(Frankly, I think that I'd rather talk the talk.)
Some of you are aware that I've been training for the Moonwalk for a couple of months now. Back in the fall, my walking partner suggested that we commit ourselves to this physical challenge -- and, oh well, it seemed like a good idea at the time. Several friends of mine have had breast cancer, and one dear friend recently died from it. So despite the fact that I tend to think of 4 or 5 miles as plenty of exercise, I had a blithe belief that I was going to be able to walk 26.2 miles for Breast Cancer Research. I didn't really stop to add up how many hours of walking that actually is . . . or how many hours I would have to walk before I was ready to take on the big event.
Well, friends, today I walked for FIVE HOURS . . . and I was reminded, once again, why I have a moderate disposition when it comes to pretty much anything.
One hour of exercise per day is a good thing: it gives you a shot of endorphins, it tones your body and mind, and it enables some excesses when it comes to baked goods. Two hours of walking is fine; three is okay; at four, I start getting weary; but after five hours I am sore in all kinds of places, I need to go to the bathroom, my bottle of water is only a distant memory, and I am very, very bored of walking. Even if the scenery is beautiful -- and believe me, we had some beautiful scenery -- I grow immune to its charms. Five hours of anything is just too much. If you can do anything for five hours, and not get a little fretful, please let me know.
Luckily, I have a good walking partner -- and not only does this person understand that she has to be firm with me, and listen to a fair amount of whining from my corner, but as an extra bit of cajolery, she also plans interesting routes for us to walk. Today, we walked along the Ridgeway -- more than 80 miles of "ancient chalk ridge," which is thought to be the oldest "road" in Great Britain. By "road," think chalky, rocky path -- most of which seems to be going uphill, although I know that's an impossibility. There is an "upside" to walking uphill, though, and in this case it is a stunning view of great yellow and green swathes of Oxfordshire countryside. The whole country looks like a living, blooming quilt. At the highest point, we visited the ancient ruins of Uffington Castle -- not much to look at now, but rather awe-inspiring to think how long it has stood in that place. As with many ancient places, a strong, chilling breeze seemed to blow there . . . but perhaps it was just that high plateau, catching the winds.
In all of those hours of walking, we saw only three other humans -- but lots and lots of wildlife. We skirted the edges of Lambourn, serious horse country, and from our perch we could see several pairs of horses at a full gallop. We crossed through Sheepdrove Organic Farm (check out the interactive farm map) -- and saw hundreds of what must be the most contented sheep on the planet. These sheep were the very definition of fat and happy; all of them either lounging or lazily munching on the soft, emerald-green grass. We walked down woodland paths, and byways for horses and cattle, and grassy tracks that the wild flowers and cow parsley were doing their best to reclaim. We walked and walked, for once not having to dodge cars and transit vans which are our usual companions of the road. (It was a little hard on the ankles, though.)
As far as the eye can see, for miles and miles, there is nothing but carefully tended farmland and the protected downland. It is truly stirring to think how little the land has altered in the centuries, and that the ancient Saxons had trod the same paths -- although not with the same purpose!
It was, indeed, a beautiful walk . . . and I would be happy to do it again. However, on the next occasion I will limit the walk to 5 or so miles -- and make sure that my route deadends at that nice pub in East Hendred.