Andy Goldsworthy

Andy Goldsworthy is an artist who has been working with land based, site specific works in natural and urban areas.  He has created some really lovely works using leaves in woodland settings, collecting leaves of similar colours and placing them together to highlight and accent certain features of the landscape around him.  Two of my favorite images are shown below

(images from google image search)

I really love the yellow leaves placed around the base of the tree, there is something magical in this, like the ground where it meets the tree is alive and glowing.  And the leaves placed so precisely in the water make for a very striking image.

If you are out in the woods with children, you could collect leaves and other items from the ground and create patterns with them, leaving them behind for others to find.

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Poems and Stories

I love reading poems and stories about the landscape and have decided to add some of my favorites to this blog around the third full week of the month (each month!).  Today I’m sharing with you a poem by Robert Frost that was published way back in 1915 that I think is really beautiful and has meaning in today’s more modern world.  I first found this poem on the National Woodland Trust’s Facebook Page

The Road Not Taken

Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

 And sorry I could not travel both

 And be one traveler, long I stood

 And looked down one as far as I could

 To where it bent in the undergrowth;

 Then took the other, as just as fair

 And having perhaps the better claim,

 Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

 Though as for that the passing there

 Had worn them really about the same,

 And both that morning equally lay

 In leaves no step had trodden black.

 Oh, I kept the first for another day!

 Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

 I doubted if I should ever come back.

 I shall be telling this with a sigh

 Somewhere ages and ages hence:

 Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —

I took the one less traveled by,

 And that has made all the difference.

To me this poem is about making, or not making decisions, trying to see where the path will take you depending on your choice, future planning and your own personal journey (whether it be spiritual, self improvement or educational or any other kind of personal journey).  It talks of looking at and comparing paths, the first being worn and well trodden and the other being grassy and green, less worn, and in the end the writer chooses the road less traveled, to me this means following or making your own journey, not following in anyone’s footsteps and choosing your own path and I really like that meaning.

Of course, you could look at the poem as being written by someone who is weighing up which path to choose for the better adventure, or just as a person out for a walk and pondering the sights that confront him.

Whatever way you look at it, the poem that Frost wrote is still a beautiful piece.

What is your favorite poem about walking?

Next month’s poem or story piece will be published on 16th February, so come back then for the next work I share!

Summer Walks Throwback Part 1 – Port Eynon

In the summer my partner and I have a few weeks off from work on annual leave, we pack the camper and head off toward the coast for a few days packed with exploring, walking and beach combing!  This year was no exception!  In our first week off I had booked us to stay at a campsite called Carreglwyd sited in the Gower, South Wales and a stones throw away from the beach of Port Eynon.  We used this campsite as a base and explored the area’s coastal paths each day.  In the evening we consulted the map (OS Explorer series) and decided where we would like to go.  We almost always ended our walks in the town of Port Eynon where there was a pub – The Ship, which not only served some lovely food but was also dog friendly, where we would quench our thirst with a lovely pint, a bite to eat and a chat before heading back to my van!

Coastal areas have always interested me and captured my imagination.  I love how there are so many different terrains to explore, from sandy beaches to rocky coastal paths, green pasture land and woods.  I always imagine what they would have been like in times gone by and I’m always on the look out for treasures of some kind!

Here are a few photos from the walks we did.

 

And finally, before I go, did I hit my 10,000 steps target yesterday?

 

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I didn’t… I went shopping in the day with my partner and did some housework.  Roxy was really tired from playing with Rolo the day before so only wanted a short walk so we had a rest day.

Awesome Autumn Walks

Today I am going to share with you some awesome walks that you can do in Autumn that really showcase what the season is about…. The change in colors of the leaves on the trees, the crisp freshness of the air and the mist that clings to the valleys…

Arboretums are one of the best for viewing the change in seasons and there are quite a few dotted around the UK.  An arboretum is a collection of lots of different types of trees, which as autumn approaches the trees come alive with a riot of colors.  Wrap up warm and head to one of these below!

Local parks are good for seeing in the change in season, with grassy areas and tree lined walkways, there is a lovely contrast between the rich bright autumnal tones of the leaves and the fresh green of the grass.  Why not head out for a picnic at one close by and have a look around the walkways?

Reservoirs and lakes are another good place to visit, especially on cold, misty, bright mornings during autumn.  The water can enhance the quality of the views with its cool, calm reflective nature.  How about packing a thermos of tea and your camera when heading out to visit one?

Woodland or wooded areas are lovely to walk around at this time of the year and you can kick and crunch through the fallen leaves along your walk.  Why not visit the woodland trust website and see what woodland areas are close by that you can explore?

