Sometimes, it’s just great to get off the treadmill of writing and head out walking.
I spent yesterday on the western fringes of the Peak District. From where we walked I could see across the Cheshire Plain to Wales and distant Snowdonia and down to the Wrekin in Shropshire.
It was that kind of day, warm, sunny and breezy; perfect for a long walk. Where exactly we went I haven’t a clue because I had abandoned the desk and headed out for a break. It was a day for GM Trevelyan, the historian, who reckoned he had two doctors, his left leg and his right.
He reckoned that the one true way to appreciate the countryside was by walking. Not a view to disagree with?
“To be at one with nature you must leave the roads, and tramp across the fields and moors, and by hedgerows and lanes and bypaths…” For Trevelyan, motoring and “charabancing” stood in relation to walking and cycling as watching football did to playing football. It was “a poor substitute though better than nothing.”
For him walking was not an idle dream or a lackadaisical pursuit. He reckoned solitary walking across country was one of the three best things in life.
He could walk sixty miles in a day. On their honeymoon, travelling by train to Cornwall, he abandoned his wife with their luggage saying he could not face a whole day without “a little walk.” He walked 40 miles before he joined his wife at their destination.
He walked to get out in the countryside, in fresh air, to lift his spirits and because walking was healthy. He walked for company, for hardship, for the simplicity of it and perhaps because walking kept bouts of depression away. He walked from Cambridge to Marble Arch, a distance of about 55 miles, with his friend Geoffrey Winthrop Young in twelve and three quarter hours.
Maybe like me he sometimes ran away for a day and, like me, came back more sane and more refreshed from some time on his feet, away from the desk.
GM Trevelyan was the first president of the Youth Hostels Association and some of this blog is drawn from Open to All – how youth hostels changed the world.