Growing up in the 1970s on a desolate hill where ABC was the only TV station available, I was exposed to a lot of quaint British programming. The Good Life, Worzel Gummage, The Famous Five, To The Manor Born, All Creatures Great and Small…you get the drift. All of which were evoked in full rolling-hills-and-howling-hounds effect during my most recent adventure.

Love the Brits observation #464468: they're perfectly happy to have a public #bushhike route pass through their front yard
Love the Brits observation #464468: they’re perfectly happy to have a public bush hike route pass through their front yard

You might be aware: two of my biggest passions are hiking and eating and I try to combine the two whenever I get a moment’s leave. I always try to orchestrate it so that I hike a good 5-6 hours, from one foodie village to another foodie village (you can catch up on previous efforts here and here). It creates a destination to aim for, a sense of adventure, a “point”.

During my most recent trip (you can catch up on it here and here) I took four days off in a mad-busy schedule to do a walk in the Southwest of England. Some careful planning – totally aided by the team at Foot Trails – saw me hike and eat my way along the most perfect little route, foodie village to foodie village around the Dorset-Somerset-Wilshire borders. Added bonus: quaint hills, hounds, brambles, bleating lambs, brooks, eccentric folk in tweed ensembles, pints and soup in cosy inns and the whole clichéd shebang!

This is how I packed:

Someone asked me to give a rundown of what I take 4 days walking solo. And so I oblige. The answer is: the bare minimum... Toothbrush and paste, Jojoba oil (for cleansing and moisturiser), ear plugs, eye mask, phone charger, maps, credit card, 1 x undies, 1 x spare shoes, 1 x shoes for hiking in mud (yes, hiking shoes are better but I don't have any right now and can't be bothered to buy some), 1 x hike outfit (singlet, thermal layers, leggings), 1 x change of clothes (leggings, shirt), a book. I don't carry food (I eat a massive breakfast and dinner) and I didn't carry water either. There, that's it. #bushhike #bushexcursion #dorset #somerset
Someone asked me to give a rundown of what I take 4 days walking solo. The answer is: the bare minimum… Toothbrush and paste, Jojoba oil (for cleansing and moisturiser), ear plugs, eye mask, phone charger, maps, credit card, 1 x undies, 1 x spare shoes, 1 x shoes for hiking in mud (yes, hiking shoes are better but I don’t have any right now and can’t be bothered to buy some), 1 x hike outfit (singlet, thermal layers, leggings), 1 x change of clothes (leggings, shirt), a book. I don’t carry food (I eat a massive breakfast and dinner) and I didn’t carry water either. There, that’s it.

The pictures kind of sell the trip best. But I’ll expand with a few words, too, focusing on the highlights.

Sustainable eating and tweeded folk at The King John Inn, Tollard Royal

My trip kicked off in Tollard Royal a short cab ride from Gillingham station (I caught a train from London – an easy two hours). The place is as twee as the name suggests and a great base for a few day-walks. I checked in and did a three-hour jaunt up into the hills, passing through Guy Ritchie’s estate and by many pheasants (evoking many James and the Giant Peach memories).

Now THIS is a menu @kingjohninn #wiltshire #sustainablemeat
Now THIS is a menu!

Back at the inn, I settled in by the bar for some seriously local fare (Simon the chef personally hunts the venison and some of the other meats). Totally my kind of food! And my kind of vibe: there were actually real life people (other patrons) wearing tweed caps! And coats with reinforced elbows! I ate the devilled kidneys and the lobster. Simon also made a sugar-free chocolate and orange parfait for me, too.

Kippers and asparagus for breakfast on a wet morning @kingjohninn
Kippers and asparagus for breakfast on a wet morning at King John Inn

The Stapleton Arm, Buckhorn Weston

The next day I packed up my kit and hiked a full day through bluebelled woods and cow-smattered dells and ancient towns dripping in Domesday history. I saw not a soul – apart from the toffy gents at the pub at lunchtime where I arrived with sodden feet (I spent much of the day squelching through fields in water and mud up to my knees) – until I arrived at the delightfully named Buckhorn Weston. I took up a position in the window seat and had some of the best lamb of my life – local and prepared by a future MasterChef contestant (the whole village – read pub – was talking about it, even though it’s meant to be a secret).

