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: Swansea & Gower

More coastal walking on the Gower

Sunday, July 9th, 2017

Over the past few months, much of what has appeared afresh on here has concentrated on reminisces of Scottish excursions undertaken before this blog existed. It has been a matter to getting something written about these before recollections decay any further that they have. There is more to come but I have decided to take a break to relate a few walking trips from 2014 and these nearly complete every walk of note that I undertook that year.

As I look back on recent years, I notice a recurring trend of revisiting old haunts and much of that happened in 2014 itself. Even the walk featured in this entry was one of those. It was 2012 when I last got to exploring the coastline of the Gower and thickening cloud meant that I did not see the coastline between Rhossili and Port-Eynon at its best. What I did see was enough encouragement for a return visit just over two years later when splendid autumnal sunshine was my lot. It was all very different to the advancing threat of thunder and lightning that reached the area in the early hours of a Sunday morning.

2014-09-20

In order to ensure that I actually get to Gower for a walk that weekend, I travelled on Saturday and spent the night in Swansea. That a few previous attempts foundered because of website troubles and other preoccupations added more motivation to take this course of action. More impetus was added by 2014 being the last year when the Gower would enjoy a summer Sunday bus service. Then, it appeared that such opportunities were not guaranteed to be available again but there is a summer Sunday and bank holiday service in operation for 2017.

Sticking with the subject of transport, my outbound train was heavily delayed around Shrewsbury too so it was just as well that I was not hoping to make very much of the day. It also meant that I had to attend to some business in Cardiff that I had hoped to do in Swansea so it was dark when I got to my lodgings for the night.

2014-09-21

Unlike the day before which was largely dull and cloudy, the morning of my walk dawned with bright sunshine. Coming late in September, there was a frosty chill in the air as if to remind anyone of the passing of the year. At the same time, the hills lying north of Swansea looked tempting though you would have to get to the other side of the M4 to reach them. These still are the southern reaches of hilly country leading not only towards the Brecon Beacons National Park but ultimately all the way through Wales as far as its north coast, the very reason why it is so hard to have a railway line running the length of the principality.

None of this did anything to deter me from heading south as planned. As the day warmed, you would be forgiven for thinking that summer was set to last forever and many a day tripper was lured to Mumbles and Rhossili so buses were busy after what seemingly had been a busy summer for the area.

Rhossili Bay & Rhossili Down, Rhossili, Gower, Wales

While the weather was typical of our expectations of summer and Rhossili had plenty of folk about the place, there were signs too of autumn as I pottered about on my way towards Worms Head. Grass was looking tired following the pinnacle of the annual growing season the bracken on Rhossili was changing colour from green to orange as it began to die back ahead of the winter season.

Worm's Head, Rhossili, Gower, Wales

The way towards Worms Head was well frequented and the outcrop looked better than I had seen it on previous visits. The tide was out so some may have ventured onto its green flanks but the risk of getting marooned by an advancing tide was enough to ensure that I was not one of them. Some do and that is the reason that you find a coastguard station hereabouts.

Fall Bay, Rhossili, Gower, Wales

After all those lingering around Worms Head, things grew quieter. Groups of young people came against me as I rounded Fall Bay and I was lead into wondering if this has become part of the Duke of Edinburgh Award now that Wales Coast Path is very much in existence. Others strolled the way too since they were taking in circular walks around Rhossili. After passing the last public footpath leading to nearby Middleton, these too petered out in their turn.

The best part of any walk for me is when I largely had my surroundings to myself and that is how it largely felt as I walked from Mewslade Bay to Overton Cliffs. Progress was good too though I slightly chide myself for going so well on what was a gorgeous day. In my defence, I was passing through a lot of pasture and the distance may not have been that long. It was not all about having improved fitness because of indoor bike training.

Overton Cliff, Port-Eynon, Gower, Wales

For all their proximity to human habitation, Overton Cliffs look fabulously isolated and few passed the way. Under cloudy skies, their allure was not lost but added sunshine worked some magic. It helped that I was not anxious about catching a bus this time around so I had space to enjoy what lay around me. Port-Eynon looked further away than it was.

