I’d go ahead and place a large amount of money that a good proportion of readers would be hesitant to label themselves a ‘rambler’. Even though rambling is loosely defined as “walking in the countryside for pleasure” - which is something most of us can resonate with - it is a term loaded with, well, silliness. Elderly men and women with gaiters, walking poles and serious expressions on a sunny day in rural Lincolnshire - that kind of thing. Rambling is a quintessentially British concept, but in the sense that we love to make fun of ourselves in a cute, bumbling sort of way. The thing is, though, none of that makes any sense. You should be a rambler. More specifically, you should be a rambler right now.
The foundations of our teasing of rambling is that it is perhaps the least hardcore way to experience the outdoors, short of simply sitting down outside. Mountain biking, trail running, skiing, climbing; our perception of spending time outside is skewed in favour of high-octane, adrenaline-pumping experiences, and that’s no bad thing. But our love of tearing around outside doesn’t mean that it’s the only way to enjoy being outdoors, or even always the best. Sometimes, a deliberately non-hardcore walk in the countryside is all you need.
All that rambling requires you to do is walk in the great outdoors at your own pace - that’s it. Sure, there’s our cultural perception of ramblers that includes year-round sunblock, jam sandwiches and socks tucked into trousers, but that’s just fluff that obscures what rambling really is: simply enjoying the outdoors at a slower pace. Even the most fervent adrenaline junkie can appreciate the sound of birdsong, the smell of fields after a heavy rain, and the steady crunch of frozen earth under your boots.
Really, it’s that last point that attracts me to rambling the most: not just that it’s a year-round pleasure, but that winter is actually the perfect time to head outside. Now that applies to many other outdoor pursuits too, of course; a downhill mountain biker without a frozen muddy puddle to crash through isn’t really a downhill mountain biker at all. But imagine the following scenario:
On a cold, crisp winter morning, you lace up your boots, shoulder a day pack and head into the outdoors with nothing more than quiet contentment as your goal. The air is bracingly cool, your steaming breath merging with the low winter sun’s rays streaming through frosted branches. Step by frozen step, the miles slowly unravel beneath your feet. Atop a low rise, you dig out a thermos of steaming hot coffee, drinking in the frozen landscape before you.
Sometimes, that’s all you need.
Rambling may have acquired a peculiar public image, but at its heart it simply involves walking outside for the sheer pleasure of doing so. Throughout the winter, when the frozen hills are at their emptiest, that simple activity becomes a truly cathartic experience - an opportunity to get outdoors and appreciate the natural world at a more leisurely pace. Whether it’s a classic Christmas Day walk or just a means to relieve the tedium of January, head out for a ramble this winter - you’ll never look back.
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