Best Foot Forward: Reasons to walk in the Autumn and how best to prepare

Autumn woods at Clay House, West Vale
Autumn woods at Clay House, West Vale

As the weather grows colder, damper and greyer, walking might not seem a likely new activity to take up.

I’m a lover of the great outdoors [and rambling], but in the winter I’m less inclined to spend long hours out in the open.

Autumn in Calderdale at Hardcastle Crags, Hebden Bridge

Autumn in Calderdale at Hardcastle Crags, Hebden Bridge

That said; walking, especially in these autumnal months can be hugely enjoyable; it’s wonderful to see the landscape as it changes with the seasons; particularly the heather that grows on moorland transforming its hues. And the skies; always dramatic in Calderdale, but in Autumn you can see the clarity of the skies; when the light is so bright, but with a grey or yellowy tint. It’s so different to the light of the summer months.

Whilst the days are getting shorter, it’s the perfect time to take on shorter walks. October is a lovely in-between month crossing the bridge between summer and winter; often with very mild days, and bright skies. So therefore it’s a great opportunity to trial your winter gear. For me, it’s all about layers, and of course, a good winter waterproof.

It’s important to decide on which clothes to wear; it’s frustrating to be sweating too much or not getting enough warmth. It is a process of trial and error but as said; I’d advise layers; thin, perhaps windproof too. Layers can easily be added or removed.

With the shortening of the days; if, like me, you resent the early darkness – if you get out and about to make the most of the day in perhaps bracing conditions, it will render your return to a warm home more comforting, and therefore you might embrace the longer evenings. With limited daylight; I feel it’s important to make the most of the sunlight, rather than squirreling yourself away waiting for the sun to set. If you suffer from Seasonal Affective

Autumn in Calderdale at Hardcastle Crags, Hebden Bridge

Autumn in Calderdale at Hardcastle Crags, Hebden Bridge

Disorder [SAD] whilst I’m not a qualified doctor, I would be confident to suggest embracing the daylight in the great outdoors might help.

And you can combine the things you already enjoy about autumn with walking. Particularly if you have children. If you are planning a Fireworks’ Night bonfire, why not collect twigs from the woodland before it gets too damp? Why not take the children to a dramatic place such as the moorland and see if this inspires them to create their own ghostly tales in time for Halloween? Autumnal leaves and twigs could set you up for an afternoon of autumnal crafts, not to mention the conkers which will be in abundance. The trees will be beginning to shed their leaves en masse, but others are also changing to orange, red and brown hues. For those trying to encourage their children to walk; why not take a stroll so that the kids can collect conkers, and then return home to thread them to have a good old- fashioned game of conkers? No digital screens involved, just good fun!

There are a myriad of autumn activities to be found online for children [but not only for children!]; perhaps making a hedgehog house for them to safely hibernate. Getting out in autumn will reveal the changes in nature; you’ll see more fungi than normal; if you look to the skies you’ll see many flocks of birds flying to roost in the early evening. As it gets colder, beautifully frosted spiders’ webs are commonly seen on a morning walk.

I think the most important piece of kit for the autumn and winter would be your boots. You needn’t spend over £100 at a specialist shop – I walked for three years in a pair from a charity shop. As long as they are waterproof and comfortable, they’re the right ones for you. You can buy special waterproof socks; which some swear by, although I do know they are not cheap! I would also advise gaiters, and walking poles of some description are always useful; if not to support your knees, they’re good to prod the ground with to test whether it is safe to place a foot, or to find out whether you’re bound to end up knee deep in mud.

Autumn colour in Calderdale.
Pictured is Rochdale Canal, Hebden Bridge

Autumn colour in Calderdale. Pictured is Rochdale Canal, Hebden Bridge

In terms of advice; just be prepared that the ground on which you walked in the summer months may well be less hospitable. Prepare for lots of mud; fallen leaves become very slippery, and beware of similarly slippery stiles. Be aware of what time the sun sets; especially after the clocks go back. Indulgent, but healthy snacks; my favourite being dried apricots, will not only give you the burst of energy you might require, but with no guilt to be felt by you as the consumer!

Finally, if like me you believe instant coffee always tastes better outdoors, from a flask, then just think how much more satisfying it will be on a colder day, surrounded by the autumnal hues of the landscape, or sheltering in a slightly darker woodland; accompanied by the sounds of nature preparing for its winter slumber.

Autumn in Ripponden, Calderdale

Autumn in Ripponden, Calderdale