“When I go for a walk it’s just a walk. But for you it’s more than that, isn’t it?” said my mum recently. Well, no, not really. It’s still just a walk. But I think there’s a lot to a walk; the name given to the physical mechanics of it being by far the least interesting part. The movement of walking largely takes care of itself, becoming, literally, a vehicle for everything else that that easy, natural, silent self-propelled locomotion facilitates: thinking, talking, humming, noticing, breathing, gazing, reflecting, meditating and … doing nothing. Doing the thing that defines us as human beings is an excellent means for us to stop doing and enjoy just being human.
Looking back to our own rose-tinted childhoods, we can see the inter-generational difference in recreational pursuits and the connection to poor mental health amongst the young people we parent, teach and support. I set myself the delightful task of consciously recalling, in chronological order if possible, all my unstructured, unsupervised Nature Immersion Childhood Experiences. And my goodness what a joy it was simply to recollect them. Wordsworth was right!
Merry Christmas! This is a festive blog article about my twelve favourite walks. From Christmases past, I remember sheltering in the lee of a sand-dune eating turkey sandwiches in wind so strong my brother got a mouthful of sand instead. Or my cousin chasing waves in his wellies and having to walk home crying, with one sodden foot. Or the disastrous episode we tried to fly a new kite on a hill in a storm. Read on for my Twelve Walks of Christmas; one for each day of the festive period. Hearty strolling, one and all!
Mankind has always walked and talked; it’s what separates us from other mammals. And I expect since our earliest days we have found the spaciousness of a long walk, and the ease of a side-by-side movement conducive to a certain kind of talk. Out on our walk, under the open skies, falling into step with our companion, grateful for the view which releases us of the necessity of eye contact, we might well take a deep breath and start to speak of what is really going on for us. And when we do so, in the English language, chances are we’ll use metaphor.
‘Weren’t you scared?’ is a question that is asked of lots of travellers, hikers and adventurers. Especially solo ones. And particularly women. The main cause of the fear projection seems to be wild camping; sleeping out alone in the countryside, with just the tent fabric between oneself and the ‘big bad’ out there. So is wild camping alone as a female really dangerous to the point of recklessness? No. It isn’t. It really isn’t.
*TW - sexual assault*
Do you know the one about the Gobhaun Saor? I inherited both my parents’ love of the spoken word and a hearty walk, and these days I love finding walks which have stories attached; myths of landscape, history and folklore which enrich the journey and activate the soul, as well as the sole! Here are four of my favourite walking tales, with my own ‘morals’, some more serious than others:
Walking is not hard. But sometimes, in that perverse way we have, we choose to make it hard. Or hearty at least. We choose to set out on a blimmin’ long hike, carrying a heavy rucksack, and leaving behind our cosy homes and creature comforts to pit ourselves against the weather and landscape. What follows is some hopefully helpful advice about how to pare it back to the basics, keep it simple and make walking hearty, heart-filled but not hard.
I don’t take photos. Ok, I do ever. But generally, I don’t. I’ve just checked, and in total on my computer, which is the only place they are, I have just over 6000 photos. And I’ve been alive for 36 years, and travelled to nearly 50 different countries. That’s roughly 300 photos per year of my (digital) adult life; less than one a day. In general, I don’t do photos. For me, the point of travel, especially when it’s outdoors and in nature, is to escape from technology, modernity and screen time; to switch off from social media; to stop recording, appearing or presenting, and simply to be. So, how do I grow the profile of wilderness therapy in the UK without photos or social media?
Walking and talking are the main things that humans do. These skills distinguish us from other species and define our position in the ecosystem. The fact that we can do both at the same time is a tremendous boon. Even more fortuitously, it is now being recognised that doing both together is a good idea. Walking and talking is a therapy for mental health.
Pilgrimages are just walks. After all, walks have destinations and are deliberate, and they can be extended over many days. And walks can be serious, rich and inspirational. The word pilgrim derives from the Latin ‘peregrinus’ meaning ‘foreigner’ from the words ‘per ager’ meaning ‘through the fields’. A pilgrim is one who comes through the fields, a wanderer from afar, a person on a walk. But aside from the decline of religious faith in the modern world, there are reasons we don’t call ordinary walks pilgrimages. Choosing to label a walk a ‘pilgrimage’ elevates its significance considerably. So what distinguishes a pilgrimage from a walk?
A guest post from blogger and traveller Danny Newman about the interplay of mindfulness and nature.
All of us could do with slowing things down, taking a step back and making personal wellness a priority. Practising mindfulness andspending time in nature are two great ways of doing just that. Put them together and you have an ideal combination for enhancing your well-being. So, let’s take a look at mindfulness and nature in turn, before considering the benefits of combining the two.