The phrase ‘Rural Urbanite’ was coined during the pandemic when many city dwellers decided to up sticks and head to the countryside to live, whilst still commuting into the city a few days a week for hybrid working. 

But the last few years have seen an influx of people moving back into built-up areas to enjoy the hustle and bustle of city life. For those who like to escape to the peace of the countryside every now and then, British clothing retailer Joules is dubbing the term ‘Urban Ruralite’. 

A new study by Joules has revealed that more than nine in ten Brits want to do more walking in 2024 and that 90% would be more inclined to do so if they had easy access to countryside locations.

Joules has therefore teamed up with Hayley Broughton-McKinnamental health & wellbeing trainer as well as GP and longevity coach Dr. Alka Patel, to discuss the benefits of getting out in the countryside for a walk as well as tips to motivate you to do so in the colder months.

Hayley explains that “increasing the number of small positive experiences that will come as a result of going for the walk can make it feel more meaningful and worthwhile, even when we don’t particularly want to. 

Her tips for getting motivated to get outdoors:

  1. Find a walking partner

“Walking with a companion can increase the likelihood that we will go outside for a walk. This can be a pet, a friend, or a relative. “Body doubling” in this way can help. 

  1. Block out time for your walk

“Planning your walk and scheduling time for this can also help, as your time is already accounted for and protected, as opposed to waiting for motivation to strike!

  1. Habit stack with a reward

“Have your favourite teabag in your favourite mug on the kitchen counter, waiting to warm you up on your return.

  1. Create the perfect soundtrack

“Listen to some of your favourite music before you go. Listening to your favourite songs can help to improve your mood, which may help you to feel more optimistic about the walk, and can increase our levels of dopamine – which are important for movement, initiating tasks and increasing our motivation. 

Benefits of getting outdoors according to Dr Patel,

Psychological and Cognitive Enhancements 

“Outdoor walks, particularly in natural settings rich in fractals such as parks or forests, offer a respite for the mind, reducing symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression. Fractals are nature’s naturally recurring patterns that we see on leaves and trees. This visual stimulation activates the brain’s default mode network, enhancing creativity, problem-solving abilities, and promoting a state of mindfulness. 

Physical Health Improvements 

“Walking is an accessible, cost-free form of exercise that significantly benefits cardiovascular health, aids in weight management, and improves muscular strength and endurance. The rhythmic nature of walking, combined with the resistance provided by natural terrains, makes it an effective activity for enhancing physical agility and longevity.

Sleep Quality and Circadian Rhythm

“Regular exposure to natural light during walks helps regulate our circadian rhythms, leading to better sleep patterns and overall mood improvement. This synchronisation of our internal clock not only improves night-time rest but also boosts daytime energy levels and cognitive function. Walking outdoors first thing in the morning is a great way to create a differential between daylight and night light which is what the brain needs to trigger nighttime release of melatonin for sleep.

Tracking your walks for Enhanced Health Insights

Dr Patel explains that tracking your walks with something like a smart watch can give you detailed insights into many aspects of our health, she says: 

“Even a 10-minute walk after dinner has been shown to reduce glucose levels and increase insulin sensitivity, contributing to metabolic flexibility and fitness.”

Where to walk

Joules has compiled a shortlist of idyllic countryside locations that are just a stone’s throw from some of the UK’s largest cities. As well as providing styling advice to ensure urban ruralites can transition from city to country seamlessly. 


Tonbridge (32 minutes by train)  

Tonbridge in Kent can be reached by train in 32 minutes from London Bridge station and is home to many idyllic manor houses and its own castle. The picturesque surrounding areas offer many options for woodland walks. This is an ideal escape for those who enjoy history, with many links to author Jane Austen, with Tonbridge being the birthplace of her father. 

Twyford (19 minutes by train) 

The stunning village of Twyford in Berkshire can be reached by train from London Paddington in under 20 minutes – quicker than it takes to get across the capital. The friendly village is home to Stanlake Park wine estate; one of the oldest wine producers in England. If you’re keen to get outdoors for a walk, head to Loddon Nature Reserve for a circular route that takes around an hour and a half. 


