Much of today has been spent walking through lovely woods of oak and beech as we headed out of London through Epping Forest. According to our navigator Jane, King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth 1 used to hunt in this ancient forest. Once beyond Epping we got into rolling agricultural land, criss-crossed by streams and ditches and tiny villages and masses of farms.
We were lucky with the weather. Parts of the Lake District in the north of England are suffering floods after record-breaking rainfalls that one Labour MP described as “Biblical”. The Met Office gauging station at Seathwaite recorded 314.4mm (12.3 inches) in 24 hours, compared to the previous record of 279mm (11 inches) which fell in Martinstown, Dorset in 1955.
We, on the other hand, spent most of the day in lovely mellow autumn sunshine, bringing out the gorgeous golds and oranges of the leaves still clinging to the beech boughs. Only later on did we get a few drops of rain, which coincided with the muddiest stretch of our walk as we squelched along footpaths in the aforementioned “rolling agricultural land”. But, as Winston Churchill said, “When you’re going through hell, keep going.” The same applies to mud. No way to go but onwards.
As we walked I chatted with Alison, the extreme skier who regularly hurls herself off the top of cliffs. She euphemistically describes them as “shower curtain slopes” – which gives you some idea how steep they are. We compared notes on our respective activities – and how we both find that the time we spend in our wildernesses help us to reconnect with what is important. We’ve both had people to say to us that they don’t know how we can be happy spending time alone, so far from “civilization”. I find this interesting.
Much as I love being around people, I really do love spending time alone. I get a bit stressed if I go too long without my me-time. 100 days of solitude at a stretch is almost too much of a good thing, but it’s a great time to step off the world, reflect, get to know myself, and remind ourselves what really matters. So many trivialities fall away when you’re in an extreme environment. The basic human needs of food, water, and rest become all-important – and you realize how little else is.
And you don’t even have to go to the top of a sheer cliff or the middle of the ocean to do it. Just walking through the wilds of Essex (which, to compare it to the US, is probably our equivalent of New Jersey, i.e. not very wild at all) is enough to feel like we’re getting away from it all, that all the clutter of email and internet and everyday life is receding into the distance. It’s not exactly Chris McCandless territory (Into The Wild), but I’m still getting a lovely feeling of reconnecting with nature, regrounding myself on the Earth.
This is a very special time, and I feel very lucky to be here with my fantastic BB2B teammates. Thanks, girls!
We seem to be walking through a lot of places that sound like verbs. Wapping yesterday. Epping today. We’re working on definitions.
Today we decided, while eating lunch in a lovely tearoom in Epping – which opened only a week ago, just in time for us – that Epping is what an American does when they steal the spoon out of the sugar bowl to stir their tea, resulting in a sticky spoon with sugar coating. See photo.
Definition for Wapping still open to debate. Any offers?!
I was using my solar-powered pedometer today (Savage branded ones available on my store, in BB2B orange – only $5.59!). For most of the day I kept it clipped to my pocket, but then got worried it was too vulnerable there to being knocked off and lost. So I clipped it onto my sports bra, safe in my cleavage. Unfortunately I forgot it was solar-powered, and it’s probably rather dark in there. So now I want to tell you my final step count and I can’t. Aha!!! As I speak, the artificial light in the kitchen of our B&B has just resuscitated it. Final count = 29,742. About 15 miles. Not bad going!