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: Website News

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.

Additions, revisions and diversions

Thursday, August 18th, 2016

With things weighing on my mind, this has not been a summer full of getaways like the one two years ago though local walks and outings have been known to happen. Last summer was one full of cycling and this one has not gone like that for a number of reasons.

That is not to say that there have been no thoughts about trips away and I am wondering about a mid-winter getaway while pondering what 2017 might hold. Things might remain uncertain for me but looking through magazines to collect website links has been setting me to thinking. Some of these have been outdoors magazines while others have been travel ones so quite a selection has built up for clearance and I am glad to have filed things away for most of the backlog by now.

Most of these pertain to visitor information that I am filing away for reference as well as adding to the travel section of the website and some trails have been added to the More Walking & Cycling Ideas page. There are some that don’t fit as easily and ones like Get Ireland Walking, Britain on Foot, and Walking for Health fitting into the activity encouragement category, something that I probably need at the moment. Then, there are conservation organisations like Buglife, RSPB, BirdLife International, Scottish Wildcats, Vincent Wildlife, Vincent Wildlife Ireland, Scottish Beavers and Hedgelink UK that I also found in Ramblers’ Walk magazine. These are a reminder that we cannot forget about the natural world about us no matter what comes our way in life.

Another diversion has been a BBC documentary series on New Zealand, a country that I would not mind seeing even if the distance there means that it is not an essential destination for me. Still, it is good to see what is there it appears to be a greener counterpart of Iceland in many ways. My mind is getting used to roving around the world now but I still should rove about Britain and Ireland when the opportunities arise. They may have a use in soothing my spirit over coming months.

A few new photo albums

Tuesday, February 16th, 2016

After last year’s overseas excursions, I finally got to internationalising the photo gallery. Photos from two visits to the Isle of Man are in their own album and ones from a business trip to Sweden are in another. My trip to Iceland last July yielded a bumper crop of photos as did that to Switzerland in September.

Stories of my Manx excursions already appear on here because I was following the coastal path around the west and south-west of the island. More urban sights are there to complement the in the gallery. There is not so much of the outdoors on view in the Swedish album since it was a business trip allowing evening walks around Södertälje and Stockholm. Also, I could have done with a better camera too but went without many hopes and with a life change in front of me. The tale of those wanderings is to be found in the travel section of the website so it has not been lost to online posterity.

In contrast, the Icelandic and Swiss escapades came after an even bigger life event. There are plenty of views of Icelandic countryside to go with those of Reykjavik even though the level of outdoor wanderings was not as extensive as those that have taken me around Britain. The Swiss outdoor incursions were more so thanks to the efficient public transport system that got me from Geneva to Zermatt and to Grindelwald, albeit at a cost. The sights that I got to see easily compensated for this though and I hope what is on view shows them at their best. Their stories has yet to be told in full on here and I already have the beginnings of those entries in place.

What I also hope is that more overseas explorations follow these. Norway, Germany and Austria are in mind and, out of curiosity, my mind has taken to explore the prospects of American, Canadian and Kiwi escapades. With what I have ahead of me already this year, I need to temper any soaring ambitions. Once outstanding personal matters are settled, only then can I really begin to dream about heading outside of Britain and Ireland again. In the meantime, the home countries still have a lot to offer me and parts of Ireland as yet unvisited by me may see my footfall. Reining in dreams can be good.

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.

A possible project milestone

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

This past summer has been one that has seen me revisit the Lake District after a gap of more than four years. In fact, there was more than one weekend visit too and first of these could not have enjoyed better weather. The source of my attentions was a Buttermere, a valley that I have overlooked for far too long since my first visit there over a decade ago. Though I played with the idea of going over Seat, High Crag, High Stile and Red Pike in a single push, I saw sense and stuck with Haystacks instead. The next object of my explorations was Patterdale from where I trotted over St. Sunday Crag and continued to Grasmere via Grisedale Tarn. For at least two weekends on the trot, this part of Cumbria defied predicted weather doom with the second offering up a sultry opening that got me engaging in more rocky fell walking. The last outing was tamer following a delayed departure and took in Orrest Head and Loughrigg Fell before the evening grew greyer and damper.

Fleetwith Pike, Buttermere, Cumbria, England

All of this allowed me to capture a number of photos and that partially was the cause of me getting out and about in the first place with the YHA helping by having spaces in their hostels in the right places at the right times that I could uncover on their website. It was the quest for a better photo of Fleetwith Pike with Buttermere in front of it that drew me there in the first place and there was no disappointment, especially with a late summer evening spent in fading light with the only perturbation of a quiet valley being the tumbling waters of a gill. It was memorable bliss.

