There’s nothing like a blustery walk on January 1st, both to blow away the cobwebs and to start the year in a way that flags up good feelings in the months and even years ahead; some of my most memorable walks of all time have been on New Years Day. Typically, we head for a beach or a hill, often somewhere with a spiritual feel like Avebury stone circle or the watermeadows around a cathedral.
This year, we headed for the idyllic village of Fingest in Buckinghamshire where we knew the Chequers Inn would provide us with a roaring fire to warm our toes and and with an excellent first meal-out of the year. The idea was to walk up an appetite before we arrived there but, having had a late night, we managed just a 20 minute stroll around the village before heading to the pub and – yes – that roaring fire. By the time we’d languished over an excellent lunch washed down by a pint of cider, the rain was absolutely pouring but, not to be put off, we set off up the hill behind the village as planned and it was well worth it.
A sky that was pure white with rain clouds made the emerald green of the surrounding countryside all the more vivid and the view from the top of that particular hill has to be one of my favourite – its like looking down on a miniature nugget of timeless English country life with its cottages, its church, its smoking chimneys and the patchwork of fields all around. We were joined by red kites that swooped and glided at our level as we reached the top and enduring the wind and rain was no hardship at all because it felt just great to be out there and exposed to the elements, pelted with rain, with an amazing view and a great lungfuls of fresh air (and, of course, a stomach full of pub grub). Rudi absolutely loved the hill, the wind and the drizzle – it was all just a great excuse for even more exuberance than usual – and so he ran huge laps around (and into) us all as we slipped and skidded down the muddy path back to the car. Heading back home to our own fireside and a slice of Christmas cake with a cuppa, it felt like it couldn’t have been a better start to 2012.