Over the years, I have fantasized about simply walking out of the backdoor, with my dog, and heading North.
I am not entirely sure why I have not just done this? Anyway, I have not. I have however, done plenty of walks with my dog, and on my own, and with friends, always returning to home eventually.
This year (2020), as the planet starts to spit out humans in earnest, I feel time is short. Somehow, despite knowing this, I am still not simply heading North on foot. I am instead planning just #59Walks in different places to celebrate the 59 times that I have spun around the sun. Perhaps more time spent in the little bit of the natural world that still clings to life, will help ease my eco-anxiety?
I walk every day. One of the things I love about living in Howick is that it is possible to walk to the shops, the hairdresser or to meet friends. I start most days with a walk in the suburbs or along the river path that clings to the banks of the uMngeni. The streets are quiet, the verges are wide and the skies are lovely.
In 2012, I ‘walked’ over 300kms along the uMngeni River for a month. Well, not actually. I stayed home while my pals did the walk and I posted daily blogs of their adventure. I felt as if I had walked with them. Those stories are recorded for posterity on the uMngeni River Walk blog. Worth a read, if you are at all interested in rivers, or walking, or life on Earth.
It has always bothered me that most people do not have access to walking in natural places. All the hills and valleys are privately owned and fenced off. A few years ago I was determined to find a way for everyone to enjoy areas they wouldn’t usually be able to visit, and inspire everyone to value our incredible biodiversity. Although many have now fallen by the way, there were originally twelve regular walks in the Midlands in a wide range of different biomes – like Mbona. I know the Fort Nottingham walk and Boston Khula Shanti walk still take place regularly, along with the Kilgobbin Walk in Dargle. Milestone Forest and Lemonwood Forest can be visited for a small fee and special arrangements can be made to visit Yarrow in Karkloof.
Whenever I can, I cart unsuspecting young people on hikes with me – enticing them (ha ha!) with vegetarian food, no access to their phones, cold swims and absolutely icy swims. Cobham is a favourite, Hlatikulu and uMngeni Valley too.
Small walks are wonderful. However, I do love a very long walk and have done a few very special ones. Like Pondoland. Lots of wonderful Pondland walks. You can read about the first one here: ukutya namanzi, Plants of Pondoland and A feast of colour. More recently Sweet Potatoes and Soweto Pepsi and Secret Cutwini.
Who doesn’t adore beach walks? The coastal path around Ramsgate is particularly special, and the quiet beaches of Pennington are too.
A couple of years ago, I hiked to Lesotho. That was absolutely magical. Along the way, we met people who walk the passes as a regular commute between Lesotho and South Africa. Pretty humbling as I struggled up the mountain with my sleeping bag and rations.
I love exploring places nearby. Micro-Adventures. Like the Standing Stones of Karkloof for example, the trails of uMngeni Valley Nature Reserve which is virtually in town, or Grey Mare’s Tail Falls accessible from Bushwillow Park.
I have walked often on my favourite hill of all time – Inhlosane. I have climbed Inhosane many times in different seasons, some memorable occasions were: Phillipa’s birthday, Dargle Conservancy’s 10th anniversary hike, a magical misty summer day, and the time I explored on the other side of the beacon.
With plant enthusiasts from CREW, I have enjoyed many excursions. Although, flower folk tend to spend ages in one spot admiring something tiny (fossicking), rather than striding across the hills! I particularly loved Sitamani, Impendle , Lake Lyndhurst, Mount Gilboa and Happy Valley.
So, it’s clear. I like to walk. Over the next 18 months, until my 60th birthday, I intend to walk as much as possible – my usual daily walks along the river, the regular walks I lead, lots of weedy ones and hopefully, some completely new adventures too. I will record them on social media #59Walks.
Should you also enjoy putting one foot in front of the other, perhaps we will enjoy some of them together? If you prefer to stay home, the links in this blog to stories of previous walks, may entertain you for a while.