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Saunterings:  Walking in North-West England

Saunterings is a set of reflections based upon walks around the counties of Cumbria, Lancashire and North Yorkshire in North-West England (as defined in the Preamble). Here is a list of all Saunterings so far.
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This is one of several relatively short items about local walks during the first coronavirus lockdown, April - May 2020.

90.  “One Form of Exercise – such as Walking” to the River

The second of the default short walks that I mentioned in Sauntering 85 is to the river. We walk down the road, through the churchyard, along the Kirkbeck Close passage … and then pause to appreciate the view that is revealed of the Lune valley towards Hornby. Although it is familiar it is still worth appreciating, especially at the moment with the hawthorn in full blossom ...
Lune valley

The Lune valley, with hawthorn

It is perhaps time to pause during these local walks too. We have walked from home for fifty days now. Originally (Sauntering 79) I said that I was not really walking for exercise (as the government guidelines required) but to be reassured that nature was progressing. I no longer need such reassurance. Nature gets along fine without us – better, in fact. So if I am not walking for exercise or to commune with nature, why am I walking?

I have dipped into a few books that philosophise about walking to see what other reasons there are for walking. They discuss at extraordinary length many reasons to walk, such as … deep breath … no, I’ll relegate the list to a footnote (*) to make it optional reading. I can go through the list one by one and say, no, that is not really why I am walking now. Despite their wisdom, the philosopher-walkers don’t seem to have anticipated the present circumstances.

Most of our walks nowadays are short ambles. I think of these now as ‘social walks’. At first, I was frustrated that Ruth would pause for a two-metre-apart chat with everyone we met. I’d stride off, muttering that the walks were supposed to be for exercise, not chatting. However, these walks are the only opportunity we have for face-to-(two-metre-apart)-face chats. The “how are you?” is no longer a clichéd greeting. We all mean it, as is clear from the “and the family” usually added. We are all part of a shared effort to keep healthy. More people are out walking, they are all local, and the village is small enough that we know or recognise many of them. We all acknowledge with a perhaps rueful smile that we are in the same predicament. Walking, then, has become a way to maintain some sense of local society, which is not what the politicians had in mind when they allowed us to walk.

Others of our walks are more purposeful. These are the ones that tend to get written about here, and as before they are a consequence of my peculiar need to ‘walk to learn’, which is another purpose not on the philosophers’ list. I need to learn something about where I’m walking, and the challenge of writing something of possible interest afterwards has helped me through the past weeks.

On April 5th (Sauntering 80) I convinced myself that a walk from home of up to two hours was permitted by the guidelines. I now think back to that walk on February 27th (Sauntering 75) from home to Ward’s Stone, a good five hours, most of it on rough fell. At that time coronavirus was not on my mind. There had been very few UK cases and the first reported death was not until March 5th. As I wrote then, I saw nobody on the fell and I knew that there was nobody within a mile of me – you can hardly ask for more social distancing than that! I passed through two gates (which I could have avoided handling if necessary), walked through no farmyards, and passed, at a distance, only a few houses. Does such an ‘extra’ three hours walking risk the spread of the virus?  Perhaps this weekend’s announcement will clarify matters.

… We then walk across the field, over the A683 (very quiet nowadays), across the old railway line, and on to the river bank … and then pause again to enjoy the river, the views, the birds, the fish (if any). And then back up Holme Lane.

The River Lune (still very low)

(*)  Possible reasons to walk are:
    to escape from worries, noise, civilisation, and so on;
    to take on a challenge, such as conquering a list of peaks or completing a long-distance path;
    to go on a pilgrimage to enable prayers during or at the end of a long walk;
    to see things inaccessible without walking, such as wilderness areas;
    to just get from A to B;
    to enjoy the physical sensation of walking;
    to achieve a kind of serenity from the repetitive, somewhat monotonous, process of walking;
    to seek solitude in order to mull over ideas;
    to be with or meet others, for example, as a member of a walking club;
    to be seen, for example on a catwalk or promenading in a park;
    to make a political point, for example, on the Jarrow March or on the Iraq War demonstrations;
    to follow a kind of educational trail, for example, the Bronte Way or the Liverpool Slavery Trail;
    to raise money for charity, from a long-distance walk or many short ones, as with Captain Tom.

    Date: May 8th 2020
    Start: SD543644, Brookhouse  (Map: OL41)
    Route: NE – Bull Beck Bridge – NW along river, S – Brookhouse
    Distance: 2 miles;   Ascent: 40 metres

The two following items:
       92.   The Small-Leaved Limes of Aughton Woods
       91.   The Littledale Cuckoos are Back!
The two preceding items:
       89.   Tracking the Thirlmere Aqueduct
       88.   The Lune Millennium Park Artworks
Two nearby items:
     169.   A Quinquennial Ambulation over the Moor
       86.   Bluebells and Going Round the Lune Bend
A list of all items so far:

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    © John Self, Drakkar Press, 2018-


Top photo: The western Howgills from Dillicar; Bottom photo: Blencathra from Great Mell Fell