledge that makes walks even more interesting. More at www.malvern-hills.info or call the Malvern Tourist Centre on 01684 892289.
Leominster Walking Festival is from the 30th May to the 3rd June. The organisers, who are part of the UK-wide Walkers are Welcome network, are inviting you to enjoy the beautiful Herefordshire countryside with orchards, meadows, streams, hidden paths, disused railway lines and gentle hills. This year some of the walks give an opportunity to discover the history of the Marches with forgotten Kings, medieval villages and powerful barons. www.leominster-festival.co.uk
Dartmoor resident and retired local police superintendent Roger Mechan has, over the last few years, trekked solo along some of France and Spain’s most iconic trails to raise money for charity. In that time he has walked over 1400 miles and raised a total of £14000 towards his £20000 target, shared between Help for Heroes and his local Hospice, St Luke’s. This year Roger will once more be ploughing his lonely furrow trekking 600 miles along the Via de la Plata. Roger funds the treks himself so all donations go to the charities as well as all the fees from his talks. His donation page is at www.justgiving.com/stlukespilgrim
Finally our thoughts are with the people of Nepal and the climbers and trekkers who have been caught up in the earthquake there. It’s a truly wonderful place but desperately ill-equipped to deal with an event of this scale. Please support the immediate relief efforts and, as importantly, consider spending some time there once the Nepali people are back on their feet. Tourism is a vital part of Nepal’s economy and if you go trekking in the Himalaya you’ll enjoy a real welcome amidst an absolutely stunning environment. You can donate to the Disasters Emergency Committee, which has a Nepal appeal running, at www.dec.org.uk.