BEST OF BRITAIN • June 2020
From dramatic clifftops to flower-filled fields to leafy city streets, The Club team reveal their favourite British strolls to clear the mind, exercise the body and cleanse the soul. Just make sure to check for any local restrictions before you set off
Says who? Hannah Ralph,The Club deputy editor
The drive along the M6 toward the Lake District National Park sees Lancastrian pastures turn into Cumbrian hills on either side. Most will turn left at Junction 36 into the touristy South Lakes, but carry on to 37, head right, and you’re in the Howgill Fells. Wedged between the Lakes and the Dales, and quieter than both, the Howgills offer fresh-air addicts undulating valleys, forgotten barns and the occasional wandering Herdwick for company. Even on a summer’s day, you can go for miles without seeing another soul. Stroll, hike, or power your way to the Howgill’s highest point, the Calf, via Cautley Spout. This unsuspecting waterfall is not only England’s highest, but also a beautiful picnic spot to tuck into a cheese hamper from the Wensleydale Creamery, just a 30-minute drive away.
Top tip: Winner of best hotel in i newspaper’s Staycation Awards, Brownber Hall is a two-hour walk from Cautley Spout and a modern, bucolic base from which to explore the Howgills. Keep an eye on its social media for a reopening announcement.
Says who? Bryony Coleman, The Club copy editor
When poet John Betjeman wrote about the “golden and unpeopled bays” of north Cornwall, he hadn’t reckoned on the stampede of surfers chasing white-horse waves, second homers worshipping the dramatic scenery (think Gordon Ramsey and 50 Shades’ EL James), or Poldark fans hoping to glimpse Aidan Turner with his top off. That said, there’s enough wild moorland, craggy clifftop and battered shoreline to put the rest of the world on hold. Start at the vast, sandy Polzeath beach and follow the gentle Greenaway coastal path southwards, past coves sheltered by purple-and-green-striped rocks, including Daymer Bay (one of the few local beaches where dogs are welcome). To your right are jaw-dropping views across the Camel estuary to Padstow (wryly nicknamed Padstein by locals in homage to the chef Rick Stein). Rounding Brea Hill, head through the sand dunes to the green serenity of St Enodoc Golf Course.
Top tip: Visit John Betjeman’s grave in St Enodoc churchyard by the 11th hole of the golf course. The tiny sunken 15th-century church was once so enveloped by sand dunes that the congregation had to enter through the roof.
Says who? Ross Clarke, The Club contributing editor
It took 17 years to build, covers 186 miles of coastline and turns 50 this year. Now part of the Wales Coast Path – the only walk in the world to span an entire country’s coastline – the Pembroke Coast Path is arguably its most diverse stretch. With sprawling sandy beaches, vertiginous headlands and crags, charming seaside towns and abundant wildlife, it’s easy to see why the area is a designated national park. To complete the whole path would take more than a fortnight but it is easily broken down into manageable sections. Start at its most easterly point, Amroth, and walk west via the pretty harbour towns of Saundersfoot and Tenby to Lydstep and Manorbier. You’ll come across spectacular views of the Gower peninsula (the UK’s first Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty), Pendine (former home to the land speed record) and Caldey Island (one of the UK’s holy islands and home to Cistercian monks).
Top tip: Tenby is known for its small streets and candy-coloured houses and is the best place en route to stop for sustenance. Try the Loafley Bakery and Deli for cakes, biscuits and crunchy sourdough.
Says who? Anisha Patel, The Club content strategist
Set on the southern fringes of London, this fragment of ancient chalk grasslands is my go-to when I want a slice of the deep country without leaving the confines of the M25. Join the 3.2-mile circular loop on the wind-swept Farthing Downs – where you can catch the London skyline gleaming in the distance – then follow the craggy chalk paths (sturdy boots are a must) down through secluded farmland, patchwork fields and shaded woods speckled with wildflowers. The big reveal comes when you loop back from the village of Chaldon and drop through a narrow belt of woodland into the aptly-named Happy Valley – a serene grassy downland that’s made for picturesque picnics and moments of mindful reflection.
Top tip: Be sure to pop into the Church of St Peter and St Paul near Chaldon. Mentioned in the Domesday book, it’s home to a remarkable 12th-century mural of Jacob’s Ladder. And if you’re there on a Sunday in summer between 3-4pm, you might be treated to tea and cake.
Says who? Carl Harrison, The Club picture editor
Overlooking Ben Nevis, the glens and moorland that were the training ground for Churchill’s elite fighters during World War II is the Commando Memorial. The statue (pictured) is dedicated to soldiers who have lost their lives in conflict and, with its evocative setting, is a photogenic starting point to this lovely walk. A gentle pathway weaves through silver birch woods, across wooden footbridges and through kissing gates. As you follow part of General Wade’s military road, keep an eye out for red squirrels, osprey and the elusive pine martin. After an hour or so, you’ll find yourself in the pretty village of Spean Bridge and the mill, where you can rest weary feet and gorge on homemade cake.
Top tip: At the adjacent Highland Soap Company shop, stock up on skincare made from locally harvested honeysuckle and wild nettle.
Says who? Olivia Berry, The Club content editor
With its quiet, leafy streets and charming residential feel, it’s little wonder artists and writers have called London’s Canonbury home for decades. These include George Orwell, whose residence from 1944 to 1947 at 27B Canonbury Square is a great place to start. Not only did Orwell begin writing 1984 in this very spot, he even completed part of it in the garden of The Canonbury Tavern just minutes away. From here, continue along Canonbury Park South before looping back on to New River Path. This scenic trail follows the course of a 17th-century aqueduct, originally built to bring fresh drinking water to North London from Hertfordshire. It’s still in use today, and this Islington pocket captures the grassy, 5km ‘heritage’ stretch of it. New River Walk is a reworking of the original channel, shaded by whistling trees, embellished with rock gardens and brimming with local wildlife.
Top tip: As you head south towards the end of the trail by Canonbury Road, keep your eyes peeled for a small stone hut thought to have once belonged to a watchman.