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: Times and Seasons

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.

Of anniversaries and birthdays

Monday, May 7th, 2018

A warm sunny bank holiday weekend may be a rare thing but I have not been lured out and about. In any event, temperatures have risen a little too high for what I call comfortable walking and other preoccupations have overtaken me. Still, they have not been all-consuming so I have not passed the twelfth anniversary of my setting up this blog after a May Day bank holiday trip to Scotland that took in Lochaber, Inverness and highland Perthshire. Sometime in June (the actual date itself is lost to me) marks the twentieth anniversary of my setting up a website for the first time and November is when my public transport website reaches its tenth birthday.

It goes without saying that a lot has happened during these time intervals. Family and work circumstances have changed while my explorations of hill country have become more international; the process of recounting my Norwegian wanderings is an ongoing project. There have been new beginnings and false starts but life has continued in its many ups and downs. The need for constant supply of new and happy memories has been made plain to me as my explorations continue.

Finally, I have got to reading Graham Wilson’s Climbing Down and I have other books by the same author to keep me going after that. Guidebooks to parts of North America as well as New Zealand have been perused in the off chance that my wanderings may become intercontinental. Canada’s western reaches have their scenic allure together with a hint of danger added by the presence of bears and other wild creatures. It is my intention that those readings continue as I rediscover the necessity of reading books from cover to cover in place of dipping in and out of certain sections. Any way that adds an extra overview has its place. They have added thoughts of visiting Vancouver Island and the Canadian Rockies while any prospect of going as far as New Zealand is more of a long shot.

Before all that, there is a possible venture in my working life that will need setting up if it comes to pass. Once such a thing is place and things are more settled, my hope is that my outdoor explorations will continue. After all, May is the best time of year in Britain and Ireland and I hardly want to let that slip by me if I can help it. Longer outdoors outings may not have happened since February for a variety of reasons but there should be more of the year left for such pursuits. Life’s adventure continues.

Incidental ambles

Thursday, January 18th, 2018

The start of a new year can be a useful time to take stock of life. January can be a month that some find too quiet but it has its uses as I am finding out for myself. A current career break means that I have added occasion to think over what I would like to do for a living. After five years of family bereavements followed by responsibilities added through inheritance, there is plenty of reason for this. What had not been obvious to me is that my last job was not a match and the experience left its mark, one that needs to be overcome.

Throughout all of this, I am not forgetting that I am an explorer at heart. There has been time to catch up on reading and I now have my fill of travel writing so I will not be lured into book purchases as easily as before. More discernment could be the way of things for me and that cannot be so bad when finances need to be kept in check during times like this hiatus from work.

Also, I have been travelling around England and Wales collecting ideas for walking trips like Roseberry Topping and Pumlumon Fawr. Surveying the countryside about the latter brought me the added benefit of a short if muddy stroll around Llangurig. Visiting nearby Rhayader is another thought and a short stay in Aberystwyth could facilitate more than initially had come to mind. Other parts of the Welsh River Wye are ripe for exploring too and the hills of the Black Mountain in the western side of the Brecon Beacons could be another tempting idea.

City visits to Edinburgh and Cardiff have come to pass. In the middle of the latter, the banks of the River Taff offered an oasis of calm with Llandaff Cathedral feeling as if it is in a country rather than where it is. Bute Park was another delight that makes me wonder why it took so long for me to make an independent visit to the place and there is Cardiff Castle if I wanted to include that as part of a return visit. There is plenty there for cyclists too and I am not surprised that bicycle hire is available.

Those city wanderings remind me that there have been times during the last few years when energy for more strenuous outings has not been as readily available. Edinburgh has featured quite a few times and there are regular haunts nearer my home in Macclesfield. Knutsford’s Tatton Park, Disley’s Lyme Park together with Macclesfield’s Tegg’s Nose Country Park and Dane’s Moss Nature Reserve all have been places where quick visits offered respite from life’s tumult when enthusiasm for longer trips was not to be found. The same could be said for more urban spots like Buxton, Chester, Sheffield and even Manchester. Anywhere where a coffee can be enjoyed away home has had its uses.

Strolls on my own doorstep like circuits taking in Prestbury all had their uses when my head needed clearing, like on Christmas Eve during my first ever Christmas spent in Macclesfield. That was a stormy affair, as much in my mind as it was out of doors. When a brighter interlude offered, it did not need much persuasion for me to head out on a longer round that linked Tegg’s Nose, the Saddle of Kerridge and the White Nancy. It became just the breather that I needed at the time.

