May is National Walking Month, Living Streets’ annual campaign to encourage us all to give walking a go, whether it’s Walk to Work Week (13-17 May) or Walk to School Week (20-24 May). Sign up on the website and you can log your miles, take up one of the walking feats, challenge your colleagues and win prizes. This year’s theme is ‘walking takes you places’. Here media coordinator Jayne Phenton explores how sometimes it’s helpful to know where that place is.
I am a regular and enthusiastic walker – covering four and a half miles a day on my daily journey to work and back – and regularly striding out across England’s capital. As an adopted Londoner of over 20 years I can generally negotiate the city sufficiently to orientate myself homewards, but relocate me beyond the M25 and all directional instincts fail.
For over ten years, my friend Adrian and I have made an annual trip to the seaside, usually on the south coast, always confident the sun will shine and equipped with waterproofs. Our excursions now have a well-rehearsed format. A stroll from the train station towards the seafront, the requisite fish and chip lunch, then we’ll wander on to the beach, sniff the sea air and decide whether to go left or right.
Whereas as I tend to instinctively suggest ‘this way!’ with a bold hand gesture and an expression resembling an English setter with sight of a pheasant, Adrian will always pause to faithfully consult his Ordnance Survey Map. Given that he has owned some of these trusty charts for well over 30 years, we sometimes come across small discrepancies, but generally cliffs, the coastline and public footpaths which lead inland are still there.
It’s usually a couple of hours or so into our adventure that I begin to appreciate the benefits of Adrian’s more strategic approach to exploration. Knowing that the next town – and hence the opportunity of the customary mid-afternoon ice-cream – is only another mile away, can be hugely motivating if knees are a little achy; similarly, the prospect of a comfort stop. And of course once you do arrive in the next town or village, it’s helpful to know where you are.
The final part of our itinerary is as inevitable as the paddle in the sea, generally proving that while instinct is a wonderful thing, sometimes you need a map to find the nearest pub.
Find our where walking can take you this May at www.livingstreets.org.uk and don’t forget your map.