Sometimes ambling can take place in the outdoors away from shops and bars and can be identified as ambling rather than rambling by the wearing of inappropriate clothing and the speed at which you walk.
There is a mathematical formulae to work this out and if the answer is less than 1 and a half, then you are definitely an ambler.
One of my favourite ambles in the great outdoors away from shops and bars is to Three Cliffs Bay on the Gower Peninsular in South Wales, which is where I’m from. Now there is more than one way to get there – from Pennard and Southgate round the Golf Course, for example, which is very nice and affords you rather marvellous views of Oxwich Bay and further west.
I once drove for over an hour on a very stressful day just to get a ten minute glimpse of the bay from there. I needed to see the sweep of the cliffs towards Oxwich and smell the clear salty air.
But that’s not my favourite.
My favourite encompasses a wood, a valley, a stream, a castle, and sometimes wild ponies and is begun in the car park outside Shepherds in Parkmill (where you need to buy sausage rolls and pop for sustenance) and the best way to do it is to lie to someone who has never been there before, tell them it will take ten minutes (that’s the lie – they will never guess as you may well be wearing flip flops which is completely rubbish footwear for such a walk, but perfectly normal for an ambler), and not explain what to expect at all. Because, apart from the moaning about the lie about the distance, you can see the beauty of the bay being revealed to them bit by bit through their increasingly captivated eyes.
I like to think of the wood as the wardrobe in The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe; open the door and walk into another world – or step out of the green shade of the dark trees into the bright, sandy light of the bay. And you can’t even see the sea yet.
Follow the tiny stream as it meanders and grows through the valley, sand slowly appearing through the grass, mud and clay. Glance up to the left and there’s the remains of the 12th century Pennard Castle guarding the coast against ancient marauders.
As the stream widens towards the sea it opens up to the vast expanse of sand and the cliffs, where you cross it on a tiny bridge and there you are. My favourite days are when the tide is out and the beach is almost empty, a bare foot in the clear water a reward for the journey, the view before me the sea and nothing else.
A very long time ago on a hot summers day I was sunbathing, eyes closed, relaxed, until I heard something that made me sit up straight. It was a herd of wild ponies trotting past me. It’s their beach after all, and I think I was in the way.
I don’t go there very often these days as I live a long way away, but I have a painting, bought a long, long time ago of Three Cliffs Bay. I see it every day.