From spotting wildflowers to appreciating the sky: familiar faces share the walks that have got them through the pandemic

on
3 March 2021
Simon Reeve

As we encourage people to get walking this month, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Simon Reeve and Amanda Mealing give us a glimpse of some of their favourite lockdown walks, and share their tips for making the most of time spent outside.

For many of us – including celebrities! – our ‘daily exercise’ is one of the few things that has remained constant over an ever-changing year.

As we’ve adapted to new restrictions, Zoom calls and home schooling, going for a walk is not only a great way to keep healthy, but also gives us a chance to unwind and enjoy some downtime.

A different kind of daily walk

But for millions of women and children around the world, daily walks are far from being a pleasant escape from the pressures of life.

Instead, they must make strenuous journeys of up to 12km a day to fetch the water they and their families need to survive, often over difficult, treacherous ground. The time spent collecting water – which is often not safe to drink – is time that could otherwise be spent in school, growing food, or earning a living.

Walk for Water

Having a source of clean water nearby would transform their lives. That’s why we're asking our supporters to pledge to walk 4, 8 or 12km a day this month, in solidarity with those who have no choice but to cover distances like these, every single day.

To inspire people to get walking, we asked three well-known WaterAid supporters to give us an insight into their own daily walks, and share their tips on making the most of your strolls.

"Walking soothes me and gives me hope" – Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall enjoys taking the time to notice subtle changes in nature around his farm in East Devon.

"My surroundings can be explored in various loops and circles, depending on how long I have and what I am hoping to see. It’s the ‘never the same twice’ factor that I love about it. Or rather, always the same, but always different too. Different light, new things I haven’t seen before, and old familiar features, like trees and streams and stone walls and gate posts, which are always there but change with the weather and the seasons.

I’ve always enjoyed being outside, but in the past year I’ve valued that time more than ever. Walking soothes me and gives me hope. I love that WaterAid’s Walk for Water will give people hope too, as they gain access to clean water, and all the potential that can come with this – whether that’s being able to grow your own vegetables, or go to work or school – it’s a great incentive to get walking this March.

"I like to photograph wild flowers on my walks so that I can identify them later. Between early March and the end of May last year, I photographed over 100 different species, most of which were new to me. Now, when the Spring flowers start blooming, I’ll be greeting them as familiar friends."

"I start walking and the answers start to come" – Simon Reeve

Simon Reeve
Simon Reeve
Writer and broadcaster Simon Reeve has forged a career from walking, whether that’s through minefields, over epic landscapes or, more recently, along the south coast.

"I’m a huge advocate of the act of walking. You start walking and you lift your gaze, move your body and you start finding a direction and purpose for yourself. It’s what I do when I'm finding things a bit of a struggle; I start walking and the answers start to come.

"That's a fantastic reason to sign up for WaterAid’s Walk for Water challenge this March, walking to change the lives of those who have to walk mile after mile every day just to find water."

"I soak up the sky" – Amanda Mealing

A pink sunset, taken by celebrity ambassador Amanda Mealing
Amanda Mealing
Actress and WaterAid ambassador Amanda Mealing finds solace under the wide open skies of rural Lincolnshire.

"Living in the countryside, I’m really lucky to have huge fields to walk in. I leave my house, and within 30 metres I am exposed to all of the elements. The sky seems huge and reminds me that I am just a tiny, tiny part of something incredible.

"I’ll stroll along with my headphones on (more to protect my ears from the chill), listening to some jazz or a Radio 4 play, but watch for hares or deer that often scatter past. Mostly I soak up the sky.

WaterAid supporter Amanda Mealing near Katiu Community, Kassena Nankana West District, Upper East Region, Ghana. February 2019.
WaterAid/ Eliza Powell
WaterAid supporter Amanda Mealing near Katiu Community, Kassena Nankana West District, Upper East Region, Ghana. February 2019.

"I have seen for myself what it is like for those who have to walk to collect water each day. At some of the health centres I visited in Ghana, the midwives had to spend precious time finding water instead of being there to treat their patients."

Inspired to Walk for Water?

It’s not too late to join the hundreds of people around the country who are walking for water this month. Whether you take your time spotting nature close to home like Hugh, or let your mind wander on a longer hike like Simon, every step counts.

Challenge yourself to walk 4, 8 or 12km a day – the kinds of distances that millions of women and children have to cover to fetch water every day – and raise funds to help make clean water normal for everyone, everywhere.