I’ve always enjoyed walking: it needs no specialist equipment (just a comfortable pair of shoes) and it is non-exhibitionist (you always seem to notice joggers, but who takes note of a walker?
Provided your joints are in fairly good shape, the health benefits are obvious, especially if you keep up a good pace and take in a few hills along the way. Here in Clevedon there are plenty of great walks and most days I get out before breakfast and do something between 7 and 12 thousand steps. They say that 10,000 steps a day is enough to keep you healthy.
Favourite walks are Poet’s Walk:
or looking the other way, towards Clevedon:
I’ve always known that I like the way that walking gives you the opportunity to stop and look when you see something interesting. I like the natural world, and have been very pleased this year to see some wild birds I haven’t seen for years, such as linnets and skylarks, as well as a little egret. And I like the vistas and landscape here too. You can see why from the photos, I hope!
Recently I have been thinking about the actual pleasure that there is in walking. There is a moment when you hit a nice rhythm and feel that you could walk for ever. As it’s an easy and natural thing to do, you don’t have to think about what you are doing and your mind can range wild and free.
I think everyone has experienced the particular pleasure of stepping where no one has walked before – the first footprints in freshly fallen snow, or across a newly washed sandy beach for example. Recently I have been thinking about the pleasure of walking on ancient paths, where generations of people have walked over the years. In more cases than you might think, footpaths have been in use since ancient times. Lately archaeologists have been uncovering neolithic human footprints in the mud flats of the Bristol channel, and there’s an iron age fort on Wain’s Hill (around which poets walk runs). So my mind was running on the idea that I’m following in the footsteps of generations of people, and that more generations of people will follow the same routes in the future. This adds a spiritual aspect to the physical pleasure, which I haven’t thought about before.
Do pilgrims pick up on the same feeling, and does it add to their religious experience on reaching the object of their journey. I wouldn’t be surprised.
Anyway, if you haven’t tried recreational walking lately, pick a good route, some comfortable footwear and get out there!