by Adele A Wilby
Many decades ago, I packed my bags and left the shores of Australia and headed to the United Kingdom (UK). My secondary years of education had taught me to believe that my journey to the UK would amount to a ‘return’ to the ‘motherland’. A ‘return to the motherland’? Really? That says more about the education system I was exposed to, than just how naïve I was. However, having learned after my arrival that the UK was not, in fact, my ‘motherland’, I did discern that it had more to offer in terms of being ‘in’ the world than the distant shores of Australia, and I decided to stay. Thus, after many years resident in the UK, I considered myself as someone familiar with the country, until, that is, a change in my life circumstances provided me the opportunity to know the UK, or more specifically, England, in a totally different way.
Acting on the advice of a friend concerned with what he considered to be my solitary life following the death of my husband, I joined the Ramblers’ Association in the UK. Involvement with activities of the Ramblers didn’t last too long; group walking was not my thing. I did learn however, that walking was something I relished; it literally, put a spring in my step. The more regularly I walked the more the country opened up to me, an England loaded with complexity, diversity, mystery, and an alluring, limitless beauty: the English countryside.
In many ways, the countryside is how England can be: cold and aloof, requiring time to get to know; a place where one can feel a sojourner in its midst; a place where its nuances and secrets take time to understand. But it is too a place that tolerates your presence, and, as long as you remain respectful, it will allow you to saunter and relish the attributes that it has to offer, undisturbed and secure. That, to me, is fair enough; I don’t ask for more. I have no wish to disturb its existence, or indeed, undermine any aspect of its life.
The UK is exceptional for its network of public footways and bridleways; walking routes where ramblers are permitted to cross farmers’ property, to pass through private driveways and gardens and around farm buildings, if that is where the public right of way takes its direction. Read more »