52 Wild Things to Do in spring: Take the trail

There's nothing like a long hike in spring and Britain's walkers are spolied for choice. Paul Bloomfield suggest three of his favourite wildlife walks.

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Boot up to follow a long-distance trail

There’s a moment on any long hike when the sounds of the closest town or village have ebbed to nothing. You try to recall when you last passed another rambler or dog-walker. It’s then you realise that you’re completely, sweetly alone.

It’s a deceptive solitude, though – not empty nor silent but punctuated by colour, movement and music. The sulphur flash of a yellowhammer atop a hedge. Hares making their crazed, lolloping dashes across ploughed fields on rolling downs. Sleek grey seal heads bobbing on turquoise seas.

Britain’s walkers are blessed indeed. England and Wales alone have 15 National Trails covering some 4,000km – routes range from the 127km-long Yorkshire Wolds Way to the 1,014km switchback challenge of the South West Coast Path – as well as rights of way totalling a bunion-busting 225,000km.

Late spring is ideal for trail walking. Wildflowers bloom, summer migrants are back and logistics are favourable.

Paths are uncrowded, accommodation and public transport available after winter closures yet still easy to book, and long hours of sunlight soften early starts.

And you don’t need to dedicate weeks or months: it’s easy to cut-and-paste sections of multi-day hikes into appealing short forays.

Top three wildlife trails to try:

South West Coast Path – St Ives to Church Cove, Cornwall  (114km, 1 week) Dramatic sea cliffs and tiny fishing coves form a scenic backdrop for basking sharks, grey seals, choughs, peregrines and a score of salt-adapted plants.

Offa’s Dyke Path  – Chepstow to  Hay-on-Wye  (83km, 4 or 5 days)
Ancient woodland, bluebell dells, ridgetop views and soaring red kites.

South Downs Way – Steyning  to Eastbourne  (63km, 3 or 4 days)
Orchid-studded chalk grassland, wooded river valleys, raptors and waders at Cuckmere Haven, and the high, pearly cliffs of the Seven Sisters.

Click here to read the rest of our 52 Things To Do in 2012.

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