My St. Sunday Crag outing granted its share of photographic opportunities too with Ullswater and the fells about Helvellyn attracting my notice. However, my third excursions saw an envisaged photo of Grasmere denied by advancing cloud so that is one that could need repeating and any excuse will do a hill wanderer when it comes to revisiting a pleasing location.

There are other possibilities of course with recent films made by Terry Abraham with Mark Richards and Chris Townsend drawing new things to my notice. An actual ascent of Helvellyn from Wythburn could become a reality yet as could a similar escapade to the top of Great Gable. The latter stunned me when I glimpsed it from Haystacks and it looks manageable from Seathwaite too. In a lot of ways, I am beginning to wonder if it is that little bit easier to get to the Lakeland fells than it is to their counterparts in north-west Wales. A recent promise of good weather around Anglesey and Snowdonia brought home to me how low my stock of trip ideas for those places is. Replenishment is ongoing.

One thing that might help with that is a perusal of my online Snowdonia photo album because it has been doing the same for its Lakeland counterpart that partly inspired me to return to Cumbria again year. In fact, a good number of photos from the past summer have found their way into the Lake District album during an overhaul that it received. That did take a share of time to do between selecting and processing photos as well as writing some descriptive text to go with them. Not unexpectedly, the time spent doing that took away from writing stuff on here so here is a list of the photos that I now have in this album (entry links to an actual photo too):

Looking towards Langdale Pikes from Orrest Head, Windermere

Red Screes & Wansfell Pike as seen from Orrest Head, Windermere

Caudale Moor & Thornthwaite Crag as seen from Orrest Head, Windermere

Yoke, Troutbeck

Hagg Gill, Troutbeck

Kirkstone Pass, Ambleside

Pasture Bottom, Hartsop

Hartsop Dodd, Hartsop

Place Fell, Patterdale

Looking towards Helvellyn from Place Fell, Patterdale

Looking towards Blencathra from Place Fell, Patterdale

Martindale, Patterdale

Ullswater from Thornow End, Patterdale

Catstycam, Glenridding

Helvellyn & Striding Edge, Glenridding

Dollywaggon Pike, Glenridding

St. Sunday Crag, Patterdale

Fairfield, Rydal

Dollywaggon Pike & Grisedale Tarn, Grasmere

Grisedale Hause, Rydal

Looking along Tongue Gill towards Grisedale Hause, Grasmere

Grasmere, Grasmere

Loughrigg Fell, Ambleside

High Pike, Low Pike & Red Screes as seen from Loughrigg Fell, Ambleside

High Pike, Ambleside

Low Pike and High Pike, Ambleside

St. Mary’s Church, Ambleside

Langstrath, Stonethwaite

Great Gable as seen from Haystacks, Buttermere

Haystacks, Buttermere

Looking north from Scarth Gap, Buttermere

Fleetwith Pike & Warnscale, Buttermere

Fleetwith Pike, Buttermere

High Snockrigg, Buttermere

Whiteless Pike & Grasmoor, Buttermere

High Stile & High Crag, Buttermere

High Stile & Red Pike, Buttermere

Red Pike, Buttermere

Scales, Mellbreak & Crummock Water, Buttermere

Ashness Bridge, Grange

Blencathra, Threlkeld

Skiddaw, Keswick

Hawell Monument, Keswick

Clough Head from Jenkin Hill, Keswick

Skiddaw as seen from Little Man, Keswick

Great Calva, Keswick

Some of the above dates from I used to use film cameras and I fancy bettering the efforts on another visit but digital photos dominate the album now that I finally caught up with various efforts from as long ago as 2007. Then, film photography was my mainstay and I only pulled out the Canon EOS 10D DSLR I had in order to have some photos for trip reports. The arrival of a Pentax K10D changed all of that and I hardly use any film at all now. It wasn’t the 2014 photos that took the time but the backlog from previous years too along with enlargements of older photos originally captured on film. Hopefully, I will keep the album more alive from now on so as to avoid a backlog like this in the future because another hope of mine would be to keep visiting this wonderful corner of England. If anything, those excursions might be opportunities to correct any misimpressions that I may have as much as seeing new sights and improving on older photographic efforts.

Hawell Monument, Keswick, Cumbria, England