Shanks’ Pony

Ten thousand steps a day? Where do people get these things from? Who said people should do ten thousand steps a day? Probably someone who did not grow up in s small village in rural England.

Of course, there was the bicycle, but the bicycle only took you from one place to another, and while useful on tarmac roads or stony lanes, it would make little headway when winter rain turned tracks to mud. Most of the time, walking was the only option.

On the farm, unless the cows were in the home fields, there was a walk to fetch them for the evening milking. It was always a delight to go with my grandfather, he walked at a steady pace, never hurried, and an undersized, asthmatic boy did not have to struggle to keep pace with him. In times when money was short, there would be numerous farm tasks that would be done on foot. Checking cattle, checking electric fences, walking to draw water from a well for cattle distant from the farm. Hours would be passed walking around, and no-one would have thought it unusual.

The village had a bus service only once a week, it took people to Langport for shopping, the bank, and whatever other services might be visited in the two hours before the bus made the return journey.

In student days, the shopping bus was of little use. Coming home might mean catching the train to Taunton or Yeovil Junction and catching the bus to Langport before walking the three miles home. The fare from Waterloo to Yeovil Junction was much cheaper than that from Paddington to Taunton, but, if expenditure was to be avoided, there was a need to walk from the Junction into the town of Yeovil, in memory, a couple of miles.

Walking was not something done for leisure or for fitness, it was something done out of necessity. Of course, it severely restricted the possibility of going anywhere. I used to buy copies of Time Out magazine, the London “what’s on?” publication and imagine what it was like to live in a city where it was possible to go anywhere you liked, where a world of excitement was only a tube journey away. Stuck in a village, isolated from everything that interested me, I would gladly have chose not to walk anywhere.

Ten thousand steps a day? Is that all that you do?

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