Have you taken up walking as a hobby during the past year? And have you thought of taking your new pastime a step further? WW! Reports on the nation’s latest leisure pursuit.During the first national lockdown last Spring, regular walkers would have noticed that they had plenty of new company.
It’s fair to say that many non-walkers took up the hobby. If you weren’t a key worker or heading to the doctors or food shops, it was just about the only way you could legitimately leave your home. Getting outdoors for your permitted daily one hour of fresh air and exercise was the only chance many had to get out of the house.
While some lost interest over the year, others kept up the healthy habit. A recent survey showed that nearly 25 per cent of British people now consider themselves hikers, compared to 16 per cent in 2018.
Now, as restrictions are slowly lifted, those who really caught the bug will be looking to take their newfound interest to the next level. That means taking on longer routes and joining outings organised by walking groups.
“People have been doing so much walking locally that it will be interesting to see how many of them want to join organised walks and go further afield,” says Clive Dyson, chairman of Bridgnorth and District Walking Group.
“I walk regularly because it’s a great way of getting exercise and I love the countryside and the views. I also love photography and the two hobbies go very well together,” adds Clive, who is also a member of Wrekin Mountaineering Club and a Peak District-based group.
“There are some wonderful places to walk in Shropshire. There are the obvious beauty spots like the Long Mynd but that can get very busy. Yet not far away are Caer Caradoc and Lawley which offer views that are just as spectacular but don’t get the visitors so you can get away from it all.”
The club’s walks programme secretary Hilary Davies says members are looking forward to reviving organised group outings as Covid restrictions are eased.
“I think it is time to be positive and look forward to getting together again.”
New walkers will have a variety of options to choose from, Hilary says.
“There are many different sorts of walking and lots of different walking groups. There are a lot of groups to choose from in Shropshire and it’s worth looking for the one that suits you. You might want a relatively easy walk with a few friends or you might want something more challenging in a bigger group. I think a group of around 15 makes a nice day.
“We go anywhere in Shropshire and into Wales and we even go away on organised walking holidays. Most of our walks are 8 to 11 miles and a few are quite challenging with a steeper hill or two. We also put on mountain walks, so there’s quite a choice.
“Some groups will go at a slower pace than others. You find your own level – and the people you enjoy walking with. We are a very friendly, welcoming group and it’s a great way of meeting new people,” Hilary adds.
The club was founded in 1970 and was due to celebrate its 50th birthday last year with a Ceilidh, but the pandemic forced its cancellation. “We shall hold an event to celebrate once we can,” adds Clive.
The biggest organisation for walkers is the Ramblers Association, to which Bridgnorth and District Walking Group is affiliated.
The Ramblers in Shropshire campaign to protect and improve the public footpaths within Shropshire and Telford and Wrekin.
Shropshire is a county of great beauty, with a diversity of geography and geology and a rich history. Walking in it is rewarding for all ages and abilities, says the association on its website.
The Ramblers offers a programme of very varied walks either around the wonderful Shropshire Hills, the more northerly Shropshire Plain or for more challenging terrain, the Welsh Borders. There are six Ramblers Association groups covering Shrewsbury, Market Drayton, South Shropshire, Telford & East Shropshire, Oswestry, plus Shropshire Young Ramblers.
If ever you were in any doubt of the health benefits of walking, it’s worth considering that the majority of Bridgnorth & District Walking Group’s 250 or so members are in the age range 50 to 80. The oldest, who only recently gave up regular walking, is a lady of nearly 100…
Visit the parkland, walled garden, shop, and deer park at Attingham Park. Set amongst woodland and beautifully maintained gardens, it makes wonderful day out or different dog walking location to enjoy. There is timed entry into the park and pre‑booking your visit is essential. Dogs are welcome but must always be kept on leads. Tickets are released every Friday – call 03442 491895 or go to nationaltrust.org.uk/attingham-park.
Come and escape in Mortimer Forest, with a thousand hectares to explore. There are walks for all abilities, from 2 miles to 14, its a fantastic place to walk with the dog. All four car parks have picnic areas for you to use, so make a day of it and bring some lunch with you. More info at forestryengland.uk/mortimer-forest.
Explore this ancient woodland and look for signs of wildlife along the way. There is a thriving dormouse population and to encourage them to stay conservationists have placed nest boxes among the conifers. Why not see if you can spot one along the way? Visit nationaltrust.org.uk.
Carding Mill Valley and the Long Mynd
Walk across Carding Mill this spring and summer and take in the views across the Shropshire Hills. This time of year can be rewarding on the Long Mynd, there is so much wildlife to see and you don’t have to look too hard. You are bound to spot the wild ponies. Children can play in the stream in the valley. Details at nationaltrust.org.uk.
Kinver Edge and the Rock Houses
With miles of footpaths to explore, there is a huge range for all abilities to choose from. The high sandstone ridge and hill fort overlooking the dramatic red sandstone rock houses makes for impressive sightseeing. There are plenty of natural play areas through the woodland trail. Dogs are welcome, however must be kept on leads around some restrictive wildlife areas. There is timed entry to avoid crowds, pre-booking is essential.
Tickets are released every Friday. Call 01384 872553 or visit nationaltrust.org.uk.
Dudmaston’s woodland has ancient trees and an expansive meadow to explore. It is also home to the UK’s northern most population of the White Admiral Butterfly, so keep your eyes peeled. The Explorer trail in Comer Woods is a great spot for den building. Challenge your family and friends to create the best woodland shelter. The Shepherd’s Hut and the Orchard Tea-room is open for refreshments. Car park on site. Dogs allowed in Parkland and Dingle but must be on leads. Visit nationaltrust.org.uk.
Offering fantastic views and a challenging but manageable climb. It is understandable that the Wrekin is one of the most popular walks in Shropshire. The main path up from the Forest Glen is well surfaced and easy to follow, turning a sharp right then back left near the Halfway House. This route is just over a mile long each way. The Wrekin can be climbed or walked around as part of longer walks from the surrounding area. Visit shropshiretourism.co.uk for further information.
Severn Valley Country Park
There are several different trails you can follow to explore the parkland. They range from 1-mile to 3.5 miles and include an Easy Access Trail suitable for wheelchairs and pushchairs. Choose from woodland, riverbanks or a trail discovering the geological highlights of the Severn Valley. There are also guided walks exploring the wider area and range from 6 to 13 miles in length. Guided walks must be pre-booked, 01746 781192. For more details about self-led walks visit, shropshiresgreatoutdoors.co.uk.
If you fancy taking up walking with a group, then here are the contact details for a few of those in our area…
Bridgnorth & District Walking Group
Visit bridgnorthwalkingclub.org.uk or call Walk Programme Secretary Hilary Davies on 01746 862652.
Much Wenlock Walkers
For a list of the latest walks visit muchwenlockwalkers.org.uk
Usually meet on the 1st and 3rd Sunday of the month. wellingtonwalkersarewelcome.org.uk
Telford and East Shropshire Ramblers
Offer a variety of regular walks led by local volunteers. Walks usually take place on Thursdays and Sundays. There is a limit to between 5 and 11 walkers per group. Booking is essential, call 07909 583839, tesramblers.org.uk
The South Shropshire Ramblers
Usually meet on Sundays and walks vary from 7 to 12 miles in length. The walks are led by local volunteers. Visit ramblers.org.uk to find out more.
Walking For Health
walkingforhealth.org.uk – enter your postcode to find organised walks near to your home