One of the big attractions of moving to the country is the country walks you will imagine you will go on. Rambling for miles through beautiful landscapes in mild weather whilst spotting wildlife and contemplating life. Sometimes it will be like that, other times not so much. One of the things I discovered about myself since we moved to a more rural area is that I’m a bit nervous around livestock. Happy to coo over lambs in a field from a car window, it didn’t occur to me that walking through a field of them or, god forbid, a herd of cows, would make me slightly anxious. I haven’t yet been stampeded or savaged so I don’t have any reason to think I am in mortal peril and I hope it’s something that will fade. At least it gives the locals a laugh. I still brave the country walk though and thought I would share my tips for making the most of your rambles.
Be Prepared Get yourself an ordnance survey map which will have all the footpaths marked for your area. When on your walk, these should be marked with yellow arrows. Walks are not always circular so plan your route and how you will get home. In winter it is often dark by 4.30pm so make sure you aren’t going on a 5 mile walk at 4pm cross country. You don’t have to have ‘proper’ walking clothes but study boots are a must and long thick trousers are useful as you might find some of the stiles are a bit overgrown with brambles and even have a bit of barbed wire on them. This all sounds very basic but there still seem to be reports of people setting off up mountains wearing flip flops in November. Don’t need the rescue services. Very embarrassing.
Be a considerate dog owner Dogs, of course, are made for walks. However, there are a few things to remember with regards to your furry friend. Do be aware of livestock on your walk. Footpaths often go through farmers’ fields so make sure you know that field is definitely empty before letting your dog off the lead. Livestock is often rotated for grazing so the field that was empty last week may have gained some occupants. Even if you are convinced that your dog would never attack an animal, pregnant ewes that bolt from a playful dog are still at risk of losing their lambs. Farmers are within their rights to shoot a dog that is bothering their livestock so don’t take the risk.
Stile it out (see what I did there?) Most walks will include at least one stile. These are so you can get over the fence but the livestock can’t get out. Some are dog friendly and you may find that someone has fashioned a flap you can lift so the dog can fit through. If you have a large breed dog you might want to check access before taking him or her with you. I have lifted my slightly chubby spaniel over stiles where necessary but if I had a St Bernard that wouldn’t really be possible.
Learn a little about wildlife If you are taking children on a walk with you and even if you are not, it is so much more interesting if you can point out some of the local wildlife. Learn what badger tracks or deer poo looks like and know the difference between a pheasant and a partridge. The RSPB has a great tracking sheet at
And at wildlife watch website you can make your own tracking sheet
Feathers are fair game to collect but remember to teach children not to touch birds’ nests or pick wild flowers.
Chat to fellow walkers When we first moved to the area, some of our best tips came from people we met out and about. This could be anything from the best local walk with a decent pub to a short cut home when the weather turned. Most people are friendly and many areas often have walking groups or clubs (parish magazines can be a good source of information for these).
Walking has been one of our most pleasurable activities since moving to the country. Of course we’ve had the walks where the children have moaned for a solid hour or its started tipping down half way or we have got slightly lost but with a little experience these things happen less often. The kids have the proper kit in terms of boots and waterproofs which makes things easier and I would recommend building up their walking distance. The three year old would be sitting on the ground within about ten minutes at first but now will happily go for about an hour. Remember to start slowly and build up to the longer and more hilly walks. Spring is most definitely a foot and the days are getting longer again so I can’t wait to get out for some long rambles and counteract some of that winter inactivity!