• Limits 14 February 2018 | View comments

  • My friend Roger is in hospital in North Wales. He has a broken dislocated ankle having fallen whilst out on a regular Thursday walk with other friends, all in their seventies or eighties. The weather was bad and the terrain treacherous. Roger’s eyesight is not so good and he has been having falls. He fractured a patella in one such only a few months ago. Medication may also be making his balance less certain.

    The little group waited and shivered for over two hours before the mountain rescue team could get to them. Roger was shivering most and enduring dreadful pain. It is a relief that he has become safe in hospital and we hope surgical interventions will bring him back toward the state he was.

    Tomorrow we will be walking with a group of ten or more on our local park and maybe onto roads and green spaces nearby. There is walking and talking and time for more talk for an hour, followed by simple refreshments and more talk and chuckles. It is just to get out and to enjoy the pleasure of the air and what is to be seen and how your body feels to be used. We hear of one lady’s friend and neighbour who has not been out of her flat for more than a year. She spends her time with food and drink to either hand, TV before her – her legs have become weaker, her weight is increasing. Movement even within the flat is becoming an adventure, and hazardous.

    Somehow we have to steer a course which keeps people safe but lets people keep moving.

    As a teenager in the 1950s and 1960s, a hike in the countryside of Shropshire or Derbyshire was a treat to be experienced on Bank Holidays. Transport was a commissioned, ancient double-decker bus in blue livery. We went slowly along the roads, making heavy of any incline. All passengers were willing the engine to keep pulling so that we could get there – and hopefully get back. We had packed lunches, no alcohol, but easy sing-songs: just the wonder of the air and the scenery and the spiritual buzz to be close to the earth that God made.

    Roger’s group is the ‘graduate’ outcome of weekly hikes of young families from the 1980s. Can you have too much of a good thing? The children of the families have found other things to take their time. It is the senior men who have clung on to a routine which has obvious attractions, but dangers now as bodies and sensory apparatus are less flexible and less reliable.

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