7/10/2018 For a number of years I have used walking as a therapy without really being conscious of what I was doing. I knew that it relieved stress, helped me solve problems and generate ideas, but I wasn’t aware that on occasions when I was at a loss as to how to cope with what I was feeling, particularly after my mother’s death in 2010, instinctually I turned to walking.
Early last year, something I read at the difficult start of a holiday on the Isle of Wight made me begin to pay attention to the physical, psychological and emotional effects walking had on me. Before the end of my holiday I had concluded that, as well as being a physical relief, it was one of the most effective remedies for emotional and psychological pain I have yet encountered1.
Of course, walking is not just an autumn gift. Thankfully it is a year-round one. But this specific walk – from St Ives to Penzance along the South West Coast Path – has been a particular gift to me, now, in autumn.
St Mary’s, Ashby
Indoor temperature: 18.1˚C, humidity: 56%
I reached the keyholder of Ashby church on my first attempt, and arranged a visit for 11am the following morning. I turned off the road down a dusty farm track, which – if it weren’t for the car I was travelling in – might have looked exactly the same when the church was first built. I saw the octagonal tower of the church hiding behind a bed of nettles and a hedge just beyond a crossroads in the tracks, which I later read was a medieval road junction1.
16/2/2018 Shingle Street is the other place in Suffolk that I prefer in winter. Like Staverton Thicks, I first visited in December, on a misty and mysterious afternoon. This winter I took my Christmas visitors there for a Boxing Day walk before our picnic in the woods.
It is a remote, wild and deserted-feeling place, suited to the cold, wind, mist and lack of human activity in winter. It is also one of the few places I have found in Suffolk where, temperature aside, change is barely seasonal. A few colonies of flowering coastal plants live on the stable area of shingle near the Coastguard Cottages, but otherwise change happens on a daily, weekly and monthly basis, according to the tides and winds rather than the tilt of the earth.
7th February I have learned two things today. First, that never having had any historical personal bond with the sea or coast, they have become part of me. Second, that one can walk off pain, as one can walk off calories. Perhaps not in quite such a calculable fashion, but walk for a day and the burden of pain at the end of it is noticeably less than it was at the start. I can almost physically feel it lessen with every step that I take.
10/9/2016 I think I should start making more decisions based on location. A first meeting with an accountant in Knodishall, near Aldeburgh, was not, shall we say, top of my list of things to get excited about. However, it did have the advantage of giving me a perfect excuse for a day, or at least afternoon, out on the coast. I was exceptionally lucky: the promised warm, sunny day turned out to be a gloriously hot one, and after surviving the dull pain of an only-just-comprehensible discussion about tax returns in an office with no opening windows (but far better views at least than the average office), I headed to Dunwich Heath with half a hope of catching the heather still in flower. I feared I might be too late, but I need not have worried. It was probably just past its best but still more than good enough for me.
14/6/2016 During my ‘book journeys’, I had now come across three references to an apple tree buried in the shingle beach near Aldeburgh. The origin of this tree is unknown but suspected of being the result of a fisherman’s picnic lunch. This, along with the fact I had never seen Maggi Hambling’s sculpture, ‘Scallop’, apparently not far away from this tree, was ample excuse to set out for Aldeburgh on an excursion – despite the forecast of heavy downpours.