Friday, 18 November 2016

A walking meditation

Over the summer for six weeks I had one or the other of our children's dogs while our children and their families went on holiday.  Different dogs, different temperaments but one constant: every day for around an hour I went walking with them.  I walked when it was wet, when it was windy, when it was cold.  I walked when it was so misty the view had entirely disappeared.  I walked when I was tired and when I didn't feel like it.  I admit that by the end of the summer I was quite "dogged out", love them though I do, and I have settled back into my usual pattern of two or three walks a week.  But I should also admit that at the end of that six weeks I had lost three pounds and now, eight weeks later, I have put it back on again.







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.

One of the old trees by the water is covered with winding ivy and with a strange fungus.  I think this may be Hairy Curtain Crust fungus but I am far from sure.  There is a similar fungus called Bleeding Broadleaf Crust and this  may be that.  You can see in the centre that there is an area showing red.  I had thought however that the Bleeding fungus grew closer to the trunk than this one which is clearly a bracket fungus.  Anyway, who knows?  Mysterious and in a strange way beautiful.


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.

44 comments:

  1. A good walk indeed - I would love to have joined you.

    I've just started giving our young dog a decent walk (was advised not to 'walk her legs off' too soon). It's a joy to get out and about with her. Like where you live there are always hills to climb in one direction - I tend to favour getting the hard bit over with first so generally start with the steep climb up the lane. I've found I don't puff and pant as much as I did when we started this regime and sadly I've not noticed and weightloss! An hour's tramp always seems a good excuse for a cup of tea and a biscuit when we get back home.

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    1. well that is the problem isn't it? somehow it seems fair enough to have cheese on toast instead of soup for lunch!

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  2. walk our dog for an hour every morning in the derbyshire hills.go home for breakfast, I have not seen any weight loss. but enjoy it.

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    1. ah you are proof then: having the dog is what makes it happen!

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  3. Fabulous. And good for you, getting out and walking. It is one of the things that I know does me good, but I still don't do enough of.

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    1. I am very much the same. I know I love it and i know it makes me feel great but it's surprisingly easy to find that I haven't gone for a couple of days!

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  4. trying to motivate myself closer to a daily walk.
    But today was windy and ... tomorrow?

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    1. well there you are you see! that's the dogs contribution!

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  5. Lucky indeed. Such a lovely walk and brilliant photos. Especially liked the one from the gate looking across to the bare trees.

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    1. We live in an area with the designation of "Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty" Penny and it really is!

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  6. I would take that walk every day. I so love open spaces. Though I own a lot of land, it is mostly woods. Woods have their own beauty and appeal, but I'm a field walker. Is all that your land or is it public land? Are there designated footpaths? Do you have your own dog??

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    1. The very first bit to the stile is our land, then over farmland but on a public right of way, then down a track which is also a right of way. Much of it is a designated footpath which means farmers have to allow access. Most farmers are fine with this as long as people take care with livestock and close gates! We don't have our own dog but we do have access to our children's dogs as three our of our four children have dogs.

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  7. Like you, Elizabeth, I am also trying to have a good longish walk each day. Three miles is easy, almost four can happen without noticing. But my walks are along paved sidewalks or Central Park pathways. Thiese are so very different from the ground you cover, with or without an obliging canine.

    I do envy you the area in which you live, and yet am so grateful to have my own area's beautiful places to discover.

    The exercise is fabulous, particularly in autumn. xo

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    1. Living well where you are is the secret I think Frances. I remember some years ago reading the phrase "grow where you are planted", on Pondside's blog I think. At that time I was feeling much too far away from my parents and the phrase struck a chord. One of the unexpected side effects of their loss has been to make me feel more settled where I am!

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  8. It's a grand thing to have a dog for long walks. Ruary and I are on the beach every day. Our fast walk takes about 45 minutes - he runs ahead and I get a good workout. It's so different from our walks at old Pondside. Those walks looked an awful lot like yours.
    The best thing about these sunrise walks is the opportunity they offer for mental wellness along great with all that healthy exercise. Yes, meditation is involved but so is day dreaming and planning and working through any rough bits the day before or the day ahead might hold. I haven't been able to blog but I write a whole lot in my head.
    I Lome your boots!

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    1. That is exactly it Pondside: such walks are both physical exercise but just as important, if not perhaps more, is the mental space they give you. When times are hard that is particularly vital!

