Not very often when someone tells you to take a hike you listen intently, but I’d really rather recommend it. Hiking has grown like weeds in England over the last few years and now enthusiasts have made it awfully easy to get into the countryside with a well-mapped route and short train trip from London.
I decided on a maiden solo sojourn to spend a day outdoors. I knew I wanted to walk along the South Downs Way, an expansive area about an hour out of London, known for its green views and forgiving terrain. After rummaging a few sites, in particular Saturday Walkers’ Club and London Hiker, I decided on a 9 mile picturesque amble from Amberley to Arundel, from Time Out’s Country Walks, route 22.
I caught the 09:32 train from Victoria and bundled out in the sunshine wondering how I thought to do this without a map printed out (you can print out instructions but maps are restricted to the book only, which is fair enough). Leaving the station, I followed the instructions and felt fairly confident I was on the right path. Scaling a steady hill I turned to look around me and glowed in the ambience. Moments like these make such adventures worthwhile.
After trekking a few miles I was relieved to see a fellow hiker brining up my rear. I politely enquired if he was following the same walk as I and if we were on track, to which he agreed before smiling off. I didn’t catch his name, so let’s call him Nathan. While I was largely confident in my instruction-following abilities, it was reassuring for the next few hundred metres to see Nathan bobbing in and out of sight on the path ahead.
A few miles on, I intersected a brambling road to find three older folk peering at a picture they’d torn from a newspaper and asked if I knew where we were. I roughly thought so and they seemed content to continue on their path. I guess my printed instructions weren’t so bad considering Neville, Cheryl and Beryl were going off a tiny newspaper clipping…
I found the midway recommended pub, the George and Dragon, and treated myself to some luxurious mussels before picking up the pace. The last few miles were largely downhill and I finished on a high in Arundel. I wandered around the markets and little shops before trundling over to the train station and taking the connection back to London Victoria, feeling quite pleased with myself.
The route I did was Amberley to Arundel, but there are many of varying levels and difficulties so have a dig.
What to wear
- Summer; Long trousers – don’t be tempted by the sun’s saucy fingers to show some leg – England’s countryside is full of brambles and ivy that love bare skin and you’ll save yourself discomfort by keeping your legs covered.
- Hiking boots are great – ideal with breathable material if on a dry path, but for many of these walks good trainers will suffice. Pack a fleece and or wind-breaker; most of these hikes are full day affairs and peaks/ridges often channel the wind and stopping often brings the chill along with the setting sun.
- Sunglasses, a hat, spare socks incase you get your feet wet and it’s a long way home.
- For winter; thick socks, a fleece, scarf and hat as well as a wind jacket and waterproof shoes are ideal. The important thing is lightweight and things that pack small to be able to slip into your pack when you inevitably break a sweat.
What to pack
- Snacks – salty and sweet. Food may not be guaranteed en route and it’s important to be able to top up regardless – I usually take a forgiving fruit like apple, peanuts and winegums or similar. Muffins are also useful for that ‘side-sticking’ stuff.
- Tissues, mini med kit (or at least plasters, painkillers)
- Water – refill en route as you can, the bigger the better and an energy drink or fruit juice for the sugar.
- Lip-ice, deodorant, spare plastic bags – take your rubbish with you
- Camera and or phone
- Printed out maps – battery can never die on those