Starting out at the eminently civilised time of 10.30am for a day’s walk, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to assume that, arriving home nine and a half hours later at 8pm, one might expect to have covered a fair old distance.
Of course, there are a number of factors to take into account – terrain, refreshment breaks and – the one that invariably trips me up – distractions along the way.
On Wednesday, for the purposes of a project, I set out to walk from Trent Bridge to Ruddington. Living roughly three miles to the west of Nottingham city centre as I do, and penurious as I am, there was also the small matter of walking the outward stretch to Trent Bridge and the homeward leg from Ruddington.
A rough approximation of the whole route on Google Maps indicates a total distance of just under seventeen miles and a walking time of just over five and a half hours, which leaves around four hours for breaks, detours, dilly-dallying and general faffing around (the latter two of which, as any walking companion of mine will testify, I tend to do rather a lot of).
I find it virtually impossible to walk for any distance without stopping here, there and pretty much everywhere to appreciate the interesting details of the world around me. What makes it even more difficult to refrain from doing this is the fact that so many of my walks take place in urban areas. It’s only when moving through a more-or-less featureless natural landcape that I can get up anything remotely approaching a head of steam.
A classic example of this difficulty came on the final leg of Wednesday’s walk, from Ruddington to Beeston.
Referring to my map, and pausing only briefly to think about how useful some sort of ferry across the Trent in the vicinity of Beeston Weir would be (said idea having previously been added to my list of ‘Commercial projects to embark upon when I am rich’), I had planned to reach Clifton Bridge predominantly by way of the Clifton and Silverdale estates.
That plan began to unravel just before Clifton, when I encountered the Fairham Bridge, beneath which flows the Fairham Brook.
With the knowledge that the Fairham Brook’s confluence with the Trent was somewhere near Clifton Bridge, I needed no further encouragement than the public footpath sign that pointed along the riverbank in the direction that I needed to go.
While following the course of a river, the wanderer is quickly reminded that rivers tend to meander somewhat. Add to this my mildly obsessive-compulsive tendencies – which meant in this instance that, when the Fairham Brook passed to one side of a playing field, I still felt it necessary to follow its every curve rather than walking straight ahead to rejoin it at the opposite end of the field – and it doesn’t take long to realise why I don’t like to give myself a specific time limit in which to complete a walk.
This has inevitably led to some fairly hair-raising experiences after the light has faded at the end of the day, but no matter.
A walk should have room to breathe.