What were your walking habits/levels pre-lockdowns?
At weekends mostly. I love to walk but I’m not, you know, obsessed. I like to see the countryside around me, try to spot birds (though I’m not much good at that) and stop and look – not just steam ahead to the destination. It’s not a race. A nice 6 to 8 mile walk at the weekend in the Cotswolds or on the Mendips, and possibly, ideally, visiting a country pub for a pint.
Have you increased the amount/distance you walk since lockdowns started?
When lockdown started, at first I found myself with a lot of spare time. That’s rather disappeared now. But in the first months I’d walk every day, just for an hour or so. I reckon now, because work has become a bit more pressing, I’m walking less than I was a year ago.
What role has walking played in your lockdown?
I love walking. Did I say that? So its played an important role. I love to experience nature; so birdsong, the evolution of buds and flowers and blossom – these are really important. Also the sky and the wind and the ability just to look at distant horizons is important. It’s also true that if I have to write a small speech (a fairly rare occurrence) I find walking is absolutely perfect. It’s something in the rhythm, the change of scene – – – it really, really works for me. If I’m serious, I might be obliged to actually say it out loud, thus appearing to be, you know; disturbed. But it works.
What’s your favourite route to walk? And why?
I’m lucky to live near Durdham Down, so the walk across to Sea Walls is my go-to walk. There’s a nice punchline when you get to the gorge. I have a quick look around to see if a peregrine is going to swoop past – this just about never happens – but you will see jackdaws fooling around and they are delightful, playful little trouble-makers. And ravens; quite often see and hear ravens. Magnificent birds. Then peer over the edge to see if any loony is climbing up and if not, then to check-out the tide. How much mud is on view? A visiting Australian ‘friend’ of mine referred to the noble Avon as a ‘storm-drain’ which I didn’t think was very kind. I have to say that in lockdown, and especially in the cold muddy winter there were way too many people walking and running on the Downs for comfort – but what else are they going to do? I smile, and only curse them privately. The Downs must be very nearly the highest point in Bristol, it’s a big, flat limestone plateau, so you get wonderful 360 degree views of the sky – amazing cloudscapes! And of course the occasional balloon.
Podcast, music or peace and quiet when walking?
Podcasts sometimes. I really do love to follow a great story, or just listen to interesting people saying interesting things. Comedy, folk-music, true-crime or cricket – something there for every occasion . . . but then sometimes I think “oh for God’s sake, just behere. Be in the moment! And then out come the old Air Pods, and I listen to the birds instead – especially at this time of year, in the Spring.
Will you maintain walking post-lockdown?
But of course.