Walking in nature’s equilibrium has been a source of inspiration and reflection for many artists. In Persuasion, Jane Austen writes of the heroine: ‘Her pleasure in the walk must arise from the exercise and the day, from the view of the last smiles of the year upon the tawny leaves and withered hedge’. The pandemic has provided many of us the opportunity to explore the outdoors as we look to find calm. Being deprived of other means of inspiration, we look to what our leisurely strolls can give us. Some of our volunteers have taken the time to write about their experiences with walking and what taking to the outdoors has done for them in the past year.
Patrick Hall – PA to the CTO
For me, walking is much more than just exercise: it’s a chance to clear my mind of negative thoughts and relieve stress. I spent the first lockdown in Oxford. I was having a difficult time adjusting to working from home and then being furloughed. It was great to discover new places that I’d never seen before and revive old memories in a much quieter environment than that which the city used to resemble. Of course, being near people could be daunting with a new virus on the loose, but I began to love seeing other people enjoy the sunny weather and appreciate the space. I remember one walker by the river telling us all that we’d get through this and that is certainly a memory that will stick with me for some time.
I returned to Cornwall, where I’m from, after the first lockdown, and walking has been a very different experience. I live in the middle of nowhere, where there are mostly just fields and desolate beaches. Despite missing the beautiful architecture and historic feel of Oxford, I have loved finding peace in the outdoors. The paths I have been taking are already very familiar to me, but it’s fantastic to experience them at different times of the day and enjoy the distinct lack of traffic. A venture in the frosty weather before work or a relaxing Sunday stroll can make a massive difference to the rest of my day.
Katie-Jayne James – Marketing Officer
My favourite place to walk is down a popular trail along the River Taff and lucky for me, it’s so close to where I live. This walk offers so much; you have the river to walk along, bridges, wildlife, stunning wood carvings, vast fields, cafés, the sound of instruments and voices coming from the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama, Cardiff Castle and that’s only naming a few!
When lockdown eased, I was able to go back to my home in The Forest of Dean for a few days where I went on a few socially distanced walks with family and friends. Of course, these walks were all very familiar to me but, the experience was completely different. I had taken the beautiful scenery of my home for granted whilst growing up and now, I love going back there.
Alexandra Deterte – PA to Director of Media
I consider myself to be very lucky. I am surrounded by parks and commons. The pictures below were taken up behind our flat at the Putney and Wimbledon Common. Such a beautiful place. One of the only places I have found in London where you can escape the traffic and see almost no people. It’s our little escape. Reminds me of home, being able to go for a walk amongst the trees and seeing just a small handful of people, often walking very muddy dogs.
Nicole Mawby – Marketing Officer
“Placing one foot in front of the other, embarking on the journey of discovery, and experiencing the joy of exploration–these activities are intrinsic to our nature. Our ancestors traveled long distances on foot, gaining new experiences and learning from them. But as universal as walking is, each of us will experience it differently.” — Earling Kagge
I’ve always been one of those people that take photos of everything. Dappled light on exquisite architecture, vast seascapes at sunrise, and pretty much anything at golden hour. I like to keep a record of what I’m doing and who I’m with. When my walks became limited to where I could reach from my doorstep, these photos started to become less exciting: restricted to fluffy clouds, sheep in fields, and crumbling castles.
I decided to challenge myself to look more imaginatively at my immediate surroundings, to be curious and inquisitive. Looking with fresh eyes has helped me to look more slowly, become more mindful, and appreciate the finer details, which has influenced all aspects of my life.
I have created some photo bingo cards to help you to look with new eyes. I’d love to see your results:
Chloe Lunn – Marketing Officer
I had a lecture back in October of 2019 where we discussed walking, and what it means to walk, looking at Kagge’s work, and understanding his words through our experiences. We were set a task of giving ourselves a question about our uni work, then going on a walk with this question in mind and recording our findings when we got home. Through this walk, I discovered how moving gave me so much mental space to think and process things. When I lived in Bristol I would walk almost every day with friends to see the views of the city, but this task made me realise how I’d left that enjoyment in one city and not carried it back home with me.
Since lockdown hit, I have been carrying these thoughts and ideas about walking with me, rediscovering streets, fields, and parks I used to walk and play in as a child. There’s something nostalgic yet fresh about my walks now. I’m seeing places I used to know well through a new lens. I think having to stay in one area for a long time makes you start to look for the new, for the undiscovered that you didn’t notice before. I’ve now started to take photos on my walks whenever I see something that brings me joy, whether that be a family of birds hovering around a bush or a statue of an owl in a hidden pathway I’d never noticed before. It’s amazing what you can notice when you slow down and try to take in your surroundings.
Walking, for me, has now turned into something much more than a basic commute. It’s a meditative time. It’s time where I can listen to a podcast and zone out, have a distanced walk with a family member, or just enjoy the sound of the birds and the wind. I think walking is something so innately human, yet we’ve forgotten the simple joy of it, and I’m thankful to have rediscovered this joy.
Having now read through our experiences with walking, we hope that you feel inspired to talk about yours or to think about all of the strolls and ventures that you will take after the pandemic. For many of us at Be Extra, walking has been a gift and we are sure it has been for other artists. We will now leave you with the words of Earling Kagge: “Walking is [also] the antidote to the speed at which we conduct our lives, to our insistence on rushing, on doing everything in a precipitous manner–walking is among the most radical things we can do.”
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