Thursday, 31 May 2012

Beautiful buggy-friendly walks

Venture into the countryside with your toddler without the fear of getting stranded on preciptous cliff-top paths or being stumped by a stile

Written by Katy Pearson

Buggies, toddlers and countryside rambles can be something of a daunting combination. But Richard Happer's new book promises to inspire new parents to get out in the great outdoors with their little 'uns in tow.

Here's our pick of the Richard's routes in his new book Beautiful Buggy Walks. So, no more excuses. Time to grab your wellies, your wheels and your baby and start exploring...

Carbis Bay

Carbis Bay to St Ives, Cornwall

A jewel among seaside towns, St Ives bursts with natural charms, and creative spirit flows down every street. Nature laid the background canvas with a magical turquoise seascape and sandy bays scooped out of a rugged headland. Then humankind added clusters of white houses, leaving only tiny and twisted streets between them. This walk starts in neighbouring Carbis Bay, which also happens to have half a mile of alluring beach. It then ascends up to a tree-covered cliffside path that stays cool no matter how hard the Cornish sun beats down. Eventually, it drops down into St Ives, where you can weave your way through the jumble of streets and along the harbour’s edge. Stop at the Yellow Canary on Fore Street to pick up a coffee and a croissant to munch by the harbour, or head to the Beach Restaurant on Wharf Road, for spectacular panoramic views. Then it’s out onto the headland to find beach after beach modestly revealing its curves. The Tate provides a final flourish of brilliance before you return to Carbis Bay on foot or take the train for a clackety-clack recap of the masterpiece you just enjoyed.

Route a

  • From Carbis Bay station, turn left out of the car park and go downhill towards the beach.
  • Follow the path between the Carbis Bay Hotel and the Sands Café, going around the hotel and over the railway via the footbridge (steps here and up to the path). Continue on this path, going straight on when it joins a narrow lane.
  • After the path crosses the railway, go sharp right down the zigzag slope. Pass the beach café, putting green, station and loos and continue around the front to St Ives.
  • Go around the harbour, all the way to the pier and turn left, passing the museum on the left. Continue round the headland from the car park (steps on the north side) and carry on either to the road or down to Porthmeor Beach.
  • The Tate is midway along the beach. Take the back streets to the harbour and then retrace your steps to Carbis Bay.

Route b

  • To avoid most of the ‘up’ steps at Carbis Bay, get off the train at St Ives and do the town section of the walk before going back along the coastal path to Carbis Bay.
  • To avoid the steps on the north side of St Ives Head, visit the top of the hill on St Ives Head and then walk to the Tate through the streets, instead of via the promontory.


Tarr Steps

Tarr Steps, Exmoor, Somerset

Come here in summer and the scene is idyllic. The River Barle is knee-deep to a toddler, every shining blue-grey stone visible on its bed. The meadow reclines beside the water, exhaling dandelion blooms into the sky. Children scout in the shallows for sticklebacks and splash each other in the deeper pools. It makes you wonder why anyone went to all the trouble of building the Tarr Steps in the first place. Sheltering at the foot of breezy Winsford Hill, this crooked creek reveals its wonders only slowly.

So take your time (and a picnic) and just let your wheels lead you into sudden sunlit glades, past rows of foxgloves lining the bank, and alongside horses stretching their necks to sip from the stream. If you want an easier day out, stick to the east bank, walking as far along as you wish and returning the same way to enjoy the Steps. If you're in need of refreshment, the Tarr Farm Inn, just by the Steps, does good teas and has a terrace with great river views.

Route

  • From the car park, go through the obvious gate and take the path downhill, through the field beside the road. This pops out onto the road above the Steps.
  • Cross the Steps and turn right along the riverbank.
  • Follow this path for nearly a mile as it winds round 4 bends in the river.
  • Cross the river by the footbridge and turn right, returning back along the river by the obvious path through the woods.

Note: the path on the west bank of the river is twisty and rocky in sections, making it only suitable for ATPs. If you want an easier day out, simply stick to the east bank, walking as far along as you wish and returning the same way to enjoy the Steps.

 


 

Durdle door

Durdle Door, Dorset

The walk starts with a hard climb up the flank of Hambury Tout, a conical hill standing protectively behind Lulworth. Far behind you lies Lulworth with its shining cove and emerald fields, as pretty and perfect as a model village. Beyond it, your eyes drift to a wilder land, where the rugged escarpments of the Purbeck cliffs plunge one after another into the sea.