And lastly, yesterdays stats…did I hit my goal of 10,000 steps for the day?

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I did!  I headed out during my lunch break and went for a walk around the estate I work on and collected some conkers on the way!  🙂

Useful Websites for Walkers

This post follows on from the Useful Apps for Walkers blog that I posted on Tuesday. Just like apps and how useful they can be, I am going to share some sites that I have found useful in planning my walks.

The beauty of websites is that they can run on your computer at home and assist you with future walking route planning, research into routes or help you to discover new places to explore. They can inspire you at any time of the day or night and you can do all of this from the comfort of your own home! The other good thing is that they run on your mobile too (providing you have a signal and internet capabilities) so they can be used wherever you are!

The first site that I have found to be really useful is the NHS 10,000 Step Challenge site. This site has been really useful as it gives a lot of information about walking and getting fit, how to start and what kind of things you should consider.  This site was one of my first poets of call when I signed up to do the Walk All Over Cancer, 10,000 steps a day challenge and is one I keep going back to.

Ramblers is a useful site for anyone and everyone.

The Ordinance Survey website is one of my favourite places to visit when I have decided on a walking destination in a new area. Their site  hElla you choose the right map for the area you are visiting by finding the correct map based on a postcode or area search which you can then purchase online.  It also has an area for you to explore maps online and get an overall view of the selected area OS style.  There are other really useful things to discover in this site, like old maps of the area, which, if you are interested in history or fancy looking at what your town or area used to be like is worth checking out!

I stumbled upon Plotaroute.com by accident when I was searching for a route planner that I could use to work out walking route distances and timings for walks.  This site is really easy to use and you can use it to plot walking, cycling and driving routes.  You can either put in start and finish destinations and see where the program will take you or you can choose your start point and move it along to your destination going your own route.  I found this the most easy route planner as you can easily select pathways and other “off road” trails where some planners will only let you plan via roads.

Walk to the moon .  If you have been following me since the beginning of my step challenge for Cancer Reseaech UK you will have heard me talk about Walk To The Moon in one of my blog posts.  Walk to the moon is a really useful resource for converting more static exercises (or housework) into steps.  I used this when I fell short of my total steps one day but had done over an hours housework and wanted to know what the equivalent work out would have been in steps.  My old activity tracker would work out some of these conversions for me but my new tracker doesn’t.  This is a useful tool for me as I like to see what each activity equals step wise and stops me feeling so bad for not hitting my target steps but, it’s not something I want to use on a day to day basis to boost my step count as I feel that steps and other activity should be measured individually and not as a whole (and it feels a bit like cheating on the step count front).

Woodland Trust is the final site that as a walker I find really useful. I spend a lot of time walking through woodland and this site can help you to find new routes or woodland to go walking in.  The site also gives information about the types of trees you may encounter on your walks along with a whole host of other information.  I have discovered that there are a few woodlands not far from me that I never knew existed and are now on my list of walks to explore!!!

I hope this list proves useful for you and that you find it interesting and a good starting point!  There are lots and lots of different sites all dedicated to walking and resources for walkers so if you know of any others that may be useful, pop them into the comments section!

Now, did I hit 10,000 steps yesterday?

IMG_8473.PNGI did!!! I went for a walk at lunch time at work and then in the evening I took Roxy out for a walk!

Frequently Asked Questions

Today on my blog I’m going to be answering a few questions that frequently get asked of me when I say that I go walking!  Hold on tight!!!!

How do you motivate yourself?  

I think my motivation stems from several things – curiosity or Fear of Missing Out, needing to walk the dog, routine and wanting to hit my personal targets.

I like to get out and see what I can find to photograph (one of my hobbies) and I like the idea of heading out every day to see what is about, if I don’t go out I always feel that maybe I will have missed a great shot or something I can use as inspiration in making images.

Roxy, my dog, always enjoys a good walk and I find that once we have been out both she and I are calmer, its as if the walk has cleansed us of our day, she doesn’t mind where we go and will accompany me on all types of walk, its good exercise for her and also for me.  When we have been out I find that she sleeps better and is much more calm and easy to be around!

I have a routine where I get home from work, get changed into my walking gear, put the lead on the dog and head out for a walk before coming home and having food and preparing for the next day.  When I have not been out on a walk, or even if we have been out on a shorter walk, or changed my routine around, it feels weird, like something is missing and that feeling stays with me fort eh rest of the day.

