From Rail to Trail in the Chilterns
Guest blog by Kieran Seale, founder of WalkByRail.com
This month's guest blog comes from WalkByRail.co.uk founder, Kieran Seale who shares his favourite walk, exploring the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) while highlighting the benefits of walking for your health and wellbeing.
What comes to mind when you think of the tube? Dark dusty tunnels. Or perhaps a packed train rattling past tall buildings.
Most people probably won't think of gently rolling Chiltern hills and some of the most beautiful countryside around. But you should!
As well as being one of the best places in the UK to walk, the Chilterns benefit - almost uniquely - from being served by an urban rail system.
My favourite place to walk from is Chesham Underground station. Chesham has two trains an hour, seven days a week, from 6am to after midnight (I can hear the envy from users of other rural rail lines!).
I know that I am biased (I grew up nearby), but I think that Chesham is one of the best places to walk from anywhere. It is a pleasant small town, nestling in the Chiltern hills with great walking routes in every direction. You can easily reach pretty villages, country pubs or National Trust woodland. The town is big enough to have all the pubs, coffee shops, supermarkets and walking equipment shops to cater for your last minute needs, but small enough for you to be out into the countryside in minutes.
Chesham station is built into the hillside. So if you come out of the station, double back on yourself and cross over the line, you can then walk up the hillside. Within 100m you are in a beautiful open field with views over the town. Walk a little further on and you have panoramic views of the Chess Valley with its chalk stream and the railway line running beside it.
You are now out into open countryside and can walk across fields and through woods to Ley Hill. There you can stop for a drink at one of the country pubs that look out onto the local village cricket green. Walk towards Fluanden and through more beautiful woods before heading down into the Chess Valley. From here you can walk up to Chalfont & Latimer station (about 8km in total) or to Chorleywood (10km in total). The latter takes you through the village of Chenies, with its Tudor manor house. Both stations have around six trains an hour all day back to London, so you don't have to hurry to catch a particular train on the way home.
Having worked in the NHS, I am passionate about promoting walking. The health benefits dwarf those of any other possible public health intervention. The country faces an obesity epidemic and walking is key to fighting it.
Walking regularly can:
● Help you to maintain a healthy weight
● Help with the management of conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes
● Strengthen bones and muscles
● Improve balance and coordination.
Other benefits include better sleep (itself a key to better health), improving breathing (useful if there happen to be any nastly respiratory pandemics around!) and reducing your risk of Alzheimers.
To top it all, as well as improving physical health, walking in the countryside is great for mental health. And if you live in London there are lots of options for great walks using Underground and rail services to get there. Using an Oyster card, they don't have to be expensive either.
I don't think most people realise how easy it is to do countryside walks if you live in London, so I put together a website to give people all the information that they need - walkbyrail.co.uk. I'm hoping that the end of the pandemic will lead to many more people taking up these walking options - and doing so in a sustainable way, by using the great rail network that we have in London.
Visit Kieran's Walk by Rail website here for ideas of places to go and you'll find all you need to know about using London's rail network to get out for walks in lush countryside.
Discover more walking routes below:
Subscribe to our blog posts. We are planning to post about once a month. We will never share your details and you can unsubscribe with a single click.