Saturday, 3 March 2012

The Longest Walk

A week ago, I was physically and mentally desperate to get OUT after not only a whole week spent mostly indoors but what felt like months and months of inclement weather that made it necessary to prepare for even the shortest venturing out of the front door as if it was a polar expedition.

So when Saturday came and I knew I was going to be on my own and therefore not under any schedule other than what daylight dictated, I decided to walk to a place where I have often cycled to, but never gone on foot.
Knowing that it was going to be a distance of at least 15 km (around 9 1/2 miles), I figured I should leave the house no later than 2.00 pm in order to make it back home before nightfall.

Therefore, I made sure I finished ironing, dusting, hoovering, wiping the floors, emptying the bins and doing some groceries shopping in time for a quick cheese sandwich around 1.00 pm, and was ready to leave a bit before 2.00.

It wasn't the best of weather, and I knew there were going to be some wet and muddy patches, so my wellies (see previous post) were the obvious choice of footwear (they are also very comfortable because they are a bit on the big side, allowing for an extra pair of woolly socks), and I took a brolly with me as well as my camera.

Every time I turned a corner or a new stretch of path began, I took a picture.
The fields are still bleak, and there were hardly any people about, as you will see if you endure this post long enough to look at all the photos. 
And yet, there was something very soothing about this almost featureless bleakness.
My mind was not challenged in any way, making it easy to sort out the whirling fragments of thoughts, ideas and memories. My feet were leading their own life, just taking me steadily further on; I know those paths too well to have to think about where I am going.

3 1/2 hours later, I had completed just a bit over 20 km (ca. 12 1/2 miles). It felt good - I felt good. It was the longest walk I have gone for this year so far, but I am intent on going for many more, as well as some proper hikes.

Having reached the outer rim of town, it's uphill towards the oldest of the four water reservoirs here.
I do have a thing about doors and doorways. Wonder when was the last time someone used this gate.
The water reservoir is at my back now. The monument to the left is to mark the site of celtic tomb.
A better view of the water reservoir. It was built in 1936 and is a popular place for rooks.
Heading west.

Now south, and uphill. This bit is not very popular with me when I am training for the CityRun!
And downhill, although it doesn't really show on this picture.
West again, towards one of the farms dotted around the fields.
Asparagus are growing underneath these ugly plastic covers.
Past the farm, and south again.
Looking back, the water reservoir is on the horizon, right in the middle here.
West again...
...and south, right through a nursery.
Some VERY oddly shaped trees there!
And a strange looking army of sorts.

On past the nursery with its rows of greenhouses...

across a road, and another farm coming up...

...where I see this cat, not exactly basking in the sun, but enjoying a quiet moment without too much wind and rain. Just a few minutes before, what had been a mere sprinkle had turned into proper rain, and for a moment or two, I had considered breaking off and going back home. But I did have my brolly with me, and was wearing my wellies, and the rain stopped and did not come back for the rest of my walk.

Past the farm and round a bend...

...towards another farm. Most of the farms around here sell their produce in little shops directly on their grounds, some are dairy farms, others sell more eggs and meat, while others again offer a variety of fruit and vegetables. One of them have a rather big shop plus a café-restaurant which is very popular, especially with families with kids, because the kids can run around and look at the animals (goats, pigs, sheep, horses and ponies), and the restaurant is often rented as a venue for weddings and other celebrations. On Mother's Day, you have no chance to even get your foot in the door, it is so packed. Their cooking and baking is excellent, with their own procude according to the season.
But now let's walk on, slightly uphill again...

...and to my left, now for the first time, I can see the place I am headed for: this group of trees.

So I am not wasting any time and walk on.

There is always enough time for a photo, though, and this immense field of reeds, much higher than I am, I find very intriguing. There is no way one can see further than a few steps in, and of course, something like this always triggers off my imagination.

Past the field of reeds (by the way, I don't know what they are grown for. One possible explanation is that the reeds are used for thatching, but in my area, there aren't any thatched roofs.) and slightly downhill again.

You can tell it has been raining - hooray for wellies!

But doesn't the sky look a tad bit lighter over there?

