Walking Plans 2013

Published 12 March 2013. Last updated 3 July 2014


It’s that time of the year when people’s thoughts tend to think about walking trips. I can tell as there’s always a big spike in views to the Planning a Trip pages.

Naturally my thoughts have been on my own plans, and as I do every year, I decided to write about them. It’s something I do. Writing down my plans seems to make them more real and, importantly, seems to help make me stick to them.

2012’s plans were a bit like wrapping stuff up – with limited leave and a baby on the way, I wasn’t sure how much I could do in the year.

And now in 2013 I have the flip side of a similar problem. Sam’s now three months old. He’s very dependent on his parents and that’s hard work for his parents, especially his mum. This is probably not the year for me to disappear off for a week’s walking trip. Nor is it a year that Catherine and myself can do some big two week walking trip together. Let’s face it – it’s going to be just a few years before we can do one of those again, and we’d need the buy-in of the grandparents. It’s of no surprise to me that many people seem to abandon big walking trips in their 30s, only coming back to it in their 40s and 50s.

Still the arrival of a child doesn’t mean you can’t do any walking (although try telling that to some parents with their “my life is over now – I can’t do anything – the child is all that matters – they come first for everything” attitude.) It’s just that you may need to do things differently.

That’s why this years’ big goal is The Thames Path. This is perhaps the most unusual National Trail there is. Unlike most National Trails which do their best to avoid big towns, the Thames Path spends a substantial amount of time in the biggest city in the UK.

It’s a path that’s never been particularly on my radar, but for those in London and the South East with young children (hello), the Thames Path has a number of benefits. There’s excellent transport links. It has many, many ways to split most of its sections up in to short day hikes. It has lots of benches. There are many places to stop and have some food.

Our plan is to walk from the London end to the source in short day hikes. Starting at th Thames Barrier end and walking west makes sense for us as almost all the London section is paved meaning it’s great for prams and buggies, and to help ease ourselves in to walking with a child. And as we get more experience (and Sam gets older) we’ll get closer to the source which requires longer days of walking and has less options for splitting it up. We’ve already started even if we’re not quite sure how we’re going to do the more rural sections just yet but we’ll work that out.

As well as the Thames Path I plan to throw in the Thames Path Extension as well. It’s an extra 13 miles from the Thames Barrier out eastwards – it’s natural to add on, although one that we’ll tackle separately.

What else? Well there will be a few Wainwrights as well. Our summer holiday is likely to be spent in a holiday cottage in Ambleside. By that point Sam will hopefully be big enough to sit in a back carrier and the hope is we can do a few fells whilst we’re up there. Maybe there’ll be a solo hike or two for me as well. No specific plans for all this just yet – we’ll take it as it comes – but if this is the year I finally get up Crinkle Crags, well that would be very cool.

Finally I also intend to do a few short solo trips over the course of the year. There’s a few small trails in the South East that I want to check out and which have the benefit of being possible to split in to day hikes.

On my list is St Swithun’s Way. This is a 34 mile walk from Winchester to Farnham and, when coupled together with the North Downs Way, the two form a modern Pilgrims Way which avoids the roads of the “traditional” route. Add in the Clarendon Way and you get a mega-hike from Salisbury to Canterbury. Whilst I’ve never aimed to walk the Pilgrims Way, I do like the idea of connecting together some of the walks I’ve done.

That’s also why I’m also intending to do Downslink. A 37 mile walk, it runs between the North and South Downs Ways. It follows the line of two disused railway lines and ends t Shoreham-by-Sea. The South Downs is a lovely part of the world and I thoroughly want to take the opportunity to explore the differences in scenery between the North and South Downs now I’ve done both walking routes. As an aside, if I don’t get up on to the cliffs near Eastbourne again this year, I don’t know what the world will be coming to.

So there we have it. Not mega by any means but I’ve written it down now. That means it has to happen. Better get those hiking boots on and get on with it then!

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