Overton Mere, Port-Eynon, Gower, Wales

After passing these delights, there was one final ascent to test me before I dropped down to Port-Eynon’s beach to battle the soft dry sand to reach tarmac again. Before all that, I was to pass the Gower Society monument with the bell of a sea buoy beyond Port-Eynon Point ringing in my ears, a reminder of the stillness that I met on my previous visit. There was a little time to linger at the final destination for my hike before an on time bus returned me to Swansea from where I began the train journey home.

It had been a satisfactory weekend away and I now pondering other possibilities. Even the more madcap idea of walking from Port-Eynon to Mumbles via Oxwich and Threecliff Bay has entered my mind. There are ways of shortening this to make the escapade more sensible if needed. Then, there also is the Gower Way to consider so it is not as if there is not more to see around here. There are further rewards for repeat visitors.

Travel Arrangements

Return train journey from Macclesfield to Swansea. Travel by bus from Swansea to Rhossili and from Port-Eynon to Swansea.

Released?

Monday, February 9th, 2015

As anyone with elderly parents should know, life can be a roller coaster ride when their health declines. It certainly has felt that way over the last few years for my family and I. However, escaping out into the countryside has helped in its own way when dealing with life’s rougher moments. Getting through December 2012 certainly called for those head clearing escapes, be they into Tatton Park near Knutsford in Cheshire or along Irish country lanes. Both of my parents were frail then with my mother having been shook up by a hospital visit and my father’s strength in freefall since the summer. By Christmas, he really needed to be in a nursing home but mentioning the subject only resulted in angry exchanges. It took a brush with death due to a kidney infection for the matter to be forced and the issue to get resolved as it needed to be. He still was not intent on staying where he needed to be, and it was a nice place too, so no one could relax and a walk along the Macclesfield Canal between Congleton and Macclesfield as well as a shorter stroll around Buxton were well needed.

What really changed everything was my mother’s passing away not so long before what would have been her eighty first birthday and the loss was a raw one that not only resulted in next to daily evening walks by the River Bollin but also had me venturing further afield is search of a spot of solace. April 2013 saw me make two trips to Derbyshire and the area was to see me more than any other in that year. The of those April visits had me encountering banks of snow left over from a late winter as I hiked from Hayfield to Glossop, rounding Kinder Scout from below as I did so. The weather was much milder later in the month when I embarked on a circular yomp from Bakewell that took in both Ashford-in-the-Water and Monsal Dale. These were followed in June by a walk from Bamford to Edale that took in the southern edge of the Kinder Scout plateau and a walk from Monyash to Bakewell via Lathkill Dale. That last big walk of the year had me passing swollen rivers too; it had been a month of heavy rain and much flooding. A July escape to Fort William that took in Glen Coe and Glenfinnan could not have been more different with its sweltering temperatures and dry sunny weather. There also were sunlit walks from the Cat and Fiddle Inn back to my home that took in Shining Tor and Lamaload Reservoir. The first of these took me onto Rainow and Bollington while I passed close to Shutlingsloe on the second.

The combination of the scare that began 2013 and the loss of our mother meant that I tended to be more precious about my father and I suspect that my brother probably felt the same. The sense was that we could lose him sooner rather than later and it pervaded most of 2013. It sounds churlish to say it now but I started to wonder in the light of my father living longer than we might have expected if it was not before time to abandon any putting of my life on hold that there might have been. That is not to say that there was any sense of abandonment because, if anything, my visits to Ireland became more frequent. For much of 2014, I crossed the Irish Sea on a monthly basis.

In between those though, I began to get out and about again and last summer saw me make three visits to the Lake District. The first was to Buttermere when I crossed the top of Haystacks while the second facilitated a walk from Patterdale to Grasmere that went over the top of St. Sunday Crag and the last revisited Orrest Head and Loughrigg Fell. January and November saw me spend time around Llantysilio Mountain near Llangollen with the first trip enjoying bright sunshine all day and the weather disintegrating to spells of rain while I was up high. That makes an excuse for another return sometime though I did get more than a little compensation from spending some time by the Mawddach estuary near Barmouth the next day. There were more Welsh visits though with a summer solstice one that visited Sgyryd Fawr and Sugar Loaf near Abergavenny and a September retracing of steps between Rhossili and Port-Eynon in glorious weather. Yorkshire too saw a visit before the Tour de France did and that took in Pateley Bridge and Brimham Rocks in Nidderdale on a largely grey day. Northumberland was paid a visit during October with the delights of the coastline around Bamburgh being sampled on a day that felt more like it belonged to summer. Local trots around Macclesfield were not neglected either with Alderley Edge and Hare Hill seeing two visits. A pesky Jack Russell terrier took a set on my left leg the first time around so a hospital visit was advised and no such intrusion was experienced the second time around though I could have done with more sun.

