Like the outdoors? Like walking in the country? Needs some inspiration?
Well if the answer to the above questions is yes, then Country Walking could be just the magazine your looking for.
The magazine is published monthly at a cost of £3.70 per issue or if you choose to subscribe 12 issues for £31.50 which is about £2.63 per issue.
The magazine has a mixture of reviews, features, exclusive interviews, letters and of course walking routes all of which are complemented by some excellent photographs of the great British countryside.
I have been subscribing for 3 or 4 years and the magazine has been consistently good during this period.
In general each issue follows a theme, for example November 2007 issue is 'Wildlife Walks' while previous issues have featured coastal walks, national trails, and picturesque locations to name but a few.
There is normally 2 or 3 pages devoted to news concerning national parks and trails and the outdoors in general.
A regular feature is the guest interview, following a similar format, asking the interviewee for their favorite walk.
The two regular writers are BBC R2 DJ Stuart Maconie and Lord Smith who is also President of the Ramblers Association.
Personally I find that Smith writes the more interesting and informative article, often highlighting political or conservation issues and is generally quite thought provoking. I fing Maconie readable but just a little rambling in his deliverance.
As part of the theme of the magazine there is a feature usually covering about a dozen pages highlighting areas in the country where the theme can be accessed. For example the theme in November's issue centers around 'Wildlife Walks' hence the feature looks at the New Forest (Ponies) and Devon (Otters). These articles are normally quite interesting and often contains some captivating images.
The magazine contains an 'Advice' section which is again linked to the theme of the magazine. So the recent edition offers advice on tracking wild animals and reviews of 'wildlife' books.
In the middle of the magazine is a selection of routes from various parts of the country. The routes are graded as easy, moderate or challenging with an estimate of how long they should take together with total distance, a commentary on the route and a 'Landranger' style map.
To give you an idea of the areas the routes cover, here are November 2007's:
5. East Sussex
19. South Yorkshire
20. West Yorkshire
21. North Yorkshire
22. East Yorkshire
25. Argyll & Bute
26. Argyll & Bute (yes 2 walks here)
27. Co. Fermanagh
A good thing about the walks is the variation, some are a bit wild (challenging category) and others in farmland and river banks tend to be fairly gentle. I have completed a fair number of these walks and have always found them to be accurate and very enjoyable.
Many of the walks have a GPS mapping on the Country Walking website which you can download to your PC and upload into your handheld GPS.
The latter half of the magazine includes 2 or 3 more features one of which is often a commentary on walked National trail. This is usually fairly entertaining, however, there is only so much you can say and I do find that one commentary is similar to the next.
There are 8 or 9 pages of Gear tests in each issue. The tests include all types of outdoor clothing and equipment and are usually quite comprehensive. The only criticism I have is that it is frequently the most expensive item that is the category winner. Perhaps there should be a best value award?
Towards the back of the magazine we catch up with a group of individuals that are undertaking some kind of (walking) challenge over a period of months. The latest is following a number of families in their progress to undertake a long-distance path.
For me this is not a high spot of the magazine and quite frankly would prefer that they dump it. I'm sure however, for those who go walking with their kids and family members it provides both motivation and interest.
One of the best parts of the mag is saved until last, an overseas walk, usually lavishly photographed consisting of immaculate scenery and good instructions to reach the destination. Just the sort of high spot you want to see when you're in the depths of winter in the UK.
The remainder of the magazine has the obligatory crossword and it's fair share of adverts and classifieds. I confess that the adverts are one of my favorite parts where I furtively decide what essential piece of kit I need next!
Running in at 130+ pages it is value for money even if you're not a fan of the fairly large number of adverts.
I've awarded 4/5 stars. Why not 5?
Well I would like to see the magazine focus more on conservation issues. A number National Trails let alone public footpaths require maintenance, I would like to see the magazine feature heavily on this, encouraging folk to get involved in protecting the countryside.
I would also like to see it taking up some campaigns to improve access to certain areas of the countryside.
Finally the gear tests whilst interesting could be improved if there was more of a focus on brands that are readily available in most outdoor stores and that the award system included one that represnteds best value.
Overall a very good magazine representing excellent value that with a few tweaks here and there could be excellent.
PS. There is an excellent website to accompany the magazine at: http://www.countrywalking.co.uk
Country Walking. This is a monthly magazine filled with interesting articles for everyone from the older,casual walker to the more experienced trekker. I purchased Country Walking purely by chance from a local filling station prior to working a nightshift last year,(2000). I intend to do more walking as my kids are all at the stage where I can consider packing them, a tent & some motivation into a weeekend away somewhere more pleasant than the urban area called home! I will take you briefly through the January 2001 edition as its near at hand & you can judge yourself if this is for you. The first 2 pages are adverts followed by the editors introduction. Page 6 & 7 welcome the reader into the contents with a well laid out contents at a glance. Five pages follow highlighting current issues for the walker such as a "St Cuthberts Way" web watch, newly opened tracks in Scotland & how the National Trust are attempting to find out how many of us consider the importance of views & scenery before choosing a holiday in places such as the Lake District. After another couple of adverts, there are 2 pages of readers letters. Then follows an 8 page article on the Scilly Isles with plenty enticing glossy photos. The next 3 pages were taken up by an unbiased test on what to wear close to the skin on the top half.After scoring each item on price,quality, fit & ability to wick away moisture. The Best Buy was then highlighted with reasons why! After another winter clothing test(it is the January issue after all?), a 2 page item addresses a Willow coppicing session in Leicestershire,an advert for walking boots & a holiday in the Scottish Highlands. My favourite article followed over 6 pages about a bunch of women from around Sheffield who with the aid of a Local Authority Project Officer, formed a walking group & explore the nearby countryside together. It was inter
esting to see the photos show that this wasn"t about a Womens Institute meeting filled with Old Crones! Some of these girls looked in their 20"s & all told how the appropriate partners either didn"t share an interest of the countryside; or couldn"t be bothered. The real usefullness of this magazine then comes to the fore with details of twenty six walks throughout the UK. No matter where you live, one of these walks will be near to where you live or can reasonably expected to reach at a weekend. Each walk is covered on an A4 page & contains details on the route, distance,where to park & to start,terrain, nearest town,public toilets/transport, refreshments, who the walk is suitable for & which O/S maps would be of benefit. Also covered in the mag was a 2 page reader survey, 2 competitions & an 8 page article on fossil hunting on the Dorset coast! There are of course plenty of adverts along the way but if it keeps the price of publishing down, then I feel this is a necessary evil we should put up with. All in all, an interesting mag for almost everybody at a reasonable price. I am forever going back to mine for reference,as good a recommendation as any I feel.