Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Walk this Way.

Considering how many women have an unhealthy obsession with shoes it's surprising how many of them don't like walking anywhere in them.  I'm a massive fan of public transport and that usually involves a bit of a walk one end or the other, which I enjoy, but when I recount my journey to people they generally recoil in horror "You walked?" the ask incredulously.  "From the station?", as if Northern Trains were now offering a range of drop-off points around town.  So how far away is the station?  20 minutes walk but judging by the reaction I get it may as well be in another time zone.

Were things any different down south?  No, not at all.  This reluctance by most people to walk anywhere is reassuringly, if worryingly, consistent across the country.  In Fleet our house was a 20 minute walk from the station through a safe, pleasant and flat woodland and yet when it was on the market several people commented that it was "too far away from the station."  Cars that I knew "lived" just down the road from us were regularly parked in the station car park at a cost of £6.50 per day.  More money than shoe leather some people.  And when I worked in London I would walk from Waterloo station to Tower Bridge every day, a distance of roughly 2.5 miles which, I admit, is a little on the long side either end of the working day, but it saved me a fortune in tube fares each month.  In fact the combined savings from the carpark and the tube fares came to over £156 per month - more than enough for a decent pair of walking boots and some high grade socks.
My fabulous Brasher boots!

So we've established that a bit of a walk will save you money and help get you fit for free but is that enough to lure people into the great outdoors?  No it is not.  Instead many will fork out an additional £50 - £60 per month in gym membership and then walk indoors on a treadmill, and this after they've ensured they've parked as close to the gym doors as humanly possible thus safely averting the need to walk any further than necessary through the wilds of deepest, darkest, tarmacked Surrey.

Even in Cumbria, one of the most "outdoorsy" counties in England, this reluctance to venture far from the car is evident.  Waterfalls and other tourist attractions within 10 minutes of a carpark are generally packed leaving the rest of the county pleasingly peaceful.  Ambleside shops do a roaring trade in outdoor attire when the furthest outdoors most of it will ever go is the local beer garden.  Did you know that Cumbria apparently has 4660 miles of public rights of way which, the Cumbria County Council website helpfully tells us, is the equivalent of walking to Kathmandu, a somewhat moot point seeing as many people won't walk from K Village to Kendal town centre. (A distance of about 1/2 mile for those unfamiliar with the area.)

When I started writing today it was a toss up between Aerosmith and Nancy Sinatra for the title of this blog, but somehow "These Boots are Made for Walking" didn't seem appropriate seeing as most of the boots made don't appear to walk anywhere.  So, all I ask of you this weekend is that you dust off a pair of decent walking boots and venture out into the great outdoors; your heart and waistline will thank me for it, but, if you're determined to live dangerously, you can spend the money you save on carparking on a decent bottle of wine instead.

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