Oxford, 2006: Feeling unworthy. Tired all the time. More down than up. Overdrawn, heading deeper into the red. Overweight and gaining no matter how far I cycled. Trying to do all the things, then not being able to get out of bed nor open overdue bills. Although I didn’t have a name for it at the time: I was depressed, completely burned out. My doctor at the time, rather than throw antidepressants at me, prescribed: getting out ‘into nature’ and going for lots of walks (plus, consider changing job). Then he gave me a copy of The Guardian newspaper. . . Walking: along the Isis to Iffley lock avoiding vicious looking geese, squidging through Port Meadow, walking near ‘The Kidneys’, cycling to the various college parks – sneaking in and picnicking next to heavily scented and bee busy flowerbeds. Swimming in the canal near Donny Bridge, in the river during full moon. Boating adventures with ‘borrowed’ canoes near Magdalen college.
Todmorden, 2018: Still overweight, still slightly skint, but so much happier.
Sunday walk: through Buckley wood and around The Ridge, headed – almost vertically! – up towards Woodfield top, following country roads with whimsical sounding names: Doghouse Lane, Parkin Lane, Sourhall Lane.
Descending to Gorpley Clough and following the slightly busy Bacup Road. Then, following the brook as if backwards and against the course.
Through Gorpley Woods (deemed ancient woodlands).
Up to Gorpley reservoir and the vista. Windblown and walking along the shallow wall of the reservoir – admiring the meld of late Victorian engineering, the human-shaped landscapes, the geological formation of the hills.
Gathering leftover pieces of fleece to felt, the sheep gently munching and slightly inquisitive.
Then home again via a pint and some chips! It reminded me that when I can – time and back willing – walking helps clear my head. Shared walking is even better.
Walking has helped me. Getting out into the woods and beyond does offer what author and naturalist Richard Mabey calls the ‘nature cure’. I think emerging oneself in wildlife is helpful but, for me, it’s not quite a panacea. (Sometimes I can’t walk as my lower back won’t let me. Sporadic sciatica, not bad enough for prescription drugs and never for ignoring without the addition of over-the-counter painkillers and some light stretching.)
Hopefully the next forty years, back and health willing, there will be more walks, more green, more lanes to tread, hills to climb and wildlife to meet.