They say you should never judge a book by its cover, but I’ve never heard anyone say you should never judge a book by its title. So you’ll forgive me for being slightly excited about the prospect of reading a book entitled ‘Walking the dog – motorway walks for drivers and dogs‘.
I live some 30 minutes away from the nearest motorway, with the closest being the point at which the M5 disappears into the A30/A38 at Exeter. As a result, I only tend to venture onto the ‘big scary roads’ in the event of a special occasion or family treat. So I was slightly intrigued to see a title of a book that seemed to infer that motorways were now open for walkers and dogs. Was this another government policy that I had missed? Not content with bus lanes and toll roads, were motorways now being used as byways and footpaths?
I had visions of Ramblers making their way along the hard shoulder, taking in the fresh air and open wilderness that only a motorway can provide. I wondered if I’d see stiles across the barrier on the central reservation, or maybe even dog-poo bins mounted to the sides of the motorway bridges. It may sound a little dangerous, but there’s nothing like a little integration with passing traffic to make you feel alive.
But alas, no. This book has nothing to do with walking your dog along the hard shoulder of the M3 and instead focuses on scenic walks within five miles of motorway exits. The book’s author, Lezli Rees, invites readers to ‘get more fun for your fuel. see more of the countryside, take a healthy break or enjoy a relaxing pub lunch’.
There are over 200 pages in the pocket-sized book, with each walk having a page to itself. There are clear directions on how to reach the walk, along with a guide to the walk itself and facilities along the way. What’s more, the author has carefully selected a pub or café to visit while you’re there. England, Scotland and Wales are included, with motorways from the M1 to the M90.
Now I don’t know about you, but the thought of visiting a motorway service station fills me with horror. To start with, there’s the frankly horrible prospect of using the motorway services toilets. There’s always a sign that claims ‘these toilets are checked hourly’, but given the state and smell of the toilets, one can only assume that they are checked by a blindfolded chimp called Larry who has both his arms tied behind his back. Then there’s the preposterous price of the food on offer. It won’t be long until Santander plonk a mortgage advisor in the car park, as you’ll need a mortgage just to order a plate of fries. Motorway services are quite simply hell on earth.
So anything that offers an alternative is fine by me. This little book is so brilliantly British – you just can’t see it being released anywhere else. I love the thought of Lezil and her husband, David, painstakingly researching the contents of the book with their trusty dog, Jem, by their side.
It costs just £4.99, about the price of a dodgy motorway services sandwich these days. In the golden era of driving, we’d have seen so much more of our countryside and the towns and villages that make up our great nation. Today, so much of this is bypassed and the views outside our car windows are merely a blur. Sometimes it is good to explore something different and get away from the hoards of people at the same time. So why not pick up a copy and treat yourself to some fresh air and a good walk next time you’re on the move?
Just keep off the hard shoulder, eh?