Countryside Wanderings

It's amazing how things develop. After all, this blog started out as a news section for the rest of the website. With encouragement from readers, it has become a place for relating my countryside wanderings and musings about the world of outdoor activity. Walking, cycling and photography all are part of what I do out of doors and, hopefully, they will continue to inspire me to keep adding entries on here. Of course, there needs to be something of interest to you, dear reader, too and I hope that's the case. Thanks for coming.

Category: Ireland

Imputation

Monday, June 18th, 2018

It is not often that you will see a statistical term as the heading for an entry on here but the cause is that, around twenty years ago, I took my first steps into online publishing. The exact date is lost to me but I am settling on the middle of June and that is the cause of the title. After all, this is an educated guess when accurate recollection has faded.

Back then, I was a university student unsure of what the future might hold. There was the act of writing up a thesis and having it examined before I found a way into a life of work that continuously conveyed me until last August when a much needed career break began. That ended last month with my starting out as a freelance consultant. Another adventure has begun and it brings its delights and agonies but the hope is that any added sense of autonomy, flexibility and space for managing my affairs would outweigh and any episodes of irritation. There is much to learn and that is its own motivation.

That changeover was not distracted by all the fine weather over the last few weeks. Priorities were such that a trip to Ireland in May brought more in the way of exploring than otherwise was the case. The city of Kilkenny was explored as was Castletown House near Celbridge in County Kildare. Various walks and cycles around my home in Cheshire have been complimented by episodes of website enhancement. The visible changes have been subtle but things should load faster now.

What has not been forgotten that there are trip reports outstanding and that recent round of website tinkering reminded me that I used to split some trip reports in several parts. That was opportune for those relating my Norwegian wanderings will follow that scheme. There will be one each for the 2016 and 2017 trips and there may be an introductory one too. Chances for such things this summer may be limited by the need to build up some savings again after a period of reduced earnings but time may bring its own surprises yet.

A springtime sabbatical

Tuesday, May 16th, 2017

Though the output on here may try to belie it, the month of March was one of exhaustion and a longed for sabbatical from work came not a moment too soon at the start of April. Mostly, it was time to rest at home though there were some escapes. My yearning for rest and recuperation had to be countered for these but it is good for anyone’s state of mind to get out and about too.

The second weekend saw me head to the Isle of Man for the first time since July 2011. Though it was a reluctant manoeuvre in the end, it repaid my efforts with sunshine on a circuit from Laxey that took in Snaefell and on an amble around Castletown. Before I started my return, I took in Douglas Head and Summerhill Glen along with some other sights around the island’s capital.

Strife with insuring a car in Ireland partly ruined any peace of mind around Easter such that I shortened a stay in Edinburgh. In truth, I spent more time around Peebles with a rain-soaked walk around Glen Sax on Easter Sunday preceding a trot along the John Buchan Way between Peebles and Broughton in much better weather on Easter Monday. Thankfully, that Irish obstacle was overcome to allow a few more days of quiet rest before it hit me just how fast time was going.

While it felt as if my time away from work was too short, there still was time for walk from Litton to Buxton that took in several of Derbyshire’s dales. The list included Tansley Dale, Cressbrook Dale, Monsal Dale, Miller’s Dale, Wye Dale and Deep Dale. Wintry weather intruded at times and Chee Dale offered plenty of adventure. Still, it was a good day out with my partly making up the route as I went along.

There was a trip to Ireland too and this allowed more time for myself in between visiting family and neighbours as well as attending to business that I have over there. Evening walks took me on circuits around by Springfield and Kilmeedy village. Though the walking was along roads for the most part, it was a case of revisiting haunts that I have not frequented for a few years now.

On returning to work, I have decided to do things differently and that is allowing me more rest time. My mind is turning to future excursion ideas as a sort of tonic though such flights of fancy are tempered my aunt’s health for now. Still, there is no harm in dreaming a little as I assess how things are going for me after all that has happened during the past five years.

