We asked some of England’s many devoted ramblers to share their favourite seasonal strolls with us.
Time for a seasonal stroll through some stunning countryside? We’ve asked some experts to share their favourite rambles for those gorgeous winter days, from short walks to long old hikes.
Rutland Water, Rutland – Julia Bradbury
One of my favourite winter walks takes place around Rutland Water, close to my family home. After a nice hot chocolate at Barnsdale Lodge Hotel we head up the hill towards Fort Henry and Fort Henry lake. The walk takes you through beautiful countryside including a bluebell wood, parkland and the historic Normanton Church, which is half-submerged under Rutland Water.
Rutland is where I grew up; it’s a wonderful place and it constantly changes. The reservoir itself is so vast, it’s like being at the seaside. I usually do a 10-mile loop that takes all day (with a picnic stop), but it can be broken down into so many smaller chunks, each having its own little treasures. I enjoy walking in winter because it provides a perfect dose of fresh, crisp air, it keeps you fit and healthy, and it’s good for the soul.
Julia Bradbury is a well-known TV presenter, broadcaster and outdoor enthusiast.
Conistone Dib and Conistone Pie, North Yorkshire – Martin Wainwright
The Conistone Dib and Conistone Pie walk starts in a marvellous little gorge like an outlaws’ den in a western. No way out, apparently, but the narrow path slips between limestone cliffs to a grassy meadow, then up a brief scramble and out on the airy, sheep-nibbled grass of Wharfedale’s northern flank. Wonderful views stretch from the River Skirfare tumbling down Littondale to the frowning brow of Kilnsey Crag. The ‘Dib’ is the fell; the ‘Pie’ is, well, let’s say you’ll spot it straight away. A fun and exhilarating warm-up on a chilly day, the walk is excellently close to the Tennant Arms in Kilnsey.
Martin Wainwright is the author of The Coast to Coast Walk (Aurum).
Stanage Edge, Derbyshire – Yvonne Witter
On a bright and crisp Saturday morning, off I go up the hill onto green land, greeted by sheep. I stop to gaze awhile at the tranquility that surrounds me. My route takes me past the North Lees estate. Along the trail, my feet play the keyboard of the fallen brown, orange and chocolate leaves, like the melodious tunes of a gospel choir singing at North Lees Hall. I ascend towards the top of Stanage Edge, watching as climbers handle their ropes, clinging on to the rocks. I breathe and inhale the crisp air into my lungs. This is truly nature’s medicine.
As I rest on top of a beautiful carved rock, I slowly drink my special homemade brewed ginger tea with buttered scones and a ripe banana.
Yvonne Witter is a former Friends of the Peak District trustee and Mosaic community champion for the Campaign for National Parks.
Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire – Jonathan Agnew
The local cows are kept in their barns during winter so walking my dogs is a pleasure. I’ve a springer, a cocker and a black Labrador and they love tramping through the open fields and woodland, and all along the disused railway lines in the countryside just north of Melton Mowbray. I enjoy walking at any time of year, but there’s something about the air in this part of the country during winter – it’s clean, fresh and clear. Even when it’s cold and windy, there’s something great about getting home and the tingly sensation that comes with getting warm.
I generally walk for about an hour and I’ll frequently see rabbits, hares and foxes. You can clear your head and think, it gives you a sense of proportion, and I meet people on the way and stop for a chat.
Jonathan Agnew is a broadcaster and former professional cricketer.
Murton Pike, Cumbria – Helen Skelton-Myler
My favourite winter walk is straight up and down the Murton Pike fell. You look right along the Pennines and at the top – if it’s a good day – you can see right across Cumbria. It’s a steep incline so you get a good puff on, and have to work hard to get to the top, but it’s worth it: you feel like you’ve worked for the view.
I’ve been going up there for years. I like to take the dog and, if possible, a friend. It’s near my childhood home and two of my oldest friends live near the bottom. If one of my pals is back, it’s a great chance to catch up. We can get through a lot of gossip on the walk. I prefer being outside to indoors and I don’t like sitting still.
Former Blue Peter presenter Helen Skelton-Myler is the author of children’s adventure novel Amy Wild: Amazon Summer (Corgi).
Sutton Bridge, Lincolnshire – Peter Owen Jones
The uncompromising desolation of the Fens is remarkable in winter. It feels like stepping into another reality. From Sutton Bridge you can follow the River Nene out beyond the two lighthouses and onto the Wash, walking the high banks of the river. It isn’t far, but the walk can take as long as you wish to give it; if you want to immerse yourself in the spirit of winter there’s no better place. The landscape feels very desolate as you’re whipped by the wind coming in from Russia. The only life you’ll see is the oystercatchers, the odd peregrine and seals out on the mudflats. Their baleful, haunting calls make it all the more atmospheric.
For me, a solitary walk comes into its own at this time of year, when the beauty of the area is brutal and majestic.
Rev Peter Owen Jones is a presenter and author of Pathlands: Tranquil Walks Through Britain (Rider).
This article, or a version of it, was originally published in CPRE’s award-winning magazine, Countryside Voices. You’ll have Countryside Voices sent to your door three times a year, as well as access to other benefits including discounts on attraction visits and countryside kit from major high street stores, when you join as a CPRE member. Join us now.