We love Christmas but we don’t love the extra Christmas pounds (we’re thinking of the ones gathering around our waists, rather than the impending credit card bill!) Being huddled up cosy indoors spending time with the family is fabulous but there comes a time when we need a blast of fresh air and some exercise. If your New Year’s Resolution is to exercise more, why spend money in a hot, sticky gym when you could access the great outdoors for free?
Here are 5 of our favourite walks to boost your pulse rate and put a nice rosy glow in your cheeks, all laid out like a proper exercise class.
NOTE: Please only tackle what you feel capable of and do remember to dress appropriately for changeable weather, soggy fields, and rocky footpaths.
Wreay Village – Warm Up
We’re easing in gently with a lovely stroll around a fascinating village. Wreay is situated just south of Carlisle and boasts plenty of local history, some rather lovely countryside, and a nice cosy pub. The spectacular and unusual church in the centre of the village is the work of Sarah Losh and if you start there, you’ll be able to pick up a leaflet guiding you around all the other local points of interest, including a small museum.
During the early 19th century Sarah transformed the village and, in an era when a woman’s place was definitely in the home, she pushed back boundaries and became a well-renowned architect and land owner.
Wet Sleddale – Stretches
If you have an OS Map, you’ll quickly spot plenty of nice circular walks around Wet Sleddale and Shap. One of the most interesting loops is to head out from Shap to Keld, where there is a remarkable ancient church (access is via a key hanging on the doorpost of the house opposite). Cross the old concrete road—built to enable access for the vehicles building the damn in nearby Haweswater—then continue on through Swindale to Simon Stone where there are the most glorious waterfalls.
From there you can either retrace your steps or continue on up to the bothy at Mosedale, then loop back around via Sleddale Hall and Wet Sleddale Reservoir.
Martindale – Cardiovascular Workout
This is a more challenging walk, but the views are superb. Park up at Patterdale and follow the large circular looped route via Chapel Hause (where you can still just about pick out the remains of the old church) and along Boredale Valley to Sandwick; then return along Howegrain Beck and up and over Beda Fell.
If you’re feeling extra energetic go for the burn and push up on to the top of Place Fell where you will be rewarded with panoramic views of Ullswater and Helvellyn as you clutch the trig point, gasp for breath and question your sanity. As well as the far-reaching views, there is also plenty of wildlife to see and red deer are very common along the valley floors.
Humphrey Head – Toning
Right down in the south of the county—and reputedly the home of the last wolf in Cumbria—Humphrey Head is the perfect place to blast away the last of the Christmas Cobwebs and fill your lungs with fresh sea air. From the car park it’s a very short, but admittedly sharp, climb to the top of the hill followed by a glorious undulating stroll along the top.
When the tide is low you can follow the path all the way off the end of the head and down to the shores of Morecambe Bay, where you will find plenty of shelter for your packed lunch and some perfect bird watching opportunities, especially at dawn and dusk.
Armathwaite – Cool Down
If some of those walks seem a little strenuous, then how about a gentle riverside walk? There are no bad walks along the River Eden but the route from Armathwaite has a lot going for it. Good parking around the bridge, nice circular walk (follow the river along to Longdales then loop back along the road) and a nice cosy pub at the finish.
There are plenty of things to explore along the way with small waterfalls down on the river and a series of art installations along the main path. At very low water (admittedly most unlikely in January) you can access a series of stone heads carved into the beautiful sandstone walls of the river gorge; for the rest of the year you can just relax, enjoy the scenery and think about how much money you saved by not taking out that gym membership.