Friday, 14 December 2012

Podcast Edition 012 - Show Notes

Edition 12 of the Walks Around Britain podcast is a special dedicated to helping you with Christmas with some top gifts ideas for walking and outdoor people.  If you're still searching for Christmas gift inspiration, then perhaps you'll find some here...

Mountain House navigation courses

These make a great gift for any outdoor person.  Join their popular Hill and Moorland Navigation courses based in the Derbyshire Peak District.  They offer a range of 1 day courses, with a flexible and individual approach designed for both novice and more experienced walkers.  For more info, visit their website


Quality camping people Outwell have some fantastic gifts suitable for Christmas presents - despite Andrew's initial hesitancy...  How about the On Air Digital Radio for instance?  Find out all about the products Clive talked about by visiting their website.

Mendip Hills AONB "8 Wild Walks"

The walks, devised by local landscape ecologist Adrian Boots, range from just over 2 miles (4km) to just over 7 miles (12km) take you through a wide variety of landscape types in the Mendip Hills AONB including steep scarp slopes with impressive views across the Levels, windswept plateau criss-crossed with dry stone walls, valley village to lakeside and all with the opportunity to see a variety of wildlife that will change according to the seasons. The guide also includes fascinating facts on plants and wildlife and where to look out for them.

For details of all the stockists and for how to order by mail, visit

Treasure Trails

Treasure Trails create fun and unique ways to get outside and explore.  They currently have over 1,000 Treasure Trails throughout the UK and are writing more every day.

For more information about the trails on offer, visit their website

Chocolate Fish Merino

For all things Merino, click on the Chocolate Fish Merino website here.

And for a good read, check out their blog -

From High Heels to High Hills

From the pen of one of the familiar voices from the Walks Around Britain podcast, Tanya Oliver's first book tells the story of her passion for the mountains of the Lake District and how she’s conquered them - in her own style.

Well worth a read :)

To order from Amazon click here, and to find Tanya's blog, visit here.

Scotland End to End

Documenting the recently opened Scottish National Trail, Cameron McNeish's new book is a great read - and a fantastic guide to the 470 mile route between Kirk Yetholm and Cape Wrath.

As one of the driving forces behind the trail, Cameron is perhaps the most suited to write this book.

For more information, visit the Mountain Media website or to order from Amazon, click here.

Well, that's it - hope you all have a great Christmas and we'll see you for another podcast on the 1st January!

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Podcast Edition 011 - Show Notes

Edition 11 of the Walks Around Britain podcast features a walk over the iconic Kinder Scout with blogger Dean Read, "Mr Peak District" writer Roly Smith tells us about his latest book - an anthology about the Peak, we hear about a competition to find the best dog walk along the South West Coast Path, and former Gladiator Diane Youdale explains her passion for walking.

Kinder Scout

In this year of the 80th anniversary of the Mass Trespass on Kinder Scout, audio blogger Dean Read retraces the steps of those pioneering walkers who fought for access for us all.  Over one of the classic routes through possibly the most challenging terrain in the Peak District, Dean enlightens us with his description of the route; making it come alive.

If you'd like to listen to more of Dean's podcasts, visit his website at Peak Routes.

Roly Smith

"Mr Peak District", as Roly has been dubbed by his local newspaper, is a prolific freelance writer, editor and consultant - and the author of over 60 books on walking and the countryside.  His is also the president of the Outdoor Writers’ and Photographers’ Guild.

His latest book is an anthology of writings about Britain's first - and possible busiest - National Park - the Peak District.

You can order "A Peak District Anthology: A Literary Companion to Britain's First National Park" from Amazon here.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Getting Around the Lakes. Is sustainable transport really an option?

I’m in the Lake District for a few days… which often happens as a connoisseur of fine landscapes and excellent walking.  But this trip is a little different.  Sure, there have been a few walks, one of which I filmed, and I have caught up on my latest landscape viewing, but intrinsically I’m here now for a different purpose.  

