Any Asterix fan will tell you that a menhir is an ancient standing stone. Whilst they are spread all across France, there is a curious concentration of them in the northern Cevennes and this walk takes in many of them.
The “Balade au pays des Menhirs” is a 3.5 mile circular walk in the Lozere department in southern France. It takes about two hours to complete the loop, but you will travel back in time through Millennia.
The walk starts from a signed car park on the road from Le Pont de Montvert to Mende. From here you cross a couple of fields, then turn left and follow a farm track with hedges on either side as you descent downhill into dense pine forests. Almost as soon as you enter the woods you start to see menhirs, standing upright in small clearings in the forest. Modern man has worked around these ancient landmarks, leaving them untouched over thousands of years.
The track continues to descent until you emerge into rolling farmland, with a wide vista of the resplendent Gorges du Tarn opening out before you. After 2 miles you reach the tiny hamlet of Combettes, which provides the pretty rustic idil that seems to typify rural France. As you enter the hamlet, a small building on your left (which is actually an old bread oven) houses a permanent exhibition on “Mont Lozere before history”. (continue reading…)
This has to be one of the most interestingly named walks I’ve ever done. It is a 7 mile woodland walk in the heart of Norfolk, taking in a disused railway line and a mix of wooded trails.
The walk starts from the Great Eastern Pingo Trail car park on the A1075 at Stow Bedon. From the car park the first part of the trail follows the old railway line. As you walk along you can see how wet and marshy the surrounding woods are. After one mile you reach a crossroads, where you continue along the old railway line passing the ruins of the old railway keepers cottage.
After another two miles you will enter a cutting, with the embankments rising up either side of the old line. Just before a road bridge over the line, follow a set of wooden steps up to the right. This path takes you to a minor road, which we follow for a short way. When you reach a fork, take the right track (marked as a no through road). The tall pine forest soon gives way to farmland, although the area to the left of the track is actually Stanford Firing Range. Originally cleared during the Second World War, the “temporarily” evacuated Stanford village has never been returned to normal use. You will see glimses of Thompson Water through the hedge on your right, and shortly afterwards a path to the right going behing the lake. (continue reading…)
A relaxing six and a half mile walk along the River Cam, from Waterbeach to the centre of Cambridge.Starting from Waterbeach railway station, cross the level crossing away from the village and take the path through the car park on the right hand side of the road. The path follows the road for a short way until you reach Cow Hollow Wood.
Turn right and follow the path through the centre of the wood. Go through the gate at the other end and follow the path straight on until you reach the river. From here you turn right and follow the river bank towards Cambridge.
This six mile cirular walk takes you through some of the best Cambridgeshire countryside, including part of the Ouse Valley Way.
We start in the centre of Hemmingford Abbotts, next to the Axe and Compass pub. From here, follow the quiet road of Common Lane for approximately a third of a mile until you see a public footpath signpost on your right for “Houghton”. Take this path (down Meadow Lane) and cross the bridge to enter the meadow. Follow the path across the meadow until you reach a small gate and footbridge, next to the river lock at Houghton.
The path continues around a small island until you come out at Houghton Mill. Go through the passage at the mill, and then carry on across the car park. Follow the left hand side of the field until you come to a gate with a sign for the Ouse Valley Way. Turn immediately right after the gate and follow this alleyway for 200 metres until it ends. Turn left for 20 metres then right to continue along the Ouse Valley Way. The path now continues for nearly two miles, past “The Thickett” until you emerge at the back of a Scout hut.
Tucked away in the northern edge of the Cotswolds, this formal garden has a variety separate gardens to suit most tastes.
The resting place of Henry VIII’s wife Katherine Parr, Sudeley Castle is set on the edge of the Cotswold escarpment just above the village of Winchcombe. Split into numerous distinctive individual gardens, it feels like visiting multiple different gardens in quick succession. And the gardens are also home to St Mary’s Church, where Katherine Parr’s body lies.
“The Queen’s Garden” is quite a large formal rose garden, with yew hedges surrounding several rose beds. (continue reading…)
This circular 6.5 mile walk through West Suffolk gives you quintessential English countryside and postcard-perfect villages. Taking in the villages of Gazeley, Dalham and Moulton, the rolling fields are separated by thatched cottages and three beautiful churches.
Start from the village of Gazeley, where there is roadside parking near the church. Take Higham Road (opposite the church entrance) and follow the path that veers off the the right (signposted for the Icknield Way). This path winds through Tithe Close until you go through a small alleyway to reach a gate that opens into a field. Follow the signed path across the fields until you reach a small wood. THe path then ducks into the wood – continue until you reach a crossroads at the far end.
A six mile circular walk, taking in the cliffs of Beachy head with the quiet country tracks of deepest Sussex.
The walk starts at East Dean, either at the Village Hall car park or the adjoining bus stop. From here take the road up to the A259. Cross the road and turn right, going up the hill for 200 metres until a track veers off to the left. Follow this track, which starts of as a driveway to several houses on the left but soon reduces to a grass track through a chalk down. The track gradually climbs until after about a mile you emerge from a hollow to find yourself in the middle of Eastbourne Downs Golf Course.
Turn right and once again cross the A259. The track on the opposite side is slightly to your right, and goes over the brow of a hill to a trig point. From here you have views across the heathland, with ancient woods and the town of Eastborne below you. Bear right at the pond, and follow the track to slowly descend towards the small road junction for Birling Gap. Cross the road, keeping to the seaward side, and continue along the path until you eventualy join the South Downs Way that tracks the coast. If you want a break, you can stop for lunch at The Beachy Head Inn or stop at the Beachy Head visitors centre.
A beautiful and easy 9 mile walk along the Kennet and Avon canal from the centre of Bath to Bradford upon Avon.
Starting from Bath railway station, turn right out of the main entrance and go through the underpass beneath the station. This comes round to a footbridge that crosses the River Avon. Go across the bridge and turn left, following the road until it crosses the canal. Turn right onto the canal towpath and go up past a couple of locks. As the path levels out and you start to go past the backs of houses you catch glimses of the historic centre of Bath across the valley.
The rest of the route follows the tow-path, so it’s very easy to follow. Although it is all along the canal, the character of the walk evolves as you progress. Starting out you feel you are sneaking through the back streets of Bath, seeing a side of the City that many visitors miss. You go through a tunnel underneath an impressive house that straddles the canal, and after a short way emerge from the City to suddenly find yourself in the countryside. (continue reading…)
This is a six mile walk along the western end of the North Norfolk Coastal Path, from Thornham to Hunstanton.Park the car or take the bus to Hunstanton, then get the Coasthopper bus towards Wells and Cromer as far as The Orange Tree pub at Thornham. From the bus stop take the road towards the coast, walking past Thornham church on the right and a mix of traditional cottages. At a fork in the road, bear right and carry on until the road takes a sharp right turn. At this point, turn left and follow the footpath (signed with a National Trail acorn sign). After 50 yards turn right and cross a small footbridge, then continue on the path with grazing fields on your left and saltwater marshes to your right. Keep an eye out for herons who like to stand beside some of the shallow water channels looking for food.
At the end of the path turn right and follow the track for a short distance, before turning left and joining the footpath on top of the sea dyke. As you walk you now have an elevated view across the marshes, where myriad wading birds potter along searching for tasty morsels to eat. The path slowly winds its way along the dyke towards the sand dunes and Holme Bird Observatory. (continue reading…)
I’ve never been a big bird watcher but some birds just have a magical appeal. The Avocet is one of these, and Minsmere is the place to see them.