England has many hills, far more than mountains. So what is a hill? It’s simply (really) a small mountain! Just a piece of ground that rises up from lower ground. Two of the best-known hills in England are the Cheviot Hills (bordering Scotland in Northumberland) and the Chiltern Hills – these chalky stretch for 45 miles from Goring-on-Thames (Oxfordshire) through Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire.
Natural navigator Tristan Gooley says you can even find your way on a hill, using a tree stump as a compass. The gradient of the hill changes the shape of the trunk and the position of the heart. So put on your vegan walking boots, and get going!
Ring the Hill is a book written around and about hills. It includes a northern hill, a hill that never ends and the smallest hill in England. Each chapter takes a type of hill (a knoll, cap, cliff, tor or mere bump) as a starting point for one of Tom’s unpredictable and wide-ranging explorations.
A hill is not a mountain. You climb it for you, then you put it quietly inside you, in a cupboard marked ‘Quite a Lot of Hills’, where it makes its mark on who you are.
Tom’s lyrical and candid prose roams from an intimate relationship with a particular cove on the south coast, to meditations on his great-grandmother and a lesson on what goes into the mapping of hills themselves. Because a cook walk in the hills is never just about the hills; you never know where it might lead. Tom Cox is the writer of books, one was long-listed for the Wainwright Prize. He lives in Norfolk.
Hand-Picked Hill Climbs Across England
Everest England is a unique hill-walking guide to 20 peaks, which add up to the exact height of Mount Everest in the Himalayas (England’s Malvern Hills are often used as practice for serious climbers, sometimes called ‘the Himalayas in miniature). Scaling the peaks of the world’s highest mountain is often the ultimate physical and mental challenge that a human can make. Too cold and dangerous to find and bury the bodies that lay there, climbers remark that there is a ‘rainbow’ of climber jackets, highlighting those that never made it to the summit.
Far safer and cheaper (most Everest climbers take years of preparation and around £25,000 in funds) is to embark on your own personal ‘Everest’, without ever leaving England’s green and pleasant land. Together these walks reach the same 29,016 feet. You can climb these hills over a period of 20 days or less if wished, to use as opportunities for mindfulness and quiet meditation. The journey here takes in sacred places like coastal cliff walks, ancient holy sites, tors, peaks, mountains and the highest church in England. And to keep things really spiritual, your guide and author is a vicar!
Peter Owen Jones is a vicar and writer who has presented many TV documentaries on walking, spirituality and the countryside for the BBC. After dropping out of his fee-paying school age 16, he began work as a farm labourer, then ran a mobile disco, before becoming an ordained vicar. He became well-known after conducting a service for people protesting the Newbury by-pass, which resulted in mature oak, ash and beech trees being felled. He also tried for a documentary in 2009 to live without money, following in the footsteps of St Francis of Assisi.