There’s a fundamental paradox with walking.  In order to go walking in new and exciting areas, we often travel by car.  In fact 87% off visitors to the Lake District make their journey by car.  Ok, so there is a fairly good train service to the outskirts of the Lake District via Virgin Trains to Oxenholme – and you can even change trains at Oxenholme to First Trans Pennine Express to take you to the heart of the central Lakes at Windermere.

But what then?

I mean, as popular as Windermere is, it might not be the base
for your trip.  The fantastic High Biggin holiday home from the Beech Hill Hotel is 2.1 miles away and the great self-catering Windermere Lodges are 3.3 miles away at Troutbeck – both of which are great walking distances, but really not with suitcases and all the accoutrements of a holiday.

And of course, when you are here, you need to get around.  With 885 square miles to explore in the Lake District alone, and 2,613 square miles in the wider Cumbrian county, where you want to go might not be within walking distance.

So that pretty much ensures you are maintaining that 87% figure of car journeys to the Lakes.

Or does it?

Well, the people behind Go Lakes Travel are trying to change that.  Go Lakes Travel is a £6.9 million initiative, funded by the Department of Transport, and being delivered in partnership by Cumbria County Council, the Lake District National Park Authority and Cumbria Tourism – and between 2011 and 2015 it aims to generate a step-change in how visitors travel to and around the Central and Southern Lake District, enabling them to make greater use of sustainable modes of travel.

So what does that mean in practice?

Well, the scheme has put several initiatives in places, from making paying for, and changing between different modes of travel easier using smart tickets to targeting information designed to change visitors' travel behaviour to/from and around the Lakes.

But the most interesting parts of the scheme for us walkers is the development of safe, continuous networks for walking, cycling and wheelchair users and the improvements to public transport services and traffic management to tackle congestion and reduce delays.

And then there’s this bit too… “Creating a network of pay-as-you-go car and cycle hire fleets, including recharge stations for electric vehicles”


So when Go Lakes Travel asked if I’d like to try out the pay-as-you-go car and cycle hire fleets, I said “of course”… which is why I’m in the Lakes now.

I've travelled up to the Lake District by car – simply because I didn't have the 4 hours it takes on the train to get from Doncaster – and because I had all the camera and podcast recording gear to bring too.
But if you do travel to the Lakes by train you can now hire a special Mini Clubman direct from next door to Windermere Station.  This low-emission car is intended to get you around the Lakes in a sustainable manner.  It works by first signing up as a member to Co-wheels before your trip.  Then you can book the car online or over the phone.  Once in the Lakes, you hold a special smartcard over the reader on the car and it’s yours for the duration of your booking.  At the end, you simply drop the car back into its bay at Windermere and Co-wheels send you a bill covering your hire.

Sounds good, but what does that cost?  Well, it’s £4.50 an hour plus 21p a mile for insurance cover and fuel, and there’s special discounted rates for longer hires – a weekend from 6pm Friday to 8am Monday is £70 for example.  Plus the 21p a mile of course.

But that’s not the only way of getting around on this project… how about an electric bike?

Electric bikes are badly named.  Most people have an image of a bike whereby you don’t have to pedal… rather like an electric version of a Vespa.  They of course aren’t that at all.  Their proper name should be electrically-assisted bikes.  They are by all accounts a standard bicycle with a motor and hefty batteries on the back.  This means you still have to pedal to propel yourself along, but switch on the electric motor and you get a power boost to help you on your way.  Using the controls at the front of the bike, you can adjust the amount of boost you require, so you can regular your use of the batteries throughout your journey.

There are 17 electric bike hire places across the Central Lakes, and even more charging points – more than 30 at the last count – so it’s very possible to combine a meal or a stay around a place for a while whilst charging those bike batteries up.  There is even a new dedicated Bike Bus – the 800 - with space for up to 12 bikes, and there’s space on several other bus services across the Central Lakes for up to 2 bikes per bus.  And just launched this year is a new Bike Boat from Windermere Lake Cruises between Brockhole, the Lake District Visitor Centre and Wray Jetty on the West Shore of Lake Windermere.

