We Walked 1114 Miles in 2022.

For a few years, I’ve subscribed to Country Walking magazine, which features articles, photos, and detailed maps of real interest to those who walk in the UK. Each year they run a challenge ‘Walk 1,000 Miles’. We’ve participated for 2 years now. In 2022 we completed 1,114.8 miles. Valerie’s 70 and I’m 74 and have arthritic knees and feet, so your age and infirmity are not always good excuses for inactivity. In fact, medics recommend exercise of this sort as the best way to deal with the wear and tear that generally causes osteoarthritis. But, apart from the physical benefits of walking in the countryside, our daily saunters provide excellent spiritual food, raising our mood and creating an air of general wellbeing. As lovers of the natural world, we’re soon absorbed into our surroundings so we can forget all the turmoil, injustice and wickedness infecting the human world. We can relax and commune with nature, experience and empathise with whatever landscape we pass through, and breathe the fresh air filtered by the surrounding trees.
These daily walks also give me a chance to picture the natural world and share it with others, which is what this post is really about. For details of the walking challenge, please scroll to the bottom of this rather lengthy post.

January: Month of hard frosts, mists, and some sunshine. That fence passes our standard route into the Forest of Dean, where we take most of our walks from our door. It’s a pleasure to enjoy the natural world without having to use a car. The icy pond is a short distance away, across the main road, and on part of a favourite walk. Misty rays of sunlight filter through the pines and firs along the narrow path taking us on our way. And we often pass this quarry where Forestry England source much of the stone they use around the forest.

February: The River Wye runs in its course to Chepstow, where it joins the Severn Estuary. Here, at the end of the village, are benches and a small car park. A small group of cyclists gather to discuss their route; a centre for off-road cycling thrives a short distance from our home, and most bikers are considerate to walkers, just the inevitable few lack the manners to alert pedestrians to their approach. Some of the ways in the forest follow the lines of old industrial railway and tramways and are as straight as a die. And, at the top of a steep climb, we encounter the work of some budding stonemason, building small cairns atop a large flat boulder.

March: One of our more adventurous walks involves a steep climb through mature larch trees. Another track often treats us to the sight of a small herd of deer. They’re usually too distant to photograph, but this time they crossed closer, and I managed to capture one as it briefly stopped to stare at us. A Victorian iron bridge used to carry the railway across the River Wye. Just beyond it there’s a small private landing where this rowboat is often to be found. On the banks of the pond mentioned in the January piece, there’s now a monument dedicated to miners who almost lost their lives during the Waterloo Colliery Disaster of 1949. Fortunately, through their bravery and the intervention of other brave miners, all were rescued.

April: We took a walk along the banks of the River Wye, heading toward Symonds Yat. The river was full but calm that day. This small flock of sheep had gathered above a slope that allows them down to the water’s edge to drink. We moved away from the river to explore the countryside beyond. And our final leg of that walk took us along quiet country lanes through arable farmland close to the small settlement known as English Bicknor.

May: Covid had prevented us travelling to the Greek islands where we’ve spent many a happy fortnight in the past. But we managed an early trip to Skiathos this year, an island noted for its walking. We stayed on the south coast at Troulos and walked extensively, often crossing the small island, which is where we came across this small bay being prepared for the coming season. Some tracks, though well-maintained, were quite precipitous as they passed through the hills and valleys of the forest. And, in places, the locals have provided seats where walkers can rest and enjoy the many panoramic views to be had. I rested awhile as my wife, Valerie, captured the moment. There is much small wildlife on the island, and I managed to picture this swallowtail iphiclides podalirius butterfly basking on one of the many wildflowers.

June: One of our regular routes takes us across Myristock Bridge, a Victorian stone crossing of the old railway line and giving a view of the tunnel that used to take the tracks under the main road. It’s currently closed, but there is a local group trying to raise funding to open it as part of the local network of walking and cycle tracks. The trail eventually leads up to Surridge Ridge via this beautiful rural way lined with ancient sentinels. Walkers, cyclists and horse riders use it but it’s closed to motor vehicles by two hefty boulders forming a substantial barrier at the top. Another trail runs parallel to the old railway line from a useful parking place called Speculation, the name of another closed coal mine. It joins the path crossing Myristock Bridge and forms part of the ‘Family Cycle Trail’. This month is noted for its long days which sometimes close with spectacular sunsets like this one caught from my study window.

July: Walking groups are frequently seen in the forest. Here a party rests for lunch on Myristock Bridge. Parts of the forest have been clear-felled due to several tree parasites and this has left patches of open ground often invaded by bracken. But, if left, scrub birch usually spreads there. Forestry England generally leaves these patches for three to four years to allow the parasites to die out before replanting with mixed tree species. Here a track runs along the edge of one such felled area. The managers of the forest, which is commercial, maintain sturdy roads, usually surfaced with quarry waste, to allow their machinery access to the various parts. Most of the time, these are quiet and used only by walkers, cyclists, and the occasional horse rider. One of the tracks we use frequently in summer emerges beneath another Victorian railway bridge. The old track used to run over this one but is now a well-maintained walking/cycling path. Through the bridge the path runs down to an area where springs form a small swampy area often used by wild boar as a wallow.

August: There is a lovely area, the Cyril Hart Arboretum, open freely to the public, and full of mature specimen trees from many lands. Here, Valerie stands close to one of the giants to give an idea of scale. At this time of the year, the fishing pond mentioned earlier is often almost covered by water lilies, which I suspect are not a lot of help to fishermen! The area is home to hundreds of dragonflies and demoiselle flies, and the occasional plop from the surface bears witness to the fish dwelling below. Another unused road takes us to different parts of the forest, this one a rare flat route. And, from time to time, some of the small wildlife can be found sunbathing on the open surfaces. This one is a female common lizard.

