Tuesday, 25 June 2019

Barefoot walking: Dyke Walk Darvel

Lord of the rings is an amazing trilogy for walking inspiration, with the beautiful locations and the three whole films of non stop walking, and I always thought the hobbits must be crazy for walking barefoot literally the whole way, but lately I've been loving the idea of barefoot walking and even using any excuse to get my shoes off and go for a wander. It's mostly just been wherever there is water or fields of grass and never for longer than a mile.
Recently I have seen a lot of "barefoot" people on Facebook groups, starting with the legendary Anna Mcnuff who is running 100 marathons barefoot, (hat's off to her, I can't even run a few meters, never mind ONE marathon.) and the amount of  people who have been inspired by this has snowballed.
I also follow a lot of outdoor childcare providers (as I am an outdoor nursery teacher,) and they talk a lot about the benefits of barefoot activities with children, and after some more research, I finally thought, What the Hell, let's do it!

I decided that I would do this walk on Sunday, and spent all of Saturday night scouring through a few walking blogs, and walkhighlands trying to find a walk that wasn't going to slash my feet to bits. It needed to be mossy, muddy, or sandy, and after about 4 hours of searching, I found the walk. The Dyke Walk, in Darvel (Ayrshire.)

I got to the parking area and decided after looking at the maps that I'd take my shoes off once I'm off the B-roads, give my feet a softer start. I'm glad I did because there were a few people that I had encountered on my first leg, but as soon as the path turned and ran along two fields, I was set. I stopped and took a breath and said to myself, "get those feet out!" Let me tell you, it felt instantly amazing. I had been overheating up until this point, the day had been humid and warm, so to feel the cold, damp feeling of grass under feet was bliss, that was until I nearly stepped in a big cow pat. The first few minutes there was a lot of cow and sheep poo that I was dodging as if I was on a dance mat at the arcade, but I could still feel the benefits of feeling the world on my feet. The path at this point was beautiful, with low hanging trees and a carpet of moss and grass. My feet were in heaven.
When the path turned right, it took me along the side of a fence which overlooked the valley below. The terrain was lovely, still smooth underfoot and in the most beautiful looking woodland. It was all well until I approached the beech trees.

Now for those of you who don't know, underneath beech trees, not much grows because the leaves and the beach nuts don't biodegrade the same as other plants, which is why when you see a few beech trees in the same area, the ground is brown. This means that the ground underneath a beech tree is fairly stabby. Beechnuts aren't the nicest of things to be poking your feet. Luckily this area of terrain was only a few meters long but felt like it was a floor of lego pieces.
Suddenly I heard something big moving, the rustling of leaves only a few meters away and I saw a deer skipping away. I noticed I had got closer to it than I would have wearing shoes because my footfall was almost silent.

The rest of this mossy, woodland wonderland was enchanting, and I was gutted when the path stopped and turned into a gravelly B-road. "How am I going to do this?" I kept thinking to myself as I bounced from one tuft of grass to the next. I ended walking on the grass verge for a fair portion.
It stayed as a B-road for the whole way back, but it lead through a beautiful estate with the roads lined with laurel and rhododendron. There was a part of the road that even had doves and a peacock just chilling. At the end of the path, there was an enclosure that has a family of boars. I didn't manage to see any which was a shame, but some other walkers got to see a fascinatingly weird creature walking barefoot along a road. It was the first time some walkers didn't say "hi," as they were passing. (but I am fully aware of how strange it must have looked.)
Before coming back into the busy wee town where I had parked my car I put my shoes back on, to avoid being asked about it, and to avoid the little stones that are everywhere on pavements, especially considering there was no grass verges there. 

The walk left my feet feeling a little tender for an hour or so, but worse than that my calves were feeling the burn. As soon as I put my "light" walking shoes on I felt heavy and could feel the way I had changed how I walked, I had started walking by placing the ball of my feet down first.
Barefoot walking is definitely something I will do again, and probably as soon as the next day off I have to release my feet from their cage. It was a really grounding experience, I could feel my stresses disappear and a sense of calm literally flood my body. If you ever get the chance to walk barefoot, DO IT!
And if you don't fancy a barefoot walk, I would recommend this walk in a heartbeat. It was beautiful and the wooded, mossy section was enchanting in a very natural and peaceful way.

Anyway, Until next time.

Jade - Your Introvert Adventurer.