Not everyone wants to climb popular mountains, visit famous historical sites or walk to a well known waterfall. There is a growing band of walkers who would like to escape in to less known areas, looking for something different and unexpected, something unusual or simply just pleasureable. It is the explorer in us bursting to get out and discover something new, finding those HIDDEN DELIGHTS.
When I started Where2walk I must say that I had my eye on popular walks, the summits and the coast, areas which I already knew. Over time and with the familiar walks all completed I now love heading for totally new areas and unfamiliar walks.Planning these was good but looking at a map only ever gave me part of the story. Planning a walk with the relevant and trusty 1.25,000 Ordnance Survey map will tell you where the paths are, what the gradient of the walks are and entice you with certain intriguing comments such as Old Railway, mines, Pot Hill etc: – all good stuff but the reality can be very different and full of surprises.
One such walk that I really enjoyed was in the heart of the North York Moors. A major looking valley called Rosedale beckoned me; from a look at the map there appeared little going on in the valley, not many paths and somewhere called Rosedale Abbey which appeared a good starting point. However the questions started here; Rosedale Abbey, what was the abbey like, what was the village like that took its name. Well the village was great but there was no roses and not much of an abbey (the stones were used to build the communities for local miners and I was told it was a priory anyway). However the walk was glorious in hot summer weather, there was an old railway to follow, a stream to explore and a tea shop in an isolated farm to recover in, the walk is 9 miles long and one of my most enjoyable and unexpected pleasures (more details are here)
These hidden gems can be found in the most popular walking areas; near Ambleside there is a beautiful patch of land in the vicinity of Lily Tarn. I saw no one on the 2 hour walk whilst watching the hordes on nearby Loughrigg Fell and beyond. I have had similar experiences in the Upper Esk valley (possibly less surprising) but also in the beautiful walking country between Windermere and Kendal. I took in 2 walks here within a few weeks (I just had to return) and again I saw not a soul. Crossthwaite and Underbarrow are the quiet villages which aside from great walks are surely almost perfect places to live.
In the Lake District I found walking in such unspoilt areas so much fun that I have an entire section of walks under a special category: Away from the Crowds . There are over 30 walks here, test them and enjoy peace, tranquility and the delights of the unknown. I am sure Wainwright would have approved.
However it is not just quiet parts of popular areas I have enjoyed but visiting entirely new areas, parts of the country I had previously ignored because surely nothing good could be there. How wrong I was:
Here are by favourite quiet and peaceful areas of countryside that every self respecting walker should visit for at least a long weekend, then its up to you to decide whether you want to return, I did and I suspect you will.
Yorkshire Wolds: chalk predominates creating fascinating and unusual dry valleys and perfect walking, an area that appears quite affluent if only for the quality of its waymarking!
The Cumbrian Pennines: A total contrast to the Wolds, high bleak moorland with hidden industrial gems, not at all affluent but for those wanting to escape the world take a hike in the Cumbrian Pennines
Arnside & Silverdale: To the south of the Lakes there is a small AONB that should not be ignored. Pretty villages, quiet coastline and nature reserves typify a walk here.
Forest of Bowland: On my doorstep but ignored till a mountain biker enticed me in to Gisburn Forest – there is little better than the lovely walk to the Trough of Bowland.
I will end with just one other example of a walk on which I headed out with generally low expectations but turned in to a real favourite. To the south of Coniston village there is a small hamlet (barely) called Water Yeat. Park up and follow one of the myriad of sheep tracks that head in to what seems just a cloud of bracken. The paths are not direct but that does not matter as they turn to avoid pretty rock outcrops and the worst of any wet ground but sooner than you think a wonderful tarn appears, this is Beacon Tarn. With a backdrop of the higher Coniston fells I really believe that this is one of the best views in the land. Circle the tarn, climb Woodland Fell and enjoy; there will be no-one else there, unless its me.
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