Or maybe I am only imagining it.
The motorway crosses here, but every now and then, a tunnel allows walkers, cyclists and the odd car to pass underneath.

Out of the tunnel, I touch the outer rim of one of the small towns near my town.

But before I'm actually in that town, I am out of it again. The group of trees I am headed for is now visible again on the horizon.

Almost there!

Only a few more steps...

...and here I am. As expected, nobody else has chosen to come here today.

This stone is not a natural stone. It has been sculpted from gravel and covered in some kind of cement to look like a real piece of rock, specifically to hold the plaque in its middle. Want to know what the plaque says?

It commemorates the 22nd of September 1888, when the German Kaiser stood at exactly this spot to inspect the troops of two of the regiments stationed nearby, and those regiments' towns later erected this monument. I guess it left a lasting impression on people back then when they had seen the Kaiser in person. We don't know the offical name of this place, but when we talk about it in my family, we always simply call it the Kaiser. So when I told my sister of my plans for the day and I said to her I intended walking to the Kaiser and back, she knew what I was talking about.

Having reached my goal, I felt a sense of accomplishment. The running/walking meter on my mobile phone told me that, until here, I had walked a bit over 10 km. And now, before the weather could turn nastier again, I was heading back.

Not wanting to do exactly the same route twice, after the first stretch...

...I took a left turn and down a rather steep hill, although it does not show in the picture. When I do this route by bike, it's a great hill to race down!
Arriving at the bottom and looking back, the Kaiser seems already quite far away.

The next bit leads towards the motorway again...

...and through another tunnel underneath it.

Now I am coming past the farm again where I saw the black cat.

Across the road again and past the nursery's greenhouses...

...and the weather has definitely taken a turn for the better!
Last year in August, I wrote about an evening with friends:
and the place where I spent that evening is just visible on the horizon now.

Lovely to feel the sun on my back as I head east again.

By my long shadow you can tell the afternoon is progressing, and I want to be home before the evening.

So, on I walk.

And on. Do you know what this wooden "gallow" is for? You find these all around here; they are stands for birds of prey such as buzzards.

Another farm coming up.

Walking past the farm, there's a suburb of my home town.

But I am not going there, I'll stay on the fields as long as possible.
The farm coming into view now is the one with the restaurant I was talking about earlier.

During winter, the café is closed, otherwise I might have been tempted to go in and have coffee and cake, but I am walking past it, towards the suburb again.

A lot of new houses have been built here over the last year. This was all fields until not that long ago.

The shadows are getting longer.

And it is not quite as sunny anymore as it was for a glorious little while.

Good job then that it is not very far now.

Up here, and back into town; another 15 minutes from here, and I am home.

Have I deserved that coffee and cheese sandwich now, or what? And so have you, for bearing with me!


  1. I'm exhausted just looking at the walk you took...

    1. He he Monalisa, I know - this is quite a challenging post, and I doubt many people will look at each and every picture without starting to yawn with boredom :-)

  2. Respekt! Wenn ich mir schon überlege, wie "lange" es die 3km zur Schule zu Fuß braucht, wenn man Fahrrad einen Platten hat. Hut ab ;)

    1. Jeden Tag den Weg zur Arbeit (oder Schule) wär mir das auch zu weit, aber ab und zu in meiner Freizeit brauche ich einfach "Auslauf" :-)

  3. Coffee and cheese sandwich? Are you kidding me? I would be eating a lot more than that after that long walk! Is that a walking trail or path that you are showing us? So nice you don't have to worry about cars. I do wonder what the tall reeds are... could they be something grown to feed cattle? Can't tell you how happy if made me to see your shadow and the blue sky, I know it must have made you happy too! Now, when you say that you have walked to the Kaiser, we will know what you mean too... Thanks for taking me on this long walk with you...but I am afraid that I would require more food for such a journey! :-)

    1. Kay, I had eaten more bread and cheese before I set off :-)
      Hmmm I don't think those reeds are grown to feed cattle. They are rather sturdy and so high they'd make good bundles for thatching, so that is my best guess. The paths are just narrow field roads, they are closed to "normal" traffic but those who live on the farms or go there to buy produce are allowed to drive there. On a fine weekend day, there are always plenty of people about, walking their dogs, cycling, skating, and so on.

