Recently I spent three days with a group of eight women friends walking along part of the magnificent Hadrian’s Wall in Northern England.
It was the second such trip that we’ve been on. Last year, we tramped along part of the famous Camino in Northern Spain to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.
These trips are a bit of a departure for us in more ways than one. Previously, we’ve booked more typical girls’ breaks in Ibiza, Portugal, France and Morocco, where we’ve escaped jobs and family responsibilities for a few days to lie beside pools and on beaches, lounging in the day, partying at night and generally having a jolly good time.
So why change the pattern? It all began in May 2014 when we decided to do the London Moonwalk, a 26 mile overnight marathon to raise money for breast cancer. As training, we marched for hours around our local Richmond Park in South West London and along the River Thames, breathing in gallons of fresh air, taking in the sights, getting fitter and trimmer and, crucially, catching up on each others’ lives.
And herein lies the key, I think, because our treks certainly aren’t just about enjoying nature, getting some exercise and, in the case of the Moonwalk, raising money. They’re also about talk - and lots of it. From books and politics to food and fashion, we cover it all, and as there are plenty of us, we never seem to run out of steam. What’s more, despite being in such a large group, the experience is relaxing and curiously meditative. Your brain seems to clear of day-to-day worries as you focus instead on putting one foot in front of another whilst listening to each other’s stories.
It’s good to have a bit of a challenge. I, for one, was pretty amazed when I picked up my medal at the end of the Moonwalk as I’d never covered anything like such a distance. Indeed, before I began training, I had no idea whether I could actually do it. It’s pretty cool to discover in your Forties or Fifties that physically you’re more capable than you thought, and as a group we’re becoming more so. Who knows? This year the ancient Roman ruins of Hadrian’s Wall, next, perhaps, the volcanoes, geysers, hot springs and lava fields of Iceland. It’s already under discussion.
But don’t get me wrong, these holidays aren’t just about pushing ourselves a bit, catching up and seeing new things; we certainly don’t rough it. Not for us the tent, billycan or Spartan, windswept hut. We stay in good hotels and eat delicious food, washed down with plenty of wine. On each break, I’ve often found myself laughing so much in the evenings that my stomach hurts, and that’s certainly something worth trudging fifteen miles a day for.
As my husband and sons say when they go on their rugby jaunts, ‘What goes on tour stays on tour’, and we, too, have a few choice tales to reminisce about afterwards. So if you’re thinking of a girls’ trip, why don’t you forget lying on a beach and try a walking adventure instead? I can highly recommend it.