The Woman Who Walks Barefoot on the Moor

We humans are more and more disconnected from the Earth. I used to walk barefoot around the house and garden all summer but stopped about a decade ago because I got verrucas. Once they'd gone, I'd lost the habit.

That's a nice New Agey title isn't it? It implies that I'm a tree-hugging spiritual being in floaty purple clothes with too many buttons.

At the moment I'm a woman with a thorn in her foot who's just scared the willies out of the postman by lying naked on the vegetable patch. Our garden runs around the house and the veggie patch is pretty sheltered if you're not actually coming into the driveway and the important bits were decently covered with a towel but he probably thought I was a dead body for a moment.

Both this lying naked on the earth thing and walking barefoot on the moor are linked. It's called 'Earthing.' I think it's simultaneously the latest thing and the oldest thing on the planet. According to the website "Earthing is a fast-growing movement based upon the major discovery that connecting to the Earth's natural energy is foundational for vibrant health."

Major discovery eh? I think our ancestors knew a bit about that. Even my mother knows -- she's survived to 88 very healthily and firmly believes it's down to all the gardening she does.

We humans are more and more disconnected from the Earth. I used to walk barefoot around the house and garden all summer but stopped about a decade ago because I got verrucas. Once they'd gone, I'd lost the habit. And on Dartmoor, where I now live, all of the walkers I've ever seen are wearing trainers or walking boots. No one even thinks of going barefoot.

We're also insulated from the vitamin D we should get from the sun as long as we wear our anoraks and trousers. Apparently at the UK's latitude, we can barely get optimum vitamin D from walking for a couple of hours in shorts and tee-shirt at Midsummer.

My friend John heard about Earthing and bought himself an electronic 'Earthing Sheet' to lie on in bed to help his arthritic aches and pains. You can buy an earthing pad to put under your office desk to put your feet on during the day too. After all, who has time to sit outside or walk barefoot in the garden any more? We're too busy on the internet. John owns about 30 acres of land that he could lie on at any time but that doesn't seem to have occurred to him.

I don't know yet if it's worked for him but I was given two strong hints (I might say instructions) from holistically-minded friends that I 'should' get into some earthing. This was a couple of months ago when the temperature was still very chilly and the earth was wet and deeply cold. Oh, and grass wouldn't do. It had to be earth.

I tried it for ten minutes and nearly froze my back off. Yikes! But the interesting thing was that the slight backache I'd had for weeks went away. Now it's a bit warmer, on sunny days, I will go and lie on the vegetable patch for half an hour most days, respectably covered either with dressing gown or single duvet for fear of terrifying postmen. It feels amazing, invigorating and, yes, it does appear to dissolve aches and pains.

In fact, it feels so good that I started to walk barefoot on the Moor when I took the beagles out. Yes I know that's grass (and poo) but you have to start somewhere. So much former city-dweller 'it'll hurt' wimpy stuff came up ... and it was frickin' cold too until May ... but it also felt amazing and it certainly focuses you down on where you put your feet. There are tiny, tiny fledgling gorse bushes on the Moor and they hurt.

But I love the feeling of my bare feet splaying out as they were designed to do, adapting to the terrain at each and every step. Walking shoes and trainers keep your feet in exactly the same position no matter where you tread. There is also a feeling of wellbeing that is palpable despite today's unremovable tiny thorn which will have to dissolve its way out in the bath.

Not to mention the re-recognition of the extreme comfort of socks and shoes when I put them back on afterwards.

Now I've researched Earthing a bit more, it appears that grass is just fine and so is water and so is sand and, apparently, concrete's not all that bad either -- there are lots of interesting websites out there so I won't point you to just one. Just google 'Earthing.'

Why do it? Because when our bodies lose contact with the land we start to carry a positive electric voltage relative to the Earth's own voltage. Research indicates that this is not good for health and wellbeing.

Earthing the body returns the voltage to zero. The whole thing is about free-radicals which are there to help us heal as long as there aren't too many of them (which there nearly always are). When we touch the earth, the free radicals that we don't need go 'yippee!' and dive down into the earth, leaving us clear.

Whatever the science, for me, it's a delight. I love to feel the land beneath my feet, my hands and my naked back. There is a deep satisfaction with being one with the Earth. And, strangely, it has completely changed my mind about what happens to my body after death too. I was always a 'cremate me' kind of girl but now I know I want a woodland burial. Yes, I know I won't be there but even so, I want to go back to the land.

In the meantime, am leaving some intriguing footprints in places as I'm very happy to walk barefoot on the muddy parts of the moor too. When just the ball of my foot and toes show up it looks like a very weird mark. I'm looking forward to passing some curious hikers on my way back down to Shilstone Tor who are wondering if they have seen the elusive prints of the mythical Beast of Dartmoor.

Mind you, she'll be racing down the hill behind me, tongue out and leaping for joy. Dogs have all the right ideas and walking in shoes is not one of them.