A few weeks ago the lovely Susan Briggs @Dales_Tourism asked "What makes you happy?" She's writing The Yorkshire Dales Guide to Health and Happiness and was looking for stories to feature in her book.
And it got me thinking. What makes me happy? Well in no particular order (or there is a particular order but putting the dog first might upset a few people) my family, my friends, the dog, hot baths, cold beers, growing stuff, cooking stuff, eating stuff - and walking.
Any sort of walking. It doesn't matter if it's an early morning dog walk, an afternoon stroll or a full day's hike. I love 'em all. But the walks that make me feel happiest in a deep, lasting and profound way are long distance walks. Walks that take weeks of planning and thinking about. Walks where I leave home with my pack on my back knowing I won't be back for a week or more. I have done lots of these walks and the magic works every time. I set off with my head crammed full of everyday worries and concerns and my body tense with anxiety.
Within a day or so that's all gone. My mind empties and my life slows down to the pace of the walk. The purpose of each day is just that - to walk. There is no other task. No other jobs to tick off or goals to achieve. I eat, I walk, I sleep and tomorrow I do it all again. I begin to experience the true beauty of the landscape I am walking through, to notice the tiniest speedwell, the highest skylark. Every day brings a new adventure. My days are spent in splendid isolation on the fells, walking to a soundtrack of bleating sheep and the call of the curlew. At night I head for civilisation, to pubs and B&Bs, to warm baths and good food and real ale, and I return home at the end of my walk happy and at peace with myself and the world.
We are lucky here in the Yorkshire Dales to have some of the finest long distance footpaths in the British Isles. There’s the gentle riverside Dales Way and the exhilarating, challenging Dales High Way, the world famous Coast to Coast Path and the fascinating Lady Anne’s Way. There’s the granddaddy of them all - the Pennine Way and many many more. Go on – try it yourself.