National Trust Unearths UK’s Hidden Walking Gems – – UK’s top ten secret walks revealed for the Great British Walk 2013

To celebrate the launch of The Great British Walk annual walking festival this weekend, the National Trust has revealed the top ten secret trails that can only be accessed by foot.

The list has been carefully selected by experts at the National Trust who wanted to showcase walks that offered a unique experience whether a hidden viewpoint, newly accessible coastal paths or the story of an old legend.

The Great British Walk, which is sponsored by PruHealth, hopes to encourage the nation to explore and share the many special places the Trust looks after for the nation.

The top ten walks have been put together following research showing that nearly a quarter of adults (22 per cent) said they rarely go for walks, while 17 per cent never venture more than 500 metres from their car.  Despite this, 68 per cent described a feeling of euphoria on reaching the summit of a walk or an amazing viewpoint and eight out of ten (80 per cent) said walking makes them feel happy.

The top ten secret discovery walks are:

1.    The White Cliffs of Dover, Kent

The land acquired by the National Trust last year is now opened up to the public for the first time, allowing visitors to walk a new route to the South Foreland Lighthouse which offers a previously hidden view across this iconic landscape.

 2.    Minnowburn, Northern Ireland

The Giant’s Ring is the largest henge and stone circle in Ireland.  It was built around the same time as Stonehenge and Avebury in 2,700BC, but its story is little known. This two mile walk starting from the car-park reveals a hidden side to the well known city of Belfast, which lies less than three miles away.

3.    Erddig, Wales

A love story between two of Erddig’s family servants has been brought to life in a walk taking in rarely visited parts of the estate. Retrace the footsteps of where the lovers met and see for yourself, through treasured mementoes how romance blossomed.

 4.    Sizergh Castle, south Lake District

Hidden and hard to find – the secret here is a 1,600 year old yew tree, buried deep in the woods.

5.    Sparrow Dale, Sheringham Park, Norfolk

Often overlooked by visitors to the park, Sparrow Dale is a hidden valley that’s perfect for wildlife lovers. It has a wide variety of trees making it a great place to spot birds of prey.

6.    Dunstanburgh castle, Northumberland coast

Many may know the castle but few people walk around the back to see the breathtaking views of the remains, its hidden cliffs and volcanic rocks.

7.    Malham Waterfall, Yorkshire Dales

The path leads to a magical waterfall where walkers will discover a secret cave. Local legend says the cave is home to the Queen of the Fairies, so making wishes is a must.  

8.    Trelissick, Cornwall

Overlooking the Fal estuary, this walk leads you much further into the estate than many usually venture to a secluded, iron-age fort.

9.    Stowe, Buckinghamshire

Explore never before seen parts of the Stowe estate – including a secret garden hidden for many years surrounded by monuments and waterfalls

 10.  Attingham, Shropshire

A path, newly opened up for the Great British Walk, allows visitors to share a rare view of the front of Attingham Hall, previously only reserved for privileged guests of the owners, the Berwick family, when they lived there.

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According to the survey’s findings, two in three Brits (64 per cent) wish they got out and walked more, with nearly a quarter (23 per cent) admitting to walking less than five miles a month. A further 19 per cent said they walk only five to ten miles a month, with just 7 per cent walking over 50 miles per month.

22 per cent have abandoned a walk half way through and turned around. A quarter (27 per cent) admit to using public transport or a car to complete a walk, though over half (57 per cent) said it feels like ‘cheating’ to not complete a walk.

84 per cent stated the best thing about walking is the places or things they discover en-route, and three quarters (73 per cent) said that it is the memories made with friends and family. 89 per cent simply enjoy the feeling of being in the fresh air, with 69 per cent revealing that walking leaves them feeling ‘revived’.

Nine out of ten (90 per cent) agreed that the majority of children walk less now than when they were children, with almost two thirds (61 per cent) stating they walked more as a child than they do today. Over half (58 per cent) said they wished their children got out and walked more and 70 per cent that they would like to go on more family walks together.

A quarter (27 per cent) revealed they do not walk as much as they’d like as they are not fit enough for long walks, and a third (31 per cent) blame the weather as a barrier.

Alex Hunt National Trust’s lead on outdoor engagement, commented, “Our research showed that 64 per cent of people are keen to get out and walk more, with 89 per cent agreeing walking is one of life’s simple pleasures. The Great British Walk is all about celebrating the outdoors and discovering new places on foot. There is something magical about walking somewhere new and uncovering its story, and the Great British Walk is the perfect way to discover something new. We hope the nation use their feet this autumn to get outdoors and explore, and then share with us their photos of their experiences.”

