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: Western Isles

Photographic recollections new and old

Monday, May 22nd, 2017

During March, I made a start on two new photo albums to the gallery on here. One is made of photos from a trip timed between Christmas 2016 and New Year 2017 while another collects ones from a trip made in August 2008.  As well as being separated by nearly a decade, they also represent two very different stages of my life.

Though on the cusp of what we now call the Great Recession, the earlier outing took place in simpler times compared to today. My personal circumstances were more straightforward back then too and they facilitated many a trip to Scotland. Included among those was a week long escapade that took in Skye and the Western Isles so it was not before time that photos of the latter made their appearance in their own album.

Though some of the exposure conditions were more challenging, photos of Mallorca took less time to make their appearance in the photo gallery. Meeting strong sunshine somewhere in wintertime made for an unfamiliar experience so the resulting photos are the result of a learning experience in a part of the world that I reckon many find challenging to capture photographically. Blue heat haze was part of the challenge as was the combination of scrubby vegetation and bare limestone rock. Even so, my hope is that a good start has been made.

It was only at the start of the month that I finally got to publishing these new albums on here. Even with an ongoing sabbatical, the need for rest slowed down the processing of image editing and the adding of descriptive text. Even now, I find myself yearning for another sabbatical though financial discipline needs restoring first.

Beginning a tenth year

Tuesday, May 5th, 2015

It was after the Mayday bank holiday weekend in 2006 that this blog began and, though the actual tenth anniversary is around twelve months away, a lot has happened in those nine years.These have included life changes too with a change of job (and employer) nearly five years ago subsequently being eclipsed by the loss of my mother over two years ago and my father’s taking leave of this world earlier in the year. Life can fee like a roller coaster ride at times.

2013 became all about dealing with the rawness of not having my mother around any more and my father’s no longer being there has left me feeling a bit lost when it comes to my ongoing relationship with the country of my birth and upbringing, Ireland. This is something that happens a lot of people to set down roots away from their homeland though my father’s need management for a while yet and I still have family on the other side of the Irish Sea.

What perhaps feels a bit stranger is how little an effect this has had on circumstances in the country that I call home. For one thing, where I live most of the time has become more important and it may look to my work colleagues that little has changed but the need to find my feet again in a changed life continues. Events like the ones that I have encountered make you think about where you are going in life and there may be need for a work sabbatical yet if an annual leave allowance is not enough for putting my father’s affairs in order.

After my father’s funeral, my mind filled with dreams of exploring the likes of the Faroe Islands, Iceland, the Alps or the Pyrenees but they have been tamed for a while. The initial feeling of release has been tempered by things needing doing in Ireland and having to rest after two years of keeping an eye on a bereaved parent in a nursing home became more of a priority; it is amazing how something like that can take so much out of you.

Having not had any sort of longer break since January I was gagging for the Easter weekend because I really was in need of a bit of “me” time. That the weather came good around was a bonus though it did little to rouse me to travel away from home. Macclesfield has plenty of local walking opportunities anyway so I was left short of those. Holy Saturday saw me walk to the recycling centre with electronic equipment for disposal and I made a longer walk of it by taking in Danes Moss Nature Reserve and a section of the Macclesfield Canal. Easter Sunday allowed a visit to Tegg’s Nose Country Park while Easter Monday saw me walking from Walker Barn to Forest Chapel before I continued to the top of Shutlingsloe. A spot of stravaiging then followed before I settled into returning home via Langley. Tuesday of Easter was another day off from work for me so I headed to Tatton Park for the afternoon. To complete the set, another trot along the Saddle of Kerridge would be in order and that has yet to happen this year.

The end of April saw me cross over to Ireland for a spot of sorting so it was the Mayday bank holiday weekend that was left to allow for further recuperation. Unlike the Easter weekend, this has not been as much of a walking one. The weather has been mixed and I have been distracted by home computing matters. Aside from putting a computer to rights, I also got to setting up a website dedicated to my late father’s history writings. He set to trying to use a PC for the first time in his eighties and wanted me to teach him one Christmas after such a busy working  year that it was a break away from such things that I really needed. Disharmony sadly was the result and my other was left wishing that no one had put the computing idea into his head, especially when his ability to learn was not what it once was and he never was that technically minded anyway. As it happened, it was my mother who operated video (and DVD) players in their house.

