It’s an utterly gorgeous spring day with a gentle breeze, a cloudless blue sky and Devon at my feet. My East Devon guide will be published next month, so too late for research, but there was one walk that I did on a rainy summer day last year and which I promised myself I would repeat in March when the daffodils were out. My friend and U3A walks leader told me that it was a rare chance to see genuine wild Wordsworthian daffodils.
And what a treat it was from beginning to end! The trail head is about ten miles from my home so I drove slowly down empty Devon lanes, past gambolling spring lambs and banks yellow with celandine and primroses. For the duration of the walk I only met one elderly man who scuttled down the hillside at the sight of me before greeting me gravely from a safe distance.
Otherwise no one, just birdsong and flowers. And mossy beech trunks lit by the sun, quite a bit of mud (how could it be otherwise after all this rain) and daffodils. Not, I had to admit, the ‘host of golden’ ones which I had optimistically described in the book, but a pretty good display.
We are so used to cultivated daffs that we forget how small and delicate the wild ones are: pale petals with darker trumpets, glowing like sunshine in the leafless woods. Chiff-chaffs and great tits were noisily marking their territories, along with the occasional robin. No seagulls thank goodness – I get quite enough of those in my garden.
Although the walk is less than three miles it took me two hours because I ambled, looked around me, and revelled at the normality of this spring day when, for the morning, I could forget about the surreal situation we find ourselves in.
Those of you lucky enough to live in the country, or within reach of countryside, can do it too. Not the Daffodil Walk unless you live in East Devon where you have the inspiration of the new edition of Slow East Devon and the Jurassic Coast, but anyone who lives in a county described by one of our Slow guides has a great choice of carefully chosen walks and there are now nearly 20 ‘Slows’ covering much of England and the Scottish borders.
And if you don’t have a guidebook you will all have, or can buy, an appropriate Ordnance Survey map showing a huge number of footpaths. That’s how we authors find our best walks, and so can you. Away from the popular long-distance paths you will almost certainly be on your own. I like walking alone because I see more, hear more and feel more, but of course couples and family groups can walk together.
This is a broader interpretation of Boris’s ‘stay at home’ but it’s a very safe one and so very good for body and soul.