Don’t speak of walking: go hiking. And dress to impress while you’re at it: for hiking is the new chic activity of choice through which to achieve the body beautiful.
When we’re in our beloved Northumberland, more than anything we like to walk. We’re not intrepid. We don’t go in for 12 or 15-mile long-hauls: rather, we’re out for a couple of hours around our local north-eastern edge of the Cheviots. In that part of the range, half an hour is enough to get out beyond Yeavering Bell, Humbleton Hill or Tom Tallon’s Crag. The landscape opens out towards Commonburn and Broadstruther, and the biggest hills, Hedgehope and The Cheviot, dominate the skyline.
In recent months, indeed, we’ve been relying on walking for exercise due to back trouble which has prevented my feeble if regular attempts at running. More of that later.
But, wherever we found ourselves in the hills (or on Bamburgh Beach, frequently gloriously warm in this remarkable summer!), we failed to note the phenomenon identified in the Daily Telegraph this week. According to that organ, hiking [sic] has “become the peak of chic”. Witness such celebs as Reese Witherspoon, Taylor Swift and Jennifer Garner, who talk of the heart-pumping, bum-sculpting and mind-clearing benefits of a good walk.
I’m with them, well, part of the way. Heart-pumping: certainly, puffing up a hill or two. Mind-clearing? Undoubtedly. Indeed, a longer-than-usual walk in the College Valley last October saw a tune take shape in my mind. It emerged almost fully-formed to become my setting of the medieval text, Sir Christemas, which won BBC Radio 3’s Christmas carol competition and is now published (note to Editor: am I allowed a plug here?) by Banks Music Publications. Buy it for your choir to sing this Christmas! (Is that allowed, too?)
As for bum-sculpting, I guess it works for some. Mrs Trafford, for one, remains slim and lithe whether we hike or not. While my posterior: to sculpt that would exceed the powers even of Michelangelo. It would be a tough call for a road mender with a jackhammer.
Inevitably, though, the new chic trend must be re-packaged. We talk of walking in the hills: now it must be rebranded as hiking. More important even than the celebs quoted is the requirement to sport the right designer gear. So if you’re female and a fashion icon, you have to go to Gucci for your boots, Prada for the pink walking socks and all the other items (including a belt that looks like a climbing rope) to various fashion houses that I hadn’t heard of.
The Telegraph puff sparked some discussion on Twitter. I fell into the camp of other old gits (including Brian Groom, @GroomB) who, like me, reckon they’ve never encountered immaculately dressed beautiful young women during their hill-walks. Another school of thought, represented by Hugh Macknight (@Hughmacknight) claims to spot one “fantastically attractive young woman” every outing. Perhaps he knows where to go.
On our last walk in the hills, some 10 days ago, we only saw one other hiker, male and not fashionably dressed, making his way along St Cuthbert’s Way. Even in high holiday time, we don’t see that many walkers in our patch of the Cheviots.
Alas, I couldn’t test this theory further, as we had to leave Northumberland and head south. As I write this I’m about to have a modest back operation to solve a disc problem. Even hill-walking has failed to cure it, so we went together to see a back-surgeon. This is Oxford, so naturally he boasts a Professorship and an OBE as well as the requisite set of sharp knives.
As medics do these days, he asked what we wanted out of this: we said we were looking for an end to the pain. “I can’t stand much more of the groaning and the effing and blinding every morning,” said Mrs Trafford.
As the surgeon nodded sympathetically, I leaned towards him in a confidential manner. “I must confess,” I added, “My language hasn’t been good either.”