Head for the hills
Take a hike this autumn! We suggest three classic UK hikes and recommend some great gear to take with you
Above: Ennerdale Water on the Coast to Coast. Image by Kreuzschnabel/Wikimedia Commons, License: artlibre
Autumn is one of the best seasons to head for the hills and enjoy a hike. Crisp, golden days and spectacular, colourful foliage are best enjoyed on foot – and whether you have one week, two weeks, or just a few hours, there’s a walk near you just waiting to be enjoyed.
Here we share three of our favourite long-distance walking trails – and recommend some great kit that will keep you warm and dry along the way.
Coast to Coast. Stretching almost 200 miles from St Bees in Cumbria to Robin Hood’s Bay in Yorkshire, the UK’s Coast to Coast route is one of the most famous long distance walks in the world. Devised by Lake District walking legend Alfred Wainwright, the first guidebook (written by the man himself) was published in 1973 – and you can still carry a copy, complete with Wainwright’s charming illustrations, with you. The walk encompasses three of the UK’s most beautiful National Parks – the Lake District, Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors – and can be completed by confident walkers in a fortnight.
Above left: White Horse at Uffington © NASA; above right: Limestone Way
The Ridgeway. This 87-mile long National Trail from West Kennet, Wiltshire, to Ivinghoe Beacon, Buckinghamshire, follows a route that has been used by travellers since prehistoric times. Taking about a week, The Ridgeway takes in a remarkable number of archaeological sites and monuments, including the World Heritage Site of Avebury and the White Horse at Uffington. The route finishes in the Chilterns, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Limestone Way. If you can only spare a few days, consider the Limestone Way in the UK’s Peak District National Park. The waymarked route starts in Castleton, Derbyshire and ends in Rocestor, Staffordshire and is 46 miles long. Along the way you’ll travel through the limestone valleys of the White Peak, through rolling farmland, ancient woodland and picturesque villages. Highlights of the walk include the rocky pinnacles of Robin Hood’s Stride – legend tells that the merry man crossed from one pillar to another in a single step, when fleeing from the Sheriff of Nottingham.
A day in the hills
The possibilities for a day-long hike in the UK are endless, with marked footpaths and bridleways easily accessible in every corner of the country.
The National Trust offers hundreds of trails, with easy to follow instructions that can viewed on smart phone or tablet, at http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/visit/activities/walking/. There are also tips and advice for walkers from outdoor clothing specialist Cotswold Outdoor.
Get the gear
If you’re planning to take a hike this autumn, make sure you have the right gear. We’ve found some fantastic men’s clothing and equipment that’s perfect for a day in the hills.
Sprayway Mercury Jacket £200
This GORE-TEX jacket will protect you against the worst of the autumn weather, and is just the right length – long enough to keep the body dry, without restricting movement when scrambling. The inner mesh panels and Gore-Tex technology make it an extremely breathable jacket – great when the going gets more strenuous – and both outer and inner fabrics feel soft and comfortable. It comes with an adjustable, roll-away hood that’s wire-peaked – this is brilliant in heavy rain, as it prevents water from dripping onto your face. We particularly love the huge outer pockets – big enough for Ordnance Survey maps, making them easily accessible. There’s a hidden inner pocket for phone, keys etc too.
Osprey Talon 22 backpack £80
This pack is exactly the right size for carrying everything you need for a day in the hills. Unlike many daypacks of a similar size, it has a combination of padded hip and chest straps that support the weight and distribute it evenly to avoid shoulder strain. The specially designed back panel ensures maximum comfort and breathability. The main compartment is very roomy, with plenty of space for packed lunch and flask and a small inner pocket to keep your valuables safe and close at hand. A second, smaller compartment offers easy access at the top of the pack. There are two side pockets for water bottles and a large stretchy pocket on the front for quick stowage of extra layers of clothing. Altogether an extremely comfortable and practical pack.
The White T-shirt Co Crew necked t-shirt £35
These t-shirts from the White T-shirt Co (actually available in white, grey or navy) are superb quality and are made from organic cotton that’s so smooth and soft it stays wrinkle-free even after washing. This means it’s a great choice for packing if you’re heading out for a multi-day hike, and the relaxed fit gives good freedom of movement and is great for layering under a fleece. When you buy one of these shirts, you’re getting a highly ethical garment – there’s a transparent supply chain ensuring environmentally friendly production and fair working conditions.
