This autumn the National Trust is inviting the nation to get outdoors and experience all that nature has to offer on a Great British Walk.
In partnership with Cotswold Outdoor, the Trust will be providing inspirational and invigorating walks all around the country, encouraging everyone to explore and share the many special places the charity looks after for the nation.
It has long been known that walking is good for you, but as part of the Great British Walk campaign the National Trust has looked in depth at the benefits a coastal walk can offer.
The research found that a walk by the coast will have you sleeping an extra 47 minutes on average as well as providing you with feelings of calm (83 per cent), happiness (82 per cent) and a sense of escapism (62 per cent).
Look out for events between 19 September and 23 October.
Heddon Valley, North Devon
Heddon Valley to Woody Bay walk
Nestled on the West Exmoor coast it’s easy to see why the Heddon Valley was a favourite with the Romantic poets. In autumn the path through the valley is full of vibrant yellow gorse, which scents the air with the smell of coconuts all the way down to the sea at Heddon’s Mouth. There are also plenty of walking routes higher up, including an historic nineteenth century carriageway and part of the South West Coast Path, which run across some of England’s most dramatic coastal cliffs. Those prepared to brave the challenging terrain will be rewarded with stunning coastal views across the Bristol Channel to Wales.
Devil’s Dyke, West Sussex
Saddlescombe Farm and Newtimber walk
Only five miles north of Brighton, Devil’s Dyke is full of stunning vistas – including a panorama which the Romantic painter John Constable described as 'the grandest view in the world'. From a working farm nestled among rolling hills to the remains of Iron Age ramparts and old chalk pits, there is plenty to see in this downland landscape. A colourful habitat all year round, in September the hill-barrows at Newtimber become even more vibrant when the flowering devil’s bit scabious transforms the hillside into a haze of purple: the autumn equivalent of bluebells in a wood.
Cliveden views walking trail
It was the striking view of the River Thames that persuaded the second Duke of Buckingham to build his residence in this particular spot. In the centuries since people have continued to be drawn to Cliveden for its scenic location: George Canning (who had a brief stint as Prime Minster in 1827) spent many hours sat under a giant oak tree looking out to the Thames, while Jerome K. Jerome, author of the 1889 novel ‘Three Men in a Boat’, described Cliveden Reach as ‘perhaps the sweetest stretch of all the river'.The estate’s miles of woodland paths provide great opportunities to take an easy stroll, with a new stunning view around every corner. The water garden is also worth a visit, especially in the autumn when the trees begin to turn to the vibrant russets and reds of autumn.
Kinder, Edale and the Dark Peak, Derbyshire
Kinder Moorland Walk
For stunning views it’s hard to beat the windswept heights of the Kinder plateau, one of the Peak District’s striking areas of upland gritstone. The climb up to the plateau is challenging, but at the top you are rewarded with a spectacular sweep across the Vale of Edale and the rugged moorland landscape. The plateau is also home to the intriguingly-named Noe Stool, Pym Chair, Crowden Tower and The Woolpacks: huge stone boulders that have been carved into improbable shapes by the weather, and are said to have influenced the works of sculptor Henry Moore.
Dunwich Heath and Beach, Suffolk
Dunwich gorse walk
Hidden away on the Suffolk coast, Dunwich Heath is the perfect place for a peaceful stroll away from the bustle of everyday life. In September the purple and yellow patchwork of heather and gorse is just reaching its end, but for the avid fungi forager Dunwich is still the place to be this autumn. Now a small coastal village, Dunwich was once one of the largest towns in England but much of it has since been reclaimed by the sea. Now it provides the perfect spot for a coastal stroll with far reaching views out to sea. The Coastguard Cottages make a particularly good lookout spot: there is even a special viewing room at the top of the building.
