Dorset smugglers trail on smartphone app

A new iPhone app and audio guide will take walkers along a new Smugglers trail along part of the Dorset coast near Charmouth.

Aimed at families, the new trail explores the often turbulent darker history of the coastline from 200 years ago when smugglers and revenue men tried to evade each other in a battle of wits. Continue reading…

Celebrating spring Bristol style

Spring walks at Tyntesfield, nr Bristol, North Somerset

Spring walks at Tyntesfield, nr Bristol, North SomersetAs dappled sunshine peeped out across the South West, we celebrated the arrival of spring (and the weekend) in Bristolian style at Tyntesfield.Time for a squiz at the new Home Farm visitor centre and a carefree walk around Tyntesfield’s sprawling grounds before a spell in the city.

A mighty fine soya cappuccino and gluten-free shortbread (spot the girl with special dietary requirements) from Tyntesfield’s Home Farm set me on my way. It was lovely to see lots of families striding about and breathing in the fresh air. Strolling past the picnickers and kids having a kick about was a splendid way to spend a Saturday afternoon. Have a peek at our pictures.

I glowed with a little vicarious pride as I overheard lots of positive oohs and aahs coming from fellow explorers of this grand Victorian estate.

‘This is a gorgeous, gorgeous place’ – sighed one Bristol resident.
Another remarked ‘Everywhere smells lovely after the grass has been cut.’

I couldn’t have said it better myself. Seas of narcissi and daffodils under the trees, pots of purple hyacinths and freshly sewn seeds in the kitchen garden added to the spring in my step.

And with Tyntesfield‘s turrets and pinnacles standing proud and free from scaffolding for the first time in two years – what a lot of eye candy on show.

The Spring Festival

Continuing Bristol’s seasonal celebrations required a stop at The Spring Festival in the city centre. It was great to see a fellow National Truster – roving recruiter Emma – setting up her stall among local lovers of the outdoors and moreish morsels.

Find her there tomorrow (Sunday 27 March, 11am-5pm) at Brunel’s Old Station (next to Temple Meads). She’ll be joined by the Tyntesfield crew who promise lots of inspiration on getting outdoors and closer to nature just outside one of Britain’s greenest cities.

Why not stop by to find out more about fun things to do in the fresh air from yoga on the lawn to growing your own veg. Simple pleasures, hey?

Great strides made as Britons step out

More than 350,000 walks, or one every one and a half minutes, were downloaded from the National Trust website over the last year.

And four of the top ten walks were in the South West, including the most popular – a walk along the Bath Skyline, which was the most popular for the second year running with 14,000 downloads.

The other top South West walks were Stourhead in Wiltshire (seventh with 4,964 downloads), Brownsea Island in Dorset (eighth with 4,724 downloads) and Lansallos in Cornwall (10th with 4,177downloads). All of the walks are free to download and include a map and details of the things that you might see en route.

Walking on the South West coast path between Pencarrow Head and Lansallos Cove, Cornwall.

In 2010 and the total number of downloads increased by 40 per cent compared to 2009 as more Britons sought out walking routes for days out or during weekends away.

Jo Burgon, Outdoor Programme Director at the National Trust, said: “We have seen a remarkable growth in the popularity of walking in the past couple of years.  Our downloadable walks cater for a wide range of walkers with everything from short circular routes to the more challenging hill walks.

“We’re finding that more people want to get out into the great outdoors but often need to be pointed in the right direction. You don’t have to be an expert to go walking, you just need to enjoy getting outside.”

There are 72 different walks to choose from on the website in the South West out of a total of 240 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.  Together, the 240 walks cover a total of 858 miles, the distance between Lands End and John O’ Groats. All of the walks can be downloaded for free from www.nationaltrust.org.uk/walks

New South West entries on the website include five walks near Arlington Court in Devon, Lacock and Avebury in Wiltshire, Ebworth, near Stroud in Gloucestershire, Lamberts Castle in Dorset, and routes at Cotehele, Trelissick and Fowey in Cornwall.

August was the most popular month for walking with more than 50,000 downloads, or more than one every minute, with the Saturday of the bank holiday weekend the most popular day of the year.

