As the mercury drops and the days get shorter, it is tempting to stay indoors, where it is cosy and warm. We get it – spending the day beside a roaring log fire certainly has its appeal. But it's well worth getting outside for a leisurely walk. As anyone who has tried winter walking will know, the frozen months can bring pleasures all of their own. Popular walking trails that are packed in summer are often blissfully tranquil in January and February, while a landscape blanketed in snow can look utterly majestic.
Have we tempted you yet? Come on, picture the scene: it's a cold, crisp winter morning. You lace up your boots, shoulder your day pack and head into the great outdoors, with nothing more than quiet contentment as your goal. The air is bracingly cool, your steaming breath merging with the low winter sun’s rays streaming through frosted branches. Step by frozen step, the miles slowly unravel beneath your feet. Atop a low rise, you dig out a thermos of steaming hot coffee and drink in the frozen landscape.
Sounds good, right? Trust us, you won't regret it. And if you still need convincing, here are ten reasons why winter is most definitely the perfect time for a ramble.
1. Enjoy moments of quiet solitude
Whether you head for one of our national parks or simply choose to explore your local countryside, you can be assured that the trails and paths will be far quieter. Fair weather walkers have put away their boots until spring, leaving you to enjoy the winter landscape in splendid solitude.
2. Take the chance to spot birds and wildlife
Winter can be a great time to spot birds as well as other types of wildlife, because there’s less leaf cover to camouflage native species. You can also take the opportunity to spot other rarer visitors that overwinter here in Britain. And freshly fallen snow can also reveal bird and animal tracks that give a clue as to the wildlife that remains active throughout the harsh winter.
3. Admire the landscape
A blanket of snow transforms the landscape, and is an unmissable sight. Mountains never look more majestic than when wearing an ermine coat, while rolling fields carpeted in pure white look beautifully serene. And even if we aren't lucky enough to enjoy a white Christmas, the fact that plant cover and vegetation dies back over winter makes it far easier to see landscape features and archaeological remains.
4. It's good for your mind
Plenty of people suffer from the winter blues. Taking a walk is a great way to boost your mood, since even moderate exercise releases endorphins that can make you feel better and brighter.
5. You can go at your own pace
A winter ramble is all about enjoying the great outdoors at your own pace. And even the most fervent adrenaline junkie can appreciate the sound of birdsong, the smell of fields after a heavy rain, and the steady crunch of frozen earth under your boots.
6. It’s good for your body
Walking is a superb year-round activity that has numerous physical health benefits. Regular brisk walking will improve performance of the heart, lungs and circulation, lower your blood pressure, reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and stroke, help manage weight, reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes, reduce the risk of certain cancers such as colon, breast and lung cancer, improve flexibility and strength of joints, muscles and bones, and reduce the risk of osteoporosis, increase “good” cholesterol and boost the immune system. It’s pretty much the nearest activity to perfect exercise.
7. It could help offset those Christmas cals
There is evidence that walking in winter can burn extra calories, since the body has to work harder to maintain your core temperature. One study by scientists at Maastricht University in the Netherlands even found that “regular exposure to mild cold may provide a healthy and sustainable alternative strategy for increasing energy expenditure.” So, heading out on cold, frosty days may be a sound strategy for offsetting the effects of all those mince pies.
8. You'll share convivial moments with friends and family
For many people, a Christmas Day or Boxing Day walk is a family tradition. There’s a good reason for that – the relaxed pace of a winter ramble encourages conversation, debate and conviviality. It’s a chance for reflection as well as a way to forge new memories. It’s also something the whole family can enjoy, and a good walk can bring children, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins together in a way that few other activities can.
9. It’s cheaper than skiing or the gym
One of the joys of winter walking is that it is accessible to all. You can do it anywhere, anytime – and unlike a lot of other winter pursuits, there’s no need to go to an expensive resort or pay for ski passes and equipment hire. Similarly, it’s completely free and doesn’t require a costly membership, unlike hitting the gym.
10. It’s a chance to invest in some new kit
Most outdoorsy types love the chance to pick up some new gear (hey, we’re no exception here at WildBounds). And taking up winter walking is the perfect excuse to upgrade and augment your hiking gear, whether you were looking for an excuse to grab a cosy beanie, a warm pair of gloves, an insulated coffee flask or more technical kit, like four-season boots, an ice axe and crampons.
Images: 1: David Grossman; 2: Todd Diemer; 3: Jan-Niclas Aberle; 4: Patrick Schneider; 5: Braden Barwich; 6: Ryan Graybill