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How NOT to go for a Walk

Inspired by Clare Balding on Ramblings? Keen to go a-wandering along the mountain track?

Well while everyone from the National Trust to national newspapers urge you to get your boots on and hit the road, we’re here with some words of caution.

Here’s how NOT to go for a walk...

1. Guess

Instinct, “a funny feeling it’s this way”, “let’s just see where we end up” are all things that are 100% guaranteed to end up with your group climbing out of a bramble-filled landfill site forty minutes later. One member of your party will be crying. Use a MAP.

My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She’s ninety-seven now and we don’t know where the hell she is.
Ellen De Generes

2. Bear Grylls

There will always be someone with a nice safe life and a career in chartered accountancy who thinks they’re Bear Grylls the second they find themselves wearing two pairs of socks. They stride in front, urge you to eat bits of grass and suck on moss, see buzzards and peregrine falcons when no-one else can, assure you that those mushrooms are not the poisonous ones and claim to be tracking otters when they’re actually searching for a toffee that fell out of their cagoule pocket. Everyone wants to kill them three metres away from the car park.

3. Rain

“Oh, it doesn’t matter if it rains if you have the right clothes.” Yes. Yes, it does. It matters because one of the purposes of a walk is the view. If all you can see is your own boots because the alternative is a face full of refreshing drizzle then you may as well be in the dry, staring at your own boots. It is a true fact* that the sound of the British summer time in the BBC radiophonic workshop is represented by the noise of rain hammering on an anorak hood. Check the weather forecast. Then don’t believe it. In fact don’t go on the walk unless Tomasz Schafernaker is coming with you.

*it’s not.

4. Shoes

Wear walking boots. They’re boots, you see, that are made for walking. Like Nancy Sinatra sang. Not plimsolls, wedge heeled mules or God help us, office shoes over a pair of socks accompanied by some speckly leg and khaki shorts. Don’t be one of those idiots that gets airlifted off Snowdon in a tankini and flip-flops. Just don’t.

5. Picnic

Mmmm. Warm ham sandwiches that smell of banana, hard-boiled eggs that have gone a bit blue and something that wasps will cross several counties for. And a nice hot cup of flask. (It doesn’t matter what it is, all it will taste of is flask.) You can all squat on an ant heap under a dripping tree, eating this feast while wondering how on earth Good Housekeeping think you can transport a veal and ham pie in a rucksack.

6. Individual rucksacks

Unless you are a masochist or a pack-mule, make everyone take their own rucksacks. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to find your map underneath a tumbled heap of empty crisp packets, pack of tissues, car park tickets, fleeces, corn plasters, tin foil and a Scout’s woggle. If anyone says ‘Could I just pop this in your rucksack?” clump them smartly on the head with your flask.

7. Small children

Small children will happily run several miles around a park, a bathroom and a supermarket, when they’re not supposed to. When you ask them to walk several miles they sit down in the middle of the road and start crying, claiming their leg hurts or they have debilitating nits. The only way to deal with it is to tell them the Gruffalo is behind them and he’s gaining.

8. Artistic licence

This is absolutely allowed. Indeed, it is recommended. When you describe the walk afterwards to friends, you must say “Oh it was glorious, the children loved it. The weather held up really well and it was just lovely to get out in the country.” This means the children laughed when Daddy fell off the stile, the ferocious wind blew the hail away and by the time we got back to the car I couldn’t feel my right leg.

So if you choose to indulge in a few Ramblings yourself this spring, heed our warnings but enjoy yourself. It is undeniably good for you. As Ellen De Generes says, “My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty. She’s ninety-seven now and we don’t know where the hell she is.”

Listen to Ramblings

Other Radio 4 programmes exploring the great British countryside