Newsletter > Newsletter archive > February 2016

February 2016

Evidence on the canal towpath
The heyday of the British canal as a commercial mode of transport was short-lived but canals certainly made their mark on our landscape. Canals brought reliable and efficient transportation to an economy that desparately needed better ways of moving goods around. A horse pulling a barge could deliver thirty times the weight of goods that it could in a cart, with considerably less risk of accident. The canals were largely superseded by the railway – and quite a few investors lost their shirts in the process – but their effects on the transport and industrial revolutions were long-lasting.

Canal towpaths are now popular more than anything for a leisurely stroll, not just in the countryside but also right through the centres of many of our urban landscapes. In this month's chapter from the Pathways book, we explore the history of this unusual form of transport and the vanishing traces of canal 'furniture' dedicated to the horse-drawn barge. Even in the middle of London, on the Regent's Canal between Little Venice and Camden Lock, those traces can still be found if you know where to look - like the deep cut grooves shown here on a footbridge at Camden Lock.

Meanwhile Nicholas Rudd-Jones, co-author of Pathways, is cracking on with his next project, to discover the best urban walks in all of the UK's sixty-nine cities. You can follow his progress on his blog,, and of course his routes are appearing on Walkingworld as they get done. He's a bit less than a third of the way through, so doing well but with a long way to go!

Facing monitoring some plants?
The National Plant Monitoring Scheme is a new habitat research scheme, the aim of which is to collect nationwide data on changes in plant abundance and diversity. The scheme's founders are looking for volunteers to monitor a group of 'indicator' species specially selected to highlight crucial variations in rural ecosystems. If you choose to take part you will be asked to monitor a randomly allocated one kilometre square near where you live and record the prevalence of the indicator species in around five separate plots.

Schemes involving volunteer monitors have already contributed to a growing understanding of the populations of birds, butterflies and bats. Although plants are the foundation of habitats and ecosystems, scientists still lack a good measure of changes in plant populations across the country. You don't need to be an expert botanist to get involved. Anyone interested in nature who can identify plants, or is keen to learn, can take part. You will only need to identify between 25-30 'indicator species' per habitat.

An Ionian Odyssey
Exploring an island on foot is a thrilling way to spend a week, following winding trails to discover hidden coves, colourful harbours, quiet valleys and panoramic views stretching out across an azure sea. On An Ionian Odyssey, the new self-guided walking holiday in Greece from Inntravel, you can discover not just one but two such islands, enjoying walks that combine magnificent coastal scenery with visits to sites evoking Homeric legend.

On Cephalonia, seek out the romantic ruins of a Venetian fort overlooking picturesque Assos and the fishing village of Fiscardo from the seaside town of Tselentata; while on Ithaca, cobbled trails radiate out from the harbour of Vathy, leading through olive groves and wildflower meadows to reach secluded Gidaki beach, Arethusa's Fountain and the ruins of Homer's School.

Accommodation is in two stylish hotels while dinners can be enjoyed in a choice of atmospheric tavernas serving traditional Greek cuisine and wines from Cephalonia, some of the best in Greece.

Other island walking holidays in Greece from Inntravel include Corfu's West Coast, The Enchanting Cyclades, Crete's Coast & Mountains and The Traditions & History of Crete.

For full details on Inntravel's wide selection of walking holidays, see or speak to their expert team on 01653 617034.

An Ionian Odyssey
- Self-guided hotel-hotel walking holiday
- Prices from £695pp, inc 7 nights' B&B accommodation, 1 dinner, transfers & detailed route guides
- Flights extra (direct from several UK regional airports)
- Available 1 May-30 June & 1 September-16 October 2016

The last time we left Europe
The Council for British Archaeology has just republished a book on the work of the North Sea Palaeolandscapes Project, which has been researching the lost landscape of 'Doggerland' under the present North Sea. Until the end of the last Ice Age 'Doggerland' connected Britain to Europe, before gradually disappearing under rising sea levels. The project has mapped nearly 23,000 square kilometres of what is in some senses a pristine Mesolithic landscape lost under the waves.

'Europe's Lost World' tells the story of the project, the techniques used to reconstruct the landscape and the suppositions that can now be made about the climate and vegetation of this lost world. It also provides the background to the rediscovery of Doggerland and Mesolithic landscapes generally, from the pioneering work of Clement Reid in the nineteenth century, through to the research of Grahame Clark and Bryony Coles in the twentieth. Fascinating stuff.

Capturing our dark skies
The iconic Ribblehead Viaduct – which forms the backdrop for the ITV drama series Jericho – is captured at night in a photography exhibition exploring the dark skies of the Yorkshire Dales. The exhibition runs until March 22nd at the Dales Countryside Museum in Hawes. 'A Celebration of Dark Skies' features the work of several local photographers (the picture shown is by Pete Collins).

The Museum itself is housed in an imaginative conversion of the Hawes railway station in Wensleydale. As well as exhibitions there are exhibits like a steam train and carriages, so it is worth a visit if you are in the area.   It is open daily between 10am and 5pm from February to October. Entry charges are £4.50 for adults and £4 for concessions, while children are free.

The London2Brighton Challenge
The challenge takes place this year on the 28th/29th May. It is one of the UK's great endurance events; most will walk it, many will jog parts, and some very hardy souls will run the full 100km. The route heads out from Richmond on Saturday morning and continues through the Surrey and Sussex countryside all the way to Brighton. The event is in support of London's Air Ambulance, which relies on the generosity of supporters to deliver pre-hospital advanced medical care to victims of serious injury, by bringing a Senior Trauma Doctor and specially trained Paramedic directly to the scene. To take part you pay an initial registration fee on the website. This secures your place and is non-refundable, and then you commit to a minimum, but not too onerous, sponsorship target.

Rutland festival
The Rutland Walking and Cycling Festival is back for 2016 between 21st May and the 12th June following huge success over the last seven years. The festival is a fun packed celebration of Rutland and its glorious countryside and hosts led walks and bike rides to suit all ages and abilities, perfect for a family day out. For further details, visit the Active Rutland website.