This post was written by Kate, a member of a Nordic Walking group in Delamere Forest. Her instructor leads challenges across changing landscapes, while she casts her eye on the small and the glorious wilderness she encounters.
It’s 8am on a Saturday morning in March and our Nordic Walking instructor Kerley is leading us through Delamere Forest.
We’re on one of her ‘secret’ paths, soft and comforting underfoot with leaf mould and new growth, across little ditches rippling with the peaty bog water. Today, the first wood anemones are peeping through the shadows, tiny gleaming stars of white.
The birds are over excited by the prospect of spring - but who can put a name to their different songs? The woodpecker is easy - the smaller song birds’ notes are the stuff of argument and debate, unless one of our more experienced birders is with us.
Whatever the season, the forest light is always changing, broken and scattered by our own movements through stately pine trees, graceful, arching beeches, birch and oak and alder. The meres and mosses bounce the sunlight back as we start an invigorating stomp along the main track around the big lake.
We can gallop along if we want to, or saunter and chat. Will we climb up Old Pale to take in the view of seven counties, or will we dive back into the unknown tracks deep among the trees?
"My general health has improved, the pain from my arthritis is much diminished and the simple joy of exercising outdoors, in good company is the best medicine ever."
At the edges of the forest, there are open views across green fields and farmland, gently rising hills, horses and cattle and sheep.
A sense of peace and stillness.
Perhaps I will stay longer and join Kerley's tai chi session - wonderful in the woods.
I have been walking with Kerley and her various groups for nearly three years now, and have grown to love my time in the forest, whether stomping or sauntering.
Nearing 70, my general health has improved, the pain from my arthritis is much diminished and the simple joy of exercising outdoors, in good company is the best medicine ever.
I still have lots to learn in terms of Nordic Walking technique - and the forest provides the variety of terrain that allows us to work on hill techniques, strength and endurance, pacing and breathing practices to improve fitness.
Kerley’s knowledge of the forest is impressive and she is always looking for new ways to keep us challenged and engaged.
Looking forward to the warmer weather now, when Delamere's strange and beautiful darters (dragon flies) will be out, flitting like jewels across those dark, mysterious waters.