These electric bikes are actually a really good for us walkers, as they allow you to get to great walking areas otherwise inaccessible by motor vehicles, without starting that walk feeling knackered by a 10 mile bike ride first.

The costs are around £35 a day – and the bikes come equipped with built-in lights, locks, helmets, bags and maps.  And at the moment, there’s an offer for 20% off cycle hire if you travel to the Lakes by train.

But the Mini and the electric bikes aren't the only modes of transport you can hire in the Lakes as part of the project.

Oh no… you mustn't forget the Renault Twizy.

Twizys are small, two-seater electric cars which are available to hire on an hourly basis from The Langdale Hotel and the Coniston Boating Centre.  Now, at first glance, you might not think these are a serious form of transport around the Lakes… Well, just look… they don’t have side windows; they have a top speed of around 40mph and they are electric and therefore have a limited range.  Surely driving one of these would leave you sopping wet, with a trail of impatient regular car drivers honking their horns behind you and then you’d run out of power in the middle of the Kirkstone Pass.

Well, you might think so, and if you aren't smart, this is what could happen.

But it doesn't.

I took one out for a whole day, and I can tell you that unless you are in a serious storm, the design of the Twizy is quite good at stopping the 2 occupants – one behind the other – from getting quite wet.  Even spare from the road is limited.  And let’s face it, if you are in the Lakes in the wet, you’ll have proper waterproofs anyway.

Then there’s the 40mph top speed – a major problem you’d think.  Well, no.  Most of the roads around the Central Lakes have a 40mph limit anyway, and even on the ones that don’t, you often find yourself topping 45-47mph anyway.  And because of the nippy acceleration from the electric motors and the incredibly responsive steering, you can go into corners faster, turn and accelerate out of them quicker than most conventional cars too.  This means in the bend, curvy roads of the Lakes, it is actually you driving the Twizy who is behind regular car drivers wanting them to get moving

The biggest issue of course is “range anxiety” – will you run out of juice whilst in the middle of no-where.  
Well, the Twizys have a stated range of 62 miles - which is actually very usable in the Lakes.  A trip from Troutbeck to Keswick for example is a round trip of around 43 miles – so the range of the Twizy is quite suitable.  And if you are running a tad low of power, then you can always charge the car up at one of the several charging points across the central belt.  You can take a trip on the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway to the coast whilst your Twizy charges up at Dalegarth station.

Twizys are fantastically engaging cars.  Perhaps not the most practical and certainly not the answer to Britain’s long distance car culture… but they are definitely one thing – fun.  Just  driving one without any real destination will bring a smile to your face.  And for that, they are worth the £10 an hour hire charge alone.

So all told, it is much more feasible to visit and travel around the Lakes without your own car… but it will cost you to be more sustainable and green in your travelling.  For instance, a couple travelling up to the Lake District by car from London for that weekend walking break would cost around £120.  So, with some running around the Lakes let’s say total cost by car is £160.  By train, to travel to Windermere would cost £194 return for two people, and then there’s the £70 hire cost for the Mini Clubman.  Plus that 21p a mile.  So, in excess of £264 by train and Mini as opposed to £160 by your own car.  That of course isn't taking into account of your car insurance, MOT and road tax, but you get the idea – it does cost more to be green.

But, as a start, the Go Lakes Travel project is a step in the right direction; a marked sea change in the desire of the powers-at-be to really address the problems, difficulties and challenges of getting around and exploring one of the country’s favourite areas.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Book Review - Pub Walks: Walks to Cumbria's Best Pubs

In my experience, small pocket walking books are generally rubbish.  They are often too small with tiny drawn maps - poor relations to proper Ordnance Survey ones - not properly researched, in black and white with no photographs and most are simply lifted from other larger books.

