Getting out into the fresh air and walking through muddy fields and woods is great way to balance out my daily commute to London. I go out most weekends with a local walking group who take turns to lead walks in the nearby counties: Warwickshire, Leicestershire, Oxfordshire, Northamptonshire and futher afield into Derbyshire Dales, Cotswolds, Malvern and Chiltern hills. We set off early and stay out all day covering 15 miles or so at a moderate pace.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve realised how much I enjoy being outside and seeing plants coming into bud and flowering. I love trees in all seasons and have many photos of them reaching their branches to the sky.
Walking over the fields we see how farmland changes through the seasons; ploughed fields spring green shoots that by the summer are waist or even shoulder high and then cut back at harvest time. We also see plenty of English postcard scenes - quaint cottages, church yards, cricket pitches, country pubs and tea rooms.
All you need to start walking is a stout pair of boots, some waterproofs to fend off the british rain and a small day rucksack. In winter you can add more items to your kit to make walking on chilly days more comfortable - fleece, under layers, thermos flask, walking socks, etc. But walkers are often over prepared, I still haven’t invested in gaiters or poles but do like my banana carrier which comes in handy for elevenses!
I’ve lead a couple of walks now and found that planning them is an iterative process. You need enough basic map reading skills to figure out a roughly circluar route then you are expected to do at least one "recce" (reconnaissance) to check out the route in advance of dragging along the rest of the group. So each walk is developed iteratively.
What's interesting is that you really need to think things through to create an optimal walking experience. Walkers enjoy the walk more when it covers a variety of terrain, interesting landmarks, and panoramic views. Once you have a basic route, you start elaborating on it to weave in some intentional detours to take in the best of the available sights. There’s also a bunch of practical details to work out, such as where the group can park their cars, where to stop for breaks and how to avoid the worst of the mud!
You also have to be prepared to improvise, as I found out on my first walk which followed a night of extremely heavy rain. As you can see from the photo (below), the path I'd originally chosen would've required more swimming than walking!
Luckily, in the previous couple of trips I'd made to recce the walk, I had some idea about the lay of the land and what other paths were closeby. We turned back and climbed up onto a disused railway line, which was raised above the flooded fields, until we reached higher ground where we could connect with the original route. Everyone was able to have an enjoyable ramble in wintery sunshine.
I learned that rambling is all about being prepared to meander. What makes this possible is getting to know the wider terrain around your planned route so you have a more options available when blockers arise. Perhaps the same applies to software..
Taking time to noodle around and research alternatives for each feature request can help us figure out an optimal solution for our customers. When we look into alternative routes, we gain more confidence that we can deliver an appropriate solution without running into any dead-ends. We’re also in a better position to elaborate on the original request and even come up with a better course to take that has more side-benefits.