I say my back yard - it could be your back yard.
Some time ago I wrote a blog post on the benefit of longer term travel planning on my mental health and my family’s happiness. This still rings true and barely a day passes by when one of us doesn’t mention forthcoming trips to Italy, Spain or Thailand. However the only downside to this wanderlust is that home tends to be neglected. We fail to see what is around us because we are craving what is further afield.
Part of this, I imagine, is a desire to be removed physically as well as psychologically from our everyday existence. Apart from the wonder of seeing new places and new people, sometimes we actually physically have to travel away from our lives to achieve some mental peace. When I was working full-time, commuting in an out of the office, whether in London or other towns and cities in Europe, I found some form of mental escape necessary on a regular basis. This meant that after a week at work I craved some escape through mindless TV, a few too many drinks on a Saturday night or occasional long-distance travel, to take my mind far away from the everyday. Wandering around in my neighbourhood just didn’t do it.
Since I quit the rat-race my desire to 'run away' is greatly reduced and we can’t have watched more than 5 hours of TV in the past 3 weeks (in case Mrs Armchair Mountaineer reads this… the Ryder Cup doesn’t count!). So, blessed with some truly amazing late summer sunshine I have seized upon the opportunity to do the very opposite and explore that which lies around me.
As I write this I am just back from a 15km walk, based on this one, to be found on the National Trust web site. It partly follows the Ouse Valley Way and criss-crosses the stunning waters of Godmanchester Nature Reserve. I am embarrassed that I knew nothing of the beauty of this area? It is on my doorstep and easily accessible. And yet...
And yet the truth is I never looked. Granted I have only been living here for a year but in all my free time I have been so concentrated on thinking how to get away or how to rest a weary mind. Okay, it’s difficult to do what you want when you have a family, but even when my daughter and I have gone for a stroll it has tended to be in the same places. Only now with more freedom, and in the search for small daytime adventures, have I bothered to look for interesting places to explore - the only rule I have imposed for the time being is one of not using a car to get to a trail start.
So instead of wading through the build-up of work emails on a Monday morning I have run and walked across some spectacular countryside, minutes from my front door. Rural Cambridgeshire may not be exotic but in two hours this morning I saw Swans, Great Crested Grebes, Coots, Moorhens, Cormorants, Tufted Ducks and a Black Squirrel. I felt the sun on my skin, heard birdsong and running water. I smelt cut grass and cow shit. I saw trees and bushes still laden with wild autumn fruits; crab apples, blackberries and rosehip.
I looked and I saw.