This is just one of many things I learnt from Marika Kovacs, the blind lady with whom I had the pleasure of walking when I visited the Herefordshire Ramblers’ AGM at Bosbury on 9 November.
Marika is an incredibly plucky lady who loves walking. She has been blind since childhood but she doesn’t let this get in her way. Last year she moved to Hereford, discovered the Herefordshire Ramblers and began to walk with them. She just needs someone to guide her, but only lightly, you touch fingers and warn her of low-hanging vegetation.
We squelched through muddy gateways, over awkward stiles and across slippy footbridges. Nothing deters Marika.
She gets heightened pleasure from sounds and smells, like me she is learning bird song and calls. She hears even the quietest birds and called out to me when I was some distance behind her to ensure that I too had heard the chattering wren above the chattering Ramblers. I introduced her to redwings, describing for her how they were flying from the trees across the valley. Changes in light and wind, the smells and sounds of woodland, are all a delight to her.
Earlier this year Marika led her first walk, around Breinton, west of Hereford. She walked it first with Arthur Lee, the Area chairman, and recorded the directions and interesting bits of information on a dictaphone. Back at the university where she works, she transcribed the recording into braille. Then she led the walk and was thrilled that, although it wasn’t on the Ramblers’ programme, ten walkers came.
She repeated the exercise with another walk. This time it rained and the braille in her pocket deteriorated into a soggy mess and was useless. However, undeterred, she found an old machine at the university which she can use to embed the braille in plastic so that it’s waterproof. Now she can lead a walk in any weather.
Marika looks forward to every walk and hates to be told she is getting to the end. It was a joy to walk with her and I hope to do so again.
You can read more about Marika on the walk magazine website here.