International Walking Encounters

June 2021

Walking as a Question took place simultaneously in the Prespa area of north western Greece and internationally, online.

The Walking Conference asked: What questions does walking pose?  What questions can walking be used to explore?  Who walks?  Who chooses to walk? Who is forced to walk?  Who can walk? Who cannot?

And stated: In raising walking as a question in itself, we invite critical and artistic engagement with the limits and possibilities of this most everyday of modalities.  Borders and checkpoints curtail walking. Dog companions stimulate a stroll.  People have been forcibly marched to new territories. People have walked across enormous distances in search of refuge, asylum and freedom. Some use parks and hiking trails for their regular exercise; others walk miles to work; still others must contend with walls or constricted spaces such as in a prison yard or camp.

I took part in these projects in Edinburgh, Scotland as the Covid pandemic was restricting travel at that time:

Awareness Walk

Sandra Cowan and Annie Martin (Lethbridge Walking, Canada) The Walking as a Question page

Walking A Line

Ruth Broadbent (UK). Participant drawings are here

Port Limani

Deirdre McLeod and Stephanie Whitelaw with Artwalkporty (Scotland), who are also connected with the new walking app Walksy which is free to download from your app store – easy and fun to use


These are some of my wunderkammers, inspired by Fay Stevens (Walkeology)

Body Walking

My event was Body Walking which culminated on July 17th 2021 with an online sharing and discussion with those who tried ‘walking in someone else’s footsteps’. You can find out more information on my website here:

Bodywalking photos taken in Paris, France.

Always, thanks to home of walking goodness

Cover photo taken in Athens and all other photos ©TamsinGrainger unless permission given

Found in the Cracks

Celebrating the small; grown from a Twitter series (@WalkNoDonkey) early 2020 during lockdown #one.

I was with my mother in Kent and she has a wonderful garden. She has always loved to allow her plants to seed themselves, finding little places they can inhabit. Here is evidence of the resilience of nature, of which we are a part. Much has been written about that attribute during this past 18 months, and if you look with an eagle’s eye, you will find that some of these are once again popping their heads between stones, a year and more on.

Self-seeding violets, Viola odorata in the paving slab cracks 15 March

Resilience is the ability to withstand, to stay healthy in the face of adversity to bounce back. It is borne out of a stable environment and it can be eroded by continued stress. Someone who shies away from noise and horror, senses that their resilience levels are low. Perhaps they never had the stability they needed.

Grief affects our ability to be resilient. Almost all of us find that our sense of resilience is affected by bereavement (whether due to the death of someone, or losses such as moving house, leaving home, divorce and other life changes).

On the 4 April 2020 the BBC reported:

‘A five-year-old child with underlying health conditions has died of coronavirus. The latest figures showed 4,313 people with the virus have died to date in the UK – up by 708 on the previous Friday’s figure. There are now 41,903 confirmed cases, according to the Department of Health.’

We will not forget those people.

Forget-me-not, Myosotis 4 April

Resilience means that we can be strong and are able to stay that way, even in distressing situations, however, we notice that we cannot necessarily do this all the time. This implies that it is a specific trauma which affects our ability to maintain a level of calm at certain times, and with particular people. Moreover, it can be unpredictable. Being less resilient is not a weakness, nor anything to be ashamed of. It is real and can cause a raft of symptoms from the physical through mental and emotional to the spiritual.

Posting a photo of pulmonaria in early April was rather apt, sadly, given the high numbers of people suffering lung issues as a result of Covid-19 in April 2020. This is in memory of those who lost their lives.

Lungwort, Pulmonaria oficinalis for the lungs – see those white spots. 6 April

The same occassion can be one of joy to some and stress to others. If empathy is not felt with the one who is feeling stressed, acceptance must nevertheless be the response, at least if we aren’t to cause a re-traumatisation.

Primroses, Primula polyantha 7 April

Peace and quiet and being amongst plants and wildlife is often a place where people can build up their resilience. In general, these places offer the opportunity, less of a threat, and so give our heart the chance to rest, but not always. For some people it may be the opposite. We can only listen to find out, not make assumptions.

Violets, Viola odorata. My grandmother’s name-sake, the Sweet Violet 8 April
Purple Grecian windflower, Anemonoides blanda opens her wee face to the sun 10 April

How many of us have a habit of trying to keep things inside, buried?

The beginnings of columbine or Granny’s bonnets, Aquilegia 12 April

Mum and I were two people living together who were not used to doing so. Not since I was 18 and leaving home have I lived so long with her. However much love we had between us, there were a few cracks and out came the niggles, some serious, some not. There were weak places in our relationship where things leaked out. We didn’t argue about leaving the lid off the toothpaste tube, but often it turned out that I was acting on expectations and assumptions. I didn’t realise, but I was falling back into following rules of behaviour I thought I had learned as a child, daughter with mother, thinking they still stood, that I should do x or y in a situation. It turned out that no, that wasn’t expected of me. It transpired that the many years that have passed since then, meant we have changed. Of course we have, obviously, but old habits die hard!

Quite a lot later the aquilegia had reached a great height and, though attracting greenfly, were in bud

We managed to talk about the difficulties afterwards, painful though they were, and we apologised to each other, and managed to keep on going together with love. The pandemic meant that we had to, we couldn’t get away from each other – thanks, pandemic. That’s the way to build resilience in a relationship and every now and then it was tough going, however I think we learned more about each other in the process, and overall, I look back on that 5-month period as a wonderful time, a way of getting to know each other as adults in a different way. We had fun together.

