Andrew McCloy

My children would love to see some glow worms. Where do they usually hide, and what are the best family-friendly walks to see them on? Ros Cummings

Andrew McCloy: Glow worms are small, brown-coloured beetles and the distinctive green glow is produced from the abdomen of females in order to attract flying males. They appear as soon as it gets dark and glow from a fixed spot, such as a stem of a plant, on top of a gate or even on the ground.

Although they tend to be more prevalent in chalk and limestone areas in the south of England, you can find them in almost any open or semi open habitat, such as fields and grassland that have not been sprayed with pesticides, or hedges and footpath edges away from artificial lighting. Wildlife corridors, like disused railway lines, also seem to be popular haunts, but since glow worms feed on small snails there needs to be some vegetation about.

During the day, the flightless females crawl into tiny holes in the ground and are not active. Look out for them from late May to September, peaking in June and July. Wildlife Trusts around the country organise regular summer evening walks to see glow worms – it’s an amazing experience for all ages. Visit www.wildlifetrusts.org or call 01636 677711 to find the details of your nearest trust.

What precautionary items should be carried by lone walkers? John Samson

Andrew McCloy: Walking on your own is enjoyable, rewarding and perfectly safe in most situations, provided you’re properly prepared and know your limitations.

Plan your route in advance or familiarise yourself with the area, and carry a map and compass or GPS. If there is an accident or unforeseen problem, make sure you can summon help. So carry a mobile phone (and remember to charge the battery beforehand) and perhaps a personal locator beacon if you’re going somewhere really remote or hilly.

An added precaution would be to leave a route card with someone, showing where you’re going and when you expect to be back. A whistle, torch, survival bag and basic first aid kit should be essential rucksack items on any serious walk, plus food and drink of course.

If you're a lone woman you might consider carrying a personal alarm, especially in unfamiliar urban areas; and if it’s likely that your route may involve some road walking, then high visibility clothing or a headtorch are useful. Also, make sure you carry some form of identification in case of a medical emergency, plus the address of where you’re staying if you’re on holiday.

I’ve loved my time with the Ramblers, but a new job requires me to move around Europe and North America. Are there any similar organisations in these parts of the world? Warren Turner

Andrew McCloy: There are equivalents of the Ramblers in most countries. In France, the Federation Française de la Randonnée Pédestre can put you in touch with its network of local hiking clubs. In Italy, there’s the Italian Federation of Hiking and Germany’s equivalent is Deutscher Wanderverband, which coordinates over 50 walking associations and 3,300 local walking clubs and has details of local walking routes.

The European Ramblers’ Association acts as the umbrella organisation for the continent, and includes 55 walking organisations from 30 different countries. Its website has a useful page on long-distance European walking trails. In the USA, there are numerous hiking clubs across the country – check out www.webwalking.com. Or for national organisations, try the American Hiking Society or the more environmentally minded Sierra Club.

I really enjoy hillwalking, but would like to include some scrambling. Where should I go? Dave Fielding

Andrew McCloy: Scrambling is, essentially, the ascent of steep or exposed mountain slopes where you use your hands as well as your feet.

Scrambles are graded in terms of technical difficulty. A Grade 1 scramble is usually little more than a very steep walking route, such as Crib Goch in Snowdonia or Jack’s Rake in Great Langdale, where balance, sure footing and a head for heights are all essential. Strong boots with solid edges and decent soles, a small rucksack, and possibly some gloves for extra grip are all that you will need.

However, Grade 2 and 3 scrambles begin to approach proper climbing and are more serious undertakings. For these, it’s advisable to use a rope and probably foot slings and karabiners, but you must be confident in your own ability and those around you. Another essential item is a helmet.

For ideas on where to go, try Cicerone’s two-volume guide Scrambles in the Lake District. Or, go on a course, such as the two-day beginner’s guide to scrambling put on by Plas y Brenin in Snowdonia.

I’ve created a walk called the Crouch Valley Trail, starting at Rayleigh and finishing at Burnham-on-Crouch in
Essex. How do I go about promoting it, and is it legal? Mark Cerson

Andrew McCloy: As long as your walking route follows rights of way or crosses publicly accessible land, it’s legal to create your own trail. In fact, it’s a great idea as it encourages people to get out for a walk and use the local rights-of-way network. There’s no formal registration for self-devised trails, but it’s a good idea to send route details to the Long Distance Walkers’ Association (www.ldwa.org.uk), who maintain a database of all the UK’s trails and promote them to their members. You should also approach Essex County Council to see if they will add the Crouch Valley Trail to their own local walks information and help you advertise the route. In terms of wider dissemination via the internet, instead of a costly website consider the merits of a free blogging platform such as WordPress (www.wordpress.com), which allows you to post text and images. Once you have an online presence, it might also be a good idea to write a short summary of the route, perhaps in the form of a news release for the local media, as well as produce simple printed flyers for local libraries, doctors’ surgeries, recreation centres, and other local information points.

On holiday, I like to mix walking with sightseeing and other cultural activities. Can you suggest any tour operators who offer this combination? David Hamill

Andrew McCloy: HF Holidays puts on trips specifically described as a combination of walking and sightseeing, including Taormina and Mount Etna on Sicily, the Bodrum peninsula of Turkey, the High and Middle Atlas of Morocco, and leisurely explorations of Malta and Rhodes. The walks all have sightseeing stops built into them, and many are flexibly designed so you can opt to explore independently when you choose.

Ramblers Worldwide Holidays has always offered similarly-styled sightseeing walking trips, but has also recently launched a gentle walking programme of holidays that might suit you, called Adagio. Their destinations include the Loire valley vineyards, Cyprus, Spain’s Andalucia and a Danube river cruise, where the emphasis is on gentle strolls between visitor attractions and relaxing places to eat and drink.

Headwater organises several holidays billed as ‘gentle walking and sightseeing’; discovering ancient and classical Turkey and a ten-day tour of Jordan’s cultural highlights are perhaps the pick.

Another approach is provided by Inntravel, which arranges mostly self-guided ‘slow holidays’ for individuals. They include special interest and discovery walking holidays in the likes of Las Alpujarras, the Algarve and the Engadine Valley in eastern Switzerland, where you can explore local heritage and culture at your own speed.

Can you suggest places with dog-friendly accommodation and circular walks that visit a good pub? JB Ward

Andrew McCloy: Dog-walkers’ guidebooks to locations including Essex, Buckinghamshire and the Yorkshire Dales are available from www.dogfriendlywalks.com. Kettlewell in Wharfedale would make a good base, and you’ll find dog-friendly accommodation available at the Blue Bell Inn. Wensleydale and Malhamdale also have plenty of attractive but manageable walks. Countryside Dog Walks (www.countrysidedogwalks.co.uk) also publishes a series of guidebooks to places such as the Wirral and West Cheshire, the Lake District and Snowdonia.

For good dog-walking routes in North Wales beyond Snowdonia, try visiting the Clwydian Range. A circuit over the high-point Moel Famau, or a woodland wander through nearby Loggerheads Country Park, with a stop at the dog-friendly We Three Loggerheads pub, are both great. Otherwise, there’s the South Downs with its scenic downland and woodland routes. You could base yourself at Alfriston on the South Downs Way. The historic Star Inn offers a special ‘luxury pet-friendly accommodation’ package! Dog-friendly pubs are also featured in an e-book and app downloadable from www.bestdogwalksuk.com.
AndrewMcCloy

Meet our experts

Formerly an Information Officer for the Ramblers, I am now a freelance journalist, author and access consultant.

Andrew McCloy