Borrowdale and Derwentwater, Cumbria
Walla Crag to Ashness Bridge walk
Also known as the ‘Jewel of the Lake District’, Derwentwater certainly provides its fair share of stunning views, whatever the season. Overlooked by the towering ridge of Catbells and Walla Crag, on a clear day it’s even possible to see beyond neighbouring Bassenthwaite Lake to the Solway Firth and the hills of Galloway. For stunning scenery a little closer to home, Ashness Bridge, once part of an ancient packhorse route, is a picture-perfect viewpoint that was once a favourite of pioneering rock-climbers and photographers ‘the Abraham brothers’.
Hardcastle Crags, West Yorkshire
Railway walk at Hardcastle Crags
Lying just west of Halifax, the valleys of Hardcastle Crags offer more than 400 acres of peaceful countryside to explore, with scenic views of deep ravines and tumbling streams.
Anyone with a craving for open spaces can take the rocky paths to the hilltops and enjoy sweeping views over the West Yorkshire landscape, while down in the woodland the oak, beech and pine trees provide vibrant bursts of autumn colour. Stepping stones and picturesque footbridges arching over the river provide great focal point for that perfect autumn photograph.
St David’s Head, Pembrokeshire
St David's Head coastal walk
St David’s peninsula is probably Pembrokeshire’s most stunning section of coast. Thanks to the resident population of Welsh ponies who graze on the vegetation, the conditions on St David’s Head allow plants like heather, gorse and the rare ‘hairy greenweed’ to survive, blanketing the area in colour right up to September. For adventurous souls the towering outcrop of Carn Llidi makes a tempting challenge, but if you don’t fancy scrambling to the summit you can still enjoy dramatic sea-views from ground level. Several miles out to sea lies the rugged islands of Ramsey, Bishops and Clerks, while further up the coast is the lighthouse of Strumble Head, in the towering shadow of Garn Fawr peak. If you’re lucky you might even spot porpoises or dolphins playing just offshore.
Giant’s Causeway, County Antrim
Giant’s Causeway Red Trail
For breath-taking views over this World Heritage Site, try the bracing clifftop walk that ends by walking down the 162 steps of Shepard’s Steps. Along the way take in the bird’s eye views of the iconic stones along the Grand Causeway and panoramic sea views. Listen for stonechats, curious birds whose calls sound like small stones knocking together. From the Red Trail you can either join the Blue Trail that leads to the Giant’s Causeway stones themselves, venture up to the Amphitheatre viewpoint, or join the 33 mile Causeway Coast Way, which leads to the famous Carrick-a-Rede bridge, also looked after by the National Trust.
Brownsea Island, Dorset
Brownsea Island wildlife walk
Brownsea’s unspoiled landscape provides a peaceful haven for visitors and red squirrels alike. Autumn is the perfect time to spot these beautiful creatures foraging for food, from sweet chestnuts, beeches and hazel, and can often be seen gathering food for the winter before the cold weather sets in. Ornamental red and scarlet oaks from North America as well as migrant redstarts make autumn a very red time of year at Brownsea. The Brownsea Island wildlife walk provides gentle terrain and mostly smooth paths, taking you through the perfect habitats to spot sea lavender, sika deer, a huge variety of birds and red squirrels.
Autumn Colour Trail at Ashridge
This route leads you through some of the most spectacular woodland and parkland at Ashridge. Every corner you turn or hill you climb will give you more breath-taking views of autumnal colour. The final stretch of the trail offers a stunning palette of colours provided by the beech, oak and lime trees, and if you have the time to climb the monument, the views of autumn splendour are dazzling. Lucky wildlife spotters may catch a glimpse of the resident muntjacs or fallow deer herds through the trees. In autumn the fallow deer are particularly active as the bucks are busy trying to attract during the rut.
Calke Abbey, Derbyshire
Calke Park wildlife walk
As well as a grand Baroque mansion with a large natural history collection, Calke has secret walled gardens and parkland, much of which is a National Nature Reserve. The park is a rich and varied landscape of grassland, ponds and wood pasture – one of the rarest habitats in Europe. You’ll also find majestic veteran trees and some great ‘bug’-watching sites. There are no public roads at Calke so it's perfect for a peaceful walk. The area is great for spotting woodpeckers, starlings and tits as well as the occasional buzzard and red kite. Over half of the UK's 16 bat species have been recorded here, and the rough grassland is home to voles, shrews, wood mice, weasels and stoats, so you won’t go short on wildlife spotting opportunities.