I set personal targets each day, whether it is to do 10,000 steps or walk for an hour, cover 5km walking, I like to reach, if not beat, these daily targets.

All of this helps to motivate me into getting out and about daily.

What do you carry with you?

I carry with me, on each walk, my house keys – so I can get back into the house after a walk, a torch – only a small one, but it helps if I want to light something up to photograph or if I get lost and it gets dark or even if the mist comes down off the hills and makes it hard to be seen, it has a handy clip on it which I will attach to the dogs harness or a zipper on my coat.  I always carry my mobile with me, not just to make contact with anyone if I needed to, but it has apps on it to help me find where I am (Map My Run, a sat nav and a map thing from Google), it is also my primary device for taking photos on.  I sometimes carry a camera with me, if I have seen something that I know will be there the following day, which my phone hasn’t captured properly, I will take my DSLR with me and I always carry dog poop bags – not only for clearing up after Roxy, but they are handy to put things (I have used them several times to wrap my mobile in when it has started to rain, just to protect it…), and sometimes I carry a small pad of paper and a pen or pencil to sketch things out or write down something that might be useful for artworks.

Do you always do the same routes or do you vary it?

I don’t always follow the same routes, I have a few tried and tested routes that are my fall back routes, ones that I love and know that I can find things to look at and see, ones that Roxy enjoys and that are suitable whatever the weather.  I do like to explore and have routes that have other paths leading off from them which I will go off and see where they take me from time to time.  I think, if I had more time on a day to day basis then I would probably go off exploring a lot more.  Sometimes, for variety, I will walk a different way around the route or vary it in some small way, like walking past the woods and along the cycle track a bit more before doubling back and then entering the woods, or walking up to where I exit the woods and doing the trail in reverse of what I would normally walk it, or follow a different path through the woods that I know comes out further along.  Sometimes its little tweaks in where Im walking that offer the biggest rewards, like finding hidden meadows or open areas in the woods, seats made out of fallen trees or a view that I had never seen before.  I have even come across ruins of houses that I didn’t even know were there before.

If you do take different routes how do you find out about them?

A lot of different routes I find are happened upon by accident or curiosity.  I may have seen a path and one day decide to follow it and see where it goes or I will look online at maps of the area and see if there are paths I could walk.  I have found paths and trails by getting lost and using intuition (and a mapping app!) to find my way again, and I also use research, whether its from OS maps or local group pages on line, looking and being interested in the area can reveal a lot of information!

What footwear would you recommend?

I would recommend a pair of comfortable boots or trainers.  In the summer you can probably get away with wearing trainers so long as the terrain you are on is not wet or boggy – there is nothing worse than wet feet!!!  I tend to walk in either a pair of Vibram Hi Tec walking boots that are high topped to protect my ankles or I walk in a pair of Oxygen boots, both are sturdy, comfortable, waterproof and offer protection for the foot and ankle, allow for ease of foot placement and grip the surface of the land to prevent slipping.

Why are you walking?

I am currently walking to raise money for Cancer Research in their Walk All Over Cancer, 10’000 Steps A Day (For September) Challenge.  I decided to take part in this challenge in order to support research into cancer treatments and also to challenge myself.  I like walking and tend to walk daily, 10,000 steps is the recommended amount we should be moving each day, and I was aware that I was not hitting this quota, so decided to combine my love of walking with hitting 10,000 steps a day while raising money for such a good cause.

Do you like rambling or are your walks more about training / exercise?

I really like my rambles and exploring the landscape around me, however I was aware that I was not fulfilling the recommended 10,000 steps a day as I work a mainly sedentary job so for me it has now turned into exercise as well as still being enjoyable.

How did you get started?

I started off running a while ago but had problems with my knee joint, I didn’t take Roxy out running with me as I would run in the local park after work then go home and walk her.  After my knee became bad I decided to switch to a lower impact exercise and took up walking, it made sense as it meant that I could still exercise and take the dog out every night but for longer periods of time.

Where has your favourite walk been and why?

I have walked so many beautiful places that it is hard to decide which has been my favourite walk! West Wales and the Gower in August have been some of  the best from the perspective that they were totally new areas for me to walk in.  There is a lovely walk from Abereiddy to Porthgain in West Wales, and several routes to get there and back which have some stunning scenery and there is a lovely walk in Oxwich which goes from the cliffs, down through a wooded path to the beach.  From Oxwich beach, if the tide is right out you can walk to Three Cliffs Bay then return to Oxwich over the clifftop.  Locally, I love my walk through Branches Fork Meadow, its a treat for all the senses, so much to see, hear, smell and touch!  There are lots of textures which I love, the bark on the trees, moss, leaves, all sorts!

