As temperatures drop, don’t assume that you have to forfeit your passion for exploring the outdoors on foot. Winter offers beautiful walking opportunities, when the landscape is transformed by a riot of colour and weather is often crisp, clear and refreshing.
If you've never experienced winter walking, or you think the seasonal chills aren't worth the benefits of exploring the countryside at this time of year, take a look at this guide to the best of cold weather walking:
Arguably one of the best things about exploring the countryside at this time of year is the changing colours. Landscapes that you've seen in the past will be unrecognisable, when the trees lose their leaves and the scenery gets covered with white frost or snow.
A lot of people assume that once the summer months are over, hiking and walking is
out of bounds. However, when you think about it, winter is a great time to explore the outdoors. When temperatures are fresh and crisp, it’s much easier to push yourself and cover larger distances. What’s more, you won’t have to concern yourself with the threat of sunburn.
It’s a good idea to invest in a lightweight waterproof jacket in case of any sudden downpours, but this can be rolled up and packed into you backpack, should you become too hot (Brantano stock some Mountain Peak items that are pretty reasonable).
On, chillier days, it can be the tendency to wrap up in heavy layers to keep warm. This may be a good idea at first, but as you pick up the pace your body temperature will soar and you’ll quickly start to feel hot and sweaty. A much better idea is to wear a base layer beneath your clothes, which traps an insulating layer of air against your skin. These are usually worn by athletes, but they’re perfect for walking in cool conditions.
Walking is so popular at this time of the year that there are lots of great festivals taking place throughout the country. The Enchanted Forest Festival is a light and sound show based in Faskally Wood, which makes for a magical and interesting evening event. The wood lies just outside the popular tourist town of Pitlochry, which is itself considered a centre for hillwalking in Scotland.
You can find more information about the Enchanted Forest, including dates for the 2014 event, at the official website.
Some locations in the UK just cry out for walking during the winter/autumn months. Areas like the Lake District and the New Forest experience the biggest transformations at this time of year and make for wonderful walking. A top spot is Mortimer Forest in Shropshire, which boasts fantastic routes through the woodland and stunning views of the Malvern Mountains and the Cotswolds.
Autumn is a unique time to spot wildlife, as many animals prepare for hibernation and large flocks of birds leave the country to head for sunnier climes. If you’re heading to a deer park, this is the time of year when stags develop antlers, which can make for a majestic sight against the backdrop of an autumn landscape.
If you’re heading to a coastal location, keep an eye out for large flocks of geese arriving from Arctic breeding grounds to spend the winter in the UK.
For more great ideas and outdoor activities to do during autumn, take a look at this guide from Wildlife Watch.