Stepping on bits of Dagenham I’ve not stepped on before.

Since the first lockdown, when we were all taking our allotted ‘one exercise session per day’ seriously, I’ve been walking around my home town a lot more then I have in years. Initially it was interesting to walk down side streets I’ve not been along before, or to let the dog choose a direction at each intersection and end up somewhere unvisited before. Over time, this became a bit of a game with myself, can I walk places I’ve never walked before, then it because even more specific, can I set foot on a piece of ground I had never stood on before.

While choosing new roads, this was easy; every step was a new one, but as my walking patterns got more settled; to the shop and back, to the park and back, the game became harder.

The rules I set myself:

  • 1) Private property is off limits
  • 2) At least one new step every trip out the house

It’s an easier game to play and explain away when I’m walking the dog. If I’m sure I haven’t ever set foot on the manhole cover in the middle of the road, it’s a lot easier to explain away should anyone ask, if I can say the dog pulled me that way.

Drains, bits of curbstone and the like are all good for a first step. I’m 99% sure I’ve never stepped on most of the ones I choose. A new pothole in the road is a good find, while I may well have stepped on the original surface, the newly revealed subsurface is ripe for another step.

I’ve had some first steps that I’m sure are the very very first step anyone has ever had, a tree being cut down while on my outward journey left me a nice low stump to step on on my return. A fence removed at the park got me several steps on a bit of land inaccessible for decades, a fallen tree at another park opened up a space between it and a fence – another tiny scrap of land that cannot have had any human footfall for at least 80 years.

There’s absolutely no reason for me to carry on wit this game with myself, but I shall. Many of the easy steps on my usual routes are now stepped on, so there’s still a challenge to find something new.