Over the past nine months I’ve walked 686.09 miles; roughly 19 miles a week. Across the high barren hills of the Dark Peak and the rolling villages of the White Peak, the deep green raven filled forests of Anglesey, the wind battered cliffs of Cornwall and the Lancastrian hills of my childhood. Joined almost always by my partner, Lee, and sometimes by friends, I have walked.
During the summer of 2012, our lives changed. The things we had poured ourselves into for a decade came to an end, and we found ourselves directionless. Lost. Around the same time I was diagnosed with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) and Hyperthyroidism, and my weight ballooned. Seeking stillness, space to think and to breathe, we headed for the hills. The repetitive act of placing one foot in front of the other became a meditation. We explored the rain soaked paths, woods and caves through summer and autumn, and in winter, wordlessly shared the wonder of frozen valleys stretching out far beneath us.
It became an obsession: further, higher, faster. Our fitness improved, my weight normalised, and there was pure joy in climbing and running, in exploring, in wading through water, in scrambling up sliding, skittering scree, in rolling down snow blanketed slopes, in lying in deep moss watching crows flash in to roost above, of climbing one more hill before dark, in learning simply to ‘be’.
Some of the places we walk are familiar, some new. We never take maps, seldom have a destination. We don’t aim to arrive anywhere; only to walk. Names and maps are useful, but the hills and the rivers are older than the names we give them. There is equilibrium to be found in going where the landscape takes you, in finding your way. There is a conversation to be had that can be muted by pre-set routes. The landscape is visceral. It inspires moments in which you exist only there, in that moment, beneath that darkening sky, supported by that earth.
Recently, the walks have become a more direct part of my ongoing artistic practice. From here on in, I’ll be blogging the walks we take; part of the research and of the process. Breathe in. Step.