I upped sticks and moved from South London to Norfolk last summer (yes I am one of THOSE people!). While I was in London, I got into the habit of heading out nearly every weekend into the countryside of Surrey or Kent for long days of hiking and the more I did it, the more I wanted it.
So now, here I am in sunny, beautiful Norfolk. It’s about as countrysidey as you can get. But I find myself without the comfort of my walking friends and map guru extraordinaire Lucy. I am in a strange county and I have a dog. I have to walk!
I started small…exploring my own village and the local dog walking routes, which are easily spotted. Dog walkers are useful people – they know the good places to go and by chatting to a few, I found out some good secret places. After a few weeks I was ready to cast my net wider. I started finding interesting looking footpath signs when we were driving around. I’d walk down them, see where they went. And then I found the most useful tool – a Norfolk footpaths website where you can search by village and it shows you all the footpaths, bridleways and tracks. This was a godsend. I would start to plan decent circular dog walks of around 3-4 miles in locations in between my daughter’s school and home. I found amazing places, beautiful walks, pretty churches, deer, hares, rivers and ponds. There probably isn’t much of the stretch between Dereham and Swaffham that I haven’t explored on foot.
At weekends I plan longer walks and tend to use my footpaths website to help, in conjunction with books of set walks or the internet.
What a perfect way to get to know my new home. Ziva (my dog) and I have found ourselves in all sorts of random places. Sometimes the paths are not well used and massively overgrown. And yes, I do get lost occasionally. But with the aid of my phone I get back on track. I log my walks using Map My Walk, I check Google maps as well if I need to.
I know stalwart ‘map people’ often baulk at the idea of using phones to navigate. But we aren’t all map experts, right? We don’t all want to buy paper maps. Some of us have no idea how to read a “proper” map. This shouldn’t stop us! The internet has a wealth of information to help you plan a good walk. It turns out the footpath website isn’t just Norfolk – it covers all counties. So why not give it a go?
Here are my top exploring tips:
- Google! Often you will get some great pre-plotted walking routes coming up. Search ‘circular walks in….’ for example.
- Check out your local footpaths using www.footpathmap.co.uk
- Be observant – keep an eye out for footpath signs when you are on the move for other reasons. And then remember to look them up later.
- Be brave! Just give it a try – it’s just walking. Test out paths. Explore!
- Make sure your phone is charged – if you are going to rely on your phone as much as I do, make sure you have full charge and a portable charger if you are going to be out for a while.
- It is always a good idea to let someone know where you are intending to go. Just in case you don’t come back!