Start Walking – Keep Walking!

Ariège, Aude, Blogging challenges, France, Laroque d'Olmes, Nidderdale, North Yorkshire, Wharfedale, Yorkshire Dales

I’ve only been a walker – a proper walker, yomping over moor and mountain, hill and dale – for the last fifteen years or so. It happened when we went to live in France. What better way to discover the secret paths of the Pyrenees, and get to know our French neighbours, and improve our French too, than join the local walking group?

So we did. At first it was les Randos de’Aubo in nearby Mirepoix. We explored the foothills and higher slopes of the Pyrenees, we investigated the nearby Aude, and enjoyed the fellowship of scouting new paths together. What I remember most was the achievement of climbing, climbing, often through seven or eight hundred metres before lunch, while constantly rewarded by mountain views, colourful plant life and changing vistas. Because of these calorie-busting achievements, we might walk as few at five or six miles. But it was harder – much harder – than walking ten to twelve miles round here, and I know I couldn’t do it now. But after the effort, there was a shared picnic lunch with a splendid view thrown in, a downhill walk back to base, and a convivial drink, in whatever bar was to hand near the end of our walk.

On Thursdays I went walking with a smaller group – mainly women – who’d got to know each other either through walking or singing together – I ticked both boxes.

Then we were among the founders of the walking group that developed in our own community, Laroque d’Olmes. We had the confidence by then to offer to reconnoitre and lead walks ourselves. And this group had even better picnic ideas than the last one. Marcel, our local butcher brought sausage to share, as did a local amateur charcuterie enthusiast Michel. Sylvie’s daughter was a sheep farmer, so she’d bring along sheep’s cheese. Someone brought a few baguettes, Yvette and I always had homemade cake. Jean-Charles had a bottomless bottle of wine in his rucksack. And everyone brought sugar lumps. Sugar lumps? Well, yes. Someone or other would bring a bottle of grandfather’s home-made digestif, heavy on alcohol and locally harvested fruit, and would dribble just a few drops of it onto your sugar lump for you to finish off your feast in style. And we would sit for an hour or more, chatting and relaxing before continuing our hike. I miss those moments as much as I miss the countryside and mountain views we shared together.

Now we’re in our local walking group here in Yorkshire. Again, we wanted to discover Yorkshire better by walking its footpaths. At midday, we eat our own pack of sandwiches and that’s that. But the comradeship is as good as it was in France.

Since lockdown, I’ve appreciated the pleasures of walking alone. Undistracted by companions, I notice the sounds around me – the calling birds, the running water, the sighing wind, and observe more closely the changing seasons. While I’ll always enjoy a walk with a friend, I suspect that my love of solitary walking will continue.

It was Amy who invited us to Keep Walking! for this week’s Lens-Artists’ Photo Challenge #143. Thanks for this opportunity to indulge in a spot of nostalgia, Amy.

59 thoughts on “Start Walking – Keep Walking!

  1. Oh, marvellous! I miss the ability to walk….the sights and smells of the countryside…….but I just have to get on without it…. I shan’t do this week’s Lens Artists

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  2. The range of seasons, and terraines truly shows the wonder of walking…
    As you say, that total immersion in nature that comes with the regular pace and being out in the open.
    How lucky we are to be able to walk and enjoy this simple, but hugely beneficial pleasure – mentally as well as physically.
    Thank you for sharing your beautiful pictures and wonderful memories with us!

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      1. Yes, it’s been a disappointing summer. But a walk always makes things better – inside as well as out! Summer’s a bit busy for walking for me, and making time for it is one aspect of winter I’m looking forward to! x

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  3. You are most definitely a walker! Or should that be a rambler? Love the photos of both home and away, the love you have for France and those amazing picnics shines through your words. Perhaps you should start up similar picnic ideas with your local group? Shared food is always the best.

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    1. Not rambler, not me. It makes me feel ancient. I’ve tried and tried to introduce the shared lunch. People are happy to accept a home made flapjack, but never reciprocate 😦

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      1. Such a shame, I can imagine the delights of shared pork pies, slices of quiche, wensleydale cheese, some pickled onions and crusty bread. I think I must be in need of a ploughman’s lunch!

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  4. Those European vistas are magic. I feel famished just looking at them, Margaret. Your Yorkshire landscape is also very impressive. I love solitary walks too. When I walk with my TL, he always points out some small, fast moving creature, and I most always am not quick enough to spot it which is quite disheartening.

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  5. You’re far more of a walker than I’ve ever been, and certainly more than I’m able to be nowadays! I enjoyed all of your post but two things in particular leapt out at me. Firstly that stunning photo you’ve captioned as the ‘other end of the same day’ – that deserves to be printed, framed and hung on a wall! Secondly the sugar lumps soaked in booze, which brought back memories of my first visit to France as a young teenager, on the school French exchange. When the adults had a digestif of Kirsch at the end of a big family gathering (if I remember rightly, at the house of my exchange pupil’s adult sister), we teens were allowed a couple of sugar lumps soaked in the stuff. I loved it, although I suspect I would find it too sweet now.

