At this time of year the fields of barley (with its long wispy delicate whiskers) and wheat are starting to turn and ripen. Barley changes beautifully from its vibrant green to a light beige. And wheat, standing tall and proudly as it does in the fields to a golden hue.
The sight of both crops growing whisks me instantly back to my childhood on the farm. I remember (with fondness and probably rose tinted spectacles) the seemingly endless flurry of activity from early in the morning until late into the night. Tractor drivers, trailers and my father, driving the machines and combine harvester to race against the unpredictable British weather. This will soon be underway.
We would pack frozen ice lolly’s in newspaper and rush them to the fields to keep my father cool in the heat of the dry dusty work that is harvest.
Back on today’s trail I am lulled soothingly by the sway and movement of the crops.
We are in the Cotswolds. We, my husband and our Guide and Trail Creator, David, our children (who often accompany us on trail checks and have learnt much over the years, Molly, Foot Trails mascot and our Cavalier King Charles.)
There have been recent reports of logging on one of our trails and we are here to assess the situation and see if we need to re-route the trail.
Long views of green, mellow fields and impossibly inviting villages stretch out in front of us.
Out here the crowds, throngs and coaches of visitors seem miles away.
Village life is blissfully slower paced and simple. We walk, we talk we pause at the village shop café for Americano coffees, ice cream and a cream tea. We study the map and ponder the route directions on the trail card.
By the side of the fields wild Poppies are thrown around by the breeze. Their heads of delicate and strongly hued petals dancing.
We partake enthusiastically in the obligatory choosing and discussion of which would be the cottage we would most love to live in. There are several contenders. We admire their stone porches, elaborate chimney pots and quiet locations.
The Cotswolds are such a distinct area to walk in. Clues of it’s geography are everywhere. In the stone walls, skilfully put together by hand without cement, they mark boundaries and keep in sheep and live stock. And by the buildings, churches, built in the trade mark local stone.
We reach the point of the logging and instantly see what needs to be done. A few tweaks and changes are spoken into our Dictaphone and the new directions are recorded. Soon to be written into trail cards and feature in trips for guests from around the world to enjoy.
I reflect on my life as the sun beams enthusiastically through a gap in the trees in front of me. For 15 years Foot Trails has been the product of my life work. What began as a dream, a vision to inspire people to walk rural England in a way that was authentic and meaningful has grown and developed in ways I could not then imagine.
But one thing has remained. The simple act of walking and the pleasure it brings. The simple act of putting one foot in front of the other, repeatedly and letting our feet take us on a journey. Sometimes to places known sometimes to places new. It matters not. The world our feet let us see always holds something fresh and new if we look closely enough. A view, a season, a feel, weather….
Years ago we chose the phrase walking England’s rural canvas to sum up what it is we do at Foot Trails. It seems more apt than ever.
I am still inspired by walking. In many ways more than I ever was. I hope through our efforts, passions and goals you too will discover not only beautiful places like here in the Cotswolds, but gain a perspective of life that sustains and inspires you.
Alison Howell, Foot Trails founder