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Staycation | 7 alternative beauty spots in the UK

By Rebecca Miles – 1st June 2020

Avoid the crowds this summer and explore these alternative beauty spots across the country. Chosen by women on our Girl About squad, who know their local areas inside out, you won’t find these places on all the usual round-ups of must-visits.   

Far from the madding crowds, these places are just the ticket for some socially responsible social distancing as lockdown restrictions begin to ease. Why follow the hoards to the Lake District when you can beat your own path to private beauty across the country from Manchester to Essex? 

So turn away from those well-worn routes to the obvious beauty spots and instead, discover these different delights across the country. 

NB The UK government currently restricts anyone from staying overnight anywhere other than their own home, so please only visit these destinations if you can comfortably travel there and back in a day. Please respect the locals, take your litter home with you and if it feels too busy, head elsewhere. And remember, keep 2m apart from anyone other than those in your household. 

South Downs National Park, Sussex and Hampshire

Devils Dyke

Chosen by Sarah, Girl About Hampshire, the South Downs National Park doesn’t seem to attract the crowds that some of our other national parks do – and that baffles us as it’s an utterly beautiful part of the country, with plenty of space for everyone to explore their own secret spot. 

“The South Downs National Park is England’s newest national park,” says Sarah, “And it spans from Winchester in Hampshire to Brighton in Sussex. With 100 miles of ridgeline to explore on foot or bike, there’s plenty of quieter spots for a picnic. Stay active along the South Downs Way, or visit the picturesque Devils Dyke. The South Downs website has a great map function for planning and researching routes and itineraries.”

Ivinghoe Beacon, Hertfordshire

Ivinghoe Beacon

Picked by Emma, Girl About Hertfordshire, Ivinghoe Beacon is one of her firm favourites close to home, and the ideal spot for blowing away the cobwebs. An area bursting with history, there’s so much to discover in the Chilterns – and the area’s website is a good place to start, with maps, walking routes and events guide.  

“There’s no surprise that Ivinghoe Beacon and its surrounding countryside on the Hertfordshire-Buckinghamshire border falls within the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty,” says Emma. “There are so many beautiful walks surrounding the Beacon and Ashridge Estate. You’ve got undulating hills, woodlands, commons and huge expanses of open grassland as you head over the Ridgeway, with the most serene views for miles across the Vale of Aylesbury. It’s fresh air and British countryside at its best – just breathe it all in. I always feel at one with nature when I’ve made my way to the top of Ivinghoe Beacon. And it’s a great place for a picnic at the top, albeit rather wind-swept.”

Dungeness and Romney Marsh, Kent

Dungeness

Nominated by Kirsty, Girl About Kent, Dungeness and Romney Marsh in Kent is one of the wildest spots in southern England. The shingle beach on a blustery headland shelters the large, low-lying Romney Marsh and it’s a land of extremes.  

“It’s a bit like Marmite with not everyone seeing its charm,” says Kirsty. “I, however, love it! It’s as surreal and strange as it is stunning. Made up mostly of shingle, the barren landscape stretches out before you with almost an apocalyptic feel, the old fisherman huts and discarded fishing equipment look like bizarre sculptures in the distance. Not to everyone’s taste but definitely to mine.”

Alderley Edge and Cheshire Countryside, Cheshire

Alderley Edge Cheshire

Chosen by Sarah, Girl About Manchester, Alderley Edge and Cheshire Countryside is a wonderful spot from which to admire and enjoy the Cheshire countryside. On a clear day from Alderley Edge you can see Manchester in the distance, and the area is steeped in history, from the remains of the old copper mines to the warning beacon of the Spanish Armada. 

“Alderley Edge and Cheshire Countryside is cared for by The National Trust,” says Sarah. “There are a few lovely walking routes you can take from the National Trust car park, but our favourite is the woodland walk to The Edge; the pine woodland is beautiful and perfect for kids to explore, and The Edge offers an incredible view of the Cheshire Plain to the Peak District, from a red sandstone cliff! A gorgeous day out for a long or short walk, with or without the kids.”

Edisford Bridge, Lancashire

Edisford Bridge

With an old stone bridge and a babbling river, it’s clear to see why Edisford Bridge is a firm favourite of Girl About Lancashire Francesca’s. A grade II listed stone structure, it was built in 1339 before being widened in the 1800s. Close to Clitheroe, Pendle Hill and the Forest of Bowland, it’s one of those perfect places to stumble upon. 

“Edisford Bridge is otherwise known as the Ribble Valley Riviera,” says Francesca. “What’s not lovely about a free family day out? Take a picnic, paddle in the river and play in the park. Temporarily closed due to Covid-19, as soon it reopens I’ll be getting a pie and chips for my tea from the lovely Edisford Bridge Hotel on my way home!”

Hilly Fields, Colchester, Essex

Hilly Fields Colchester

Nominated by Girl About Essex Katie, Hilly Fields in Colchester is one of those wonderful spots, unexpectedly close to the city centre yet remote enough to feel a million miles away from civilisation.  

“This scenic setting combines sweeping views across rolling fields with a sprinkling of history: after all, it’s on the site of what was, once, a Roman kiln (in fact, some say you can hear a ghostly troop of centuries-old soldiers marching past on quiet days…),” says Katie. “Gorgeously green, it offers a bit of everything: woodland, ponds, fields – not to mention a place to picnic, enjoy a leisurely amble with your dog or a kick-around with your kids… With several fields connected by fairytale-esque tree-lined pathways (that look gorgeous with the sun streaming through them), this local nature reserve is absolutely huge and the perfect place to head if you want to unwind at the heart of nature for a bit. Watch the rabbits, listen to the bird song and keep your eyes peeled for the odd deer or two – it all happens at Hilly Fields.”

Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park, London

Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park

My choice, Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park has been our local saviour during lockdown. A cemetery may sound a bit morbid, but this is no ordinary cemetery – it’s a wild woodland not just littered with ancient graves but full of secret paths, dens, sand pits, ponds and even a maze. 

For an inner city park the wildlife is rich, and it’s a Local Nature Reserve – much of it is grassland and meadows filled with wildflowers. We’ve been loving following the tangle of trails, which sometimes emerge into sun-dappled clearings, other times dip and dive among the trees. 

While the crowds have been heading to nearby Victoria Park, we’ve been walking in the opposite direction to the cemetery park, and are all the happier for it. 

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