While we’ve been trekking around the Lakes, searching on maps for footpaths, crossing farmlands and stopping for flasks of tea, it’s had me constantly thinking about one man, my Grandad. I truly believe he started my love for the outdoors when I was still a nipper.
His stories of his adventures would send my imagination all over the country. Tales of hikes in Dorset, where he was from, and of the many miles he’d walked and cycled around my home county of Kent. He’d tell me about all the people he’d met, remembering their names or what they did for a living.
When I was slightly older I started to ask if I could come with him. Summer holidays were filled with a weekly walk, always on a Thursday. Mum would pack me up a lunch and I’d wander down to his house for 10am sharp. Nan would worry about how much water we both had and whether we had enough food and then wave us off as he drove to our starting point.
It was always outside, next to or near a pub.
At the time I never appreciated why, but I get it now. Nothing like finishing a good walk with a quick half and a packet of crisps in a cosy pub in winter, or a nice beer garden in summer. He used to buy me a coke, himself a half and we used to talk about our walk. What we saw, who we ran into.
Over the years we did many lovely walks around Kent. They were routes he had done before so he was a chief navagator. We would always stop halfway round and find a good view for lunch. This was always my favourite part. We’d sit for a bit, eat our packed lunches and he would always phone Nan to tell her how we were getting on.
I’ve realised with my increasing love for hiking that I’m very grateful to him. He taught me that exploring the country using your own two feet can be one of the most rewarding experiences. My wife and I did a beautiful twelve mile walk today and saw woodpeckers, deer, red squirrels, cows, sheep, farmlands, forests and two villages. My favourite part, as always, was scouting around for a nice place to stop to eat our sandwiches. In the pub afterwards, while drinking my half of beer and with a smile on my face, I realised that I could continue his tradition for the rest of my hiking days. I can’t wait to visit him soon and tell him all about it. Cheers, Grandad.