Forget exotic post-lockdown holidays – I'm dreaming of somewhere closer to home

"Walking tours are made for women. I mean, what do we love most? Gossiping, noshing and casting off kilos" - getty
"Walking tours are made for women. I mean, what do we love most? Gossiping, noshing and casting off kilos" - getty

As we emerge from hibernation, what will life be like after lockdown? Imagine it – no more supermarket queues so long there are cavemen at the front. The only lines will be for hairdressers and waxing salons (like most middle-aged women, I didn’t like my beard at first – but then it grew on me).

Another upside is that there’ll also be much less crime. Apparently, the police caught the majority of people on their Most Wanted list because they were self-isolating at home with their families watching telly. It really gives new meaning to the term “captive audience”. In fact, from now on, when masked men enter a bank, we may be relieved that it’s only a stick-up.

What else will change? There’ll be a baby boom, many bad novels, and some of us will be unwilling to self-isolate from the wine bottle. And everyone will want to travel again. Carpe the Hell out of Diem – that’s my motto, post corona-crisis.

With flights of fancy our only current mode of transport, I’m daydreaming about places I’m longing to go back to; the Seychelles, New York, a Serengeti safari... But having drunk too many Quarantinis during Locktail hour, I fear there’s an elephant in the room... and it’s yours truly. Nobody’s mentioned it, but I can see from friends’ raised eyebrows that I’ve put on a few pounds during isolation.

Installing speed bumps in the kitchen to slow down my progress to the pantry is not enough. No, what I need is a vacation during which I can lose weight. I need a walking holiday. Walking tours are made for women. I mean, what do we love most? Gossiping, noshing and casting off kilos. Trekking with a girlfriend in the English countryside enables you to combine talking with walking, and then, after all that exercise, guilt-free gourmandising. Pre-Covid, I rambled through the Cotswolds with Penny Smith and hiked around Hampshire with Ronni Ancona and let me tell you, we laughed so much, even our lips lost weight. The picturesque Cotswolds, with its little thatched cottages that look as though they’re wearing bad toupées, is so cute it should be renamed the Twee-leries.

Nowhere is more picturesque - getty
Nowhere is more picturesque - getty

Chipping Campden, whose butterscotch buildings are as pretty as puddings, has more than 200 listed properties. Mind you, as Penny pulled me into one charming old pub after another to sample local ciders, I was doing a bit of listing myself. Perhaps the most joyful aspect of the English countryside is that it’s always beer-o’clock.

Another bonus is that you can live off the land. Penny was forever darting into hedgerows, returning with cupped hands filled with blackberries, elderberries, cherries and plums, although nibbling wild mushrooms gave “taking a little trip together” a very literal meaning. I’d like to formally apologise to those ramblers who found two menopausal women hallucinating in a field singing Onward Christian Soldiers.

Those days flew by in a joyful haze of laughter. We encountered a lot of exotic local animals – namely Morris dancers. (Who was Morris, by the way?) We explored stately homes, marketplaces, alms houses and Capability Brown-designed, gargoyle-encrusted architectural follies.

And it’s not just the Cotswolds that haemorrhages history. Britain boasts a host of ghosts in every nook and cranny. In Wiltshire, Ronni and I began our Medieval Stories and Castles Walk in Ansty, an idyllic 13th-century village. The dramatic 14th-century Wardour Castle was built to keep out the revolting peasants (mind you, once we saw the medieval toilet facilities – think a long drop chute straight down on to the peasants below – we understood why they were so revolting!) Walking all day means big hearty meals at night... But the best thing about a walking tour with girlfriends is the food for thought. Because between all the banter and belly laughs, as you walk, you also get to talk, about all the important things – life, love, kids, careers, politics, passions... and, more importantly, what pudding to savour later – sticky toffee or roly-poly?

With theatres and concert halls closed for the foreseeable future, there’s no chance of Conquering the Great Indoors. So, as soon as possible, I’ll be fleeing the urban jungle to take a real walk on the wild side.