‘So now that the children are off your hands, what parts of the world are you planning to explore?’
The question came from a family friend, a former diplomat well schooled in the conversational gambit. I burbled something about having liked what we had seen of Provence, how we had enjoyed Corsica and were in fact just off to the quieter end of Mallorca. We fell to discussing the Western Med. But as soon as he asked I knew instantly where I really want to get to know. It’s my own country – Great Britain, the United Kingdom, call it what you will. Overlooked and underappreciated. Time to explore my own back yard.
How? I could take the train or I could take the car but seeing the landscape through glass is not going to do. I need to get out into it. I need to walk.
When I walk I can stop to look at sights that would flash by unnoticed at speed,
I can see the detail of the changing seasons in the hedgerow
and I can pause to be diverted along the way.
But where shall I walk? A long distance path has much to commend it – marked on the map, marked on the ground and well trodden to boot, with a bit of luck. Because for me it’s not about the process – no grid references here, no stats (how far/how high/how long) either – other people cover that so much better than me. It’s about the seeing and the hearing and the doing.
So on a fairly arbitrary basis I hit upon walking the coast from Land’s End to my home in Bristol. The South West Coast Path will take me as far as Minehead and that’s about 250 miles. I’m not in a hurry so I’ll do it in very small stages – long weekends and the odd week – with lots of other walks in between. It’ll take years so by the time I get to the end, they’ll surely have had time to extend the path all the way up.
Let’s make a start, shall we?