So I must say I came to the latest in Northern Eye Books' Top 10 Walks series with little enthusiasm.  This would be another one bad pocket walking books... wouldn't it?  Well, I started to begin hoping the old adage "You can't judge a book by its cover" wasn't true - as the cover provided a tantalising introduction to the potential of the book.  If I could find that pub, I'll be ready and waiting to go on a walk!

Opening the book up, and I found extended covers - both at the front and the back - which can be used as book markers to hide away the pages of the book not pertinent to the walk.  A touch with I liked.

The author of this little book is Vivienne Crow - and if anyone can pick ten of the best walks to Lake District  pubs, then Vivienne is a great person to carry that out, what with her in-depth knowledge of the National Park.  Looking at the map showing the location of the pubs, there's a good spread across the Lake District; some to the north, some to the west, and, of course a cluster in the honey pot areas around Grasmere, Ambleside and Coniston.  Nothing around the Ullswater area though - does that mean there are either no top pubs around there...?

So what of inside the book?  Black and White?  Walks lifted from other books?  Line drawn maps?

Well, no... no... and no.

The book is beautifully designed with a two column per page layout affording an easy read of the detailed walking routes.  Having done several of these walks - or variations on them - I can attest to the detail in the route descriptions.  Interspersing each of the main walking route is additional notes and comments in italics - these give more info about features to look out for and historical information - and it's rather like Vivienne is walking along with you, chatting to you as you go.  The maps are proper Ordnance Survey Explorer ones, and are shaped so that only the walking route and the immediate surrounding areas are shown in the book.  The walking route is depicted with bold rustic orange lines which are impossible to miss.

Photography in the book is simply stunning - and there are six sources of images credited in the book; one of which is the impressive Stewart Smith - always a favourite of ours.

I also liked the details about each of the pubs featured in the book.  Ok, so the real ales provided can change, as can food serving times, but it is refreshing to not have to return to the net to find out this info,

So, overall, Pub Walks: Walks to Cumbria's Best Pubs is a pocket walking book which has changed my views on pocket walking books.  Colourful; bold yet well designed; littered with interesting images; proper OS mapping and original routes.

In short, a book every Lakeland walker should find a place for on their bookcase - especially at £4.99.

Pub Walks: Walks to Cumbria's Best Pubs by Vivienne Crow, published by Northern Eye Books.
Walks Around Britain rating 9/10

Order it now online from Amazon here.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Fancy winning a Walking Weekend away this weekend?

Want to escape the couch for a fantastic weekend away? Large Outdoors, the nationwide outdoor pursuits and social group, is offering the chance to win a superb walking weekend this weekend coming - from the 16th to the 18 of November in Coniston, the heart of the Lake District.

The trip includes two nights’ accommodation at the Coniston Coppermines youth hostel, evening meals on Friday and Saturday and guided walks through some of the country’s most iconic countryside as well as the chance to meet new friends and live Large Outdoors!

Large Outdoors weekends and day walks are designed to make enjoying the outdoors accessible, safe, convenient and completely hassle free.

To enter, simply enter the height of the Old Man of Coniston at:

For more info on events around the country visit

Friday, 2 November 2012

Podcast Edition 010 - Show Notes

Edition 10 of the Walks Around Britain podcast features a trip to Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour with writer and blogger Karen Guttridge, a day volunteering on a Fell Care Day in the Lake District with Tanya Oliver and Alan Hinkes OBE tells us about giving the Wainwright Society's 10th Memorial Lecture.

Brownsea Island

Brownsea Island is dramatically located in Poole Harbour, with spectacular views across to the Purbeck Hills.

Thriving natural habitats - including woodland, heathland and a lagoon - create a haven for wildlife, such as the rare red squirrel and a wide variety of birds, including  dunlin, kingfishers, common and sandwich terns and oystercatchers.

You can find out more from the Brownsea Island pages on the National Trust's website.

Karen has got a set of photos from her trip to Brownsea on her Flickr page here - and you can follow her travels on her blog, Twitter and Facebook.

