May 04, 2015

#smalladventures: they are out there waiting for everyone

I feel passionately that getting out exploring natural landscapes, whether in faraway places or close to home, whether wildly dramatic or quiet and gentle, has the most amazing effects on the mind, body and for want of a better word, soul. This isn't as fluffy, tree-hugging or new-agey as it sounds: the exercise, (particularly if done regularly and over some distance) hones the body, the exploration of new places sharpens the mind and senses, and the big, open spaces with their change of physical perspective somehow allows the mind and emotions to recalibrate their own sense of perspective. The combination of these things all happening at once, on a regular basis, especially with some real wilderness and challenge thrown in, has always had a transforming effect on me, more now than ever as the distances are lengthening out again, as our kids are older and can walk further or stay at home without me. I can feel the wind under my wings again, and it feels so good! Although we have trips to the Dolomites (and hopefully Highlands/Islands planned for later in the year), even the hikes from our backdoor are brilliant.



Discovering new footpaths, often ancient and historic tracks full of history and myth, that criss-cross our local landscape - taking us further and further past old cottages, agricultural estates with their big houses on the hills, fields, rivers, mixed hedgerows that have marked boundaries and the seasons for centuries, neolithic settlements, hidden bluebell woods, copses and village spires - even in these relatively tame landscapes there is so much to learn, understand and appreciate as we walk out the minutes and miles.


The contours of the land felt pulsing underfoot and scanned by the eye, become hills and valleys known by name, woodlands become familiar stopping places to explore the unfolding story of the seasons, we are learning what grows and lives in the wild spaces and how to read what we see. As we become more connected to our local landscape, our affection and ties to it grow, and the sense of who we are somehow deepens. The rythms of the seasons, the living details in the landscape that shape shift as the year grows older, they all become deeply part of our lives. We are connected, so we care, we want to protect and celebrate it, it grows into something that really matters to us.






In the last couple of weeks, we have seen blackthorn blossom in all its pale extravagance, and then give way to wild fruit blossoms in the hedgerows, young cow parsley foliage grow waist high and now just about to explode into flower, the woodlands bathed in the wonder of lime beech leaves and carpets of bluebells, rapeseed fields becoming almost to bright to look at in full sun, and everywhere birds, insects and small animals beginning to fill the landscape with their activity - gnats, red kites, woodpigeons, goldfinches, the first swallows, kingfishers, foxes and other creatures heard or seen getting on with their busy, often hidden lives.  Whether walking, biking or running in these landscapes, what could be simpler and yet more of a privilege?








No filters, no editing, nature is just this varied and vibrant, and all this along the foothpaths of this most uncelebrated county. It is just there, waiting for us.