The last few months have been as much about exorcising hurtful memories as anything else. That included the past Christmas and New Year period when it felt more normal than others. Trips to Tatton Park, Manchester and Lincoln all broke up the flow and I also got learning that camping stoves should be used out of doors too, a misadventure that I have no relish for repeating.

Getting past that was like everything else in life in recent times. 2017 became a year when I lightened some of life’s load so I need to think ahead now. Getting an enjoyable and fulfilling work life is one thing and my zest for exploring countryside continues. Overseas excursions could restart yet since I am making my way through Kev Reynolds’ Walking in the Alps at the moment and there is his The Swiss Alps, The Pyrenees and Trekking in the Alps after that. That lot should keep me going for a while yet and I am not overlook what hill country is nearer to hand either.

Looking back and looking forward

Monday, January 1st, 2018

In Roman mythology, the god Janus is shown as looking both forwards and backwards at once and many have thought that the month of January is named after him. The fact that new beginnings are assigned to this character has done nothing to dispel the association and everyone has their big plans for the start of a new year. Whether they become a reality is another matter entirely.

As it happens, I find myself on the first day of 2018 looking back as much as looking forward. Firstly, June marks the twentieth anniversary of my attempts at online publishing. Then, it was a simple Geocities website and things have moved quite a way since then. The web has changed hugely and so have I.

In the closing years, I was a university student unsure about his future and it took a degree of exploration before I found a way of earning a living that lasted until last summer. Since then, I have been on a much needed career break and now look to 2018 with thoughts of working again. What is needed is a new passion that will drive me forwards after a previous job eventually proved unsuitable.

Regular readers will know that the last five or six years brought their share of toil too with bereavement and added responsibilities following inheritance having altered my mindset. After all that, a longer break was needed. Good though they are, short oversea escapes and incursions into nearby countryside only can do so much.

Aside from a well needed rest, I have been catching up with reading. Books from authors like John Muir and Henry David Thoreau have featured along with others like Bruce Chatwin, Jack Kerouac and Kev Reynolds. Their works have lain unread on my Kindle account for too long and have introduced me to other parts of the planet in a way that guidebooks never would. Sometimes, someone else’s narratives are needed and probably explain why there is so much travel writing to be found.

Another aspect of my reading catch-up is that books from Phoebe Smith, Alastair Humphreys, Geoff Allan and Ronald Turnbull have got me thinking about short getaways that make use of bothies and bivvying. Too often in recent years, I have needed to book an overnight stay in order to ensure that I went on a walking trip at all. My reserves of energy had become depleted and adding in the cost of accommodation often made things more expensive so I fancy the idea of getting costs under more control and who knows where such experimentation may take me yet? It might make such outings easier to organise as well.

Aside from finding work that I enjoy and attending to Irish responsibilities, there are no big plans for 2018. Sometimes, leaving things open can allow for some memorable serendipity. Still, there are some thoughts of exploring around Glen Trool, Pumlumon Fawr, Roseberry Topping and the Black Mountain that may happen yet. The expensive cocktail of using overseas holidays to deal with an unappealing career had to stop though I still fancy seeing more of Scandinavia and the Alps while the wilder parts of North America and New Zealand retain their appeal. Life’s adventure continues and it is time to make that a happier one.

Revisiting Lathkill Dale

Saturday, December 2nd, 2017

Currently, I have been catching up with quite a bit of reading. Between books bought with good intentions that were left unattended and magazines that have lain in wait for attention, there has been a backlog awaiting clearance. Among all this is a collection of writings by the renowned Scottish outdoorsman John Muir, a profound inspiration for the National Parks system that you find in the U.S.A. today. There have been others like Henry David Thoreau’s Walden and Fiona Reynolds’ Fight for Beauty. Some have proven easier to read than others with John Muir’s Picturesque California lying between these in difficulty. Such is the lucidity of his writing that it seems a shame to rush through it so taking it slowly is exactly what I am doing. The evocative descriptions need to be relished and allowed to soak into memory, especially in tumultuous times like what we have today.

Though I have yet to visit them myself, Muir’s detailed descriptions of the glaciated landscapes of the High Sierra strike a chord with me. In one sense, they remind me of the glens cut into the Cairngorms plateau in Scotland but there is another landscape that also comes to mind for similar reasons. It too feels like a sort of plateau with valleys cut into it though the outline is far less lofty and dramatic.