  4. What a great walk! Wish we had roads like that to walk or bike on near my house. Looks like not much traffic. Our roads are way to busy. We have to get in the car and drive somewhere to walk or bike like that. Thanks for sharing it with us!

    1. You are welcome, Peggy Ann! Our roads are way too busy as well, but these are not normal roads, and I am glad that I live in a town small enough to be out on the fields within a 10 to 15 minutes walk from my front door.

  5. I am so filled with admiration! I used to walk long distances, though never, I think, alone. My husband and I spent our honeymoon in Allegheny State Park in New York and walked up into the foothills of the Alleghenies all day every day....But now - I haven't walked more than a few minutes until my knee surgeries in December and am just building up my stamina, but very slowly....I loved looking at your photos... I live at the end of a glacial moraine and it's beautifully filled with hills, valleys and ravines. I can't wait until I can walk more!

    1. Kristi, I can imagine how hard it is testing your patience that can't just get up and walk where and as long as you would like to! But that first longish walk of yours will be good reason to celebrate, and I hope it will happen soon!

  6. Bei dir ist es genauso flach wie am Niederrhein, wo ich herkomme.

    Ein Gewaltmarsch durch endlose Felder! Und wo genau ist der Kaiser?

    1. Es sieht auf den Bildern viel flacher aus, als es ist - in der Tat ist es ziemlich hügelig, was man vor allem beim Fahrradfahren und Joggen merkt :-) Der Kaiser ist zwischen meiner Heimatstadt Ludwigsburg und der Kleinstadt Schwieberdingen, aber näher an Schwieberdingen.

  7. Several things about this walk amaze me, 1) that you walked that far! 2) that you did it all alone! (I'm afraid a beautiful woman would be in danger of mugging, to say the least, here in the States should she set out on a solo trek like this, and 3) your photos are so descriptive. Yes, I was with you on the entire journey and loved every minute of it.
    What a pleasant area to walk or bike through. I really like all your surrounding countryside.
    Glad you were safely home and hopefully with your feet up and coffee in hand.

    1. Jill, thank you! I am used to doing things on my own; I live alone and have been doing so for a bit more than two years now. But even before, I was often out and about on my own, and I actually like my own company :-)
      I would not want to do this walk at night on my own, although not for not feeling safe (nobody else would be about) but for lack of visibility. When I am in town at night, I hardly ever feel it is unsafe, but I am reasonable and avoid certain areas at certain times.

  8. That is definitely the longest walk I've ever come along on, either virtually or with my own two feet! It was wonderful to see the countryside where you live...all so open and uncluttered. Seeing "the Kaiser" was very unexpected and interesting. All those miles and not a single automobile in sight (or at least, not in your photos) all seems so empty and peaceful to this city girl from Southern California! I couldn't help wondering how safe it is to be wandering alone out there like that but at the same time it seemed a glorious place to take a long walk. Thank you for the photo journey!

    1. You are welcome, Sara! I think the longest stretch I ever walked in one single day was twice the distance of this one. Anything above 20 km I would call a hike; up to that, it is still a walk.
      Nothing to feel not safe about in this area; it is at night in town where the drunk and up-to-no-good people are, not out on the fields.
      During my walk, I think I saw three cars altogether, and a tractor; the farmer greeted me with a friendly nod and a smile when I stood aside to let him pass.

  9. A lovely post and a lovely set of photos. I don't know if you are familiar with the American mystery writer Rex Stout, but in his series of books about the characters of Nero Wolfe and Archie Goodwin, Archie always goes for a long walk when he wants to sort out and clarify his thoughts. We walk our dog every day for a distance of two to five miles, depending on the weather. We are lucky to live near a 485 acre park, filled with trees and trails, so in addition to surface streets, we have lots of choice and usually go a different route every day.

    It's nice to walk, and be away from the noise of the city and the telephones and the television. Just to look around and see the changes in the weather and the seasons. Thanks for sharing your adventure with us.

