May 2016

Heading home: two days on the Ridgeway

Growing up in Wiltshire, I must have seen the Ridgeway on many occasions: on family day trips to Avebury, near to its westerly end; on my annual pilgrimage to watch Swindon Town; on school field trips to survey the rare plants on its south-facing chalk slopes.Somehow, that distinctive crest never really registered.Why wonder about hills when the football results were just about to start?Now middle-aged, and living a long way from Wiltshire, I decided it was time to return to my roots and explore a little more deeply.And I also dragged my dad, a patient companion for all those deflating Swindon Town defeats, along for the weekend.Hail and snow greeted us as we arrived at Swindon station.Such weather is not unheard of in the UK in April, but it’s not exactly ideal with two days of walking ahead and few get-out options if we were to reach our bed and breakfast that evening.

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January 2016

The scenic Settle–Carlisle Railway

That’s what the publicity machine tells us, but does it really hold up?And is it as scenic once you are away from the rails?Well, the answer to both questions is a resounding “YES!” The signs at the stations along the line tell of “72 miles of scenic splendour”, but that barely does it justice.The line passes through the Pennine and Cumbrian countryside, full of hills – including the iconic Yorkshire Three Peaks – and valleys, notably the lovely Upper Eden Valley.The trains pass over high viaducts, through tunnels and along riversides rails, wind gently into Carlisle at the northernmost end.Don’t be mistaken; this is no Heritage Line.Yes, there are fairly regular chartered steam trains running along the tracks, and a keen collection of volunteers help to maintain the station buildings in their old ‘Midland Railway’ colours and care for their adjacent gardens.

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December 2015

A fine-looking mountain in Lochaber

And its location halfway along the Lairig Leacach means it has another attribute that every fine mountain needs: a fantastic walk in.Heading out from Spean Bridge station, on the West Highland Line, I trudged along the road by the River Spean, gurgling impressively in nearly full spate.This leads to the hamlet of Insh, about 45 minutes in; all pleasant enough.But once I started heading south along the Allt Leachdach, the real fun began.Cruach Innse and Stob Coire Gaibhre act as the gateposts to one of Scotland’s finest mountain neighbourhoods – beyond these sit the Grey Corries, the Easains and the Mamores.And carving through the middle of them is the Lairig Leacach.The path along this vast glen is an ancient cattle drovers’ road connecting Loch Trieg and Glen Spean.

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Submit a walk and win!

For the July to Septembr 2016 prize draw we are giving away two signed copies of World Tree Story - history and legends of the world's ancient trees by Julian Hight. Following the success of Britain’s Tree Story for National Trust in 2011, Julian Hight set out to capture 100 historic, ancient trees of the world for his most recent project. He travelled extensively, from the UK to New Zealand and Australia, Japan to the USA, across Europe and Scandinavia, sourcing the subjects from archive engravings and photographs, and re-photographed them in the present day to add historic context. more

Each submitted walks increases your chance to win!