This year I decided to go the next step up from my long distance UK hikes and travel the length of Lake Baikal. And what a journey it was – this is one destination you have to add to your expedition bucket-list.
So, if you’re planning a trip to Baikal, here are some tips for hikers. All of them are were learned during my 400 mile winter run/hike/ski traverse of this vast expanse of frozen water.
Lake Baikal: The Facts
1 mile deep and over 400 miles long, Lake Baikal is the largest source of fresh water on planet Earth. The dark abyss is also probably home to more cars than the all the scrap yards of the world combined.
Okay, I made up that last ‘fact’. Truth is,
the bottom of the lake is a burial ground for vehicles that that gone through
the ice (during winter, many Russian locals use the frozen surface as highway.
Their routes vary: from town to town; fishing site to fishing site; family
outings to Olkhon island).
Located in southern Siberia, Baikal
experiences the full force of Arctic winter, with temperatures dipping as low
-30C (the coldest recorded temperature being -61C).
Wildlife is abundant. Bears and wolves roam
the forests for three seasons of the year, the former hibernating at precisely
the time peoplelike myself mount expeditions to
traverse the lake. In the east, freshwater seals spend their time feeding on golomyanka
(a local fish) and rearing their young, whilst avoiding being eaten by bears
Note: Lake Baikal is the only known home to this species of seal.
In total, the lake’s basin supports a human population of around 100,000.
Before we dive into this post, I’d like to say that the
Ashridge to Ivinghoe Beacon circular route is not one I created. The original
was posted on the Chilterns AONB site and is 5 mile walk along some pretty
substantial trails and tracks. At 8 miles, the route you’re about to follow is
a little longer thanks to my ‘navigation enhancements’. By that I mean map
reading errors (something that’s hard to admit considering I consider myself to
be a very good navigator).
This route from Pulpit Hill to Coombe Hill is a circular walk covering about 9.5 miles in length and uses part of the Ridgeway. The trail is a mix of mud track and, in a few places, gravel. As hiking routes go, it’s mostly easy going. Be warned: there are a couple of very steep hills (I’ve noted each one in the details below).
Here are a few of the highlights:
9.5 miles of hiking and hillwalking through the Buckinghamshire countryside.
Stunning views, in particular when you stand on the top of Coombe and look out of the surrounding area.
A whistlestop tour of various aspects of Buckinghamshire history. This includes Chequers, Coombe Hill war memorial and the neolithic settlements.
An plenty of wildlife. Watch out for whitethroat birds, and butterflies (the speckled wood and the peacock being some of the most commonly spotted).
Beechwood woodland, much of which dates back to the 1600’s.
My original intention was to walk about 6 miles over the Chiltern hills. Recently I had spinal surgery and I’m still in recovery phase. Walking is easy, vigorous exercise is still a no-go area. Needless to say, my hill walking fitness plan hasn’t been used much over the past month, or so.
The UK is criss-crossed by a network of trails, tracks and public footpaths that take you on some pretty magical journeys. If you let them. I’ve had the pleasure to hike and trek all over the world, but nothing gives me more pleasure than a walking long distance through the wilds of the UK. I’m equally at home taking walks near Thame and in Buckinghamshire. But today we’re going to explore some of the best long-distance walks (UK only – I’ll be adding more walks to cater for overseas visitors to my website).
First off, let’s be clear about what constitutes a long-distance hike, or walk: some of my outdoorsy-type friends told me that long distance is the kind of trek or hike that can take days. That’s probably a bit extreme for most so we came to an agreement – any route over 20 miles is classified as long.
Some of the routes below I’ve walked. Others are recommendations from friends. If you have any you think might be valuable additions to this post, please feel free to email me (details over on the contact page).
Long Crendon is a large village located about 1 ½ miles from Thame. The village is in Buckinghamshire, just over the county border with Oxfordshire. Unlike Thame, which is a small town, Long Crendon isn’t a hive of activity (and that suits many of the residents and visitors). I love the countryside around these towns and villages, which is why I’ve decided to document this Long Crendon to Chearsley walking route.
The route to Chearsley – an even smaller village about 2 miles away from Long Crendon – is pretty easy going. There are a couple of short but steep climbs, and you’ll be walking across fields. If you’re planning this walking route during winter, I highly recommend you wear supportive walking boots or shoes.
Parking is at a premium as this walk starts from St. Mary the Virgin church in the heart of the old village. Most days you’ll find plenty of parking, but best check ahead for any festivals of events as the village fills up fast.