Countryside experiences

Your experiences

This is where you can read a selection of accounts that people have submitted.

If you have any comments, I would be very happy to hear them, please email me at It would be interesting to hear how your experiences are similar or different to these presented here.

Submitted by Jean from Yorkshire

I am congenitally blind, with some light perception. Growing up in rural Yorkshire, I walked every weekend with my Dad, who was a keen walker. Most of the time, I would hold his arm as we were walking but I also used a stick to keep my balance on uneven ground. We walked the same route to the pub every Sunday for years. I knew the turns, the inclines and declines, where our bench was, the feel of gate and all the other characteristics. I never thought of walking this alone and I always thought of my Dad as ‘guiding’ me as I held his arm. One evening, I was leaving the pub with Dad and it was pitch black as arrived too late and stayed too long. He was worried that we would not be able to walk home safely through the winding fields and small footpaths, but I knew exactly where we were going - my Dad took my arm! I felt such independence as I guided my Dad home. I will never forget that.    

Submitted by Colin from London

Aged 59 I am totally blind from birth. This means I have no knowledge of colour, what it feels like to see any object, person or scenery. As a result of this I sometimes find it difficult to appreciate descriptions of scenery, views of hills or from hilltops, etc. and often they have little meaning for me. A person who has had sight of course would feel differently. Perhaps the best way I can explain this is that the experience is secondhand, rather like being told how tasty a meal is without eating it yourself. There is some value but not a lot.

I'm always a bit fearful of upsetting guides as they obviously mean well when they describe scenery. But yes, it can sometimes be irritating -why is it? Well I guess it's because the descriptions have no meaning but also maybe and I do say maybe as I'm no psychiatrist, I feel excluded from them? This is a little hard for me to admit as I consider mmyself totally at one with being blind, and regard myself as having completely "internalised" that I can't see.

The things that mean the most to me when walking is firstly the movement - I love to walk freely, ie with a guide. This feeling of free movement can't be over stated. For a blind person who has to usually move slowly this free movement is wonderful.

Secondly the feeling of freshness - the fresh air, fresh and wonderful smells, the damp feel of leaves, the breeze or wind, and the rain! yes I do like the feel of rain on my skin, and wind.The sound of wind and rain are wonderful, and the sound of rain varies a lot. Not just between a hard roof and leaves, but you can hear it on different types of tree, hedge and leaves. You can't tell which type of tree it is (lol) or at least I can't, but there is often a different sound.

Another huge thing I get out of walking is feeling tired! Yes, it's lovely that feeling of your body stretched and feeling that you have got rid of that energy and being able to come home and relax. You need to do something energetic to relax. So you get home or to the pub and have that well-deserved pint! 

Submitted by Alan, a sighted guide from East Grinstead

Some experiences of a sighted volunteer guiding a blind person for the first time

Sunday morning in Hassocks, waiting for their train to arrive.  Everyone was a little nervous.  I wondered how my day would go.  Today was the annual Blind Ramblers day.  I had volunteered, what had I let myself in for?  Unknown to me, my “charge” had been up

since 5:45 to get here.  Four and a half hours journey for a six mile walk.  Nervous introductions, where do you hold?  A few nervous minutes, questions and then, being bold, there was a hand to hold.  It was easier this way.  The journey began, hers and mine.  I realised everything had to be explained, the touch of the swaying wheat, a young blackberry to eat, moss on a stone, the sounds, the smells, the air, and beware.  The stile and another, the ground, a branch to duck, nettles, and thorns.  All my responsibility.  And I realised it was not my day, but her day.  But no, it was our day.  And how I enjoyed her joy.  My troubles so far away.  And then it was done, time to leave.  Thanks and smiles, they left.  And I was me again, a better me.” 

Submitted by David from London

I am aged 72 years and have no sight at all, not even lightperception.  I have an eye condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa.  As a child and into my teenage years I had full sight, but developed black spots on the Retina by the age of about 30 years which got progressively worse with a narrowing field of vision.  I have been totally blind for the last 20 years.

I enjoy the quietness and being able to appreciate the sounds of birds and animals with the smells of farms and woodland.

I don't have any particular favourite place, but anywhere in the countryside that is far away from the sounds of cars, motorways and aircraft.

