Saturday’s walk was a strange affair. The weather forecast was dreadful. Strong winds and driving rain were moving South, into North Wales and the North Midlands. Experience tells me that Snowdonia weather often makes its way to the Shropshire hills pretty quickly. Saturday was the day for my walk and it was going to be a dramatic one.
Some people will tell you it is mad to go out walking in driving wind and rain. But I find walking on such days an almost cathartic experience. These are days when you can have the more popular footpaths to yourself. Tucked tight into waterproofs gives a totally different experience to normal walking. True, I was still connected to the landscape but I was more isolated than usual. When the weather is finer these walks take longer. There is much to look at, the wildlife, the autumnal beauty of the bracken and the trees. On clear days at this time of the year, the air carries a bitter edge for the first time. But on days like this I hurry on. There is more time for daydreaming. Sure, daydreaming is a good part of any solitary walk. But on days like these â€” warm, dry and protected from the elements â€” personal reflection comes to the fore.
There were few people out. I passed a couple of mountain bikers at the base of the climb. Twenty minutes later they shot past me, my only company. And then they passed me again. And again. And again. I began to be confused. I then discovered them sitting on the grass reading their maps as I strolled on by. A few minutes later they rushed past again. Half an hour later I was passing them again, this time they were adjusting chains and breaks. Again the screamed past later. This kind of progress on the hill would drive me barmy. All that stopping and starting. Can you really appreciate the day out?
In the event the rain held off. But the wind was strong, unusually so on the more vulnerable sections of the wall. I was regularly blown off track. But there was nothing worrying about all of this. the walk was exhilarating.
On the final leg of the walk I surprised myself be realising that my feet hadn’t got wet once â€” some achievement in Inov 8s. As I congratulated myself I made my way â€” diagonally â€” across one of the few stretches of mad I had come across. My feet slid, one underneath the other, and I was duped in the middle of the mud.
I ambled on back to the train station as happy as anything but covered with a remarkable amount of mud, for a day that had been dry. People looked and wondered. But me. Well, it had been a short day on popular tracks. But it was a great day. As great as any day can be when your walking, alone, on the hills.