How becoming someone’s mother stopped me in my tracks, but my first touring with kids is a salve for the soul
I’d never had any accessibility issues until I had a caesarean. I know that makes me a very lucky person and, as lucky people do, I had no idea of my own physical privilege. I’d built on its firm foundations though; my identity was all to do with moving under my own steam, from my travel writing career and human-powered ethics, to my mental health keepy-uppies and physical health. And, I’m sure, more besides: presence in my body, and my town, and my country! My understanding of the land and society and the relationship with the ground beneath my feet… all of it built on a love of getting around under my own steam.
And then I couldn’t.
I know it was temporary on the grand scale. It wasn’t long covid or a chronic fatigue catastrophe. It wasn’t something degenerative, or an accident. But it was still a very long temporary term, and peeping out the other side, I am not the same person.
The caesarean chopped me through the core muscles, felled me like a tree, I felt. The night before I’d been getting myself around the country on public transport, eight months pregnant. I was a mover.
Seven layers, all this time later, let me name you! They cut through my skin, my Camper’s fascia, my Scarpa’s fascia, my Rectus sheath, my Rectus muscle, my abdominal peritoneum, and my gravid uterus.
And they got out my baby. And he had his own ideas about optimal movement. And how that related to his identity. And he won.
He won over and over again. He wanted to be outside more than anything, but he wasn’t interested in the sort of outside that I knew – no interest in progress or travel, destination, summits, deferred gratification, straight lines, circle walks, getting somewhere for a picnic, or a view. Definitely not a view! He did not want to be carried. He wanted to be out, making his relationship with the world, one stone, shell, and bottle-top at a time.
I wanted to get down there with him, but it did me in. I overthought it plenty as I stood tethered to a single puddle. I was shocked by how goal-oriented my outdoor life evidently was. I was not mindful and present. I was pretty tormented, frankly.
Fast forward, quick! Seven years in now, with a four year-old too, and the whole covid micro-outdoors period, which was more of the same but without cafes. I got a dream job that couldn’t have been a more goal-oriented understanding of the outdoors! So many routes! All of them call to me, and I do what I can, but the long local ones don’t fit between school drop-offs and pick-ups, and I munch them in awkward little sections. I do them in work time, I did one through the night, I did one with my birthday dispensation. Each is a little recouping of the soul.
It’s still a far cry from the striding expansiveness of pre-children days.
All this is just context for the following soaring moment: reader, we biked Bardol.
In a restless few days at the end of an uneventful school holiday, we got the train to Barmouth in Mid Wales, and cycled the Slow Way to Dolgellau, nine miles, along a disused railway line up the estuary which is the Mawddach Trail. We played in the sand and the amusement arcades and scratched the donkeys, and stayed a night in a guest house. And then we got up to a rainy morning, put everything on the bikes, cycled the route as if on air.
I love touring more than anything; having everything I need on board and moving between night stops. We needed very little. A bag of cucumbers and carrots and crackers and with dollies and wellies sticking out all over the place. We stopped to mudlark in the estuary, and walked right over almost to the far side at lowest tide. We saw several people with wheelchairs, and a kid with stabilisers. We had lunch at a pub which had also been where the train met the dock of the estuary. We got serenaded by coots. We got wet, we got sunned, we finished a Slow Way one way, and then did it in reverse the next day. We wrote our reviews and got that rare glow of satisfaction.
I grinned, and I grinned, and I grinned.
Find routes suitable for young families on our 1Y waylist- read more about that here.