After a year of unfinished business

Sunday, February 5th, 2017

2016 turned out to be a dramatic year in world affairs and it was set to be a busy one for me too so I could have done without the other developments. That work looking after my late father’s affairs is tailing off into more of a steady state and I hope that things become more manageable as the year progresses. There even might be time for a sabbatical from my day job.

The way that I feel at the moment is that such a thing would be well needed and I fancy a period of rest after all the upheaval of the last few years. It has sapped my spirit so a spot of renewal is in order. Overseas trips became a way to tide myself until a longer break becomes a reality.

In 2016, I got to three new countries: Austria, Norway and Spain. With my visits to the first two of these taking the form of extended weekends, I left feeling that there was more to see. It usually is not a bad thing but an extra day or two added to each would have allowed a bit more exploration. My Spanish escapade took me to Mallorca between Christmas and New Year and that brought what the other trips did not bring. There was a feeling of leaving the cares of life after me that was much needed.

In a way, it worked too well and a cold that I had caught somewhere began to make its effects plain enough that the return journey had more than a little dash of limp home mode about it. It took a week or two before I finally recovered and some extra time away from work was in order.

Before that took hold, there was ample time in the near constant sunshine as I explored the island from my Palma base. Port de Pollença was my first port of call with a little strolling about the place. A day trip to Sóller allowed for a chance to sample part of the GR 221, a long distance trail extending along the Serra de Tramuntana. After that, there was a trot about Port d’Andratx that was supposed to take me to Saint Elm but granted me a view of the place instead when I failed to find the path needed to get me from one track to another. Given that I was feeling less than my full self, it was just as well. The last day of my trip saw me lazing about Palma next to its impressive cathedral, helping sightseers with photos when asked to do so. There was ample time during my stay to make photos of my own too.

Despite the fever, I got a lot from my time in Mallorca and it offered the feeling of satisfying and more complete explorations. It also did me another favour. During December, I fell into a search for closure that I do not understand fully and even walks around Macclesfield over the Christmas did little to dissipate the feeling. It probably was grief that hit me but going away somewhere else fractured that unwanted continuity.

December saw me return to the Lake District for a walk between Great Langdale and Grasmere on a crisp winter’s day. The dawdling along the way was restorative and taught me that such experiences can be readily available in Britain. There also was a amble between Burbage and Whaley Bridge that revisited the Goyt Valley. Being denied much in the way of sunshine was no irritation and it also offers encouragement for a return sometime.

There were other longer walks during the year too with one returning me home from Leek by way of the Roaches. Thinking about that now recalls how soothing a largely solitary saunter it was. Another took me along the White to Dark Trail between Tideswell and Hathersage.

Hopefully, 2017 will be an easier year for me and it is something of an open book in some ways. Aside maybe from a possible stay in Stockholm, overseas excursions no longer loom as large in my mind now. Scotland could see more of me than that short visit in November that took in Inverness and a rainy Plockton. A spot of mental clearance could see me plodding around England and Wales more often too. Ireland might even see a spot of much needed exploration and I also fancy a stay around Killarney. Given how heavy my spirit feels now, the more important job for the year could be to lift things again for me.

A new GPS receiver

Saturday, June 18th, 2016

Most if not all articles written about outdoors gear usually do not contain any mention of life circumstances yet they pervade this one. To me, January 2015 brought a life changing event whose alterations still are ongoing. My father’s passing away last year and that of my mother years nearly two years before then now make for a very changed set of circumstances. Not having to deal with my father’s fear of flying has meant that I can countenance overseas excursions like those that took me to Iceland and Switzerland last year together with Austria a few weeks ago.

Motivation & Opportunity

If it were not for last year’s trip to Iceland, I may never have acquired a GPS receiver. Apart from an abortive attempt to buy a Magellan eXplorist 100, it stubbornly remained on the nice-to-have section of any gear wish list since I never got to spending the outlay. It was exposure to the shortcomings of maps with a 1:100000 (1 cm per 1 km) scale on a walk around Landmannalaugar that finally convinced me to try again. Even with a subsequent trip to Switzerland and perhaps because of what I spent on accommodation, travel and other things, the acquisition that had to wait.

