I’ve always loved walking. It’s great exercise when you have issues with muscles, bones and ligaments. It doesn’t have the impact on knees, ankles and hips of running. It doesn’t require some stamina to get started, like cycling does. Best of all, it only requires a pair of walking shoes. I used to walk everywhere all the time. It kept me out of a wheelchair and on my feet. I walked to classes, I walked to work, I walked to shops and the cinema. For fun, I went to the park, the beach, explored a local trail or occasionally, climbed up the side of a mountain.
Every time I come across an article about walking it always strikes me that the first thing mentioned is how easy it is. Effortless and so painless that most people don’t think it even counts as exercise. Walking isn’t easy for everyone. EDS is a pretty nasty genetic kink and for me and Cass, walking hurts most of the time. Our joints don’t stay in place, they’re almost always partially dislocated to some degree. It hurts to walk with ankles, knees, hips and shoulders that are constantly moving out of joint, but bodies are built for moving and if we don’t keep moving, the muscles that hold those joints in place deteriorate to the point where they stop being of use at which point, it’s wheelchairs and morphine time. That’s infinitely worse. So we go for lots of walks.
We love walking in the countryside. I’ve lived in England for sixteen years and I haven’t picked up the habit of footpaths that stretch out for miles and miles because it’s scary when there’s a point of no return. On a footpath there’s nobody to go fetch the car when joints dislocate very badly and walking a mile or two when you can’t get your kneecap to go back where it belongs, is a frightening thought. We love parks, we love National Trust properties, we love familiar places where the effect of every step has become predictable, but it isn’t always possible to trek out to somewhere pretty to go for a walk.
My favourite way of walking is when I can forget we have a car. Where walking becomes so accessible that I don’t worry about it. It’s one of the big reasons I love Centerparcs – it offers a glimpse into a way of living that I’ve always dreamed of. It’s not a way of life that’s possible at the moment, but we can go for a walk no matter where we are. Including home. On sick days, when most things feel overwhelmingly complicated, a walk down the road, through the alleyway and up a gentle slope feels like my only accomplishment.
I prefer walking in woodland and fields, on beaches and footpaths, across hills next to rivers and streams, but opening the front door and stepping out into a more urban setting isn’t all bad. Walking lets us connect with our local environment. I love the tree that grows in the front garden three houses down. I enjoy looking at the variety of hedges and trees, shrubs and seasonal flowers, small birds and lots of little quirks that I wouldn’t notice otherwise.
It’s easy to say we’ll go for a walk on good days. I don’t look at the weather forecast, but the health forecast. I don’t mind heavy rain, muddy paths, ice or snow. We gauge the day on pain levels, breathing ability and blood glucose readings. On a good day, we’ll make it down to the river or through the woods, we’ll stop in at Stonehenge or Stourhead, we’ll take a kite or a picnic – a kite and a picnic. We’ll make a day out of it. On the not so good days, we often stay in even when we shouldn’t. Not anymore.
We’re doing our best to get outside, even if its just walking down the street passed Tesco. We will always walk whenever we can, because it’s a great way of spending time together, getting away from the usual worries and it’s an uncomplicated way of seeing the world close up – at walking pace.
1 August: Walk one around the block
We deliberately started the challenge with the general suggestion that walking is free, easy and all that’s required is a pair of shoes. I left in an old pair of Nike trainers, Cass and Chris each with a pair of Mountain Warehouse walking shoes. Walk one was not ambitious. We went for a half an hour stroll around Amesbury following a familiar route we often walk after dinner a few times a week.
It didn’t feel like we were doing something new or particularly different, but that was fine. Our strategy was not to be ambitious, but achieve sustainability. We usually manage three or four after dinner walks and then we skip a night. This time, we planned to just keep walking regardless every day.
A good and sensible start.
2 August: Walk 2 across the field
It was a chilly, wet Wednesday. Cass had already been swimming for an hour in the morning and still had Tae Kwon Do after dinner, so this would definitely have been a night we’d usually skip. Instead, we went for a half an hour walk mid-afternoon. We again chose a familiar route around Amesbury that landed us back home just in time for dinner.
Interestingly, the pre-dinner walk did wonders for her glucose levels and there was dinner spike to combat despite having quite a high carb meal because she favours higher carb meals on high exercise days.
I definitely would have skipped today’s walk. Coming down with a cold, my asthma is acting up. I’m coughing, my chest feels tight and I’m breathless just walking around the house. I took a preventative dose and needed my blue inhaler twice on the walk, but we still managed a reasonable pace and made it home tired but much more relaxed feeling very proud of ourselves because we made it out the door for our walk.
3 August: Walking to the library
Amesbury Library is open until 7 p.m. on Thursdays. Cass has signed up for the summer reading challenge and having finished four books last week whilst in Devon and Cornwall (it’s amazing how much reading gets done when screen time isn’t an option), she wanted to go tell the librarian all about it. We walked the long way round to the library, about a 20 minute walk, carrying books.
The library stopped turned out to be a bit longer than we’d planned on. We lingered at the library, choosing books.