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  9. ....and I love your boots too!

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  10. ....and I love your boots too!

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  11. How lucky you are Elizabeth, I loved coming accompanying you on your walk. I try and walk every day even if it is just a 45 minute speed walk up and over the nearest hill from where on a clear day I can see the feint skyline of London. Aigle boots are brilliant and I wear mine for muddy winter walks. I also have a serious pair of Timberland walking boots and a pair of Scarpa pink suede summer walking shoes. It is a beautiful day here today and now I've cooked and cleared up breakfast for four we will shortly be going on an all-day walk before coming home for crumpets. The view of your farmhouse against the darkening sky is heart-warming.

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    1. An all day walk and then coming home for crumpets! Now that sounds fabulous. We have had two days of dreadful weather here and I have missed my walking. I shall go to yoga tonight which is also a great physical restorative.

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  12. Lovely - I love the bruising of the sky - what an evocation x

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  13. Lovely - I love the bruising of the sky - what an evocation x

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    1. Thanks Paul. I know you are a great walker!

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  14. I have just come in from a 55 minute walk, mercifully ahead of the rain that I know is coming our way. It was lovely to sit and enjoy your walk knowing that I have nothing more strenuous to do than heat up some of last night's risotto for lunch. I even saw similar cows! Belted Galloways with their shaggy winter coats.

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    1. There is something very appealing about shaggy Highland cows. I have no idea if they have a gentle nature or not but they look as it they do!

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  15. I loved my walk in the woods with you, but I didn't lose an ounce. It is lovely out today so I think I will take your suggestion and get my feet a'walking. It is not only good for the body, but also the mind.

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    1. I love books about walking too and if reading about walking cut the mustard I would be slender as a wand!

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  16. Wonderful Blog..thank you. Like you we live on top of a hill. daily walk down then up again, like you say, makes you feel so much better, more alive. Woo xx

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    1. Thank you so much Patricia. It is great when people like what you write and take the trouble to say so!

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  17. Just found your blog and I thoroughly enjoyed walking with you in such a beautiful landscape. We definitely share a love of walking. Barbara

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    1. I can't imagine life without it Barbara. If too many days go by without a walk I start to feel quite scratchy and cross!

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  18. Despite having two dogs, I don't always get out for their daily walk, although I do try and fit it in. Somehow my husband seems to have more time for walking, and reading the paper/watching TV etc... but I do know how hard it is to motivate yourself to get out unless there is a dog involved. Btw, we have the same boots and they really are the best!

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    1. I am interested to find that you like the boots too! I have tried all sorts but at the moment I think these are the best!

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  19. Beautiful walk, beautiful area, Jane x

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    1. It is a lovely walk and considering how many times I have done it I still don't tire of it!

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  20. Thanks for the walking tour! You live in a beautiful place. I made a decision back in the snowy days of last January to get out and walk as much as I could this year. I've loved watching the seasons unfold and recede. Now we are approaching the winter season again and walks will be slower and colder. I agree with you, there are many benefits to walking besides the physical exercise. It just makes me happy!

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    1. And as you say walking most days puts you very strongly in touch with the seasons and that is perhaps partly why it has such an impact on one's mood. I don't think we were meant to be indoors and cut off from nature in the way which many of us are now!

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  21. I walk my 3 dogs every day.....wouldn't walk otherwise. During the season the Clumber and I are beating. Now that IS a workout! 6 hours at a brisk pace up and down steep hills and through overgrown thickets....thighs of rock by the end of the season!

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  22. I walk my 3 dogs every day.....wouldn't walk otherwise. During the season the Clumber and I are beating. Now that IS a workout! 6 hours at a brisk pace up and down steep hills and through overgrown thickets....thighs of rock by the end of the season!

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    1. Interesting! A shooting friend of ours has wondered if we would like to go beating. Now that I know it needs thighs of rock I think I might decline. I could perhaps do you thighs of toffee!

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  24. Lovely walk, thanks for sharing it with us. Sara (by the way I am unable to leave a comment with my wordpress account, the "I am not a robot" dialog flashed up and disappeared once without allowing me to navigate near it, and subsequently pressing "Publish" just brings up the preview box time and time again. I have the same with other blogger accounts, so rarely manage to leave a comment even when I want to, as it's impossible from my mobile.)

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