WALKING SPECIAL Walking soothes my soul, says tv’s Kate Humble
TV broadcaster Kate Humble has just written a book on the joys of walking. Here she tells Charlotte Williamson about her most memorable journeys – and why she sometimes walks in Crocs…
Kate Humble craves the great outdoors. She’s supposed to be staying in a hotel in east London, but couldn’t face it. “i know it’s trendy but i looked at a map and saw no green spaces.” instead, she’s moved to Notting Hill so she can walk around the park each day.
Her love of everything outdoorsy, and in particular her passion for walking, is revealed in her new book, Thinking on My Feet: The Small Joy of Putting One Foot in Front of Another. It’s a lyrical record of her walks from the big (the
Wye Valley Walk, which took nine days) to the daily ones that are as “essential to me feeling good for the rest of the day as that first cup of tea.”
Kate grew up in bray, berkshire, and started in television as a runner then a researcher before her potential on the other side of the camera was spotted. she’s now best-known for presenting programmes such as Springwatch, Lambing Live and Back to the Land with Kate Humble. Kate lives on a smallholding in trellech in the Wye Valley with her husband, ludo. Walking is a form of meditation – there’s definitely a connection between the rhythm of your feet and how your brain works. It’s really important for me to have at least one walk a day; I find it very soothing. If I’m at home in Wales, it’s often with my dogs badger, bella and teg. I don’t take my phone as I’d rather allow my thoughts to wander.
there’s a very hackneyed phrase: “there’s no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes.” It’s true! Having dogs means you have to go out in all weather. I remember one walk after there had been an ice storm and it was just so cold, like something out of Batman where everything was frozen. and I thought, “Well, I could have missed this.” I’m so glad I didn’t. i’m a total kit whore. outdoor clothing and kit shops are like porn for me. I do a lot of walking in wellies – there are some brilliant ones now with proper soles, and properly insulated. and proper wool socks – you can’t beat them. but also, and here’s a terrible admission – I have a pair of Crocs flip-flops that are the most unsexy things. but I’ve walked miles in them – they’re really good walking flip-flops.
My favourite winter walk is on the Gower Peninsula in South Wales. my husband and I don’t really do Christmas Day so we’ll go walking there instead with sausage sandwiches. one Christmas Day we walked along oxwich bay and it was like the Caribbean – uninterrupted blue skies and golden sands with only two or three other people on the beach.
Sometimes when you’re walking, you can have the most wonderful encounters. on one of our Christmas Day walks we could see a knot of people coming along the beach. as we got closer, we realised one of them was a man in a wheelchair who was whizzing around the beach. It was the most joyful image – of freedom and gay abandon, of him almost dancing. the next year we saw them again, and I went up to say hello. then a few months later I got an email from the man in the wheelchair’s carer who said, “I just wanted to say my patient enjoyed meeting you and I thought I’d tell you a little more about him. He’s called Professor nigel stott – he was an amazing doctor, he got a Cbe for primary care, and had been in the olympic sailing team.” and then he’d had a catastrophic stroke, which had put him in the wheelchair. He asked if we’d be coming back that Christmas because he’d love to see us again. and
It can lead to the most wonderful encounters
now meeting nigel has become part of our Christmas tradition.
i’ve always had wanderlust. aged three, my parents discovered me a mile from home walking along the road with a wheelbarrow. mum says I have an inherent restlessness.
i absolutely love maps. ordnance survey is one of the most brilliant things. there’s no other country I know of that has as detailed and cheap maps. I spread them out on the kitchen table – I love looking at them and planning routes.
i don’t like Kendal Mint cake. my favourite walking snacks are nuts, nakd bars and babybel cheese – and I’ll never say no to an apple.
i tend to be very optimistic about the human race. last year I did the Wye Valley Walk on my own with my dog, teg. one day I hadn’t seen anyone else for hours, then up ahead I could see a man with his hood up and a very big dog. I suddenly felt very vulnerable. I decided to just say hello and not act scared. the two of us ended up having a conversation – he was on the run because his dog had attacked someone and he thought the police were going to put his dog down. there was something amazing about him – he just loved this dog. and he said, “I’m just going to keep walking until I can’t walk any more.” I remember saying, “I really do think you’re going to be oK.” and I really hope he is oK.
there are so many walks i’d love to do. a local one is across the brecon beacons, about 100 miles long. I love the idea of walking for redemption. there’s an amazing route that goes through norway called st olav Ways. and one that starts in Devon then you get a boat and walk along the west coast of France to spain. I get the feeling that one day, like Forrest Gump,
I might just start walking
– and never stop! w&h
For Kate, walking in the countryside is now an everyday part of her life