I continue to walk a lot. I walk with friends, with Long-Suffering Wife (LSW) and alone. I walk routinely every day to get groceries and a newspaper from the local town. I walk to football matches, I walk more aimlessly through the local countryside to take in the glories of local nature, and I walk around towns and cities I visit to take in their vibe. I walk fast, I walk slow. I walk a lot.
All this walking has been noticed in the village. I was on a lengthy walk the other day and ended up a couple of miles away from home near the offices of a neighbour who lives near to us. As she came out of her office, she noticed me walking so far from home and remarked: ‘endlessly walking again?’ I smiled and confessed to not having a great purpose to my walk but explained that the sun was shining and I felt I was making good use of the day.
Graffiti Under The Old Railway Bridge On The Way To Woodchester
Certainly, some of the walking is for walking’s sake and has no other real objective other than the health benefit. I was therefore pleased this week to see a couple of vindications of walking as a health booster. The first was in a casual blog like mine and the second in the Guardian newspaper. It’s possible to find validation for almost anything online these days but finding support for what one is already doing is always comforting.
The blog I saw summarised some of the benefits of walking. In essence, walking can help mental and physical health and prolong life. It helps us control weight, reduces stress and, because it’s an outdoor activity, helps us produce vital vitamin D.
The newspaper article summarised a book by Shane O’Mara, a neuroscientist, called In Praise of Walking and was a more intricate argument for walking as a health (especially brain) enhancer. O’Mara calls walking a ‘superpower’ that ‘unlocks the cognitive powers of the brain like nothing else’. In his book, he explains how and why from a neuroscience perspective, based on personal experience and scientific study. I’ll leave you to read the article if you want to know more, but I’m not surprised by the conclusions he draws; walking does make me feel good!
Since Christmas, in addition to the normal return and circular walks to the town and around our village, I have been on a few notable walks in the local area.
Just after Christmas several from LSW’s family and I went on a walk together in the Slad Valley just north of Stroud. This was on the path of the recently established Laurie Lee walk. Lee was, and remains, a famous local poet and the walk was dotted with plinths with some of his poetry. Someone in our group had that bright idea of having one of us read out each poem; I don’t really ‘get’ poetry and I felt a little self-conscious doing mine.
The Laurie Lee Poetry Walk
We planned to end the walk in time-honoured fashion in The Woolpack (Laurie Lee’s erstwhile local). Unfortunately recent publicity for the walk and pub meant there wasn’t even standing room inside when we arrived. It was an energetic and lovely walk though.
After New Year, my Best Man (BM) and his rather younger Chinese Girlfriend (CG) came to visit us. BM loves walking and likes the contrast of our local, hill and valley landscape to that where he lives in Cambridgeshire.
We undertook a long local walk together (that LSW and I had recently discovered) despite CGs somewhat unsuitable footwear. She endured the mud and blisters heroically but was put off a bit by the remains of a dead bird we passed on the way – it turned out that she doesn’t like to be close to birds and especially dead ones.
Imagine, then, LSW’s and my embarrassment when, on our way back on the walk, we unavoidably had to pass an ongoing pheasant shoot. It was dramatic and noisy with 40 to 50 birds being shot out of the air in the space of 10 minutes as we passed. It was an exciting sight I had not seen before but CG was understandably horrified. It was unintended but not a good way to treat a guest!
Next week I’m off to Nottingham for my now roughly monthly visits to Mum and Dad there, and to London for a couple of days. I’ll be swapping countryside walking for the urban stuff.