Walks And Walking – Top 10 Walking Tips And Advice
As Spring is just around the corner and, hopefully, New Year’s Resolutions of getting fit in 2012 are still being upheld I thought I would write a quick guide to ensure safe and happy walking with a few tips and general advice. As I live just outside Epping Forest a lot of my walks and through the ancient woodlands and surrounding countryside of Epping and Essex. I love Cornwall so really enjoy coastal walking as well as spending all my holidays on walking trips with the family, although I normally end up going for very long walks on my own!
1. The first, and far most important, is to ensure that you follow the Countryside Code. Be safe, plan ahead and keep to the signs, signposts, waymarkers, public footpaths, bridleways and permissive pathways. Once I decided to cut through some private farmland to seek out some Fallow Deer I had been trying to track in Epping Forest and was presented to two burley farmers with shotguns. I don’t do that anymore that’s for sure!
2. Always leave gates and property as you find them. If a gate is closed when you find it then leave it closed when you pass through it. Protect plants and animals, especially when walking across farmland or grazing pastures, and always take your litter home with you.
3. Keeps dogs under control and clean up after them. All too often I spend most of my time walking trying to avoid dogs mess on pathways used by dog walkers. I love dogs, but my wife doesn’t so always consider other people if you are walking your dog as there is nothing more frightening than having a dog bound over to you foaming at the mouth with excitement, even if it is just a loveable labrador!
4. When leaving for your walk try to plan your walking clothes for any eventuality. If it’s a long hillwalk then pack some extra layers, gloves and a hat incase it turns cold and if it’s just a short woodland or coastal walk then pack a good waterproof jacket just in case of a downpour or shower. The weather in the UK can change very suddenly so be prepared for the worst conditions for the type of walking route you are planning to do.
5. If you are walking to lose weight then set off on a gentle pace and then try to pick up the pace as you warm in to the walk. I average about 2.5 miles per hour, so 10 miles takes me 4 hours, on a fairly average type of walk. Hillwalking, mountain ascents and some coastal walks and relentless climbs up and then down, up and down, up and down so the actual distance can be quite deceptive. Check the gradients on your walking map to see how tough the walk is likely to be. If you are walking for interest and are in no rush then keep a steady and comfortable pace to end the walk as fresh as you started it. Personally, I like to feel absolutely shattered after a good walk, it gives me a bizarre sense of achievement!
6. If you are going to plan a walking route of over 10 miles or so then maintain a steady pace and try not to stop or have too many breaks. It makes restarting the walk so much more difficult and exhausting. I do stop quite frequently on my walks to either catch my breath for a minute or two, or take a few photographs and maybe a short video fo the views. Stopping for too long, or taking off your walking boots or walking shoes to check your blisters or sort your socks out means you disrupt your rhythm and it will then take you about a mile or so to settle back down in to the flow of your walking route.
7. Try not to count the miles or be downhearted by steep climbs and ascents. I focus on how great I’m going to feel when I get to the top of the hill or the end of the walk. A really engaging walk is when you get to the end with a big smile on your face and think “Wow, that was great!” Walking should be a joy and not a struggle. Walking downhill can also be tough, especially on wet or steep descents. Keep a slow pace, make sure each foothold is secure and use walking poles to keep your balance.
8. Switch off your mobile phone or iPod and enjoy the sounds of the countryside or some light chatter if walking with friends or family. Breath that countryside in! Smell the flora and fauna, listen to bird song, the sound of the wind through the trees and the river flow. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife, there’s plenty of it out there. Enjoy the world around you and explore the history of the area; the buildings, the churches, the ancient camps, castle ruins etc.
9. Regularly check your walking gear. Now is also the time I look at replenishing my walking wardrobe and make sure all my walking clothes, walking boots and walking accessories are in good order. Keep a list of walking essentials and keep them stocked up. I have a small pack of bits that I take with me on every walk; plasters, medicated wipes, chewing gum, snacks, tissues, water etc.
10. Don’t forget your map! On each section of my planned walking routes I have my map in front of me and frequently check my compass. I have a Casio compass watch that does a good job of telling me which way North is and with my terrible sense of direction I am constantly checking my map to make sure I’m still walking along the right tracks. Most walks are quite well signposted but they can be intermittent. There can also be some contradictions between the route shown on a walking guide, an Ordnance Survey Map or the natural direction of the pathway you are on! As I like to plot my own walking routes I always stick to what’s shown on the Ordnance Survey Map – that’s my proof I’m definitely going the right way.
So, in summary; be safe, be sensible, plan ahead, enjoy and respect the countryside and you’ll see, hear, sense and smell some fantastic experiences when out walking.