My First UK Walk in Wellies

I was excited as a two-year-old to take my first walk in wellies across the beautiful British countryside (I am easily amused.) Wellies, the symbol of British culture, reflect the lasting legacy of the Duke of Wellington and the term carries a sense of tradition, practicality, and British identity.

Wellies, aka. Wellington boots, date back to the 18th century. Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, enlisted his shoemaker to modify a military Hessian boot. Originally designed for battle, wellies were later used by farmers and outdoorsmen.

In the early 19th century, they became a staple of practical foot wear for the British aristocracy and middle class and a popular choice for various occasions, including evenings out.

“Everyone in England has a pair of wellies, “Larissa explained. “In the UK, the public has the right away to cross the fields. It’s known as Public Bridle Way.”

When our son, Nic, bought me a pair, I thought they looked so chic that I could wear them as dress boots, which many people do these days. Wellies evolved from being purely functional to becoming fashionable accessories with many brands offering trendy designs, colors and styles.

“Don’t you have wellies in the US?” my British daughter- in-law asked surprised at my exuberance.

“In the Midwest, we swap out tennis shoes directly for winter boots,” I said, “Only thing close to your wellies was the clunky, buckle up galoshes we wrestled on over shoes in grade school.”

The British waterproof gumboots are usually made from rubber or PVC. Traditionally Wellies come in black, olive green, tan color or print and hit just below knee level.

Walking in wellies looks simple, but it takes dexterity. Larissa’s family maneuvered the rough terrain far better than me or Gerald. Could advancing in gumboots be skill passed down from one generation to the next?

Fortunately, before we left home, Larissa advised, “Wear heavy socks to prevent blisters.”

“Slip your orthopedics inserts in the boots,” Nic, the chiropractor added. “It may help your back.”

Nothing helped my spine; I winced every step forward. The UK family, even Lari’s sister lugging her ten-month-old child in a baby carrier, glided across the uneven terrain gracefully. I lumbered along behind, as if on two left feet, stumbling every step of the way.

Wellies, designed to protect feet from getting muddy or wet in damp environments, are the quintessential symbol of British footwear. To the non native, they feel awkward and offer little support for someone with like me with crooked toes, poor balance and a bad back.

Today's wellies, with varied color options and patterns, permit people to add personal style to functional footwear. They can be paired to match every outfit and occasion.

But no one wears wellies with greater style and aplomb than five-year-olds. Larissa and Nic’s nephew mastered the skill. In his “dinosaur” wellies, with a jagged flap along the spine of boot, he galloped ahead, circled back and jumped in every puddle along the way.

For me, slipping on a pair of “wellies,” sloshing along the sublime English countryside and singing with our UK side of the family made me feel like a kid again.

Posted in family, social view, travel.

8 Comments

  1. What a fun adventure. You may have struggled a bit, but you did it and smiled throughout. You’re a trooper!

    • Oh yes, you know me, Joanie. Won’t let my crooked toes slow me down. Thanks for staying connected across the miles.

  2. Oh my! What fun! My “Young Fives” students in Ann Arbor, MI live in their Wellies, as we can have wet, muddy days! Dinosaurs, bunny’s , monster trucks and unicorns bedecked our boots. I’ll snap a photo of the clutter in our cubby area when I’m back in school on Monday!!

    • Oh this is so sweet. I had no idea wellies were big over in the states. I can’t wait to see the photo of the cute collection of your cubby area. Hearing from you always makes me smile!

  3. Well we are getting a bit more fashionable on this side of the big pond. I have a pair of “rain boots” (not Wellies I suppose) with black and white puppies on them and red trim. Very eye catching. My daughter as with her entire wardrobe wears leopard print. Tell those Brits we are catching up to them! Glad you enjoyed it.

    • Ha ha ha Of course, you would have a stylish pair of rain boots! Let me guess which daughter has the leopard print boots? ha Thanks for commenting. It is great to know my website is working again. I have missed your funny anecdotes!

  4. I’ve never been a big fan of rubber boots … not even as a kid. Sure, I’ll happily don winter boots when the ice and snow arrives, but I’ve always found rubber boots to look ugly and feel clunky. Good for you, Pat, that you gave them a try and found them somewhat to your liking.

    • Well Debbie, I wouldn’t go so far to say that wellies will ever be my favorite form of footwear. That said, “when in Rome do as the Romans do,”…oops wrong country.

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