Newsletter > Newsletter archive > May 2014

May 2014

Blencathra, a story of modern land ownership
Blencathra SummitBlencathra, currently at the centre of a highly-publicised sell-off, is a mountain that we are very fond of. It sits on the horizon as we look out from Walkingworld HQ; at certain times in the spring and autumn the sun sets right behind its broad summit ridge, the distinctive feature that gives it its alternative name of Saddleback. The Friends of Blencathra, a group set up to try to buy the hill ‘for the nation’, has apparently gained pledges for around £600,000, some way towards an asking price of £1.75m.

Whether, at a hefty £700 an acre, it is really worth that much is highly questionable. The land generates next to no income and the landowner doesn’t even have the right to graze sheep, as those rights are distributed amongst a dozen or so local farms. In the case of upland areas like Blencathra most of the important battles over public access and the control of development have been won. You no longer need to buy a mountain in order to assure access to it. Last weekend we tramped to the top and the summit was thronging with happy people.

The sealed bid process means that it’s possible to massively over-pay for a property, when you may be the only bidder. The Earl of Lonsdale and his agents have done a good job of whipping up concern about some mad Russian billionaire snapping it up as some sort of trophy, although wealthy folk tend to go for places with exclusive access, like islands - not ones teeming with the likes of us.

There is an argument that public ownership, or ownership in a trust, will allow valuable environmental projects to be undertaken that might not happen otherwise. That is certainly true, but such initiatives cost money. While the Friends of Blencathra campaign is pulling in the pledges, another by the John Muir Trust is setting out to raise £60,000 a year for ongoing work on the iconic mountains it already owns, including Ben Nevis, Schiehallion and parts of Knoydart peninsula. That gives a measure of the resources needed to make ownership of a property like Blencathra worthwhile. It would be brilliant if Blencathra can be brought into some sort of public ownership, but there must be funds left over for the much longer term activities of good land management.

6500 walks!
In the past few days we have edged past the 6500 walk milestone, which is a fantastic achievement. It's all thanks to our wonderful collection of walk contributors, who not only go out to record their routes in our stringent format but also have to keep on top of the inevitable changes. As always we are also very grateful to all those members who report on issues on the routes, sometimes sending in replacement photos for the waymarks. It's a real case of everyone working together to keep the library of walks up to date - so thank you!

Alpujarra walking holidays with writer Chris Stewart
Hiking above CapileiraAs a walking holiday destination, the Alpujarra (the southern slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountains in Andalucia) ticks all the boxes. It’s wild and beautiful, untamed and unspoilt, with a great variety of walks, from high mountain hikes, to gentler routes through orchards and white villages. The region is a haven for wildlife – there are eagles, ibex and wild flowers in abundance -  and a landscape steeped in history from the time of the Moors.

With a gem of a B&B (Casa Ana) as your base, who better to guide you than Chris Stewart, author of best-seller Driving Over Lemons? He’ll take you on his favourite walks, invite you to lunch at his farm, and entertain you with many stories about life in the Alpujarra.

The next holiday is from 6 – 13 September 2014, with a price from 1075 euros including 7 nights bed and breakfast, picnics and lunches, dinners, wines, excursions, local transport and guides. For further details contact Anne Hunt at or see ‘Walking_holidays_with_Chris_Stewart’ on the Casa Ana website.

100 years of walking in the Swiss National Park
GraubuendenstnThis summer, the first National Park in the Alps celebrates its 100th anniversary. Located in the canton of Graub√ľnden in the east of the country, the Swiss National Park encompasses part of the spectacular Engadine valley close to the border with Italy.

The park was created to ensure that at least one small region of Switzerland’s mountain landscape would be left to develop entirely naturally without human intervention, and today its legacy is enjoyed by the thousands of walkers who are drawn to the majestic scenery of what is now a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

You can explore these untouched and untamed Alpine landscapes on Inntravel’s self-guided walking holiday through the Villages of the Engadine. Follow marked paths beside the rushing River Inn; discover flower-strewn meadows beside pretty Lake Sils, and walk up the Trupchen Valley to see chamois, ibex and deer on high mountain slopes in the Park itself, while bearded vultures and golden eagles soar overhead.

For more details on Inntravel’s walking holidays in Switzerland, see or speak to their expert team on 01653 617034.

Villages of the Engadine
- Hotel-to-hotel, self-guided walking holiday
- Prices from £1028pp, inc 7 nights’ half-board accommodation, 2 picnics, detailed route guides & maps
- Flights extra (direct from several UK regional airports)
- Available from 14 June to 5 October 2014

Rambling philosophically
If you are of a philosophical frame of mind two books are out that might keep the little grey cells working. Neither are easy reads, both being more akin to struggling up a steep hillside, panting away, but catching the occasional glimpses of a beautiful view, noticing something fascinating by the path or having the odd original thought. ‘A Philosophy of Walking’ by Frederic Gros (Verso, translated by John Howe 2014) is perhaps better dipped into rather than read front to back, as it feels like a collection of essays rather than a structured argument. There are well researched sections on the likes of Nietsche, Rousseau, Rimbaud and Thoreau and on particular types of walking, such as the pilgrimage or strolling in public gardens. The author is prone to making sweeping statements in a manner that probably sounds more appealing in the original French, but parts of it are illuminating in a somewhat piecemeal way.

On Walking coverPhil Smith’s ‘On Walking’ (Triarchy Press 2014) has an altogether more personal touch, picking up on his longstanding career in performance and theatre and any number of intellectual interests, from Situationism to psychogeography. The journey is constructed around a re-walking of German writer W.G.Sebald’s semi-fictional account of a walking tour in Norfolk, ‘The Rings of Saturn’. There’s a little bit of standard walking journal here but with plenty of strange mental diversions, which you will either find intriguing or simply annoying. Smith sets out to subvert everything that’s ‘normal’ about going for a walk, so of course you get what you pay for in that respect. Quite good fun, but only if you like this sort of thing.

Encounters with Wainwright
The Wainwright Society has launched a project, Encounters with Wainwright, to record the memories and impressions of Alfred Wainwright by anyone who knew or met him, however fleetingly the encounter may have been. They are appealing to anyone who knew or met the man to contact The Wainwright Society. It may even have been a chance encounter with him on the fells of the Lake District, the Pennines or the Scottish mountains.
The project is being headed by David Johnson, editor of the Society’s magazine Footsteps, who can be contacted at or by mail to him at The Wainwright Society, PO Box 35, MILNTHORPE, Cumbria LA7 7WJ.

Other happenings
Walk for Whales, on Sunday 29 June 2014, offers walks of around five miles that include a free visit to a SEA LIFE Centre. It is a sponsored walk, and all walkers are encouraged to raise money to help stop the whale meat trade, but there is no booking fee and no minimum sponsorship. There are walks all round the country starting from Sea Life centres, from Great Yarmouth to Oban.

The National Forest, which is a superb project in its own right, has launched a new long distance trail. The 75-mile trail uses existing public and permissive footpaths to explore the highlights of The National Forest, connecting visitor attractions and passing through a varied landscape of woodland and market towns. The route extends over the length and breadth of The National Forest, through parts of Staffordshire, Derbyshire and Leicestershire, linking the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire and Beacon Hill Country Park in Leicestershire.