I’m not shy to push the envelope with Sofia to help her move forward in life, to learn through actual experiences and to gain confidence for more. One of the aspects of this is related to physical activity.
Getting Sofia to be physically active has been extremely difficult. In Africa it was wonderful to see her come out of her shell a little in this regard. When we were preparing to leave she started trying to tie her own shoe laces, by the time we were in Greece she started using a knife and fork correctly, and by the time we were in Sudan, she was starting to take little risks related to climbing which continued to expand for the rest of the trip.
In Europe too, a little of this returned when confronted with bunk bed ladders, where out right refusal didn’t happen (as is normally the case) but this time a brave ‘I’m going to try, please help me’. Try she did and succeeded much to her delight and she had tried enough times that she by the end of the trip she was starting to feel confident.
So when she started home schooling I decided I would try to make walking more of thing for her. Short walks in nature when the weather approved so that she would not feel any resistance. She enjoyed this, or rather she wasn’t objecting to go out for one, so I started thinking bigger and wondering if it wouldn’t be a good idea to do a proper hike with wild camping, the works.
Long story short this came to fruition this last week. Inspired by a group of Facebook of women who are getting out there climbing, cycling, hiking, biking, or what ever adventure big or small (Adventure Queens), I finally put a plan together.
39km around the Wiltshire country side, with the sell factor being the crop circles. Sofia loved this idea!
To be fair, I was pretty sure, considering our state of fitness, that we would likely not manage the full trip, and that some pain may be experienced and that Sofia may at some point, fall out of love with the idea completely. But as with all the travel we have done, the whole point is being out there and having no choice but to deal with her issues be they internal or external and she will never learn how to deal with them if not presented with them experientially.
And so we set off on a lovely sunny Thursday afternoon in middle England. Our first stop and where we would leave the car, Martinsell Hill. This hill directly overlooking a crop circle that only appeared last week. Sadly, however, the farmer had cut the pattern out, but rather than dampen our spirits it gave us momentum to see the others at Hackpen Hill about 15km away and the site of the White Horse.
It wasn’t long we were off the country lane and into fields and small woodlands. Now it is worth mentioning at this point that in Sofia’s recent assessments dyspraxia and hyper mobility were flagged, and in part I would not have done this hike if I didn’t have these as a source on knowledge for monitoring Sofia. But likewise, it made this type of challenge more important because in truth I have never challenged her in this way as I wasn’t sure what the situation was and it is through challenge that the mind starts to focus and find out what it is made of. She was also wearing a back pack of about 4 or 5kg to promote this need to focus.
The walking for an average person was very easy, maybe a bit lumpy in places, but generally very good walking. For Sofia on the other hand little lumps and bumps and tufts of grass are a challenge. She had to really concentrate and look where she was going and with some weight on her back it was important. EVERYTHING about this experience was new to her. Yes she has walked down paths and over rocky terrain to get to a place not far and never carrying a weight and always reluctantly so, but never for the sake of the body being primary transport over a long distance. She was doing very well.
There were a number of stiles we had to climb over and she demonstrated well how much her confidence in that area had improved by clambering over them with a degree of alacrity (back pack included) that wasn’t matching her confidence in walking. We also made a number or rest stops in beautiful places drinking our water and enjoying the scenery before moving on again.
Finally after clambering about the country side for several hours, we arrived in a small village walked into the first pub we saw and collapsed with cold drinks and our pork pie and fig role dinner. I’ve never liked Pepsi, but this day a cold pint of it was like liquid gold!
At this point there really wasn’t too much left in us, so I made a target on the map of where we would start looking for a place to put down our bivy bags and we headed off around 6pm hoping that it really wouldn’t be too long before we could rest up. It ended up being a 2 hour slog up hill before we stopped. But we managed it and it was a perfect location. A small piece of lawn behind a hedge next to a single horse race track that wasn’t seeing much use. In fact we were on a big horse racing stable/stud farm. On another day, if we were exploring the world of horses, this would have been fun and interesting, today however, we didn’t care much other than having a decent place to sleep for the night.