Fell Care Days

Organised by the charity Friends of the Lake District, the Fell Care Day on October 25th which Tanya Oliver reported from saw 150 volunteers, 90 school children and 27 organisations give the equivalent of 125 days conservation work on the fells in a single day.

The day on Windermere followed the Ullswater event in September when 210 volunteers put in 1000 hours' (142 days) work conserving the fells, cleaning out 24.5km of footpath drains, repairing 40m paths, rebuilding 12m of dry stone walls and clearing 28 bags of rubbish from the lake shore.

You can find the Friends of the Lake District on Facebook here.  Follow Tanya's excellent blog here.

Tanya's first book "From High Heels to High Hills" is available now from good bookshops across the land (and if it isn't, you should complain!) or you can order it from Amazon here.

Alan Hinkes OBE

From The Wainwright Society's first meeting on November 9th 2002 at Ambleside Youth Hostel, the primary aim of the Society has been to keep alive the spirit of Alfred Wainwright.

The annual Memorial Lecture is one of the most anticipated in the Outdoor Event Calendar - and this year it's to be given by Alan Hinkes OBE.

Alan is the first Briton to climb the world's highest mountains. These are the fourteen 8000m peaks, all of which are in the 'death zone', where human survival rate is measured in hours. They are the most dangerous mountains on the planet. Alan is part of an exclusive club of only 12 people alive who have achieved this feat, which is the same number of people who have stood on the moon - and many have perished attempting this challenge.

The 2012 Wainwright Memorial Lecture is to be held on Friday 9th November at 7pm - and tickets can be purchased direct from Rheged on 01768 868000.  To find out more information, visit the Society''s webpage here.

The Bald Explorer

And we've just got time to hear from our friend Richard Vobes - aka The Bald Explorer - who has news
that the first 3 episodes have been picked up by The Community Channel!!  Richard is currently working on more programmes, so if you have an idea which you think might be of interest, send him a Tweet or contact him on his Facebook page.

As always, if you have any comments on this edition of the podcast, please leave them below - we love to read your posts!

Thursday, 25 October 2012

An exciting future for the Lake District's Visitors Centre

In the atmosphere of cut-backs we find ourselves in, it is indeed refreshing to hear about the success of the Lake District Visitor Centre at Windermere - Brockhole.

The next monthly meeting of the Lake District National Park Authority (LDNPA) members will be told the strategic masterplan redevelopment programme for Brockhole is well on the way to turning around the fortunes and future of the centre.

The man in charge, Programme Director Adam Thomas (right), will explain how the number of people visiting the popular lakeside attraction is increasing and at the same time the centre is dramatically reducing the financial  impacts it has on the LDNPA’s overall budget.

His interim report detailed how, in July 2007, the authority set out its intention to turn Brockhole into “a world class visitor attraction”. Already the centre has been transformed by:

The new jetty at Brockhole - photo courtesy of LDNPA

  • building a new jetty to accommodate all Windermere Lake Cruises’ ships;
  • creating a Tree TopTrek woodland adventure course;
  • increasing watersports availability;
  • improving catering facilities; and
  • developing greater retail opportunities.

Visitor numbers to the centre have increased from under 100,000 to 230,000 and the amount of subsidy required has fallen from  £315,000 to £187,000 in the current financial year.

In November, members will receive an updated report detailing in full future plans for areas such as: building a new visitor centre; garden restoration; improving viewing areas; staging large-scale events; car parking; and access changes to the main entrance.

With the news of so many visitor facilities facing reduced opening hours or indeed closure, it is fantastic news to hear about the success of Brockhole.

Please let us know what you think about this news by leaving comments below.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Make strides with Berghaus' Lonscale range

Berghaus has announced a range of outdoor trousers perfect for year-round adventures - just in time for the autumn walking season.

The Lonscale Pants come in a rangle of styles both for Men and Women, and are idea for walking and trekking.  They are part of the Trail range, and are made out of 100% nylon together with a DWR (Durable Water Repellent) finish - which is Berghaus' special finish that is applied to the face fabric to maintain waterproofness and breathability.