Warwick (26 minutes by train) 

Less than half an hour outside of busy Birmingham you will find Warwick, the county town of Warwickshire. For a dose of history in beautiful green surroundings, visit Warwick Castle, a medieval castle originally built by William the Conqueror.  

Alvechurch (32 minutes by train) 

The village of Alvechurch is 32 minutes from Birmingham. Filled with cosy pubs and cottages, it is perfect for an escape from the city and is also home to Alvechurch marina, which attracts a wealth of colourful narrowboats from the nearby canals. Boats are available to hire from here for a real waterside experience.  


Hebden Bridge (28 minutes by train) 

Hebden Bridge is a market town with an independent arts and culture scene, easily accessible from Manchester by car or train. The town has lots of green spaces and is situated on both the Rochdale Canal and the River Calder, so offers lovely riverside walks. Visitors can also explore Hardcastle Crags, a circular 4-mile route that’s ideal for the outdoorsy type. 

Marsden (29 minutes by train) 

The village of Marsden is only 29 minutes from Manchester and is known for the Standedge Tunnel which is the longest, highest, and deepest canal tunnel in the UK. This is a great location for those who love hiking or walking, as the National Trust site of Marsden Moor is home to guided trails and Nordic walks. 


Ilkley (28 minutes by train) 

The spa town of Ilkley is a 28-minute train journey from Leeds and is famous for its moor, a favourite amongst walkers and hikers wanting uninterrupted views of the countryside. The town also has several independent shops and cafes for those wanting a more personal experience.  

Saltaire (15 minutes by train) 

Saltaire is a Victorian model village, accessible in just 15 minutes from Leeds via train. Saltaire was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2001 and is a great spot for art lovers, with its former textile mill being transformed into 4 art galleries.  


Falkirk (19 minutes by train) 

Just 19 minutes from Glasgow you will find the historic town of Falkirk, home to the Falkirk Wheel. The wheel is the world’s only rotating boat lift and connects the Union Canal with the Forth and Clyde Canal. 

Linlithgow (29 minutes by train) 

The town of Linlithgow can be reached from Glasgow by train within 29 minutes and is most famous as the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots. Her birthplace, Linlithgow Palace is open to visitors and the Loch is great for those who like walks or fishing, with picturesque views. 


Market Harborough (15 minutes by train)

The Leicestershire countryside market town of Market Harborough can be reached from Leicester by train within 15 minutes. The train station is only a short 10-minute walk from the quaint town centre. Formerly part of Rockingham Forest, a hunting forest used by medieval royalty, Market Harborough now boasts a host of independent boutiques, coffee shops and bakeries, as well as an indoor market. A mile away you can find the civil parish of Great Bowden where you can set off on a picturesque walk along the Grand Union Canal to Foxton Locks, the largest flight of staircase locks on the English canal system.

Uppingham (50 minutes by bus)

Uppingham is renowned for its 16th-century sandstone architecture, picture-perfect market square and rows of independent shops, which are all accessible within an hour from Leicester by bus. Every Friday from 8am-4pm the market square becomes a vibrant sea of fruit, vegetables and other treats as the fresh produce Uppingham farmers market comes to town. To help plan the perfect trip to Uppingham the Joules team has outlined how to best spend a weekend in Uppingham.

Outerwear essentials for a weekend well spent in the countryside

A stylist at Joules has shared their tips on what to pack before you set out for the day in the British countryside. 

“Whether you are enjoying a relaxed day in the country or you’re off to explore, it is important to make sure you’re equipped with the right clothing. The British weather often has a mind of its own so the first step in preparing is to make sure you pack a raincoat that will keep you dry. A well-crafted piece of knitwear can be layered underneath for extra warmth on especially chilly days.  

“You will also need to carefully consider your footwear choices. There is no need to compromise style, but you should make sure your footwear is appropriate and won’t hinder your explorations. If you’re heading somewhere particularly muddy or wet, wellies are a good choice and will instantly give you a country-chic look. 

“Last but not least are your accessories, often overlooked but vitally important when embarking on outdoor adventures in the colder months, make sure to pack your favourite hat, scarf and gloves to keep you warm.”

Should you catch up on sleep at the weekend?

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