The Bath skyline walk topped the walks chart for the second successive year with over 14,000 downloads during 2010, fifty per cent more than the second placed walk Alderley Edge in Cheshire.

This popular six mile circular walk has spectacular panoramic views of the world heritage city and a short diversion takes you to the stunning Prior Park gardens.

In third place was Flatford Mill in Suffolk, made famous by Constable’s landscape paintings.

An ambitious target has been set to have 1,000 downloadable trails on the National Trust website by spring 2012.  These will include the popular walks together with cycle routes, horse-riding routes and canoe trails.

The first ever National Trust walking festival is set to take place this year between the 22 October 30 October.

Exploring the past along the path

The South West Coast Path (SWCP) is a regional ‘icon’ and a major tourist attraction in its own right, appealing to everyone from families on outings to serious walkers from all over the UK and beyond. With the National Trust owning more than 420 miles of the South West coast, we play an important role in maintaining and managing the SWCP.

The SWCP team, in partnership with the National Trust, AONB services (Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty) and many other organisations, has just received a significant grant of £2.1million from the Rural Development Programme for England (Sustainable Tourism Theme) towards its ‘Unlocking our Coastal Heritage’ project. This exciting project aims to understand more about our coastal history, repair some key archaeological and historic sites and investigate others threatened by coastal change. It will also provide improved access to certain routes, and interpretation and information at a series of new ‘discovery points’.

National Trust archaeologist James Parry writes: ‘The site of St Anthony Fort & Battery seen here on the headland just above St Anthony Lighthouse, overlooking Carrick Roads and Falmouth beyond, has long played an important strategic role in defending Falmouth and the estuary from coastal attack. It includes what is possibly the best surviving early breech-loading artillery fortress in the United Kingdom. The position and historic nature of this site is unique; the current tranquillity of the coastal walk is suddenly interrupted by the realisation that the site was once a noisy and dramatic place.

St Anthony Battery

‘The black and white photo shows St Antony Head as it was in 1942. The “Unlocking our Coastal Heritage” project will enable the excavation and interpretation of one of the previously inaccessible Second World War gun emplacements as well as essential conservation work to the shell hoists, significantly adding to the understanding and enjoyment of the site.’


The joys of a good walk

‘I have two doctors: my left leg and my right’ G.M Trevelyan.

After the indoor excesses of Christmas, what could feel better for body, senses and soul than to put on a pair of boots and go for a good walk? A blast of air so fresh you can taste it, a favourite landscape all to yourself, curious things washed up on an empty beach, the first touch of spring colour amidst the bare bones of winter, an unfamiliar bit of country to discover with friends, sharing a flask of soup in a sheltered hollow on the cliffs: walking at this time of the year has to be one of the great joys of living in the South West.

If you need a new idea, or want to explore a place you’ve never been before, why not have a look at the many downloadable walks on the Trust’s website? Go to www.nationaltrust.org.uk/walks and you will find them listed by theme and by area. New walks are being added all the time, so keep an eye out.

For the extra encouragement of a sociable walk, plus the chance to learn new insights, you could join one of the guided walks led by Trust staff or volunteers around a patch they know well. Coming up soon are walks at Lanhydrock, Loe Pool, Godolphin and Cotehele in Cornwall and Plymbridge woods near Plymouth; guided garden tours at Greenway in South Devon and at Dunster Castle and Montacute in Somerset, and there’s still a few of the popular ‘Sunday Rambles and Roasts’ to catch at Montacute.

Festivals of walks

Now in its 11th year, the North Devon and Exmoor Walking Festival takes place in spring and autumn. This spring, National Trust rangers will be leading walks at Baggy Point, Watersmeet and Bucks Mills in Devon on 29 April and 4 May, and the Holnicote estate and the Quantocks in Somerset on 5 and 7 May, looking at birds and other wildlife, history and archaeology as well as just enjoying some magnificent views. More info. at exmoorwalkingfestival.co.uk

Cotehele is running a festival of walks in April, with a variety of themes and covering different places on the large estate including the outlying Iron Age hill fort at Cadsonbury. For details, see your events bulletin or contact Cotehele direct.