Blakeney National Nature Reserve, Norfolk
Blakeney Point coastal walk
This walk follows Blakeney Point’s 4 mile-long shingle spit to the sand dunes, near the Lifeboat House. It's home to a variety of unusual plants and is an internationally important breeding ground for sea bird colonies. Sandwich, arctic and little terns, as well as plovers and oystercatchers can often be spotted here.
The area hosts large colonies of common and grey seals, who will often be seen bobbing in the sea or hauled out on the sands at low tide. Grey seal numbers on the Point increase in late autumn, which is the start of their breeding season, so keep an eye out for their little ones.
Octavia Hill walk at Brandelhow Park, Derwentwater
This gentle lakeside amble along the quiet side of Derwentwater leads you through the tranquil parkland at Brandelhow, birthplace of the National Trust. Here you can see the tree planted by Octavia Hill, one of the founders of the National Trust, at the official opening of Brandelhow in October 1902. Brandelhow is away from main roads and as a result is rich in wildlife. You may have the chance to see kingfishers, woodpeckers, nuthatches, roe deer, red squirrels and, if you're very lucky, perhaps even an otter. The woodland also hosts a large variety of fungi, so autumn is the perfect time for a fungal foray.
Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden, North Yorkshire
Do you know your stags from your hinds and your Reds from your Sikas? Explore Studley Royal Deer Park, home to a herd of over 300 wild deer, and join the wildlife volunteer team for a guided walk to find out more. Stick around after to admire the Twelfth Century abbey, Georgian Water Garden, Cistercian mill, and Jacobean mansion as well as the magnificent limes, oaks and sweet chestnuts scattered around the park.
Dinefwr, South Wales
Dinefwr Park wildlife walk
Dinefwr’s historic parkland is famed for its abundance of wildlife and stunning valley views. Some of the 'veteran' trees are thought to be over 700 years old and support such a high diversity of lichens and invertebrates that the park has been declared a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Fallen branches are deliberately left on the ground as they are an important habitat for ‘dead wood invertebrates' such as beetles that depend on rotting wood for food and shelter. This three mile walk takes in some of the estate’s great wildlife-spotting places, as well as a fascinating medieval castle and seventeenth-century mansion. Keen bird-watchers may catch sight of the three different types of British woodpeckers (the lesser, greater spotted and green) that live in the woodlands.
Murlough National Nature Reserve, Northern Ireland
Murlough south end nature trail
Murlough National Nature Reserve is a fragile 6000 year old sand dune system cared for by the National Trust and managed as Ireland’s first nature reserve since 1967. Murlough is home to a wide range of habitats including heathland, woodland, species-rich grassland, lichen-rich hollows, gorse and bracken scrub. This 2.5 mile trail takes ramblers along the beach and further inland to 'Tomorrow’s Heathland Heritage' site with its vast array of bell and ling heather. The site is home to colonies of the endangered marsh fritillary butterfly, which in autumn can be spotted hibernating as young caterpillars close to the ground.
Stourhead garden walk
This gentle walk follows the same route taken regularly by Henry Hoare II, the original designer of the magnificent Stourhead gardens. Take your time to soak up all the features of this masterpiece, including the tranquil garden of the South Lawn, the shaded banks running down to the lake and the Grotto, which contains a statue of a sleeping nymph. A visit to Stourhead isn’t complete without a trip to the award-winning restaurant, where ramblers can sample Stourhead’s signature dish, succulent homemade beef cobbler. This tasty dish was first created to celebrate the restaurant's achievement of the gold Food for Life catering mark, highlighting its use of local and organic produce. If beef isn’t your thing, there is a fantastic variety of locally produced, vegetarian and gluten and dairy-free items on offer, including delicious cakes!
