Can there be a finer, healthier or more spiritually uplifting activity than simply walking? The English countryside is embroidered with stories of long ago - it's there in the field patterns, the stonework, the vegetation, the illogical curving of roads and paths. As you walk, you become alert to those ancient signs. The air is pure and clean. You feel free. Beads of sweat form on your brow, you huff and puff but essentially the pace of your walking is controlled by your body and how you're feeling.
One of my greatest pleasures is to grab a map, work out a circular walking route and bomb off into the countryside with my boots. Hence, on Monday, I parked up just outside the Derbyshire hamlet of Abney and headed off down Abney Clough and round the back of Abney Low - which is a circular hill farmed and occupied since neolithic times - as the term "low" would indicate.
Too much Christmas turkey, too much bubble and squeak and Christmas pud and Roses' chocolates... I really needed a walk. And it was invigorating to be out there in the crisp January air, walking paths still frost-hardened. Like a soldier, I could have marched all day but I limited myself to a couple of hours. In that fresh winter's afternoon - with the sun already heading for the western horizon, it occurred to me that in the sultry heat of Bangkok there may be days ahead when I will hunger for such wintry freshness.
Here's my little Abney Album in memory of January 3rd 2011:-
Hamlet sign just where I parked
Trees silhouetted in Abney Clough
View to Smelting Hill from Bretton Clough
Cockey Farm on the edge of Abney