Dr Katie Tryon, head of clinical Vitality at PruHealth, sponsor of the Great British Walk commented: “Walking is a wonder therapy that stimulates all the senses and can transform your life.  It’s a wonderful way to relax, relieve stress and help lift your mood as it encourages the release of serotonin, the natural feel good chemical, as well as endorphins, known as happy hormones.  It can also re-energise you and help you sleep better.  Most of all it’s just a great excuse to get outside and explore the world around you, discovering new surprises along the way and what’s more, it’s free.”

Following the success of last year’s Great British Walk, in addition to the ten new secret discovery walks there are now also 700 downloadable walks on the National Trust website with over 200 properties taking part in organised walks and over 2,000 walking events. These walks vary from coastal walks in Dorset, to a refreshing two-mile walk for yoga enthusiasts at Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire, giving the chance to perform yoga in stunning surroundings.  For Halloween fans there’s a spooky night time walk at Penrose Estate in Cornwall in October and animal lovers can enjoy a wildlife walk through nature reserves such as Wicken Fen, so there really is something for everyone.

The National Trust is encouraging everyone to join in with the campaign, get out for a walk and share their walking photos on twitter, instagram and facebook at #GBwalk.

To find out more and download a walk visit and join the thousands of others celebrating the Great British Walk with the National Trust this autumn.


Wall painting by Pre-Raphaelite artists is uncovered at home of William Morris

For years, two figures painted on a wall and concealed behind a cupboard at the former home of William Morris were believed to have been the work of a single artist.

Now, major conservation work has uncovered an entire wall painting which experts believe is by William Morris and friends, all of whom were important Pre-Raphaelite artists.

Red House Wallpainting, l to r - Adam Eve Noah Rachel Jacob

Wall painting depicting Adam, Eve, Noah, Rachel and Jacob

Red House in Kent, was the home of Morris between 1860 and 1865. Regular visitors were Pre-Raphaelite artists Dante Gabriel Rossetti, his wife Elizabeth Siddal, Edward Burne-Jones and Ford Madox Brown. At different times, the friends helped Morris to decorate walls, ceilings and items of furniture at the house with colourful wall paintings and decorative patterns inspired by their love of the medieval past.

After Morris left Red House, until the National Trust acquired it in 2003, it remained in private ownership. As tastes changed, much of his original decoration was covered over with panelling, wallpaper or paint.

The bedroom wall painting had been hidden for years behind a fitted wardrobe and covered with wallpaper and until this year only two indistinct figures were visible. Following generous funding, the Trust has been able to undertake conservation which has uncovered the complete painting, measuring six feet by eight feet.

The painting, designed for what had been Morris and his wife Jane’s bedroom, depicts Biblical figures: Adam and Eve (with the serpent), Noah (holding a miniature ark), Rachel and Jacob (with a ladder) and is designed to resemble a hanging tapestry with the illusion of folds.

Red House, Wallpainting, detail of Rachel

Detail of Rachel

It is not known for certain which artist painted which figure, and further research and analysis will be undertaken. Experts have based their initial thoughts on the styles of each artist along with other details known about their connections to Morris, to Morris, Marshall, Faulkner & Co, and Red House at that time.

Jan Marsh, author and President of the William Morris Society said: “The concept of the overall design was almost certainly by Morris. Our initial thoughts are that the figure of Jacob was by Morris, Rachel possibly by Elizabeth Siddal, Noah by Madox Brown. But who painted Adam and Eve? Maybe Rossetti or Burne-Jones?”

Lines of faded and incomplete text were also uncovered at the bottom of the painting. For help in identifying the words, Red House staff put out an image on Twitter and Facebook.  Within a day, the text had been identified as lines from Genesis 30:6.

James Breslin, House Manager at Red House said: “The early years at Red House were a flowering of ideas and creativity for Morris, who encouraged his friends to help him design a home uniquely medieval in feel. To uncover such a remarkable example of this early decoration has been so exciting. 

Red House, exterior view

Red House, Bexleyheath

“As we uncover more and more of those original schemes, we have been delighted that our visitors today have been able to share in these discoveries, and see the conservation in action, every step of the way.”

The conservation of the bedroom wall painting was undertaken over a period of two months by a team of specialist wall painting conservators led by Tobit Curteis. The work involved painstaking removal of layers of wallpaper and overpaint to avoid damaging the historic painting underneath. The conservators carefully stabilised damaged areas of the painting and areas of loss were retouched so that the original details are now clearly visible.

Funding for the conservation was received from Wolfson Foundation, a private donor and Trust funds which have brought these layers of Red House, and its exciting decoration, back to life.

