Real Lancashire Boundary Walk completed after 432 miles!

Hat off to Philip Walsh:  he has completed the first walk of the Real Lancashire Boundary Walk.  The path is 432 miles long, circling the whole border of Lancashire, from Blackpool to Blackpool, taking in the coastline, the Mersey, the Pennines, and the Furness Fells.  It is a mighty achievement, taking 30 days.  He finished in Blackpool on Sunday, 29 July 2018.

I will finish the mapping of this ‘Reet Gradely Red Rose Ring’ when Philip has recovered enough to fill in the gaps!

Across the Lancastrian sands

Lancashire appears to fall into two parts; the largest body of the county from the Mersey to Silverdale, and Furness and its hinterland in the Furness fells – ‘Lancashire North of the Sands‘.  In reality though, Lancashire is not divided by the waters of Morecambe Bay, but united by the sands.

A look at an Ordnance Survey map shows a public footpath running from Hest Bank on the east shore of Morecambe Bay, north-north-west to Kents Bank on the north shore, both in Lancashire.  It is an ancient path.  In the Middle Ages the monks of Cartmel Priory led pilgrims across the sands: after the Dissolution king Henry VIII appointed the first King’s Guide to the Sands to continue this duty.

The path is a hazardous path:  a misstep can mire a walker in quicksand, and a missed tide can see the waters rushing in faster than a man can run – faster indeed than a horse can gallop.  With each tide the sands shift about the Kent Estuary so that yesterday’s safe route is today’s deadly trap.  In spite of this, it is still a popular walk, but one only to be attempted under the eyes of the Guide.

The map I first drew up for the Lancashire Border Walk assumed a walk across the sands.  With sager heads on their shoulders, the Friends of Real Lancashire amended this, and rightly so.  Philip Walsh’s walk of the boundary, the Real Lancashire Boundary Walk, crosses the estuary by train from Silverdale to Grange-over-Sands outward, to start the circumnavigation of Furness and from Grange to Arnside on the return.

Those who follow should take the same route, unless, unless, the sands are open and the Guide available, in which case it is a proper, public right of way, uniting the county across the sands.

In the future, there is another possibility:  a campaign is afoot to attach a cantilevered footway to the Arnside viaduct (which carries the railway line between to parts of Lancashire).  If one day that comes to fruition, it may be possible to walk the whole way dryshod.  The sands though are still there – shifting in the bed with every tide, concealing their dangers, ready to swallow the unwary, beaconing the adventurous.



From Henley via Uxbridge to Downing Street

How best to get from Henley-on-Thames by way of Uxbridge to 10 Downing Street in Westminster?  It is a route of 48 miles that is a mixture of town and country, an antidote to the rushed commute, and one that has history behind it.

Robert Walpole, the very first Prime Minister, was an active walker and he walked this route (if a distant memory of a long-forgotten lesson serves).  It is said that Walpole would frequently set off on foot from London and walk to Oxford.  That was an achieving man. The route marked on our map is close to that which Walpole must have taken from Oxfordshire to the heart of government in Westminster; or he might have gone through the middle of Uxbridge, where the Oxford road runs, so our route goes by Uxbridge.

I have written before in praise of walking the suburban wild places, so let us mix town and country in a single walk.  It takes in the countryside of southern Buckinghamshire, and the increasingly suburbanised villages, then the metropolis, but here it Is possible to follow a string of parks to Downing Street itself.  It takes an appreciation of Shakespeare to find the poetry which is found in many of these places, and the route named after the Bard provides much of the route, though in the end, you have to find your own way to Downing Street.

If it is possible to go from Henley to 10 Downing Street, perhaps by way of Uxbridge, following the footsteps of the first Prime Minister, then this is an honest way to do it, on foot.

Whatever happened to the Berkshire Way?

Several years ago there appeared on the BBC’s local pages for Berkshire a series of 14 articles on walks all around Berkshire, which could be put together to form a proposed ‘Berkshire Way’. No more has been heard since.  Maybe it is time to revive this.

I have added a new Berkshire Way project page to WildþingUK: have a look and see what you think.  I have walked some of the paths but nothing like enough to judge the route from experience.

The route is an eccentric one, apparently because it is designed as a series of relatively short half-day walks rather than a logical whole, and as such it loops wildly and bends back on itself as it finds new, interesting places to go.  Seen in that way, it makes more sense – it is a way to see the highlights of the county, although in a county of so many beauties there will be plenty of highlights omitted.