The walk home was much faster and more enthusiastic as getting home quickly meant there was more time before bedtime for reading.
4 August: A walk in the garden
Friday wasn’t the best day for a long or brisk walk. An asthma flare-up meant that walking was problematic and I’d missed the last couple of steps on the stairs and partially dislocated my left ankle before breakfast and was still hobbling around putting through partial weight by dinner time. We didn’t want to just stay indoors, so we compromised with a walk around the garden.
EDS isn’t a fun condition (is any chronic illness), but I learned from Cass the toddler as she learned how to walk and then run, that the best way to get joints back into place is to keep using them with small rest stops in between until it sorts itself out. It took about 45 minutes of walking for the agony to be replaced with a strong sense of discomfort.
Whilst I walked in circles, Cass ran in circles and played tag with Chris. Not a traditional walk, but most definitely an improvement over saying ‘it hurts, I can’t breathe properly, I’m staying on the couch’. A good ending to a less than great day.
5 August: A leisurely walk on the ridgeway
Chris and I had an early anniversary lunch and after a hearty pub meal, we drove up the hill and went for a gentle walk on top of the ridge along a part of the Wessex Ridgeway. Chris grew up walking here, but despite living in Wiltshire for a decade, I haven’t really walked many of the footpaths or local trails.
Cass joined her grandparents for a walk – they picked a few blackberries – and we discovered that going for a walk doesn’t always have to be about a brisk pace or getting somewhere – it can be nice to just wander a bit, looking at the clouds and listening to the wind in the grass and then sitting down with a Kindle for a while.
6 August: An impromptu walk around village pedestrian walkways
Sunday was a busy day. Health issues kept popping up all week and it meant that the daily chores fell behind. The garden was morphing into a jungle, the house needed a good scrub and we hadn’t packed a thing for a 3-day camping day starting first thing Monday morning. There wasn’t time for walking and by early evening, we hadn’t done our daily walk. This is another prime day where we would skip the walk, but an hour before Cass’ bedtime, we locked the front door and set off for a new loop around Amesbury.
We took a right onto a street that doesn’t take us anywhere we want to go. It’s amazing how selective I am getting around in the one mile radius surrounding our home. I am intimately familiar with the routes to school, shops, the local pub, the dentist, surgery and opticians. For leisurely walks, I pick the green spaces and know the routes to and from as well as around them very well. I never just turn onto a residential road unless it’ll take me somewhere I want to go. Until now.
It was a highly memorable walk. We passed cats watching us watch them from their perch on a fence on a car roof, under a tree or on top of a car port. We passed a boy on his bicycle, whizzing around a cul de sac on a rare, bright sunny day, then a girl on a scooter, zipping up and down the pavement in front of her house. Parents were outside – a Dad working on a car – a Mum weeding in the front garden and a grandmother watching her granddaughter on the scooter. We live on a busy road with houses that have massive back gardens. It’s amazing how big a difference that made.
7 August: Walking in the New Forest
We arrived at our camp site near Ashurst in the New Forest around lunch time. We pitched the tent, had a picnic and then set out on a pony spotting walk. The New Forest is a beautiful place for walking and we love just heading out of the camp site into the woods.
We didn’t just go for one walk, but three. It’s always easier to be active outdoors when we’re camping.
8 August: Walking around Beaulieu’s Motoring Museum
Beaulieu was not what we had expected. I had imagined it as mainly a motoring museum with a couple of small extras on the side. Cass had imagined it having almost no outdoor space and as she isn’t interested in cars, thought she’d find it dull and boring. We were both very wrong. It’s a lovely place for a day out. It has a quaint monorail with two stops, a Veteran bus, the museum, Abbey, Palace house and gardens, a Victorian kitchen and flower garden, a small WWII museum and a lovely woodland walk.
We pretty much spent the day walking the grounds, but for our daily walk, we set out on Millpond Walk next to Beaulieu river. Cass invented a whole village of fairies, complete with names, histories and daily dramas as we discovered the fairy doors and the reward at the end was a ride on the monorail back to the museum. It was wet and rather chilly, but with a pair of Bogs’ insulated boots, I had warm feet whilst Cass (who has outgrown her pair of Bogs) and Chris complained that their supposedly waterproof walking boots turned out not to be waterproof at all.
9 August: A drenching walk at Mottisfont
We detoured via Mottisfont on our return from the New Forest. It’s one of our favourite places to visit since Cass was about a year old. We had a look at the Horse Chestnut Tree to try and see when conkers will be ready and then Cass really wanted to the summer children’s trail after lunch. We had a warm, hot meal with large, hot cups of coffee, then braved the rain for an hour.
I discovered that my Trespass 3/4 coat, which had held up very well this wet summer, had one major flaw – when it was a perpetual downpour little rivulets ran off the raincoat and soaked into my denim jeans where the coat ended as I walked. Cass had a similar issue with her coat. Chris did not. He gloated.
Again, I was the only one with dry feet. I love my wellies, but they aren’t walking boots, they’re wellies, so after a while, my ankles get painful from the lack of sturdy support – still, dry feet is incredibly nice in wet weather. It was a fantastic walk, despite wet legs and cold feet (not me!) and everything is so incredibly green it feels like an eternal English spring outdoors.
