In 'My First Acquaintance with Poets', first published in April 1823, William Hazlitt recalls a country walk in the company of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Describing the poet's ambulatory style, he writes, 'I observed that he continually crossed me on the way by shifting from one side of the footpath to the other... he seemed unable to keep on in a straight line.'

This corresponds exactly with my younger son's gait on the Sunday walks I inflict upon my children. They are very forbearing on these occasions. Their lack of interest in nature or the changing seasons is profound, but, then, so is mine. I am not continuing a family tradition. An extensive collection of walking-sticks nestled by the front door of my parents' house. God knows why. Certainly none of them ever accompanied anyone on a walk. Neither is fitness an objective, at least not one achieved. I just enjoy going for walks.

Daisy Ashford was probably too busy writing to go far afield. Her best known work is 'The Young Visiters', written at Southdown House, Lewes, in 1890, when she was nine years old. Forgotten until 1918, the manuscript was finally published the following year, with a preface by J. M. Barrie. Ring Lardner's 'The Young Immigrunts', published in 1920, is a brilliant pastiche, retaining the quirky spelling. It begins 'My parents are both married and half of them are very good looking',

But the lines that encapsulate the sometimes febrile atmosphere of my family walks come towards the end of the story, 'Are you lost daddy I arsked tenderly. Shut up he explained.'


A family trip up the Downs can spell disarstur. Pic courtesy of
Michael Lank