The first published version has a major failing in that it misses a major part of Berkshire altogether, namely the north of the county all amongst the Berkshire Downs and Vale of White Horse.  Therefore our project fixes this, adding a new first stage from the St John’s Bridge near Lechlade, on Berkshire’s short border with Gloucestershire, to Lambourn by way of the Ridgeway and the White Horse of Uffington.  There is far more to be seen in the north of the county, not least in the greensward valleys leading down to the ancient county town, Abingdon, but we cannot see everything.

From Lambourn the route runs south to the highest point in the county, on Walbury Hill, then back across its waist, through the rich farmland in of western Berkshire.  It takes in the main towns; first Newbury then back up to the Ridgeway and along the county’s northern border, the Thames, to Reading.  The forests of eastern Berkshire are the next to be discovered. The finishing point is at Queen Victoria’s statute in Windsor.

It is an ambitious route but it provides a variety of experience truly to soak in nature of Berkshire as a whole.


(On the Project page)



Preparing for the Hertfordshire Border Walk

In August, I will begin to walk the Hertfordshire Border Walk; a walk all around the borders of the county. It consists of a series of linked paths which together form a ring about the county and, following the WildþingUK philosophy, it follows strictly the border of the traditional county, a shire over a thousand years old, not a transient administrative area that borrows its name.  This then is a path to embrace the county, not to find the edge of bureaucratic interference.

The first question is “Boots v Bike“. The first planned stretches are largely on bridleways which can be explored on a bicycle.  Where the path narrows to a path, I would have to wheel the bike:  inconvenient, but not as bad as once carrying it over my shoulder as I edged along a Cornish cliff above the rolling Atlantic.  A bicycle can carry more miles, and all under my own steam, but is it cheating?  That is to be worked out in the coming weeks.

Of the paths and bridleways used to form the route, many of these are lesser-known tracks leading to parts of the county largely unseen; others are footpaths between villages; others may be broader tracks striding a long distance across the shire. All folk of this shire then are cordially urged to come out and to find those edgy parts of our county, parts at the fringe, which you might not know, or if you do know them then come anyway.

In parts, Hertfordshire’s border line is jagged, and in the north among the Chilterns in particular there are deep spurs and hooks of Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire winding round each other, so for the sake of sanity the path must on occasion cut across half a mile or so of a neighbour, but these are kept to a minimum.

However it is drawn together, this is a long route, which would take a couple of weeks to walk in total. I will blitz the first few days (before job and duty call me back) and then finish the rest over separate weekends.

Until the walk is walked, it is no more than a line on a map, and therefore it must be walked.

As before, I will invite donations to the Stroke Association, and will attempt to record my walk as I go on WildþingUK. Wish me luck.


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The Resignation Way: a path from Chequers to private life

A glorious way to end what seemed a promising political career – a walk out through the Chilterns at their best before descending to everyday life.  A ministers who resigned this weekend would have to have walked back from Chequers – and none took the opportunity.  To give up a good morning’s walk for a political career – that is dedication.

So why not make a walk of it?

Therefore, I am launching The Resignation Way – a walking route to and from the Chequers Estate. It follows the routes which a cabinet minister hurled out of the back door., with his ministerial car confiscated, may take to reach his train.

There are two stations close to Chequers: Little Kimble to the west and Wendover to the east.  The route shows how these are best reached from Chequers.  Alternatively, for those of us outside those hallowed circles, it provides a route between the two stations past Chequers.  The house is a fine country house set in an idyllic spot on the Chiltern escarpment.  It was given to the nation by Sir Arthur and Lady Lee as a Prime Ministerial residence – in the hope that each future Prime Minister would have an appreciation for the needs of the countryside as well as the town.  They could hardly have picked a better spot.

The route of the Resignation Way takes in some existing, popular ways and parts of established long-distance paths including the Ridgeway and the proposed route of the Buckinghamshire Way.

Route map

The Resignation Way (with the route for the rest of us in purple)


Main article:

Congratulations to last weekend’s DofE teams!

Congratulation to all the teams of youngsters who have completed their expeditions for the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award this weekend in the scorching heat: it’s a fine achievement.  Good luck too to those teams about to set off.

(All the usual advice goes with that:  get some rest, keep cool, drink lots of water, eat crisps.  Crisps? Definitely: the salt helps the body to absorb water.)