Ancient woodlands in west Kent
Deep in the ancient woodlands at Hever Castle and Gardens, you smell the wild garlic before you see the pretty white flowers grouped beneath trees with fresh lime-coloured fringes signaling their new spring growth. Rare suchamonius plenus daffodils (from the 17th century) surprise you as you walk deeper into the woodland, but come mid-April, the bluebells are the real stars of the trail that meanders across the estate near Edenbridge in west Kent, the childhood home of Anne Boleyn. Dogs are welcome and you can enjoy a picnic as you extend your walk by taking the path around the lake. Access to gardens from £17.50 adult, but there are also walks in the surrounding woods on the Eden Valley path towards more Tudor homes at Chiddingstone and Penshurst.
Wildflowers and whiskey in the Peak District
There are not many places better than the Goyt Valley a few miles north of Buxton in the Peak District when flowers are blooming and spring has arrived. The ridge containing the two peaks of Cats Tor (518 metres) and Shining Tor (559 metres, the highest hill in Cheshire) makes for a beautiful stroll which is often quieter than busier parts of the national park. Cats Tor rises to the west of the valley. Start from the high Pym Chair car park: the views from here towards Kinder Scout are worth the drive alone. Follow the ridge to Shining Tor, where views of Cheshire, Staffordshire, Yorkshire and Derbyshire await. Post-walk, the former Cat and Fiddle, the highest altitude whiskey distillery in the UK, is just a short drive further down the valley.
Orchids and Cake in the Peaks
The village of Calver offers an enchanting spring walk that can be enjoyed by families. Taking the bridleway uphill from the village you can soon branch off through a small, very quiet woodland covered in a blanket of bluebells in late April. I’ve never yet put another person here. You climb further uphill and enjoy fantastic vistas towards the villages of Eyam and Stoney Middleton. From here descends into the wonderful Coombs Dale, where you can spot a variety of spring flowers including bee and lizard orchids. Return to Calver village and end with a delicious cake at The Eating House.
An air of tranquility in Norwich
Tea River Wensum path is adorned with a sea of bright yellow daffodils in spring, and you walk accompanied by towering Norwich Cathedral in the distance. The gentle sounds of the river flowing alongside the path add to the air of tranquility. The vibrant green foliage of the trees and shrubs along the riverbank provides the perfect backdrop for a leisurely stroll. It’s a wonderful way of welcoming spring.
Like a fairyland, Aberdeenshire
I love the Drummy Woods and Tomnaverie Stone Circle walk from Tarland, Aberdeenshire, especially in spring. As the path leaves the village there is a little steam and a hollow beside it carpeted in snowdrops, like a fairyland. The rest of the walk is beautiful too, taking in hillsides, fields and forest. Make sure you stop for a cuppa and cake at Tarland Tearooms afterwards.
Spring views to the Malverns
The walk from my house in Prestbury, Cheltenham, to Winchcombe takes me straight up the Cotswold escarpment to Cleave Common 330 meters feet above sea level, with fantastic views to the Malverns and the Brecon Beacons beyond. I then descend through old quarries and on to the original sheep dip pond following the Isbourne chalk stream past the paper mill to Winchcombe. Where I enjoy refreshment and cake.
Ravenglass vistas in the Lake District
From Muncaster Castle car park, walk through the castle grounds, with gorgeous views of Scafell Pike, Eskdale and the Ravenglass estuary towards the Isle of Man. Wander through the bluebell woods (late April to May) to the River Esk, crossing at low tide if you don’t mind wet ankles. There’s a good possibility of seeing deer, herons and kingfishers here, and an outside chance of an otter sighting. Follow the river down to the Eskmeal dunes but keep an eye on the tides, for your estuary crossing for a Ravenglass pint.
Irish Sea views near Belfast
Take the Bangor train from Belfast to the halt of Cultra. Walk through the grounds of the Ulster Folk Museum to be hit with views of the Irish sea. A seven-mile walk along the coast passes through Crawfordsburn country park right to Bangor will overload your senses with beautiful spring flowers, lungfuls of sea air and, if you’re lucky, some sun.
Waterways and canal paths in north-east London
Starting in Millfields Park, Hackney, this walk proves that even London has quiet corners where nature thrives. Pass daffodils popping up beneath towering London planes and cross the footbridge into Lee Valley Park. Follow the canal path, sandwiched between tall grasses and moored houseboats – some with roof gardens and fresh paint jobs, others piled with rusty bikes and firewood. Another bridge leads to 15-hectare Springfield Parka green haven with views across the Lee marshes to Walthamstow Wetlands. A swan family roams this stretch of water, seven cygnets tailing their parents past those enjoying a riverside pint at the Anchor and Hopea small pub with a big attitude.
Winning tip: Berkshire’s stunning purple patch
A walk starting from Inkpen Crocus Field will have you heading up nearby Gallows Down with a spring in your step. A spectacular sight greets you – you’ll need no convincing that there are more than 400,000 of these purple delights. After tearing yourself away from this wildlife trust reserve, take your pick of routes past woods where noisy rooks nest. On the downland heights, you’ll hear skylarks overhead. If it’s a clear day, gaze over Berkshire’s gentle Kennet Valley. But don’t linger too long. After a walk down primrose-fringed lanes, there’s tea and cake to be enjoyed back in Inkpen’s cafe.