Eric and I went for a long walk in the countryside today, for the first time in…. must be about 8 months now. We’ve been trying to do this for a few weeks now, but one weekend Eric was off workin in Manchester, one was rainy, and last weekend Eric had to work (but we did get to Hampstead Heath last Sunday at least).

There are a lot of walking books in England – walks in London, walks around London, walks in any part of the country in fact. We’ve got two “Walks near London” books – one by Time Out, one by Globetrotter.

Books like this make it really easy to go out for a walk. There is an overview map at the front of the book where you can pick your walk based on region, and a list that sets out the length of each one.

Then each walk has a brief description with highlights (villages, hills, manor houses etc). That’s followed by a detailed route description and a schematic map. The directions are clear and thorough; we’ve done about half a dozen of these walks and never had any trouble following the route, even though we haven’t got any proper maps of the area. And all walks in these books are accessible by train (plus they even tell you which station the trains go from). Most of the time they also suggest picnic spots and good places to get lunch. So all you need is a train ticket and the book.

Today was an excellent day for walking – clear and sunny, a bit chilly but not too cold (just above freezing) and it hasn’t rained much recently so even the muddy patches were easily passable. Since we haven’t been out for any long walks for many months we thought we’d start easy – and the days are rather short as well – so we picked a shortish walk (14 km). We also made it a bit easier and lighter by not carrying our own lunch, which we usually do – we thought it might be a bit too cold to sit and have a cold lunch outside.

The walk was in the North Downs in Surrey, starting in Guildford and finishing in Gomshall. It was a mixture of hills, woods, grassy ridges and farmland – quite a lot of variety. Pleasant paths, quiet, not too many roads, and not too many people. Nice views in many places. A bit colourless, though, as nothing is really growing yet. But there were some green pine forests and quite a few holly bushes, and even a small patch of crocuses and some snowdrops.

No matter what kind of walk it is, it turns out that we cover about 3 km per hour, including all stops, rests and lunch breaks. And even though we had lunch at a pub this time (and a surprisingly good lunch – at the White Horse in Shere) and had to wait half an hour for it, we still ended up making the whole trip in just under 5 hours, so the 3 km/h average pace still holds.

All in all an excellent day, leaving me pleasantly tired. I definitely want to do this more often again. And we need get our legs used to walking again – my knees and hips are a bit sore.