As Storm Ciara rattles around the rafters, my mind is drawn towards the long-distance footpaths and waymarked trails that I have in my sights for the coming months. It is on days like this, when I choose to stay in the warm and dry, that I do most of my planning.
You may think that walking a trail could not be simpler, just get the start and walk to the end. Well yes in principle you would be correct, that is how you complete a trail. However, there are a few minor issues to consider first, such as transport, length of time to complete, accomodation etc.
As a solo walker these are all made more difficult.
If I was walking with a group or a friend, then it is an easy matter to leave a car(s) at the end of the days walking and drive back to the start. This way you can walk a long linear path without having to double back on yourself or find an alternate way back to the car.
I have tried the ‘doubling back’ routine and, whilst it allows me to complete trails, it adds to the distance that I have to walk and takes away some of the fun. The other thing I have to consider is that I am only able to walk at weekends due to that four-letter word – work.
So, whether you are walking in a group or solo, where does your planning start?
The first thing to do is choose the trail what you wish to walk. For this there are a host of resources available to you.
Your local District or County Council will keep a list of the waymarked trails in your local area.
The internet is a great resource for trails. I would recommend the:
Ordnance Survey – getoutside.uk
The Long Distance Walkers Association – www.ldwa.org.uk/
The National Trails- nationaltrails.co.uk
plus many more. Or simply google ‘Long Distance Trails’ (other search engines are available). If you are based in the South East, then even this blog is a good resource for trails that I have walked onthehills.uk.
Once you have chosen your trail then the real planning starts. There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to walking the trails. You do not have to do it all in one go or over a series of consecutive days. You do not have to do the stages of a trails in order, though it is preferable to get the most enjoyment out of it.
Consider the fitness of yourself or the group you are walking with. This will dictate how far you can realistically walk in a day or over a weekend. If you are planning to do this over whole weekends, what accommodation are you prepared to put up with. Remember you do not have to camp or bivvy. You are allowed to stay in hostels or hotels. We do this for pleasure not purgatory!
If, like me, you walk sole – you need to consider public transport to enable you to get back to your car or home at the end of the day/weekend. For this there are excellent resources online for the rail and bus networks across the country.
National Rail – nationalrail.co.uk/
Stage Coach – stagecoachbus.com/
Traveline – traveline.info/
Most of the National Trails have already done most of this research for you. All you have to do is make it work for you.
Don’t fancy carrying great back Packs along the trail? You will find that for many of the National Trails you are able to hire baggage moving services. For a nominal fee, they will move you kit from on night stop to the next allowing you to walk with just a lightweight day sack containing essentials.
For actual route planning, there are two main options – plan the routes yourself follow the many route guides available online or in your local book shop. Certainly, for the main National Trails there is a plethora of published routes and guides available but for the majority of waymarked ways these do not exist. For these you will have to do your own route planning.
My ‘Go-To’ route planning tool is the award-winning Ordnance Survey OS Map App. This is an online tool which can be accessed through a PC, Laptop, Tablet or Smart Phone. The advantage of this system is that I can plan all of my routes in the comfort of my own home, then access the routes whilst out walking via my Smart Phone or by downloading the route to my GPS.
There is also the alternate of printing off the different sections of the route onto waterproof paper or transferring the route, by hand, to the standard Ordnance Survey maps. I tend to do all of the above so that I have the phone/GPS for quick reference whilst primary navigation is done using the paper maps.
For me the planning is as much fun as the execution of a long-distance walk. I will have several different walks in the planning stage at any one time. At the time of writing I am planning for 2020 the Hangers Way, Downs Link, Fox Way, Langstone Harbour Way and a complete re-walk of the South Downs Way.