The English countryside is beautiful. This is a fact I’ve known for a while and not just because I’ve seen every Jane Austen adaptation ever. I know it because I’ve seen it. I’ve seen it from the window of a train. I’ve seen it from the window of a bus. I’ve even seen it from the window of a plane. But it wasn’t until the first Saturday after I arrived in London that I got to see the English countryside without the barrier of a piece of glass. I got to see it, by walking in it.
|The English countryside as seen NOT through a piece of glass|
Before we go too much further, and to give this post a bit of context, you need to know about me and exercise. Back in Melbourne, apart from walking to and from tram stops (I’m a PT girl all the way), the only other form of exercise I believed in was lifting my arm to turn the page of the latest book I was reading. (One of the main reasons I couldn’t switch to an ereader was my fear of how I would then get my exercise.) So when I was invited to an English countryside walk that was going to take four hours over some eighteen kilometres, you’d be forgiven for thinking I’d laugh in this person’s face, and possibly slap them around a little for even mentioning such an activity to me. However, the walk was planned for my first Saturday in London and not only was it scheduled to be sunny, but it would be a day to spend time with my sister and friends.
It was the pub lunch. There was a pub lunch planned after the walk and that was the main reason I agreed to go. Happy?
Saturday arrived and I wasn’t jetlagged and I had my backpack packed and my runners on and I was ready to walk! Our path was from Henley-on-Thames to Marlow and I loved the sound of it already because I love any town whose name has two hyphens in it. After a few short train rides, a coffee break, a selfie stop and a quick lie in the sun while we waited for a few late arrivals, we were off! First fun fact of the day (mainly for me because I expect everyone else knows this), the Thames is really long and exists outside London. If we wanted to walk the whole Thames path, we’d cover just under 300 kilometres (184 miles)! (Thanks, but no thanks.) Also, Henley is home to a number of prestigious rowing clubs and the Henley Royal Regatta, if you’re in to that kind of thing, which I’m not sure I am yet/will be ever.
We followed the river most the day as it glistened to our left (the Thames is a MUCH prettier colour outside London – another fun fact!), and on our right? The wonderful lush green fields of the English countryside. In these lush fields, that were thankfully flat flat flat, we spotted such wildlife gems as cows, sheep and white…dear? Hart? We weren’t quite sure what they were but here’s a photo of them from really far away which should clear things up for you.
|White...animals in the English countryside|
|Bountiful beautiful scenery|
Another fun fact? People in Britain are allowed to barbecue, huge open flame and all, in the countryside. Being from a bushfire-ridden-open-flame-banning country, I found this exciting/terrifying/confusing/wonderful. I also didn’t know whether to douse the flames with water or join in on the meat-grilling festivities. The smells these barbecuing gods were creating were divine (keep in mind we were on the third hour of our long, long walk by this point and all we wanted was food and beer).
But I did neither.
We continued on our way with the smell of meat trailing behind us. Saliva erupted from our mouths and ran down our cheeks as if we were rabid dogs, and lunch couldn’t come soon enough. Every few minutes, various members of the group would pull out their phones to google-map our location. Or, more to the point, our location in relation to how close we were to Marlow and the pub.
And then the cry ran out.
‘Only ten minutes to go you guys!’
If we had enough energy to run, we would have.
Instead, we picked up our pace as much as we could and fell, with utter glee, into the pub. It was called the Two Brewers. It was heaven. Before we’d slung off our backpacks, roasts and pints were ordered as if we were soldiers about to partake in the spoils of victory.
|The scene of victory|
Guys, I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed my long, long walk. I am now adding long, long walks to the list of things I want to do more of while I’m living my new UK life. The ultimate aim? To walk Hadrian's Wall. (But more on that later.)
I'm so pleased I said yes to doing something that, back home, I probably would have said no to. I’ve been used to doing the things I know I like to do for a very, very long time. And now, now its time to do the things that maybe I do like to do, but just assumed I didn’t because once you get to a certain age, trying new things gets harder.
But I want to try new things. I want to push myself outside my comfort zone and experience the things that maybe I’ve missed out on because I thought I knew myself well enough to stop trying…I will especially try new things if there’s a delicious pub lunch at the end of it (because seriously, the food we had at the Two Brewers was the best thing I’ve ever tasted, ever).