September 2016

Familiar ground

During six years living in Brighton, the South Downs doubled as my backyard: peaceful hikes around Telscombe and Castle Hill; regular jaunts over to Lewes; taking visitors to Arundel and the Seven Sisters.And many, many weekends spent hunting for lost DofE groups anywhere from Washington to Beachy Head.But in all that time, I never manged to do what most people do on the Downs – tick off a long linear stretch in one day.It was time to right that wrong, and so, with an August day to spare before a family event in London, I got on the train and set off to enjoy these sea-gazing hills once more.Beyond the fixed starting point of Amberley station, I left the day’s plans open-ended.The coastal railway that runs parallel to the Downs meant it would be easy to reach London the next day, so I simply aimed to walk east for as long as the daylight allowed and pitch camp wherever I finished.

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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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Submit a walk and win!

For the October to December 2016 prize draw we are giving away five copies of 'West Somerset Railway Country Walks from our stations' by Malcolm and Natalie Short, along with an extra seasonal gift of a Car Free Walks fleece hat. more

Each submitted walks increases your chance to win!