Vote for ’50 things’ and the National Trust

’50 things to do before you’re 11¾ ‘has captured the hearts of the nation, and to prove it we’ve been shortlisted under two categories for the Brand Republic Future 5 Awards!

Help us win by placing your votes on ‘The Big Idea’ and ‘Audience Participation’ categories before the end of August, and then pass on to colleagues, friends and encourage them to vote too!

Here’s is why our Kid’s Council believe we should get your vote:

For more information, why not visit the Outdoor Nation Blog.

If you think our work on reconnecting children with nature is worthy of winning tell us why with #future5awards #50things

Culture Secretary Maria Miller appoints Sir Laurie Magnus as new Chairman for English Heritage

Sir Laurie Magnus, currently our Deputy Chairman, has been appointed as the new Chairman of English Heritage.

Sir Laurie will step down as our Deputy Chairman in September.

Sir Laurie Magnus

Sir Laurie Magnus

Simon Jenkins, Chairman, says:

“We are sad that Laurie will be leaving the National Trust but delighted that he will taking up this role to help lead English Heritage at this exciting time.

“Laurie has had a long and distinguished career at the centre of the Trust’s work for eleven years. During this time he has overseen the implementation of our new governance regime, helped to restore the Trust’s finances and has been an enthusiastic supporter of our work to bring our places to life.

“We wish him well in his new role as he continues to champion the nation’s heritage.”

The wings of change: 50 years of butterflying

An ever-changing climate, urban sprawl, forestry and modern farming techniques have all affected the butterfly world in the last fifty years, according to National Trust naturalist Matthew Oates.

Celebrating his 50th season of butterflying, Matthew Oates has reviewed the winners and losers of the butterfly world since the 1960s while taking a look at their future in the decades ahead.

Matthew Oates, who received his first butterfly net for his birthday on 7 August 1964 and is now the UK’s leading expert on the iconic Purple Emperor, said: “Nearly all butterfly species have seen dramatic changes over the last 50 years and for some it seems their ecology has changed almost entirely.

“Sadly, there have been more losers than winners during my career, with Dutch Elm disease, woodland clearance, intensive agriculture, urbanisation and a changing climate all playing their part.

“It’s been a massive rollercoaster ride for me. Some butterflies have done remarkably well and in some districts new species have appeared. At the National Trust’s Arnside Knott, a top butterfly site in south Cumbria, five new species have colonised during the last two decades.

“There have been many great personal highs too, notably the long hot summer of 1976 when butterflies boomed and the wonderful Painted Lady invasions of 1996 and 2009.”

At this career milestone, Matthew Oates, who continues his butterfly research with support from the National Trust, predicts more unforeseen and significant change to come for butterflies in the UK.

The last 50 years

  • The Large Blue was reintroduced in the UK from Sweden after being declared extinct here in 1979. The National Trust’s Collard Hill played a key role in this success story, which was achieved by the dedicated work of a couple of top scientists.
  • Adonis Blue and Silver-spotted Skipper declined severely when closely-cropped chalk grassland disappeared following the loss of rabbits to Myxomatosis. However, they are now recovering well due to conservation work and the recovery of rabbit populations: the Adonis Blue returned suddenly to the Cotswolds in 2006 after 40 years of extinction. Within 3 years there were 25 colonies, mainly on National Trust hillsides around Stroud.
  • The Essex Skipper saw a sudden expansion in central southern England during the early 1980s in a run of good summers.
  • The Brown Argus, Gatekeeper, Marbled White and more recently Silver-washed Fritillary have also increased and are expanding their range across the UK, and there are signs that the Purple Emperor is too.
  • The Comma has also made a comeback in the UK, with a stronghold now in Northern Ireland, particularly at the National Trust’s RowallaneGarden.
  • Butterflies are now very well monitored and promoted by the dedicated charity, Butterfly Conservation.

    The Adonis Blue has made a comeback

    The Adonis Blue has made a comeback


  • The White-letter Hairstreak, which breeds on elms and was formerly common in elm landscapes, collapsed as a result of Dutch Elm Disease in the 1970s. It has since staged a low key comeback in many areas but remains a shadow of its former self.
  • The Wall Brown used to be common along road verges, woodland rides and rough grassland, but started to disappear, mysteriously, in the mid 1980s and is now rarely seen away from the coastal fringes of England and Wales.
  • The Small Heath, one of the UK’s commonest butterflies, has virtually disappeared from woodland, though it still occurs in open grassland.
  • The Duke of Burgundy and High Brown Fritillary are also struggling, with few of the colonies Matthew found while surveying them in the 1980s and early 1990s remaining.
  • The ‘Spring Fritillaries’ (Pearl-bordered Fritillary, Small Pearl-bordered Fritillary and Duke of Burgundy) were once found in woodland clearings all across central southern England but are now very rare there. 
  • Surviving butterfly habitats are now often isolated fragments which makes natural spread very difficult.
  • Above all, 50 years of butterflying has seen massive highs and lows, often associated with weather.  Butterfly populations are hugely affected by weather, and overall climate change will affect them radically long term.