Sofia had done really well on her first day. I was really proud of her. Whilst tired, her body seemed to be generally coping, however, she did say her ankles were sore, so I made a note to give her more attention the next day about walking properly.
We were up early the next morning, and took it slowly watching the sun rise before packing up and heading off about 8am. We hadn’t seen any horses, and as we walked through the main training area, our hearts sank even lower, as still no horses. So much evidence of them but not a single horse in sight. It was only as we were coming to the end of the gallops that suddenly we heard the sound of cantering hooves!
What a joy! Sofia loved it. We sat for a moment as they turned and started to walk down the track to start the gallop again. We were told to move before they galloped up again as we were a distraction for the horses so we moved higher up and out-of-the-way with a good vantage point.
Sofia may be doing some horse therapy at her new school so it was really lovely to see her showing an interest and asking questions about the different sports and what they were like. I think it is now a case of watching this space and see if she develops this.
We developed more of a rhythm as we went, it was hot, so often I was walking ahead and then waiting for Sofia to catch up. Most of the byways were very over grown, and like the day before, we didn’t see a soul! it was wonderful, but tough going for Sofia who was nervous of pricks and stings and not being able to see the path clearly to place her feet. Progress was slow and by the time we were on the Ridgeway trail that took us up Hackpen Hill, we were both pretty exhausted.
In the end we only walked as far as a clear view of one of the circles (and to be honest it looked like the other had been harvested) where we collapse looking over it finishing our water and hitting the pork pies and oranges to find our strength to make it to Avebury. I was by now starting to feel pain in my shoulder muscles, feet, calves and the tops of my thighs. Thankfully Sofia was only feeling it in her feet. But either way, I decided that we should get to Avebury and call a taxi back to the car. Sofia was really tired, and whilst she was happy to see the circle, it wasn’t the degree of happy she might otherwise have had if she hadn’t been walking for 4 hours already that morning.
By the time we got up and started walking the storm clouds were gathering. It seemed as if the universe wanted to make sure that I didn’t change my mind and heading home. But we still needed to get to Avebury. We were in the middle of nowhere, and Sofia was ready to give up. I tried to teach her how to march as a way to focus her brain to get through to the end, but she didn’t want to listen only argue and complain that I wasn’t listening to her and it seemed better to leave her to it and a walked ahead as showers of rain started to pass over us. Perhaps not the most sensible idea as she slowed down even more which I hadn’t thought possible. We didn’t join forces again until the out skirts of Avebury where I sat waiting for her for about 45mins and I hadn’t been walking fast.
I had stopped to watch her a few times from a distance and to make sure she was ok, and she seemed to be taking 3 steps and then stopping to look at something before taking another 3 steps. The main thing though is that she made it, and she did it on her own for all intense and purposes, something that she is now proud of.
We (more me really) staggered into the first pub we saw. I got some cold drinks and then set to task to find a taxi to come and pick us up in the middle of no where and take us to the middle of nowhere, but being Friday the 13th, it took over 30mins to find one available, and many thanks to the lads behind the bar who helped in this mission. Once the cab booked, the heavens opened in happy agreement, the thunder clapped and the lightning flashed in joy, and the possibility of me ever being braver than my body could handle was washed away with it!
When we got home, Sofia jumped in the shower and came out refreshed and all her ‘pains’ gone. I on the other hand will be hobbling to days as the lactic acid clears from my calf muscles and shoulder muscles!
This is the second time she has had this lesson that she may be overstating her condition. Whilst I appreciate that in her world what she is experiencing is a life and death event, I think it is important that she realises the reality that she isn’t even close and proportionalises her response and I do remind her of Peter and the Wolf when this becomes apparent in the hope that gentle repetition will help her to over come it. I think it is in part about fear and not knowing her own body, I’m not unsympathetic, but she does need to get past it. The last time was when she screamed like her leg was broken when in reality not so much as a bruise had appeared the following day. It is something the school she is going to can work on. I’m so happy she has a placement there!
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