Walk on the wild side through the 'secret’ delights of Brita Aug 30, 2013 4:46:18 GMT
Post by Focus on Aug 30, 2013 4:46:18 GMT
The National Trust has done a public service with its Top 10 surprise walks, from the White Cliffs of Dover to the Brecon Beacons National Park.
On a journey of discovery : Swaledale in North Yorkshire
In the era of total surveillance, when our mobile phones track where we are, while we report what we are doing, it seems delightfully contrary that the National Trust should publish a list of ''secret discovery’’ walks, topped by a trek along those far-from-subtle marvels, the White Cliffs of Dover.
''Secret’’, the trust admits, needs some qualification. It offers two: the top 10 trails are not accessible by car, and all encompass some special feature, a rousing view or an historic place which only walkers can see.
Heaven knows we need these places, and no doubt many of us, particularly the sort who possess waterproof map covers, will welcome the trust’s guides, which mark everything from tearooms to notable geology.
But you may come from the other extreme, one who spurns being told where to go and sets off on marathon peregrinations, departure and end-points fixed, but with everything else in the hands of the gods of weather, fortuitous footpaths and shortcuts – which may or may not work.
Fortunately for those like me who oscillate between these poles, Britain offers an infinity of adventures that are neither littered with signposts nor lined with hi-viz jackets. They are not secret to the locals but they offer the neophyte all the thrill of something quietly extraordinary, something commensurate, as Scott Fitzgerald put it, with our capacity to wonder.
The first time I set out across the south Pennines I might as well have been walking untrodden ground. A weak sun glimmered out of a grey sky, silver-white in patches, its light as shiny-dull as a broadsword. The clouds were as flat and heavy as the words on the map below them: Syke Moor, Brown Wardle, Owd Betts, where wind turbines waved for help. Starting from the White House pub above Rochdale and bearing north you pass reservoirs, and larks begin to sing.
The South Pennines
The rise and fall of the moors has a strange effect on the psyche: because they replicate themselves and admit no other scape, they suggest that everywhere is like this, to the curve of the earth and beyond.
Then you come to a secret. Gaddings Dam is a small reservoir with an unexpected sandy beach, the highest in Britain. It was left in perpetuity to the people of Todmorden in the valley below, and invites, even on the warmest days, the most shudderingly bracing swim.
Many of my literary heroes are walkers: one, the comic Mike Parker, is the author of Map Addict, and so lost without them he once asked me three times for directions to Llandeilo from Dinefwr Park: a distance of under a mile.
An ideal walk for Parker’s ilk would be my father’s regular circuit, from Teddington station across Bushy Park, under chestnut trees mobbed by parakeets and down to the Thames, which performs a silvered loop and brings you back to your beginning. It sounds innocuous but the leonine grasses of Bushy in the autumn are patrolled by rutting stags, famous for chasing walkers up trees to the delight of the world wide web.
Another surprise of the walk is a place almost as obscure as the White Cliffs, Hampton Court. Even map addicts - especially map addicts - would do well to avoid the Maze.
The blessing of the walk is the river, a stretch of the wild between manicured banks, like a serpent coiled in a jewel box.
My own special walk begins far to the west, in the Cwmdu valley in the Brecon Beacons National Park. You begin at the Farmer’s Arms, well before it opens, and climb two thousand feet to the top of Pen Allt-mawr.
Brecon Beacons National Park
On a good day you can see the Severn bridges and bladed gleam of the estuary, but every day is good up here, if you do not mind being wuthered by all the winds of Wales or bewitched by the play of clouds.
Gentle ridges lead north towards Castell Dinas, a tump with views to the undulations of mid Wales. The people of the Iron Age defended it, followed by Normans, then Welsh rebels against Henry III, before Owain Glyndwr's followers razed the fortifications.
In living memory, farmers doing their bit for the Home Guard manned it, and saw fires in the sky as Cardiff docks burned under Hitler’s Blitz. It is one of those places where time’s drape between the temporary and the eternal seems to have worn right through.
A mountain, a moor and a royal river do no sort of justice to all the places between the over-familiar and the genuinely wild, but the National Trust’s point is that a ''secret’’ now is not so much where you find it, but how.
And if walking gives us anything, it gives us children’s eyes, which gaze on a world made new.
[If walking gives us anything, it gives us children’s eyes, which gaze on a world made new] -This is what we are fighting for patriots, our Country's heritage so that it can be preserved and passed down to our children and their children to come ... It's ours and we must protect it to ensure it stays that way!! - Fx