Walking Angst

Grass verge of field with primroses and violets

For years I’ve taken a daily walk through the fields with the dog, exchanging pleasantries or pausing for a brief conversation with other walkers on the footpaths. It would have seemed strange to avoid people (apart from the man with the two Staffordshire Bull Terriers that nearly all the dog walkers here avoid) or not smile and say hello.

In the space of a week, with the introduction of social distancing, it’s become normal to avoid all encounters we can. I scan the path ahead for approaching walkers. Some instantly turn around and retreat as soon as they see another person. Other people start walking in a wide arc so that we make a sort of choreographed pass and I supress the urge to do a little twirl.

I find it easiest to keep going and step aside into the field as the oncoming walker get closer. Time it wrong and we both step into the field necessitating a clumsy shuffle to pass while inwardly I calculate the distance between us and wonder how many steps to take before it’s safe to breathe in.

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Just lately several blogs have been brought out of hibernation with short posts about the inconsequential. It’s as if we need to share the ordinary to make sense of all that’s happening around us at the moment but can’t encapsulate it in a tweet or an IG photo caption (apparently only a third of people always read the captions in Instagram anyway).


It seems a good idea.


Every Step Counts

footprints in frost

Last year, I wore one of those fitness trackers for a couple of months and became mildly obsessed with how many steps I took each day. Then the battery ran out and the tracker was put to one side and forgotten. But when I was counting the steps, I wondered about the value of some. After all, there’s a world of difference between pottering around the kitchen while baking on a Sunday afternoon and power walking up a hill.

What if some of those steps were worthless? A study from the University of Cambridge revealed that a brisk twenty minute walk every day reduces the risk of early death by 25% but is a casual saunter of any benefit? I thought about some of the steps I’ve walked in the past week in speed order:

The Supermarket Shuffle. A ponderous walk also requiring negotiations around static and slow moving obstacles.

The Sunday Saunter. A postprandial amble with time to stop and talk with friends and neighbours or watch paramotors.

morning sun on foggy day

The Mindful Walk. Looking around at the landscape, stopping to photograph the light shining through the branches on a foggy morning or feeling the crunch of ice beneath the feet.

The Thinking Walk. There seems to be an optimum speed at which my brain works best and I can mull over problems or make grand plans. Bill hates it when I return from a walk with the words “I’ve been thinking …”

The Dog Walk. Brisk walking interspersed with stops to attach or remove the lead, backward walking as I scan the horizon for my dog and bending down to nip under barriers.

The Nordic Walk. Fast walking, propelled by poles. Only undertaken in a group away from home as I feel too self-conscious to stride out with poles around the farm.

The Walking Netball Walk. Very fast walking in short spurts co-ordinated with catching and throwing a ball and avoiding collisions with other players.

While I might not be getting an intense aerobic workout from all these forms of walking, I enjoy them and they get me outside in all weathers (apart from supermarket shopping). If being outside and active makes me happy then it must be doing good so it doesn’t surprise me that Natural England have concluded that walking can result in improved self-esteem and mood states.

Phew! Those steps are all worthwhile. They just have different values.

Do you walk for pleasure? Are you a mindful walker embracing the world with every step or do you stride purposefully from A to B?

You might also like to read these articles about the joys of walking:

Daily Walks

Hygge – Celebrating the Cold, the Bleak and the Blissful

Waste Not Those Feet

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On Reflection

This week …

tree reflected in pond

… has been a week of sunshine and showers for in April, sun is surely followed by rain. Attempts to weed the garden have proved futile as the ground is so sticky that a tiny weed brings up a great wodge of dirt that clings to the roots and is difficult to dislodge. The 1400 sapling Christmas trees that arrived today are going to be hard work to plant following the rainstorm last night.

towards the sea from South Downs Way

… we jumped on a train and forged our way through the crowds of London commuters as we travelled south to Sussex to walk another section of the South Downs Way. Striding across a grassy ridge with the sea in the distance to the south and a patchwork of fields and scattered settlements to the north is a pretty perfect way to spend a couple of days, especially when the sun shines and at the end of the walk is a teashop stocked with rhubarb scones and clotted cream.

… I am waiting for my rhubarb to grow tall so that I can make rhubarb scones too.

 

South Downs sheep

… I’ve been charmed by the sheep and cattle we’ve encountered on our South Downs Way and am planning to knit something from southdown wool as a reminder of our walk.

… I deleted my Instagram and replaced it with a private account to share only with family and friends. Instagram has replaced blogging for many, but to me it remains a chocolate bar eaten on the move compared to the blog equivalent of a thoughtfully prepared meal around the table with friends and family. I’m not a teenager whose self-esteem needs bolstering by gaining large numbers of followers or “likes” by people with whom I have no connection and I’m rather bored with swiping through sponsored links and photos of flowers/cakes/half clothed children/hands clasping a mug of coffee or any flat lay photograph featuring the ubiquitous pair of scissors and cup of green tea, which seem to have taken over my feed from the previous eclectic mix of rusty items, loaves of bread and rural scenes. Maybe some of the people I followed have given up too. Our Slamseys account remains a “Behind the Scenes” glimpse of the activities that happen on the farm such as farming, printing and making drinking fruit gins.

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