I made a rather foolish resolution at the beginning of this year. I really should have just smiled and backed away when faced with the challenge, but no. For some reason I said ‘Why not? I can do that.’ And so now I’ve committed myself to walking 1,000 miles in 2016.
It’s not as bad as it sounds. I prefer to think of it as less than 3 miles a day, which seems much more manageable. Or actually, just one step at a time. And two months in, I’m a bit behind schedule, but I’m walking further each day and have almost 150 miles on the clock.
January was the worst. I’m a fair-weather walker, and I’ll walk everywhere in the summer but in the winter I tend not to walk unless I have to. But I had to start straight away if I had any hope of making my 1,000 miles and so I reluctantly braved the cold and gloomy trek around the park every day. My hip would start to hurt after a mile or so and I’d get home to slump on the sofa, wrap my fingers around a hot drink, and wonder whether I was crazy. But things started to get a lot better in February. My aches and pains disappeared, the days started to get longer, and I began to walk further.
Now if you’re picturing me striding across a deserted hillside, then think again. I like the open countryside, but there isn’t much of it where I live. But London has a surprising number of green spaces, and is criss-crossed by rivers and waterways, many of which have public footpaths running beside them. Most of the routes I take have a little bit of green space or water along the way somewhere, and some places can be reached entirely via parks and footpaths. I usually go out with some food for the water birds in my pocket, (not bread, I hasten to add) and I like to imagine that the swans recognise me – I’m sure they don’t, they just recognise the food! According to the RSPB website, swans are quite partial to lettuce. When these graceful Mute Swans know you have food in your pocket, they’re anything but mute!
And in London, some of our wildlife isn’t all that wild. In one of the parks I go to, Moorhens and Coots will walk right up to anyone they think has something for them, and if I stand still and quiet they’ll take food from my hand. And what’s not to love about a creature whose feet are so big in comparison to the rest of it?
The birds are definitely in charge here, though. The geese always seem to take a while to catch on, but when a phalanx comes marching towards me, making an awful racket, I know that it’s time to leave some food for them, and retreat to the path to watch.
An app on my phone tells me exactly how far I’ve walked, and uncharacteristically I actually know where I am for most of the time. (This isn’t like me at all. I have no sense of direction, and so my natural state of being is hopelessly lost.) I can eat as much chocolate as I like, and now that the miles are beginning to add up on my spreadsheet, I’m starting to feel a sense of achievement. And the other day, I left home with a few sketchy ideas for my next book, and arrived back with a full plot line in my head. So it looks as if I’m going to be keeping going. If I don’t make my 1,000 miles, then at least I’ll have tried. Maybe it wasn’t such a crazy idea after all.
Have you ever had a bad idea that turned out not so bad in the end? And do you have a favourite place for walking, either in the city or the countryside?