The trousers come in long-leg, short-leg and a zip-off leg versions.  For more information, visit the Berghaus website.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Hungry pub goers and walkers help the Yorkshire Three Peaks

Special pub meals and a book of walks have been raising much-needed cash to help maintain footpaths around the Three Peaks of the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

The Lion in Settle decided to help by donating 15p every time a hungry visitor to the pub ordered a main course dish called ‘Butchers Board’.

And manager Ian Pilcher has handed over a cheque for £250 – raised from more than 1,600 meals – to the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA) for its Three Peaks Project, which was launched in 2009 to maintain the heavily-used network of paths connecting the famous hills.

“I think it’s really good to support a local organisation that conserves the area,” Ian said.
“Most of our customers come to walk in the Three Peaks, and the menu choice proved very popular. We’ll do the same again over the coming winter.”
From left to right: Ian Pilcher, Chris Grogan and Steve Hastie in the restaurant at the Lion in Settle.

The first Three Peaks Project was established by the YDNPA in 1987, after a study by the Institute for Terrestrial Ecology carried out a study of the condition of the path network in the Three Peaks area.  It  concluded that the region had the sad distinction of possessing the most severely eroded network in the UK.

Originally started with a staff of 13, its remit included trialling new path-engineering and re-vegetating techniques to provide sustainable routes and to allow damaged surrounding land to recover.  The mid-90s and early 2000s saw a number of externally-funded projects completed, each with one or two extra staff appointed.

However, since 2004, the management and maintenance of the Three Peaks network has reverted back to the YDNPA’s Rangers – a team of just two officers covering the whole of the wider Ribblesdale area.

The latest project aims to create a sustainable source of both practical and financial support that will help protect and enhance the area and the rights of way network into the future.  Since its launch, many of the charities that regularly use the Three Peaks for sponsored events have volunteered to donate money towards the upkeep of the area.

At the same time, the authors of a book of walks from stations along the world-famous Settle Carlisle railway line have been doing their bit to help the project.

Tony and Chris Grogan from Saltaire-based publishers Skyware Ltd decided that a proportion of the proceeds from the sale of each copy of ‘Dales Rail Trails’ would be donated to the Friends of the Three Peaks, a group run by the National Park Authority.

Chris has passed on a cheque for £200 generated from sales of the book over the spring and summer.

“I’m very happy that we are able to donate to the Friends of the Three Peaks, and that sales of the book have gone so well,” she said.

“It has only been on sale since the spring so we’re hopeful that we can make further contributions.”

The book was funded by the YDNPA’s Sustainable Development Fund – which is managed by the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust – and has sold more than 650 copies since going on sale at the beginning of the year priced £8 99.

It contains 32 walks from stations along the railway line as well as a guide to the popular, 24-mile Three Peaks Challenge route and details of the 48-mile Six Peaks Trail, which links stations from Settle to Kirkby Stephen.

Steve Hastie, the YDNPA’s Three Peaks Project Manager, said: “The great thing for me is that these fundraising ideas came from Ian, Chris and Tony.

“Our Corporate Friends have really started to get to grips with the challenges facing the wonderful Three Peaks and they are making very useful, positive contributions.”

If you'd like to become a Friend can log on to the YDNPA website at and follow the pages to join online.

And you can watch our walking video around the Ribblehead Viaduct, which takes in part of Whernside below.

Friday, 19 October 2012

An action-packed weekend - the 1st Buxton Adventure Festival

The first Buxton Adventure Festival kicks of on Saturday with an action-packed programme of events.

The festival programme of illustrated lectures followed by short films will be packed with speakers from the world of adventure, travel, photography and sport.

Headline speakers include downhill mountain bike World Champion Danny Hart (interviewed by ITV Cycle Show presenter Anna Glowinski) and the Queen’s Olympic Opening Ceremony stunt-double Gary Connery who this summer became the first person to jump from a helicopter without a parachute.

