We didn’t often go for walks as children, not because we didn’t go out and about but because we went everywhere by bike. Whether it was to school, to visit friends, to the swimming pool and swimming club, up and down the towpath by the river, or just setting off and cycling nowhere in particular. There was not so much traffic then and cycling along country roads was safer than it is now. We didn’t go ‘out for a bike ride’ we just went out and happened to be on our bikes.
However, I do remember some walks; when I was very small I had trouble sleeping – I was always wide awake at bedtime so then mum or dad would take me fro a walk, which i didn’t really enjoy, just plodding along, and of course I’d get home be put to bed and still be wide awake.I think I just didn’t need as much sleep as children were ‘supposed’ to need; my son was the same when he was young, and I think my dad must have been the same too as he never needed much sleep all his life.
Sometimes we would go somewhere and go for a walk, I remember walking through woods but where they were I don’;t know; I didn’t mind that because it was interesting and I could imagine adventures. There were times, though when we walked along country roads – I don’t where we were going or why, just ‘out for a walk’ I guess. I was born and brought up in Cambridge, and although that city is supposed built on seven hills like Rome, most people would be hard put to notice them! So the paths and fields were flat, the way beneath our feet was chalky if it was off the roads and it was easy going.
Now living in Somerset, just below the last but hill in the Mendip chain, going out for a walk is very different. Oh it’s flat if we head out over the Somerset levels, but if we set off from home it’s not far to the hill – about quarter of a mile, and then the going is very different from my childhood walks. Rocky, bumpy, stony, uphill, more uphill, and even more uphill, and then views, out across Weston Bay (formerly Glentworth Bay) across the Bristol Channel towards Wales, or out over the Somerset Levels, looking towards the Polden Hills, or across Bridgwater Bay to Hinkley Point nuclear power station
Today it was hot and dusty when we weren’t walking beneath the overarching trees; the undergrowth was a tangle of dog roses, honeysuckle, elder, ferns and a mass of wild flowers of all colours which I can’t identify… maybe I should buy a wild flower book! The views were misted by a heat haze, and the path was very rocky and quite tricky. As I struggled along (heat and incline!) I couldn’t help but think of how easy my childhood walks were., my parents pointing out flowers and plants, and a picnic usually taken at the turn round point.
In these strange times there is one thing which is now the same as it was then; the lack of traffic, or its noise, or its fumes, the only sound that of birds and insects, the only thing to smell the wild flowers, the grasses, the lush leaves and the evidence that horses have also walked this way!