Fabulous, Transit-Friendly, Country Walks Near London

photo One of my favourite ways to explore is by walking, especially when I travel. I took this to new levels when I discovered London Walks while in London. I’ve done so many walks with them, in the Palace Quarter, along the Thames, in Hampstead, and all over the city. I’ve gone on walks with them to Bath, Stratford-Upon-Avon, Cambridge and Oxford. One of the ones that opened my eyes to the great British country walk was the trip to the Cotswolds. We were taken along a footpath that led to a ruined abbey along a river, it was absolutely magical. I saw signposts for footpaths and people out for a walk in an absolutely wonderful area and knew that I wanted to explore more. When I got home I did further research about walking in the UK and learned that there were some fantastic resources. Some nosing around on the Time Out website led me to some great walks (here) with some guides, and then some self-led walks along the river and through a farm in Canary Wharf in a subsequent visit. It also led me to their book, Time Out Country Walks. This book is in two volumes, I ordered both. More information here. It was started by the Saturday Walkers’ Club, a group of London-area dwellers who like to go walking out of the city at the weekend. It has instructions for which trains to take to the start of the walk, a map, step-by-step walking directions, and which trains to take back to London. The walks always include directions to a pub for lunch, and are either a loop that take you back to the train station from where you started, or to another train that takes you back to the city. photo2 After I tried the first one, I was hooked. It was the Henley Circular, which started in Henley-On-Thames, famed for its rowing, and followed the river for a ways, then took us along some trails to the village of Hambledon for a lovely lunch in an old pub. After lunch was walking through woods and farmers’ fields, and back to the train station, for a total of 16.6km (or 10 miles) We were back in London by mid-afternoon. photo3 The Walkers’ Club keeps updated notes about all of the walks on the website and has hundreds of other walks that aren’t in the guidebooks. The website is absolutely free, supported by sales of the two books. Every week they post a list of walks that they are doing over the next few days and anyone is welcome to join them. photo4 I have managed about half a dozen of the walks so far. I have had wonderful days out in Oxford with it, have wandered through villages I’d never heard of, along canals and through active fields replete with cows and sheep. One of the walks was from Hever to Leigh in Kent. photo5 I had never heard of Hever before, so it was a wonderful surprise to discover Hever Castle near the beginning of the walk. It was where Anne Boleyn was born and acquired by William Waldorf Astor in the early 1900s. there are fantastic gardens complete with a maze, a lake, and a Tudor-style village which is now a hotel. It had a dog show on the day we were there. photo6 The walks have been wonderful ways to get out and explore with the only costs being a train ticket and lunch. It isn’t exactly a free day out, but there are ways to save on trains with railcards like the Network Railcard and the Two Together Railcard which are a great option if you plan to make more than one train journey in a one year period as they give you about 1/3 off the fare.

Michelle

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