Well! Make it short and let’s get down to business! Below are the 8 best group walks for winter in the UK.
1. National Trust walks, various
Lots of National Trust properties run guided walks aimed at blowing away the cobwebs after Christmas. Boxing Day events include strolls around the estates at Lyme, Cheshire; Knole, Kent; and Hinton Ampner, Hampshire. There are also New Year’s Day rambles at Lyvedon, Northamptonshire; Hardwick, Derbyshire; and Standen House, West Sussex. On other dates there are winter solstice walks, wildlife walks (birds, seals and deer), Nordic walking, dog walks and archaeology walks. In short: something for almost every walker.
2. Guided walks, Bradford
Bradford Council runs regular walks all year round to introduce people to walking in the local area. All are guided by a leader assisted by a volunteer, and are free. Most are of about five miles, with none longer than 7½. Remaining walks this month are a moorland ramble, a solstice climb to Druid’s Altar in Bingley, and a Boxing Day walk around the Brontes’ Haworth. There are six walks in January and eight in February, including woodland walks to spot the first primroses and a stroll around Silsden reservoir.
3. Woodland walks, Buckinghamshire
David Willis is a bushcraft instructor, teaching outdoor living skills, campfire cooking and whittling. Once a month he runs free, family-friendly woodland walks near Chalfont St Giles. The 1½-hour walks teach children to be nature detectives, identifying trees and plants, hunting for animal trails and foraging.
4. Winter wanders, London
Walk London has been running city walking weekends three times a year since 2007, and more than 45,000 people have so far taken part. The next one is at the end of January, with 45 free guided walks of between 1½ and eight miles. Some are designed for young children, such as animal I Spy and quiz walks. There are short central London routes, such as a Spooky City stroll or a City of London history walk. Others are longer and more scenic, including a Parks and Palaces walk and a Thames ramble, all guided by trained leaders. The schedule will be online at the end of December.
5. Winter walking festival, Norfolk
Norfolk Council’s family-friendly winter walking and cycling festival starts straight after Christmas. The Boxing Day event is a one-mile treasure hunt starting in Wensum Park, Norwich. On 27 December, a four-mile walk along Marriott’s Way, a disused railway line, will take in the lost stations of Norwich City and Helleson. The following day there’ll be a morning patrol at Caistor Roman Town (3½ miles), a stroll through Great Yarmouth in Nelson’s footsteps (2 miles), and city walk exploring Norwich’s hidden alleyways (2 miles).
6. Crickhowell walking festival, Brecon Beacons
This annual festival in the eastern Brecon Beacons kicks off in late February, with a whopping 89 guided walks over nine days around the town and surrounding Black Mountains. Walks are graded from one boot (easy half-days) to four boots (all-day treks of up to 20 miles for experienced hill walkers). Unusual events include Nordic walking tasters, night walks and an introduction to mountain running. It’s not just walks: there are talks, courses in map-reading and navigation, pilates classes for walkers, live music and a torchlit procession up Crug Hywel (Wales’s Table Mountain) for a rousing singsong.
7. RSPB walks, various
A number of RSPB reserves run guided walks, with leaders to help walkers spot and identify birds. On 3 January, there’s a chance to squeeze the last drop out of the Christmas holidays with an 8am walk at Batford Springs, Harpenden, before work starts later that day. Other walks in January include a stroll around Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire, where there is a chance of seeing hawfinches, and a ramble around Wraysbury gravel pits, Berkshire, looking for overwintering smew, goosander and thrushes.
8. Fresh Start Walking Weekend, Isle of Wight
The island’s walking weekend aims to help people get the year off to a healthy start. Ten guided walks around the island range from short fossil hunts and a stroll around the Garlic Farm, to an 18-mile crossing of the island from north to south, taking in Parkhurst Forest.