You could have your picnic here, but it’s probably better to push on because this is just a taster of the startling sea views that lie ahead of you. Sheer cliffs stand to attention like soldiers, while tiny islands dot the bay. You’ll soon be scurrying downhill to see more.

The next surprise comes as you pass by – or, rather, 30 metres above – the stunning circlet of Man O’ War Bay. Here the waters shift their hue from navy blue through azure to turquoise, as the deep sea floor shelves quickly up to the beach. Then Durdle Door reveals itself – this natural limestone arch juts out into the sea, sheltering a beach that sweeps away beneath high chalk walls.

Route

  • Walk to the back of the car park to the gate that leads to the obvious stepped stone path up the flank of the hill.
  • Follow this all the way to Durdle Door. Then turn back to return the same way.
  • It’s possible to return on the other side of the hill (marked on the map with the red dashes) by heading left as you turn back, and going up the gravel track that leads to another car park, near a caravan site. 
  • Ignore the stiles and continue into the car park until you reach a gate on the right, by a small copse.
  • Pass through the gate and follow the path that hugs the fence as it descends east and goes round the hill.
  • You will rejoin the main path by the gate from the car park.

Note: there are no steps on this northerly way around Hambury Tout, so you could go this way there and back for a step-free walk. However, the path does narrow a lot as it skirts the north-east flank of the hill, meaning the route with the steps is simpler – but harder – work.

 


 

Blickling Hall

Blickling Hall, Norfolk

If ever there was a walk to make you dream of being an 18th-century aristocrat, this is it. On leaving the car parked in a forest glade, you follow a plain track alongside open fields and beneath the boughs of aged oaks. The way turns left, and for a few pleasant moments you weave idly through woodland. You’ll walk a full mile more before the house itself heaves into view, but what a sight; standing proudly amid the trees at the head of a glistening lake are the dramatic pinnacles, towers and chimneys of Blickling Hall.

The path ranges close to the formal gardens, with their 400-year-old yew hedges and historic trees, giving you a chance to enjoy their elegant architecture. From here, you can choose to enter the grand Hall and explore its famous Long Gallery, or re-energise with a Cromer crab and a glass of local ale at the nearby pub and let the young ones muck about in the adventure playground.

You can finish your fantasy of refinement by returning via the Grandstand Tower, built by the 2nd Earl for his guests to sit in finery and watch the horse racing.

Route

  • Follow the track from the car park south-east for 600 metres, with trees to the left and fields on the right.
  • Turn left onto the compacted path through the woods. After crossing the mausoleum clearing, bear right and follow the path out of the trees, heading along a fence line towards a lone tree.
  • Go on through a small wood and pick up the path signed ‘Weavers’ Way’ until you reach the lake. Turn right and go along the nearside shore towards Blickling Hall, now visible in the distance.
  • As you near the Hall, turn right to head along a grassy track and then left through a gate that leads to a road.
  • Turn left, passing the pub on the right and play area on your left. The Hall is ahead, on the left.
  • To return, take the small road opposite the pub and then bear left through a gate and along a wide track that heads through the estate towards the woods. This joins up with the path that you turned off to reach the mausoleum.


Grizedale Forest

Grizedale Forest, Cumbria

Grizedale is the forest of fun. It’s home to miles of thrilling mountain bike trails, an adventure playground and two motor rallies every year, but is so big (8,000 acres) that the adrenaline fans can zoom off and still leave plenty of peace for those of us who prefer a quiet wander through the woods. There are plenty of walks, but rather than rushing around, take your time (and a picnic) and simply savour this little ‘starter for ten’ saunter through the trees.

The route wanders in a figure-of-eight from the visitor centre (a great place to pick up refreshments), with a wooden bridge over a tumbling river gully. Just a few metres away from the visitor centre a field of wild flowers drops away to your right, opening up a splendid welcoming vista of the forest. Come here around dawn or dusk and you might see the last naturally afforested herd of red deer in England. Roe deer also roam free, while barn owls, buzzards and woodpeckers make their homes in the treetops. You can now glimpse red kites swooping over the woodland canopy, thanks to a successful reintroduction scheme, and rare white-faced darter dragonflies have been spotted hovering above the forest tarns.

Route

  • From the car park, turn right in front of the loos and go past the striking Yan building, then simply follow the blue way-marked posts for the Ridding Wood Walk.
  • Where the route zigzags back on itself you can continue on a little further, to a bench at a viewpoint, before returning.
For more great buggy walks go to www.beautifulbuggywalks.co.uk or pick up a copy of Beautiful Buggy Walks by Richard Happer, £16.95


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