Caroline Mills

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Pack your ’van and stretch your legs this National Walking Month with inspiration from Caroline Mills – read on for her pick of some of the UK's best walks

May marks National Walking Month. It’s an opportunity to celebrate putting one foot forward and enjoying the ground beneath your feet, whether that’s squelching sand between your toes along the shoreline, feeling the sensuous barefooted touch of a camomile lawn, taking to the paths of a picturesque city park or tying up your laces for a serious mountain jaunt. Whether you’re an avid hiker or a reluctant exerciser, there’s blossom, bluebells and bleating lambs galore to awaken the senses this month – and using your motorhome as your base is the perfect way to get out there.

If you thought you knew where all the best places for walking in Britain are, you might want to think again and make a point of visiting a ‘Walkers are Welcome’ town. There are over 100 (and counting) registered as such. The scheme promotes towns that have demonstrated a commitment to welcome walkers and offers a vast array of walking experiences throughout Great Britain. That’s not just about allowing a walker with muddy boots into a pub, but about going that extra mile (if you’ll pardon the pun) to offer walkers something special. It might be leaflets providing recommended routes around the town and surrounding countryside, promoting selected walks without stiles for pushchairs and wheelchair users, or ensuring that paths are kept clear and properly signposted so you don’t have to go that extra mile unnecessarily.

Here are some highlights, to help you enjoy some of the best of the British Isles on foot.

Emsworth, Hampshire

This picturesque coastal town is sheltered by Chichester Harbour, a vast natural harbour made up of multiple inlets that is fantastic for wildlife and superb for watching that wildlife as you walk. The town is located at the end (or beginning) of three long distance paths, the Wayfarers Walk, the Sussex Border Path (both crossing the South Downs) and the Solent Way, a particularly attractive 60-mile route from Emsworth to Milford-on-Sea along the coast and through the New Forest. Otherwise you’ll find pleasant, short coastal walks to the very pretty neighbouring village of Langstone, Hayling Island and Thorney Island.

Looking for somewhere nearby to pitch your ’van? The Camping and Caravanning Club’s Chichester site is a couple of miles east of Emsworth and on the Coastliner 700 bus route linking the campsite with the town.

Corsham, Wiltshire

One of the unsung towns of the Cotswolds, Corsham offers a centre filled with all the charm found in other notable towns within the region, only without the hordes of tourists. Beautiful buildings made from the honey-coloured stone that the region is renowned for abound, including the really lovely 17th-century almshouses. Visitors may also recognise the town for being one of the film locations in the TV drama, Poldark

Corsham has created a town walk leaflet passing sites of interest, but most notably for walkers it is Corsham Park, linked to the grand Corsham Court, that will appeal. Landscaped by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown and latterly Humphry (this is the correct spelling of his name, there is no ‘e’) Repton, there are acres of parkland, woods and lakes to explore with both public and permissive footpaths. The town also organises the Corsham Walking Festival, which takes place this year from 17-19 June.

Avid walkers can stay at Plough Lane Caravan Site in nearby Kington Langley; it’s an adults-only site that features in Practical Motorhome’s Top 100 Sites Guide 2016.

Ludlow, Shropshire

Ludlow is renowned for its fabulous foodie reputation, with Michelin-starred restaurants, a thriving Slow Food group and plenty of independent food outlets; the Ludlow Food Centre on the outskirts of town is worthy of a trip alone. But the town, surrounded by the Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Mortimer Country and the hills of north Herefordshire provide plenty of stunning countryside upon which to romp around. For inspiration, there’s a set of nine circular walks available from Ludlow Visitor Information Centre, varying in length from half a mile to eight miles. You’ll also find organised gourmet food walks.

Make a longer trip of it by staying at Ludlow Touring Park, which features in Practical Motorhome’s Top 100 Sites Guide 2016.

Pateley Bridge, Yorkshire Dales

One of my favourite parts of the Yorkshire Dales, Nidderdale doesn’t actually make it into the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Consequently, it has much of the beauty of the national park without the numbers of people. 

Pateley Bridge sits as a gateway to upper Nidderdale. It’s a classic Yorkshire town with a hillside high street. Taking the short Panorama Walk will offer pretty views of the town, but there’s a fabulous riverside walk along the Nidd – using the Nidderdale Way – to the tiny but beautiful hamlet of Wath where you can stop for lunch at The George. For real escapism, head upstream to the Angram and Scar House Reservoirs where you can park and hike up into the hills. Scar House also has facilities for pushchair and wheelchair walks. Pateley Bridge’s annual walking festival runs this year from 22-25 September.

Fancy it? You can pitch your ’van at the Riverside Caravan Park, which, as its name suggests, is right alongside the River Nidd, but is also very close to the charming town centre. However, if you’d rather spend your money on a meal than campsite fees, you could try one of Practical Motorhome’s Nightstops, The Moody Cow at nearby Wormald Green, where you can stop overnight for free if you’re eating in the pub. 

Rosedale Abbey, North Yorkshire Moors

Slap bang in the centre, geographically, of the North York Moors National Park, this tiny village oozes peace and tranquillity in addition to sublime beauty. Rosedale Abbey is a wonderful base from which to explore pretty Rosedale and nearby Danby Dale or the wilder, heather-clad moors around like Castleton Rigg, Blakey Ridge and Rosedale Moor. Once you’ve hiked to your heart’s content, you can fill up on homemade cake at Graze on the Green in Rosedale Abbey’s village centre. The village walking festival is held this year on the weekend of 25/26 June, including a children’s walk. 

Rosedale Abbey Holiday Park, situated along the pretty River Seven, and The Caravan Club’s The Howard, Rosedale Abbey site (for members only) are both within the village. Or you could pull up at the Pickering Antique Centre, in the popular town of Pickering, south of Rosedale Abbey and a gateway to the North York Moors National Park, for an overnight stay – it’s one of the members of Practical Motorhome’s Nightstops scheme.

Moffat, Scotland

Why not visit Scotland? Moffat is a beautiful town and a great place to visit with a motorhome as it’s so easy to get to – just three miles off the A74(M) and yet, despite its proximity to a major road, it's in the heart of some stunning Scottish countryside. An old coaching stop, Moffat has a tradition of welcoming travellers passing through but it really is worth staying a while. As a Walkers are Welcome town, Moffat offers a series of waymarked walking routes for all abilities, but it is also on the scenic Southern Upland Way and at the most northerly point of the Annandale Way. Walkers should, though, make a point of visiting the magnificent waterfall (the fifth highest in the UK) at Grey Mare’s Tail and the simply beautiful St Mary’s Loch, both just a few miles from town. 

The Camping and Caravanning Club has a site that’s open to all and is open all year, so even though May is National Walking Month, you’ll be able to make the most of Moffat’s fantastic scenery whenever you wish.

Crickhowell, Wales

Crickhowell is a picturesque town nestling in the beautiful Usk Valley and lying to the south of the Black Mountains, the eastern range of the Brecon Beacons National Park. An ancient market town with many independent shops and places to eat, there is plenty to do here, not least the simple pleasure of viewing Crickhowell and the surrounding hills from the town's best known landmark, the bridge that crosses the River Usk. Fishing, canoeing and cycling are all possible from the town, in addition to its annual walking festival. Crickhowell is also renowned for the numerous artists and craftsmen that live there, so a tour of the town’s art galleries is a must. 

There are four campsites within the vicinity, two within a five- to 10-minute walk of the town centre – Park Farm and Riverside. But my pick is Cwmdu Campsite, which lies at the foot of the Black Mountains and provides a great base from which to explore the Brecon Beacons.

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