The Nation’s Favourite Walks

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One of the idiosyncrasies of working with children is that I often get asked about my favourite colour, football team, pet, number and so on. Generally, I have pat answers ready: favourite colour – blue, which is the sky, obviously, but also Bluebells, Spring Gentians and the shirts worn by Leicester City, the football team which I somewhat half-heartedly follow. Favourite TV programme – ‘The Wire’, favourite record – ‘Hercules’ by Aaron Neville. favourite number – 1729 because of the anecdote about the mathematicians Hardy and Ramanujan, favourite film – Terry Gilliam’s ‘Brazil’, favourite novel – ‘A Suitable Boy’ – by Vikram Seth, favourite mathematician – Leonhard Euler, but, sadly, I never get asked that one. All of these are trite, stock responses which avoid the decent into endless lists of possible candidates which is probably often what the questions were meant to elicit, in order to derail the lesson and provide a lull in the learning, a bit of light relief amid the serious business of getting to grips with mathematics.

If that is the aim, then the wrong question is being asked: I have no prepared, rehearsed reply to the query: ‘What is your favourite walk?’. Which is why the following message, which I received on my blog last week, has really set me to thinking:

“My name is Luke Rufo and I am the producer and director for a new ITV1 programme called The Nations 100 favourite walks (TBC). We are looking for people who have a connection or story with a particular walk anywhere in the UK and hoped you could help get the word out there. I noticed your blog and wondered if you’d be interested in speaking to me on the phone about your passion for walking and what your favourite walk is?

If you’re not interested in appearing I wonder if you might post the info below to your website or even pass this on to any other walking groups in the UK that might have some unsung heroes and stories that they might share with us.

A New ITV1 programme “The Nations 100 Favourite Walks” (TBC) is looking for walkers across the UK with interesting stories to tell about their favourite walks. The programme would have a mix of local stories set in their favourite walks and there will also be various celebrities who show us their favourite walks too.

We aim to film all over the UK at various walks and we are looking for stories of people who have an emotional connection to a particular walk. We want as many types of stories as possible but to give you an idea of the kinds of stories we are looking for see below:-
Man staves off dementia by walking up and down a mountain everyday.
A couple have done the same walk for the past 30 years
Mountain rescue saved a families lives
Our family business has thrived because of walkers for the past X years
I lost my significant other x years ago but still do this walk to remind me of them.
I’m sure there are many stories and great characters you know about that are connected in some way with a particular walk. We are hoping to begin filming in the next few weeks and all throughout October.

I look forward to hearing back from you to see if it would be possible to put our details out to people or even speak about your own experiences.”

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Naturally, this has had me thinking about favourite walks. I’d already been thinking at least in a similar vein, reflecting on my walks over the last few years (well almost 10 years) having hit something of a milestone with my 1000th blogpost a few posts back. My walk up in Teesdale earlier this year, from which the photograph of the Spring Gentians is taken, sprang to mind. But then I was reflecting back, further and further into the past and recalling numerous previous outings, many from long before I started the blog : wild days in the Fannichs and on Creag Meaghaidh; or the first clear day on my first winter trip to Scotland, snow-clad mountains and long narrow sea-lochs receding into the distance in both directions, seemingly without end; or before that my first sight of the apparent alien landscape of Kinder Scout; or, even further back in the mists of time, trips to Dovedale with my parents and my grandmother.

Mulling over a whole host of cherished memories, I thought of the day during our walk from home to Keswick, when A and I crossed from Ambleside to Borrowdale (above) and I was busy again, skimming through the long multi-day walks I’ve done over the years, and the people I’ve walked them with right back to the first, the Pennine Way, which I walked with my Dad in 1985. Now I was thinking that, if I had to chose a favourite walk, it would have to be a longer one, which narrowed the field considerably, but still didn’t seem to make the task any easier.

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Seeking a second opinion, I asked A what was her favourite walk, and she threw back ‘Helvellyn‘, which we climbed back at Easter, without any hesitation, but then immediately backtracked by deciding that the walk from our doorstep up to the Pepper Pot, past ‘The Climbing Tree’ might need consideration as a rival for Striding Edge.

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Here she is, in The Climbing Tree, from a few years ago now.

