The Optimistic Walker: "It has been a chance to pause and take stock"

David Bathurst shares his passion for walking and explains why it might just be what we all need in these difficult times - particularly when we are in a county as beautiful as Sussex.

David Bathurst
David Bathurst


In one of my earlier Optimistic Walker pieces I suggested that the mark of an optimist is to adopt a “can do” rather than a “can’t do” mentality. Over the past few weeks many will have bemoaned the fact that they “can’t do” this or “can’t do” that. Without in any way wanting to downplay the privations this period has brought to a good many people, how much more positive and, I suggest, better for your well-being, to turn things round, if you can, and ask what CAN be done. In that earlier piece I used the example of a hot drink whilst out walking; cafes may have been shut, but there was still the possibility of a flask!

It’s good that restrictions associated with lockdown have significantly eased, and with it an increase in things we can now do once again. As I write, cafes are soon to be able to reopen properly, so in theory the thermos can be put back to bed (although it’s ALWAYS a good idea to have a full flask handy on a walk), and with the reopening of hotels and B & B’s to visitors, walking holidays across the country are now available once more. One restriction that’s likely to be with us for some while is on large gatherings of people, meaning that, as far as walking is concerned, large-scale walking events and guided walks are likely to remain off limits for the moment. But apps such as Zoom and Bunch, and social media platforms, enable walking enthusiasts to meet together over the Internet to chat and compare notes about great walks just completed or about to be undertaken. And it is now permissible for as many as six people to come together outdoors. I wonder how many new friendships have been made in the past 3 months as a result of walking in the countryside and meeting new people who might never have considered the benefits of walking previously.

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    I guess that for many people, if lockdown has had any advantage at all, it is the chance to pause and take stock of life – and what better way to do this than on a good walk or walks. In turn, walking in your locality will have brought with it the chance to explore paths and tracks you may never have known existed, discover interesting natural and manmade features along the way, and get different views and perspectives on your locality. I have grown to love what might be thought of as a fairly unremarkable walk, that from Yapton to Sainsbury’s on the edge of Bognor Regis. I love its wide open spaces, its great views to the South Downs, its variety of colours and, perhaps more than anything, its tranquillity. And even with the reopening of cafes, I fancy that I will still, in the months and maybe years ahead, find myself sitting in my favourite waterside spot along that route, thermos and naughty chocolate bar or cake in hand, enjoying the stillness and the timelessness.

    I hope that despite the many negative aspects of lockdown, and I appreciate there have been many, you too will have found comfort and inspiration in walking, and that on your walks you will have found reasons to stay positive and optimistic and will have your own good memories of this extraordinary time.


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