I went to Wales the other day and while I was there I went for a longish walk and that's what my column's about this week.
I like going on longish walks. I really do. I think it's because my father always encouraged us to walk when we were children. He'd do things like take us to the Lake District and haul us up mountains on ropes or tell us that we had to walk around a tarn before we were allowed to do something fun like go on a pedalo or colour something in. Walking's consequently in my blood, so now whenever there's the merest hint of a walk, I tend to strap on some trainers, peel on a beanie and get yomping.
Our party, in Wales, consisted of me, two pretty girls and a man who was carrying a laptop and a projector because he had to do a presentation later that day. In fact, that was at the heart of where this particular walk fell down. There are, you may know, two recognised categories of walks. You can either 'walk somewhere' or you can 'walk for fun'. By trying to accommodate the man who needed to get himself and his equipment to a town hall, we compromised our walk. What should have been the type of walk where you merrily go up a hill and end up lashed in a pub turned into the type of logistical nightmare I left London to escape.
We set off from our cottage at the crack of 2pm and used a combination of common sense and gut-feeling to work out which direction to go in. We had driven the approximate route the day before so knew we needed to find a river and follow it and that would get us somewhere near where the man with the laptop and projector needed to go. There was some literature in the cottage about stunning local walks but we couldn't do those as they didn't end up where the conference was held. Nothing specifically stated the walk we were doing was possible, but we soon left the road and found ourselves in the countryside so spirits were high.
After climbing over some walls and through a bad field we arrived at a stream that wasn't big enough to be the river we needed to follow but was still too big to leap across. It wasn't the last time on the walk that we stood with our hands on our hips assessing the situation. I scored this situation 2/10.
Before commencing a wade you need to consider things like depth of water, speed of water and quantity of products made by Apple in knapsack. I tried to appreciate the babbling of the water as the girls took their tights off and the man shortened his straps so his equipment didn't dangle.
The worst thing about this walk was our pig-headed 'as the crow flies' approach to it throughout. We didn't really 'have a map' because people who carry maps these days are a bit weird and looking to prove a point. It's like people who read hard copies of books or have landlines in their houses. If you need a map, check your iPhone; if your iPhone doesn't have 3G because you're in the countryside, listen to iTunes to keep your spirits up. Dreaming of an end to it all.
As the sun set we became weak because we hadn't packed rolls or eaten breakfast. But, because the terrain was flat, we couldn't call mountain rescue or justifiably perish, so we pressed on. Once or twice we would see a Welshman and consider asking for directions. But we knew the answer would be that no route existed and we knew that would make us sad and so we left it. Kept going straight. Ploughing on to the next situation involving stinging nettles or a bull.
Ultimately we retreated from the countryside and completed the final 1.5 miles on a dual carriageway, in single-file and constantly being clipped by wing mirrors.
We dropped our PowerPoint expert off at his destination and retired to a café and boy did that coffee taste good! We'd sure earnt it! One of the girls' legs was cut and my Gazelles were ruined by mud-clods. We sipped the rich Arabica in silence. But a contented silence.