Walks And Walking – Winter Walks In London And The South East
If you are looking for the best coastal paths, inland countryside tracks and winter walks in London and the South East then check out this list that I found on the National Trust website. I’ve also added some of my own recommended walking routes.
Hampshire Walks and the Isle of Wight
No walking trip to Hampshire is complete without a visit to the Isle of Wight and if you’re feeling really adventurous you can walk the entire circumference of the island in a good few days, or if you start in the centre of the island at Newport you can cut cross country straight through to the Needles via the Tennyson Trail; one of my absolute favourite walks.
The National Trust recommends visiting the East and West of the Isle of Wight starting with Compton Bay, which offers a shorter coastal walking route to the Needles than the Tennyson Trail. You also get to enjoy more of the highly popular sandy beach of the bay when walking down through the National Nature Reserve from the dramatic cliff-tops of the Needles Headland. At the opposite end of the Isle of Wight is Bembridge where there are plenty of walks across Bembridge Down, Bembridge Fort with some delightful stops at St Helens Duver or even as far round towards Ryde as Puckpool Park.
Mottisfont Abbey is located near Romsey in Hampshire and is a historical abbey and country estate sheltered in the valley of the River Test. They offer guided and self guided walks around the estate with a good variety of woodland, wetland and farmland walking routes. The Vyne is a 16th-century country house, with stained glass Tudor chapel, outside Sherborne St John near Basingstoke that also offers woodland and wetland walking routes with a mix of long and short walks across way marked trails.
If you like your walking to be across rough terrain then the New Forest is well worth a visit, especially to see the many horses and cattle grazing throughout this beautiful sprawling wilderness with plenty to explore. The National Trust New Forest Northern Commons offers a really varied landscape of woodland, heathland, mire and grassland.
If you like your walks white and chalky then when you’ve finished up at the Needles head back to the mainland for some great coastal walks along the chalky White Cliffs of Dover or inland towards the White Horse of Folkestone. The Folkestone to Dover coastal walk is a real classic and another great walk that I really enjoyed was from Herne Bay to the Reculver Towers and Roman Fort.
Greensand Way is one of the key walking routes in Kent and includes areas such as Toys Hill, a lovely little hamlet near Sevenoaks offering 200 acres of unspoilt woodland and stunning views over the Weald. Toys Hill is also the start of the Octavia Hill centenary trail, dedicated to the founder of the National Trust. Ide Hill is also in Sevenoaks and stands on one of the highest points of the sandstone ridge walking route and the Greensand Way, perfect for long or short walks in beautiful woodlands.
Other great woodland walks include Chartwell near Westerham, the Greensand Way at Mariners Hill near Edenbridge as well as One Tree Hill which offers a vast network of woodland paths with more wonderful views over the Weald. Ightham Mote is a medieval moated manor house surrounded by farmland and woodland, perfect for a winter walk but also worth keeping a note of for spring when it’s a great place to see bluebells.
Scotney Castle is an English country house with formal gardens south-east of Lamberhurst in the valley of the River Bewl in Kent with plenty of parkland, woodland and farmland. There are plenty of long and short walks at Scotney Castle with sheep, cattle, oast houses and a den building in the heart of the woods. Another castle in Kent worth visiting is Sissinghurst Castle in Cranbrook with it’s offering of splendid views across the Weald, farmland, woodland, glades and Lakes. Last, but by no means least, is Petts Wood and Hawkwood in Chislehurst – a wide open space with plenty to explore.
Devil’s Dyke is a 100m deep V-shaped valley on the South Downs Way in southern England, near Brighton and Hove. Devil’s Dyke was a major local tourist attraction in the late 19th and early 20th century. Close by is Saddlescombe Farm, a working farm also near to Brighton.
The South Downs National Park is the backbone of some really stunning walks in Sussex including unspoilt chalk cliffs at Birling Gap and the Seven Sisters, near Eastbourne and the Cuckmere Valley river walks. Ditchling Beacon is the third-highest point on the South Downs in south-east England, behind Butser Hill and Crown Tegleaze with Blackcap also offering great views and open downland plus a secret woodland too.
