Bagging the Welsh dragon in the Black Mountains
Crossing the Black Mountains, starting at Pandy and moving on to Hay-on-Wye, the route has incredible views and a line of trig points ending in one decorated with a Welsh dragon.
How well do you know your local area? You may be surprised by how many paths and greenspaces are waiting for you to find! Now's the time to explore from your door, on foot or by bike, and discover the lesser-known paths and trails. We asked our GetOutside Champions how they’ve been exploring their local area and what they’ve enjoyed the most.
As an outdoorsy person who travelled a lot for work (pre-lockdown), I have now lived in Sheffield for over 2 years. During lockdown I’ve discovered just how many footpaths and rights of way are available within the city boundary!
I've fallen in love with the beautiful woodlands and steep sided hills that form part of the unique skyline. I've loved running in a woods near Loxley - away from the crowds, and finding routes that follow patches of wild bluebells is just magical.
There are plenty of amazing roads to cycle around in North West Sheffield that take you near Derwent Edge and as a beginner to road cycling it's made me appreciate the thighs of steel that you need to get up the hills!
Having worked as a Public Rights of Way Officer for a number of years it used to be my job to walk every route in every parish in my patch, to survey routes and get out and about to deal with protection and maintenance issues on PRoWs. I have started a new home-based job during lockdown, still working in access but focusing on protecting, extending and promoting access and rights of way focusing on equestrian use.
This all means that whilst the restrictions are in place, I’m only able to explore the PRoWs from my home village, it has been a real eye opener as to what has been sitting on my doorstep all along.
As lockdown began, I found myself walking the same three routes I usually use for our daily dog walks. I soon thought about the many miles of PRoWs I was missing out on and got onto the OS Maps app to do some research.
I started using routes that had been plotted by others and I discovered a wealth of routes from my front door, I then decided to take on the challenge of exploring all the routes within a 6km radius of my house and boy did we find some wonderful routes.
From ancient drove roads to expanses of arable cross field routes, I have not been disappointed by a single day of exploration. I'm extremely lucky to live in a village surrounded by countryside all connected by PRoW. I have spotted all sorts of wildlife from barn owls to skylarks and I have been treated to the flowering fritillaries of a wildflower meadow. Although I’m still looking forward to getting back to my childhood home of the Lake District to climb some hills when this is all over, I have definitely gained a new appreciation for the beauty that has been waiting within 6km of my own home.
I always have my local OS Map on hand, and I am a big fan of exploring my neighbourhood from my own front door. Even with that, I have been able to find new-to-me footpaths over the last month of being forced to only walk close to home. I've not lived here long so my excuse is that I'm still very new to the area and the opportunity to get to know it better can only be a good thing.
I've found bridges and stiles that lead to the countryside, public rights of way through farmland and routes up hills with views for miles around. The most impressive I feel, are the wonderful ancient woodland covered in bluebells. The good weather has been a real blessing, but I will certainly be heading back to that woodland to experience it in the rain. There is something so weirdly peaceful about dense trees when it's wet.
I've lived in Belper all my life. I know the footpaths like the back of my hand and have walked them since I was a boy. During the COVID lockdown, I've been walking from my front door into green fields, full of spring flowers and birdsong. Spring is a very special time for me. It was Spring 2000 when I was able to walk again after suffering severe frostbite and being cooped up in hospital and home for almost 9 months was having its effect.
The vibrant colours of marsh marigolds, the aura around bluebells and the pungent reek of wild garlic have stayed with me all those years. If we walk the same route every week, we will see the delicate changes in flowers, observe the birds as they sing and build their nests, see the fields burst into spring life and look forward to the oncoming summer.
I walk slowly, look intently and breathe deeply to engage with the world around me. I've also advised a number of people where the best places to go are and guided many lost souls who are walking for the first time, where paths are. This is a learning time for many in which I choose to share my love of nature in search of peace.
I’ve always been the one shaking my head at road cyclists unable to understand the attraction or watching mountain bikers juddering down stony tracks convinced they are about to fall off. I’ve never lost those memories of my awful daily cycle to school on my three-gear shopper bike, even though it was decades ago. Cycling just wasn't for me.
But now I’m eating my words. I’ve swapped my hiking boots for a cycle helmet and I’ve bought my first bicycle – a hybrid. And I love it. I’ve been using OS Maps to find circular routes around my home, swapping between quiet lanes, bridleways and green lanes. I’ve discovered places on my doorstep that I hadn’t known existed.
I love looking at the views over the hedgerows, stopping to smell the wisteria and bluebells and feeling the temperature change between sun and shade. I’m already feeling fitter, my muscles aren’t aching quite so much and when the restrictions ease, I’ll still be getting on my bike because, despite decades of being convinced otherwise – I love cycling!
After moving to an unfamiliar part of town, I have been keen to explore our new local area. Under the current circumstances I’ve been looking for new walks/running routes which are close to home. Thanks to the OS Maps app I was able to thoroughly scan the local countryside to find suitably close tracks and paths. Finding several circular routes just up the road from home, we have been spoilt for choice. Now, after a few weeks living in the new area, we have enjoyed an abundance of woodland walks, paths, bridleways and found oceans of bluebells along the way, all within a few km’s of home.
Thanks to the GetOutside app, I have also discovered a few more areas close to home which will be great to explore. And combined with the OS Maps app, I can start planning my route to them.
Moving from an inner city flat to a house with a garden has also given us room to learn a few new green fingered skills, and whilst in lockdown, we have taken full advantage of our new garden. Already the broccoli has made an appearance, the runner beans, rhubarb and potatoes are now in and the compost heap is full.
I think once we start to move back towards a more familiar and normal way of living, I certainly will appreciate those little things in life that could have been so easily taken for granted in the past, like popping to the DIY store, visiting the garden centre or calling someone in to fix my DIY fails!
I’ve trained as usual, but it’s prompted me to try new routes from my door when normally I’d jump in the car to the main part of the Lake District. I’m still finding fun bits of single track and finally answered the curiosity of where little trails lead to.
Kendal is particularly beautiful, and I can reach decent hills within my long runs. The bluebells and wild garlic are always beautiful, but I’ve been finding myself beaming on runs and finding hope from nature in a time where so much is going wrong in the world.
I am very fortunate that normally I cycle most days in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales either for work, or even for fun! However, the lockdown has made me see that due to time constraints and ease we often default to the tried and tested routes. With a bit more time on our hands and being creative with our outside time we have rediscovered Wensleydale.
The OS Maps app has been fantastic for keeping us on the correct track. As mountain bikers we are accessing bridleway routes not footpaths, the National Park Pathways and the snap to tool on the app has been an essential bit of kit in our backpack.
Having a 10-year-old companion with me at all times it is important that routes are with a focal point or purpose, interesting and not so challenging that she never wants to speak to me again. Our new favourite route from work to home is Hawes to Askrigg, a mixed route running adjacent to an old railway line and two sets of stepping stones over the River Ure. It makes a commute an adventure.
Getting outside for fresh air and exercise is important for our mental and physical health. Now's a great time to explore new routes from your door, on foot or by bike. Before you leave the house, look at a map to plot your own local route.
If you’re in need of some motivation or inspiration to keep you active outside, visit the GetOutside Hub.