England, a country of vast roaming countryside, beautiful mountain landscapes and quaint little pubs to enjoy a nice lunch and a drink in after a good hike. Hiking is an amazing form of exercise, it’s free and accessible for a lot of people as there are such varying routes and difficulty levels. It allows you to be at one with nature and gain a greater appreciation of the great outdoors. It can also be amazing for allowing yourself to switch off and boost your mental health! But, prior to taking off on your hike, there are some things you must consider, particularly if this is your first one.
Location is an important factor, do you want something close by (if you’re from England) or do you want to opportunity to travel further away and experience somewhere new? What distance of hike are you looking for? Something that can be easily achieved in a few hours, or do you want an all-day hike or even something over several days? You must also think about the elevation gain, this essentially will tell you how difficult a walk your hike is likely to be and how much of a climb you will have.
Solo or Hiking with others?
Think about whether you want this to be a solo hike, or you want to hike with others as this could impact upon what level of difficulty you should choose.
Planning your Route
There are several apps you can download that show you routes all across England (and the rest of the UK), as well as National Park websites, Facebook hiking groups and blogs you can utilise prior to your hike to ensure you’re planning a hike that is well within your capabilities! Research your route well, feel confident in your knowledge of it before you start your hike. One of my favourites is All Trails.
Weather Conditions when Hiking in England
Also think about what the weather conditions may be like, England’s weather can be rather changeable! Look at more regional, localised weather reports rather than national reports covering more widespread areas, these will tend to give more accurate predictions!
Clothing is important! You need proper hiking shoes/boots for safety, waterproof layers for tackling that changeable weather, fleeces and perhaps a hat for warmth. Also depending on the length of your hike/ the location you may wish to take a backpack with essentials in such as spare clothes, water and food! Other essentials include a first aid kit in case of emergency and also a mobile/radio to be able to call for help if necessary. You can see our other articles on good fleece and backpack recommendations if you need some guidance on those!
Food and Water
In terms of food and water, it is recommended that on a hike, you should aim to drink approx 1 litre every two hours, obviously, this can be dependent on weather conditions and more will be needed in warm weather! For food ensure this has a good calorie/carb content to maintain your energy. Water-wise, if you don’t wish to carry a bulky water bottle, there are water filter straws and purifying tablets etc that can be purchased, allowing you to safely drink the water out of rivers/streams etc.
Where to go Hiking in England
Now that the basics of what you should think about when preparing to go on a hike have been covered, here are some locations within England that offer some amazing opportunities for great walks:
Northumberland National Park
This is the Northernmost park within England, covering an area of 1050 kilometres. It offers a breathtaking landscape with amazing views. There is part of Hadrian’s Wall across the southernmost part of the park. The North Tyne valley is to the west which has incredible waterfalls and meadows. There is also the valley of Redesdale, a historical site where battles used to take place. In the centre are the Simonside Hills and to the North, near the Scottish border you have picturesque moors and the Cheviot hills, with their beautiful rivers! With such a variety of landscapes, there truly are walks for all abilities within this park, whether looking for a challenging solo walk, or something more family friendly. This park is also the least visited and therefore least populated of England’s National Parks, so if you’re looking for somewhere to avoid crowds, this would be a fantastic option!
The Lake District
There is so much on offer within The Lake District, from the amazing scenery to Ghyll climbing, plus whiskey tasting! This is a National Park in Cumbria, in the northwest of England. It has beautiful lakes and mountain landscapes. It was first established as a park in 1951 and covers a vast area of 2,362 square kilometres. This park includes the highest mountain in England – the Scafell Pike – at 3000 feet above sea level and it also features the deepest, largest lakes in England, Wast Water and Windermere. This is the most visited National Park in England, so expect it to be quite crowded. On a clear day, the views from the top of Scafell pike, reach to the Galloway hills in Scotland, the Mourne Mountains in Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man and Snowdonia in Wales!
The Peak District
This Park was the first established National Park in the UK. It is only a short distance from the cities of Sheffield, Derby and Manchester. This park covers an area of 1437 square kilometres, with miles of footpaths and cycle trails. The landscape is split into two parts, with the White Peak to the South, with its beautiful countryside fields and ancient limestone walls. The Dark Peak in the North features wilder countryside, full of moorland and dark gritstone! Throughout the park, there is evidence of our ancient civilisations, from stone circles, cairns, cave dwellings, to the chambered tombs dating all the way back to 3400BC! It’s an amazing park for people interested in England’s ancient civilisations!
The South Downs
This is the newest of the National Parks, it just became one in 2011, because of this it is a lesser-known and quieter park, covering an area of 1,627 square kilometres. As the name would suggest, this park is in the south of England covering the Hampshire and Sussex area. Downs are rounded, grass-covered hills within southern England that are usually made of chalk, and this park covers the downs on the English coast known as the Seven Sisters and Beachy Head. It also covers another area known as the Western Weald, an area featuring sandstone and clay hills and valleys! In 2016 this park was also granted Dark Sky Reserve Status, meaning that artificial light pollution above the park is restricted, making it a spectacular area to view the night sky! This park completely encompasses the South Downs Way, the only National Trail which lies entirely within a National Park. The views along the coastline are incredible! There are entry points all along the trail and your walk can range from a casual stroll, a family day out spotting animals in the woods to the west, or a more extensive, full-day walk, perfectly finished with a view of the starry night sky!
This is obviously far from an extensive list, there are 10 National Parks within England, but it does provide a good starting point for thinking about potential walks in England.
The takeaway is this – plan well! Know your route well, know what the weather conditions are likely to be and dress accordingly. Make sure people know where you have headed off to and you have a means of communication. Ensure you’re well-hydrated and have appropriate snacks. Most important of all though, regardless of where you ultimately choose to go for your hike, is to make sure it’s going to be an enjoyable one for you.
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