If you are a woman who loves to walk and write, I want to hear from you. Glamoraks is a group for women around the world who love to walk. I want to be able to share walks, thoughts and inspiration from likeminded women no matter where in the world they are. And to do that, I need guest bloggers from every corner of the globe.
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Distance: 5 miles (more if you get lost)
Difficulty: Moderate (some hills to climb and map reading required)
Type: Farmland, forest
Start point postcode: YO62 5HH - Cowhouse Bank Carpark, North Yorkshire, UK
After days of being trapped indoors due to a combination of work and utterly foul weather, I decided to head off on an easy 5 mile walk on the edge of the North York Moors. I have a little book called Short Walks in the North York Moors, by Collins. Now this book has given me plenty of really good walk suggestions and the instructions are typically easy to follow and as each walk includes a map, there is no need to take an additional big map with you.
The walk I chose was one called Upper Riccal Dale, that starts from a Forestry Commission carpark called Cowhouse Bank. To find it, head out of Helmsley, through a tiny hamlet called Carlton and shortly thereafter you find the exceptionally quiet carpark. There is bench with lovely views over Bransdale from the carpark.
I parked up, the only car there and got that lovely sense that I was the only person in the world. You start out by crossing the road you've just driven in on and heading off down a forest track. Through gaps in the trees you get glimpses of the views over the dale below, dotted with sheep. The path was exceptionally boggy underfoot on account of the three days of torrential rain we'd just had but I didn't care. It was peaceful and quiet. If it's been raining, wear gaiters!
The path went back on itself down the side of the hill until reaching a farm track. It was here that my first navigation issue arose. According to the book, 'Go right on the farm road. Cross the bridge and climb through two fields away from the stream towards Howl Wood Farm.' But at the entrance to that farm road were two big signs saying PRIVATE - NO ENTRY. That's never a welcoming sign. I couldn't see any right of way signs or footpath signs but everything else seemed to indicate that this was the way I should go. So I went in.
Although there was a stream (very pretty) and a bridge, there were no fields to climb through. Just a track that made it's way up to the farm buildings. I figured it must be right, so I kept walking. The book said, 'Go left through the farmyard and left through a gate beyond the farm tip to follow a faint track ahead.'
I really, really don't like walking through farms. Firstly, it feels as though I am trespassing on someone's property - and the big PRIVATE - NO ENTRY signs certainly reinforced that. Secondly, there are always old, empty barns creaking in the wind, with rusty hooks and other dangerous looking pieces of equipment lying around. I always expect a scary bloke to come out carrying a bloodied meat cleaver while spitting out chewing tobacco, telling me to either 'Get orf my land' or 'To come in for a visit....' (I have an over active imagination.)
Add to that, there is invariably at least one (in this case four) farm yard dogs that aren't known for their friendliness. They started barking furiously, while a gaggle of geese hissed at me as I passed them. Then the cows (luckily behind a wall) started to add to the cacophony, lowing their discontent at my presence. Luckily there was a single footpath arrow on one of the gates, so I headed at pace for that and made it through the other side breathing hard. I am very rarely scared walking on my own but on remote farms, my heart does race a little.
After that excitement, the next set of instructions was simply, 'Cross the stream by the footbridge'. I was still following the 'faint track' as described by the book but eventually I reached the end of the wall line and my path was blocked. I had obviously missed a path down to the stream where the footbridge was, but there really hadn't been a path anywhere! I retraced my steps, found no path but eventually followed sheep tracks down to where I could hear the stream flowing. Reaching the stream, there was no footbridge. So I bashed my way along the stream edge until at last I found the footbridge. Somehow I had obviously missed the path down. My advice if you're doing this walk, is when the 'faint track' starts to bend slightly north, head down the hill to your west.
Crossing the bridge, I headed up through two fields until I found a rough bit of grazing land and the Forest Chapel that the book mentioned. Like something out of Hansel and Gretel, the chapel was very sweet tucked into the forest (picture top right above). But here again, the instructions were light to say the least. 'Cut across an area of rough grazing and walk towards the road, aiming to the left of the forest chapel. Cross the metalled road and go onto a forest road.' I stood in an overgrown field with no signs of a road. Beginning to despair of my navigation skills, I saw the first - and only - person I encountered all day. A cyclist, or rather a cyclist's head, whizzed past. That must be the road!
