Newsletter > Newsletter archive > September 2015

September 2015


Walking round our villages
It will come as no great surprise that the most downloaded walks on Walkingworld are countryside circulars centred on a village, preferably with a pub or two en route. We can all conjure up a picture of the archetypal British village, with cottages clustered around the church and village green. These classic country villages are certainly great places to live and visit, but they don't tell the whole story.

There is actually huge diversity in the patterns of our countryside settlements. Many villages, especially those found in a broad band across England, do conform to the stereotype, the process of 'nucleation' having occurred from the early Middle Ages onwards. Elsewhere, and particularly in our upland regions, settlements are often more scattered, with a web of footpaths linking farmsteads and tiny hamlets together.

We examine these phenomena in this month's chapter from our Pathways book. We focus on the Cambridgeshire village of Helpston, a place that was radically transformed during the 'enclosure movement' of the 1800s. The enclosing of common land that was previously open to everyone led not just to the closing of footpaths but the registration of new ones, effectively creating the network that we have today. Helpston was also the home of poet John Clare, who witnessed the process of enclosure first hand and railed eloquently against it.

You can read the chapter on village walks on the website. We hope it will encourage you to explore some new villages (and maybe the odd pub) this autumn.

New rucksacks from Thule
Swedish manufacturer Thule is probably best known to us for roof racks and roof boxes, which they have been making since the 1940s. The last few years have seen the company branch out into other outdoor items and this year they have launched a range of rucksacks. We have been trying one out for a couple of months now, giving it a fair battering by using it on mountain rescue duties.

The 50L Capstone sack that David has been using has stood up pretty well to the abuse. It has a rigid frame and tensioned mesh back panel which can be adjusted for length. With such systems you sometimes feel space in the main compartment is lost as it becomes quite curved, but in this case the sack maintains a reasonably straight shape. Access to the compartment is available by zips at the side and at the base as well as the top, which can be useful if you need something at the bottom in a hurry.

The rucksack has more additional compartments, a couple in the hip belt and two in the lid, and three stretch fabric pockets, which means you can lose loads of items by simply forgetting where you put them. There are the usual ice axe and walking pole straps and an electric blue rain cover to make sure no-one can miss you when the weather turns bad.

Overall we like this sack. It's comfortable even on a long and sweaty day out in the hills, with the hip belt taking its fair share of the weight and well shaped shoulder straps. It's rather too big for a simple day walk (Thule have smaller ones in the range) but it would suit a lightweight wild camping trip or long distance trek. It's available for £145 from Cotswold Outdoor (and of course Walkingworld subscribers can get a 15% discount on that) which seems very reasonable for a pack of this quality.

Walk, cook, eat - the Moorish Way
Discover the very essence of the mountains of Las Alpujarras in southern Spain, on a walking holiday that allows you to explore the region’s fabulous landscapes and experience wonderful cuisine in equal measure.

On this special holiday from Inntravel, you discover the Moorish Flavours of Las Alpujarras while staying 7 nights in the small mountain village of Mairena at the atmospheric Casa las Chimeneas, a lovingly restored rural hotel from which you can gaze across the typical whitewashed villages of southern Spain towards the Mediterranean beyond.

Highlights of your stay include learning how to cook Moorish dishes in the company of top London chef, Tom Ryalls; trying your hand at traditional cheese-making; visiting an olive mill, and chatting to the owners of a small mountain bodega while you sample the latest vintage.

Captivating as the food-related activities and visits are, Las Alpujarras is a picturesque region that deserves to be explored on foot, too. Your hosts, David and Emma Illsley, act as your guides as you walk through deep gorges, terraced valleys watered by ancient Moorish irrigation channels and open pastures framed by the mighty peaks of the Sierra Nevada, mainland Spain’s highest mountains. In early November, the tallest summits have their first coat of snow, adding greatly to the drama of the scenery.

For more details on Inntravel’s walking holidays in Spain, see inntravel.co.uk or speak to their expert team on 01653 617034.

Moorish Flavours of Las Alpujarras
- single-centre walking holiday – with a strong gastronomic theme
- Prices from £950pp, inc 7 nights’ half-board accommodation, 6 lunches or picnics, detailed cultural notes & map, 4 cookery demonstrations, cultural insights & local visits
- Transfers to/from Malaga airport
- Flights extra (direct from several UK regional airports)
- Available 31 October 2015

Alpujarra walking holidays with writer Chris Stewart
As a walking holiday destination, the Alpujarra - the southern slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountains in Andalucia - ticks all the boxes. The region is wild and beautiful, untamed and unspoilt, with a great variety of walks, from high mountain hikes, to gentler routes through orchards and white villages. The landscape is steeped in history from the time of the Moors and it's a true haven for wildlife, with eagles, ibex and wild flowers.

Who better to guide you in the Alpujarra than Chris Stewart, author of best-seller 'Driving Over Lemons'? He'll take you on his favourite walks, invite you to lunch at his farm, and entertain you with many stories about life in the Alpujarra.

Your base for the week will be Casa Ana, a 400-year old, carefully restored rural guest house 3,000 feet up in the most spectacular part of the Alpujarras.

The next holidays are 9-16 April, 23-30 April and 21-28 May 2016. The price is from 1275 euros including 7 nights B&B, picnics, lunches, dinners, wines, excursions, local transport and guides. For further details contact Anne Hunt at info@casa-ana.com or visit the Casa Ana website.

National Trust for Scotland Footpath Fund
Well known Scottish landscapes like Glencoe, Ben Lomond and Torridon look timeless and unchanging. But with driving rain, snow, unrelenting wind and thousands of people carving a path to the summit, they can quickly turn into scarred and barren places, where fragile vegetation and exposed soil are simply washed away.

The National Trust for Scotland's Footpath Fund raises money specifically for mountain conservation and supports a specialised team and numerous dedicated volunteers who brave the weather all year round to help halt the effects of erosion.

The Mountain Path Team is committed to conserving and maintaining the Trust's network of over 400 miles of mountain paths for future generations. Using light-touch techniques, and wherever possible building by hand using locally sourced material, the team aims to preserve the paths by providing an enduring solution to the problem of erosion, with minimal visual impact. You can contribute through the Footpath Fund's website.

Celts: art and identity at the British Museum
The 'Celts: art and identity' exhibition, which runs from 24 September 2015 to 31 January 2016, promises to be absolutely fascinating. The term 'Celtic' has been much used and misused; it is now recognised that there is no single genetic Celtic group. However as a culture and identity the 'Celtic' is a very real element of our history. 

This is the first major exhibition to examine the full history of Celtic art and identity, from the first recorded mention of 'Celts' to an exploration of contemporary Celtic influences. The exhibition traces how the 'Celtic' identity has been revived and reinvented in art, architecture, ornament and literature over the centuries, across Britain, Europe and beyond. Tickets are £16.50, under 16s free.