In the New Escapologist survey, our readers’ joint-favourite activity (joint with ‘reading and libraries’) is revealed to be walking. We are a well-read and eternally roaming bunch. As if we needed a survey to tell us that.
What does walking have to do with Escapology? There’s certainly a strong sense of freedom in knowing you have the physical fitness to take flight at a moment’s notice and with minimal assistance. It’s also the cheapest mode of transport there is, meaning less need to sell your time for money. Walking keeps you fit without resorting to the expensive indignity of the gym, and allows you to discover parts of the city you wouldn’t have noticed otherwise: secret alleyways, blue plaques, hidden bars, unusual statues and masonry.
I’m an eternal pedestrian, walking mainly as a way to get from A to B. If ever I resort to the subway or a taxi, it feels like a slight failing. Sometimes I even forget that the subway exists, which is a shame because the one in Glasgow is very charming. Walking, these days, is my primary means of transport.
On rare instances of walking specifically for pleasure, I am likely to do so as an urban flaneur. Unlike the hiker or hill walker, I am not particularly interested in the countryside. I am trying, however, to take a more active interest in walking, and it has inevitably taken me into the countryside. I may have been pulled in this direction by Stephen Barry’s inspiring account of the Rambler’s Association in New Escapologist Issue 5.
Yesterday I walked 23 miles from Glasgow to Loch Lomond. It was training and a fitness indicator for next week’s challenge of walking 41 miles across Yorkshire moorland: the dreaded Lyke Wake Walk, which my dad remarkably completed as a hungover twenty-year-old in the 1960s.
I’ll be doing the Lyke Wake Walk with New Escapologist‘s typographer, Tim. My dad, meanwhile, will be our support team, meeting us by car at each of five checkpoints along the way.
Here’s the report I sent to Tim about yesterday’s walk to Loch Lomond:
The walk went well! I set out at 7:40 and arrived at Loch Lomond at 13:25. A pretty good time for an excess of 23 miles, especially considering my normally quite sessile lifestyle. Not aiming for speed, I didn’t even walk particularly fast. There was one boring stretch through Milton with nothing to see but trees, so I resolved to blow through it. The rest of the walk was quite relaxed. My boots are comfortable and I remain completely unblistered.
I was feeling the burn at the end of the walk but was mercifully unruined. I managed to enjoy an afternoon sniggering at the Lomond Shores tourist attractions with Samara and our friend Kirsty, who had arrived by train to meet me. I even managed a pedalo ride on the Loch (though the ladies were largely responsible for the peddling, much to the amusement of the pedalo supervisor. I contributed mainly by steering, which probably accounts for our continual going around in circles).
Favourite bits of the walk? I enjoyed going past Glasgow International Airport, with the planes roaring overhead. At one point, I was directly on the flight path, looking at the underbellies of the planes. At this point, I saw a pile of junked cars at a scrap metal dealership that I recall seeing from the air while on a plane myself.
I saw lots of suburban back gardens (which Neil very correctly observes are rife with Argos trampolines) and pigeon coops and a house with a plastic owl on its roof, presumably designed to deter pigeons but was covered in pigeon poop nonetheless. I saw beehives and foxgloves covered with bees. I was happy to pass Clydebank College, where I sometimes used to speak at conferences but was considered too far away from Glasgow for work to reimburse my taxi (yet I walked there). I got slightly lost in Dumbarton. I saw the Smollett monument in Renton (upon which I’ve subsequently learned is an inscription composed by Dr Johnson). I saw lots of fishermen who were very keen to say hello. I saw the Erskine Bridge, which is massive. And finally I went on a pedalo.