Kate Humble is best known for presenting wildlife and science programmes on the tellybox such as Animal Park and Springwatch (and Top Gear, of course). She comes across as an always-smiling jolly person who loves wildlife and nature and all things outdoors. In her book, Thinking on My Feet, she opens up about how walking is something of a solace to her.
“I find the simple action of putting one foot in front of the other, and the rhythm of that action, incredibly therapeutic. It wakes me up, unscrambles my sleep-fogged head. But it also gives me a sense of immersion, of being rooted somewhere, makes me feel part of where I am, a sensory and physical connection to the bit of the world I find myself in.”
Thinking on My Feet follows Kate’s walking year, starting with a moment in Africa where Kate discovered how different life (and death) can be in other parts of the world. The book is a month by month walking journal, documenting how in everything that goes on throughout the year, walking is the constant that allows her to take time, be herself, and meet others. The diary entries are full of beautiful descriptions of her surroundings and her companions, along with interesting notes about her state of mind as she embarks on her daily walks.
Having seen Kate on telly a fair bit, I can certainly hear her voice as she describes the beauty of nature as she explores her surroundings. I like that the book is not confined to the countryside, but it includes various jaunts and bimbles from her own front door, in the UK and around the world. During the book she completes a long-distance walk, heads up into the Brecon Beacons, and walks in a whole host of other places I recognise myself. She speaks honestly how hard some of the hikes were, and I appreciated that. I found her open tone incredibly insightful, and enjoyed some self-reflection my own hikes and attitude towards hiking in general – sometimes walking is surprisingly tough and challenging, but it is always worth the effort. Oh how I want to do another long-distance hike!
Kate also explores the different reasons why we walk, whether for creative energy, challenge and pleasure, or therapeutic benefits. To do this, Kate tells the stories of others who have been on or who are going on walks of their own, such as Sam who is walking the whole of Britain to help recover from PTSD. In amongst these stories she includes short quotations from health professionals, writers and artists who’ve got something to add about benefits of putting one foot in front of the other. I enjoyed the confirmation in these pages that walking is indeed good for body, mind and soul.
What comes across very strongly, and probably the reason I enjoyed the book so much, is how good walking is for the mind; the simple act of being out in the fresh air and soaking up the atmosphere is often exactly what we need. This isn’t a self-help book in the traditional form, but it certainly has a gentle way of suggesting walking for health and every time I read a few pages I was motivated to go out for a walk. Kate captures the perspective that only a slow journey on foot can allow, and shares what this means in reality – a decision made, a solved problem, a lifted mood, or a formulated idea.
Kate’s reflections and insights in Thinking on My Feet will encourage and motivate to get out on your own two feet. And if that’s not a good reason to read a book, I don’t know what is!
Maybe I could write something like this one day? But first, I’m off out for a walk.