The Wandering Coach

There’s something about walking alongside a tumbling winter river, listening to Stairway to Heaven, that brings a smile to my face.

On Monday I found the old Cockermouth to Penrith railway line that skirts the Greta river out of Keswick. Unlike most lakeland walks, it’s hard to make a worthwhile circular route. So I set off with the simple intention to walk along it until I felt like turning around and heading back. I knew that it was five miles to Threlkeld and there is a cafe there – so a possible goal, an incentive and a way to replenish my energy.

I passed various people with the telescopic walking poles that mark the serious hiker. The performance hiker. And I saw groups of people with dogs that mostly ran in circles around their owners and sniffed out long forgotten items from the undergrowth. The amblers and the anarchic explorers.

I like the performance focus. Success is clear. You can mark off your progress. All involved know how they’re doing. But I did enjoy the liberation of just walking the path I’d chosen. Of stopping to enjoy an unexpected vantage point. Of resting when I wanted. Of sitting in silence in an old railway workers’ hut (until the dogs arrived). And it made me aware that when I focus unduly on where I am going or how much progress I’ve made, it’s easy to stop noticing what’s happening around me. There’s so much to see when I do.

As I went, I focussed on what was appearing around bends, from within tunnels, across arch-spanned iron bridges, and decided whether it drew my interest enough to continue. And a little bit of my performance focus crept in: I wanted to be able to say I got to Threlkeld (after all, five miles is not far). So I continued until I hit a major roadway and found a sign saying: Threlkeld 1/4 mile. Easy. But I couldn’t immediately find the cafe so I adapted, waited 10 minutes by the unexpected bus stop, got the bus back and had tea by the fire at home.

And my future approach to walking? Sometimes from A to B, with B a stretch goal, stopping at key vantage point, ideally with a pub at the end. Sometimes, wandering with intent, noticing what I notice, stopping when I stop, with the goal to savour where the path takes me. Just like my coaching really, walking alongside my client, with them setting the direction and me as the guide.