The medicinal qualities of walking are well documented. A cursory glance over any classic reading material will tell you such, but as we soldier into 2020 is the concept of a ‘long walk’ suddenly passé?
Our patience has been thwarted with social media and television and, it can be argued, we no longer possess the qualities to switch off and traipse for hours on end. Instead, the mind wanders and the mechanicalness of putting one foot in front of the other turns our temperament and eclectic minds robotic.
For me, walking has always been therapeutic; a time to switch off and appreciate all of the many facets, no matter how modest, of Mother Earth. It’s also the perfect environment to put my daily worries, needs and desires into perspective.
Yet, as a society we don’t embrace walking. We ravenously consume nature programmes; Planet Earth, Bear Grylls, yet a lot of us shudder at the thought of a half-day hike in the wilderness. Walking with nature (I use the phrase ‘with’, because that is exactly how it should be: not ‘at’, ‘for’ or ‘in’, humans and nature are completely synonymous with each other) isn’t something we embrace wholeheartedly.
Nor, does getting out in the wilderness need to be an annual expedition. It doesn’t need to be a fanfare, such as trekking to the Arctic, hiking Everest or swimming with sharks. It doesn’t need social media approval, or millions of likes and impressions. Rather, the universal and primal act of walking with nature can be as simple as finding the nearest shrubbery and doing a few laps.
I have always embraced long walks. Since I was a young girl I would don my scruffy joggers and take myself out for a seriously arduous hike. It was my time for utter emotional and mental contentment, qualities of which I have always endeavoured to ascertain. My hikes have been varied: the Thames path, Kakadu National Path, Welsh Coastal Path, Italian Alps and most recently, the South West Coastal Path.
Dorset’s greatest — and longest — walk
The South West Coast Path is England’s longest wayward long-distance footpath and National Trail. I should put a disclaimer in here: I did not walk the full 630 miles, I didn’t even attempt it. Rather, after a morning of probing for fossils and Jurassic remains, I thought it good mental and physical stimulation to finish off the day traipsing over the coastal cliffs of Dorset.
This really is one of Britain’s prettiest counties, offset by the lavish and expansive English Channel. Wild flora punctuates the clifftops, while masses of rolling green hills define the coastline. It’s a nature lover’s paradise and Eden, and the unsheltered nature of this walk means you really are at the mercy of the weather and climate; it’s the perfect place to ‘blow the cobwebs away’, as my mother would say.
Walking is a great leveller, it connects us all and is a universal human attribute. But, we discard it in favour of more mentally stimulating and probing activities. Sometimes, the mind and body doesn’t need to be over consumed with 21st century gadgets and entertainment. Rather, the necessities of nature can really be our best medicine and therapy.
Three shorter routes, Dorset
Walking 630 miles isn’t a tempting prospect for many of us. Nor, do we have the time. The great thing about these extensive paths is that there are so many alternatives and shorter variations in Dorset.
Here are a few:
- Chalmouth to Golden Cap: a very pretty, if not slightly taxing (a lot of ups and downs) walk along the clifftops. It’s approximately a three-hour round trip, but affords a wonderful view of the Jurassic coast. Additionally, there are many things to see along the way: the 13th-century church, St. Gabriel’s.
Best for: those who are historically inquisitive and hungry for a good walk after a day of fossil hunting on Chalmouth Beach
Length: 5 miles / 8.1km
Allow for: 3 1/2 hours return
- Lyme Regis to Sidmouth: This walk takes you through the fascinating landslips to Seaton. It is 16 miles, so not for the faint hearted! But, you get to experience the incredible undercliffs of the Jurassic Coast.
Best for: Those nature enthusiasts who want to see what makes the Jurassic Coast unique; those underclifs! Also, for those looking for a length and strenuous long walk
Length: 16 miles
Allow for: All-day
- Durdle Door to Lulworth Cove: This walk really is a must, if ever you are in the area. It’s leisurely and not taxing, but does make you privy to one of the UK’s best natural assets: Durdle Door, a natural limestone arch created as a result of softer rocks being eroded behind a limestone cliff. Lulworth Cove does not disappoint, this is a quaint fishing village with a beautiful white pebble beach and lots of fossils!
Best for: Anyone in the area! This really is one of Dorset’s most famous and celebrated areas. Also, the beaches at both locations are beautiful and very reminiscent of the area
Length: 2.5 miles / 4.1 km
Allow for: I would suggest all-day (so you can enjoy the splendid scenery of both areas), however it will really only take you a few hours return