10 August: Walk to the park
We walked to one of Cass’ favourite green spaces over lunch. Life is busy and complicated and we don’t always take the time we should to walk to where we want to go. It’s been useful to have a bit of additional incentive to not drive to the park, but walk instead.
It walk more, but we also talk more. Idle conversation rather than the usual directed conversation about coordinating schedules, diabetes management or choosing topics around educational themes. It’s been fun and relaxing and makes me wonder why we often sacrifice the best parts of life just because they don’t seem to have a specific purpose.
11 August: Errants on a walk
It’s great to take time out to go somewhere away from the crowds and cars for a walk, but that isn’t always possible on a daily basis. Today, we had errands to run. Cass’ required new books from the library. We wanted to stop in at the shop to pick up some fresh food and there was a letter to post. We combined it all into a long walk with some extra loops on the way.
It always makes me feel guilty for how much more we should be walking. I’d like to be one of those people who walk or cycle and make use of public transport instead of always getting into a car to go places. The ideal is often far from reality, particularly with disabilities that often make it harder and more complicated, but it does feel good to make the conscious effort to not only walk for pleasure, but also to get where we want to go.
12 August: A woodland walk at The Vyne
A not rainy day, which is starting to feel unusual on a day away from home. We seem to have travelled across the Southwest in wet weather, no matter where we go. We’ve never been to The Vyne, a Tudor National Trust property and really enjoyed watching the roof being repaired, spotting Canada Geese, testing out geocaching and finishing the day with a one mile woodland walk.
Cass dislocated her ankle on the way back rather badly and limped the last bit of the way, but with beautiful surroundings to distract her, we didn’t have to head to the car for the ‘chair or carry her the rest of the way. A great relief.
13 August: Walking around the house
We all woke up on Sunday morning with a bad case of a bad cold. Chills and fever, stomach aches and runny noses, we were all miserable. I developed a bad cough and a migraine, both flaring up whenever I lifted my head off the pillow.
Cass who is prone to stomach aches had difficulty keeping anything down or moving around without it hurting a lot. Chris did his usual, I-dont-feel-well-head-tucked-under-a-pillow impression. Even the cats weren’t feeling great and despite the best of intentions, we just weren’t up for a walk at any point during the day.
On the front page, I mention that we learned about Wabi Sabi. It’s a Japanese term centred around acceptance of transience and imperfection. So instead of bemoaning the fact that we didn’t drag ourselves out of bed to go for a walk, we chose to embrace transient health and imperfection. We’d do better taking it easy. So we did. The closest we came to a walk was moping around the house. At least we didn’t stay in bed all day!
14 August: Another walk in the woods
We managed a rather big walk after dinner looping down to the woods by the river. It’s the most beautiful part of Amesbury for me and we love visiting the squirrels. We meet the squirrels a lot.
15 August: Riverside walk
We’ve discovered over the last two weeks that we love walking, but still feel a lot of time pressure to fit it into a 24-hour day. As a result, we’re still opting for the quick, easy choices – a walk around the local area. Although I do enjoy these, particularly on cool, rainy evenings, it doesn’t have the same charm as a nature walk. Tonight, we walked down to the park. The walk itself was through the centre of Amesbury, but once there, I always regret not visiting more frequently.
It was a gorgeous evening, not quite sunset, but that lazy time on a summer’s evening where the sun rests at an angle in the sky and its raus colours everything golden. Not too warm, not too cold, not too bright, not too dim – a Goldilocks kind of afternoon. It made me wish I could make time stand still just for a while.
The brisk walk back was less about scenic route, but it remains enjoyable to get some exercise on a regularly basis.
16 August 2017
Another sick day. We all woke up with a fever, feeling rotten. The previous two days we managed to get out on longer walks, despite coming down with something, but today ill health is in full swing and all our health issues flare up alongside it. Chris managed a trip out to the dentist, but Cass and I barely made it down the stairs, nevermind out the door. It’s disappointing and although a relatively small thing, a bit demoralizing. We’d like to be the kind of people who do the things they commit to do, but some days, stopping is more sensible than forging forwards.
Life with a chronic illness just sucks. It’s something that complicates every minute of each day and on a regular basis, derails or plans and commitments. As I hugged Cass when she couldn’t stop crying because her legs and back were hurting because she was getting muscle spasms that pulled the bones out of alignment, I starting crying as well. Mine was doing the same and it hurt and I didn’t want to spend all this time wasted by being just too unwell to do anything. We embraced Pyjama TV and snuggled on the couch not feeling sorry for ourselves. There will be good days and bad days and at least, even on the bad days, we understand and support each other. Tomorrow, hopefully, will be a go-for-a-walk-day again.
17 August 2017
We didn’t make it out of pyjamas until the afternoon, but Cass made a kite and we walked to the nearest green space with wind to test it out. It didn’t quite fly high, but it did fly! It was a lovely, sunny day and coming home, we had a quick dinner and went straight to bed.