Walking Back to Happiness

I don’t know why it is, but you tend to get to know people better on a walk. Maybe it’s something to do with being out in the open air, communing with Nature, meeting other people who are enjoying the same thing. Chatting combines with exercise effortlessly – it does for me anyway – and that’s why I’d like to thank the Stepping Out and the Manchester & Salford Ramblers so much for all the walks this past year.

The last one at Alexandra Park was as brilliant as ever and unlike our previous walk at Heaton Park, this time the weather remained dry throughout.

It was nice to see some new people from The Bury Jubilee Centre, who joined us and there must have been about thirty of us all together.  We instantly bonded with our new friends, and I reflected that the Pavilion,where we sat enjoying enjoying tea and coffee afterwards, was the same place I’d regularly visited, when I was about six years old, on a Sunday afternoon with Mam, gran and my elder brother. I remember the tropical plants and large whicker armchairs in the Pavilion which opened up at the front to take in the panorama of tennis courts, fields and cricket pitch over yonder. This was something of an “Oasis,” where we were treated to delicious Orange Squash, Dandelion and Burdock or Strawberry Soda. Not forgetting the famous Wall’s  vanilla ice cream, which we eagerly devoured clamped between two wafers! Then there was the novelty, and at times frustration of a bag of Smith’s Salt & Shake crisps, with a little blue paper (dark blue like the touch paper of a firework) twist of salt inside. The problem was that occasionally this was absent, and the tantrums were frightful, and sometimes “explosive!”.

These were such vivid happy memories of endless Sunday summer days, partaking of a spot of “pitch and put” behind the Pavilion, or walking down the passage way between the wire-fenced tennis courts. I can still recollect on one occasion, chatting to a young couple, resplendent in their immaculate tennis whites. They were so kind and and must have been bemused by this talkative little chap.

Back to the walk…..as is the habit with The Manchester & Salford Ramblers (I was there as a member of The Manchester Carers Forum) there were two walks to choose from: an easier more pedestrian type walk in the confines of the park, or a longer one that I chose to take.  We set off from the rear of the  Pavilion, with the old duck pond ( I didn’t stop to throw bread as had been the habit in my younger days!), out through the smaller of the park gates, down the wide street bordered by elegant, red brick, large victorian houses to eventually join the “Fairfield Loop” at the end of the street, a now tarmac-ed path, well signposted, that was formerly a railway line. We’d entered at the point of the old station, as the Station Master’s house to the right of our view now testified.

Some imagination had been used to enable us to lose the main roads and cut through Hough End Playing Fields down into a grove by the stream. Our Ramblers’ guide Margaret (also amongst the leaders a  “Mags” and a “Maggie,” which continues to confuse and amuse me!!!) informed us that the clump of very old blackened and wettened trees were once the shelter for a herd of horses being hidden from Bonnie Prince Charlie as he passed this way.

After about one hour and a half in total, we had apparently totted up four miles as we made our way back onto the “Loop” and retraced our steps back to our base at the Pavillion for a hearty buffet and hot drinks. I celebrated the day’s walk with a delicious slice of Blueberry Pie and a nice hot brew!

It only remains for me at the end of this year to say thank you to everyone for making these walks not just possible but so enjoyable too. I am really looking forward to the outings’ next year with The M & S Ramblers and all the new friends we made this year. Plus those we have yet to meet.

A very merry Christmas to everyone involved and a Happy New Walking Year.

Jack.

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