Where would you like to go walking?

I’d love to go walking in the Forest of Dean or in the Brecon mountains!  I have done walks there before on outward bounds trips when I was in school and remember loving them but cant remember why!  I don’t remember the walks at all either so it would be nice to familiarise, and remind myself of them!

Do you play music while you walk and if so what do you listen too?

I don’t listen to music on my walks as I like to immerse myself fully in nature and listen to the sounds around me as I find it relaxes me and helps me to unwind after work.  I also like to be aware of any other noises around me, for personal safety it is best to always be aware of your surroundings, you can hear if anyone is approaching and prepare yourself with how to deal with it, whether its a jogger or cyclist coming up behind you or something worse, you can be prepared to act. (My blog post Personal Safety talks about this topic.)

And now to share yesterdays stats with you all…Did I hit my target?

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I didn’t 😦  I was travelling home from the show on sunday so didnt hit my target for this day.  The website for the Walk All Over Cancer fundraiser says “Don’t fret if you have an off day. You could always make the steps up on a nice weekend walk with the family – or just put in a bit of extra effort and make up the numbers across the next week.” which I will definitely be doing!

I am aiming to walk 10,000 steps a day for the whole of september in order to raise money for Cancer Research, if you would like to sponsor me or donate, you can visit my Just Giving page where a few clicks will see your donation added to the cause.

Things To Look For On Walks

I love looking for things when I am on walks, the other day I noticed that there were mushrooms starting to grow in amongst the leaf debris, the conditions are just right for them to start growing – warm and damp.  Once I had seen one I set out to find others and was amazed at the different types that I spotted along the way.

There are lots of things to look out for on walks and spotting them can depend on where you are walking and the terrain type.  In woods you can look out for mosses and lichen, different types of trees, streams, wildlife and different flora and fauna.  You can see how many types of bird song you can hear or see what kind of things you can smell – the woods where I walk have a really lovely pine, menthol scent whereas other areas smell of fallen leaves.  You can spot where the sunlight comes through the trees and how it lights up certain areas of ground.

At the beach you can see how many types of shell you can spot, hunt for sea glass, watch how the light bounces off the sea, investigate rock pools (but be careful when climbing!), see what insects you can spot, what sort of sea life there is around you, the difference in colour between different sea weeds, smell the sea, see if you can spot any boats on the sea.

In grassy areas you can try and identify different kinds of grasses, look for bugs, listen to the wind blowing through the hedgerows, see how many different kinds of flowers you can see, spot any birds nesting in the hedges or picking along the ground at food, watch the clouds floating by above you, breathe in the fresh air.

There is so much you can do outdoors on your walks to make even the most mundane walk more interesting.  Remember to follow the rules of the Countryside and remember “Take Nothing but Pictures, Leave Nothing but Footprints, Kill Nothing but Time.”

 And now for yesterdays stats… did I hit my target?

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I did!  🙂

I am aiming to walk 10,000 steps a day for the whole of september, thats a total of 300,000 in a month, in order to raise money for Cancer Research, if you would like to sponsor me or donate, you can visit my Just Giving page where a few clicks will see your donation added to the cause.

Walking Route – Cycle Track

The cycle track is one of my go to walks whatever the weather.  I love that the path is smooth and tarmaced and you can walk for hours through lovely wooded areas, see streams and wildlife, flowers and birds.  The walk is fairly easy, on a slight incline (so slight I never noticed until I looked at the stats on my Map My Run app, though the website http://www.sustrans.org.uk/ncn/map/route/pontypool-blaenavon-cycle-route says the climb is “steady” and it “rises up 200feet to Blaenavon) and has places on the way to stop and rest if you wanted to.

The cycle track is a hive of activity, most days there are poeple walking their dogs, cycling or even horses being ridden up and down.  In the past the cycle track had a different life, it used to be a railway linking Pontypool to Blaenavon.  You can see remnants of its past life in the bridges you pass under, old station stops you pass through, buildings that have been re-purposed and the run off streams running beside the path.

I join the cycle track in Wainfelin, just down from the ambulance station, follow the track past the Little Crown and the steps for Branches Fork Meadow, and along to Pentrepiod, past old railway buildings that have been turned into a kind of animal holding area and along to Abersychan before turning around and heading back.  This walk is usually between 8 and 10km for me.  I plan on walking further, up to Blaenavon, one day soon.

