How to walk the walk

Posted by Jonathan Broom on 23 April 2018
Related property: Lower Knapp Farm
How to walk the walk

I forget who it was who said that there’s no such thing as bad weather – just inappropriate clothing; but it’s a lesson that many Britons have seemingly never quite taken to heart. Winter after winter one hears of rescue helicopters being sent up Snowdon, Ben Nevis or Scafell Pike to pluck some hapless wanderer from the now-inhospitable mountainside. “But it was so nice when we set off...” Yes, but if there’s one thing that’s changeable about the British Isles it’s our sometimes glorious, always capricious weather.

But if there’s a better way to discover and revel in the wonders of the British countryside than putting one foot in front of the other, I’ve yet to hear about it; and holidaymakers at Lower Knapp Farm in Devon who fancy a walk or three have arguably even more reasons to be cheerful: verdant, rolling countryside; nothing too steep (up or down!) or challenging; fabulous contrasts between coastal and inland areas; the unspoilt wilderness that is the Dartmoor National Park; and quaint, welcoming towns and villages.

And a climate that tends towards the benign. But you shouldn’t count on it. If you plan to walk the beautiful footpaths and bridleways of deepest Devonshire (though the same rules apply just about anywhere else in Britain), here are my own Top Five Rules (plus one) for a successful and enjoyable ramble. In no particular order:

  1. DON’T WEAR NEW

Walking shoes these days come in many guises (and carry as many price tags); but I’ve never yet found a boot that didn’t need to be broken in. And the last place you want to be doing that is on the walk itself; rubbing blisters five miles from home, with five miles still to go, is no fun at all. I think it’s a good maxim (let’s call this a codicil, rather than a rule) to buy the best boots you can afford, but make sure you wear them about the place – to do the garden, go shopping etc – before you do any serious walking.

  1. MAKE IT AS LIGHT AS POSSIBLE

And by that I mean everything. No-one likes to be cold, so you might want to take a jumper or two depending on the time of year; but the key to comfort is layering. Much better to wear five thin layers of some sort of breathable fabric (there are many available) than one thick Fair Isle sweater. Layers can be removed or added, and, when not needed, packed away in your (equally lightweight) backpack.

In which you take what you need:

  • water
  • energy snacks
  • sticking plasters
  • camera
  • phone
  • map
  • identification/contact details

and no more!

  1. DON’T RELY ON GPS

Whether you have a handheld satellite navigation device or (more likely) use your smartphone’s inbuilt GPS, it’s a big mistake to depend on it. Signals can fail, and/or batteries go flat. And tales of inaccuracies abound – people driving into rivers, fields and so on. Not funny in a car; even less amusing on foot.

  1. PLAN YOUR WALK

I know – it’s tempting just to strike out for who-knows-where, to ‘go where my feet take me’, but really, in my experience the further you go on an unplanned course the less footloose and fancy-free you become. While it’s possibly less spontaneous – more pedestrian (sorry) – to have a route mapped out, you’ll be all the better for it. And do some forward-planning: if your route takes in lunch at a country pub, call ahead and check what time lunch service is. If the highlight of your walk is to be a Devonshire cream tea, why not check the teashop’s open on a Monday?

  1. TELL SOMEONE!

None of us likes to be checked up-on. ‘Where are you going? Who with? What time will you be back?’ And there’s no need for detail. But just make sure someone knows roughly what your plans are, your route (more or less) and at about what time you hope to return. An hour each way will do – you have a right to get lost. Just... not TOO lost!

  1. DON’T TAKE ON MORE THAN YOU’RE COMFORTABLE WITH

A walk in the Devonshire countryside should be a pleasure. Whether you’re just walking to and from the pub, or the nearest lookout point, or describing an elaborate arc through the woolly wastelands of Dartmoor, do what’s fun: you’re in a beautiful county, and you’re on holiday.

It’s all about enjoyment – not endurance.

Jonathan Broom

Jonathan Broom

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