There was more to my normalisation with a bike trainer being put to good use to see if my fitness could be bettered. The second half of 2014 also had my father see a good run of health that lasted until last month. There was a smaller scare in February 2014 but things steadied after that and I felt in the need of all that walking. Still, he was growing weaker as I found during last Christmas and I returned to Britain before New Year sensing that we might be on the cusp of a big change of some sort. In fact, I also wondered to myself how he would fare if he caught an infection. That question was about to get an answer only weeks later. A heavy chest infection was to confine him to bed after a traumatic experience when the nursing home thought him strong enough to sit up in a chair for a while. With that in mind, I made what I thought was a flying weekend visit in case there were to any further developments. Much of Saturday was spent with him and my brother was there too. When we left, he was comfortable and we thought that a peaceful night was in store. That changed after midnight and we dashed to the home. By the time that we got there, he had breathed his last only minutes before. Some would find that heartbreaking but the final peace is what I recall. His suffering was over and that nearly was more important than we might have felt.

A word said during one of the many conversations we had with others over the ensuing days remains with me: release. My brother and I felt it while nearby neighbours were stunned by our father’s departure; they surely felt it more than we did and some were crying on the phone to us. There may be another factor: we both had our homes and our lives while they see breakage in a continuity that they held dear. Also, the period with our father allowed us to come to terms with where things were going and have a partial glimpse of where things would go after he went. Of course, there are ups and downs as well as twists and turns of which we know nothing yet. The turbulence within me after my mother’s passing has not come after my father’s and there are times when I wonder why though that is not to see that there was no weeping or no jabs of the heartstrings. Maybe it’s that sense of release again.

There are matters that need attending yet but my mind also is starting to explore possibilities too. Visits to Ireland are sure to continue but not at the same frequency and certainly not with the same purposes as before though you hardly can abandon your relatives or former neighbours. There may be opportunities to visit places in Connemara, Mayo, Donegal or Wicklow that I have yet to see. That would be continuing something that they did after their own parents were deceased and there was many trip to Kerry and West Cork. Some of those gave me the love of hill country scenery that has taken me around so much of Britain and the Isle of Man. Over the past weekend, I was strolling around old haunts in Edinburgh like Blackford Hill, Bruntsfield Links and The Meadows before crossing over to newer haunts like Dean Village and Edinburgh’s Botanic Gardens. Except for the occasional incursion of rogue clouds, there was sun shining on me throughout and I pondered the possibility of spending a week in the city sometime. Even in a place like Edinburgh, there was much opportunity to wander down memory lane (I graduated from one of the city’s universities) and have time and space to yourself if you needed it. Nearer destinations will remain attractive in a new life situation.

Speaking of memories, there is one that returns to my mind when I mention Edinburgh for I gained a research degree in a science subject while there. My parents were hoping that I would find a job in Ireland afterwards but the world of science is an international one, especially if you fancy a career in academic research. Some of my contemporaries gained post-doctoral jobs in the U.S. and that option did appeal to me not a little. The phrase “seeing the world” came to my notice and sharing it while on a trip back to Ireland must have tugged rather too strongly on parental heartstrings for I was asked to leave such designs until after they were gone. Now, youthful naivety has been displaced by realism so I now am amazed at the sorts of thoughts that went through my mind back then, especially when after experiencing more of the delights of Britain and Ireland.

Even so, that is not to say that I am not tempted by foreign destinations. The likes of the mountains of Canada or New Zealand or the American Rockies may not be what I have in mind but other spots in Europe have a certain allure. For instance, business trips to Sweden appear to cultivated a soft spot from Scandinavian destinations such as Norway, Sweden, Denmark or Iceland. There are areas of hill country in three of those and any photos of Norwegian fjords that I have seen look stunning. The Faroe Islands also have detained my attention and it helps that they are compact too. Going there would build on a 2008 escapade that to Scotland’s Western Isles and the islands of Orkney and Shetland have not missed my attention either. To return to the European theme though, you cannot overlook the Alps or the Pyrenees and they are but some of the mountainous regions on the continent that get mentioned in walking magazines from time to time.

