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With Christmas arriving after a challenging 2020, the benefits of enjoying a walk in the winter can’t be overstated. The views of frosty fields, bright skies, fresh crisp air and endorphins flowing make this one of our favourite times of year to get out and about.
We’ve put together some of our favourite walks - all set within the amazing countryside of the South Western Railway region, and easily accessible from one of our stations. They range from lost in the wilderness to the heart of the town – but they all start or finish somewhere inviting and warm, with a bite to eat and a hot drink to revive you.
1 muddy boot - flat for the most part, with refreshments and comforts available all along the route
2 muddy boots - the odd stile to climb or the occasional hill
3 muddy boots - many stiles, muddy paths and decent hills
The River Walk
Putney to Kew: Thames Riverside Our nearest stations: Putney and Kew Bridge Muddy boots: 1 Distance: 6 miles
From Putney station walk down the high street and turn right to get to the Thames. Once you get there, head left. There’s a path on either side of the river most of the way, so when you come across a bridge you can cross, if you wish, and enjoy the well-loved landmarks as you wander along what is essentially the course of The Boat Race. You’ll spot:
Fulham’s home ground, Craven Cottage;
the unexpected rurality of the London Wetland Centre;
the suspended wonder of Hammersmith Bridge;
Chiswick Eyot and the Leg O’ Mutton (the first an island, the second a disused reservoir also known as the Lonsdale Road Reservoir);
the railway bridges at Barnes, Chiswick and Kew; and
Oliver’s Island (named after a legend that Oliver Cromwell once hid out there).
Eventually you’ll get to Kew Bridge with a station on the north side, but there’s also Kew Gardens just here, a perfect place to continue your walk with a treetop stroll and the banana plant in the Palm House.
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Guildford Station Circular
Our nearest station: Guildford Muddy boots: 3 Distance: 4.5 miles
This scenic walk starts and finishes at Guildford station – just short walk itself from the busy town centre, making it ideal for a post-lunch stroll. Leave the station and head towards Guildford Castle on the east of town. From here, taking a look around the castle if you like, head back to Castle Street and on to Pewley Hill. This steep walk through Guildford’s sleepy suburbs leads you straight to Pewley Down.
At the down, head through and take in the amazing views of the valley and the woods. Go east along the track and then, as you join the path in Chantry Wood, turn west and head back through the woods. Eventually, you’ll come to Shepherds Way which will lead to Shalford Park and a path back to Guildford via the river. This is a beautiful route that shows you everything that Guildford and its surrounding countryside has to offer. And with four fast trains from Waterloo every hour, it won’t be the last time you come here for a wander.
Windsor & Eton Riverside to ‘The Copper Horse’: The Long Walk Our nearest station: Windsor & Eton Riverside Muddy boots: 1 Distance: 6 miles (there and back)
Taking in the majestic Windsor Castle and the Great Windsor Park, this is one of those walks that could easily be expanded into a whole day out if you feel like it.
Arriving at the station, head for the Castle which you’ll glimpse between the buildings. Keep an eye out for the ‘Long Walk’ information signs, follow them, and you’ll be on your way before you know it. The Long Walk itself is a tree-lined avenue that stretches for 2-and-a-half miles and makes for the most excellent easy-going stroll (the trees are Horse Chestnut on the inside and London Plane on the outer). At the far end is ‘The Copper Horse’, in actual fact a statue of George III.
Commissioned by his son, George IV – who detested his father - it bears the ironic inscription “the best of fathers” (but only in latin, of course). It’s suitable for all types of walker, especially as bicycles and motor vehicles are banned. Once you get to the horse you can either turn back, or press on to any of the Great Park’s many other attractions.
Weymouth: The Rodwell Trail Our nearest station: Weymouth Muddy boots: 2 Distance: Up to 16 miles there and back
Don’t be fooled by the start of this walk – the views once you get underway can’t be beaten. The easiest way to navigate is to locate Park Street opposite the station and walk down it until you come to a car park on your right. Cross it diagonally and you’ll find yourself coming out by the lake. Cross Westham Road bridge with the marina on your right, turn right and you’ll see cycle path signs ahead of you. You’re heading for Portland and you’re now on the Rodwell Trail. You’re actually following the bed of the old Weymouth to Portland railway, now turned into a green route that links with the National Cycle Network.
From here the walk really opens out. A brisk walk of two-and-a-half miles with stunning coastal views takes you to world-famous Chesil Beach. Beyond that lies Portland and Henry VIII’s castle to discover, and there’s even a stretch to take you up to Easton for those who love a good, long walk before turning back for home. There are info points all along the way with fascinating local history.
Bath Spa to Bradford on Avon: Canal Walk Our nearest stations: Bath Spa and Bradford on Avon Muddy boots: 2 Distance: 10 miles
To begin go out the back (south) entrance of the train station, cross the footbridge and turn left to pick up the canal. Once you’ve found the canal you’ll stay on it the whole way, with only two roads to be crossed as it wanders through Georgian Bath at the beginning. The canal-side path then takes you through some of the loveliest rolling green countryside you can imagine. Highlights include the Dundas and Avoncliff aqueducts where the canal crosses the River Avon below, leading to spectacular views along the Limpley Stoke valley. You’ll spot a heron or two as you walk, and there are plenty of refreshment points along the way: The George pub at Bathampton is a favourite spot for a rest, as is the Cross Guns at Avoncliff. There are tea rooms aplenty, including at least two actually on narrowboats.
Best of all, when you get to Bradford on Avon there’s a train station to take you back to Bath Spa or on to your own destination.