By May 21 the aquilegia were out

This flower is thought to be named because part of the flower resembles the talons of an eagle (aquila). Eagles are far-sighted and powerful and they have talons with which to grip fiercely. Tenacity is something which has also been talked about with regard to the pandemic. The tenacity to keep going when so much of life’s normality is threatened, tenacity to see what is important – maintaining contact (even electronically or from the garden gate), and random acts of kindness (like getting in the shopping for someone, or sending a thoughtful note).

Lily of the valley, Convallaria majalis making their way into the world. You can clearly see that they are of the asparagus family. 13 April

When I look at these photos, I think of life between tower blocks and plants growing between paving stones in cities and towns, whether welcome or not, sometimes weed-killed, more recently near my home, allowed to flourish. Thorny brambles sinew between railings onto the pavement, and tree roots break through concrete. In Chinese Medicine, it’s the upthrust of Wood energy.

And here they are sporting their scented white bells

Then I imagine my nerves threading between vertebrae in my spine, linking the central nervous system to the periphery. I think of broccoli between the teeth – isn’t that so annoying! Of hernias, pockets of our internal organs escaping through openings, like the stomach poking through the oesophageal sphincter, for example, a hiatus hernia.

Stinging nettles Urtica dioeca. The first thing I drink in the morning, for my joints 15 April
Lemon balm, Melissa officinalis for soothing stress and improving the mood 16 April

In April 2020, so many people were struggling (and still are) with isolation and the various difficulties brought on by restrictions in movement (then, it was recommended that we stay within a 2 mile radius in order to stop the virus spreading). I used lemon balm because it is refreshing and restorative as a herbal tea, and sometimes I just rubbed the leaves gently between my fingers and had a good sniff!

Periwinkle, Vinca minor stretching her neck. Soon to be lavender blue. 17 April
St John’s Wort, Hypericum androsaemum. Tutsa, known as Balm of the Warrior’s Wands. 18 April

It was at this time that we were standing outside our houses once a week clapping the stalwart NHS ‘warriors’ who now , in 2021, need support more than ever after such a long slog without a break and the emotional strain. Many are exhausted and I know that I, and my fellow Shiatsu practitioners, are hoping that we can support them in hour-long, gentle touch sessions for relaxation, stress and rejuvenation.

Shining Cranesbill, Geranium lucidum 20 April. So delicate
Purple deadnettle, Lamium purpurium, also known as purple archangel as it shows itself around the Feast of the Apparition on May 8

According to legend, the Feast of the Appearing of the Archangel Michael (a Christian event) took place on Mount Gargano, Apulia, about the year 492, and immediately the mountain became the site of pilgrimage.

Mexican fleabane, Erigeron karvinskianus, from Greek meaning early (eri) and old man (geron) because of the white beard-like rays around the yellow floral disc. 1 May
Roman chamomile, Chamaemelum nobile, fine and feathery. Formerly Anthemis nobilius with essential oil of chamazulene for calming, teething babies and itchy skin. 14 May
Strawberry plant, Fragaria hybrid ‘pekan’ about to fruit despite being in rather overcrowded cracks. It’s a companion plant to borage – they benefit each other. 28 May
Borage, starflower, bugloss, Borago officinalis. Great for nappy rash in cream form

Float some blue borage flowers in your Pims or lemonade and see what happens! *

Two holyhocks, Alcea rosea, flowering despite their diminutive size. 1 July
Michaelmas Daisies, Aster, heralding the approach of Autumn. 25 August and back in Edinburgh

Though actually celebrated on 29 September, this is another flower named after St Michael and one of his festivals – Michaelmas, again part of the Christian calendar. It also includes the angels Gabriel, Raphael and sometimes Uriel. Close to the equinox (when the sun is directly above the equator 23 September and 20 March), in Medieval times, it was the harvest, the end of the fishing season, and the start of the hunting one, time to settle bills and count the livestock for planning the winter. stores

In August, in the UK, we had our first respite from the Covid limitations on movement and so I travelled back home to Edinburgh. The open nature of these blooms captures the feelings we had when it was warm enough to socialise outdoors and everything seemed more positive again.

Creeping wood sorrel, Oxalis corniculata

In the past, I tried to hide my concerns and put on the smiling face that I thought others deserved, that I thought I should if I was going to be a good mum and work colleague. It didn’t work for long. If I have something important to say, worries that need to be expressed, they just come out in other ways. Otherwise I wander towards a fault line in my mental health, start to ‘crack up’.

Knapweed, Cyanus triumfetti

Anyway, it didn’t take long to recognise that the people around me knew me well enough to sense when I was uptight and holding onto something. I am not sure that any amount of anger or resentment can really be hidden if we are in close proximity to people we love or work with. It is always about finding ways to put my feelings into words, let them out in a constructive way, or accepting when I flare with anger, apologise, and finding support from a friend or counsellor to try and work out why I did that.

Knapweed in full bloom
Rock fumewort, yellow corydalis, Pseudofumaria lutea
Piss-a-beds, dandelion, Taraxacum officianale, most common, companion to nettle in my morning tea

Dandelion – bees love it (see No Mow May) – and it ‘helps one see further without a pair of spectacles’,according to Culpeper’s Colour Herbal. I take it for my liver.

Probably woodbine, do you think? A vine like Virginia Creeper and Honeysuckle
Twist of ivy through the smallest of gaps

These plants all have invisible roots, they thrive in the bleakest of situations, in mere grains of soil or even the substance of the stone wall itself. They are evidence of resilience and tenacity, and photographing and thinking about them gives me strength and supports me in understanding myself better.


Chitra Ramaswamy is @chitgrrl on twitter and she wrote about nature being allowed to bloom in the corners of urban Leith, Edinburgh at a similar time.

The Royal Horticultural Society is a great resource for plants. They are @THE_RHS

Gardenista are worth following on twitter @gardenista for their sometime focus on plants like

* They change to pink