None of this means that responsibilities are about to be overlooked and it can feel that you are able to make new obstacles for yourself too. The ones that appear of their own accord are enough for anyone and a life after my parents will bring its ups and downs will come soon enough. In between, pondering those other destinations may bring its own comfort while realising that short visits only uncover so much. After all, I lived in Edinburgh for over four years and still have parts of it to see anew along with those nooks and crannies that I continue to revisit. As ever, only time will reveal what comes to pass and what adventures may be had yet.

Fitness

Friday, November 14th, 2014

Earlier in the year, I had grand designs on a return to cycling after a break of nearly two years. What scuppered the plan was a lack of road cycling confidence that extended beyond not wanting to go pell mell down hills, which always was the case. Saying that, I have managed a few circuits from my home that took in Bollington but that is a far cry from daily commuting or travelling as far as the likes of Tatton Park near Knutsford or Lyme Park near Disley. What really is beyond me at the moment is an epic that takes me as far as Northwich or Chester.

Still, there has been a circuit from home that took in Gawsworth during March as well as a bimble up and down Longdendale in May. Both of those tried our the fold-up Dahon that I got last January so I am not done with cycling completely. In fact, Sunday saw me go around by Bollington on a short cycle that substituted for an aborted planned trot from the Cat and Fiddle Inn back home via Shutlingsloe. That was on a B’TWIN commuting bike that replaced the mountain bike that did day to day road travel duties for more than eleven years. The new one came to me from Decathlon in April and is a very nice machine with 24-speed gearing and lights powered by dynamos on the wheels. It has mudguards (an amazing rarity these days) and a carrier too so it is the type of bike that my parents might have fancied in their time. It certainly reminds me of a three-speed example arising from the same well of inspiration that I had in Ireland once upon a time.

Though I no longer trust its brakes, the mountain bike has not retired either. However, its role is very different from the one it used to have and the cause fits in with the title of this entry too. For years, its commuting duties kept me more trim than I otherwise might have been with round trips of around fifteen miles a day if not more. However, these had an Achilles heel in that I was put off cycling to and from work on wet days by a soaking on the way to work early on in my career. That was on a road bike whose gearing self-destructed and caused the acquisition of the mountain bike in 2002. Before then, it had served me well around Edinburgh and Skipton and around Cheshire too as well as on a single incursion into Derbyshire that set me on the road to hill walking in August 2000; it took me from Macclesfield to Buxton by way of the A537, possibly the highest that I ever have gone on a bike.

Dark evenings are not such an issue around Edinburgh but pose a different challenge on country A-roads. The result was that my commuting left the bike aside for the darker times of year and was taken up in earnest during drier spells on longer days. It meant that the benefits were not to be felt year round as they probably should to ward off any middle age spread.

What brought all this to mind was the fit of a new trousers during the past summer; it started me wondering if I was beginning to need the next waist size up and I baulked at the idea. That was enough to spur me into a kind of action. Walking was all very fine but it was not bringing my level of activity back up to where it once was. My remedy was the acquisition of a B’Twin bike trainer, again from Decathlon. The mountain bike was attached to this and I began to ease into spending some time on it. However, it probably is not the best of arrangements for silent running even after changing the back tyre to a quieter one; putting gaffer tape over the original might have made more sense for I am not buying another bike for this job.

Ten minutes on the thing were quite enough at the start, such was my lack of fitness. Since then, the sessions have grown longer and they are around the half hour mark these days. To some, that prospect would seem very dull and it was the same for a younger me. A spot of reading of magazines balanced on the handlebar is enough to address any sense of impatience though. Anything that helps me to spend time sorting my fitness has to be a good thing and I always reproach myself for reading nearly as much as I could anyway.

So far, there have been results and I reckon that I feel fitter though I’d rather have lost more flab than I have so that’s enough encouragement to continue. That it has given me a spurt of exploring hill country is another bonus because it did feel as if I was restricting myself to lower heights, as nice as they are. The summer weather we had this year helped too, in spite of it being at times a little hotter for walking than is ideal.