The deed itself was done in circumstances that one might have expected to produce a different set of priorities for it was in the time around last Christmas. My plan was to spend Christmas itself in Britain before heading to Ireland for a few days and returning before New Year’s Day. That didn’t happen for emotions just were too raw and I rearranged the trip for sometime in January. What had added to my melancholy was how things went during Christmas 2014 when a neighbour of my parents went about planning Christmas 2015 when all I wanted to do was get into 2015 and leave 2014 after me. Now Christmas has lost all its child-like allure for me, I tend to want to get past it rather than bringing the next one closer.

Not travelling to Ireland at the end of 2015 meant that I could get past last Christmas and leave it after me to grow smaller in the rear view mirror of life. Doing otherwise would mean lugging too much emotional baggage through 2016 and that was why that 2014 invitation hurt me as much as it did; that Christmas was one that I needed to leave after me. The extra time at home was put to good use too for I embarked on a tidying spree that result in so many bin bags of items for disposal and recycling that it too a few weeks to clear them. Aside from the last Tuesday of the year or the afternoon of Christmas Eve, the weather had not been so enticing anyway and it felt like pathetic fallacy that so much rain fell and the winter generally was a rain-drenched season anyway.

Garmin eTrex Touch 25

Having bailed out of the planned Irish trip on St. Stephen’s Day, or Boxing Day as it is known in the U.K., I decided to book the purchase of the long-windedly titled Garmin eTrex Touch 25 from Go Outdoors’ Manchester branch. Perusal of a newspaper on the way there revealed just how miserable some people’s Christmas had been for they were physically flooded while I was emotionally so; the Calder valley had been very badly hit by the weather and they were not alone.

Early Testing

Time elapsed before I got to testing out the new gadget and there is more I have yet to get it to do even now. That Christmastime Tuesday trot around Macclesfield that took in Tegg’s Nose and part of the Gritstone Trail depended on my local knowledge and a paper map instead. Testing the new acquisition in earnest was take until the second week of 2016 and various opportunities since then have seen it left at home so I am far from developing a dependence on the device. These have included a recent walk from Tideswell to Hathersage via Litton, Foolow and Eyam as well as a subsequent one from Leek to Macclesfield that took in the Roaches as well as Tittesworth Reservoir, Gradbach, Wildboarclough and Higher Sutton.

Still, it has been taken outside a good few times. These mainly have been on trots about Macclesfield that include some soggy ones earlier in the year and drier ones more recently. It also has made it to West Limerick in Ireland, Stirling in Scotland as well as Innsbruck and Zillertal in Austria.

As the word “Touch” in the name suggests, this is a touch-screen device and my attempts to keep the screen reasonably clean mean that I use a stylus with it like I do with a phone or tablet. Starting it up brings you to a screen for one of its numerous modes. So far, I have stuck with the hiking one and there is another customised version of this that I created but there others for various forms of cycling as well as hunting, fishing, climbing and geocaching. It is only the hiking modes that I have tried so far but one of the cycling ones (bike, tour bike and mountain bike) could be a possibility yet.

In my experience, this is not a device for spot reading of where you are but one that tracks where you are going. Given that it shows a map underneath, that does help when you are unsure of things though battery usage then becomes a concern as does remembering to enjoy what surrounds you, which is what gets us out and about in the first place anyway. Going about the place staring at a small screen rather defeats the point of exploring the countryside and could cause an accident. As for battery life, my unit is on probation with disposable batteries until I can be sure that rechargeable ones are not getting discharged too quickly.

Available Maps

By default, the Garmin comes with its own maps for eastern and western Europe. For places without alternative coverage like Iceland, these are a good substitute for the walking maps that are available. In fact, having the gadget with me around Landmannalaugur last year would have been a big help for it shows that trail at higher magnification than the 1:100000 scale map that I was using at the time.

