THESE BOOTS WERE MADE FOR WALKING
A new obsession with the outdoor life.
For those that follow me on one of my many social media accounts you may have noted that in recent weeks I’ve been posting a lot of stuff about my new obsession with walking. I hope I’m not boring anyone with it (quite frankly it’s kinda tough if I am, there’s no let-up in sight!) but for me it’s a way of documenting something that I’ve been quietly contemplating for many months, if not years.
I admit that I’m far (very far) from being a fine specimen of health and fitness. I yo-yo diet, I do far too little exercise (some weeks I’ll do nothing) and I’m not getting any younger. I’m 57 later this year and I’m lucky to be doing a ‘job’ that I love as bass player with T.Rextasy, but most nights I come off stage absolutely knackered. We’ve got a challenging gig schedule coming up in September through to December (not to mention being back out on the road again on 7th January 2020) and I really want to enjoy every moment of it that I can. Couple that with some earlier health issues (mostly related to not being particularly healthy) and it seemed perfectly reasonable to kick-start a ‘better’ lifestyle.
My diet is pretty much in check. I’ve stopped eating meat, drink (mostly) green/infused tea and have cut back on the alcohol (not that I’ve ever been a heavy drinker). I’m still a sucker for a bit of chocolate or cheese but I’m a firm believer that you don’t need to abstain from everything you enjoy, just moderate your intake.
So why walking? I’ve done the gym thing (more than once), at 39 I even had a personal trainer and got super fit (for me) but I find this kind of punishing exercise regime hard to maintain and soon get de-motivated. I’ve always enjoyed being outdoors, I love being by water be that a river, lake or the sea and this fine island has so many beautiful places to see… for free. So, it’s cheap (bar the odd National Trust parking fee and the need for decent footwear!) it provides a never-ending panorama of ever-changing scenery and, as someone who travels all over the place, it’s relatively easy to combine it with your lifestyle. It’s also a good all-round work-out and is clinically proven to help clear the head. So, why not walking?
Me and the wife have done a bit, from time to time. We’re fortunate that we live amid some beautiful countryside and every time we go out for a walk we always comment that “we must do this more often” but if I’m honest, once every couple of months clearly isn’t often enough.
So, cue a recent gig in the Peak District, the Devil’s Arse in Castleton to be precise – you can read about that extraordinary venue and gig here. The area offers simply stunning scenery and after a night spent in a comfortable hotel in Buxton the plan was for a leisurely journey home, roof down, enjoying every vista Derbyshire had to offer. But it rained, most of the day, so it was roof up for the entire journey. However, en-route, we did happen across the Peak Shopping Village in Rowsley which provided an opportunity to impulse buy a rather splendid pair of walking boots at a heavily discounted price from the Regatta store. I now had no excuses to not get this walking lark started!
So that’s what I’ve been doing, at every opportunity; donning the boots and hitting the tracks and trails. I’m actually loving it! Good footwear and proper socks have meant no blisters to date and a considered approach to my route choices (ie. not overdoing it!) is proving to be all I need to keep me motivated thus far. And, I’m already starting to notice the difference physically. Longer walks are getting easier, as are steep inclines. I can feel the heart working hard when it needs to and my recovery time is coming down… all this in just two weeks and 11 walks.
For those of you that are interested (go on, you’ve read this far already…) here’s a quick summary of my first five walks in my new boots. I’ll post the others in batches of five to try and keep your required reading time down to a minimum.
7th July 2019 – 2.5km (1.6 miles)
A gentle work-out for the new boots around the Grebe Lake at the Harrold-Odell Country Park, a 59.3 hectare Country park and local nature reserve between the villages of Odell and Harrold in Bedfordshire.
The site was formerly a sand and gravel quarry, and was converted to a park in the 1980’s. Bordered on its southern and eastern side by theRiver Great Ouse the Park has two lakes, water meadows and woodland, some of which is seasonally flooded. There is also a wide variety of birds, and mammals include otters, shrews and bats.
Me and my wife have visited this place quite regularly recently. It’s a beautiful level walk around the lakes and the onsite Dragonfly Café offers a number of excellent delights as a post-walk reward.
8th July 2019 – 6.3km (3.9 miles)
It’s easy to forget the beauty and tranquillity of where you live when you leave the house by car every day. We live amongst some very pretty farmland with a number of walking routes and public bridleway’s literally just outside our front door. We occasionally do a small loop from the house just to clear the cobwebs when necessary but today I decided to extend the loop to the outskirts of the village and then back into the village centre before heading home. Absolutely lovely.
9th July 2019 2.5km (1.56 miles)
Our nearest town is Bedford which has a lovely river, the Great Ouse, running through the centre and a pretty embankment. There’s also the Priory Country Park and Marina located in the Newnham area of Bedford alongside the river. The park was established after gravel extraction ended in 1977 and was officially opened in 1986 by Valerie Singleton of Blue Peter fame. It covers an area of 300 acres (121 hectares), with habitats including lakes, grassland and woodland.
We’ve only visited it a handful of times in the 20 years we’ve lived in the area. It’s a relaxing and level walk around the lake, perfect for a mid-morning amble followed by tea and cake in the lakeside café. There’s also a good old Beefeater Restaurant next to the marina if you’re looking for something more substantial.
10th July 2019 – 7.2km (4.5 miles)
Growing up in Luton the Dunstable Downs were always a top spot for days out on weekends and school holidays - it’s the perfect location for families who enjoy the outdoors. The Downs are part of the Chiltern Hills in Southern Bedfordshire. Over-looking the Dunstable Gliding Club there’s always an opportunity (weather permitting) to watch the gliders taking off and landing and there are a number of available walks to suit the novice or experienced walker. And as a kid there was always an opportunity to buy an ice-cream from the waiting van.
I’d not been there for many, many years – probably over 20 in fact. Now the place boasts a National Trust Discovery Centre with restaurant and café – and a £3.50 parking charge. But that’s ok, the facilities are great, as was the walk as you can see from the pics. Oh, the ice-cream van is still there too!
11th July 2019 – 3.3km (2.0 miles)
So, I had a gig in Malvern at the Malvern Theatre and as I’m sure many of you will know, the area is famous for the stunning scenery of the Malvern Hills – this was an opportunity not to be missed.
When driving on my own to gigs, which I was on this occasion, standard procedure is to get to the venue around 3.30/4.00pm in plenty of time for soundcheck. So, I figured that if I left home early enough I could get to the area in plenty of time to fit in a quick walk. I hadn’t factored in taking my daughter to Peterborough Station before setting off that morning but as luck would have it her train time worked perfectly for me to get to Malvern for around 1.30pm and head for the British Camp Car Park. I’d done my research and there was a short and ‘easy’ walk to the Herefordshire Beacon. This would be a doddle… for an experienced walker.
Ok, I’d driven about 180 miles and been in the car around 4 hours and the walk was basically a mile uphill climbing around 500 feet and then a mile downhill. Yes, the views were stunning, but boy was I knackered and the climb was exceptionally strenuous as I approached it with gusto. I am seriously out of shape.
Needless to say, after a great gig that night and a 120 mile drive home I slept exceptionally well!
So, there you have it, the first five walks to kick-start this particular mission. No excessive distances, it’s more about little and often at the moment, but I have some grander plans developing in my head – more about that in another blog post. I’ll post more as I do them and I’d be delighted if you enjoy reading these walking missives as a slight change of flavour to the normal drivel I post on this site. And don’t worry, there’s plenty more of the old drivel to come too!
If you’d like to keep up-to-date with my walks as they happen (and follow all the usual gig and vinyl shenanigans) then catch me on social media as well as this blog: