So I am trying to walk every day again, not primarily for the weight control but for health and wellbeing. Walking every day seems to be one of the best things we can do for our health. It helps prevent the onset of diabetes, it improves heart health, it maintains mobility and even helps with depression. We were not made to sit still. Read about the miles the poet Wordsworth and his diarist sister Dorothy used to tramp. Better still and closer to home, talk to your own parents and grandparents. Five miles was a stroll. Fifteen miles was not that unusual. In a couple of generations we have moved from a nation of walkers to a nation dependent on the car. I believe strongly that such a sedentary life is not good for us. I know that again and again the simple act of putting one foot in front of another calms and energises me. Add to that the lifting of the spirits which comes from walking in a beautiful place and walking seems a simple and powerful way of looking after myself.
So here we go. This walk takes about fifty minutes and starts at my kitchen door. Boots on first. I have walking boots, a trusty Scapa pair for serious walks, walking shoes for when something heavier than trainers is on the cards and two pairs of wellington boots, one for gardening in and one for walking. The walking pair would not take you hill climbing but they are surprisingly comfortable for an hour or so's walk when it is wet or muddy. My current pair are by Aigle. They have a neoprene lining and they are both the most expensive and the most comfortable boots I have ever owned. This is not a foregone conclusion. Their predecessors were nearly as expensive and less comfortable. And after only a year or so they failed at a seam.
So here we go: walking socks, wellies, fleece, waterproof. Down the path and over the stile and along the edge of the scrubby wood. I am walking downhill today. Living as we do half way up a hill you must choose when you come out of the door whether to walk up or down. Down is the way I go with the dogs. Down is for when you want the little river at the bottom of the valley or for when a battering wind would take you off your feet at the top of the hill. Up is for sunny evenings when the huge view across the Vale of Clwyd lies peaceful in the sun. Up is for wind and sun and large views. Down is for shelter and trees and rushing water.
Through the gate and into the field, sticking to the edge where the footpath runs. The field is growing its winter crop, the ground greening again. This oak tree by the fence has the perfect fairy house in its base. I loved these holes at the base of a tree as a child. I used to make tiny posies in the spring and gather acorn cups in the autumn and carefully leave them by the entrance. I was always delighted when I found they had disappeared.
Down the field, over another stile and into the lane. Some of the leaves here are crisp, some slippery with the weather.
Even though it is November and with every fresh wind there are fewer leaves on the trees, there is still colour everywhere.
The path winds along the contour of the valley, the woods falling away down to the stream.
It feels odd coming down here without a dog. This in particular is a walk with Flora, the black labrador. She is a middle aged lady now and can be guaranteed these days not to slip through the fence to inspect any interesting birds or livestock and she loves the river.
Two young Highland cattle, like great shaggy teddy bears, watch me through the fence. They are shy. When I try to climb up nearer to take a closer picture they start and skitter and wheel away up to their mothers.
Down and down I go. This walk feels easy in this direction!
In the bottom of the valley the little River Wheeler is rushing with water. Again it feels strange not to have a eager labrador with her tail up watching for the stick to go into the water.
Walking back up the track is when you notice its steepness. My challenge to myself is to climb the very steep part without stopping even though my breath is short and my heart is pumping. Here the track levels out a little so I allow myself to stop to look over a gate and see the winter shapes of the trees beginning to emerge from the billows of leaves. I am always amazed that the branches and twigs of trees are so differently coloured. In the summer there is a tendency to think that all leaves are green and all branches brown. Now you can see that there are reds and golds and oranges in the naked trees and that the browns shade from pale milky coffee to darkest molasses.
The sun is still out but the sky is beginning to bruise with raincloud as I turn off the track and back into the fields. I wonder if I will get home before the rain comes or if I will get wet. I try to quicken my pace but the path rises steeply here too and I am puffing as I reach the gate below our garden.
The stile is slippy under my boots.
I love the way that, as you come over the stile, the slope of the land hides the house and that it reveals itself as you come up the path. It is still dry. As I pull off my boots the first fat raindrops splatter on the flagstones by the door. Exercise done for the day. How lucky I am that this is my playground.