Walking for pleasure

Although there’s a pervading perception that lockdown has given us all more time, it’s been several months since I posted anything new on this blog. I’ll give you all the usual, genuine excuses: work was insanely busy in the autumn term, I’m still struggling on with my PhD when I feel able to in evenings and at weekends, general ennui with the ongoing situation… and also a conscious effort to create a bit more ‘me time’.

Of course, in a cold winter combined with lockdown three, most of the usual things I’d class as self-indulgent treats aren’t viable (oh to visit my Mum and go out for coffee and cake). Nonetheless, I’m trying to find calm in the smaller things, one of which is my daily walk. There are plenty of places close to my home that I’d never explored a year ago; cracked pavements and untrodden footpaths that I now know well.

One of these is the Bourn Brook walkway, and when The Guardian put a call out to readers for tips about tranquil places they’ve discovered in lockdown, it seemed a perfect example. So I wrote this short paragraph, and sent it off:

While Birmingham is known for its extensive canal network, less attention is paid to its natural rivers and streams. Since the first lockdown, however, I have discovered the Bourn Brook Walkway, a leafy public path which follows this small stream between Harborne and Woodgate Valley country park. I now walk a stretch of it most weeks and love how peaceful it is. I always pause on a particular bridge to listen to the sound of running water that’s so hard to find elsewhere in the city, and observe the changing seasons.

And a few days later, I was delighted to discover it had been published on the website! It’s only a small thing, but it made my week. So many people perceive Birmingham as grey and filled with concrete, but there are a huge number of green spaces and hidden gems like this walkway. Granted, there’s usually more litter than my photo shows, which is sad, but I can’t overemphasise how soothing it is to watch the movement of water for a few minutes. The birds seem to be chirping more now and green spears are shooting up, which are sure signs that spring is on the way and with it, hopefully, better times.

Even though I can’t wait for the days I can safely enjoy seeing my friends and family again, or visit a cafe, I’ll definitely carry on exploring by foot. While it’s been a necessity during the pandemic for the fresh air and change of scene walking provides, finding places to pause and appreciate nature has been a real joy. The other day I saw my first goldcrest, the smallest bird in the UK, and watching ducks skid on the frozen canal earlier in the month provided a much needed chuckle. I enjoy stretching my legs, and if I can stretch my horizons at the same time, even in a very small way, then it’s a pleasure I’ll readily embrace.

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