Nevertheless, I was lured out in places like Buttermere, Ullswater, St. Sunday Crag, Grasmere, Loughrigg Fell and Orrest Head during a good few Cumbrian excursions. Welsh locations like Ysgyryd Fawr, Sugar Load and Gower also saw me as did Loch Etive and Mull in Scotland. Maybe I felt it was high time that I got back into hill wandering ways while fitness was improving. On its own, the subject never really got me excited because I suppose that the world of competitive sport felt a little sterile to me. It actually took outdoors explorations to get me walking through hill country instead of looking in on it as if it were some niche sporting interest. It only was when I got to seeing hillwalking as a way to get into special quiet places with an attractive quiet spirit of their own that I really took to the activity. Being somewhere unique when ravishing light falls upon it has led to many happy memories too. Fitness is not for boasting but is a means to an end, a way of ensuring that hill country visits can continue and I keep adding to those soothing recollections.

News of Walking World Ireland

Monday, November 10th, 2014

Everyone can have a hiatus and there has been a long one on here for entries like this one. In my case, it is not as if I have been away from hillwalking. As it happens, I have had more trouble motivating myself to write stuff on here than getting out among hills and there is a growing list of Trip Reports to Come too. What has happened is that procrastination has got in the way of my getting those additional outings shared and it gets worse as the list grows longer. In addition, an old bike of mine has found its way onto rollers in an effort to increase fitness and reduce flab. The former has been a success so far and the latter needs more in the way of effort so the bike trainer will not be left to gather dust like another road bike that I acquired in April but that was taken out on a short cycle between Macclesfield and Buxton yesterday.

Walking World Ireland to Mountain World Ireland

The inspiration for this post though is an email that I unexpectedly received from the publisher and editor of a walking magazine that I thought was defunct: Walking World Ireland. My impressions led me to join Mountaineering Ireland to received its journal, Irish Mountain Log, as a substitute. However plans are afoot to get Walking World Ireland back on newsagent shelves again, albeit under a new guise of Mountain World Ireland. Here is the text of that email:

An apology and announcement to readers of Walking World Ireland

From November 28th:

Walking World Ireland will become Mountain World Ireland

As a subscriber to Walking World Ireland, you’ll have noticed that the magazine has not been published for almost a year now – since the 2014 Annual.

As editor and publisher I want to apologise sincerely for this. We value every reader very highly, and it was only after a prolonged period of business difficulties that the decision to suspend publication was made. Since that moment it has been my clear hope and intention to return WWI to the shelves as soon as possible.

The reason I’m contacting you today is to let you know that the magazine is indeed making a comeback. I’m delighted to be able to say that, and I hope it will also come as good news to you.

From next month, Walking World Ireland will resume publication as Mountain World Ireland. It’s a small change, reflecting a slight but exciting change in emphasis – largely the result of the countless conversations I’ve had with readers over recent months.

Mountain World Ireland will remain at its core a hillwalking magazine, celebrating, as ever, the beauty of Ireland’s mountain landscapes and the pleasures and challenges they offer. But more, it will celebrate the wider world of mountain sports – the people and activities that inspire us as lovers of high places.

I hope and trust that this rebirth will meet with your approval, and will continue to inform, entertain and inspire you as WWI did. I want to thank all of you for the patience you have shown, and for the many, many expressions of support we have received from readers and subscribers. I hope to hear from you again with any comments you may have on our future direction. Anything, in fact, that you have to say.

Finally, I want to assure all of you with unfulfilled subscriptions that we will honour all our outstanding commitments, and if you’re unsure where your subscription stands, do contact me at walkingworldirl@iol.ie or on +353 (0)86 805 4590.

Sincerely

Conor O’Hagan
Editor

Copyright © 2014 Mountain World Ireland, All rights reserved.

You are receiving this email because you have previously subscribed to Walking World Ireland

Our mailing address is:
Mountain World Ireland
10 Kickham Road
Kilmainham
Dublin,
Ireland

Some of the sentiments sound familiar so I will wait and see what becomes of these plans. An improving economic situation may help the new venture so I wish it well while intending to savour what is on offer. If anything, the WWI offer had gone a little repetitive so a refresh was needed anyway and a break often can make for a good reboot as has been seen with many a movie franchise. My Irish travel horizons may have been narrowed by life events over there in recent years but there may be a chance to do some explorations of my own yet.

