Coastal walks to invigorate and inspire

A walk by the sea hasn’t been banned yet, so take advantage while you can. Chris Carter reports.

Older adults who take regular “awe walks” experience positive emotions, such as compassion, admiration and humility, and a decrease in negative emotions such as loneliness, according to new paper in the American Psychological Association’s journal Emotion. “And who doesn’t need a dose of that in 2020?” says Madeleine Howell in The Daily Telegraph. “These are all emotions which help ­people to relate and connect to others,” Virginia Sturm, the neuropsychologist who led the study, tells Howell. “When people experience awe, they feel smaller in relation to the world around them.”

With that in mind, Howell headed to Birling Gap in East Sussex. “Beautiful, isn’t it?” a man at his easel painting the white cliffs remarked. “It was an auspicious start to my awe walk from the Birling Gap café along the South Downs Way towards Cuckmere Haven… Our immediate reward was expansive views of the ‘sisters’: named by sailors who looked out for them on stormy seas.” Descending the steps to the beach to admire the wind-sculpted geology up close, “we found ourselves suitably awed by the pure chalk formed more than 80 million years ago, the shiny black flint run through with quartz… As promised, our fears of the pandemic felt liberatingly lifted in this wide open setting.” From here, you can wend your way to Seven Sisters Country Park or take the “leafy circular route” via Friston Forest.

Fresh air and exercise

Saltburn Pier

Saltburn: one of Britain’s most northerly piers © Alamy

Walking has become a “hugely popular way to pass the time during both lockdowns… [since] it’s vital to get fresh air and exercise”, says Harriet Mallinson in the Daily Express. The 5.2-mile coastal walk from Redcar to Saltburn, North Yorkshire, takes in a “glorious stretch” of England's Coastal Path “with sights aplenty along the way”. Look out for the “impressive” stone-built Cliff House. It was constructed in the 1800s as a holiday residence for the Pease family of prominent industrials in the North East. “Walkers will also pass Saltburn, a town with a rich heritage based on the vision of Henry Pease to create a Victorian seaside resort.” Then follow the promenade to one of Britain’s most northerly piers.

A walk to fire the imagination

Dunure Castle

Dunure Castle © Getty Images

“Setting off south along the Ayrshire Coastal Path, we passed the jagged ruin of Dunure Castle,” says Christopher Somerville in The Times. The path dipped and rose with the undulation of the cliffs. “Across the water lay a long green bar of land, the Isle of Arran, with its mountainous head in the clouds, and away in the southwest the 1,000ft volcanic plug of Ailsa Craig rose abruptly on the horizon like an island in a Japanese painting.” The path zigzagged down to run along the shore: “a strand of dark pink sand spattered with beautifully multicoloured pebbles”. Ahead loomed Culzean Castle. Through its wooded grounds, “another curve of tide-ribbed sand led us into the harbour town of Maidens, as sun shafts pierced the clouds and crowned distant Ailsa Craig with dramatic evening light.”

The French art of sea-wading

Why walk alongside the water when you can walk through it? Longe-côte, or sea-wading, is a relatively new “bonkers activity” that has become popular in the north of France, says Rachel Ifans in The Independent. The idea is to walk in the sea, dressed in bobble hats and wetsuits, as part of a group, with the water up to your chest, wading in single file. People take it in turns at the front, “so that everyone gets the benefit of the full resistance from the water”. The benefits are said to include lower blood pressure and boosted immunity. It is, as one practitioner puts it, “so invigorating”. Cornwall’s Longe-Cote UK, the only club in Britain, meets from March to December. “So it was that I found myself on Gyllyngvase beach in Falmouth on a sunny Sunday morning in mid-October, with two foolhardy friends also in search of a Covid-proof high and dressed in wetsuits and woollies,” says Ifans. “It feels good to be a longecotienne – in fact, I’d go so far as to say it’s the most joie-de-vivre you’ll find on British shores right now.”

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