Communications and Projects Officer Carys reflects on her walk along part of the Annandale Way for World Health Day.
The chill of the wind is what I first notice when setting out on my walk; that, and a piece of cardboard food packaging shoved under a hedge. Luckily, it’s just outside my home, so it doesn’t take long to detangle it and put it by my door, weighed down by my welcome mat.
Take two. I don’t make it much further before finding more litter, but I’ve come to expect this patch of road verges to be teeming with it. I have a black bin bag in my pocket for this purpose, but I will pick as much up as I can on my way back. It’s always hard not to let the sight bother me at the start of my walk, but luckily the sun is shining and the seesaw sounds of nearby great tits take my mind off it.
Today I have decided to walk further on the Annandale Way than usual. I haven’t lived here long, so parts of the path near me are still relatively unexplored. Today that changes, and I take the path right to Brydekirk.
It’s a great time to go on walks in nature – for all the usual reasons, but also at this time of year the early wildflowers are well and truly out, the next set following along nicely, and the tree buds are opening. At least, that’s true in this part of the country – and if you’re anything like me, and enjoy plant identification, then it’s a great way to practice and get familiar with what plants and trees look like before their most telltale signs unfurl or bloom.
My favourite to see at this time of year is the butterbur, so called because the large leaves were allegedly used to wrap butter. It’s a bizarre looking plant at this stage, and extremely easy to recognise because of it. Of course, there are plenty of other plants vying for attention, from the wild garlic to the celandines, but butterbur always makes me smile.
As I wander, so does my mind, and a sight of orange peel reminds me of my favourite poem, which I attempt to remember as I walk. It’s short and sweet, but the third verse is only half-recited – it puts me in a good mood, still.
The Way towards Brydekirk goes into dappled shade, trees reaching up and over the river, birds singing at their territory’s edge. I can imagine sitting here for hours on a warmer day, watching the river go by. It’s a peaceful spot, suiting a picnic. I’d like to take my friends or family here, one day, when we’re able.
I don’t stop long in Brydekirk itself, simply cross over the bridge and track my way back. It occurs to me that I have seen barely any litter, which puts another spring in my step as I tiptoe over stones in shallow streams and watch the queen bees flitter about.
What I do find – four pieces – goes into the black bag. A few people nod at me as they pass, eyes resting on it for a few beats, and in the back of my mind I hope that the sight encourages them to do the same – or to keep their litter in their pockets, if they are the ones contributing to the mess.
My mood, which has been rather shaky the last year, as I’m sure many can emphasise with, does always improve when I’m out walking and exploring, my thoughts keeping me occupied. Today is, for those who don’t know, World Healthy Day (plus, across the pond, National Walking Day) and I could easily write a whole other blog about how being out in nature benefits our health. I hope that would be preaching to the choir, however, because for me at least the benefits are hard to deny.
When I’m back from my walk (and litter picking on the last stretch), cuppa ready next to me, I definitely feel a release in my thoughts and emotions. In this current environment that may not last long, but at least I know I have plenty of beautiful walks on my doorstep when I need the reprieve – or just simply to stretch my legs alongside the wildlife.