A VETERAN fell walker, who has inspired hundreds of people to pull on their hiking boots and experience the Lake District, has written her 500th walk for The Westmorland Gazette.

Mary Welsh has studied maps to hunt out new and exciting paths for outdoor enthusiasts to trek for 20 years.

The former teacher's 500th walk described the hidden secrets around Elterwater – and she said she picked it for her special anniversary as it was a 'very nice' route which many people did not know.

"When I went there I couldn't understand why everyone seemed to only be doing the first half of the walk when the second part is just as good," she said.

“I love the Lake District, and finding 500 walks, without repeating myself, has been a challenge that has given me a rare knowledge of this countryside."

She said animals were the only things to make her unnerved during her rambles.

"Once I had to get up on a park bench because of an aggressive swan,” she said.

Unsurprisingly, Mary said the weather could also be a problem – but she prepared for most conditions ‘so I don't think I've ever been in any real danger’.

Picking a favourite place to trek in Cumbria was difficult for the avid walker but after much deliberation she settled on Langdale.

"It's a very charming area. Little Langdale offers more tranquil walks while Great Langdale has beautiful scenery," said Mary.

To pick her routes, she studies maps for paths that are quite borderline or ones that might get overlooked.

Five hundred walks is not the only landmark achievement for Mary this year, for she has also completed the writing of a series of 21 books of walks on the Scottish mainland and the majority of the islands, accompanied and assisted by illustrator Christine Isherwood, of Woodland.

The 19 books in the series already published have achieved sales of more than 100,000 copies.

But she said books published in the 1980s by the Gazette – a four-book series on Lakeland’s waterfalls – were her favourites.

Mary, from Broughton-in-Furness, taught at John Ruskin School, Coniston, where she was a senior mistress. She began writing when she took early retire-ment in 1992.