Secret Waters, Essex
Immortalised by Arthur Ransome in Secret Water, the wild, muddy, intertidal Essex coast has changed little in the eighty years since the Swallows and Amazons adventured there. This strange world is continually growing and shrinking again as the tides rise and fall, and is best explored by kayak or canoe. Stone Point, the ‘savages camp’ from the book, is just the place to bivvy out on the beach after all your exploring (51.8829, 1.2635). It is easiest to arrive in the area by taking the train to Walton-on-the-Naze – from here you can even walk across the mud to the ‘savages camp’ at low tide, but plan carefully as the returning waters rush in fast.
A mile’s walk N of the Naze or launch a canoe from Kirby-le-Soken (see entry) at high tide and head down the Walton Channel. Experienced kayakers only. 30 mins, 51.8829, 1.2635
Trees and Horses, New Forest
Surrounded by 3,000 wild ponies, the wild heath and woodland of the New Forest is ideal to explore on horseback. Arrive at Brockenhurst train station and join a forest ride from Ford Farm Stables. Go for a tasty lunch at The Oak Inn, a horse-friendly pub where your horse will be as well looked after as you are. Later on, trek out to the magnificent pollarded oaks of the Sloden Inclosure and climb up among the massive branches for views across the heathland (50.9117, -1.7018). In the evening you can walk to The Pig for some tasty local food (everything sourced from within 25-miles).
Ford Farm Stables, Burley Road, SO42 7TB, 01590 623043.
The Oak Inn, Pinkney Lane, Bank, SO43 7FD. 023 8028 2350.
The Pig, Beaulieu Road, SO42 7QL, 01590 622354.
Circumnavigate the Isle of Wight by Sea Kayak
‘The sunniest place in Britain’ is the perfect opportunity for a sea kayaking adventure. Cook up a feast over open fires, camp wild on the beach to watch the sun rise, and even circumnavigate the island. Take the ferry to Yarmouth and meet Isle of Wight Sea Kayaking, who can organise the entire expedition (or simply rent a kayak from their sister site, Isle of Wight Adventure Activities). See the Isle’s dramatic ‘chines’ from the water, land at some of the wildest sandy beaches, and enjoy exploring this magical undeveloped coastline.
Isle of Wight Sea Kayaking, Afton Park, Newport Road, Freshwater, PO40 9XR, 01983 755838
North Chilterns Ancient Trackway
A land of hillforts and exposed lookouts poking up above ancient woodland valleys, the chalky North Chilterns have been hiked by humans for as long as we can remember. For your very own ancient adventure, take the train to Tring, and join the final four miles of the Ridgeway, Britain’s oldest trackway and now a National Trail (51.8416, -0.6068). Head north along the Ridgeway from Tring, towards Ivinghoe Beacon, and arrive on foot, as herdsmen and travellers have done for hundreds of years. Take a picnic and spend the day on the summit, flying kites and playing frisbee, or climb up in the evening to bivvy out beneath the stars.
From Ivinghoe, take B489 dir Dunstable. Take first R, signed Ivinghoe Beacon. Footpaths lead L off the road. Take the footpath R 300m for quieter Steps Hill (great spots to bivvy-out and stargaze) or continue on lane to find lots of parking and picnic spots (51.8327, -0.6085). 5 mins, 51.8416, -0.6068
Kent Coast Adventures
Take the train to Canterbury West with your bicycle, and pop into the Goods Shed next door, to choose a picnic from the wealth of local produce. Follow signs for the Crab and Winkle Way, which soon takes you to some lovely traffic free cycling through ancient woodland. Stop off to enjoy your picnic in a sunny clearing, and then continue downhill to Whitstable, where you can cool off with a dip in the sea. Later, head out to sea on a 120-year-old sailing barge to explore the huge steel Second World War Maunsell Forts, which tower above the waves eight miles from land. End the day at The Old Neptune pub on the beach as the sun sets over the sea.
The Goods Shed, Station Road West, CT2 8AN, 01227 459153.
The Old Neptune, Island Wall, Marine Terrace, CT5 1EJ, 01227 272262.
Maunsell Forts boat trips: Greta’ boat trips depart from Whitstable Harbour during the summer (6 hours, £48, 07711 657919). To actually land, contact X-Pilot and Project Redsand (groups of 12, £50 per head, 07952 784311). 1 min, 51.4477, 1.0961
The Wild Guide (£15.99, Wild Things Publishing) features over 1000 wild places to explore, eat and stay in southern and eastern England. A South-West edition is also available. From www.wildthingspublishing.com Enter ‘TNT’ as the coupon code for a 30% discount, that’s £11.20 instead of £15.99.