I found a gate that led to a very overgrown track to meet the road. Should you be doing this walk, don't worry about the fact that you can't see the road or a gate or a sign of any kind. Just keep walking towards the fence line and it shall reveal itself to you.
After that, it was a simple case of following the forest track back up a steep bank to get more lovely views over Bransdale. Even though I thought I was home and dry at this point, I made one final mistake. The book said, 'At the open field, turn left away from the road on a path between forest and the field's upper boundary.'
I found the open field and turned left, but the word I missed was UPPER boundary. I turned left to soon and ended up back on the road. By which point, I thought 'Sod it' and walked back up the road to find my car where I'd left it.
The moral of the story: When going on a walk, take your time to read the instructions VERY carefully and look VERY closely at the map. Tiny signs like contour gradients, side paths and streams all give clues if the instructions aren't very detailed. I couldn't even blame my getting lost on chatting too much - which is normally the reason I go wrong.
Despite getting lost, what made this walk lovely was the remoteness of it and the fact that I didn't see another soul (other than the cyclist). If you want to escape the world for a bit, get expansive views and see plenty of wildlife, this is a great walk. Besides all the farm animals, I saw plenty of birds, hares, bunnies and a gorgeous roe deer. And now that I've found out that you can walk through the farm despite the no entry signs, you can do so with the confidence I lacked.
Below is a little video of my experience.....
If you are a woman who likes walking - either on your own or with others - please join Glamoraks community where you can share your walking experiences, get inspiration or find people to walk with. Also sign up for the Glamoraks newsletter to get details of any events we have planned.
Distance: 10.6 miles
Ascent: 597 metres
Type: Rural, farmland, moors
Terrain: Tracks (some overgrown), dirt tracks, stone slabs
On 17 June 2017, a brand new long distance UK trail opened. Called The Boundary Walk, it is 190 miles long running around the edge of the Peak District National Park. A few Glamoraks and I headed off to have a first footing of the path. We decided on the Greenfield to Marsden leg (stage 5) mainly because it had a train station at the start and end of the stage. It also looked - on paper - as though it would cover some wild moorland and had a good amount of hills in it.
Catching a train from York at 8.30, we were in Greenfield for 9.40 and were kindly picked up by the walk organiser's friend who took us to the start at Dovestone Reservoir (although you could walk from the station and simply pick up the path from Hollins Lane). Despite looking around for others who were meant to be walking the same leg, we couldn't find anyone, so at the allotted start time of 10am, we set off. We did ask around at the car park but whenever we mentioned we were walking to Marsden, we were greeted with open mouthed disbelief or teeth sucking as though we were out of our minds for walking such a long way (it really isn't that far!)
We used the newly published guide book (pic below). Almost immediately we were slightly puzzled by where we should be going. The words and the map in the book didn't quite correlate. Switching on google maps on our phones, we finally figured out where we should be heading and got started. (Top tip: if you're doing this leg, when you get to the Dovestone Reservoir carpark and you're at the public toilets, you walk away from the sailing club and out of the carpark along the road you would have driven in on, until you hit the main busy road ahead. The instructions in the book make sense from there).
Almost immediately, the 597 metres of ascent made itself felt as we began a long, hot climb to the top of a hill where an impressive obelisk awaited. We caught our breath and had a snack while we admired the expansive views from the hill top.
We set off again along the edge of Saddleworth Moor, with stunning scenery off to our right. Just as we were getting into our stride, we had to descend again down to a small village called Pobgreen. It had an inviting looking pub and we were ready for our lunch by this point, but we had to soldier on as we had a return train to catch. Just a note here: as you head down the lane to Pobgreen you will get to a point where you can keep following the lane or take a stile and footpath sign directly in front of you. Stay with the lane.
Leaving Pobgreen behind us, we climbed another hill before descending again to another little hamlet. It was here that the guidebook left us feeling a little confused once again. The book said: Follow the lane downhill and once rounding a slight bend, you should see the public footpath fingerpost on the right hand side of the lane, at the edge of a property. Continue past the property and along a narrow fenced-in path.
We had no idea whether that meant we had to take the footpath or walk past the house and take the next footpath. We walked back and forth a few times before deciding to take the very narrow path behind the house as indicated by the fingerpoint sign. And it was the right choice. We soldiered on through fields of sheep, before crossing a bridge, and heading up another hill with the sound of a shooting range echoing around us. At last we got to the Brun Clough Reservoir, where we had a brief picnic lunch and aired our hot feet. Until this point, the sun had stayed hidden behind clouds but it was super humid.