Squash Falcolner
Gavin Newman
The weekend feature some of Derbyshire’s finest adventurers and athletes including Derby born adventurer Squash Falcolner who climbed Everest and was the first British woman to paraglide from the top of Mont Blanc.  There’ll be talks from Bamford’s internationally renowned travel photographer John Beatty and Belper writer Gordon Stainforth - who’ll be talking about his latest book ‘Fiva - An Adventure that Went Wrong’ chronicling he and his twin brother’s brush with death on a teenage climbing expedition.  Other speakers include author of cult fell running book ‘Feet in the Clouds’ Richard Askwith (interviewed by adventure sports writer Nik Cook); chair of the River & Lake Swimming Association Rob Fryer; and award-winning cave-diver and film-maker Gavin Newman.

Maddie Thompson
And on Saturday and Sunday mornings they’ll be two special Young Adventurer sessions with stunt mountain biker Danny Butler and Castleton’s very own 17 year old Paralympic basketballer Maddie Thompson, fresh back from the 2012 Games, followed by an afternoon of activities.

In addition to the events at the festival, there's also the first Peak District Autumn Walking Festival - details of which can be found here.

Our October podcast featured an interview with Lissa Cook about the festival...

For more information about the Buxton Adventure Festival, visit the website at

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Making improvements in the Ogwen Valley

With around 250,000 visitors every year, the Ogwen Valley is an extremely popular location - it's just a shame the current Warden's building does not do justice to its setting.

The building was originally designed as a garage, snack kiosk and toilets at the end of 1970 and, over the years, it was converted to provide office, storage and interpretation areas.

But, in early November, construction will start on providing a brand new building.  The proposed new facilities at the Centre will include an office for 3 people, toilets, changing areas, food kiosk, and a sheltered area for interpretation which will be suitable for groups, monitors providing 24 hour weather information and visible from the outside, interpretation panels, assembly points for groups, and curtilage area which will separate cars, people and parking facilities for bicycles.

These much needed improvements in the Ogwen Valley - which is to the North East of the peak of Snowdon - has come through the Cwm Idwal Partnership, a combination of the Snowdonia National Park Authority, the Countryside Council for Wales and the National Trust.  Funding is from the CAN strategic project (Communities and Nature) through the European Development Fund and the Countryside Council for Wales through the Welsh Government.

Emyr Williams from the Partnership, said,
"The facilities at the Warden’s base in Ogwen were limited and basic, and did not offer the best service or provision for the 250,000 visitors who visit Ogwen each year. The new Cwm Idwal Centre will be a gateway to Snowdonia, and one which will improve people’s understanding and enjoyment of Cwm Idwal, Ogwen Valley and the surrounding area. It will also attract a wider audience to take advantage of the various recreational and educational opportunities available here. "

Construction work should be finished early in 2013 ready for opening in the summer.  In the meantime, snacks and drinks facilities will not be available at the site - but there will be temporary toilets and parking spaces will be limited during the construction period.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Five tips to spot wildlife on your Autumn Walk

Autumn is a great time to be spotting wildlife, and it's simpler than you might think find your inner Chris Packham...

1. Take A Break

Instead of racing through on your walk, take it steady and rest for a while to look around.  Not just to make sure you don't tread on anything, but also to keep your eyes open for footprint trails.  If you are stopping for any length of time, make sure you're layered up to keep warm.

2. Blend into your Environment

Leave that red fleece behind, turn your mobile phone onto silent and zip your car keys away in your pockets.  Blending in is the name of the game when trying to spot wildlife - so dark coloured clothing and hinding away into the shadows helps your chances.  Also, if you are snacking, try to avoid crunchy snacks which make loud noises in the quiet of the landscape.

3. Rhythm of the Rain

Don't just be a fair-weather walker - getting out in the rain will mean you'll see all the insects and worms who love wet weather.  And they then bring out more birds... Who then bring out bigger birds...

