Go for a short walk…..and make it useful !

 Rule no 4 in my ’12 Rules for Hikers series’

Go for a short walk as often as possible.

Make that walk useful in some way other than ‘just gone for a walk’

Walk/blog real time : it’s February 2020 as i write this and it seems to me that it’s been raining heavily all month ; yes i know we’ve had several storms roll through but iv’e never seen the valley where i live under that much water.  My mate who lives downriver is heaving huge logs out of the Tamar with his workboat and many of those have come from near where i live : on the trail that i walk most days there’s a big old Cherry tree blocking the path at one point and several other sections of deadfall.

I’m still out there most days having a quick, hour long circuit, through the woodland on the edge of the valley although some days iv’e had to leave it until the storm force winds have died down a bit….a predominantly Beech wood not being the best place to be in high winds.

Last week i walked up through the woodland trail with a fresh blade in my big bow-saw and lopped up one of the deadfall trees into sections that i could carry home, i checked by the way and most of that tree was already dead.  Today and for the previous week iv’e been walking that route and when i get to that point i throw one of the sections up onto my shoulder and continue my walk with that.  Each piece is about 30 lbs or so, easy enough to manage on one shoulder : in the past i used to ‘ruck’ my loads of scavenged firewood and i would carry a piece of Beech, Oak or Ash anything up to 80 lbs….that’s a hard carry and excellent training as i used to have to do my carry up and out of a valley.

Now, i can just hear some of the urbanite hikers jumping for their keyboards and spilling their skinny soy latte’s at the thought of me chopping up trees and burning them in my wood-burner !.  Well, i’m a country boy now and that’s how we live with a bit of self reliance and a lot of hard work ; all of my firewood comes from a few miles radius of where i live, all of it was cut and collected by hand and all of it gets thoroughly seasoned for several years before it goes in the stove.  Done that way it provides clean heat….much cleaner than coal or artificial solid fuels and of course it clears the trail .

So, lets talk about this idea ; ‘useful’.

I say that it’s useful, by that i mean it has utility, to go for a short walk at least once a day : my walk is either just under or just over an hour, depending on which route i take. My usual routine is to do that as soon as possible in the morning and once i have had my morning coffee ; in my case it also means before breakfast.

Why is this useful ?, i’m glad you asked that, please allow me to explain.

Firstly that it sets the day up well with the most basic of all exercises and i get a daily look at what’s going on in ‘the nature’ of my short route through the woods.  Last week i noticed that there’s lots of new deadfall and that at least one part of the trail needs clearing, today i saw the beginnings of thousands of new bulb spears breaking through the soil : i think i can recognise some of those as being wild garlic (Allium Ursinum) and i’ll be collecting some of those to make a wild Pesto in a few weeks time.

Secondly, you might have noticed that i’m a compulsive blogger and internet writer although you might not realise that i write across several disciplines and post on several social media sites ; my main work is actually the world of boats, sailing and the sea. I aim to put out a long post of up to 2,500 words at least twice a week and the way my writing schedule works is to write new material as soon as possible in the morning once i have had my walk and my breakfast.  I use the hour in the woods to organise my thoughts and ideas for whichever blog post i need to work on and i often come up with entirely new material during my walk : often when i get home the first thing i have to do is jot down the beginning, some times just the title, of a new post.

I happen to think that my daily walk is one of the three cornerstones of maintaining my physical and mental health ; the other 2 being my new ‘diet’…..there’s nothing new about it, and my harder exercise regime.   Most studies that have looked at walking as exercise, especially when done in a natural environment relieve the effects of stress, help control weight and improve sleep.   In days past i found that my walk home, even after a 12 hour shift in the hospital, was the only way i could clear my head of all the problems that i’d dealt with that day in my complex and high stress job.  If , rather than walking home, i drove home, i would still have ‘busy head’ several hours later whereas if i walked home i would have ‘cleared my head’ before i got home.

As i said earlier , my main task this month is to clear the trail of dead-fall and bring a load of that home for my wood-pile.  My aim is to end up with 100 new rounds of firewood by the end of March….i’m up to about 30 as i write.  Each month now will have a different practical purpose, in just over a month’s time i’ll be back on my boat and hopefully sailing east ; then, my daily walk will become an exploration of a new area as i move along the coast.

Practicalities…

But surely….you’re thinking : doesn’t going out for a hike entail careful selection of ‘safety’ equipment, a forensic study of the weather forecast and detailed communication with loved ones to make sure they are ‘informed’ of our intended route, and then : what snazzy items of our outdoor uniform are we going to wear ?, which boots and which rucksack ? and don’t we need an ‘App’ and a long discussion with a Facebook hiking group ?.

No….i wear what i wear every day which is whatever scruffy working clothes i am wearing that week, my boots and rucksack are always by the door and ready to go , all i have to do is look outside with the mark one eyeball to see what the weather is doing and decide if i need my (one) jacket or to stuff it in the back sleeve of my 20 year old rucksack.   I don’t have or need any ‘Apps’, just my boots, the contents of a very light pack and a long piece of cut Hazel that forms my walking staff/pole.

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