With staycation being the buzzword of the year, maybe it’s time to look a little closer to home and learn about the amazing walks and wildlife hiding throughout Wales, with two experienced authors to guide you through.
Philip Snow (Amberley)
WEATHERMAN WALKING – THE WELSH COAST
Derek Brockway and Julia Foot (Y Lolfa)
Walking in Wales just seems natural. The coast of mainland Wales measures 1,370 miles in length, or 1,680 miles if you add in Anglesey and Holy Island, and in these times of continued lockdown restrictions, walking has become a popular hobby for large swathes of the British population, with around 60 million coastal walks (an ever-growing number) taken each year.
By no means a new phenomenon, the benefits of coastal walking have been known for centuries. From the Victorians who used to convalesce in coastal towns, to the growing body of evidence that time spent in so-called ‘blue spaces’ can improve mood and sleep quality, the popularity of walking looks here to stay. Yet, despite the seemingly low entry point for joining the rambling crew, it can sometimes be hard to know where to start. That’s where books, from experienced walkers, are perfect for setting you on the right path.
Weatherman Walking is a great entry point to the hiking scene: friendlier than Pathfinders or Ordnance maps, the compact book is the perfect accompaniment to a refreshing Sunday family walk. Created following the ninth season of the BBC series Weatherman Walking, which first aired in 2019, the book invites you too to recreate the walks taken by weatherman Derek Brockway during the show.
Charting a journey along the Wales Coast Path – the 870-mile stretch following the Welsh coastline – it promises to deliver an unbroken and unspoilt coastal walking experience. Interestingly, the path, launched as recently as 2012, has been celebrated as the first dedicated coast path in the world to cover the entire length of a country’s coastline.
Within Weatherman Walking, each walk is mapped out using bold colours and is paired with clear directions. The difficulty and skill level needed to complete the 15 guided walks included in the book is included in a helpful information page. This is accompanied by notes and fascinating information about local landmarks, alongside useful information like where to find a good parking spot. With each walk ranging from four to nine miles, they can all easily be completed within a day and most, if not all, are family-friendly.
If you are looking to explore a more secluded place in Wales, however, then the island of Anglesey is a lovely place to start. Mostly known for its beaches and ancient history, artist and author Philip Snow would argue that the small island, off Wales’ northwest coast, should also be known for its beautiful wildlife. Following the release of his book Anglesey Naturewatch, many would agree.
With its foreword written by another familiar TV face, Iolo Williams [pictured, top], it primarily presents itself as an illustrated guide, showcasing the best flora and fauna, alongside walks, it quickly becomes clear that there is so much more packed into this little guide. Everything from vast landscapes and detailed maps to intricate drawings of local spider crabs, shrews and snails are featured.
Handily, each of Anglesey’s nature reserves and Sites Of Special Scientific Interest is covered in the guide. Each walk is mapped out on a simple full-page layout, with local wildlife that you may spot on your walk, scattered around the borders. Beautifully different from traditional nature and walking books, the hand-drawn illustrations help capture the feeling of the island, of adventuring and discovery. And, the Ordnance Survey reference is included at the beginning of each section, if you get lost.
Both of these books, despite their differences in style, showcase how Wales has everything that walkers could want, from waterfalls to wildflowers. The only question now is, where to begin?
words ELOUISE HOBBS