In thinking of a walk close to home, special because of its familiarity, I think that A was much closer to the remit than I had been. I was thinking of particular days and the weather conditions they brought, the company I kept on those days, she was considering a longer term relationship with a route.

When I asked TBH for her favourite she instantly hit upon the walk which should have occurred to me: our annual walk up Carn Fadryn, with a gaggle of old friends, during our summer trips to the Llyn Peninsula, on or around Little S’s birthday. To him it’s simply ‘Birthday Hill’. We were there on his birthday this year. Here…

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..he’s cutting his cake, three years ago. And this is another three years before that…

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Three years before that, and walking was still a delightful novelty for S…

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Although he was a passenger for his, and our, first trip up Carn fadryn..

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I’m fortunate, in that I often get to climb a hill on my own birthday, a sort of tradition, which I stick to whenever I’m able.

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Even the list of hills which I’ve climbed on my birthday would be hard to whittle down to one favourite. There have been some crackers: Liathach, Crinkle Crags, Coniston Old Man (above) among others. Snow-chilled champagne on a glorious spring day on Beinn Bhan above Glenn Loy with my brother will be a tough one to top. But good though they were, I’m slightly envious of Little S’s own Birthday Hill. It’s a modest walk up a fairly small hill, but the views are stunning, the bilberries are sweet and the company is always superb. I think I have my stock answer now, and it’s a pretty fine walk to choose.

Incidentally, if you want to contact Mr Rufo about the programme, I have contact details. I wasn’t sure whether to share them on the internet, but if you leave a comment requesting details I should be able to send them to you privately.

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The Nation’s Favourite Walks

17 thoughts on “The Nation’s Favourite Walks

  1. OK, this might sound like a bit of a boast and I suppose it is.

    In 1991 I walked from Shap to Ravenglass. I found the walk in The big Walks by Ken Wilson and Richard Gilbert – here is the itinerary:

    17th June 1991

    Depart Shap – 5:20am
    Long Sleddale
    Old Corpse Road
    Riggindale
    High Street
    Patterdale
    Grisedale
    Dunmail Raise
    Steel Fell
    HighRaise
    Angle Tarn
    Eskdale to bottom of Hardknotts
    Muncaster Fell
    Ravenglass

    42 miles – 17.5 hours.

    As I walked into Ravenglass a guy was tending the garden of his guest house. He enquired as to where I had walked from – his reply, “Oh! My friend put that walk in the book. We often wondered if it could be done in one day!”

    He turned out to be Roger Putnam and had been at Oxford with my friend Gimmer who comments here. I was informed that there were no trains home on Sunday, so Barney, my Springer, and I stayed the night with Roger.

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      Worth boasting about! I’ve just picked up a copy of Harry Griffin’s ‘Freeman of the Hills’, and only read the introduction to date, in which he throws out all manner of excellent ideas, one of which is to walk across the lakes from East to West or South to North. I’ve been thinking about your route all day and had to lay my hands on my copy of ‘The Big Walks’ before I replied. I’ve very much enjoyed leafing through it again. I thought I might list the walks in there that I’d done, by way of a bit of boasting of my own, but was very surprised to discover that there are quite a few. The book is actually my Dad’s and in a way I feel like it shaped my teenage years to a certain extent. With my Dad and his friends I walked half of the Lyke Wake Walk, then all of the Derwent Watershed, the Yorkshire Three Peaks, more than once, then the Welsh Threes with my Scout group (well, ultimately without them, because on a scorching June day, the rest fell by the wayside). When I started going to Scotland with Uni friends I must have had the Big Walks at least subconsciously in mind when I set out to walk, for example, the big ridges either side of Kintail in full winter conditions. I have walked across the lakes a few times, but always over several days. I’m not sure about trying to knock off 42 miles in a day, but I’d like to have a go at a weekend crossing sometime and will have a great deal of fun over the next few days plotting various possible routes. Thanks Conrad!