An interest in history is something that I share with my father so I am happy to put his essays online, albeit with a good amount of editing to prepare them for a wider audience. The whole archive is not online yet and I am treating it like any website that I have: adding a little over time and tweaking things as I go along. That is how I have done this one and is how I plan to keep things.

Belatedly, I finished off the trip reports for all my walking outings in 2013 so those for 2014 are next on my to do list. This year has yet to see me embarking on similar escapades but I am thinking of having longer summer holiday this year so that may help. Between this and that, 2009 was the last summer escape that was not an elongated weekend such as what happened in 2013 and again in 2014. There was a week off in 2011 but I stayed at home then because I more needed the rest before starting out with a new client at work. If 2015 allowed an opportunity like my exploring the Western Isles in 2008, who knows how much writing could appear on here after something like that.

Never the best to go rushing time

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

When I was looking for my first step into the world of work after university, the quietness of some months were frustrating. January and September appear to fall into this category but I now see them differently. The sense of stasis has not gone but I now prize it because so much of a year can go in a frenzy. A working life will do that with its many deadlines and the events of family life can do the same as I found last year. Then, there can be the chasing of good weather from the start of year until summer. The whole mix can leave one so exhausted before autumn comes that hibernation looks attractive. It quite possibly explains my energy profile over the course of a year.

One matter that makes me wonder is when I start hearing about events towards the end of year being advertised right at the beginning. Concerts given by famous artists may be very desirable but why go wishing away the present? The same trick is used by marketing folk in the world of digital technology too and the risk is that you never appreciate what you have. Sections of the technology media do not help matters by speculating over what might be in the next iPhone or iPad but does it matter? Much of the time, the hubbub needs ignoring so we can enjoy any other delights that come our way in this life.

Another thing that amazes me is long term planning. Some plan their holidays a year in advance and I ask myself how on earth do you know how things will be then. Life’s twists and turns bring the unexpected and that may be the comfortable situation that you expect either. Laying out your life before you just sounds like hubris to me and recent years have enforced that thinking with the progressive frailties of elderly parents. Parents of young children may feel the same. Your life may feel like it is being put hold but the present can bring joys too.

There is no doubt that January can feel too quiet for some and minds go racing ahead to designs on summertime holiday bliss. With days like Blue Monday and the current long run of stormy weather, such escapism is understandable. However, Blue Monday actually came up sunny this year so you could cheer yourself with a walk away from our more built up areas. That may not cure money worries or people trouble but the past year has reinforced for me how essential a good walk can be for easing a troubled mind and thinking over things. Even venting stress through footsteps often is what is needed and is all the better so no one else gets hurt by what is going on within you. Complaints from knees and feet are better than those from others with injured minds.

The real use of a quiet January is to take stock before the year’s distractions get cracking. The month wasn’t so quiet in 2013 but 2014 brought what was needed and my mind could wander elsewhere. On digital maps, I have ranged over the hills of mid Wales and along the courses of the Wye and Severn rivers that rise in Pumlumon. The Black Mountain in the Brecon Beacons National Park has been perused too while a general survey of transport possibilities have been ongoing. Any bus service that looks useful was noted with Sundays being better to avoid until the summertime Beacons Bus network recommences. While a little stay to sample what is in those places sounds promising, no dates are set as the course of life remains largely unknown and the uncertainties and vagaries of the weather lie among those.

It was the same sort of metal wandering that led to my visiting the Western Isles in August 2008. Quieter times allowed the formulation of an escapade that I am loathe to consider at the moment. Then, the playing with different configurations actually led to one that fitted in a week when other parts of the U.K. and Éire were getting a soaking. However, I pulled a cracker that I never will forget.

Another thing that I relished last month is a sense of steadiness that was so different from how much of 2013 felt. It so felt like bliss that it was tempting to procrastinate and leave some less pleasant and necessary tasks for later. Those now need listing and tackling because procrastination is not the way to go either. It’s as bad as wishing away time ahead of summer holidays or the launch of an attractive gadget. Moments need seizing even if the freedom to relax a little is all the more appealing; no one can relax all the time.

