A perfectly ordinary day

Looking back over my posts, I feel like all I do is relate complaints and hi-jinks. But actually, most of walking is just that – walking. On a 30 kilometre day I’m doing 8 hours of walking, and only have 3 interesting tid-bits to share. On a good day (a bad day?), I have nothing to share. My fourth day was a bit of a nothing day, but pleasant all the same.

I left Goulceby early, before anyone else had woken up. Well, almost anyone. The Latvian caretaker had to let in the truck which empties the sewage, and as the charming smell filled the campground, I thought of the disturbed sleep of the previous night’s bigot and his wife, and smiled.

I was nervous about getting back on the road after a day off. I was wearing brand new shoes, my old ones hanging off my backpack behind me. They were a bit too big, and much higher in the ankle than I’m used to. Anything and everything could go wrong. But other than the usual aches and pains, they were fine.

The path went through the usual sort of countryside I was used to by now. Rolling hills, paths that skirt fields of sugar beet, green fields, small streams and canals, the occasional startling, a few cows, sheep, horses. Nothing out of the ordinary. Just hours and hours of pleasant hill walking in the Lincolnshire countryside.

I had just come out of a field onto a country road, and stopped to look at an interpretation board about the village. As I stood there reading it, a group of people approached me from the opposite direction, and one of the women in the group made a beeline for me.

“Are you doing the Viking Way?” she asked with unfettered enthusiasm.

“Yes,” I said.

“How long is it? How many days? How far are you going? How far to the end?”

I couldn’t answer any of those questions, so I just said, “oh, I’m taking it easy. No hurry.”

She went on to tell me about the church in the village, and told me that I really should visit.

“Thanks for the tip,” I said. “I will.”

Her three companions meanwhile stood behind her smiling in support, like a silent choir. I have frequently met this exact same group of people. Often on a ramble, exploring paths and pubs not too far from their own towns, they always travel in a group of four. I think it has something to do with needing cars at either end. There will always be just one spokesperson, and I wonder if they take it in turns. Once, when I was walking in Wales, this same group of people approached me, although they were much younger. The appointed spokesperson approached and she asked me if I had seen a Cockfrosted Warbler.

“No,” I said. “But I did see a dead badger by the side of the road back there. At least, I think it was a badger. We don’t have them in Australia, so I’m basing it on fairy stories I’ve read.”

She looked disappointedly into the distance, her eyes growing soft, her voice husky. “Oh, what a shame. I’m afraid we’re not interested in badgers.” And she wandered back off after her group.

But back in England, I did go to the church in Fulletby, and it was lovely, and well worth having a stop. I took advantage of a bench and the sunshine to crack open a can of baked beans and ate my lunch in the churchyard. The church was open to visitors, they only ask that you leave a note in the visitor’s book, and close the door after you.

I did have one brief moment of excitement in Fulletby. I had to get rid of my can, but I couldn’t find a bin. I thought I’d be able to find someone’s bin in their front yard, but it’s not the sort of village where people keep their bins on display. I had nearly exited the village, and really didn’t want to carry this bloody can around with me for the next 15 kilometres. Finally, I saw a house with their bins out front, but I had to walk up their drive to get to them. I walked up anyway, and saw a man standing in the window, obviously working on some plans and diagrams. I tapped on the window, held up my can and pointed at the bin. He smiled and nodded, and as I threw the can away I felt him watching me, hoping that I threw it in the right bin. I did, and when I turned back we shared a really nice smile and a wave. I wonder if he remembers this brief, pointless, nothing exchange, as fondly as I do.

I made it to Horncastle with some delusion that I was almost there. But I still had 10 kilometres to go. I won’t lie, they were hard kilometres. My ankles were really quite sore by this stage, and the path was one long, straight, flat path, with nothing much to look at to left or right except for some artworks along the way. But I made it to Woodhall, obviously, and set up camp.

I already knew I was having another day off at this point. An old friend who I don’t see often enough was driving down the next day for an impromptu camping weekend of smashing beers together, so I spent the day – a Friday – just lazing about, wandering the town, and allowing my ankles time to recover. To reduce the swelling, I had to lie around on my back with my feet on my backpack. To facilitate the lying around, I had a 4-pack of Fosters and my Kindle. It was another pleasant day.

It was while I was lying around, doing nothing at all, for medicinal purposes, that I suddenly remembered that I’m on holiday. Holiday! I’m not here to prove anything. I’m not raising money by doing this walk, or doing it for a cause. I’m just walking. Cos I really like walking. And I like camping, and meeting strange people, new people, finding out curious stories, sharing a smile with someone over some rubbish. I also want to be able to walk by the end of it. All pride was gone, if I’d had any. I decided to walk whenever I want, wherever I wanted, and just see what happens.

I spent another day in Woodhall Spa, with my friend, checking out the Kinema in the Woods, having my photo with a Dalek, and taking in some of the local anti-EU locals. In the afternoon, after another easy pleasant day, I committed the greatest act of cheating known to hikers – I caught the bus to Lincoln.

 

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Nat Newman

Nat Newman is an award-winning writer of short stories, content, podcasts, feature articles, drunk text messages and, soon, a novella.

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