Sometimes I crave a temporary break from city life – a change of scenery and fresh air can do wonders for the soul. It would be lovely to spontaneously fly away somewhere exotic for the weekend, but that’s rarely (if ever!) a viable last-minute option. There are 2 books I bought a few years ago – after my sister recommended them – that have been completely invaluable for getting me out of London on a budget, so I thought I’d let you in on my secret…
Country walks near London
There’s something completely perfect about this idea – a book full of day walks in the countryside that are accessible to Londoners by train.
Published by Time Out, I have both of the two volumes of this book available and, after my Oyster Card and a pair of tights, it is hands down the best purchase I’ve made since moving to London. The first book is a great place to start, with 52 walks inside (one for each week of the year). Volume 2 is a great supplement to the first if you’re really keen or want more of a variety to choose from, as there’s an additional 30 walks in this one.
What I love about these walks:
- There’s a huge range of walks to do. They’re graded out of 10 for difficulty, so depending on how much time I have or how much of a challenge I want it’s usually easy to find one that suits.
- On average I’d say the walks usually take about 4-6 hours and there’s often an option to shorten the walks if you don’t have quite that much time to spare.
- Most of the walks are within about a 1.5 hour journey from London, so they’re just close enough that you can get a full day out and each one is easily accessible from a London train station.
- The book has full details to get you from London, to the beginning of the walk and then back again. When you arrive at the station, the instructions literally start with something like “leaving Platform 2 at the station, climb the stairs to the road and turn right, your direction 140 degrees”…they’re very detailed right from the beginning.
- One of my favourite things about these walks (typically) is that the routes include a recommendation for a well-deserved pub lunch part the way through and then a tea shop for a cuppa at the end. Seriously, there’s nothing like a ploughman’s and a pint at the local country pub half way through a nice country walk!
- Lastly, a lot of the walking routes have been designed to take in places of historic interest. Our most recent walk took us past Lord Snowdon’s backyard pond complete with Japanese pagoda, some Roman ruins and a field of spring lambs. One jaunt across part of the South Downs Way took us past Virginia Woolf’s country home (and sadly, over the river where she drowned herself). Another one of our walks ended in Great Missenden, the village where Roald Dahl used to live, which now has a Museum (and Cafe Twit!) in his honour.
At less than £9 per book, it’s been money well spent! Especially if, like me, the UK isn’t your first home. It’s been an awesome way of seeing more of the countryside without hiring a car or paying for accommodation and it can be hard to know where to go or where to walk without any prior knowledge of the areas surrounding London.
If you live in a big city too, do you ever feel like you need to just get out for a day for some peace & fresh air?