To give you a hint as to where these are to be found, the valleys themselves are called dales but this is not Yorkshire but Derbyshire. Recent years have seen me explore them more since they are not so far away from where I now call home. Some can be very narrow and their names include Dove, Wolfescote, Biggin, Monsal and Chee. All of those named have seen me explore them at some point or other with some reflecting the names of the rivers that flow though them while others don’t.

One of their number that I have not mentioned so far apart from its appearance in the title of this piece is Lathkill Dale. My first encounter was on a hike I did in December 2013 just before a Christmas visit to Ireland. Though limestone outcrops abounded on slopes around me, there was no winter sun to make them more photogenic. While sunshine did appear later in the walk, I always fancied the idea of a reprise on a brighter day.

That second visit followed a trip to Iceland whose account on here took a fair bit of time to write. It was not so much having to withdraw everything from an unwilling memory as has bedevilled other recent trip reports but the fact that there was so much to be recalled. The account here requires more effort but the previous Icelandic outing has its uses.

A hike around Landmannalaugar thrust me into countryside wilder than I had encountered before then so the chance of sampling something more familiar had its place. The contrast between dusty mountainsides and leafy valleys could not be more striking. It is the latter to which I am accustomed so I was happy to be among them again.

St. Leonard's Chuch, Monyash, Derbyshire, England

My walk began in Monyash and, following arrival there, I spent some time around its parish church before continuing onto Lathkill Dale. The way that I went is hazy to me now for it is a faint recollection that I followed part of the Limestone before dropping down through Fern Dale but that could be imaginary. It maybe that I followed the road towards Bakewell before picking up a public footpath that did the same, much as I did on that December Sunday in 2013.

Waterfall, Lathkill Dale, Monyash, Derbyshire, England

Limestone outcrop, Lathkill Dale, Monyash, Derbyshire, England

Tributary dale, Lathkill Dale, Monyash, Derbyshire, England

As I went down the dale, milky skies bubbled up with clouds that obstructed the sun at times. That limited chances for photos but did nothing to take away from the wonder of see the limestone outcrops that line the sides of the dale. When they were fully lit by the sun, any wait was more than well rewarded. It was sights like these that delighted me on walks around Dove Dale, Wolfescote Dale and Biggin Dale so I was little surprised that they did the same for me here.

River Lathkill near Over Haddon, Derbyshire, England

Woodland strolling was my lot for the next section of my stroll. Back in December 2013, the River Lathkill was swollen and barely kept within its banks. The dryer time of year meant that it was not as readily seen as on that previous visit and I was glad of the tree cover. Though I have something of a love/hate relationship with woodland, what it takes in views is given in shade from strong sunshine so I was resigned to my lot and I soon enough came to break where others were gathered by the riverside. The promising weather had drawn others out and about so I was happy to share in between interludes of solitude.

Looking down on Haddon Hall, Bakewell, Derbyshire, England

After Conksbury Bridge, I went to the other side of the river and frequented quieter parts. The approach to Alport was where I enjoyed some winter sunshine the last time around but there was more in the cloud on this occasion. After Alport, I chose to follow Dark Lane and started to feel the summer hear as I rose above the surrounding dales. Beyond some farm buildings, a public bridleway conveyed me across Haddon-Fields and down to the banks of the River Wye. Views over Haddon Hall opened out before as did a curious sight of a field of what appeared like wheat, barley or oats being harvested like grass silage. It might have been a mistaken impression so I continued to enjoy other more familiar sights.

Weir on the River Wye near Bakewell, Derbyshire, England

To get to the banks of the River Wye, I needed to get across the A6 near the gates of Haddon Hall. Once past that difficulty, I strode along the footway beside the estate wall until a public footpath directed me to quieter surroundings again. Like the River Lathkill, the Wye was swollen on my winter visit but was quieter on this late summer outing. After a stretch of woodland, there were more fields to be crossed on the final approach to Bakewell. It was mid-afternoon so I was glad to be reaching my destination given the heat. After spending a little time pottering around there, I started on my way home and that offered a fleeting trot around Buxton too. There had been familiarity and that suited just fine after the unfamiliar sights of preceding weeks. There were more to come in the following ones but these were not to feel so alien.

Travel Arrangements

In tune with the general haziness prevailing throughout this post, my recollection of how I got to and from my walk is similarly afflicted. From photos, it appears that a return journey on service 58 between Macclesfield and Buxton was involved. Because this was a Saturday, getting to Monyash would have involved travel on service 177 (since withdrawn) while travel between Bakewell and Buxton most likely made use of the TransPeak service.