Why do so many Canadians go to England to walk when Canada has such a vast countryside?

That’s the question Vancouverite John Cherrington heard often when he was interviewed by English journalists about his book, Walking to Camelot. It’s a good read about a fascinating, colourful journey on the Macmillan Way across England, from coast to coast.

Ten years ago, at age 54, Cherrington and his irascible 74-year-old buddy, Carl Yzerman, walked the 290-mile Macmillan Way.

Cherrington took copious notes during the walk, recorded his impressions every evening, and thoroughly researched the history of each place he passed through, including his ancestral village.

After almost a decade, he realized his journal, and the interplay between the two men, would make a book in the tradition of Bill Bryson and other low-key adventurers.

The famed Macmillan Way links footpaths, bridleways, byways and, when necessary, country roads as it winds through historic villages, private estates and pastures with rampaging cattle.

“I do not exaggerate when I say there are more injuries and deaths from bovine attacks on the Macmillan Way than there are injuries and deaths on African safaris,” says Cherrington.

So why do so many Canadians go to England to walk?

“Nowhere else do you have the ability to walk over private land,” explains Cherrington.

The Macmillan Way is 90 per cent private land.

“The right to roam on privately held land is a historical right that the peasants had over the centuries,” he says, “and if anything, the rights of walkers are being expanded.”

Cherrington had traveled extensively in England and done loop walks before, but the Macmillan Way always beckoned. “Once you go beyond that garden gate, you really are in an enchanted world, as if you’ve escaped reality,” he says.

England, he notes, is “a small land mass no larger than Oregon that has been divided into gardens. You go from one garden gate, or portal or stile to the next.”

The magic of rambling through English meadows, fields and estate gardens is especially appealing to boomers, Cherrington says.

“Everybody wants to go,” he says, “It’s almost like a mass exodus.”

For those who can’t plan a journey on the footpaths of the English countryside, Cherrington’s book is an excellent alternative.

For those who can, scroll through for his 13 tips for a good trip.

1. Travel with at least one companion.

2. Wear rain-proof clothing—Gore-tex is ideal.

3. Carry a walking stick; light telescoping ski sticks are easily stowed on the plane.

4. Carry a compass, water bottle, small pack, guidebook, and land anger map, plus field binoculars.

5. For a long distance walk, book your B&B’s ahead of time—at least four to five nights in advance. Depending upon the season, these tend to fill up fast.

6. Travel light.

7. For a long distance walk, there are various Sherpa type services that will transport your baggage to your next B&B or hotel. They will also book the accommodation for you and give you a choice of price range depending upon your tastes and pocket book.

8. Be wary of entering fields with bovines: In spring, mothers with calves are extremely protective and will often attack walkers if you come close to them when the calves are very small. Bulls are always an issue. Use your field glasses to scan the field of cattle to look for bulls. Even though farmers are obliged to post signs warning of bulls, they sometimes neglect to do so. If you can see there is a bull in the field, seek an alternative path or roadway, even if it means a longer circuit.


9. Build up callouses on your feet before you travel and wear well worn in hiking boots. Try to purchase blister prevent spray which is sold in some British pharmacies. The spray will coat your feet in the morning and washes off at night.

10. Do not expect locals to tell you about what lies ahead—they often don’t know whether the next village, for example, boasts a pub, grocery store, or telephone booth. Rely on your guidebook materials.

11. Buy a British cell phone when you land if you are planning an extensive stay; alternatively, have your phone equipped with a chip from a UK mobile shop that will allow you to use it there. More than 50 per cent of the telephone booths throughout England are no longer operational.

12. If attacked by a herd of steers, make yourself big, wave your walking sticks, and shout at the herd—much the same as you might do if confronted by a bear in North America. This will likely cause the herd to slow to a stop. Then gradually make your way to the nearest gate or stile.

13. If you have not walked in England before, start off by doing short and intermediate loop walks. The British Automobile Association and various other organizations publish walks of various lengths and difficulty—thousands of them, whereby you walk in a loop to your point of commencement. The guidebooks will also tell you if there are refreshments along the way. Even if you do not rent a car, there will be walks close to your B&B or country hotel.