Walking: hitting the trails during National Walking Month

Summer is just around the corner, with longer days, lighter nights and warm weather it’s the perfect time to take advantage of the natural beauty on our doorsteps. It’s time to get outside for an accessible walk.

Every year, May marks National Walking Month, encouraging everyone to get outside. The awareness month is utilised by charities like the British Heart Foundation to boost fundraising, and organisations like Living Streets to celebrate the power of walking for our minds, bodies and neighbourhoods.

As an organisation, Living Streets helps older adults overcome barriers to walking, whether that’s damaged footways, a lack of resting places or inadequate crossings.

Working with communities, local authorities and partners, they create streets which are safe and welcoming for everyone, while also organising walking groups around the country to combat loneliness and isolation.

Benefits

The importance of a daily walk and getting outside has been highlighted over the last year, helping people to stay active and connected during a difficult time. But, as rules change and pandemic restrictions ease, your daily walk shouldn’t stop.

A form of exercise, walking is extremely beneficial: just 20 minutes of walking a day reduces the risk of developing a heart or circulatory condition, having a stroke, type 2 diabetes, obesity and osteoporosis.

A quick walk in the fresh air also has the power to make you feel energised, reduce stress, improve sleep and can save you money if you usually take public transport or drive.

Walking isn’t just good for you, it’s good for the environment: by making your journeys on foot, you’re reducing your carbon footprint. You can even check how much CO2 you’ll save across the month on the Living Streets website.

As well as being good for you, getting out in the fresh air for a walk is accessible and adaptable. You could walk around your garden, go out into your local community, or pick a dedicated walking trail further afield.

There are walking trails for everyone, regardless of equipment or ability.

Research

You, your family and anyone who cares for you understands your needs and can help pick the right walking trail for you, but you don’t have it to do it alone. There is a host of resources available to help you find the right route for you.

If you’re planning to go further afield or make a day of it to get the most out of the sunshine, make sure you do your research in advance.

Walks with Wheelchairs is the only UK site completely dedicated to providing free information routes for people with access challenges. The walks on the site have been tried and tested by wheelchair users, or people knowledgeable about accessible routes.

Using Walks with Wheelchairs you can read reviews of routes, download directions and detailed OS maps for free, share your own routes and add comments for other users to utilise in the future.

An online resource for people who love getting outside, The Outdoor Guide details sensory walks, wheel-friendly walks, family friendly walks and more. You could even use the site’s information to plan a full walking holiday with information on stays and pitstops, from historical sites to the best places to stop for a break.

With stunning sites around the country, the National Trust are known for national parks and botanic gardens, but they also offer advice on accessible walks. Head to the National Trust website to find out about their top picks, taking in gardens, coastal clifftops and rolling countryside. The chosen routes have maintained paths and easy terrain, making them suitable for pushchairs, wheelchairs and mobility aids.

If you don’t feel ready to travel further afield yet, the National Trust are helping you to experience nature from home. In a four-part series, wildlife presenter Lizzie Daly takes you on a journey through the countryside, taking in mountain summits, urban areas, coastal landscapes and accessible routes.

Once you’ve found a trail or route you like, double check it is accessible and look for reviews. Disabled access review site Euan’s Guide has reviews of walks around the country, all by disabled people. Using the site, you can check if walks in your area are accessible with different equipment, if there are bathrooms nearby and what accessibility features there are if the location has a visitor centre.

Before you head out on a walk it is always important to be prepared. Think about your unique needs and take changes in situation and weather into account.

Always check that trails are maintained and accessible, what facilities are nearby, and never forget your sun cream, even if the day starts out with rain.

Inspiration

Get inspired with some of our favourite accessible walking routes around the UK.

Blickling Estate
NORFOLK

This countryside trail is flat and multiuse, taking you through woodland and across farmland. The four-mile route is good in any weather with a hard surface trail, and has wildlife and historical monuments to discover along the way.

Accessible trail
PORTH, TRURO

Just one mile long, this trail is perfect if you are just getting back into walking. Circular in shape, the trail is wheelchair accessible and takes you up a gentle slope with views across Porth Creek. The trail is alongside farmland and meadows, then takes you through woods and back along the creek-side.

Salcombe Hill
DEVON

A short cliff-top walk, this trail is a great introduction to the South West Coast Path walk with views over Sidmouth, High Peak, Ladrum Bay and more. The gravel path is well-maintained, making the route suitable for wheelchairs.

Threave Estate Walk
DUMFRIES

This trail in south-west Scotland is unsurfaced but mostly flat, making it suitable for wheelchair and cane users. The walk will take you past fields, woodlands, wetlands and a ruined island castle. You can even spot woodpeckers, roe deer and ospreys along the way.

River Ness and Caledonian Canal Circuit
INVERNESS

This longer walk at 7.25 miles takes you around the canal, weaving through charming streets with pockets of riverside and towpaths around the capital of the Scottish Highlands. Along the route stop at Chanonry Point in the Moray Firth to see if you can spot the resident dolphins.