Friday, October 05, 2007

Britain: Walking on sunshine

The Brits had a lousy summer weatherwise. Cold, rainy, scarcely a day of sun. So perhaps its unfair that when a gaggle of Americans hits the soil, the sun comes out in force.

Still, it's been five glorious days for walking: mostly sunny, 60 degrees, with scarcely an ill wind or bug anywhere that we've been.

And we've been....walking, striding over hill and fell and through dale and along the Roman Road and Pennine Way, past sheep scattering nervously at our approach and cows anxiously guarding their calves and pheasant flushed by our approach. On roads that have transported Romans and Celts and Vikings and Saxons .... generation after generation about documented generation of those would hold this green isle.

And modern-day walkers. The No. 1 leisure activity for Britains is country walking, with 77 percent claiming it as the top pastime, says Mark Reid, author of a popular guidebook series, The Inn Way.

Mark has led us past a millenium-old farm pub, on the springy heath atop limestone shelves, beyond 400-year-old stone barns and along the wide-ranging public access route of footpaths that cross the Yorkshire Dales -- by Reid's reckoning, the prettiest of England's walking landscapes.

"You can't see this from a car,'' proclaimed a fellow walker, and true enough it is. Some of it you might see, but you can't smell the wild garlic or hear the sheep bleat or marvel at the shifting shadows over the patchwork of least not quite the same way.

And you can't quite appreciate the moment when boot-sore feet come to rest before the fire of a centuries-old pub, a half of bitter well-earned at day's end.

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