By Ray West
Many club members are both skiers and walkers and might be interested in my observations on Waymark walking holidays. I chose a grade 2 holiday in the Dordogne based in the tiny village of Cales, during the week commencing Sunday 19th September. The party consisted of 15 other walkers plus our guide who was unfamiliar with the area. According to the Waymark brochure grade 2 walking holidays are defined as 5 hours walking with no more than 500 metres of ascent. This resulted in a 12.5 mile walk in humid conditions on the first day, which some members of the party found tiring. As many Waymark holidays are based in rather warmer climates than Britain you need to be able to walk 12 to 15 miles in Britain without becoming too fatigued to fully enjoy a grade 2 holiday.
The next problem is what equipment and clothes do you take? For grade 2 holidays Waymark say boots are advisable. On the first day I found that my heavy hiking boots, more suitable for Derbyshire in Winter, were not the right footwear so I quickly changed on subsequent days to a pair of substantial trainers, as did many other more experienced walkers in the party including the guide. Similarly shorts are essential, as trousers, even hiking breeches, were too hot for the conditions. Heavy-duty waterproofs may be over the top on many similar holidays and for many days lightweight waterproofs would have been sufficient. On the one day it rained, the guide used an old cycle cape and umbrella to stay dry!
Walking holidays are very reliant on the quality of the guide and whether he/she knows the walks in the area and is knowledgeable about the local history and environment etc. Maps are essential and can be purchased in advance from The Map Shop, 15 High Street, Upton-upon-Severn, Worcs WR8 0HJ. The two French maps (IGN 1:25,000 sheets) I purchased of the Dordogne area in advance of the holiday were excellent and gave me a much better and more interesting holiday than being dependent on the guide.
Sun cream and a sun hat together with a water bottle and a lunch box, polythene bags, twist tags and a knife to prepare and carry lunch are essential items.
During the holiday we did walks every day using local taxis, at extra cost, to ferry us to different starting points. We started walks from Rocamadour, Souillac, La Cave and Pinsac. The weather was mostly fine but rather humid. The food and service at Le Petit Relais hotel was excellent and the group proved interesting company.
Waymark holidays attract a loyal clientele, nearly everyone had been on previous Waymark holidays, and one lady had been on 14 Waymark holidays! The company goes to some lengths to ensure clients stay in comfortable hotels with good food, situated at venues, which provide good walking. They try to avoid busy times and when the temperatures are likely to be too high for serious walking.
Certainly I hope to go on more walking holidays as like skiing holidays they provide an active outdoor experience with the chance to socialise with a wide range of people.