Last year my fitness challenge for 2012 was to walk the South Downs Way. It was an amazing experience and really affirmed for me just how much I love and value long distance walking in the English countryside.
I Walked the Cotswold Way
In September I walked the Cotswold Way, all 102 miles from Chipping Campden to Bath, together with my partner, two friends and Gerald the dog.
Views along the Cotswold Way
The journey took us nine days in total and along the way we walked through picturesque villages and miles of woodland and farmland. I loved the beautiful honey-coloured Cotswold Stone cottages and dry stone walls that dotted the route.
There were some breath-taking views from the Cotswold escarpment and some challenging hill climbs as well.
But I will say that what struck me most about walking the Cotswold Way was how it was like a journey through time. From Neolithic times through to Medieval England and the Industrial Revolution, the history of this part of England was evident along the route.
We walked past Neolithic Long Barrows, Iron Age forts and Roman Villas. We wandered through farmland and fields of sheep, saw medieval churches and many stately homes (a reminder of the wealth that Cotswold wool once brought to the area).
On our final day, on the outskirts of Bath, we walked through the site of the English Civil War Battle of Lansdown which took place in 1643.
Surprises along the Cotswold Way
There were some lovely surprises along the way, like the gates that had lines of poetry attached to them. We spent many a happy mile walking along trying to make up lines to complete the poem.
And the Visitors’ book we came across on the stretch between Old Sodbury and Cold Ashton. Some walkers had written literary and humorous poems to describe their experience of the Cotswold Way. I’m afraid our group attempt is not going to win any poetry awards, but it did keep us entertained during a well-deserved break.
Friends and Walking
What I enjoyed most about walking the Cotswold Way was the fact that so many of our friends were able to join us for a day or two and walk part of the way with us. Because the Cotswold Way is close to London it was relatively easy for friends to travel up on the weekend and walk sections of the route with us.
Walking in the countryside is such a good way to get to know people better and to socialise in a calm and relaxed manner. The conversations we had along the route were sometimes so personal that they might never have come up in normal dinner party conversation.
Unfortunately, my fitness preparation for this walk didn’t quite pay off. I had been attending regular yoga and Pilates classes over the summer to build my core strength and flexibility. But on the walk I was plagued by nerve pain in the balls of my feet and blisters. It was quite a challenge to continue walking at times and it did spoil my enjoyment of the walk.
I have since been to see a podiatrist who thinks that the ball of foot pain is caused by too tight calf muscles and Achilles tendons. It turns out that if I had only been doing my calf stretches every day, I might have been pain free. Lesson learnt!
My Next Fitness Challenge?
So, that is 2013’s fitness challenge completed. It feels like another major achievement on my personal journey towards being Fit by Fifty.
Now the question is what will my fitness challenge be for 2014? Time is quickly passing and fifty is getting closer by the day. It’s time to start planning.
For an in-depth insight into my experience of my Cotswold Way experience please read my informative article on Walking the Cotswold Way on the London Hiker website.