It was afternoon. In the ploughed field below me there were dots of white - a flock of seagulls. Then suddenly they all took to wing. I wondered what caused this and so I looked around and saw the spread wings of a buzzard come around the hill above me. I recalled seeing something similar a few years ago, by the coast. But on that occasion what had set the gulls into the air was a more impressive osprey. So after my break, after seeing the buzzard scare the gulls into the air, I decided to climb higher myself - to start my walk up the hill. At that moment whimsy took hold of me. There was no one in sight. The previous day it had rained and the ground was still soft and muddy in places. There is only a thin layer of soil over the chalk and clay Downs, and in it grows moss, heather and those calcium loving plants that are now resting and hiding for winter. In my own little world, where I was the only one around for as far as I could see, I thought how I wanted to walk barefoot. I hesitated. ‘If anyone sees me they’ll think I’m a weirdo,’ I thought to myself. ‘Oh well,’ I responded. ‘That’s their problem - sod ‘em!’ So I took my boots and socks off, and stood up. I wonder how many of us have tried walking barefoot as adults? Not just at the beach either. Children will launch themselves into it wholesale without care and no one looks at them strangely for it. All of our feet are arched and creased, ready for walking and gripping, from birth to death. We've all furrowed the warm sand on beaches, and hobbled across the pebbles; but away from these permitted leisure spots we seldom go barefoot except in the privacy of our own homes. Many foot problems like bunions and gout have been ascribed to footwear and these ailments afflict footwear-wearing cultures more than barefoot cultures, so it seems it is best for us, physically at least, to go barefoot. How good is is for us emotionally? I had expected the ground to feel cold. It certainly wasn’t warm, but it was warmer than I thought it would be. About body temperature. I hooked my toes into the loam and felt it surge up between my toes and around my feet. My skin was now in touch with the Earth’s skin. I no longer felt self-conscious. I looked ahead of me, at the slope of the hills with a threadbare crown of ragged trees along the crest, and I started walking. I started off, up the hill. I had walked up this particular slope many times before but never barefoot. By the time I would get to the top you could be sure that my thighs would know all about it. This time, though, I made the ascent with a gainful stride and when I reached the top my legs barely ached. I wondered why this might be; had my mind been focused on the different textures and tactile references I now felt - the soggy moss, the scratchy heather stubs, the slippery chalk, the scattered striped snail shells - rather than the exertion my muscles were enduring? Or had it been because my feet had managed to get a better purchase on the turf and the nap of the landscape, making the climb stronger and easier? Or a combination of the two? But who cares? My footprints were now in the mud, heading uphill. Maybe they might survive as prehistoric fossil prints, maybe for a millennia, maybe for just that afternoon. Treading into the ground, making a path, a route-way from sole to soul.