In the routine of our daily walks, often traversing the same paths repeatedly, it’s easy for them to become mere passage from point A to point B. These strolls serve as exercise for our furry companions or a means to boost our step count, often undertaken at a brisk pace without much contemplation of the surroundings we traverse. ‘It’s the same route every day, it never changes’, you might hear someone remark. But let’s pause on that thought for a moment.
For me, walking regained its significance during those early, somewhat unsettling days of the Covid-19 pandemic. That solitary hour permitted for outdoor walks became a lifeline for many, offering a chance for contemplation and escape. It was an opportunity to meander slowly through even the most urban of landscapes, discovering pockets of serene beauty. Observing wildlife, like graceful herons or playful stoats reminiscent of mini-meerkats, brought a genuine sense of joy.
Appreciation of surroundings regained during lockdown fades
During the lockdowns, I lived in Castleford, a post-industrial town graced with picturesque walks along its many inland waterways and in its two exceptional nature parks. During those days, there was ample time to decelerate and truly appreciate the terrain I was traversing.
Over the next 18 months to two years, life gradually returned to a semblance of normality, and the daily grind resumed. Despite our vows to prioritise work-life balance and our connection with nature, these intentions often remained unfulfilled – certainly not to the extent I had hoped.
Following the path to reconnection with nature
Now, in 2023, on the late August bank holiday, I found myself taking part in ‘creative walk’ at a festival held at Wentworth Woodhouse, nestled between Barnsley and Rotherham. Created by the Balbir Singh Dance Company, it was a revelation. Named ‘Raastay’, an Urdu word meaning ‘way’ or ‘path’, this walk was an immersive experience, guided by dancers, a musician, an artist, and a photographer. The premise was simple: it wouldn’t be rushed. It was a golden opportunity to reconnect with nature creatively, and to draw inspiration from the sights, sounds, and scents along the way.
The artists shared their thoughts and their creations as we strolled through the woodland estate. Everyone on the walk gladly contributed, and I’m certain our numbers grew as we ambled along. Every moment was a delight, and I can truthfully say that my days of rushing with my head down and my best foot forward are, hopefully, behind me forever.
Rediscovering the ever-changing world around us
I started this piece by mentioning how people often claim that the same route never changes. But nothing could be further from the truth. Gavin, the photographer, emphasised how landscapes transform dramatically at different times of the day. From the mystical hues and beautiful colours at dawn to the harsh, unrelenting sunlight at noon, and from the golden hour to the serene blue hour in the evening.
From an artist’s perspective, the woods exhibit an entirely distinct character and mood during each season, serving as a wellspring of inspiration with their ever-evolving palette of colours, textures, and emotions.
The woods resound with a symphony of sounds – the melodies of birdsong, the whisper of leaves, the rhythmic cadence of footsteps on varying surfaces – all these were captured by the musician walking with us.
The dancers also drew inspiration from it all: whether a butterfly, or a bird flitting among the foliage, or the graceful sway and shape of the trees, or the rhythmic cadence of sounds. Like these artists, you need only take the time and allow nature to weave its enchantment. There’s an abundance to awaken your senses and kindle your creativity.