As for the future of this outpost, I hope to get more trip reports shared and the summers of 2013 and 2014 came good enough to lure me out and about on welcome and much needed escapades. Usual haunts like the Scottish Highlands, the Lake District and the Peak District saw incursions along the Gower, Monmouthshire, Yorkshire and Northumberland. The perceived need for better photos drove quite a lot of these and the Lake District photo album is being rebuilt at the moment too. Also, there may have been visits to other places too and there are musings that I wish to mull over on here too once procrastination has been banished.

2012, before an advancing life storm

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

For various reasons, this summary of my walking during 2012 is arriving twelve months late. That’s mainly because I was not in the right frame of mind for writing it this time last year. The subsequent year has been life changing yet wandering through countryside not only did not stop but its restorative effects never were more needed. Before that though, things felt more steady and here is how things went.

January saw me staying local with a three counties (Cheshire, Derbyshire & Staffordshire) stride between the Cat and Fiddle Inn and Buxton that took in the Three Shire Heads bridge. It was having extra time on the day that allowed that to happen even if I arrived at Grinlow Tower, or Solomon’s Temple, too late in the day for much in the way of photography. Even now, I have yet to be there on an occasion when the conditions allowed for the sort of photographs that I like to savour and there were two visits during 2013. Some things take time to happen so patience is a prerequisite.

There no such constraints when I walked from Alnmouth train station to Embleton by way of Northumberland’s pleasing North Sea coastline and the remains of Dunstanburgh Castle, now under the care of English Heritage. What I got to experience was the sort of crisp sunny day that adds so much to a walk. That was much more than a previous walk in the same area more than six years before.

March was a quiet month on the walking front because of heavy work commitments and April was little better even if I was not working as hard. Even so, I did to walk up Nab Head near Bollington as an addition to a cycle that circled around by Pott Shrigley. Even with a heavy cold towards its end, May worked out much better with an evening spent around Tatton Park and other spots in Knutsford. The next day saw me get as far as Waterhouses in Staffordshire to fulfil and often aborted scheme: following the Manifold Trail from there to Hulme End. When that turned out to take less time than expected, I extended the walk to take in both Wolfscote Dale and Biggin Dale to finish up in Hartington. That was another design fulfilled on a day when sub eventually beat cloud cover to deliver its delights to anyone out and about. Later in May, I returned to Northumberland to visit Alnwick and Warkworth to see their castles.. The day was a hot one so it was best to limit exertions and a previous heavy cold made that all the better as a plan. There were enough sights to savour anyway and, with views along the Aln and the Coquet available so easily, there was little need to rush along anyway.

The extended public holiday weekend at the start of June, the bank holiday was moved from its usual place at the end of May, offered an opportunity for a getaway and I struck lucky in Scotland’s Eastern Highlands. Having based myself in Pitlochry, I took in the shores of Loch Ericht and sampled a little of the scenic drama of Glen Tilt. Sun was in short supply at times and it limited what I could do when capturing a view of Blair Castle. Even that was better than the wetting that anyone attending the Diamond Jubilee Events in London when rain that was very typical of the year pervaded.  Just like a previous trip to Pitlochry nearly six years earlier, my walks were mere tasters and I was more than happy with that at the time, unlike that preceding visit that left me yearning for more.

Having had it in my head for a while, I finally got to do an evening walk from Wilmslow to home after work during June, mostly using the route of the Bollin Valley Way except for where bank erosion necessitated an untidy diversion. It should have been a matter of reversing a previous walk along the route done of a winter afternoon whose timing mostly is lost to memory unless digital photos offer some resuscitation.

Even with 2012’s reputation for wet weather, I still got some other pickings from its summer and limitations on sunshine were a marked feature of otherwise dry weather walks. Looking on the positive side, it may have been better than walking in sultry heat. One outing in such conditions happened in July with a visit to Sedbergh from where I walked as far as The Calf in the Howgill Fells. That out and back trek definitely was satisfying and left me open to more like it. That I tasted my best ever fish and chip supper added to the appeal. Maybe I should go there again and there’s more of Cumbria and Yorkshire to be explored or revisited as well.