The next 50 years


  • The Large Tortoiseshell, extinct for many years, could recolonise southern England from mainland Europe. There are early signs this may be happening already, with several sightings on National Trust land on the Isle of Wight this spring.
  • Milder winters, associated with the less adverse side of climate change, might allow the continental Swallowtail, European Map and the Queen of Spain Fritillary to colonise from across the Channel.
  • Urban spread, farming and to some extent forestry remain the big issues: yet we could have whole landscapes teeming with butterflies if society supports the work of conservationists.

Matthew Oates added: “In the next 50 years, climate change is likely to affect butterflies massively. There will be even more winners and losers, with new species likely to colonise from abroad and established UK species forced to adapt to survive.

“If the work of dedicated and passionate conservationists continues and butterflies keep growing in importance within British culture, the challenges of the next 50 years can be overcome.

“A big social revolution is taking place: old-fashioned butterfly collecting has died out and been replaced by harmless photography and more people are growing butterfly-friendly plants in their gardens. Butterflies need friends and are gaining many new converts.”

The three week recent heatwave across much of the UK is likely to boost the butterfly population in the short term, with Oates anticipating a butterfly boom for his anniversary year. This comes on the back of some very challenging times for butterflies due to recent bad summers.

National Trust and fracking

We have a presumption against fracking on National Trust land because natural gas is a fossil gas. The mining process also gives rise to potential environmental and landscape impacts.

Fossil gas is a finite resource that can only be mined and not harvested – it is not renewable. Its combustion produces greenhouse gases which we believe contribute to climate change. Climate change has a significant adverse impact on our core purpose of looking after special places, for ever for everyone.

View across the Brockhampton Estate in Herefordshire with some farmed land and some woodlandWhilst the use of natural gas might buy time to develop secure, renewable alternative energy sources, it also risks distracting us from focusing on the development of these and on the need for us all to concentrate on using less energy in the first place.

A presumption against extracting and increasing the supply of natural gas from our own properties is consistent with our approach to our own energy use and generation. This is firstly to reduce our consumption of it at National Trust directly managed properties, and then to generate as much renewable energy as we reasonably can in a way that respects the landscape and environment. We have set ourselves targets for both energy use reduction and renewable energy generation.

Our spectacular new woodland

Fingle Woods Panorama

Today we have announced our exciting £5 million project with the Woodland Trust to protect and restore a magnificent 825 acres of ancient woodland on the northern fringes of Dartmoor in Devon.

It is the first time that we’ve worked together with the Woodland Trust on such a project, and it is set to be one of the largest ancient woodland restoration projects ever undertaken by the organisations.

This woodland is outstanding. Without doubt it is one of the most spectacular places we own being situated in the steep sided Teign Gorge. Once the restoration begins we will see pied flycatchers, redstarts and wood warblers returns. Visitors today will be able to spot buzzards, dippers and grey wagtails as well as bluebells and wood anenomes.

It’s important to the National Trust as it’s wedged between two important existing Trust places: the Castle Drogo Estate (Castle, Gardens, woodlands and heath) and our woodlands around Steps Bridge.

But, we had to move quickly to secure the site. In less than two months we were able to pool resources and secure the wood after it came onto the open market in May 2013.

Five million pounds is a lot of money and it made sense to partner with the Woodland Trust who were also interested in the woodlands. Over 500 acres of the land is conifer plantation on an ancient woodland site and the restoration of PAWS (Plantations on Ancient Woodland Sites) is one of their strategic priorities.

Together we’ll be able to create almost 30 miles (48km) of footpaths for visitors who will be able to see and enjoy the woodlands and get a real feel for the enormity of the place.

The woodlands now belong to us jointly and we are ready to start the restoration process for the benefit of wildlife and people over the next 50 years. It also now allows us to manage a 10km long landscape of woodland in the Teign Gorge on Dartmoor. Managing wildlife on a landscape scale means we can give wildlife much more space to flourish – currently far too many of our special places are too small and as a result wildlife is penned in. Fingle Woods is a notable exception and we are confident that the benefits for wildlife and people will be enormous.

Adrian Colston, General Manager, National Trust – Dartmoor