I shall share some of my photos of this walk later in the week but right now I’m going to share yesterdays stats with you all…

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If you would like to sponsor me in my challenge of 10,000 steps a day (or Walk All Over Cancer) where I am raising money for Cancer Research, please visit my Just Giving page where a few simple steps will see your donation added to the charity!

 

Personal Safety When Walking

Personal safety when you are out and about is crucial.  You never know what might happen and putting some rules in place, as well as considering a “Plan B” is really worth thinking about.  I have several things in place to help me stay safe when out and I’m going to share them with you.

  1. Always tell someone where you are going, where you plan on walking and how long you think you will be out for -send someone a text or speak to someone and let them know.  If you don’t return home in time, run into trouble, get lost or anything happens to you, someone will know and can raise the alarm, come looking for you or send help.  Likewise, always let that person know when you arrive back and that you are ok, you don’t want someone worrying unnecessarily.
  2. Make sure your phone has enough charge, you may need it to call someone for help or use it to get out of difficulty.
  3. Have a sat-nav system downloaded to your phone (I use navmii for the iphone), if you get lost you can program in your postcode or find somewhere close by to where you are which you can reach easily.
  4. Don’t wear headphones.  You need to be aware of your surroundings and be able to hear what is going on around you, whether its an approaching bicycle or someone calling out.  Its also nice, on a walk to be able to hear the sounds of nature – birdsong, water running in a nearby stream, the wind in the trees, thats a much more relaxing sound to hear.
  5. Carry a torch.  I have a tiny but effective LED torch (by a company called Jolt) that fits on my house keys which has proved invaluable when walking through woodland.  You can never be sure that leaving the house in daylight will mean that you will be returning home in daylight too.
  6. Know what the weather is doing and dress accordingly – layer up, pack a waterproof jacket, getting cold and wet is really not nice, especially if you are a way away from home.
  7. Additionally, carry sunscreen and apply it often if the weatehr is going to be hot, wear a hat and take a thin top to protect yourself from the sun.
  8. Pack water on longer walks or walks that are more strenuous, where you may exert more energy (like walking up hills).  Keeping your fluid intake up means you won’t become de-hydrated and ill.
  9. Plan your walk and give yourself enough time, don’t rush yourself, rushing can lead to mistakes and can put yourself in danger, whether it would be falling, slipping or tripping or any number of other possible outcomes.  Also, you want to enjoy your walk which you can’t do if time is against you.
  10. Know your route and the obsticles you may face along the way, whether it be loose ground, mud, cliff edges, uneven pathways – knowing, and palnning for this means you are prepared and beung prepared means you will be a lot safer.

Now for Thursdays stats.  Did I hit 10,000 steps?

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I am aiming to walk 10,000 steps a day for the whole of september in order to raise money for Cancer Research, if you would like to sponsor me or donate, you can visit my Just Giving page where a few clicks will see your donation added to the cause.

 

1 Week In

Today marks the end of the first week of this challenge.  In the past 6 days I have taken 69192, (I can’t include todays stats as I’m still adding to them!).  In 6 days I am really surprised and pleased, its 9192 steps more than I was expecting and only 808 steps away from what I was hoping to achieve in 7 days!  I have covered a total of 28.2 miles in those 6 days (or 45.4km) and done a whopping 7 hours worth of exercise over that time!

So far I am really enjoying the Walk All Over Cancer, 10,000 steps a day challenge though I have found a few days to be a bit hard (saturday in the rain and monday were a bit hard and I found it difficult to get motivated, once I was going though I did wonder what the fuss was about!).  I have found that I am sleeping better overall and seem to be less stressed overall and I look forward to coming home, putting my walking shoes on, getting the dog harnessed up and heading out!

I have learned that it is essential to wear comfortable socks (I prefer socks that look like gloves for your feet – toe socks, or socks made by a company called Jeep that are made for running), I made the mistake of wearing a pair of socks that had a sparkly pattern woven into them which made the inside of them uneven and lumpy – I got blisters 😦 .

The other thing I have learned since starting this 10,000 step challenge is that I like to have a variety of walks to choose from depending on the weather, my energy levels, mood, and a whole host of other things.  I’m so lucky to live where I do as I have a whole host of different types of walk to go on – woodland, cycle path, park, canal, and all of them are easy to get to (I don’t need to drive there) and take me through some beautiful scenery.

Anyway… yesterdays stats… Did I manage 10,000 steps? 🙂

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Of course I did!

I am aiming to walk 10,000 steps a day for the whole of september in order to raise money for Cancer Research, if you would like to sponsor me or donate, you can visit my Just Giving page where a few clicks will see your donation added to the cause.