Solvitur ambulando–the solution comes through walking. This is the motto that we adopted for our five day, 50 mile walking trip through the Cotswolds. Whether writing a story, climbing a rock wall, putting the garden in, or dealing with life’s inevitable challenges and heartbreaks–sometimes there isn’t much else one can do. Just put one foot in front of the other. Keep going, one step at a time. You don’t need to see the finish line, you just need to show up, then pick one foot up and put it down again.
And that’s what we did. No multitasking, no rushing, no traffic, nothing but walking. We walked through meadows alight with butterflies, fields of sheep and cows, shimmery green forests where Robin Hood surely waited just around every bend, along endless dry stone walls and hedgerows, up billygoat tracks and down shady country roads.
Everywhere, the villages were made of the local honey-colored stone. We investigated gardens and barrows, Roman ruins and castles. We talked, and we were silent. We stopped to stare, and take pictures, and apply bug spray while whirling and flapping our hands at black flies, and to have a rest and some water. Sometimes we puffed up hills like ailing funiculars. Sometimes we strode like we owned the world. The only objective: find the next way mark. The finish line: a dot on the map where we would have our next meal, a hot shower and a real ale and a bed at the end of the day.
As lunch or dinnertime approached, we would crest a hill and catch sight of a church spire and we knew that we were within reach of a meal that we had fairly earned with miles of steady walking. It was good to enter the local pub, drop our packs and wash our hands, to look around at the dark wood paneled walls and the dart board and many-paned windows. We would go up to the counter and order our meals and then sink wearily into chairs.
I went to England with a long list of things I wanted to experience. A Ploughman’s Lunch was high on that list.
The Ploughman was present on every pub menu, and the essentials were: bread, cheese, and pickle. Simple, but delicious. The details varied a bit from place to place however–stilton or cheddar or brie, salad or coleslaw, milder or sharper pickles, mustard, maybe chutney. Oh, the glorious cheeses! Fuel for a ploughman, fuel for a long walk.
And when your day has been honed down to the essentials, and when the cheeses are not an afterthought or an appetizer, but the star of the meal, and when you are really truly hot and tired and hungry, coated with sunscreen and bug spray and dirt, and completely relaxed and a little euphoric from sunshine and fresh air, nothing, nothing could be better than a Ploughman’s lunch washed down with a half-pint of local ale.