Wild trails near urban areas
‘Running is a form of escapism. I get home from work, to my small suburban house, and I sneak out the back door into the countryside; running through woodlands, fields and farms. It helps me keep going when there’s so much to see.’
- Nicola Elvin, trail runner and staff member
Imagine escaping the city, just for a day, and discovering a wild place with winding trails and windswept views. These are places, just a short drive from the jostle of urban life, where your feet and thoughts can wander. Whether you want to run, hike or take a leisurely stroll, here are ten beautiful places to visit.
‘It is lovely to have such a serene, calm oasis in urban London’
- Barbara S, Special Places app
Osterley Park is just a tube ride away from central London but it’s a world apart from the city. Surrounded by ancient meadows, parks and farmland, this is one of the last surviving country estates in London. What better place for a quiet stroll or run?
There's plenty of wildlife to enjoy around the gardens. Try the Osterley Park stroll (or easy run), across the parkland and gardens.
Escape the hustle and bustle of Manchester to Dunham Massey’s famous deer park and gardens. You can join the daily walks at 1.30pm to discover more about Dunham’s history and wildlife. Or take the route through ancient trees, for 2.5 miles of easy terrain. Jo S suggests the walk by the waterside: ‘the walk along the lake with the beautiful old house reflected in the water is stunning in all seasons.’
‘Three friends and I studying at the Uni of Manchester visited Lyme Park. We hadn't left the city in ages. The sun was shining, the fresh air was invigorating and the house and grounds were beautiful. We ended up becoming members, so now we can escape the city more often.’
- Sophie R, Special Places app
Nestling on the edge of the Peak District, Lyme Park is a 1,300 acre estate offering fantastic walks and runs. Sprint past herds of deer, or take a tranquil walk in the Edwardian rose garden.
You can join the Great British Walk and enjoy beautiful views and stories from Lyme's Edwardian heyday as a sporting estate. All you need to do is help yourself to a free walk leaflet from the Information Centre.
* Many thanks to Ollie Cartwright for his photo
* Join a running group at Lyme Park
‘Killerton is an antidote to road running, with 6,400 acres of parkland, rolling hills and dense woodlands. This includes over 60 miles of footpaths.
‘Ashclyst forest is a must if you’re looking for a more intense trail. It’s a mixture of well maintained footpaths and bridal paths, offering some challenging terrain in winter months.
‘We get a lot of interest in our parkrun. These are super friendly events, with a strong sense of community. They’re open to all abilities, happen every Saturday morning, and are followed by tea and cake in the café.’
- Laurence Eastment, staff member and keen runner
For the best running or walking experience it’s recommended you hit the trail as the sun rises, when you can have the forest all to yourself and hear the dawn chorus. Or enjoy Killerton’s parkland as the sun sets.
‘I think the support element is a really important part of our running group. It’s on a Friday so everyone has a chat about their week. It’s really sociable.
‘A lot of people say they’ve tried other running clubs, but were asked to run too far and it put them off. At Gibside running really is geared to all abilities. We have a group for complete beginners and a group that’s training for the Great North Run.
‘We have also put up markers so that if you can’t make our Friday runs you can follow a route of your choice whenever you fancy.’
- Samantha Morgan, Run England group leader
Gibside is a real taste of the country on the edge of the city. There are winding paths, refreshing open spaces and elegant historical buildings to explore. Come along on one of our guided walks, to learn more about our history and wildlife, or try our parkland walk.
* To find out more about the running group call 01207 541820 or email Gibside
Leigh Woods are a runners and walkers haven on the doorstep of Bristol, with ancient trees and limestone grassland. Designated pathways lead you through oak, small leaf lime and ash forests.
One pathway follows the base of the Avon Gorge, where the true scale of the ravine becomes apparent. Look up to see the soaring suspension bridge and beautiful broadleaf woodland. Or bring along your bike to try some of the cyclists-only trails. Leigh woods is a fantastic spot for off-road mountain biking.
‘I visited magical woodlands on the edge of the moors. Visit mid-week when it's quieter and the only sounds are birdsong and Burbage Brook running past. It's a very special place with gnarled ancient oak trees and moss covered stone boulders.’
- Elisabeth A at Padley Gorge, Longshaw
This is real walking country, just a 20 minute drive away from Sheffield. Discover views of the Peak District, ancient woods and heather moorland. If you’re looking for a short walk or run, try the Burbage Brook trail. This circular route takes you alongside a tumbling stream. Or for a longer walk try the Burbage and Stanage trail.
‘I just love the calming atmosphere and magnificent vistas from the top. I spend time walking around the Clent Hills as often as possible. The buttie cafe at Nimmings Wood car park is out of this world.’
- Tracy W, Special Places app
Tourists have been escaping to the Clent Hills from nearby towns and cities for over 200 years. There are miles of footpaths, bridleways and trails to explore. Race to the top for panoramic views over the Cotswolds, Shropshire Hills and the Welsh borders.
With 90 acres of gardens and parkland, this is an ideal setting for getting away from it all. Take a walk along the avenues of majestic trees, or around the lake and spot the varied wildlife.
If you want to get into running try the Tredegar House parkrun. These are held every Saturday morning at 9am, meeting in the car park. Finish by rewarding yourself in the Brewhouse tea-room.
Alternatively, if you head out to the west of Cardiff you can visit Lanlay Meadows. This small, but beautiful, area is perfect for short circular walks.
‘Minnowburn is a very popular area for walkers and runners. It’s part of the Lagan Valley Regional Park. You can walk there along the towpath from the city. A lot of people like to stroll through the woodland, with the canopy overhead, and alongside the river and meadows.
- Craig Somerville, Belfast area warden
Look out for the rose garden, the magnificent Minnowburn Beeches and Shaw’s Bridge, an ancient crossing that dates back to the Neolithic period. If you follow the Giant’s Ring trail you will see this massive earthwork circle, built around 2700BC.
Craig recommends another area close to Belfast: ‘The Divis are wilder than Minnowburn, so if you’re more into heaths and moorland this is the place for you.’
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