This book needed to be written, and I’m so glad it was. Belinda Kirk writes in such a clear way and presents her findings with such clarity. This is an absorbing read, and I’ve re-read several chapters a number of times to let the wisdom sink in.
The chapters build on each other helping the reader to gain a real grasp of what the author has to say. I especially appreciated how Kirk shows how spending time outside can help us overcome challenges, develop resilience, learn new life skills and strengthen relationships. Moreover, having an adventurous spirit can give us the skills and wisdom to enhance our own daily lives.
As a keen hiker with a fear of heights and poor sense of direction, I know how spending time in the wilderness and up mountains has helped me become more confident and value perseverance. As such, reading this book has aided me in developing more of an understanding of myself, keen to try new experiences.
This book is more than a guide to the awesome power of adventure – it’s a joyous understanding of life!
During the recent UK heatwave, my mate and I trekked along the Thames Path with Marlow in Berkshire as our start and end points. The usual advice to take three layers with us – t-shirt, jumper and jacket – was ditched as temperatures soared above thirty degrees.
After treapsing through the park in the centre of the town, we reached the start of the trail. We decided to amble along next to the river rather than go along at our usual speed due the barmy conditions. We had enough water, but even with the short distance we’d covered to that point, I could feel myself getting parched.
The river rolled gently along as boats, paddleboarders and the occasional swimmer passed us by. Groups of families and friends settled along the river bank with deckchairs, tents and picnic rugs. I didn’t realise that my home county of Berkshire had its own beach!
We passed a commanding Norman church that stood calm and timeless in front of the gentle water. It just seemed to add an even more serene quality to the day.
Soon, we took a pit-stop at a cafe. Even though we’d only walked about three miles, it felt like we’d done ten because of the heat. We guzzled back cold drinks in record time; however,I was necking liquid from my water bottle a few minutes after leaving the cafe – the rising temperatures were draining us of vital resources fast.
Further down, we crossed over a steep bridge, and found ourselves mesmerised by the views of the river either way. To one side, a leafy forest offered cool respite; on the other, chalky banks rose up to eventually reveal endless farm fields with the Chiltern Hills sat behind them.
We opted for the shady path in front of the trees, but they soon gave way to open fields, and we were baking in the sun once more. We found a leafy tree next to the water’s edge, and dipped our feet in the river. But even in the shade, we found ourselves frying. Reluctantly, we turned back.
We hit the five mile mark, and our water bottles had run dry. We knew the cafe we’d stopped at was only about a mile and a half away, yet our throats were demanding we dropped to our knees and drink from the river. Before we crossed over the bridge, though, we espied a footpath that led to the village of Hurley. After seeking direction, we were raiding the chilled drinks in a local convenience store.
Then we stopped off at the cafe for another drink.
It’s been a good while since I added anything to my blog. 2022 has been an difficult year on a personal front – much has been going on with family and my own health – and I’ve really missed writing here as much as I did before. In fact, I’ve struggled to get much writing done at all in the last few months. Consequently, it’s been a struggle to get back into the habit. Still, I’m reaching old heights slowly, and I’ve enjoyed being back in the writing seat once more.
Hiking has been one hobby that’s kept me going. Walking in nature is the gateway to understanding our own thoughts and feelings. But, at times, I found even the idea of putting my trainers on and heading outdoors for five minutes difficult to comprehend. But, again, I’m slowly getting back into the swing of it.
I’ve spent plenty of time near the River Thames over the past few months. Staying grounded in the present moment and using my senses to appreciate what nature offers me has been rewarding: whether it’s observing fish flowing underneath the water, hearing the call of birds or smelling the sweet aroma of summer flowers, being by the water’s edge has engulfed me in a sense of calm.
Also, I think the need for walking along the Thames is also born out of a need to remain in the flow of life. When things get too much, we need to find a way to escape and ground ourselves again.
So, as life carries on flowing by, I intend to grab more moments of calm. Even amidst the full-on pace of life and what it throws at us, taking even a brief amount of time out is so important.
And I’m looking forward to catching up with you all on WordPress.
This book is based on the questions that British Adventurer Alastair Humphreys asks his guests on his podcast.
At the time of writing, I’m enjoying working my way through each question. I’m finding that it’s a fun way of journalling based around my hiking experiences. Writing in this way helps me to gain a deeper understanding of myself, and to reflect on past achievements and future dreams.
Staying focused on what drives a person is important to making dreams come true, and this book is an encouraging resource for any lover of the outdoors to make those dreams happen. Answering the questions is garunteed to stop procrastination.
I’m looking forward to answering all the questions. I highly recommend this book for any seasoned or newbie lover of the outdoors.
I’m still having to stay close to home as I’m running errands for family members in different households who’ve caught Covid. It’s meant that I’ve had less time to get into the countryside, so I’ve had a new idea as to how I hike for the time being.
The idea is partly inspired by two influences: Alastair Humphreys, who did a hike around the circumference of the M25 in his book ‘Microadventures’; plus, it’s a revamping of the urban hikes I did during the first lockdown.
Recently, I was looking at a map of my hometown, Maidenhead, and worked out I could do circular walks of different lengths. Although these will be mainly urban hikes, it means that I can still be close to family. So far, I’ve created a two mile, four mile and six mile walk.
I did the six mile walk today. The accompanying photos are from that walk.
Then, when I got home, I decided to see how many miles the circumference of Maidenhead would be. I measured that out by using pins and string, and measured out the distance in accordance with the map scale. That totals approximately 11.5 miles. With the almost two miles it takes to get to the edge of town and back that would make a fifteen mile walk, which I’m planning to do sometime before Easter.
On these walks, I try to counter the noise of passing traffic and trains by deliberately seeking out the sights and sounds of nature in gardens or small stretches of woodland.
So, whilst these urban hikes won’t fully immerse me in nature, they’ve given me the creativity and stimulation to keep going in preparation for when I get back out into the countryside.
Living in South East England, I don’t live close to mountains that I’ve come to crave. So, it’s important that I look elsewhere for my adventure fix. I’m lucky to live near the River Thames, and a forty minute train journey from the North Wessex Downs hill range.
But with the demands of everyday life, it sometimes difficult to find the time to go on an adventure day. During the lockdowns, though, I found myself exploring my local area more than ever before. I explored woodlands and pathways that I’d never given much thought to before.
This was all done by simply looking at a map of the outskirts of my hometown. These very local adventures proved to be a lifeline during the pandemic. I was concerned that as life got back to normal that I’d neglect these local places of interest for escapades further afield. But, exploring these areas has become so ingrained in me that I was determined not to let this new hobby go.
Just when I thought that I’d discovered all there was locally, I noticed this new area of green on my map. When I say ‘new area’ what I actually mean is I’d just overlooked it. Less than a mile and a half from my house – and more directly behind a supermarket – is a local nature reserve called Braywick Nature Reserve.
It’s been such a joy to find a new place to unwind, and it’s come with a number of other benefits. The track seems to hold up well after long bouts of rain, so it’ll make an ideal training ground in most weather to prepare for long distance hikes. Hearing the birdsong and the rushing stream is also a quick fix for the enduring sounds of nature that I experience on longer hikes. I can also see how walking here links up to other pathways, so a longer trek can be enjoyed.
So, the next time your short of time or you just fancy doing something nearby home, pull out a local map and see if there’s any new places it could take you too. As well as experiencing a great mini escape, you may find other benefits like I’ve described above.