A good walk will solve ev­ery­thing

Country Life Every Week - - Contents - Pine­hurst II, Pine­hurst Road, Farn­bor­ough Business Park, Farn­bor­ough, Hamp­shire GU14 7BF Tele­phone 01252 555072 www.coun­trylife.co.uk

The Gen­eral elec­tion an­nounce­ment has been greeted with a groan by some vot­ers who feel they’ve seen enough of the polling booth re­cently. One as­pect, how­ever, de­serves to be cel­e­brated: that Theresa May re­solved to go to the coun­try while walk­ing in Snow­do­nia.

In this, she stands in a tra­di­tion of po­lit­i­cal, philo­soph­i­cal and Ro­man­tic walk­ers who feel that this health­ful ac­tiv­ity lib­er­ates the mind: the in­spi­ra­tion of Na­ture not only recharges the spir­i­tual bat­ter­ies, but sharp­ens de­ci­sion-mak­ing. The rhythm of the body cre­ates a com­fort­able zone for re­flec­tion—less febrile than the of­fice, calmer than the gym.

Seneca, Ro­man se­na­tor and philoso­pher, ad­vo­cated ‘out­door walks’ that would nour­ish and re­fresh the mind ‘through the open air and deep breath­ing’. Nu­mer­ous prime min­is­ters fol­lowed his ex­am­ple: Glad­stone, Lloyd Ge­orge and Bald­win—but not Blair or Cameron. It’s good that Mrs May has re­vived the tra­di­tion.

This isn’t a party po­lit­i­cal mat­ter. On the Left, Jean-jac­ques Rousseau, prophet of the French Rev­o­lu­tion, claimed that it was only through ‘walk­ing among the rocks, or in the woods’, that he could write. On the Right, the proto­fas­cist Friedrich Ni­et­zsche claimed that ‘only ideas gained from walk­ing have any worth’. Walk­ing was as es­sen­tial to a dry stick like Im­manuel Kant as it was to the emo­tional Wil­liam Wordsworth.

On a walk­ing tour of Scot­land, the 22-yearold Keats cov­ered 600 miles in 44 days; he came home brim­ming with ideas. Ad­mit­tedly, Ro­man­tics such as he and Wordsworth didn’t al­ways walk for the joy of it— they didn’t have any other means of get­ting around. Per­haps that was also the case with the young Dick­ens, but the suc­cess­ful au­thor still walked both far and fast, get­ting up at 2am and walk­ing 30 miles to break­fast. In The Un­com­mer­cial Trav­eller, he thought he should be reg­is­tered ‘in sport­ing news­pa­pers un­der some such ti­tle as the elas­tic Novice, chal­leng­ing all eleven stone mankind to com­pe­ti­tion in walk­ing’.

It’s dif­fi­cult to imag­ine Ten­nyson with­out his hat and cloak, bat­tling the winds on the Isle of Wight, where Ten­nyson Down now takes his name; Jane Austen’s frag­ile heroines dreaded damp shoes; Vir­ginia Woolf walked on the South Downs, in south­ern Spain and through Lon­don parks. For Mrs May, it brought about an elec­tion (Agromenes, page 41), but, for some of us, a good walk will be an ad­mirable way of for­get­ting all about it.

‘but Na­ture not only recharges the bat­ter­ies, sharp­ens de­ci­sion-mak­ing

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