Tell us a bit about yourself…
I have had a lifelong love of walking and have explored widely across the UK and beyond. I am not from Bristol originally – I was born and brought up in the Midlands. Before moving to Bristol in the 1980s, I lived and worked in various other parts of the UK. I recently retired from Tetlow King Planning Ltd, the town planning and housing consultancy I co-founded in 1985, based in Bristol but requiring frequent travel up and down the country.
Over the past 35 plus years, I reckon to have done 300+ walks in the countryside beyond Bristol. The idea of compiling my favourite walks across the area gradually evolved over a number of years, eventually reaching fruition in 2017 with publication of my first book. In conjunction with Redcliffe Press Ltd, I have now completed three volumes of Beyond Bristol Walks books, highlighting my 72 favourite routes in the area – the latest being due for publication in early September.
My purpose in doing these books has been to communicate the benefits of walking to a wide audience and share my experiences of the best local routes to experienced ramblers, novice walkers and visitors to the area alike.
Tell us about your preferred walking routes and why you love them so much. How long have you been walking there?
I live near Bristol city. Day-to-day I enjoy walking around much of it, especially around the docks.
As you would expect me to say, I prefer doing half day or full day walks of 6 to 11 miles within the countryside beyond Bristol. When I first came to Bristol, I was immediately struck by the quality and diversity of the countryside easily accessible nearby – including the Mendips, the Somerset Levels, the Cotswolds, the Wye Valley, the Severn Estuary, the Forest of Dean, the Wiltshire Downs etc; all within either a 30-35 mile distance or one hour drive from the city centre.
However, there are plenty of excellent walks on the immediate doorstep of the city, several of which are included in my books – including, for example, around Dundry Hill, through Leigh Woods and along the Avon Gorge.
Who normally accompanies you on your walks?
Over the years I have variously walked on my own, with my family and with groups. I have been through various phases.
Walking can be very sociable. This year I am returning to Norfolk for a reunion/celebration of the 50th anniversary of a walking group in which I actively participated when I was in Norwich in the late 1970s – at the time it became the hub of my social life.
During my time in Bristol, I have preferred walking on my own or occasionally with my family. Walking on my own gives me more space and thinking time: I can walk at my own pace and observe much more than I would otherwise. It has actually proved rather essential in working on the routes for the books to ensure that I miss none of the relevant detail! Also, it has helped me to further develop my enjoyment of photography.
How do you feel when you’re out for a walk?
It’s not just the regular physical exercise. It’s the relaxation, the chance to get away from it all and switch off the mobile phone. I found it a particularly beneficial escape when my work was at its most stressful.
There is the opportunity for exploration – to investigate all sorts of interesting places and features at different times of the year. The country walks in my books feature a diverse range of views, landscapes, birdlife, trees, flowers, parkland, woodland, marshland, coastline, rivers, canals, villages, castles, ancient monuments, industrial archaeology etc. Also, the opportunity for some memorable pub or picnic stops.
Do you have any particular kit you take with you when you’re walking? If so, what do you take and why?
I aim to be as well prepared as possible. I carefully check the weather and likely conditions in advance. I always take a rucksack including food and drink, wet-weather gear, extra layers and gloves. It is most important to wear suitable clothes and proper walking boots. I find walking poles helpful on more undulating walks. I recommend following the route on an OS map and having the mobile phone in reserve.
What tips would you give anyone thinking of giving it a go?
Do give it a try – you will not regret it! Before trying anything too ambitious, gradually build up your fitness by simply walking around the area in which you live.
Ultimately, all the walks in my books should be within the capabilities of anyone who is reasonably fit and active. You can try the shorter and gentler routes first.
However, there are plenty of options if you prefer walking in an organised group. Check out what works best for you.
Anything else you would like to mention?
‘Beyond Bristol: 24 Country Walks’ (2017 ), ‘Beyond Bristol 2: 24 More Country Walks’ (2019), and the third and final volume ‘Beyond Bristol Again: Another 24 Country Walks’ (due September 2023) are all published by Redcliffe Books Ltd. Copies are available from a wide range of outlets across the city and beyond. See www.beyondbristolwalks.co.uk.
The positive feedback and sales have far exceeded initial expectations. I now know for sure that there are plenty of people of all ages and backgrounds who enjoy walking in the Bristol area!