No matter where you go in Great Britain you can find people “walking”, which is the American equivalent of hiking. They can be sole walkers, or in small groups, but they take to the countryside with such determination, often with stick in hand and a sensible pair of brogues on their feet.
The beauty of doing this in GB is that the country so whole heartedly supports the idea with the availability of public footpaths. I find this a splendid alternative to gated communities. These “rights of way” offer the most serious of long distance walkers easy access to the countryside and wilderness areas. In England and Wales, these walkers have legally protected rights to “pass and repass” on footpaths, bridleways and other byways which have been declared public, even as they cross private property and farmland. The paths are marked with simple posts at junctions, and once you start noticing them you see them everywhere.
The wonderful part of all this is that they connect the loveliest villages, and you can often find a tea shop at the end of the path, where you can set your stick down and take a break. Of course there is always the pub on the next corner for those who need a bit more fortification before continuing.
One of our favorite places to visit is the classic walking area in the UK, the Peak District. And our favorite village there is Ashford-in-the-Water. Now, we are known for our short walks, compared to those hardy soles who take out over the hills and dales for hours on end. But on this particular morning in late summer, we took off from our lovely warm hotel, crossed the footbridge over the river, and opened the gate to cross on to the nearby footpath. Observing the very necessary courtesy of firmly closing the gate behind us so the cows wouldn’t decide to go on their own walkabout, we started up the hill and across the field. It was spectacular.
Within a short distance we discovered a small farm house that seemed to reign over these rolling hills and monumental sky. It seemed so simple. But it took my breath away (or was that the hill).
The painting I did of this farmhouse still hangs in my living room, living proof that I had actually crossed over in to the realm of the footpaths. Every time I see it I can’t help but smile.
Artist’s note: When I start on a painting, I often work out the basic composition, and equally important, the undertones of light and shadow. Will it be warm, or cool? Will there be high contrast, or muted tones? This is often done with a quick underpainting. I found a photo of this original underpainting for “Stone Cottage” in my files, and thought it would be fun to share.