January is not only for contemplating and designing escapades because it can have some of its own too. 2011 saw me head to Wales, Scotland and Ireland on successive weekends before I was swamped with work. Being in the off season does mean cheaper deals and lured me to Edinburgh and Llangollen one weekend after another. The first allowed me to recall times from my student days in a wonderful city and the second had me threading new ground with views of spots seen and sampled on previous outings.

February can be less frantic too though it was filled with angst in 2011 and weighed down on me in 2013. In 2012, it was so different with a weekend trip to savour a section of Northumberland’s coastline that I had walked under cloudier skies. Last weekend, I got as far as Lincoln to visit its cathedral and its castle. The latter is under restoration ahead of the octocentenary of the signing of the Magna Carta next year. Currently, all the scaffolding is restricting what you can see so I didn’t get the photo of Lincoln Cathedral that I had fancied. Another visit when it’s all done sounds a possibility though the entry prices surely will have gone up from £2 for an adult by then. English Heritage look after the old Bishop’s Palace and charge £4.60 for adult entry so that maybe what the entry charge for Lincoln Castle should be. Even with a reduced charge, the lady issuing my ticket took pains to tell me how little there was to see though a free tour was available if I fancied that. In the event, what was there satisfied me and I rather fancy the idea of seeing more should the occasion arise. What I saw around Lincoln’s Cathedral Quarter looked very attractive on a sunny Sunday and I’d venture that the actual cathedral itself is more ornate than York Minster too. I left for home with a sense of satisfaction.

Whatever others may say or think, I have a certain affection for the months of January and February. They can be the calm before a frenzy and escapes from the everyday are a possibility. While having a breather appeals to me at the moment, there is no harm clearing niggling tasks out of the way too and the post-Christmas clearance often allows the space for doing exactly that. Then, it is a matter of taking the rest of the year as it comes. After all, long term planning often gets derailed by life itself.

July

Saturday, July 17th, 2010

July's often a month that sends me into a sort of hiatus. Maybe, for all the hopes of scorching summers that seem to circulate every year, it's because the weather isn't ever as good as what gets anticipated. This year, it's being a damp one after the very dry weather of May and June. Having rain now cannot be such a bad thing when reservoirs are low and the earth scorched and bone dry. That situation makes it hard to knock the dampness though it might make walking outings wetter.

Within the last few weeks, I was sent off on a business trip to Sweden where I got to feel the full force of a scorching sun on evening strolls around Södertälje and Stockholm. It made me glad of our maritime climate and reminded me of the realities of outdoor walking in hot sunny weather even if I was never in the middle of civilisation in comparison with some of my day walks through the British countryside. It often seems as if the trade off for summer walking is between uncomfortably high temperatures for walking or cloud cover that cuts down on photographic opportunities. Last month's escape to Arran and Kintyre saw times when both extremes were encountered. It's not so often that we get a happy medium like what I met on Harris a few years ago.

With a change of job next week, I am not sure what opportunities I'll be having for getting out in the countryside but it looks like being the occasional day trip for a while. As I opined on here before, the idea of a week long trip to somewhere in Scotland has to be placed on hold for this year though I still will see what may come my way as the year continues on its downward trajectory. Time may look limited but I've made do with that before. Autumn,  a season that at least some Swedes await after a hot summer, is on its way to us too and may offer good things as it did last year when an Indian summer was in order after the non-summer that we got. The future's not ours to see but hope springs eternal too.

An escape ahead?

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

After a few weeks of being occupied by other matters, I have managed to clear some space for a hill wandering escape. As is my habit with all these things, I'll keep the details of what I have in mind under wraps for now because plans can change. In fact, it often happens that it's the surprises that often make my outings all the more memorable. If something comes of what I have in mind, I hope to say more afterwards.

For example, it was a surprise meeting with glorious sunny weather for which I recall a Spring Bank Holiday weekend visit to Argyll from a few years back. At the time, I ended up kicking myself for having incomplete plans but the time spent taking in Kerrera and the quieter places around Oban should have made up for it. Looking back now, the intoxicating mix of blue seas and skies along with verdant foliage everywhere on land must have been the cause of embarking on a week long visit to the Western Isles, a trip that lives on my mind. Surprises can take you onto new terrain and it's best to enjoy what comes rather than worry about whether you made the most of it or not.


Featured Countries

Monthly Archives

Yearly Archives