As part of a middle class British family living in the south of England, I’ve been dragged on many walks over the years, and a walk is a crucial part of our Christmas day routine. Now if you know me at all then you’re familiar with how I feel about walking – the shorter the walk the better. (Also why can’t we find any other way of filling our time?)
So to celebrate the Christmas holidays, which I am now on, here are three solid walk routes that I’ve done either with my family or friends in the English country side. Nothing more than 4 miles, please and thank you.
Walk through Goodwood Estate
You might know Goodwood for its Racecourse, but it’s also a vast estate that holds farms, a motor circuit, aerodrome, golf course, kennels and a hotel. The Whitehead family were lucky enough to stay at the Goodwood Hotel for a couple of post-Christmasses and this 3 mile route through the estate became the standard afternoon activity for the day of arrival.
Goodwood estate covers 12,000 acres of the South Downs near Chichester, and has been owned by the Dukes of Richmond for the last three centuries. The grounds around the house that eventually evolved into the entire estate have historically been used as hunting grounds, but have also been farmed by the family and is one of the only self-sustaining organic farms in Europe.
The restaurant in the Goodwood Hotel, Farmer Butcher Chef, is designed to showcase the flavour, quality and provenance of the meat from the Goodwood Estate farms. The self-sustaining organic farm means the restaurant get the best-tasting beef, pork and lamb, all reared on the grounds of the estate. We ate there both nights on each of our stays, and thoroughly enjoyed the food every time.
On your walk around the Goodwood Estate, don’t be suprised if a random sculpture suddenly looms into your path. This is the Cass Sculpture Foundation, a 26 acre site with more than 50 large-scale contemporary sculptures scattered amongst the woodlands, gardens and fields. Unfortunately you have to pay to get in and it’s closed over winter.
At 3 miles, this looping route around the farms on Goodwood Estate is the ideal length for me, just about. I will admit I felt quite demotivated at the bottom of New Barn Hill when I realised we were only halfway, but my new walking boots carried me through and I was rewarded with that beautiful sunset.
Walk across Blackdown Hills
Matt and I celebrated New Year 2018 with my my friends from Falmouth, at one of their parents’ houses near Taunton in Devon. Looming nearby were the Blackdown Hills, and the others were keen to go on a trek to the Culmstock Beacon on the other side, so I strapped on my new walking boots for the second time that week and we set off with the dogs running ahead.
Just as we get to the top of the first hill, the heavens opened. Luckily I was wrapped up in my ski jacket, and my new boots kept my feet dry, so apart from my legs I was pretty water tight.
Culmstock Beacon is actually one of a chain of Elizabethan beacons built in 1588 to warn of invasion by the Spanish Armada. The stone structure holds a fire basket, which would be lit if the Armada was sighted. This particular one is the only stone beacon left across Southern England.
Unfortunately, our good intentions were well and truly rained on, and we decided to turn back before we reached the beacon. Even so, the walk was a solid 3.77 miles, which is definitely pushing the limits of my walking tolerance.
Walk in Littleton & Sparsholt
My hometown of Littleton is a small village 3 miles north of Winchester in Hampshire. My parents live there still, and every Christmas my sister and I, and any other family that might be with us, are taken on basically the same walk.
This route leaves the village and heads up Stockbridge Road, veering into the small woods that slice diagonally up to Lainston House, a 17th century country house hotel commissioned by Charles II.
Fun fact: Lainston House has the longest line of limes in England, almost a mile long, some of which were planted as early as 1716!
As you leave the woodlands you can either loop back or plough on up Woodman Lane, through the grounds of the house itself and down the long rolling driveway.
On the way back to Littleton, we always cross over Stockbridge Road and follow Littleton Lane, past riding paddocks and stables, before dropping back into the village by the St Catherine’s Church. The whole walk, with the house grounds included, brings you to a nice round 3.5 miles.
If you must go on a walk, do it in comfy new waterproof boots, through beautiful English countryside, with a group of people you love. And preferably end it after 3 miles.