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      Well, yes! If I’m not writing posts to distract you, myself, and one or two other interested members of the cognoscenti, then I can’t think why the hell else I’m writing them!
      I’m tempted to ask which important stuff – watching The Italian Job? 😀

  2. Love this idea for a programme. Its a simple answer, its the walk you do most, the one you always enjoy (otherwise you wouldn’t do it). In my case one I do every year, at least once. Its great for around Christmas, and can be done on my own or with others. it has everything in this walk, a bit of moorland, a great view, steep rocks, granite, an old tramway and quarry, history, woodland, two bridges and and cracking river.
    https://treksandtors.co/2016/10/16/cadover-bridge-shaugh-bridge-and-wigford-down/

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      This leads me back to another great debate which has rumbled on and off on this blog over the years: the constituent parts of a ‘good day on the hoof’. Variety is definitely key and “a bit of moorland, a great view, steep rocks, granite, an old tramway and quarry, history, woodland, two bridges and and cracking river” sounds just the ticket.
      I can’t decided whether I agree or not about the walk you do the most – for me that’s a circuit down to the local cove and then across some limestone meadows called the lots. It’s lovely, but short and perhaps a bit too familiar. What ever the answer, it’s a great question to think about.

      1. I guess my answer of walk I do most is not quite right. The walk I’ve picked is my default walk. The one that I never hesitate to do. It has everything I want. I always go back and do it, at least once a year (something you cannot do with lots of walks/places. its a circuit, which can be reversed which helps, plus its the nearest place on Dartmoor to my house. Its great at all times of year and can be done as an evening walk, giving you lots of conditions, again not everywhere can be accessible in all conditions. The walk I’ve mentioned is my favourite as it was the first place I went to when I started walking properly in 2008

        1. beatingthebounds says:

          Ah! I’m lucky in that my parents got me into walking early. We had walks which I suppose were our standard go to choices for special days out: Dovedale, Bradgate Park, Cannock Chase – and I still feel great affection for all of those places, even though I haven’t been to any of them for many years. When I lived in Manchester, I relied on public transport or lifts from friends and again, I had several first choice walks based on where was easy to get to, generally in the Dark Peak, and I still think of them as favourites although, again, I haven’t been back to those places for years. These days, I’m not sure I really have a standard first choice which I would walk every year, apart from the walks on our doorstep. Bit too spoiled for choice I suppose. Perhaps the walk from Skelwith Bridge past Elterwater over into Little Langdale comes closest, because it’s varied (like yours) and reliable in any season or any weather.

  3. What a tough choice. Been thinking about this all day. I think A has it right that it should be a route with some emotional connection rather than just a great day of walking. A route perhaps you’d always return to, turning down new routes in the process. Carn Fadryn most definitely fits that bill as does the walk around the coast to Arnside and back over the Knott. I associate both with good memories. More local it would the circuit of The Black Mountain. Perhaps the North Ridge of Tryfan, Bristly Ridge and the Glyders. The Corridor Route on Scafell Pike. Buckbarrow. Strangely I can’t bring to mind one in Scotland that fits that criteria. Great idea though. One to talk about over a few beers some time

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      Yes – Bleaklow from Old Glossop because I walked it so many times. Or Tryfan and the Glyders for the same reason, the walk around Elterwater taking in Skelwith Force and Colwith Force, which I think is my next post and which I’ve done (in various slight variants) many, many times in all weathers. A walk/swim/scramble into Upper Eskdale. In Scotland, Ben More Coigach springs to mind. I think I’ve been up there three times, but all of those walks were magnificent. Likewise the Ptarmigan(sp?) ridge. And the Mamores. And the area around Derry Lodge. I’m very fond of the corpse road between Ambleside and Grasmere. Blencathra. Lots of walks around Patterdale where I’ve spent a lot of time over the years, particularly Place Fell, but, I’m with A, also Helvellyn which I’ve climbed a lot, though probably not as often as you.
      This could run and run….

      1. Ah, Old Glossop > Dowstone Clough > Bleaklow > Doctors Gate, and then Wildboar Clough > Bleaklow Stones > Barrow Stones > Grinah Stones and the one of the Back Cloughs (as long as you are there at twenty past six). Eskdale > Ravensglass Railway > Muncaster Fell (in sandals). Pillar via the High Level traverse, Ben Nevis via the CMD arete; Ben Starav in Glen Etive.

        This could go on and on, my brain is still ticking

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