This is what I came to see...
This is what I came to see…the famous Gold Hill in Shaftesbury which I passed en route.

The Queens Arms, Corton Denham

The next day I set off into Somerset. It was a wonderfully moody day and I was chased by cows, sloshed my way through fields and forests and arrived to this…

Arriving into town after 16 km of blissful but boggy strolling. A Saxon town brimful of hounds and houndstooth @foottrailsuk #dorset #somerset #bushexcursion #bushhike
Arriving into Corton Denham after 16 km of blissful but boggy strolling. A Saxon town brimful of hounds and houndstooth.

The village of Corton Denham is about as idyllic as an English village comes. And the Arms drips in ye olde-ness, including a bull’s head mounted over the fire pilfered from one of the “Carry On” movies. Serious. The menu here is astounding. I could’ve eaten the whole lot. Instead I settled for…

Asparagus pannacotta with duck egg... All ingredients are grown, reared, shot within the village. The lobster is the exception - it travels 20 miles.
Asparagus pannacotta with duck egg… All ingredients are grown, reared, shot within the village.
Duck and liver raised by @queensarmsinn
Duck breast and liver… the meat was raised by the team at Queens Arms Inn

The owner casually mentioned that everything – I mean everything – on the menu comes from either their farm 10 metres from where I sat or the farm next door. Oh, except the lobster. Which comes from 20 miles away. He almost apologised for this lapse in authenticity.

Bless the Brits observation #57788: I love their lack of preciousness when it comes to stuff like this... Not a bottle of hand sanitiser to be seen, and one is not drowned in serviettes and paper and hygiene accroutements at every purchase.
Bless the Brits observation #57788: I love their lack of preciousness when it comes to stuff like this… (outside the Queens Arms)

Sherborne a-hoy!

And on the last day…the sun rose again. My goodness England transforms in the sun. I followed the path used by pilgrims making their way to the Sherborne abbey back in the olden days. The town is totally Saxon and the abbey is the final desination – it’s where King Alfred’s family are buried and the front door and other bits of the building date back to the 7th Century. I met Alison here and we sat in the sun and debriefed and watched locals being…quaint.

Nattering with a picnic lunch
Nattering with a picnic lunch outside Sherborne Abbey
How wonderful... To stumble out of the woods and into town after my four day #bushhike to this: a FAIR AT THE CASTLE!
How wonderful… To stumble out of the woods and into town after my four day bush hike to this: a FAIR AT THE CASTLE. This joint used to be Sir Walter Raleigh’s weekender.

You’ve probably gathered by this point that I had a stupendously good time on this hike. And ate incredibly authentic and mindful and REAL food along the way. It all totally surpassed my expectations. I particularly liked the fact that the area is not on the obvious tourist list of destinations…but every Brit I spoke to got all misty-eyed when I mentioned I was heading there, adding that it was one of the most beautiful parts of the country (with a solid foodie scene). I just love how when I go with my gut, things work out. This trip was very much like this. Which brings me to Food Trails. I was connected with Alison and her team and I knew right away that she “got my brief”…I wasn’t “sold” on the Dorset area straight away…but my gut said to trust Alison’s insistence that it would be right what I was after…

A bit about Foot Trails:

There are a bunch of outfits doing walking tours across the UK (their ads now all follow me around the internet!). But few “get” the whole foodie/eco/adventure thing. Alison and David at Foot Trails do. They’re like-minded. This is how I navigate my life now…always toward like-minded folk.

A wet day, but Foot Trails UK has everything sorted including waterproof maps... Today 13 miles through Dorset Meadows
The kit that Foot Trails kit you out with, including waterproof maps. And a spare waterproof jacket!
  • They’ve won Green Tourism Business awards and are the first travel company in England to achieve the Big Tick for Rural Action, awarded by Prince Charles’ charity Business in the Community.
  • They recycle everything…mindfully. They print their maps and instructions on special paper that can be reused over and over. They supply an envelope and discount on future hikes for anyone who bothers to return them after their hike. These small things always count.
  • They mostly do week-long hikes where you stay two nights at each place (so you can really explore the area)…but because I LOVED my itinerary so much, they’ve offered to do these mini-hikes for any of my readers keen to have the same experience. Feel free to mention this when you contact them.
  • They’ll fall over themselves to make the experience special. I spoke to people (inn keepers etc) along the way who told stories of the extra special touches they drip-feed in to their trips.

