Penrith in Cumberland is in the Eden Valley between two great sets of fells wrought as if for the walking man, and not too far to the north are the fells of Dumfriesshire and Roxburghshire, and in the valley itself the calm and beauty and to those who listen are the ancient echoes of Rheged. There are here such wonders to the senses that walking out away from the hills seems eccentric.
It is a possible walk, but a tough one for only the hardiest, most determined. The route we have devised uses a number of existing routes, passing in total through 11 counties, and along the border of a twelfth, beginning in Penrith in Cumberland and finishing in Westminster in Middlesex.
To start us off, there is an interestingly devised path named Lady Anne’s Walk, which runs from Penrith down the valley and into the Yorkshire Dales, named for Lady Anne Clifford, who might have taken such a way on her journeyings between her estates in these counties. The Way goes as far as Skipton, but in fact we say farewell to Lady Anne in Hawes at the top of Wensleydale, where we pick up the Pennine Way.
The Pennine Way is tough, but if a man can walk across Afghanistan, the Pennine fells should prove no challenge. It wanders south through the West Riding of Yorkshire, along the edge of Lancashire, and to the well-named Black Hill, on the border of Cheshire and the latter’s county top (the path is paved here as the peat is torn up by too many boots). Then across this easternmost arm of Cheshire, it enters Derbyshire, all in the Dark Peak. The Pennine Way ends at Edale, but after Kinder Scout, just before Edale (which is too busy a place anyway) we turn off down to the road and meet a sister route; the Pennine Bridleway. This can be flowed to just below Buxton, where it meets the Midshires Way, and runs along with it for several miles.
The Midshires Way crosses the whole of the Midlands: it comes down off the Derbyshire hills, slips round Derby, between it and Nottingham, and through Nottinghamshire and into the Leicestershire coalfield. Such a path it is that to describe it would take a book not a glib paragraph, but if you can keep right on to the end of the road you will have seen sights few have seen all together and at a pace at which you ca appreciate them.
Across the whole width of Leicestershire it runs, and we follow it, then across the whole width of Northamptonshire skirting round Northampton, to enter the Salcey Forest, and thence Buckinghamshire. Buckinghamshire is a long county. The route, following the Midshires Way, tramps through the edge of Milton Keynes and through the Vale of Aylesbury on the route of the North Bucks Way – but we leave it just before its end, just before the scarp of the Chilterns, at Little Kimble, where we follow the Resignation Way, passing within sight of Chequers. There pause and see how many careers have been made or destroyed in that quiet country retreat.
Then it is east to the Misbourne Valley and east again to Chesham, where we follow the Chess Valley Walk, its whole length into Hertfordshire to Rickmansworth. At Rickmansworth, we can take an unwaymarked route, the Gerald Colton Way out to Bushey Heath and the Middlesex Border, then another, the Middlesex Greenway, as far as Mill Hill Village, to meet Gerald again, who brings us south on as green a way as is possible to the Royal Parks – and the goal.
- [To be completed]
- Explorer 207: Newport Pagnell and Northampton South
- Explorer 192: Buckingham and Milton Keynes
- Explorer 181: Chiltern Hills North
- Explorer 172: Chiltern Hills East
- Explorer 173: London North