I regularly walk with a variety of sighted guides. I always find the best time of the day for me is from about mid-day onwards for a few hours, as I have got used to walking with my guide and become more relaxed. I find walking with a guide much more relaxing and I can share my thoughts and experiences with my guide. I do like my guide to give me descriptions of the countryside around because having been able to see when I was younger, I am able to get that visual picture from their descriptions.

I would not attempt being alone in the countryside and I think I would soon get lost!

When I was a child I spent a lot of time on holidays with my Aunt and Uncle in North Devon. Please see below further descriptions as you asked. To explain about my holidays in Bideford.  I and my sister, who was 4 years older than me, used to go by train in school holidays being putonto the train in London and my Uncle meeting us off the train at Bideford. In those days, up until about 1960, trains went direct from London to Bideford and beyond, so there was no changing trains to worry about.  This was possibly between my ages of 5 and 12 years.  Being that much older, my sister used to do her own thing and had palled up with other girls locally, so I did not go out with her during the day. If needed, I am happy to expand on any points if it will help in your work. I used to walk with my Uncle for miles across the fields and footpaths and have many happy memories and visual pictures.

I have many happy memories of my time spent in North Devon. I used to go out a lot with my Uncle, I don't remember that we ever went on a bus, it was always walking.  I am sure he always knew where he was going but I used to like to put some sort of markers as we went, for example, placing bits of twig where I could find them on our return.  I remember after putting bits of twigs into a cowpat and being quite excited when we were crossing the field on the way back and seeing my twigs still there!! I don't know how far we used to walk in miles, but it always seemed to be a long way. On the days that I didn't go out walking with my Uncle, I used to sit on the Bideford Quayside and watch the boats unloading their cargo.  This would have been coal, timber, animal feed for the farms, and lots of other different heavy items in crates and boxes. They used to have big cranes unloading into lories.  I have such vivid and happy memories of just sitting and watching it all, and being quite excited as to what they would be unloading that day.

I use my hearing and other senses to know what is around me. I am sure it is my hearing that I am using to pick up the scene around me and quite often I talk of something to my guide and until I mention it they are not even aware of what I am picking up. Mainly what I am picking up around me is the sounds of birds and animals and the general feeling of what is around - open space, I can often detect when footpaths have tall hedges, or tall hedge on one side and open space on the other.  All the sounds I get tend to take a picture of the scene around me.  There are all sorts of ways of interpreting sounds just the sound and feel of the ground underfoot creates a picture.  There are so many different smells to pick up in the countryside depending upon the time of day, the weather conditions, also the time of year. I find walking in fine weather much more enjoyable, but there are times when this is not possible.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity of expressing my views.  

Submitted by Ralph from South London 

Some experiences of a sighted volunteer guiding a blind person for the first time

I recently guided someone who is blind for the first time at a rambling club. At first I felt quite nervous, I was worried I might make them bump into something or that they might fall over and it would be my fault. Perhaps I also felt pressure to make sure that they had a good time - good conversation. At first I was searching the ground and all around us all the time, I found it hard to talk naturally and found it very tiring. After a while I started to relax and gain confidence. If I just relaxed and felt the motion of us moving together, it was easier to maintiain balance, avoid hot holes, veer past overhanging brambles. It was a really brilliant experience. I learnt to so much from Dom, who I was guiding. He told me all about astromony, we didn't even talk about his sight. I still don't know how much he could actually see. I want to guide again, it is a great way of meeting new people and having fun. More fun than walking with sighted rambling clubs as people do not always pair up in the same way. 

Submitted by William from East Sussex

On past walks I have collected all sorts of seeds, leaves, flowers, twigs, grasses etc for the walkers to feel, smell etc (a touchy, feely session). This has always been very well appreciated by the severely sight impaired walkers. 

Submitted by Paul from Brighton 

I have been partially sighted since birth, until very recently I was very cautious about walking alone in areas that I did not know well, During the last two or three years I have branched out more and now enjoy walking in town and country. Living in Brighton I am very lucky with lots of great parks, the countryside just a few miles away and lovely simple walks along the seafront 

Submitted by Douglas from London

I lost my sight 11 years ago and have a little peripheral vision but no central vision.  I cannot read and colour recognition is proving to be difficult.  Technically I am at the 2/3 fingered stage in terms of seeing anything beyond a metre of so. 

Experiences: Please find reference to my walks in the countryside as written up in my blog

I have described walks in Midlothian in Scotland and am working on some for East Lothian. In the summer I hope to make it down to Brighton as I live near a Thameslink station.