After lunch we joined the Pennine Way and made our way across the gorgeously wild and remote moorland, passing several reservoirs as we went. The sun was now blazing and the brown peaty water looked very tempting for a dip. At one of the reservoirs (Black Moss) there was even a tiny beach, which would make an idyllic wild camping spot.
We didn't have a swim but carried on as the temperature rose. The book said that we should look out for a stone platform and little mast, which we found. But - a note of caution for anyone following the book - at this point you need to turn the page and read the next set of instructions, rather than blindly following the path (as we did). As a result, we missed a steep path that ran down the side of the hill that we should have taken. Luckily, the path we took eventually reconnected with the path we should have been on, and we got to avoid a knee killing downhill plus we got to see a pretty waterfall. So I'm not sure why the route we took isn't the actual route, but there you are.
By this point the temperature was in the high twenties, not a cloud in sight. We had a choice. Continue with the route as per the book, which would have meant a longer, much steeper climb up to the ridge line. Or follow a path alongside the reservoirs and get into Marsden to catch the train on time. We chose the latter!
This last stretch was baking. I'm sure the views from the ridge line would have been more spectacular, so if you're doing the walk on a cooler day, I'd suggest you do it!
At last we got into Marsden where crowds spilled out of the Riverhead Brewery Tap, ice cold pints in hand. They looked thoroughly tempting and should you be doing this walk, this would be a good place to stop for a refreshing drink.
Sadly we had to rush on to get to the station, where we ran into a hilarious group of young men on a stag party, stopping at each station on their way to Leeds for a pint. They were only three stops in and things were starting to get messy. We bid them farewell and got back in York by 5pm having walked just under 11 miles. I'd got to see parts of the Peak District I'd never seen before that were stunning, wild and good for the soul. And we'd done a good amount of hill climbing. I got through 3 litres of water! If you go on a hot day, take a lot of water with you.
Then it was time for a quick shower and transformation into evening wear for a ball. And that's what it means to be a Glamorak! Squeeze a bit of the outdoors into the everyday.
Don't forget to join the Glamoraks community. That's where you find out about walks like these and get to meet up with people you don't know, make new friends and see new places. And subscribe to the Glamoraks newsletter here.
You'd think that walking in summer would be the easiest of all the seasons. Right? Glorious sunshine on your back and not having to contend with blizzards or deluges or biting winds.
But walking in summer can actually be a bit of a challenge. Here are my top six summer walking hazards and how to deal with them.
In the UK at least, it rarely feels hot enough to worry about overheating. But a long march across a shade free field in blazing sunshine can get very hot and it's easy to get sunburnt. And if you're in a hotter country, it's easy to get heatstroke if you're not used to walking long distances in high temperatures. Always apply sunblock, take a sunhat and drink plenty of water. And I mean a lot of water. Drink little and often to stay hydrated as you go. I just carry a water bottle for a short walk, but for a longer hike, I'll fill my 2 or 3 litre hydration system to ensure I don't run out. If you are hiking long distances, make sure your backpack is well ventilated, with space between your back and the pack, to allow air to flow through. You stay much cooler and less sweaty that way. I use this one, which works great.
2. Nasty plants
One of the joys of winter walking is that you don't get nettles. Well not many. As soon as summer comes round, many of the footpaths become massively overgrown and nettles threaten to sting your legs as you brush past them. They're particularly prevalent at styles and kissing gates, where you have to squeeze past while the nettles prickle menacingly through the gaps. Wear lightweight long trousers (I swear by these Craghoppers), rather than shorts. This will give your legs some protection. Also, find a Nettle Stick* or use a walking pole. (*A large stick to hold nettles and other overzealous plants back as you squeeze along a track - they're free. Look on the ground!) This stick will come in handy for hazards 3 & 4 too. If you do get a nettle sting, look for a dock leave and rub the leaf on the sting. It helps relieve it (a bit).
Another poisonous plant to look out for is Giant Hogweed. This can grow up to 5 metres tall, and is normally found along footpaths and riverbanks. If its sap gets in contact with your skin, it can cause really nasty burns, which are made worse by sunlight.
