This is a great time of year for walking in our unique part of the country. With crisp, bright days, we can all enjoy the countryside in its winter clothes. Here are a few tips to help you maximise the enjoyment.
One essential I would recommend is an Ordnance Survey map, ideally the orange Explorer map which has a scale of 1 to 25,000 and shows many detailed features including footpaths and field boundaries. They can be purchased from good stationers or online from www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/
Investment in a good pair of walking boots, probably for less than £100, will be paid back over many years and hundreds of miles, especially if you look after them.
If you don’t like walking about in socks, please pack a pair of slip-on boot covers – or plastic bags – to wear as overshoes in churches or pubs.
Our area has an extensive network of generally well-maintained public rights of way – footpaths for walkers and bridleways that may also be used by horse riders and cyclists. Do try out new routes, planning before you set off. Bear in mind that a path that runs beside a field edge is less likely to get muddy than one that crosses a field.
Plan your route so that the sun follows you. This is good practice at any time of the year, but especially so in winter with the low sun. For a lengthy, circular walk, try to start near the southeast corner and head clockwise. The sun will follow you, keeping the glare from your eyes and giving you the best views. Most of the walks on the Hundred Parishes website follow this principle.
Do check that your intended lunch stop will be open – phone numbers appear in the parish introductions on www.hundredparishes.org.uk
Finally, be sure to wrap up warm with double-thickness woolly hat and gloves, a scarf and layers of clothing . . . and enjoy !
Almost every walk will pass a church. I encourage you to take a look inside, leaving muddy boots outside, of course. Some are kept locked, but around two-thirds are usually open during the day. The Hundred Parishes has an exceptional collection of ancient churches. Most are listed buildings, with no less than 58 listed at Grade I. Each church is individual and most are rewarding places to visit, not just in a spiritual sense but also for their diverse architecture, decoration and memorials.
The Heritage Lottery Fund has grants of £10,000-£250,000 available to fund urgent structural repairs to listed churches or to fund improvements to facilities. You may like to check if your local church is aware of this funding opportunity. Details can be found at . . .
Many of our churches will host seasonal events such as Christmas tree festivals, concerts and carol services. Some of these occasions are included within our What’s On page.
As the festive season approaches, the desire to festoon our dwellings with garlands of fresh green branches gathered from hedgerows is still strong. To bring the outdoors inside provides us with a timely reminder that we rely on this vital greenness to revive our sprits when the days are short and gloomy. With the turn of the year comes the anticipation of fresh growth and renewed optimism to help us meet the opportunities and challenges of 2017.
Today’s customs associated with Christmas are largely due to the campaigning of one local man – William Winstanley. He lived in Quendon and was an influential writer in the 17th century. He championed the revival of ‘traditional’ celebrational trappings of Christmas that we now take for granted, but which were banned during the Puritan austerity of Oliver Cromwell’s Commonwealth. Our website has more information about Winstanley under the People section.
The other trustees, Douglas Kent, Howard Rolfe, Mike Young, Peter Sanders and Tricia Moxey, join me in sending seasonal greetings and wishing you a happy new year.