I’ve never been to a gym, or tried a healthy diet – some would say it shows. Anyway, I’ve always preferred to be outside to keep fit, walking, cycling, picking up litter, (plenty of bending and stretching there) that sort of thing.
Walking is quite an easy form of exercise to master, requiring putting one leg in front of the other.
What isn’t quite so easy is negotiating the many styles of stiles you encounter on route.
There are dozens of varieties, from the standard post and rail which can either be narrow or have a cross and step version. There are stone stiles, squeeze stiles, stile gates, ladder stiles, and so on. Approaching these stiles requires caution and a risk assessment. Dangers can lurk beneath, above and to the side and never think a stile will take your full weight.
The squeeze stile is usually a narrow gap in a wall, the emphasis definitely on narrow. I sometimes wonder how the more rotund of the nation manage this stile, but it’s good for deep breathing exercises.
The ladder stile is well, like a ladder, but once you have climbed up it, a 360 degree twirl Nureyev style is required so you can climb down the other side and land in a newly-laid cow pat.
There is the rotten and wobble stile, having advanced onto the first step your foot goes through, then the whole thing wobbles as you gingerly swing your leg across in a movement any cowboy mounting his mustang would do with aplomb.
There is the jungle stile, buried beneath brambles, weeds and nettles that is intent on attacking you, ripping your clothes and scratching your eyes, you can almost hearing it whispering “that’ll teach you, and don’t come this way again.”
The bullring stile is an interesting one. This is where stone steps have been placed against a stone wall which can be quite high and absolutely lethal when wet.
Having carefully negotiated each step you peer over the wall only to discover a field full of excitable bullocks, but too late you’ve been spotted.
They assemble in a circle for a meeting and as soon as you set foot in their field they come galloping towards you.
Now I don’t like bullfighting, but I wonder if matadors have an instant desire to use the toilet on being intimidated by a snorting bovine. Arkwright’s stile so called after the infamous till in Open All Hours is by far the most dangerous.
This spring loaded gate usually on an opening in a stone wall, is out for revenge.
When you’ve managed to prise it open you have a nano second to go through before it slams into your bottom and catapults you into space. So there you have it, the simple art of rambling gives you a full body workout,and you will have become a ballet dancer, a matador, a jungle explorer, a space traveller and a cowboy.