4. Dawn or dusk

Picking the right time greatly increases your chances of wildlife viewing - and the best times are either at dawn or at dusk.  With a bit of research you'll be able to identify animals favourite drinking spots, shelters and hind-outs.  And don't forget to bring a torch to light your way - a head torch is a great idea to keep hands free.

5. Remember to put it back

It's so important not to disturb things, especially during breeding seasons - and if you do, replace it.

And remember also to take a camera - and post some top pics to our Facebook page please!

What wildlife have you spotted on Autumn walks - please let us know.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Five of the top British Isles walking destinations

Taking a walk with the family is a great way to spend some time together and to get healthy exercise, but how many times can a family walk around their own neighbourhood.  After a while, the same old route may get a little boring.  That’s why planning a walking holiday for the next family trip may be just what the doctor ordered.

A walking holiday is perfect for people of any age that want to get away, see some spectacular sights, and not gain weight while traveling!  That’s why walking holidays are great for the whole family – it keeps mum and dad active and allows the kids plenty of things to see and do.  A walking holiday can include everything from a long-distance hike to relaxed strolls along a coastal path; it just really depends on the destination.  So here are five of the top walking destinations in the British Isles to consider for the next family holiday.

Lake District

The Lake District is one of the most beautiful and serene destinations in the United Kingdom.  The scenic beauty of the lakes and mountains has attracted millions of visitors over the years and is the ideal backdrop for a walking holiday.  Be sure not to miss the Southern Fells, home to Scafell Pike, the highest mountain in England - though every area within the district is ideal for an extended trip or a quick weekend getaway.  Families may rent a cabin or choose to camp in the Lake District National Park.  Camping allows families to bring their own village garden furniture for comfortable al fresco dining.  Using a campsite as a base the family can enjoy the easy, moderate, and difficult walking trails, which vary in length, at their own pace.

Isle of Man

The Isle of Man is one of the best locations for a walking holiday simply because there is so much space.  Measuring 33 miles in length and being 13 miles wide, this destination offers some of the most breathtaking countryside views in the British Isles.  For families that want to get a taste of every type of scenery the British Isles has to offer, the Isle of Man has it all – majestic highlands, layered cliffs, valley slopes, woodland glens, and of course sandy beaches.  With miles of footpaths, the Isle of Man is ideal for hiking beginners, leisure walkers, and families with young children as well as the most experienced walker.  Remember though, the Isle of Man isn't part of the UK, so you'll need some form of photo ID to travel to and from.

Norfolk Coast Path

Between Cromer and Hunstanton, the Norfolk Coast Path offers an enjoyable route for any enthusiastic walker on holiday.  Following along the coastline, this national trail has an abundance of wildlife that can only be seen in the UK. There is birdlife in abundance and the walk passes through some nature reserves.  Salt marshes, sandy cliffs, and crashing waves are features of the Norfolk Coast Path.  Because the path remains at sea level, there is some walking on the shingle shoreline and the beach itself; these sections can be quite tiring.  Do not be put off by this, as this is a wonderful coastal path that rewards its users with some wonderful scenery.

North York Moors

For a dramatic coastal walking holiday and a taste of the wild upland moorlands, the North York Moors are the perfect destination.  The interesting ancient villages with ruined abbeys and a restored steam railway complement the beautiful rural scenery.  Walking enthusiasts will enjoy the well-developed footpaths offering a wide range of walks.  Covering almost 600 square miles, the North York Moors is home to one of the most picturesque national parks in the United Kingdom.

South West Coast Path

For those hoping to experience a walk to remember, the South West Coast Path is one of the longest national walking trails in the UK.  With a variety of landscapes and seascapes, it is also one of the most challenging.  Don’t forget the camera and good walking shoes on this trail, as the high cliffs and rich wilderness are a sight to behold while proving to be a great challenge every step of the way.

You can find walks in the Lake District, the North Yorks Moors, the Isle of Man and the South West Coast Path on our website - Walks Around Britain.  We're adding some along the Norfolk Coast Path very soon.

Have we missed out you're favourite destination?  Please let us know what it is and why.