Cissbury Ring, located in West Sussex, is the largest hill fort in Sussex with over 5,000 years of history and on a clear day you can see all the way to the chalk cliffs beyond Brighton and to the Isle of Wight. Towards Chichester is the tranquil Rother Valley, at Woolbeding with it’s wild and open commons, parkland, riverside walks and woods. Close by Chichester is East Head, one of the best beaches in Sussex to walk and if you’re lucky, spot a seal.
There are also some great walks around Slindon Estate in Arundel with plenty of woodland, downland, farmland, parkland and a visit to the Flint Folly is highly recommended. Arundel Castle and Park is brilliant for walking and it’s worth having a look around Hiornes Tower. Lavington Common near Midhurst, Marley Common and Black Down, near Haslemere offer good woodland and heathland walks with Black Down being the highest point in the South Downs National Park, where you can meander around the many ancient tracks.
Box Hill is a summit of the North Downs in Surrey taking its name from the ancient box woodland found on the steepest west-facing chalk slopes overlooking the River Mole. Denbies Hillside, Polesden Lacey and Leith Hill are all near Dorking with plenty of walks available on each part of the North Downs. The Wey is a tranquil waterway running through the heart of Surrey. There are 20 miles to enjoy on foot or by boat down the River Wey and the Godalming Navigations, with beautiful scenery and plenty of wildlife en route. Polesden Lacey, near Dorking takes in stunning views and includes woodland and farmland. Pick up a walks leaflet to help you explore. You may spot lambs, sheep or cattle grazing in the fields.
Hindhead Common and the Devils Punch Bowl are both in Hindhead and in Reigate there’s Reigate Hill and Fort, and at Gatton Park there are lush pastures, mighty trees, sparkling lakes and a circular walk which all adds up to a relaxing day out. Swan Barn Farm, Witley and Milford Commons are all near Haslemere; known as the gateway to some of Surrey and Sussex’s finest countryside. Runnymede in Egham is famous as the site of the sealing of Magna Carta as well as its historic meadows and riverside walks.
Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Walks
The Chiltern Hills form a chalk escarpment in South East England where you can explore a varied landscape of open downs and woodland across the Chilterns. The Ashridge Estate enjoys fantastic displays of autumn colour and springtime bluebells, panoramic views from the top of the Bridgewater Monument and plenty of wildlife. The Buscot and Coleshill Estates, near Swindon offer circular walks and a series of footpaths criss-crossing the estates. They take in the countryside at Coleshill Park, the River Thames at Buscot and an Iron Age hill fort at Badbury Hill.
The rolling downland of Uffington is steeped in legend as well as ancient remains, including the internationally-renowned Bronze-Age Uffington White Horse. Set in a rolling Chiltern hillside, the estate at Greys Court in Henley-on-Thames offers a diverse mix of farmland and woodland. In the Hughenden Manor estate in High Wycombe you can enjoy 4 way-marked walks covering 700 acres of countryside and woodland.
Cliveden near Maidenhead in Buckinghamshire has extensive woodland lining the steep hills above the Thames where you can easily explore miles of paths with stunning views over the gardens and surrounding countryside. Nestled in a beautiful valley on the Berkshire Downs surrounded by woodland is Ashdown House which highlights include frequent deer sightings and a tree trail through the woods. Situated in the picturesque Chiltern Hills is Bradenham Woods and Village, this group of popular beauty spots offers fabulous walking opportunities.
The remaining walks are all within the easy reach of London
Petersham Meadows has been used to graze cattle since the 15th century and offers lovely walks to Ham House in Richmond, West London. Osterley House and Park in Isleworth is one of the last surviving country estates in London, with plenty of space for walking. If you really want to enjoy a good walk in London then you can always try the many different walking routes that make up the London Loop. And, of course, there is no greater winter walk for me than a trip up to Epping Forest.