Two hundred and seventyseven miles. It feels like progress. That long sticky out south west corner of England has passed under my feet, in 277 miles of walking. I’m now within a day’s walk of Bristol.
Since leaving the Devon coast at Barnstaple, I’ve been struck by the waves of soft hills that cover the south of England. They first appear on the horizon, like a big roller out at sea. I slowly walk towards the hill range, and then somehow it gets near enough for me to rise up and over it, as if in a canoe. From the airy top I can see the level land below, and then the next roller approaching in the hazy distance. I’ve never had that sensation when crossing the country in a car, or even by bicycle. These are the hills and ridges I’ve strode over since Barnstaple:
- The Brendon Hills
- The Quantock Hills
- The Polden Hills
- The Mendips
Lovely names aren’t they?
Today is a rest day, the first in 9 days of walking. A couple of days ago I walked 20 miles in a day, over the Quantocks and around Bridgewater. It left me rather weary – but I think more from the road walking that is a necessity when crossing the Somerset Levels. So I’m enjoying a lazy day of pottering about, washing clothes, planning my route, eating, and generally being pampered by wonderful friends.
One friend asked me what I think about when I’m striding along by myself. One aspect of walking that is rather special is that thoughts come to you, rather than the other way round. (If that doesn’t sound too Winnie the Poohish). In no particular order, these are the main topics that swill around in my head:
- Friends and family
- What I’m seeing around me, and especially signs of spring
- My body – i.e. ‘is that a pain I am feeling in my knee?’
- My route
Spring is a lot of fun to look out for. I’ve seen dozy bees, happy butterflies, horse chestnuts and hawthorne unfurling, and chirpy birds galore. Distant trees are just just starting to get that slight greenish tint. In the next few weeks everything will explode into life.
Another joy of the last week has been catching up with Somerset friends, and family in Devon. Thank you ever so much to all of you – you have been so tremendously hospitable and it’s been really wonderful to have such great company.