As you might already have gathered, I love to walk – to ramble in the countryside. To unplug and yet simultaneously reconnect. Putting on my walking boots and heading out into the countryside is not just how I choose to relax, but also a purposeful way to figure out problems or ideas I’m tussling with. Clients will have heard me refer to the power of “letting your subconscious do the heavy lifting”. The simple act of soles moving on solid ground inspires me to listen more intently, sense more. It dials up my sensitivity and absorbs me. In doing so, it leaves the greater part of my brain free to rummage and explore the issues I am dealing with. I generally return to my home revived. The science behind the positive impacts of walking is explained brilliantly in my current bedside reading, “In Praise of Walking” by Shane O’Mara.
But you know all this. There’s a view that rambling is nothing more than a slow, meandering amble – often pointless in so far as there is often no tangible objective or destination (unless of course your destination is a lovely village pub), but I have always felt that there is more to walking than it being an indulgent middle-class time filler. The power and energy and presence one feels when walking alone along a chalk ridge, or sweeping down a slope in the depths of an ancient holloway make it clear that in the not very distant past, walking was about progress and about purpose.
So I rubbed my hands in glee when I found this little article tucked away in the corner of the world wide web – revealing the political movements made by ramblers as far back as 1932. The article is inspired by the Kinder 80, a story of how, on 24 April 1932, groups of ramblers left Manchester and Sheffield for an organised trespass onto Kinder Scout, a moorland plateau in what is now the Peak District. There they clashed with gamekeepers sent by local landowners to keep people off their land. The clashes were violent and several of the ramblers were arrested and imprisoned, but over the following days and weeks much larger trespasses were held and public opinion started to sway in the trespassers’ favour.
Today, it’s possible to trace the Kinder Scout trespass as the start of an access movement that saw the establishment of National Parks, long distance footpaths including National Trails and finally, the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 which granted unrestricted access to 10,000 square kilometres of countryside in England and Wales.
This ‘right to ramble’ is a beautiful idea, and something I wanted to share.
If you want to challenge your ideas on rambling further, then this article from Outside, challenges the common misconception of Black people disliking the outdoors. The article delves into the historical and racial ideas that although culturally blacks and immigrants are intrinsically linked to the outdoors, parks and wild spaces in the UK were reserved for the white and the wealthy, and frighteningly the data continues to suggest that these ideas, though buried in the history books, remain ingrained subconsciously in many black people.
And so here I go again with my gentle nudge urging you to get up and away from your screen, put on your trainers, boots or heels (heels not recommended for the Dorset Downs in winter – though I do not speak from experience) and take some time to ramble around your city and countryside – for people have fought for the right to do so.
Every Wednesday I book out an hour to hold a FREE agency leaders surgery. If you have something on your mind, a challenge you’re wrestling with or just want an alternative point of view, I’d be very happy to lend an ear and maybe help you start to unpick the issues. You can help yourself to my calendar, here. Speaking to a diverse group of agency leaders helps me stay current and contextualise the issues I’m seeing with my clients. So please see this conversation as a genuine collaboration where we both hope to learn something new.