Health

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Make it a mission to be part of a happy walking community

Hikers in scenic coastal landscape. Photo: thinkstock
The Inchidrisla Loop route

It may be an illusion, but I'm convinced that there are more people out walking these days. And I wouldn't trouble your busy mind with the observation, only that I mean far more people.

Last Sunday at Emo Court, we could barely get into the car park, and though a sample of one isn't a sound statistical platform, I suspect the scene is being repeated all around the country.

I must be getting old; obviously I'm not getting any younger, but I also noticed how good it made me feel to be part of this happy gathering in the winter sunshine.

A positively corny glow of appreciation came over me as I contemplated a community - or at least a decent chunk of one - moving in the right direction (in circles) and conspicuously enjoying it. It ticked all the boxes; there really should have been a crew out filming a yoghurt commercial.

There was a sense of something happening; a combination of atmosphere and numbers - a vibe, if you like.

Wishful thinking aside, it occurred to me that the unremarkable phenomenon of a couple of hundred people was more than the sum of its parts. That something is afoot.

Momentum is a powerful force and like all social trends, including the bad ones, the move towards a healthier lifestyle thrives on it.

You don't have to be a sheep to be a social creature - the knowledge that other people are benefitting from something is an obvious and rational reason to try it yourself.

Being conspicuous about your walking may not be a personal priority, but it has a value that can be exploited.

This week I'm shifting the focus of my usual urgings from the personal to the collective. Happily, you can serve both ends at once, and you're probably doing it already.

As an individual walker with a civic sense, your mission is easily accomplished. Walk visibly, to the point of ostentation. Acknowledge your fellow citizens cheerily. Affect an air of acceptable self-satisfaction and, if in company, let the liveliness of your discourse convey enviable enjoyment. Make last Sunday at Emo a commonplace; just the way Ireland is and just the way the Irish are.

The potential rewards of a shift in culture towards better health and well-being are colossal, and the pursuit is anything but a zero-sum game. This is an everyone's-a-winner opportunity that no society can afford to ignore, and I think and hope that we're on the threshold of it.

There's a lot to play for; we have the potential to forge a healthier and happier society. Don't get me wrong - as far as I'm concerned we're doing pretty well as it is, but we can do better, and need to try.

In the obvious sense that any benefit accruing to the individual accrues also to the community, but also in the broader context of example and inspiration, every happy walker out there is doing a service to his or her community.

I respect any person's right to opt out of communal activities. We need individualists as much as team players. But if you could just make it clear in a private and solitary way that you're doing something out of enlightened self-interest, you'll be serving the common good.

You can let the rest sort it out for themselves. They'll get the idea.

Conor O'Hagan is editor of the bi-monthly Walking World Ireland magazine. www.walkingworldireland.com

Walk of the Week: Inchidrisla Loop, Dungarvan, Co Waterford

Distance: 5k Ascent: 100m/80m Time: 1hr15mins-1hr30mins Grade: Easy Terrain: Forestry roads Trailhead: Colligan Woods, Dungarvan, Co Waterford.

Inchidrisla Trail is on the Clonmel road from Dungarvan in a vibrant valley sheltering the river Colligan. The Inchidrisla Loop here is suitable for families.

Fox, red squirrel, badger, otter, stoat, rabbits, hares and fallow deer are often spotted here.

From Dungarvan, take the R672 in the direction of Clonmel. After approx 4k the R672 briefly joins the N25 at a service station. After 200m watch for the junction as the R672 veers right. Take this turn and follow the road for 2k to the next junction where you turn right on to Kilbrien Road.

Travel a further 2k to reach the substantial car park on your left. The trailhead is located on the other side of the road.

Starting from the mapboard at the trailhead, follow the green (and purple) arrow as the loop starts away from the wooden bridge over Colligan River. The purple arrows are for the longer Greenane Loop. The loop travels along the bank of the river for 500m before swinging left and uphill through Inchidrisla Wood.

Stay on the forestry roadway for almost 2k as it climbs gradually to reach a three-way junction where both loops swing left.

Now the loop levels off. Stay on the forestry roadway for 2k to reach a three-way junction at the picnic area. The longer Greenane Loop swings right here - but you turn left. Enjoy the last 200m back to the car park.

Irish Independent

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