Robson on… Sociable Strolling


I recently wrote regarding my preference, and indeed need, for solitary walks over hill and vale.

Having said that in recent years I have come to enjoy some of the pleasures of walking with a companion or companions. I have gained accomplices for both local walks and those taken farther abroad. 

A conversation at work revealed a colleague who likes to do hill, moor and mountain walking. So I have spent the last two or three years, exploring the Peak District, Snowdonia, the Brecon Beacons and the Welsh Marches with an able collaborator. Those walks have become important and are missed.

More recently and more locally I was introduced to a someone through a mutual friend with an interest in walking in all its forms. Before all this ‘bother’, said friend and I would walk about once a month from the car park of the British Oak pub, in fashionable Stirchley. The walks thus far have been to ‘local’ places that caught our attention. This has included an angry wall in Highbury Park, a couple of moated sites from the Civil War, some entirely invisible burnt mounds in Woodlands Park and following Icknield Street, the Roman road built around 2000 years ago. When conditions allow we’ll be walking to, or from, Birminghams omphalos in Duddeston, the concrete fish at Fox Hollies and, at some point, the length of one of Birminghams rivers. As poet Roy Fisher noted of rivers of Birmingham, there are Two. More or Less.

Both these types of affable regular walking put me in mind of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein in which Robert Walton, the ‘narrator’, writes to his sister Margaret of his adventures in Arkhangelsk, northern Russia – 

But I have one want which I have never yet been able to satisfy, and the absence of the object of which I now feel as a most severe evil, I have no friend, Margaret: when I am glowing with the enthusiasm of success, there will be none to participate my joy; if I am assailed by disappointment, no one will endeavour to sustain me in dejection. 

Walton has secured the services of dependable sailors for his trip but craves some one he knows to share his adventure. Some one with whom to look at the sun setting over the ice fields and exchange a glance of mutual recognition.

I read Frankenstein many years ago and have forgotten most of it but, for all my preference for solo wanderings, this section always resonated with me. The acknowledgement that, sometimes, the view is somehow ‘more’ when shared. 

Lastly, all these words about walking are making my feet itch. I will be out this evening for my hour a day, letting my feet lead the way. So, if you can, get out of the house and go for a walk. If you’re isolating with others sometimes it is OK for them come with you. Share the experience, make an effort take joy from a walk with a comrade.

To be clear, I still prefer walking alone but now it would be a much closer contest!