After enjoying taking part in a recent #ThisGirlCan 5k I felt inspired to do more, so today my partner and I joined the “Hidden Gems” 7 mile hike at Gibside. After years only exercising behind closed doors, alone, this makes two organised public exercise events in under a month! That feels like progress.
I was slightly nervous about attending something advertised as a hike. Walking is one thing, hiking seemed a whole new level of exertion I might not be capable of. But I know Gibside quite well, and have been trying its hills out recently to make my walks more challenging, so I was confident I could make it to the top of any of them, although perhaps not quickly!
I needn’t have worried. The pace was steady but not too brisk and the regular pauses to hear about the history and landscape we were passing through were ample opportunity to catch my breath. I could have done it quicker if I’d been pushing myself, but I’d have missed a lot if I did.
Our guide, David, clearly knew and loved Gibside. He shared stories, explained the historical evidence, and pointed out the geographical clues to the lands use over the years. The walk itself was a tour of the boundaries of the property, concentrating on carriageways and coal mines rather than the grand hall, chapel and other buildings. David brought to life the 1856 Ordinance Survey map we were following. It was fascinating how much of it was unchanged.
His real skill though was in making me look at a familiar landscape anew, spotting features I’d never noticed before and interpreting them so the land was telling its own history. Hidden among the trees we saw evidence of bell and drift mines, and the man made routes to them. In the trees above one of the main routes, which I’ve walked many times, a carved bat. And at the stables, which I’ve visited almost every time I’ve been to Gibside, he pointed out such an obvious quirk about the front and sides of the building I was amazed I’d never spotted it before.
Most of the paths we followed I had been along before, however today I looked at them differently. I went along to exercise my body and it turned out I was getting a work out for my brain too. I’ll definitely be looking out for more history walks.