Sissinghurst Castle Garden, Kent
Sissinghurst Castle estate walk
Vita Sackville-West, the poet and writer, began transforming Sissinghurst Castle Garden in the 1930s with her diplomat and author husband, Harold Nicolson. This three mile exploration of the estate takes walkers through the most prominent features of Vita and Harold’s design. The most recent feature on the estate is the vegetable plot, which is organically-managed in order to benefit wildlife and the environment, and now supplies the restaurant with delicious seasonal vegetables. Hungry ramblers can sample some of this veg at the restaurant, where the chefs will be cooking up some warming autumnal delights.
Carding Mill Valley and the Shropshire Hills, Shropshire
The Pipe Walk at Carding Mill Valley
Traversing almost 5,000 acres of heather-covered hills, Carding Mill Valley and the Shropshire Hills is an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is hugely important for wildlife, landscape, geology and archaeology. This walk is a great way to see some of those beautiful views and historic landmarks. With a strong focus on water, it follows the stream up to the dark-blue reservoir, along the pipe walk and finishes at Lightspout waterfall.
Stop off at the Chalet Pavilion in Carding Mill Valley for a hot drink and a slice of tasty cake, or a warming meal after a hard day’s walking. It’s now open 364 days a year, so it's the perfect refuge whatever the weather.
Wimpole Estate, Cambridgeshire
Folly and woodland belt walk
Rich in history and aesthetic beauty, this stunning home is the heart of this working estate. Discover the powerful history of the land on this three mile, well-trodden path, from the remains of medieval farming and gothic ruins to lavish Georgian landscapes. You can also explore the unique contrasts between a historical and modern working estate.
After you’ve worked up an appetite, pop in to the Old Rectory Restaurant or Farm Café where you can enjoy delicious dishes cooked up with fresh local produce.
Sticklebarn and the Langdales, Cumbria
Blea Tarn walk
This gentle two mile walk takes amblers around Blea Tarn, a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest. The mountain pools sediment has not been disturbed since the last Ice Age, providing valuable research and leaving the area pristine. The views across Little Langdale Valley and the Coniston Fells are also spectacular. Visitors will find a welcome treat at Sticklebarn, the only pub to be run by The National Trust. The pub serves good helpings of hearty Lakeland food, Cumbrian real ales and even has a wood-fired pizza oven. With crackling fires and a notoriously tasty Stickle Toffee Pudding, there’s no better way to relax after a blustery autumn walk.
Get Your Walking Boots On! And Sun Down at Gibside Beer Garden & Pub
Buzzing with wildlife, Gibside is home to red kites, roe deer and many other rare animals. Discover fine Derwent Valley views, winding paths and refreshing open spaces while exploring elegant buildings and ruins. On Friday evenings the Gibside Beer Garden and Pub is the perfect place to relax with local ales and snacks. Tuck in to delicious fresh pizzas baked in a wood-fired oven.
Colby Woodland Garden, Pembrokeshire
Ragwen Point walk
This 2.5 mile walk through Colby Woodland Garden is full of playful surprises. Complete with rope swings and fallen trees for the more agile walkers and an Iron Age hill-fort and stunning views right across to Somerset and Devon for the more composed, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. And once you’ve worked up an appetite, the Bothy tea-room is on hand to serve mouth-watering cakes, tempting cream teas and sumptuous local cheeses. The Bothy is the creation of mother and daughter Penny and Sam, who have worked tirelessly for the past six years to develop the highest quality, locally sourced food.
Mount Stewart, County Down
Mount Stewart is one of the most unique and unusual gardens in the Trust’s ownership, enjoying the mild climate of the Ards Peninsula. Find out for yourself why it was voted as one of the world’s top ten gardens and explore the surrounding countryside. The lake is particularly beautiful in the autumn with gorgeous reds and golds of autumnal foliage.
Once you’re all tuckered out, cosy up with a hot bowl of soup or a comforting cuppa in the brand new Mount Stewart Tea Room.
Feeling inspired? Find your walk at www.nationaltrust.org.uk/gbwalk
For more ideas for autumn entertainment, pick up the latest copy of Yours