September: Summer slowly comes to a halt and tourists enjoy the calm of the river to canoe to various points along its length. A walk across the far bank places us in Wales as the waterway forms the boundary here. The small island of gravel that appears here is used by swimmers to sunbathe but in winter it disappears under the volume of water flowing from the Brecon Beacons down toward the River Severn. Higher up, on a different walk, we found a viewpoint with a metal plate indicating the direction and distances to various points surrounding this spot. Valerie took a rest here. An ancient tunnel of trees took us across farmland back toward the forest.

October:  There’s a local hotel, Speech House, with a nearby lake named after it. The calm waters invite local fishing and reflect the trees just beginning to display their autumn colours. In a quiet, shaded space close to the lake we encountered a pair of large fly agaric mushrooms, a hallucinogenic fungus probably best avoided as food. Parts of the forest are rarely visited except by locals who know how to get there. This group of beech trees occupies a hillside beside a private drive. As the season progresses, the beech trees begin to change the colours of their leaves in an area where we can wander through woodland untroubled by paths. It’s another place we have often encountered shy herds of deer.

November: Despite the lateness of the season, our short drive to Soudley Ponds revealed the spectacular brightness of the trees lining these small lakes where fishing goes on. On our walk around the series of ponds, we came across this specimen of brown roll-rim, a poisonous fungus that traps rainwater inside its cup. Later in the month we went north to visit my brother and his wife in the Yorkshire Dales. On a day of perishing chill, we walked along the River Swale near Richmond, enjoying the peace and quiet, and the more advanced autumn colours of the trees, before moving to the old station for some much appreciated warm and tasty lunch.

December: The month started off with its usual sunshine and brightness among the late autumn trees. But, unusually, we had snow early this year. It allowed some of the narrow paths to be seen more easily and brought a different look to the river. We finished one walk along the road through the village and I captured this seasonal picture to use as a Christmas card before the white stuff vanished after about four days.  

For details of the ‘Walk 1,000 Miles’ challenge, your best bet is to get hold of the February edition of Country Walking magazine, already on the shelves. If you can’t find one, you can sign up online, where you have the option to register for free newsletters or pay a small fee for some really useful material, including a progress chart and a tracking app. You can also join the FaceBook group, and there’s another point of contact on Twitter.

There’s another post here giving more details and pictures from our time on Skiathos for those interested. And you’ll find an earlier post focussed on walking in the forest in Autumn here.

If you fancy any of my images on your wall, they’re available through Picfair as art quality prints on paper or canvas wraps, or as digital files for book covers, calendars, greetings cards, jigsaws, advertising, editorial, or whatever else you want. You’ll find round 2,500 here. The small fee helps me maintain and buy the gear and software quality digital photography needs. I dislike exclusivity-driven high prices and think everyone should be able to afford decorative artwork. A few of my pictures also appear in my Gallery.

13 thoughts on “We Walked 1114 Miles in 2022.

  1. Such beautiful photos, Stuart. The landscape is truly spectacular. Congratulations on your walking milestone and thanks for the info about joining in. This is something I would definitely be interested in for next year. I keep track of kilometres walked with my phone; it definitely helps to keep me motivated to reach the next goal.

    I understand about the aching knees and feet, but it’s so important to keep going. If you don’t use them, you lose them, to paraphrase an old saying. I’ve noticed my knees acting up lately; they are bothered by the cold; with M it’s his feet. Cheers, Stuart; thanks again for the very enjoyable post.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Lynette. My phone also records in kilometres, so I’ve devised a chart for conversion to miles, to keep it simple.
      Yes, arthritis is definitely made less bearable by the cold. Make sure you wrap up warm (what, me advising you about the cold? Madness!) And there’s no doubt the exercise is helpful. I may arrive back home sometimes tired and sometimes in pain, but I’m always less stiff in those joints. And, as you say, ‘use it or lose it’ is absolutely true.

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      1. Haha. Yes, we know about the cold (more than we need to, probably). We’re heading back north today after our winter break in the Okanagan. The last two weeks have been quite nice with temps above freezing for much of the time, but the north is quite a lot colder, of course. I’ll be back in the south again in 11 weeks. Can you tell that I’m counting?

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        1. Counting, Lynette? Surely not. Let’s hope those 11 weeks zip past and your retirement brings all those things you’ve been waiting to happen.


    1. Thank you, Pilgrimage Studio. The record chart supplied by the magazine makes keeping a record so simple, otherwise I’d probably not bother. And it’s good motivation for those odd days when walking isn’t perhaps as attractive as it can usually be!

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  2. Blessings to you both my friends. What a beautiful post. Your photography throughout this summary of activities is quite beautifully done. You and Valerie both look great and what you are doing you can’t beat. Not only is it both physically and mentally healthy but walking and talking among these long walks is great for any marriage. Scott and I are really missing all the beautiful trails and hikes WA had to offer but we have to be sure we can afford to move. Our grocery bill alone has doubled this year. Anywhere near Seattle would be like twice more. You two are truly blessed to have such gorgeous swaths of land all around you. Congratulations on your miles and blessings to you both. By the way I am writing. My WordPress following should pick up again after March. Love and hugs, Joni

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    1. Thank you, Joni. You’re right about the benefits of shared walking. It keeps us sane (more or less, anyway) in the current madness of the world. Hope you soon find your new home.
      We moved to the forest on retirement so we could walk easily. That has proved the best of decisions.
      I’ll keep an eye out for your new writing. I’m hoping to produce a new book this year, too!
      You and Scott take care and stay well.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Same to you my friend. I am happy to see you both doing so well. I think you both share a special bond partly because of your time spent in nature walking and talking. Thank you my friend it was nice to hear from you. Big hugs and you both stay healthy. 🌹🦋

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