Hey! I’m back. I know, it’s been a while. I have no excuse, I just couldn’t find (make) time to step away from this crazy place I call my desk and breathe some proper fresh Scottish air – with my boots on.
I even bought myself new boots six weeks ago after my old ones finally requested retirement due to ill health. No amount of hints to Sports Direct about sponsoring my new pair would get me my replacements so I took my pennies off to the shop and bought some. It was an emotional moment. Hell, my old ones had become my buddies. We have walked well over 550 miles together. Seen sun, sea, sand (lots), rain and snow! Jumped rivers together. Climbed a mountain. I am still thinking of ways to preserve them forever. I can’t simply throw them away. Yet here I am with a new pair and so still no motivation to walk. Then at the back end of last week a wee shout goes out across a friends network here in Glenlivet. Anyone fancy a walk? Me, me, me. And so the date was set. Morinsh Wood here we come.
This morning dawned and it was glorious. Gloriously wet that is. The promised rain overnight had been (thankfully nothing like England has seen this last couple of days) and was now abating. That was until we stepped outside the front door and so someone up there decided to start tipping buckets over us. Still we said we were walking and so we were walking.
Katherine, and I were joined by Lesley and her friend Helen. We togged up. Well I say togged up, Helen showed up in a natty pair of slip on ankle boots and a brolly. I hadn’t met Helen before but already think we are going to get on just fab. Ask me again at the end who was most suitably dressed? Lesley was sporting her walking poles and a determination. Nothing too strenuous. just nice and steady, this wasn’t a race. With four of us it was easy enough for everyone to find their own pace. Oh – and I nearly forgot Casey. Katherine’s gorgeous but “I am just so busy” Beagle. Hence you never see her in the photos. As the walkers naturally split she would run double our distance as she ran to the back “hurry up” and back to the front “wait for them”. A little check for rabbits in between. Oh to be a dog in a happy home.
If you haven’t done the Morinsh Wood circuit then it really is a lovely circular walk. It leaves the car park on the B9009 and climbs steadily (either way). That first section is a pull. I realised how unfit I have already become as I struggle to breathe as Lesley wants to know all about the Sahara trek. I have known Lesley for a few years now, yet only today did I discover she has done the Inca trail. She completely recalls the excitement of setting off for the challenge. The “have your rucksacks packed and ready to go” instructions and so many other things too we shared about these experiences. She admits herself she would struggle to do anything like this just now after a period of health issues but she is building herself back up and hopes adventures like these will be back on her bucket list. We talk about health and wading through treacle or being in a fog. I can think of periods where I have sat staring at my screen and seeing just a jumble of words none of which will “go in” and translate to anything I can begin to work with. We talk about about coping strategies and how walking and good company can be just the best tonic.
We stopped only twice to draw breath – and photograph the old fallen tree which is so full of character I feel you could just climb inside its roots amid the “dangly bits” and listen to its tales. The rain is still fair steady. Casey comes back for another check we are still with them. Katherine and Helen are up ahead waiting for us to reach the point where the path turns. Time for another photo stop. And a chance for Casey to take full advantage of a turned back and go exploring. I had a dog like that once. Teal! He was just the best companion, walked to heel beautifully, returned when cast off, totally disinterested in hares or rabbits. But stop to get the camera out or engage in conversation with a passer by and he could almost be heard nonchalantly “whistling” as he sidled away to go do a bit of his own exploring.
We all walk together for a while. I discover Helen originates from a village called Masham in North Yorkshire. For those who don’t know I was in the wastewater industry for all of my “employed” life. And sad but true, but my first recollection of many places in either Yorkshire or North West England will be triggered by some memory of its sewerage system or it’s wastewater treatment facilities. Today it was the turn of Masham! And so we found ourselves discussing the positive impact the EU water framework directive, through tightened standards, has had on the standards of our watercourses and bathing beaches today. Dry topic perhaps (did someone say dry?) but for a wee while I was back talking with passion about things I had long since filed under “never need to know that again”. That was probably the key for Katherine and Lesley to talk something other than human “you know what” ha ha and so they gradually drifted into their own chat.
Then the shift (as often does after I disclose my past career) comes to how on earth did you become an event dresser. And then coincidentally on to hearing a fabulously funny story (or two) about a place Helen used to work at in Perthshire called Forter Castle, a retreat where couples and small wedding parties can celebrate their wedding day in exquisite surroundings. And where the celebrant who once came to conduct the ceremony in their wee chapel, read the vows covered in mud splatters (having had to free their vehicle from mud on the way). Not that funny you say? Well, only to those who could read the Latin writing on the altar cloth which said “Cleanliness is Next to Godliness”. Am I also allowed to mention the chapel was so tiny the washing machine was once discreetly hidden under there too?
A stop at the memorial to the forestry worker (and another wee adventure for “Houdini” Casey) and that was us on our final descent. By the time we reached the car park the rain was heaving down. But we were still laughing and vowed to do it again, soon. And who was best dressed do you think? Well I know I left a very embarrassing puddle on the seat of the car – Helen meanwhile still looked remarkably dry! I rest my case…
“So did anyone clock the time” asks Lesley. Quick check of my phone app…hey what do you mean “this walk isn’t long enough to track and needs to move location”? Cheeky! Time to replace the Fitbit phone app with something more appreciative I think. Because we did move – around 3.5 miles actually. Ok not far at all by some standards but for all of us it was a walk of way more value than steps or speed. It was a coping mechanism for some. A chance to meet new people for others. It was about walking, talking, laughing and good company. Because that’s good for the soul – and for the sole.
If you are struggling with health issues, and you are able to, then walking is just one of the coping mechanisms you might find will help. Walk alone if you like the solitude. If, like me, you prefer company then find a friend. Someone who is happy simply to walk by your side, be your companion. Someone who doesn’t feel the need to speak or advise. Just to be there.
This is me on my first steps now to beginning to build a little distance and get out more so next year I can embark on another walk challenge next spring. The boot steps are still being counted and with every step I would like to raise just a little for SAMH, the Scottish Association for Mental Health. I have a MyDonate page now open and ready to receive your donation. With so many campaigns there is an initiative which suits so many. To donate go to http://onemillionbootsteps.co.uk/donate-to-samh/ . On behalf of the charity, thank you.