Our first blog post of 2021 is intended to reflect the fact that wellbeing – both mental and physical – has been at the forefront of people’s attention this past year. As we have a passion for walking, and it is widely recognised for its tremendous benefits as a form of exercise and a slower pace of travel, we wanted to share our tips and thoughts with those who might not have considered a self-guided walking tour before.
Plan the route
Planning is key to ensure that your walk turns out to be just as relaxing and enjoyable as you envisioned. For a self-guided walking tour in the Cotswolds, you can rely on us to do all the planning for you, with your walking abilities, interests, and preferences in mind. For example, a novice walker will enjoy our Best of the Cotswolds walk with an average of 6-8 miles a day, but a more experienced walker will find our Cotswold tour with longer walking days just as enjoyable. We are always more than happy to customise any of our walking tours or plan a completely tailor-made walk to match your requirements.
If you are planning a walk for yourself, we recommend the following:
Avoid getting caught in the dark by estimating how long your hike is going to take. Factor in the walking time, breaks, sightseeing, and time spent wandering off track. It is important to know your abilities and limitations, so be honest with yourself.
The Cotswolds is safe for the many solo walkers we have each year and we hire out mobile phones for peace of mind for anyone wishing to stay in touch with us.
For most people, walking 2 miles an hour is a relaxed, enjoyable pace. It is safe to calculate with this, even if you are less experienced. If you are not sure about your pace, it is better to plan a shorter hike and underestimate your walking abilities than having to push yourself.
You will need to stop from time to time to hydrate, to stretch a little or grab a snack. It is good practice to allow some time for these ‘pit stops’, but they do not necessarily need to be planned in as much detail. The lunch break is the one you should give some thought to. For example, the Cotswolds is filled with beautiful picnic spots, great pubs, and wonderful tearooms, and if you’re walking with us, you will have a handy booklet with our recommendations. If your route takes you through a more remote area, you can make a handy picnic blanket from your rain jacket and pick your spot for your locally sourced feast.
You will find plenty to see on the way, and we recommend checking your route in advance to determine where you want to spend more time. Think about your interests and plan accordingly. For example, we can never resist going into a beautiful church, an interesting museum, a majestic manor house, or a charming garden.
If you tend to wander off the trail like we do, you should allow plenty of time for unplanned activities such as climbing up to viewpoints to admire the vistas, chatting to the locals, or standing on a river bank to watch the world flow by.
Finding the right path and doing a bit of detective work is part of the adventure. Nowadays, technology makes it easy to navigate.
If you are walking with us, our comprehensive route notes, walking app, and detailed maps should take the stress out of finding your way. You can track your position as you walk and hopefully never get lost! The app works off-line so there is no data download. Bring a mobile charger to keep you topped up for all those amazing photos if nothing else.
When it comes to clothing, layers are generally a good idea, especially in the changeable, unpredictable weather in the UK. Try to avoid cotton or any material that hangs onto heat and sweat, making your garment heavy and rather unpleasant. A moisture wicking base layer has tremendous benefits on a long hike. Pack a spare one in your rucksack for a change of clothing at lunchtime to make you more comfortable. The same goes for a light weight waterproof/windproof jacket on the outside – of course it never rains but always handy.
Hiking boots are the most important part of the gear, although the mostly gentle terrain of the Cotswolds does not require the heaviest, sturdiest boots. A pair of comfortable hiking boots, preferably waterproof with good ankle support can go a long way. Wear them on the plane, (remember those?) and take them off in transit to safe weight and space in your luggage. If you are just starting out, taking your new boots on a long hike is a bad idea. Break them in with short walks – or get ready for blisters. A good way to avoid blisters is wearing two sets of socks – heavy duty hiking socks as the outer layer and light ones as base layer.
It is wise to invest in a comfortable backpack that won’t hurt your back even on a longer walk. Packing correctly is also important – think about what you need, and pack only the essentials. It is a bit like packing your suitcase for a flight. Try to keep your backpack light so that carrying it does not become a nuisance after half an hour into the tour.
Water and food
Staying hydrated is important, even more so during the summer months. Make sure you always have at least 1.5-2 litres of water with you and preferably bring a refillable water bottle. Think ahead and check if you will be able to refill your bottle on the way and take more with you if not.
If you prefer to stop at a pub or tearoom for lunch, make sure there is a place (checking opening hours in advance) where you can do so. Standing in front of a closed pub after half a day of hiking is a bitter disappointment, especially with another half to go. Pretty much all of the villages have a convenience store or deli for picnic supplies for an alfresco lunch or your host maybe able to offer a packed lunch.
We always pack ‘emergency snacks’. If you or your walking partner can suddenly transform their mindset from ‘happy-go-lucky’ into ‘the-end-is-nigh’ when hungry, you will appreciate the importance of emergency snacks. A banana or a granola bar can work wonders.
Prepare for the unexpected
It is impossible to be prepared for everything, but there are a few things that are worth having in your backpack, without the risk of overpacking. Plasters, tissues, and clean water can come in handy in case of small injuries like bruises or cuts. If you are prone to blisters, there are plasters specifically designed to soothe and protect your skin (Compeed/second skin).
A flashlight or a headlamp does not take up much space but it can be very useful in case of an unexpected delay in completing your walk or the walk back from the pub after dinner, especially during the winter months when it gets dark sooner.
Finally, the most important thing you should never leave home without is common sense. If something unexpected happens, remain calm, think about what you need and what you have access to. And remember, if you are on Cotswold Walks tour, we are always just a phone call away.
We know that setting off on a longer walk or walking holiday can be daunting at first, but hopefully our tips will encourage you to try walking more to get fresh air and good exercise while you experience an area in depth.
There appears to be light at the end of the tunnel, and we wish everyone good health and a year full of opportunities to see and experience the places you have long wished to visit or return to.
|Husband and wife team Andrew and Elizabeth Guppy lead Cotswold Walks, specialising in customised self-guided and guided walking holidays in the Cotswolds. Living and working in the Cotswolds is an essential part of what makes their company special. As avid walkers, they can often be found walking the routes with their dog Indie.
Andrew and Elizabeth are passionate about what they do. They strive to take you on a tour that showcases the best of the Cotswolds, from iconic gardens and fabulous local food, to sweeping vistas over the emerald green countryside dotted with honey-coloured cottages. Through careful planning and attention to detail, the mission of Cotswold Walks is to ensure you have complete peace of mind, so you can immerse yourself in the beauty of the Cotswolds and create lasting memories.
Slow Travel Tours is an affiliation of small-group tour operators who offer personalized trips in Italy, France, England and other European countries.