August saw me head to Wales twice. First, it was to the Gower where I walked over Rhossili Common before picking up the coastal path from Rhossili to Port-Eynon by way of Worm’s Head. The walk was a glorious one even with cloud advancing from the west all the while. Also, I’d like to revisit the portion near Port-Eynon because it looked very primeval and I was passing it with the object of catching a bus on my mind. As it happened, roads around the Gower were chaotic and the bus that I was making nearly was two hours late as a result. Still, I got back to Swansea for the night before light failed and electrical rain storms made landfall.

The Summer Bank Holiday weekend allowed time for a trip to Pembrokeshire, again revisiting somewhere not sampled since 2006. Only the Sunday of the weekend offered much in the way of dry weather and there even were showers in the evening time. Before then, I got in a walk from Strumble Head all the way to Fishguard under ever cloudier skies. The day started well so I saw Strumble Head at its best and very nearly got lured southwest instead of following the planned eastbound course. It was completed in dry weather so there were no complaints, especially with the drenching that came the next day.

The second weekend of September granted us a glimpse of how the summer of 2012 might have been and I popped over the county boundary into Derbyshire for a stroll by the River Dove that took me from Thorpe to Hartington. The southern end of Dovedale was mobbed with families and I couldn’t get into my stride as I would have liked but things were so much quieter north of Milldale that there was no such concern. What took over as I neared Hartington was how hot the day felt in the afternoon sun after I had emerged from Wolfscote Dale. Any thoughts of an extension as far as Longnor or Crowdicote were set aside in favour of returning home. Quite how those wearing suits during the well dressing ceremony stuck their attire in the heat is beyond me. Maybe I am more warm blooded than some…

September ended with another sunny interlude and that drew me along the Saddle of Kerridge and onto Tegg’s Nose before I turned for home in the fading light. Ambitions for a trip to Teesdale in County Durham were frustrated by fatigue so the more local yomp was what was needed. Indeed, it made me ask why I didn’t head out among nearby hills more often than I did. Local walking has set that to rights though a Teesdale incursion has yet to happen.

The first Sunday in October allowed a trot along the Goyt Valley that had lain in my mind for a while. On the day, so many walking possibilities came to mind that I had difficulty choosing between them. There was walking home from the Cat and Fiddle Inn to take in Shutlingsloe along the way. Trotting along the Gritstone Way between Bollington and Disley was another though a late start put paid to that option; it was to serve me well later. The sight of cloud advancing from the south decided me at the Cat and Fiddle Inn so I headed for the Goyt Valley and it wasn’t a bad choice at all. The ground conditions were well soggy after all the rain that had fallen during the preceding six months and that was expected. Autumn and winter walks bring with them encounters with mud so that was no irritation and I had sunshine as far as the dam of Errwood Reservoir. Cloud took over then and the shore of Fernilee Reservoir was shadowed under overcast skies. Since I quite fancy retracing these steps with some sun, that is another excuse for a return sometime. When Whaley Bridge was reached, there was no dissatisfaction and it had been great to clear my mind.

November saw me make two trips to Tatton Park near Knutsford after some photos of autumn colour. The first of these involved some foolish conduct on my part and what I got for my pains was a ripped jacket, soggy feet and clouding skies that thwarted my hopes. The second outing set things to rights and all was unperturbed again. It was in that spirit that I made use of a possibility left unused the month before: following the Gritstone Trail from Bollington to Disley with a visit to Lyme Park. The morning was glorious and clouds left the sun alone until I had got as far as Sponds Hill. Much was savoured before them and it was my first sighting of sunlit Derbyshire hills from there. It was with satisfaction that I dropped into Lyme Park and ambled unhurried from there into Disley. There was one final trot before November was done: along the Macclesfield to Congleton along the banks of the local canal. The section between the Bosley locks and Buglawton was a delight even under cloudy skies and with declining light. Though I repeated the trek in the opposite direction, it remains worth revisiting.

December brought more fraught prospects and Christmas week was a difficult one for our family. Worries about my parents’ health pervaded and there were much needed short walks taken for head clearance. One of these took me over to Tatton Park again and the winter sunlight did nothing to disappoint, if only I wasn’t feeling so raw inside. 2013 then looked a tall order yet I made it through the year. At the point, 2014 looks less foreboding and it will be taken one day at a time. Life is not for grand designs right but smaller ones will do just fine. Hopefully, your 2014 will bring you good things and I am happy to await what it brings me.


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