However, there are other maps available with the BirdsEye Select series offering 1:25000 Ordnance Survey data for Great Britain as well as its equivalents for France, Germany, Switzerland and Austria (including part of Italy). Holiday destinations like Madeira, the Balearic and Canary Islands together with the Azores see inclusion in this series too. Along with the OS, data come from Kompass, France’s IGN and Germany’s BKG. The advantage of these offerings is that you choose the area for which you buying maps and no the selection decided for you by a provider. Garmin offers other series and there is a one called BirdsEye that appears to do the same for the U.S.A. and Canada.

To get coverage beyond the aforementioned countries, you need to look at Garmin’s other offerings. These differ from the above in that these are preselected areas rather than self-selected ones from the BirdsEye series and cost more for higher definition maps because of the amount of coverage that is included. For Great Britain, there is the Discoverer series and both TOPO US 24K and TOPO US 100K series just cover the U.S.A. Country coverage for the other mapping series (there is one in the BirdsEye range for satellite imagery but I am less interested in that) is below.

TOPO PRO:
France, Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Czech, Finland, Spain, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovi­na, Serbia, Kosovo, Monte­negro, Macedonia, Albania, Norway, Sweden, Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mayotte, Mozambique, Namibia, Reunion, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Denmark.

TOPO:
U.S.A., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Tunisia, Hungary, Mexico, Chile, Norway, Argentina, Bolivia, Morocco, Greenland, Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Czech, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, Algeria, Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Ceuta, Chad, Comoros, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mayotte, Melilla, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Republic of Congo, Réunion, Rwanda, São Tomé und Príncipe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Western Sahara, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Bahrain, Ceuta, Gaza, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Melilla, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Westbank, Western Sahara and Yemen.

TOPO Light:
U.K., Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Finland, Belarus, Israel, Poland, Portugal, Turkey, Romania, Burundi, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan South, Tanzania, Uganda, Turkey, Romania.

Aside from the BirdsEye range where the Basecamp PC or Mac software is needed, maps can be purchased and downloaded to your device from the website. However, the browser plug-in does not work in the current versions of Firefox or Google Chrome at the time of writing because it has not been digitally signed by Garmin. On Windows PC’s, that leaves Internet Explorer as the only option and I needed to try it more than once to ensure that Basecamp registered the new map. Finding out what happens with Safari is not something that I have got to doing yet but it is a possibility.

Storage

With all the downloadable data, it is just as well that the eTrex Touch 25 takes a microSD card; the default maps and software leave just over 2 GB free out of the 8 GB of internal storage. The slot is in the battery compartment underneath the batteries and I have added a 16 GB one. If needs extend beyond that, a bigger one can be added in its place. It is possible to buy data on SD or microSD from Garmin so there could be the temptation to use one of these in the same slot. A limited number of packages come on DVD and I wonder how they get transferred, even if this is a legacy format nowadays.

Software

Sessions exploring the available computer software followed suit and Garmin’s BaseCamp is what’s needed for managing any data. Exports to GPX files meant that routes could be seen in Mapyx Quo and Anquet’s OMN too.

Precious Gifts

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015

After a break needed to care for their own older relatives, my parents started to go exploring Ireland again. Early memories of this involved evening drives after the cows had been milked. Places like Springfield Castle, Cahermoyle House and the last resting place of William Smith O’Brien still reside in my memory. Somehow, I also seem to recall that the evenings were clouded and dull when we made these excursions but my father retained an interest in history for much of his life and a few of these outings stemmed from that.

That is not to say that places were not frequented for their scenic worth. After all, my mother enjoyed flowers and shrubs with many a pot plant about the house while shrubs and trees made mowing the lawn all the more interesting. Trees were favoured by my father so places like Foynes Wood, Curraghchase Forest Park and Doneraile Park also saw visits and the Ballyhoura Mountains were not ignored either, especially given my mother went on Sunday drives around there with her own mother. Visiting gardens open to the public was more my mother’s interest and she found ones like Annesgrove Gardens near Castletownroche in North Cork or Derreen Gardens near Lauragh in Kerry through the pages of the Cork Examiner (now the Irish Examiner). Rhododendron flowering seasons nearly always saw excursions to the Vee and Mount Melleray in the Knockmealdown Mountains between Clogheen in County Tipperary and Cappoquin in County Waterford.

