Monday, 28 March 2011

Walkopedia - the world's best walks

An excellent and well-named site, Walkopedia, an online encyclopedia of the world's best walks. Here is a very wholesome and confidence-inspiring photograph of the founder, William Mackesy, who has tried out upwards of 70 of the 100 world's best (according to Walkopedia) walks. You can tell the weatherbeaten hero really has walked to summit of this mountain or whatever it is, not just been plastered with orange make-up and airlifted in by a 50-strong television crew. The core treks are intrepid GAP year or mid-life crisis stuff: Ayer's Rock; the Drakensberg Escarpment; Leaping Tiger Gorge in China; the Shikoku Pilgrimage; the Diamond Mountains in North Korea. But site followers are encourged to feed in their personal odysseys, so there is a growing number of less ambitious but no less uplifting walks to be discovered. They haven't got as far as mapping some of my personal favourites yet, St James's Square to Queen Anne's Gate, or the first nine holes of the Alberoni golf club on the Venice Lido. But that will come. Meanwhile, an important point. However long or short, easy or arduous a walk might be, it should surely be undertaken for pleasure and not, as it were, at gunpoint. Is this scenario familiar? It certainly is to me. You come to the end of an agreeable Sunday lunch at a friend's place in the country. You postpone the trip back to town until Monday morning. Your fifth glass of claret sparkles like a rare Burmese temple ruby in the late afternoon sunlight, stealing flecks of viridian, blue and gold from Turkey carpets and Brabazon water-colours. Humphrey, the family's amiable golden retriever, rests his lustrous, doting head on your knee. "Whassup, Humphrey? There's a good chap... There's a good chap... You're my besht friend, aren't you?" A gentlemanly longcase clock, the dial alive with sporting Keatsian nymphs, measures away these long, precious, pleasure-loaded minutes. Then suddenly your host brightly announces that everyone is to go for a 'walk' - and he's drawn the map of hell well in advance. "We'll go as far as Madman's Folly then cut off down into Plague Field... Follow the Flooze back as far as Temple Priesthole... We'll have an hour or so to spare before the pub opens so we'll scamper up Wild Sally's Fell and take a look at the Devil's Ring"... and so on. Four hours later you're back, out of the chill, drizzling twilight, drenched, aching, miserable. I say all this not because I dislike walking - I don't - but because walking is one of life's greatest pleasures. It's like opera. Break in the virgin with tender loving care rather than attempt to relive the retreat from Moscow. Send your favourite walks to walkopedia.

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