It’s Good for the Sole

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.

Loved my walking boots

My Old Boots

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.

Morinsh Wood

Morinsh Wood

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.

Morinsh Wood Fallen Trees

Fallen Trees so Full of Character

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.

Wet July Morinsh Woods

Best Dressed Walkers

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.

Memorial

Memorial

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.

The Last Leg

The Last Leg

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.

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A Trip Down Memory Lane

Speyside Way Castle GrantI drive around these roads all the time but it’s only when you get from behind the wheel and put on your boots do you really “see” how lucky we are to be surrounded by such beautiful scenery in Speyside.

Today Jennifer and I opted for a short walk along the Speyside Way beginning in Grantown on Spey. A section neither of us have walked despite the fact I pass it weekly at least once and, as I would discover, Jennifer used to live there. The sun was shining, it’s Wednesday and one of us wanted, no needed, to unload a little. What other excuse do we need? Continue reading

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The Whole Six Harbours, Seals and All

Buckie lobster potsOk I confess I am not one for organised activities. By that I mean hoards of people, random people, strangers, corralled into taking part in something. Anything. But way back we often talked of doing the Six Harbour Walks as a training day but never made it. Weather. Diaries. Opposing preferences. “How far?” Each played a part and so the Sahara Trek came and went and we never did it. So here we are, back in the UK climate and missing walking with good company, by the sea. And then the Six Harbour Walks made a timely appearance. Time to pull on my big girl pants and face my nemesis. The organised walk! Continue reading

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Just Around the Corner

Covesea The Moray WayAnd we’re off. Garmouth to Covesea and we opted for a car at each end. I start to think about the bits of the Moray Coast Trail I have completed and realise – I have only got as far as Spey Bay. I did walk to Spey Bay from Fochabers (and back) last spring. I had only just begun my training. It was an unseasonably hot evening and a relatively short time window. The result was a very sore back from a new airflow frame daysack and a pace which resulted in my boots giving me Continue reading

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So What Happens Now?

Which Way NextThis Easter sees me finally handover my fundraising to two charities. I will have raised in excess of £4000 including Gift Aid, with over £2500 going to Moray Women’sAid and the rest to WaterAid. After a year of walking well over a million boot steps, that is over 500 miles, and taking myself well out of my comfort zone by agreeing to walk some of those steps in the Sahara, that challenge is done! Continue reading

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Sahara: Epi(b)logue

Sitting here with my head against the window, music playing through my ear “buds” I feel a sense of something I can’t explain. I knew even before the first step in the Sahara, today would be a deeply emotional one for me. The moment I stepped from the car nearly a week ago and saw Pauline with her fabulous pink hat I knew this was going to be a memorable week. On many levels. The excitement in the car on the way to the airport was more than you could imagine anyone feeling, especially at 4:45am in the morning.  Poor Mr Smith must have thought he’d picked up a school trip by accident.

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Sahara: The Final Steps..

Sahara BootsWow! Well that’s a birthday Claire won’t forget in a hurry. Our lovely Claire was 40 yesterday. 18 miles she had walked over stones and boulders – with her dodgy knees 😉 And then we and the camp had a surprise for her at dinner. Elaine was charged with keeping her occupied while the camp boys dressed the mess tent with balloons, banners and fairy lights. They had even baked a cake and brought a bottle of wine for the occasion. We had all (thankfully) eaten and were just settling into a glass of red to celebrate with a piece of cake when suddenly Bang! The whole mess tent shifts with the wind. Bang! a corner leg is down. “Tent down”. Bang! There goes another. There followed much activity as folk held onto the central pole, held up the sides while Ahmed, Ibrahim “Brian”, Dawoud “David” ran around the outside trying to re-erect poles and make it safe again. We knew the wind had got up, but not to this extent. We had arrived in camp to find them re siting the toilet tent to a more sheltered location. You would need your boots and torch and a ball of string to find it (and your way back) to the tent tonight. I say “toilet tent”. Imagine a plastic pedal bin (it wasn’t but I mistook it for that on Day 1), sat over a hole, inside a makeshift frame covered in green polythene. With said polythene now flapping wildly and horizontally in the breeze I doubt many would bother trying to protect their modesty in there tonight.

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Sahara: The Longest Day

“I wonder if they could just leave me in my sleeping bag and put me over the back of the camel?”.

It was 4:00 am! Last night we had a lovely meal. Pasta and a spicy meat sauce with hand baked flat bread here on camp. The first evening I had really eaten my supper and enjoyed it. Headache gone and ready to enjoy the company. We had a lovely inspiring message from Moray Women’s Aid and then most opened letters/messages of support from family. Then we were given our rise time. Eek! Better get to bed early then. And that was where any thoughts of a good night’s sleep ended. The camels were particularly noisy, the tiring day had snoring from all four corners of the camp. But mainly I was fitful in a way I always am when I know I need to get to sleep and stay asleep when I have to get up early.

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Sahara: Nobody Said It Was Easy

“Morning!”. I woke with a start. What time is it? 5:30am. Gosh I have slept the whole night. I hadn’t even heard Rosie leave in the middle of the night and return to the wrong tent. And we were sleeping literally a foot apart. I had had to excuse myself early after supper last night as my migraine had set in. My head was pounding, I felt feverish and sick. All symptoms also associated with dehydration but I knew it wasn’t that, I was drinking lots and taking on supplements, salts etc. No – lack of sleep had finally taken its toll and so it needed to run its course. I popped a couple of Migraleve kindly given by my fellow trekker Elaine and took to my bed. As I lay with my ear plugs in and my travel pillow pulled up over my ears I must have looked a sight. I could hear the rhythmic sound

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Sahara: A Bucket Load of Tears

Maries Million Boot Steps“Morning!”. Pauline’s greeting each morning never fails to make me smile. It’s 5:30 am and the camp has stirred. A couple of tents with music on, others quietly coming round. I fall into the latter, I like to gently wake, like the dawn turns night into day.  Even the Maroc Nature team seem to rise slowly and quietly, awaiting the first voice from our tent before beginning their morning routine. The mess tent is first to come down and pack away – breakfast in the open and then little by little they dismantle camp and load the train of camels.

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