I hope everyone enjoyed a warn bank holiday weekend. For those of us who have dipped a toe in local politics, it is no holiday, but a long weekend of leafletting and door-knocking. Still, it can make for a good, healthy walk.
In previous years I have combined pavement-bashing with cycling to remoter houses, adapting my boots for pavement or fields. This year I was in a more constricted, suburbanised knot of residential houses, which is a more intense experience. To get a measure of the length of the walk is impossible: you cannot just measure the length of each stretch of each road and total them up a most of the distance may be nipping back and forth from street to doorway – a petty distance you may think but it all adds up, and after two thousand of them, that is a few miles just walking back and forth from the pavement even without the length of the street.
A road is a dull, grey landscape. Head down, foot before foot and it goes by.
You get variety: I missed the wide-open country vistas and landscape carved by nature’s hand into breathless beauty, now blooming in the richness of late Spring, but deep in the streets there is a microcosm if you look; a glimpse into the souls of thousands of individuals. Those long streets all built with identical houses in ranks like soldiers on parade, have changed as years pass over them, for householders put their own into their own houses, and even though I see no more than the front drive or garden and front door, in these little things the character of the owner may shine through (not always to their credit).
I just wish, as every leafletting street-hiker does, that when they replace their front door or build a porch, they would include a letterbox.
Keep walking – keep healthy. Walk locally perhaps, but then discover the little parts of your home you never knew were there.
Those who wanted to lock us in our homes concede that we may go out and walk or cycle – so go out, as if commanded.
I like to find the wilder ways, far from home or deep in the wooded hillsides, standing where I can look for a mile and seen not another soul. This is a different, stranger time we are in though. We are told to stay local. It makes little sense really – walking out of your door into a hugger-mugger street and a busy urban park is permitted, but driving for three hours to an empty landscape with no one to breathe on is deemed criminally dangerous Rules are not set up to be logical though. So here we are, walking locally.
That may be a challenge, but actually it can be a helpful application of ingenuity. There are, in every corner of the land, paths to be explored. At the edge of the country it may be easy to disappear into empty places for hours on end, as I have, but even in the city there are unexplored ways. I keep thinking of Edinburgh and the snickets tumbling through the town, and its urban hills, but in the heart of London too there are endless little paths and alleys such that in the narrow confines of the square mile of the City itself you can get thoroughly and delightfully lost, even before exploring the rooftop walkways. Every town has its secrets to find and find afresh.
I am not going to publish an internal walk for every town and village I know – you go and find them. Get a map, and see what you didn’t know, the patterns you did not see before, the back ways and paths that never seemed to join up when you worked them out in your head (it’s because the roads are not straight and not level that they meet and miss in unexpected ways). Find your local walks.
Do it quickly too – the lockdown will be over before we know it.
I was asked about walks in a little corner of suburban Surrey which I do not know very well. Carshalton is a pretty village in itself, but very much now of the surrounding conurbation and though it has a park, it is otherwise bereft of the wide green spaces that much of the county enjoys. Then again, a look at the map shows something special: the River Wandle. I put together then a ‘Wandle Wander’, from Carshalton Village north along the river to its mouth, then along the Thames Path a short way and down to Clapham Junction.
It is a walk of just 10 miles with no climbs, so one for all the family.
For the route, see my main page: