Every Step Counts

footprints in frost

Last year, I wore one of those fitness trackers for a couple of months and became mildly obsessed with how many steps I took each day. Then the battery ran out and the tracker was put to one side and forgotten. But when I was counting the steps, I wondered about the value of some. After all, there’s a world of difference between pottering around the kitchen while baking on a Sunday afternoon and power walking up a hill.

What if some of those steps were worthless? A study from the University of Cambridge revealed that a brisk twenty minute walk every day reduces the risk of early death by 25% but is a casual saunter of any benefit? I thought about some of the steps I’ve walked in the past week in speed order:

The Supermarket Shuffle. A ponderous walk also requiring negotiations around static and slow moving obstacles.

The Sunday Saunter. A postprandial amble with time to stop and talk with friends and neighbours or watch paramotors.

morning sun on foggy day

The Mindful Walk. Looking around at the landscape, stopping to photograph the light shining through the branches on a foggy morning or feeling the crunch of ice beneath the feet.

The Thinking Walk. There seems to be an optimum speed at which my brain works best and I can mull over problems or make grand plans. Bill hates it when I return from a walk with the words “I’ve been thinking …”

The Dog Walk. Brisk walking interspersed with stops to attach or remove the lead, backward walking as I scan the horizon for my dog and bending down to nip under barriers.

The Nordic Walk. Fast walking, propelled by poles. Only undertaken in a group away from home as I feel too self-conscious to stride out with poles around the farm.

The Walking Netball Walk. Very fast walking in short spurts co-ordinated with catching and throwing a ball and avoiding collisions with other players.

While I might not be getting an intense aerobic workout from all these forms of walking, I enjoy them and they get me outside in all weathers (apart from supermarket shopping). If being outside and active makes me happy then it must be doing good so it doesn’t surprise me that Natural England have concluded that walking can result in improved self-esteem and mood states.

Phew! Those steps are all worthwhile. They just have different values.

Do you walk for pleasure? Are you a mindful walker embracing the world with every step or do you stride purposefully from A to B?

You might also like to read these articles about the joys of walking:

Daily Walks

Hygge – Celebrating the Cold, the Bleak and the Blissful

Waste Not Those Feet

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wish you were here

Postcards from this week …

above Amberley on South Downs Way

We caught an early train to London, wedged with our rucksacks in a moving mass of grey as commuters made their way to work and we sat smug in the knowledge that we were off to walk in the sunshine. Picking up the South Downs Way at Amberley, we headed up to the hills and away.

museum Singleton

By early afternoon we reached the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum where buildings have been rescued from decay and destruction by dismantling them and reconstructing them on this large site.

seeded leeks-

The museum wasn’t too busy and at times it felt as though we had stumbled upon an almost deserted village as we followed paths through gardens and in through the back doors of houses where fires smouldered in the hearth. It gave me more of a feeling of how people lived than I’ve ever experienced in a normal museum room set and I couldn’t help thinking that the introduction of glazed windows must have made an enormous difference to people.

South Downs Way Beauworth

Over the next two days, we saw villages and farms nestled into the valleys below us and crops at different stages of ripening formed a coloured patchwork that reached into the distance. We ate lunch in the shade of trees as we gazed up at the blue sky and finally walked into Winchester, at the end of the South Downs Way.

Slamseys raspberry gin

Home again, home again, jiggety jig. My favourite drink this summer is a  Raspberry Gn Slush.

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A Little in Love

 

I have fallen a little in love with Devon, though in truth, if you walk through any part of the countryside at this time of the year, it’s difficult not to be smitten when everywhere is green and verdant and the hedgerows and verges froth with blossom and wild flowers.

 

Devon Coast to Coast Path near Wembury

 

Bill had a big birthday to celebrate this year and as he decided how best to celebrate, he remembered a conversation we had last year on the West Highland Way when another walker enthused over his recent walk along the Devon Coast to Coast Path. The path runs between Wembury Beach on the south coast and Lynmouth on the north, passing across Dartmoor and Exmoor, so we decided to walk part of this and also look around the area where the Wheaton family came from.

 

coins in tree trunk 2 Moors Way

Despite the rain, Devon was glorious. We found the farm where Bill’s family farmed nearly two hundred years ago and walked just over a hundred miles through the Devon countryside. We found sculptures on river islands, tree trunks embedded with coins and a giant photo of a family tree hanging in a tree.

 

Exmoor 2 Moors Way

 

I’m glad I walked through the wilds of Dartmoor with its granite tors and boggy ground (I managed to sink my foot below the top of my boot in a wet muddy patch) though rather like The Fens, I don’t feel the need to walk any part again. In contrast, Exmoor (above) seemed less harsh than Dartmoor with easy to walk wide open ridges and steep sided combes covered in trees.

 

Mid Devon on 2 Moors Way

My favourite part of the walk was the middle section where we could stand on a hill and look across the patchwork of fields and woodland. We walked alongside rivers and down lanes banked with wild flowers that led to tiny villages with thatched cottages so different in design to our steeply pitched Essex thatch.

 

Lynmouth from 2 Moors Way

With the exception of our diversion into Widecombe, which was a big mistake, the joy of this walk was the quietness and feeling that we were miles and miles away from everyone and everything for so much of the day. No traffic noise or planes flying above. No phone signal or public transport.

Having visited the area where Bill’s Great Great Grandmother was born, I think that when I reach the grand old age of 60 we should visit the place that my Great Great Grandmother was born. It seems only fair don’t you think? Especially since she was born in South Australia.

Lynmouth

If you’re interested in walking The Devon Coast to Coast Path (Two Moors Way), go for it.