** Please note: I did the walk as a guest of Foot Trails, however, as always, views are all my own and I communicate this clearly to anyone wishing to host me. You’ll find my position on sponsored posts and advertising here.

 

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Have your say, leave a comment.

  • Awesome awesome awesome! Thank you for the food trails link! I am moving back to Cornwall and I love to hike and eat too so this is a great resource!

    • I’m pretty sure they do similar stuff there!

    • Alison Howell – Foot Trails

      Be happy to help you hike in the South West.

  • Kez

    That sounds awesome… Curious as to why you didn’t take a water bottle though 🙂

    • I don’t need it. I drink lots of water before I leave and when I arrive. It’s a misnomer we need water WHILE exercising.

  • Edwina

    Sarah do you ever get scared hiking on your own along paths you are not familiar with? Maybe not so much going village-to-village in England but what about places like Sardinia or the Australian bush? Do you have personal safety rules you stick by like letting people know where you are? I know its probably an irrational fear but I still worry that if I’m out bushwalking on my own, I will get abducted by a serial killer…

    • No, I don’t really get scared. A few hairy moments, but I think there’s a greater chance of danger in a city. I think having a phone helps – I know I’ll always be able to be geo searched. That said, it’s a risk I take. I refuse to be scared away from doing something I love so much.

    • Patricia

      Edwina I think that when reading Sarah’s bushwalking adventures. Oh Yes….like you I would have that exact same fear of being abducted by a serial killer as you put it.!!

  • Jo Pinto

    Hey Sarah – just a quick comment about your photo caption (“Love the Brits observation #464468: they’re perfectly happy to have a public bush hike route pass through their front yard”) – actually, the public rights of way and the “right to roam” are enshrined in UK law, and aren’t at the discretion of the landowners. It’s one piece of contentious but I think awesome UK legislation – that the right to enjoy the countryside in the UK is for all, not just the wealthy! Bit more info here:
    http://www.ramblers.org.uk/go-walking/advice-for-walkers/your-access-rights/what-is-the-right-to-roam.aspx

  • feliss

    Thanks for this Sarah. Hubby and I r walking in France in July and have been talking about the UK. Now we know where to go!

    • Alison Howell – Foot Trails

      Hi, be delighted to help with your UK walks. Please do feel free to get in touch to talk about this. (You can reach me via our website.) And hope you enjoy France. I’ve walked from the north coast to the Mediterranean in one trip – 3 months.

  • Neenona

    I am so happy that you wrote about this. My hubby and I are in the UK for a brief holiday in September and we have been looking to do something like this. I have been waiting for this post just to be sure that you loved it as much as it looked. The food, the scenery in fact just about everything looks fantastic and just what we are after too 🙂

  • Danielle

    Hello Sarah – this caught my eye as I am from Poole Dorset! I hope you had a lovely time in our little part of the world! I quit sugar back in January. I am just writing here because I didn’t quite know how else to get advice – I have massively fallen off of the wagon during this past month and am feeling really awful/down/hard on myself. It was my birthday and I also got engaged and seem to have eaten nothing but awful AWFUL food. Not really sure what to do or how to get back to where I was?!?! Should I start the whole 8 week programme over again? Please help – desperate woman here!!

    • Ms Jane

      Danielle when this happens to me (and I’ve been sugar free for a few years now) I usually am just really careful with what I eat for a few days and that seems to get me back into the swing of things. Every now and then I set myself a goal of 30 sugar free days as well which might help you at this point too. Hope this helps 🙂

  • Ms Jane

    I used to love Worzel Gummidge!! And I’ve been to all the places you went to when living in Bath when I was younger. Stunning x

  • Aldona

    I signed up with the 8 week programme which is supposed to start yo and I’ve heard or received nothing yet ? How and when will I receive info to be on 8 wk programme Not impressed 🙁