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Walking Together


Karen: I have always been a purposeful walker, which I now realise can be infuriating at times. Walking used to be a means of getting around and taking daily exercise, a normal part of each day come rain or shine.

Starting Contours — researching and guiding the trails — meant walking fast and not always spending time appreciating the countryside. Joining one of the Lake District Mountain Rescue teams was a test on my fitness, the initiation task being told to get to the top of a mountain as quickly as possible with two fit fell-runners sprinting ahead. As I collapsed at the summit, they asked me my name (I couldn’t breathe never mind remember it) only to be told ‘right, Karen, on to the next one’.

Walking together with the dogs

Joe: When I met Karen, it was clear from the outset that she was a purposeful and driven woman, who was literally addicted to walking. This is not to suggest that I wasn’t, but merely that walking for her was more than a hobby, it was an activity which she used to measure the day. Morning, afternoon and evening were always broken up by walking, holidays were defined by where we could walk, conversations were best conducted “on the hoof.”

Karen: My faithful companion on all of my adventures across the country was Pip, a long-legged Parson Jack Russell. She joined in long distance walks, winter training with the team and my daily fellwalking routine, her best reward being allowed a wild swim.

Pip the walking dog

Joe: The dogs were the excuse Karen needed to indulge her passion. I loved being out with the dogs; there is something about the sheer infectious joy that it gives them. The elation they get from simply being free and chasing around after whatever takes their fancy is quite humbling and brings a true sense of perspective on aspirations and goals in life.

Pip was a one-off, she loved Karen and you could see in her eyes, but especially in her tail, what walking meant to her. I was able to join that group: a decision which changed me forever!

Karen: When introducing Joe not only to daily walking but to multi-day long distance footpaths, I did have to re-evaluate my goals. Previous outings were always a ‘how many miles’ I could manage or ‘how quick’ a route could be achieved.

Joe walking together with Tia

An early holiday walking the Northumberland Coast Path, which looking back I approached as a route march, was characterised by the chant of “you are not here to enjoy it but to endure it.” It was hard to accept that you could slow down, maybe look at a few of the wonderful landmarks along the way, soak up the atmosphere and just have fun.

Joe: I look back with fond memories on this walk. The scenery was breath-taking, and landscapes alive with colour, the smell of the sea and the sight of Karen’s back walking off into the distance are my abiding memories.

Joe walking

I would try and keep up but that was not always easy; in fact it was impossible. My preference is to reflect and take in what I am experiencing and Karen could not understand why I was so slow. The truth is that she is simply a quick walker and I am built for endurance not speed.

Karen: So, the change from walking as a job to walking for pleasure has slowly occurred. Our dogs these days are a Lancashire Heeler and an unfeasibly long Dachshund. They accompany us wherever we go, enjoying each new or familiar walk with the same excitement.

Karen and Tia walking

Joe: I love walking; I have been able to achieve so many things that I thought were beyond me. The tiredness that comes at the end of a day’s walking is good for the soul. It makes me stop and appreciate life and how uniquely privileged we are to be surrounded by such lovely countryside. The variety and beauty of the land and seascape never ceases to surprise and delight, and maybe, just maybe I am getting a bit quicker and Karen a bit slower.

Karen: We have come to appreciate our walking time. It is our way of relaxing, of unwinding each day and staying fit. Trouble is, I still like to push it, and Joe does not know that I have just signed us both up for the Hadrian’s Wall Virtual Fitness Challenge

Karen crossing a stile with Tia



Originally published 19/10/20




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