Patagonia Duck Pants £60
If you want a pair of trousers that offers good looks as well as functionality, then these are the ones to go for. Made from 100 per cent organic cotton canvas, they’re hard-wearing and robust, but are also smart enough for an evening out – essential if you’re planning a long-distance hike and need to look that bit smarter en route. These trousers are roomy around the hips and knees, so offer plenty of freedom of movement when hiking, and have lots of pockets for stowing compass, phone, Kendal mint cake, and other essentials close at hand. They’re also extremely comfortable. As with all Patagonia garments, the trousers are produced under environmentally and socially responsible conditions.
The Green Sock Shop Wasdale Walker boot socks £8.95
Socks may not be top of your list for essential hiking equipment – but wear the wrong pair and you’ll live to regret it. Wasdale Walker socks are made from a blend of wool and nylon, and have reinforced toes and heels – so they are warm and hard-wearing while still allowing your feet to breathe. And, most importantly, they are soft and comfortable for the hardest-working part of your body – your feet. The Wasdale Clothing Company has some impressive green manufacturing credentials, too, including solar powered offices and recycled cardboard labels.
Regatta Trailhike Fleece £30
Regatta takes its ethical responsibilities very seriously. As members of the Ethical Trade Initiative, fair working conditions are a priority, as is the reduction of environmental impact. The Trailhike Fleece is made from Thermal Balance Plus microfleece, which is anti-pilling and prevents windchill. There are stretch cuffs and hems to keep the whole of the upper body snug. What we really love about this fleece is its stretchy panels on either side of the body. These allow a closer fit, for warmth, without restricting movement. And the fleece is also soft, comfortable and not at all bulky. It looks smart too.
Berghaus Fellmaster Walking Boots £140
It goes without saying that your walking boots will be the most important part of your hiking kit. We’ve owned several pairs of Brasher boots from Berghaus and have found them to be supple enough to put on straight from the box with no need for “breaking in”. They’re also very waterproof – with GORE-TEX lining to ensure dry feet – and offer excellent grip and sturdy support.
Romney’s Kendal mint cake From £0.50
Absolutely essential when you’re heading for the hills, Kendal mint cake provides an energy boost just when you need it most. Romney’s mint cake was taken on the first successful expedition to the summit of Everest in 1953 – but even on day hikes it’s a useful source of glucose to carry with you in case you run into trouble. Be sure to take two bars – one to save for emergencies and one to give you the energy you need to get you to the summit of that mountain.
Trespass Hemic Softshell Trousers £73.99
The thick, slightly stretchy fabric and warm, soft lining makes these comfortable trousers ideal for colder weather. They’re both water resistant – so will keep you dry in the rain – and breathable. An adjustable waist ensures a good, comfortable fit. Knee darts allow a really good range of movement – climbing and scrambling present no problems at all, and because the outer shell is strong and durable, the legs feel well protected during these activities. These trousers would be ideal for more challenging environments where wind and snow could be an issue.
Sunwise Canoe sunglasses £25.99
Even in autumn, you need to protect your eyes against harmful ultraviolet rays. These stylish sunglasses are extremely lightweight, but are still durable enough to withstand being taken on and off in changeable weather conditions. The floating frame and wrap-around polarized lenses prevent glare when walking alongside water – and they’re also impact resistant.
Howies Classic Merino Base Layer £49
Howies is a small active clothing company based in Wales that produces high quality garments with low environmental impact. Because merino wool is 100 per cent natural, this soft and warm long sleeved base layer will keep you cosy when the temperature drops – but it still has excellent breathability. It’s ideal for strenuous hiking, as the fabric wicks moisture away from the body and is naturally odour-resistant. The base-layer is also extremely comfortable – and, because it’s styled just like an ordinary t-shirt, it looks good when you’re not walking, too!
Luminaid Packlight16 £24.95
Hook this small solar inflatable light onto the outside of your backpack and you’ll have emergency lighting – including a flash mode to attract attention – if you run into trouble when hiking. Deflated, the lamp is small and lightweight – but the built-in solar panels will provide hours of light when fully charged. Read our full review of the Luminaid Packlite 16.
Green Adventures October 2015