Walking is an integral part of my time spent searching for that next natural history high. To sit in hides is not my thing really - granted, they do have their uses and can provide close views of birds that would have flown away had I not had the wooden walls to screen me from view. Yet the sky is hidden and the sun does not warm you, nor the wind ruffle or the drizzle caress. No, to immerse oneself in the here and now you need to be out there, mobile and bathed in the elements.
Walking is also a great balm on the mind. As much as you might be searching the path ahead of you, or the sky above for birds, the process of putting one foot in front of the other allows a certain rhythm to also enter the thought process. Troubles can be thought through, ideas hatched, a running commentary produced. At times the mind may empty in contemplation of a stunning view or a modest encounter with a flower. We let go when we walk.
I was fortunate in my working life to live within four miles of my place of work. Most days I walked there, and back. I had several routes that varied in time between 50 minutes and an hour-and-a-half. The longer journey took me on a meandering route across Banstead Downs. Apart from the physical exercise it was a good way to prepare for the day ahead or a way of resetting after hours at a computer. I also saw a few things as a by-product, best of all being Osprey, Firecrest and Crossbill. A late-November Swift was the most surprising, and try as I might to call it a Pallid it was still only a Common.
I continue to walk for walking’s sake. I’ll leave home and wander the streets, maybe take in a few footpaths, as likely to observe the architecture, a garden or a fellow walker as much as the wildlife. And I don’t take the ability to be able to walk - long and hard - for granted. I know too many people who are unable to do so. If you can, stride forth. It is physically and mentally stimulating, even if you are not carrying your bins and scope.