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Saturday, 9 August 2014

Watershed Walks

Our greatest gifts are often given to us before we even realise. When I was barely more than a toddler my father used to take me walking on a Saturday morning. We usually walked across the fields to the next village, our English Setters bounding ahead, and headed back again in time for lunch. Since those early days walking has been an important part of my life and I have written about it on this blog several times. I think that one of the most difficult things I found about boarding school was not being able to just open the door and go for a walk.

Later, when living in Oxford, I was a member of the University Rambling Club but I am not a hearty walker. My walks tend to be gentle and last anything from a brief twenty minutes up to an hour or two at the most. Sometimes I walk alone, sometimes with company. The walks take many forms. They can be celebratory or consoling. They can raise questions or can lead to answers to questions I already have. They can provide inspiration and, every once in a while, a walk occurs at a watershed moment.

This week we collected my daughter from Oxford. After three years studying History of Art she graduated in June. Since then she has been working, but on Wednesday the lease expired on her student house and she has come home. It is almost eighteen years since she started at playschool for three mornings a week and, like many children, the rigours of academic life have not always entirely suited her personality. But she has done well and now she begins a new phase in her life, with freedom to choose the direction she wants to go in. It is an exciting time for her but also daunting too. So we went for a walk.

In retrospect it seems appropriate that, at this watershed moment, for the first part of our walk we headed for the still, muddy water of the canal.

Planting our feet carefully on the uneven towpath we admired the wild flowers, recalled blackberry picking with my grandmother and took a moment to study the quietly moored narrowboats. We talked of friendships she had made over the last three years, some which would endure and some which she needed to let go.

As we emerged into open pastures our conversation changed to the future, of possibilities ahead and of the importance of giving yourself time, not trying to achieve too much all at once.

Again our walk finished by water, this time alongside the crystal clear water of the River Sence.

We headed off to the nearby garden centre for a coffee and to buy some fresh produce for lunch.

So, this week a chapter in our lives has ended. Unless, in a few months' time my daughter decides to do an MA, all of our children have completed their formal education. It's been a long haul!  I feel enormous pride that they have all done so well and are making their way in the world and relieved too that the worries about exams, subject choices, settling in to new schools/universities and fitting life in around term times are behind us. So it's not just a watershed moment for my daughter, but for my husband and I too.

Thank-you for reading and if you have a watershed moment this week I hope it's a good one.


  1. Ah, that is lovely Wistow, isn't it? Lovely. Congratulations all round, and very best wishes for happiness in the next phases of life.

  2. Thank-you. Yes that is Wistow. I never tire of it and photos taken with daughter's new camera which is why they are better than my usual ones!