England's rail stations are ideal starting points for treks

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SETTLE, England -- Walkers, hikers and bikers could spend a lifetime exploring Britain on foot or on two wheels, with many paths beginning at the rail stations and lots of well-produced literature available to plan outings.

The British Bookstore at the British Tourist Authority's office in New York has some of the AA guides, for instance, such as a very good one titled "See Britain by Train" as well as rail route guides and historical tidbits about railway history.

Victorian Clock TowerThere are other books there on walks from the rail stations. I found loose-leaf AA guides with walking tips at a bed and breakfast in Settle that were very local and would be available at WH Smith and other bookstores in the U.K. Most walks I took can be made in a few hours, with a few more hours dedicated to seeing the town from which the walk originated.

The following reveals some of my favorite bases from which to start trekking:

  • The small Yorkshire town of Settle, located halfway along the remote line between Leeds and Carlisle, boasts a market that has operated every Friday since 1249 and a shopping arcade called the Shambles, which is comprised of stone arcaded shops. Settle provides a base to climb the surrounding hills, which are populated by sheep and pockmarked with limestone scars.
  • Canal towpaths and abandoned railway lines make great, level walks, and I have followed the Peak Forest Canal and the rail to a trail toward Matlock from a base at the pretty Derbyshire town of Buxton Spa. The Peak Forest Canal, built to carry lime from the Settle area to Manchester, is now a pleasure barge waterway where the narrowboats for rent may be seen tied up at the basin at Whaley Bridge, the terminus of the Peak Forest Canal. There are paths down to the River Goyt valley and an iron bridge crossing at New Mills plus public footpaths that lead up to the foothills of the Pennines that cross sheep pastures.
  • On my most ambitious trek, I walked a four-day, 45-mile portion of the South West Peninsula Coastal Path that begins in Poole in Dorset and runs west along the South Coast into Somerset, Devon and Cornwall and at Land's End turns back to follow the North Coast. The route from seaside Weymouth to Poole harbor took me across sheep pastures into wooded glens and along the shore, including a beach trek through a nudist colony.
  • I booked hotels at Lulworth Cove, Worth Matravers and Swanage. I left my bags in Weymouth and carried changes of clothes, picnic lunches and water from inn to inn, beginning each day with a good breakfast and ending with a soak in a bathtub and a full dinner.

    British Tourist Authority

    Phone: (800) 462-2748 or (212) 986-2266

    Fax: (212) 986-1188

    Web:www.bta.org.uk.

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