It's not just poisonous plants that can cause problems. All the vegetation suddenly springs up and unless the keepers of the footpath or farmers are on the case, you can find yourself walking along paths with plants that are neck height. Not fun. Firstly, you can lose track of where you are as the paths are more difficult to follow. Secondly, it's much easier to go over on your ankle as you bash your way through. Thirdly, your trousers get soaked from the dew or condensation on the plants. Use your stick as a walking aid and as a weed thrasher. Even though it's hotter wearing walking boots, you may find they give better ankle support on uneven, overgrown ground. And wearing gaiters can help keep the bottom of your trouser legs dry as you bash your way through.
Cows and their calves (and often the big bulls) are out in force at this time of year. Cows can be dangerous and very protective of their young. I use my nettle stick as a form of comfort when I have to walk through a field of cows. Knowing that I have a large stick makes me feel slightly braver (even if it wouldn't really do much against a charging bull!) With cows, I tend to walk as close to a fence or wall as possible so that should I need to escape a field in a hurry, I can. Walk quietly but with purpose, around the herd if possible - they will typically get out of your way but do assess them before you head into a field. I was once held up for about 40 minutes by a field of young bullocks who were simply curious more than anything else, but it didn't feel safe going into their field. In situations like that, try to find an alternate path. Be even more careful if you have a dog with you.
The warm weather brings out bugs of all kinds, but midges, mosquitoes and horseflies are the most painful. Carry insect repellant on you and if you're going somewhere super midgey you may want to get a face protector too. It ain't sexy - but then again, neither is a face full of bug bites. Bitey bugs also don't like the smell or taste of garlic or vitamin B, so grab a handful of wild garlic you'll find growing in early summer and carry it with you. Or eat marmite sandwiches. Seriously. Apparently midges fall into the Marmite Hate It camp. Who knew!
In the UK there is only one venomous snake - the adder. It has a dark brown, reddish or black zig zag from head to tail with spots on its sides. Some (rare) are entirely black. They typically have their babies in late summer and will mostly be seen basking in sunny spots, in heathland, bogs, moorland, woodland edges or rough grassland. They are shy and will only bite when cornered, alarmed or picked up. I have never seen one in the UK (unlike in my native South Africa where I had a puff adder sidle under my sun lounger one day!) If you see discarded snake skin or winding trails in dirt tracks, be aware there may be snakes about. To scare off snakes, stomp your feet as you walk. Snakes pick up on vibrations through the ground and will disappear. They're more afraid of you than you are of them. Again, walking through long grass means gaiters, long trousers and sturdy boots gives you more protection should you stand on a snake (highly unlikely!)
Although snakes, poisonous plants and grumpy cows may seem alarming, walking in the UK really is pretty safe. These few hazards are simply worth being aware of and preparing for. If you are walking elsewhere in the world - particularly in a country you're less familiar with - take a moment to look up any local plants, animals or pests that could pose a danger. Better to be safe than sorry.
Now head out and enjoy that sunshine! And remember, one of the best things about walking in the summer is the longer days and evening, meaning you can still fit in a good length walk after work and enjoy watching the sunset.
Got any other summer walking tips? Share them below.
Join the Glamoraks community to meet other women who also like to walk.
Women join Glamoraks because they want to find someone to go walking with. It gives them a chance to meet new people, have companionship and feel safer or more confident when heading out for a walk. But even with the wonderful global community of Glamoraks, there may be times when you don't have anyone to go with you, particularly if you're planning a last minute walk. Or you may just feel the need for some solitude.
Don't let a lack of walking buddy stop you from putting those boots on.
While walking with others helps you connect at a far deeper level than our instant society normally allows and the joy of an experience shared is joy doubled, walking alone can be just as good for the soul. Here's why:
Without human company, you get time to simply be. Your thoughts are free to fly in and out of your mind with gay abandon. There's no need for conversation, although talking out loud to yourself can be liberating. As is singing loudly without a care about being off key. You have the time to absorb the beauty of the world and marvel in it. And being witness to the magnificence of nature feels like a secret gift that is yours entirely. Your time is yours, the pace your own. You choose when to stop, when to move on. Added to all of it is a slight frisson of fortitude. You are alone and that in itself is a brave thing in an overcrowded world. Your inner spirit of adventure will raise its head and you will want to yell, 'I am woman, I am fearless. Hear me roar!'
So if you are in need of some time to yourself and an escape from the masses, here on some tips on walking solo:
Share your solo walking experiences with me below. And feel free to join the Glamoraks community so that on the days you do want walking company, you can find someone to walk with. Also be sure to sign up to the newsletter to be kept abreast of walking ideas, events and initiatives.