Mum & Dad walking around Kilkee (Dad never liked standing in any photos...), Co. Clare, Éire

Mum & Dad enjoying rocky shoreline views around Kilkee, Co. Clare, Éire

Continuing the scenic theme, my parents also appreciated mountain and coastal scenery. My mother especially enjoyed the latter and it was the freshness of Atlantic sea air that especially drew her. There were so many visits to Ballybunion in County Kerry that the place no longer appealed to me and might have inoculated me against seaside resorts for life! Other favoured seaside destinations included Beale, Banna and Ballyheigue on the same stretch of coastline as well as the likes of Kilkee, Lahinch and Spanish Point in County Clare.

Thinking back on it, it sounds that my parents enjoyed much of what is branded now as the Wild Atlantic Way. In fact, I reckon that there was not much of Ireland’s western seaboard that they had not savoured. Donegal stands out in my mind as well as Sligo and maybe north Mayo too. Definitely, their travels has West Cork, Kerry and Clare well covered and there were a few days spent around Connemara too nearly twenty years ago. Car touring was their way rather than country walking though and they thought of their excursions as going for drives and these often were leisurely too, the often narrow roads that were travelled saw to that. Doring Kindersley’s Back Roads Ireland (from their Eyewitness Travel series) would echo what my parents enjoyed doing.

On some of these , they would bring us along and there would be a lot of miles covered between the two milking times in the day. One was around 180 miles and took us all around the Beara Peninsula with a scary moment when it looked as if there was no road and that all that was ahead was the sea. Even though it was a sunny summer day, the sight gave pause for thought until we saw the road go around to the left and lose height as it did so. Going slow around there certainly paid its dividends. Another memory from such an escapade was dropping down into the Black Valley and the Gap of Dunloe on a gravel track in an ordinary family saloon, a four door Nissan Sunny. The places that they took their cars would surprise you and there was a story about the way into a waterfall on of their multi-day trips away; the road was well rough and my father proceeded without due regard to the underside of the car and got away with it. It may have been Glen Inchaquin near Kenmare but I cannot be more definite than that.

The east coast of Ireland did not get overlooked either for they honeymooned around Bray in County Wicklow. Thirty years later, they reprised that trip and went to Glendalough and other spots too. The full details escape me at this stage but their love of scenery certainly excluded few parts of Ireland. Another trip away took them down to the Ireland’s south eastern corner though it was not as sunny as its reputation suggests when they were there. There was one story about an experience in a guest house when trying to open a window for fresh air at my mother’s insistence resulted in the thing falling out on my father. It was dodgy anyway and hit no one as they discovered next morning. Many a B&B say was secured at the end of a day’s touring and they were fortunate that accommodation providers at any fully booked establishments rang around to sort them out for that night. That is something on which I never would attempt myself now and I did take such a spur of the moment approach with hostels on my first visit to the Isle of Skye. It makes me shudder a little even now.

All of these visits to scenic areas rubbed off on me and actually inspired me to go visiting the Scottish Highlands in the first place. Even so, I followed a very different approach with more cycling and walking with hardly any motorised touring at all. Nevertheless, all that exploring of Britain, Ireland and the Isle of Man never would have happened if visits to Kerry and West Cork with my parents had not stirred up something in me and my mother encouraged it in her own small way by asking if I had gone anywhere during a preceding weekend. Without my various excursions, there would be anything for this blog or even for this website and that is one of the priceless things that they have left me. My curiosity for seeing new places or new sides to old haunts still remains with me. There are parts of Ireland that they visited where I have yet to go and there is armchair wandering beyond the shores of Britain and Ireland too with the Faroe Islands and the Alps arousing enough interest for me to survey guidebooks because I realise how little I know of such places. Whether I actually get to these places is another matter but my current hunting grounds have much to delight me so I have no plan to desert those either. The two people who inspired all this may be with us no longer but their wanderlust has not gone with them. It is difficult to see them wanting to be very much different.