    1. Thank you! No, I am not familiar with Rex Stout's writing, but I can very well relate to Archie's method of sorting out his thoughts.
      The park sounds lovely! I guess I'd go there every day for my lunch break, dog or no dog :-)

  10. I know that it was safe or you wouldn't chance it. I feel invigoratied just by seeing your excellent journaling of this trek. OH I bet that coffee tasted extra delicious!
    You are an inspiration, next time I am faced with a long walk I will say to myself, if Meike can do it , so can I.

    1. Julie, you are sweet! That coffee indeed tasted extra delicious, and was I ready for that cheese sandwich :-)

  11. Lovely to see how it brightened up - I got a real feeling for the rhythm of your walk from these photos. And I bet it was good for you!

    It makes me feel terrible when I can't get out.

    1. It was indeed good for me, Jenny, and I soon want to do another longish walk again, just won't have enough time to myself for at least another week or two.

  12. That would be a very lengthy walk for me nowadays. Glad th weather stayed passable for you.

    I've never seen stands for birds of prey before. They should have them where GB lives. It's so treeless they'd really appreciate it.

    1. These bird stands are all over the place here, even with plenty of trees about. I don't think it's the owners of the land that erect them, but probably some part of government program for the protection of the environment or so.

  13. WOW! Well done! Love the pics too. x

  14. Wow! it sure was a long walk, but I bet you felt great afterwords.

    1. I did! And want to do another one soon. But before that, I have a ball to go to :-)

  15. You are oh, so lucky to have such long, flat expanses for walking without traffic. I always love your 'out and about' postings. Thanks so much for the glimpse of your home countryside.

    1. You are welcome, Nan! The area is not at all as flat as the pictures make believe; the up and down of the hills is quite steep at places, but somehow the camera (or, rather, the person behind the camera...!) is unable to catch the perspective properly. It will all look a lot nicer in a few weeks, when there is more green on the trees, and then even nicer when the fruit trees start to show blossoms.

  16. I'm actually quite fond of the bare bones look, but I do look forward to green and blossoms!

    1. So do I, Nan! Yes, the bare look has its special appeal, increased by the knowledge that it will change eventually. I am glad to live in a part of the globe where we have four seasons... and many "mini-seasons" in between!

  17. Interesting that you used the term 'hoovering' for vacuum cleaning. I do too as do many people of my generation and, obviously, of subsequent generations. I recently discovered that some people of my generation who did not own a Hoover but used a rival make never succumbed to that term.

    "My feet were leading their own life" - I love that sentence.

    As for the walk and the photos and for taking us along with you I was enthralled. What I most noticed was the lack of hedges. I recall areas Bavaria where there were miles of fields with no hedges too.

    Perhaps the one bonus would have been a clip of the route which your cellphone programme probably produces. Just a thought.

    1. GB, I always say "hoovering" in spite of never having owned a Hoover - my vacuum cleaner is of some rather unknown make, but when I talk about it, I still say "Let me get the Hoover out". Of course, I am not being correct there, but somehow I never thought of using a neutral term.

      A clip of the route? Well, yes, it is on my mobile, and certainly it is possible to transfer it from there to my computer and upload it here, but I never thought of that.

      When I am in England, I love the fact that the fields are broken up by stone walls and hedges. Over here, it all has to be so efficient - which means no obstacles are allowed between one field and the next. Hedges are so important to wildlife that, in the few areas where they are found here, they are protected and not allowed to be cut down.

  18. I too am exhausted from your LONG walk! My adult kids and granddaughter would throw a fit if they thought I'd do such a thing. But, of course, I don't live near or in the country any more. Our streets aren't safe for cycling or walking. (Our city does not provide sidewalks for all our streets.) Your shadow seems even taller than mine!

    1. If I had to live in an area where it wouldn't be safe to walk, I'd simply go nuts - I need walking for my mental as well as my physical well-being :-)
      My shadow is probably taller because of it being a different time of day and year; I don't know how tall you are in real life, but I am relatively tall for a woman (1,74 m or 5'8").