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9 February 2021

Big Spring Walk – Author Garth Lawson tells us why walking is important to him

Big Spring Walk – Author Garth Lawson tells us why walking is important to him

For 12 years, Garth Lawson’s Herefordshire walks were regularly featured in the Hereford Times, and led to the publication of a book – Garth Lawson’s Herefordshire Walks.

The last of his 146 ambles was published last Spring.

Here, he tells us why he’s supporting the St Michael’s Hospice Big Spring Walk, which takes place from Friday 19th-22nd March.

Why is walking important to you? 

Whilst I’ve been a country walker for over twenty years, the benefit of the exercise it offers has taken on even greater significance since Coronavirus reared its head. Given the early advice that the virus can attack our lungs, we felt we owed it to ourselves “to be the best we can be”. Therefore the resolve in March 2020 was to strike out from home as often as permitted around the fields and country lanes of Munstone, Lyde and Holmer. Having built up a modest reserve of fitness and stamina, we ventured a little further afield when lockdown was eased and re-visited some trusty walking routes in the Wye Valley and Black Mountains. Gradually pushing our sixty-seven year-old legs up hill, down dale, through forest and along river edge, we reached Christmas with 2,000 miles under the belt. I’m pleased to report that there followed a feeling of quiet but probably misguided confidence that we can take on anything the world decides to throw against us.

The restrictions in recent times may have denied us the little groups of company that we’re used to enjoying but one antidote for any increase in solitude is the reliable accompaniment of birdsong.

Like the Victorian diarist Francis Kilvert, who liked nothing better than rambling in his own company, we can often be found tramping the wilds of Herefordshire. Variously we have been beckoned by the call of curlew and red kite to the bosomy-soft Begwn Hills above Clyro, flirty stonechat on Vagar Hill, omnipresent green woodpecker on Coppet Hill, dipper and grey wagtail in the Grwyne Fawr valley, and the hirsute hobby on Bringsty Common. Whereas we’ve been tantalised by a coruscating kingfisher next to the Wye at Hoarwithy, we’ve actually been shown the way by a wheatear’s white rump along the precipice in mountain territory. Such are the compensations for walking on ones own.

How blessed are we to live amongst some of the country’s finest walking routes? 

Herefordshire is certainly blessed with its fair share and variety of walking trails. 

The Offa’s Dyke Path, for example, takes an exhilarating course over Hatterall Ridge on the border edge between Herefordshire and Monmouthshire, England and Wales. The Black Mountains, indeed, have long summoned story-tellers to explore their wild, bleak ridges and isolated valleys. As Phil Rickman, who writes under their gaze, has observed, “In the extreme west of Herefordshire is The Golden Valley, green pillows under the headboard of the Black Mountains. A half-forgotten England of hybrid place names, of wooded hills and hidden villages of rusty stone and crouching churches. A dark poacher’s pocket of England”.

The Herefordshire Trail unveils the full panoply of a pastoral county, but my own favourite patch is the Lower Wye Valley. Partly showcased by the Wye Valley Walk, there are no doubts about the blessings of an area which inspired Wordsworth’s wistful verses about the Wye wandering past Seven Sisters, the cliffs of Symonds Yat and Goodrich Castle; it also attracted local water colourist Joshua Cristall to paint its archetypal cottages. 

“If you have to die, this is a beautiful place.” 

Such was the poignant reflection of the widow of the inventor of stereo music Alan Dower Blumlein when she eventually visited the Wye Valley. 

For it was here, in the somnolent parish of Welsh Bicknor, that Blumlein died on a flight in 1942 with ten radar research colleagues. These scientists and airmen were pivotal to the War Effort and a Forest of Deanstone commemorating their endeavours is now visited on a bank of the Wye Valley Walk where they lost their lives. From here the Wye takes a sinuous route towards Symonds Yat Rock, just one mile downstream; the iconic view from the Rock – a feature of the film Shadowlands, complete with Anthony Hopkins et al – has come to represent the very embodiment of Herefordshire; indeed, just to confirm our suspicions, this part of the lower Wye Valley is officially an “Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty”. 

Why should people support their Hospice by signing up to the Big Spring Walk?

Perhaps we can all do our Captain Sir Tom Moore bit to support the hospice? During the confinement and strictures of the pandemic what can be more of a release than the healthy delight of walking in our local countryside?

I myself have an affinity with “hospice” and “walk” ever since taking some inspiration from the indomitable Linda Bishop in 2013. Linda’s journey really began in 2011 when she was referred to Day Hospice at St Michael’s Hospice with recurring Parotid tumours from which she had been suffering since her early 30’s. With the considerable assistance of the Hospice’s Complementary Therapies Team and through her own steely determination, Linda regained fitness and walked the 180 mile circumference of Herefordshire in an epic fundraising exercise which lasted for seventeen days. It was the first ever fundraising walk around the whole of the Herefordshire County Boundary.

Maybe today we can tailor more modest walking goals of our own to support the Hospice?

Garth Lawson

This Year’s Big Spring Walk takes place from 19th-22nd March.

Choose your own distance and route – perhaps a 5K, 11K or 16K – and help raise vital funds for St Michael’s Hospice. 

Open to all ages and abilities, the Big Spring Walk is free to enter in advance with sponsorship encouraged for all taking part.

You can sign-up to this year’s Big Spring Walk by clicking here

Sign up now to hear about how we care for families across Herefordshire and beyond and how you can help