Sometimes a product takes your breath away. At times like this, thanks are in order. In the first in a series of reviews praising brilliant brands, I am delighted to lie prostrate at the feet of Gola Harrier trainers, unisex vintage-style shoes with remarkable staying power. In fact, if Gola asked, I would probably lick their very toes.
Clunky boots are perfect on rough terrain
I adore hiking. Before I came down south I’d explore the Cleveland Hills, Yorkshire Moors, Yorkshire Dales, Lake District and Pennines on foot, clad in heavy, chunky leather walking boots.
The terrain was challenging, often rugged, rocky, unstable, slippery and steep. I’d spend ages getting the muck off my boots with a wire brush and penknife before re-treating them with sticky dubbin. I probably went through hundreds of bootlaces, which quickly rotted and frayed.
I guess Alfred Wainwright’s The Coast to Coast Walk was the pinnacle of my northern walking years. Almost 200 miles of huge ups-and-downs in 17 days with a two day break in the middle, spanning the north of England from St Bees Head in Cumbria to Robin’s Hood Bay in North Yorkshire. It hurt. A lot. And I loved every second of it.
Gola Harriers to the rescue in gentler Sussex
Chalk downland and rolling Sussex plains come with different challenges. The spine-like escarpment of the South Downs is arid chalk thousands of feet deep. Down on the plain and on the Weald it’s alternately grassy, boggy, heathland, farmland, wooded and forested.
It turned out big boots were far too heavy and clunky. After some experimentation I discovered I liked the feel of the gentler southern earth under my feet. And an unassuming pair of Gola Harriers provided an unexpected solution.
This pair is ten years old. I hiked in them for five years. At a conservative 500 miles a year that’s 2500 miles. They’re mostly suede. They’re ridiculously comfortable. They suit the varied Sussex and Kent terrain perfectly. They’ve survived blizzards, slush, sleet, rainstorms and stream crossings, short cuts through shallow sea, flinty beaches, hard-packed chalk cliffs, sand, scorching sunshine, stinking river silt and foot-deep mud.
Once their walking life was over they spent five years as gardening shoes. Now, at a decade old and finally falling apart, these loyal old friends are going in the bin. My current pair, five years old, is being pastured out for a five year stint on gardening duty. And there’s a new pair in the mail right now, in time for another magical summer season walking with my husband, getting close up and intimate with the unbelievably beautiful British countryside.
Thank you Gola UK for an absolutely brilliant product, an unsung hero responsible for thousands of miles of walking pleasure. I salute you. Here’s to the next 2500 miles.