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Walking in Circles

Posted on Sunday 23rd September 2012 at 16:03
Isn't it funny the way that things we do in our childhood go on to influence us later in life? As we go about our daily lives, little seeds are sown that germinate and grow, as we grow, until finally they flower and form part of the garden tapestry of our personalities as adults, often to our very great surprise.

One thing I never expected to develop was a love of walking. For me this began in two separate places during my childhood. One was the walks that I used to take with my family at the weekends and during the holidays, and the other was my daily walk to school.

The first of these seeds matured during my second year of university, when I would take walks along the cycle path at the weekends, sometimes walking for many miles in a stretch. I didn't really think of myself as being into "walking" though until my first year in Plymouth, when L and I tagged along with Plymouth University Chaplaincy on some of their group walks on Dartmoor. Since these were only once a month, we soon found ourselves going out by ourselves on the intervening weekends, gradually building up our distances, terrain and equipment, until we looked less like people going out for a weekend stroll and more like a pair of mountain climbers preparing to scale Everest.

My walk to school took much longer to re-emerge in adult form, due primarily to my life style. Whilst in Bristol I learnt to drive, and so soon found myself to be a commuter, rather than a walker. This continued in Plymouth until I became self employed, working from home, at which point I began to be aware that something was missing.

You see, there are two things I liked about the walk to school. One, obviously, was the exercise and chance to stretch my legs, something which I still value very much. The other was the opportunity to experience the changing seasons through a brief but regular exposure to the local environment around my home. I've ranted on about my love of Autumn countless times, but last year I probably only made a conscious effort to get outside and see the season in progress two or three times. At that rate, Time seems to pass very quickly, as seasons come and go almost instantly, as do the years.

In Bristol and in Plymouth there wasn't a great deal I could do about this. The dense human habitation and activity in cities tends to alter the climate; raising the temperature and limiting many of the more noticeable aspects of any given season. It's hard to enjoy the changing of the leaves on the trees if there is only one tree near you and its leaves don't die until late November.

So, when I discovered that we'd be moving to a green and quiet Hampshire suburb, one of the first things I began to look forward to was walking around and witnessing the seasons change all around me, the way I remembered them doing in my childhood. I realised that I would need to take two walks a day to achieve this: one early in the morning, the equivalent of walking to school, in order to feel the cold, crisp air in Winter or see the morning dew on the grass in Autumn, and another at lunch time, to enjoy the heat from the sun in Summer, and to fight the post-lunch lethargy that tends to plague my work life whilst I am digesting my meal.

And this is exactly what I take. Each walk lasts between 20 and 30 minutes and takes me all over the estate on which I live. The estate in question is one of the better things to come out of 1990s building practices. It's a mixed estate, with everything from flats to five bedroom houses with double garages, and many, many different architectural styles are used, meaning that no two roads look the same. In addition, there are many fields, and trees dotted about, as well as a woodland with a pond and our local stretch of the Basingstoke Canal passing nearby. This all adds up to an almost infinite number of walks that I can take around here, without ever having to get bored, or feel like my options are limited.

My morning walk usually takes me out of the estate, to watch the builders who are extending the garden centre across the road. Another seed that was sown in my childhood was a love of watching building going up, after the extension that was built at my primary school when I was in Year 5. They're still preparing the ground at the moment, so I can't wait to see how it all unfolds over the coming months.

At lunchtime I tend to head in the opposite direction, deeper into the estate to explore new roads and paths that I've not seen before, and to see how the trees in the wood are changing as Summer drifts into Autumn. With such frequent walks, Nature appears to me to have slowed down to a pace at which I can savour every little change, without the feeling that Time is passing me by to quickly.

As someone who always feels like I have too much to do and too little time in which to do it, I can't overstate how beneficial it is to me to feel like I've got enough time to indulge my love of Nature fully and completely, at this time of year more than at any other.

They say dog owners are generally fitter than the population at large, because they are forced to walk their pets once or twice every day. I say, why rely on a dog to keep you fit? I walk as though I have a dog, but without any of the headaches of keeping one. I go out in rain and shine, and try never to miss a day. In fact, I'm going to end here, so that I have time to walk now, before the light levels fade and I'm required to go and cook dinner. If you've not taken a walk in your local area recently, why not pop out for a stroll now? You'll thank me if you do!

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