Later in the year, look out for details of a new walking festival being planned by the Trust for the Lizard area in September.

And now for a few of our favourite early spring walks…

Lucy Parkins, Visitor Services Manager for North Cornwall

Top of my list has to be the stunning circular walk that includes the Valency Valley in Boscastle. The smell of wild garlic combined with the simple but beautiful sight of bluebells emerging never fails to put a smile on my face. One of the great things about this walk is the inclusion of a section of coast path as well, and so it ticks all the boxes! If I really fancy treating myself, I’ll pop into one of the pubs on the route to enjoy a pint of the local brew.

Download this walk at: nationaltrust.org.uk/walks, or pick up the Trust’s ‘Coast of Cornwall’ leaflet no.3 Boscastle from local outlets.

Janet and John Stitson, Volunteer ‘Weekend Wardens’ at Saltram, nr Plymouth

One of our favourite walks takes us from Saltram car park, up a pathway between fields to the old road which ran from Plymstock to Plympton. This is now a peaceful path with stunning views towards the city of Plymouth and the sea beyond. We continue through the woods towards Stag Lodge, where snowdrops, wood anemones and, later, bluebells abound. We walk down the Dell, enjoying the magnificent rhododendrons and trees bursting into new life, and on down to the estuary at Point Cottage. The estuary itself is always interesting for its varied wildlife; we pass by the Amphitheatre and the bird hide and walk across to see the snowdrops and daffodils in Longbridge Drive before returning to the car park.

Saltram estate walks guide available from…

Sam Arthur, Volunteer Warden at Lanhydrock, nr Bodmin

My personal spring favourite starts out from in front of the great house and heads up along the edge of the woodland garden, with its vivid colours from the flowering camellias, rhododendrons and magnolias. Having passed the old head gardener’s cottage, you’re rewarded by a bench with glorious views across the Fowey valley. Heading downhill, and taking a hard left at the hairpin bend, you find yourself surrounded by huge beech trees. Their translucent lime-green spring leaves shed dappled light across a sea of bluebells, celandines, stitchwort and wood anemones: it’s by far my favourite spot on the whole estate. Over to your right you can see the remains of old tin workings, as well as leats feeding a historic mill and stretches of the 8ft wall that kept herds of deer inside the 17th-century deer park.

Turning down to the Fowey River, you’re surrounded by primroses and the distinctive smelling wild garlic (if you’re feeling adventurous, try nibbling on the young leaves). Walking upstream, through masses of wild daffodils, keep an eye out for dippers – and you might even catch a glimpse of an elusive otter or kingfisher. On reaching the ancient Respryn Bridge, cross back over the river and head for Lanhydrock house up the avenue with its double row of over 300 enormous beeches. Ahead is the gatehouse, one of the oldest buildings on the estate, and beyond it the possibility of a warm drink and cake in the cosy café as a perfect end to your walk.

Estate walks guide available from Lanhydrock shop (open weekends Jan & Feb, then daily from 19 Feb).

Tom Wood, Ranger for the Teign Valley

Tom Wood National Trust

Tom Wood, Ranger for Teign Valley

I like to walk the classic circular route from the car park by Castle Drogo, over Piddledown Common (where the gorse is always in flower) and along the spectacular Hunter’s Path, where on frosty mornings you can look down and see the trees in the valley encased in ice crystals and looking like something from a book. The route drops down through the woods to where Fingle Bridge crosses the River Teign and it is here that you notice the flushes of new green buds on the trees, not yet open but ready to spring into being. That sudden change can happen rapidly in this part of the world; one day the scene is wintry and bare, and the next trees are in leaf and spring is well and truly here.

As I walk from Fingle Bridge upstream, the river still has its winter level but the water is stained not by mud but by the tannins of the trees and the peat which make the Teign look like a fine cup of tea. Approaching the edge of the old deer park, you can see the deer wall alongside the route; then I cross the river again on the suspension bridge, with great views up and down the river along the pool created by the builder of Castle Drogo partly as an area for him to fish. Then it’s the long slow climb back up though the woods, spurred on by promise of something tasty to look forward to in the Drogo café.

Walks leaflet available at Drogo visitor centre (open daily).