Walking With the Swallows

What have I missed socially with lockdown? Meeting up with a group of very good friends every 6 weeks or so, going for a walk followed by a pub lunch. It started about 7 years ago with 4 of us getting together but we now total 13, and as we get older the walks get shorter and the lunches get longer, hence: Short Walks and Long Lunches On Wednesdays, or “SWALLOWS.” The remit is simple yet somehow challenging: the walk must be about 3 miles, be no more than a 40 minute drive to the start, be dog-friendly, start and finish at a pub, and should have a convenient place to pause for a coffee break halfway round. The date for each walk is decided upon while lingering over coffee at the pub at the end of the current walk and someone will offer to organise it and this, to my mind, is just as much fun as the event itself.

First there is the trawling through of books of local walks. Are there too many stiles? Are the hills too hilly and the slopes too steep? Is the ground too uneven? Is it possible to cross fields even if it’s been raining? Most importantly, what about the pub? Does it still have a “cosy, friendly atmosphere with good food” as mentioned in the guide or is it now a gastropub which will frown over the scruffy, ageing walkers who appear at their door with their scruffy ageing dogs?

Once a walk has been decided upon the next step is to check it out. To get an idea of the actual time it will take, allowing for stops etc., the best way is to walk it. As one or two tend to walk faster than a group, it's best for (say) 4 of you to suss it all out. Obviously, you can’t just arrive mob handed at a pub on the day so after you’ve tried out the walk you need to make sure the pub is a suitable venue - so you try that out as well.

Over the years we have found some delightful walks through bluebell woods, alongside canals, across parkland, round reservoirs, the seaside and over the Downs. We enjoy each other’s company, the fresh air, the views and sounds of the countryside. We laugh as we struggle over stiles, fallen trees and while taking shelter from the driving rain. A request for a “table for 13” on a usually quiet Wednesday lunchtime has always been welcomed by every pub we’ve visited and we’ve returned to some several times. It’s the friendship and laughter which we’ve all missed as well as the break from our daily routine and once things open up completely the Swallows will be back – ready for their next "flight".


Polly Perry. Active, 68 years old, loves walking, writing and being socialable.