In these strange times it is strangely reassuring to pile into the car, drive for an hour or so out of London and go for a walk in some woods. We are spoiled for choice when it comes to stately homes surrounded by parks and woodland. We do our best to follow a specific route, but usually end up getting lost. It generally rains. There may be mud, trees to climb on or swing from, and streams that have to be jumped over. Every walk is unique, but somehow all walks are the same. And every member of the family gets something different from walking.
I like the fact that it’s something we all do together. There are jokes and puns. So many puns. I take some pictures. And this year, when everything else about the world is so strange, a walk in the woods or by the seaside is a familiar pleasure and a welcome escape. With few other people around, there is no need to wear a mask or observe social-distancing rules. The landscapes we wander through are untouched by the pandemic. The woods and coastline have always looked like this.
For Tate, walking is an opportunity to look for mushrooms and enjoy being surrounded by trees, like a mythical landscape. But they do not like it when we describe this as “forest bathing”, which is a real thing — being surrounded by nature, or even just images of nature, has been shown to reduce stress.
Miles enjoys drawing dramatic landscapes, so we try to choose routes with a variety of scenery, some good views and plenty of aerial perspective to inspire him. There is often mist. If we get lost, there may also be a colourful sunset, followed by walking in the dark.
For Tom, who rarely ventures out further than the recycling bin in the front garden, going for a walk is an opportunity to leave the house and take some exercise. Walking may also inspire ideas for books and articles he is writing. (It certainly inspires him and Tate to make terrible puns.)
Walking is something we do as a family, but also something we each do in our own way. And then we pile back into the car and head home to a warm house, dinner and a glass of wine. In these strange times, it feels almost like a normal Saturday. Almost.