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  6. Fantastic photos Margaret. I much prefer lone walks as I tend to walk very quickly, although as I get older I stop to “admire the view” more often, and for longer! I haven’t been walking since March, due to health reasons, but hope to be starting regular walks again soon. It’s been a long break!

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    1. Oh, I hope you get back to it soon. You might accept me as a walking companion as I tend to walk quickly too – and admire the view. I was a lone-walk refuser for a while, as a friend in a walking group in France tripped over a tree-root and it was an air-ambulance jobbie. She would have been in a mess if alone as there was no phone signal at the site of the incident. But I choose my routes with care.

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  7. .. the last fifteen years or so, pretty serious hiking and walking, Mrgaret. Appreciate you taking time to share your memories and beautiful photos of your walking journey. The third image is breathtaking! I envy your group picnic while you could enjoy countryside and mountain views. 🙂 Thank you for taking us there!

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  8. Oh Margaret – what breathtaking views and what great walks and what fantastic company! I can really understand your nostalgia looking back! I can vividly imagine your picnics and the vistas – you describe them so well. I cannot understand why the concept doesn’t work now? I once joined a walking group on the Azores, it was a walking company organizing the whole week. And what fun we had! People from Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark. There is a certain satisfactory end of the day when you walk in company with people you like. Otherwise I am a loner. Like you say, you get used to walking alone. I have learned the feeling and whole experience is different.
    Keep walking!

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    1. Will do, Ann Christine. There are pleasures to be had in walking in good company and alone – just off to do the former in about half an hour. But it won’t be an international group – none the worse for that, I guess.

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  9. Stunning photos, Margaret! What a glorious part of the world are the Pyrenees. Transfixed by that third shot. Not so good at the heights but I love the camaraderie of walking in a group. I daren’t be so adventurous on my own, but it is a special feeling to be alone with nature.

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  10. Glorious photos. We noticed many more wild flowers this time and many villages, including A-V declared that they are
    pesticide free. Got to be a good thing!

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    1. Indeed. Is the camp site at AV still going? It prided itself on being an orchid sanctuary and we went on a tour once to be shown them. It was a wonderful haven.

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  11. Wonderful walk through your hiking images here in France, there are so many places to discover and I love what hiking groups offer, having done all the research and planning and organisation so that an even larger group of people can benefit.
    And then yes, to the solitary nature walk, the connection to all the elements and the senses, that truly is sublime and healing. Thanks for sharing all of this. Wonderful.

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    1. I have had some wonderful walking experiences, particularly in France. But a walk recently which turned out to have twenty (perfectly nice) people on it reminded me of why I now prefer solitary walks.

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  12. Margaret, what great feats of walking and what great rewards. Your experience sounds so fulfilling in so many ways. I braved walking with a group once when I was in my early 20s, and it was way more than I was ready to tackle. We have some clubs here in Prescott, and you inspire me to give them a try.

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    1. They definitely have their place in introducing you to places you might not otherwise discover, and – yes – in making new friendships. But solitary walks are definitely more rewarding.

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  13. You must be sorely missed by your French community – what fabulous walks.

    Have to admit I do not like walking in groups because of the noise – nature tends to hide when there are lots of people and I just love connecting with nature. So Robert and I tend to just walk together – plus most people can’t cope with our constant stopping for birds and flowers!!

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    1. My walks with groups, especially in France brought rewards I’d probably never have had in any other way (yomping up a mountain alone? No thanks!). But these days, I prefer my own company, or perhaps that of just one good friend or so.

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  14. Gorgeous photos to bring your memories to life and an interesting study in contrasts – the different landscapes and the different food cultures between France and Yorkshire. Lovely to walk alone when safety permits. When walking with others I keep regretting all the things I can’t stop for!

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  15. I read this when it landed in my email. I loved it and I promised I’d come back to comment…. so here I am. Walking has been incredibly helpful these past eighteen months. Moving regardless of the season has been a boost and an activity i look forward to doing. I admit in the last few days of August I was not very motivated to get out and walk because of the heat and humidity. Thank you for the encouragement to put on my walking boots and move. Peace.

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    1. Yes, it’s hard to walk purposefully when it’s hot and humid. One thing to be grateful for as the days cool down. We’ll both get up and move soon!

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  16. Margaret, I REALLY enjoyed this walk or rather those walks, marches, wanderings, explorations…. and all the ideas, findings, the sounds, fun, solitude, food & drinks, the sun, fog, darkness. All of it. But I am NO walker; very much to the displeasure of HH, but there we go! Thanks for this particularly enjoyable sequence.

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