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Muddy’s best winter walks

Wrap up warm, grab your walking boots and go in search of your own winter wonderland! Here's where we'll be striding out over the coming months.

You know the drill – you’ve eaten your bodyweight in turkey, nailed an entire box of Quality Street, drunk approximately 8,000 units of wine, sherry, Champagne and Baileys and have been slumped on the sofa for three days straight. In the immortal words of George Michael (RIP), let’s go outside – ideally for a long, bracing walk around one of Herts and Beds’ prettiest locales. Here’s our round up of the best winter strolls for January and beyond, all with a pitstop close by. Grab your wellies and let’s go!

 

Ashridge Estate, Berkhamsted

National Trust: Photo Colin Sturgess

With 5,000 acres of the Chiltern Hills and woodland to romp around, there are plenty of walks to choose from, parking is free and the paths are buggy-friendly. Afterwards warm up in front of the roaring fire at family-owned country inn, The Greyhound, in the pretty village of Aldbury.

 

Lea Valley Circular, Wheathamstead

A great one for a Sunday morning with the dog. The route is here in detail but it’s pretty easy to find your way around the circular – you can park at East Lane car park for free, then walk onto the High Street, across the bridge and out towards the sticks. There are some pretty 18th century cottages on route, as well as Marshall’s Heath nature reserve. You can either cut the walk short by heading back to civilisation along the road or continue on the long distance path by Leasey Bridge. The Wicked Lady is good for a post-walk tipple, but dogs are only allowed outside so bear that in mind.

 

Southern Country Parks, Bishop’s Stortford

Need to tire the kids out post Christmas? There’s a nice route here, but you can also just have a wander around wherever you fancy. And you’re not just getting a walk here – there are loads of different areas and activities like a playground, maze, a big open space for kite flying, or snowball throwing, and even a dog agility park! The Coach and Horses, a characterful country pub, is a five minute drive down the road.

 

Tylers Hill and Ley Hill near Chesham

Right on the Herts/Bucks border, this five-miler takes in the villages of Tylers Hill and Ley Hill plus a stroll along the side of the River Chess. Stop along the way at trad boozer The Crown in Ley Hill, which is both kiddie and doggy friendly. For more chichi surroundings, take a short drive to the De Vere Latimer Estate just outside Chesham – there’s a super-stylish, family-friendly restaurant there.

 

Barton-le-Clay, Beds

Photo: Peter O’Connor/Flikr

This circular 6.25 mile walk is a good one for blowing the festive cobwebs away, and it takes in a nature reserve too, so there’s plenty to see for wildlife lovers. Plus, the area also has some interesting history – The Barton Hills are believed to have inspired the Celestial Mountains in John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. Stop off for a pint and a bite in the village pub, The Bull, which serves food created with only locally sourced produce, including meat from a family butcher, fruit and veg from a nearby farmer and Wobbly Bottom Farm cheese.

 

Rushmere Country Park, Heath and Reach

Photo: Rushmere Country Park

This one’s ideal for families and little explorers as you can do as much or as little of the trails as you like within the 400 acres of woodlands, and there’s a fab natural sculpture trail with carved creatures, giant chairs and secret fairy doors, to keep little legs moving along! There’s this 4-mile route, which takes around 1.5 hours, or take the 1-mile shortcut which takes around 30 minutes. Fuel up afterwards in the quaint and cosy Heath Inn – a 10 minute diversion from the Stockgrove entrance, marked on the main trail, or a 5-minute car journey from the Heron’s View visitor centre.

 

OVER THE BORDER…

BUCKS

Wendover Woods

There are loads of well-marked trails of varying lengths, including one with Gruffalo sculptures, a new café and play trail, bigger car park and a Go Ape for older children. Although you could swerve the café queues and head down into Wendover town centre to charming chocolaterie Rumsey’s – perfect for a cockles-warming hot chocolate. Or juts over the other way into Aston Clinton is the excellent The Bell pub.


Marlow circular walk

church spire boats ducks on river

This one takes in both town and country. The route is here in detail but you basically start by walking through Higginson Park by the river bank, heading along the towpath away from town and eventually coming to Rassler and then Davenport woods, before heading back into civilisation. And take your pick in the town centre for a post-walk tipple or bite – The Botanist is great for cocktails, The Chequers serves fantastic meat dishes, take your chances on nabbing a table at Tom Kerridge’s exquisite The Coach, or head to The Ivy Marlow Garden for a more glitzy experience


Stowe Landscaped Gardens

Just north of Buckingham, this National Trust estate is a real beauty, with its gorgeous Capability Brown gardens. You could try the woodland and deer park walk (2.5 miles) or a more gentle 1.2 mile one around the lake, complete with views of the house. It’s ideal for little legs with its many temples and resting spots, and you can also hire buggies. Then head a couple of miles down the road to The Old Thatched Inn at Adstock for a traditional pub.

Coombe Hill

As you might’ve guessed, this involves a hill and a pretty steep one at that. Top tip: park at the bottom, rather than the top so your return leg isn’t too arduous. The 5-7 mile hike is worth the climb though to take in the epic views across the Aylesbury Vale, Dunstable Downs and the PM’s country residence, Chequers. You’ll definitely deserve some R&R after this one –  it has to be The Russell Arms in Butlers Cross at the bottom of the hill.

 

OXFORDSHIRE

Port Meadow, Oxford, chosen by Muddy founder Hero Brown

It’s unusual to find so much sprawling green space slap-bang in the centre of a city and that’s what makes Oxford’s Port Meadow really special. It’s pretty flat so fine for small children and while a jaunt up the meadow will take around 45 minutes (er, one way), you could also try this much longer 7 mile stomp from Grandpont up to Wolvercote, that takes in Port Meadow, if you fancy really blowing away the cobwebs. And because you’re in central Oxford, you’re spoilt for choice when it comes to refreshment pitstops – lovely pubs in the city include The Anchor or The Rickety Press, or stop en route at The Perch, The Trout at Wolvercote or Jacob’s Inn.
 

Farmoor Reservoir

This makes for a peaceful walk after a frantic first week back at work, gazing out across the water, watching the sailing boats bobbing around. It’s a four mile loop and take around two hours, is pretty flat and there’s a handy car park. And it’s a good one for twitchers – there are bird-watching huts dotted along the route. It gets muddy in the winter so you’ll definitely need those wellies. If you’re after super-local, The White Hart of Wytham or The Bear & Ragged Staff are both sure bets. Head a couple of miles further down the road afterwards for a family-friendly pie and pint at The Fox in Boar’s Hill, or the delightful thatched pub The Perch in Binsey.

 

Blewbury and Lowbury Hill

This spot in South Oxon will blow the cobwebs away. The short version is just shy of 7 miles or, if you’ve got a lot of mince pies to burn off you can bolt on a 2.5 mile extension by heading on to the Ridgeway. If you have young children, bear in mind it’s a bit hilly and there are a few turnstiles along the way. For food, try The Fat Frog in Aston Tirrold, which is very gastro and fairly pricey, or the more traditional, charming Red Lion pub in Blewbury.

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