Britain’s best walks – from John Craven and his Countryfile co-presenters
From the Northumberland coast to the Hackney marshes, the Countryfile team reveal their favourite rambles
The word “ramble” may conjure up visions of being lost, exhausted and bedraggled in the middle of a farmer’s field, a crumpled map at your feet. But no matter what your age, where you live, what kit you own, or how fit you are, there’s a ramble perfectly suited to your needs. For the third year running, Countryfile is encouraging viewers to take part in a ramble on 14 and 15 October to raise money for BBC Children in Need. Each of the presenters will be taking part in a different ramble themselves, joined by young people who have been supported by projects funded by Children in Need. Here three Countryfile presenters tell us about some of their own favourite rambles.
A coastal classic
When I started working for the BBC in Newcastle in my early 20s, I discovered the Northumberland coast, and I have loved it ever since. My favourite ramble is along a National Trust coastal path. It starts at Craster, which is famous for selling kippers! L Robson and Sons have been producing smoked fish for 100 years. Craster used to be a busy port, especially for herring; now you’ll be lucky to see two little fishing boats. But it’s very pretty, and from there you walk up to the magnificent ruins of Dunstanburgh Castle, a classic coastal castle owned by the National Trust and maintained by English Heritage.
You can wander around the grounds, then it’s an easy descent from the track down to Embleton Bay, an absolutely magnificent expanse of sand. Finish off by strolling along to Low Newton-by-the-Sea, where there’s a National Trust information centre and a good pub called the Ship Inn. Then circle back along the top of the dunes and through a nature reserve called Newton Pool and back to Craster. You can do the whole thing in about two hours if you don’t stop, or three hours with a break. Personally, I like to take it easy: I prefer more of an amble than a ramble! But I do like the exercise of walking, getting everything working properly and trying for my 6,000 steps a day on my phone app. I don’t think you can have a more bracing walk than this one! It will blow the cobwebs away, that’s for sure.
A family favourite
My favourite ramble starts at Fishbourne near Chichester and goes through 10ft-high reeds, mud flats and tiny secret paths that change all the time with the tide. I have family nearby, so I knew it well as a child and I still go back. I like the mystery of it. My family call it “the jungle”, which gives you some idea of how wild it is. You never know what’s around the corner. One moment you’ll be on a narrow path looking at some wild flower or creature, then it’ll open up to a much bigger vista.
Walk south towards the open sea and you end up in Dell Quay, which is popular with the sailing set. It’s utterly beautiful, but it’s not just about the view. So few people talk about what you can hear on a walk. On this one, there’s a great mixture of sounds – there’s the rustle of the reeds moving, the hiss of the water flowing in and the popping of it going out of the rock pools. It’s not a long distance – about a mile each way – but you have to be quite careful about not being cut off by the tide. It’s nice just to take it easy and go back again and again to somewhere you know well and where you can really appreciate the changes in landscape. That’s great stimulation for mind and body.
A stroll through the city
London is one of the best cities in the world, and the best way to see it is to walk it. I live just off Hackney Marshes in the East End, and to me walking along the canal there feels like you’re not really in the city. You can walk along Hackney Wick to Victoria Park and end up in Fleet Street and Temple, where all the barristers’ chambers are. It’s full of history, with one of the oldest pubs in London, Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese.
Another great ramble is from Hackney Central all the way through Shoreditch, taking in lots of great markets, including the foodie heaven of Broadway Market in London Fields. That used to be the main thoroughfare many years ago, so you can pop in to the Cat & Mutton pub, which was the original watering hole for shepherds driving their sheep into the city. From there, walk up to Columbia Road, with the wonderful, world-famous Flower Market. If that’s not enough, you could stop off for a visit at Hackney City Farm, where there’s wildlife up to your eyeballs! And here’s the beautiful thing: London is pretty flat and easy to walk, so you don’t need any major kit. Just a pair of comfy trainers.
The Countryfile Ramble for BBC Children in Need will take place on 14 and 15 October. To find out how to get involved go to bbc.co.uk/countryfile
Interviews by Emma Cox