Outdoor Discoveries

What originally was a news section for the rest of the website soon became a place for me to write about human-powered wanderings in the countryside. Photography inspires me to get out there, mostly on foot these days, though cycling got me started. Musings on the wider context of outdoor activity complete the picture, so I hope that there is something of interest in all that you find here. Thank you for coming!

2007: the excursions reviewed

7th January 2008

It’s very human to look back at the turn of a year/decade/century/millennium/etc. and, this time last year, I took the opportunity to look over my travels in 2006. In the same vein, I now cast my mind back over the same sort thing but for 2007 instead. If 2006 was to be the year of seeking out pastures new, then 2007 has been a year largely taken up with following long distance trails into country familiar to me from a different angle and, more often than not, into country that I am visiting for the first time.

2007 was to start quietly with only one walking excursion in January. The weather didn’t tempt but for day when I went to Chirk for a trek to Llangollen that saw me hop over and back along the Wales-England border before picking up a small piece of the Offa’s Dyke Path and leaving that to get to Llangollen before nightfall. It was a case of something old, something new and put an idea into my head that laid the foundations for a walk later in the year. The long distance trail ethic that was to pervade my walking in 2007 had made an early appearance.

February built up the long distance trail trend with my exploring two trails. First up was the Pennine Way with a hike from Hebden Bridge to Littleborough giving me a feel for the moors above Calderdale. Walks along the Pennine Way, still unfinished business in 2008, were to pervade my outings until the end of April. My second excursion took me up to Scotland for the southernmost part of the West Highland Way: Milngavie to Drymen. This was also a case of going into countryside new to me and, like the Calderdale trot, it was to give rise to more excursions later on.

The Pennine Way hiking continued in March and it started again early in the month with a trek that saw me return to Calderdale for a walk from Todmorden to Burnley by way of both the Pennine Way and the Pennine Bridleway. This was followed up at the end of the month when I yomped from Haworth to Burnley.

My Pennine wanderings were set to continue in April and the first one plugged a gap in the itinerary from Edale to Haworth: Marsden to Littleborough via Wessenden Reservoir. It was to prove a claggy day until lunchtime, something that very much focussed the mind when it came to navigation. My next day along the Pennine Way was in clearer if blustery conditions. It also was to take me through some of the best countryside on the Pennine Way as I voyaged from Horton-in-Ribblesdale to Hawes. Rain was to beset me on my next excursion as I left Malham Tarn to head for Gargrave but I left the rain after me in Malham and things cheered up immeasurably as I was nearing my destination for the day. Those two excursions left a gap that was filled on a tramp from Malham Tarn over Fountains Fell and Pen-y-Ghent to Horton on a day that when it felt like summer.

I started May with another trip blessed by fair weather. After years of admiring it, I finally made my way up to the top of Skiddaw. Some may view the manicured lines of the "tourist track" that I followed as dull, I’d rather not scare myself with descents that are too steep so I well appreciated its gentler approach and I still found time to take in Little Man and Lattrigg as well. Next up in May was a trip that my memory reckons happened in July; it’s just as well that I have this blog! I made my return to Chirk for another stroll along the Offa’s Dyke Path, this time to Oswestry. Cloud predominated on the day so photographic opportunities were rare. Even so, it didn’t stop my having a good walk in countryside that was new to me. If I had more time, I would have dawdled more so it might time for a return. In walking terms, the month of May went out with a bang: a two day trek on the West Highland Way along the banks of Loch Lomond with an overnight stay in Rowardennan. I very much took a chance with the weather on this one but Scotland didn’t let me down on what is for me one of the finest stretches of the WHW.

June was to be a quieter month with regard to walking and the long evenings were allowing me to get out in the part of Cheshire’s hill country that is near me. These outings were to become a feature of the "summer". June soon became a sodden affair but I still returned to Rhinog country for a creditable stroll through a landscape that was anything but dry. The weather that we were getting was a foretaste of what was to come, making 2007 a year of two halves: one fabulous and one that returned us to reality. Alan Sloman was lucky to complete his LEJOG when he did.

July was for many a washout but I managed to get two decent Lakeland excursions out of the month. Both involved my heading to Windermere with the first being an over and back hike to Kentmere and the second being a trek to Staveley via Kentmere. On both outings, I enjoyed the fine scenery in excellent weather, something that must sound ironic to those sodden by the floods of 2007. Yes, water had accumulated underfoot but the worst difficulties, if any, were avoidable.

August saw me finishing two long distance trails and starting on another one. The first to be completed was the West Highland Way and that happened on my now habitual summertime stay in Scotland. That saw me complete of perhaps the noisiest stretch of the trail: that between Bridge of Orchy and Inverarnan and with some sun to enliven the views too. The other walking that I did during that trip was a soggy reconnaissance trip among the hills near Kinlochleven. The other trail completed was one passing not far from where I live: the Gritstone Trail. Hikes from Macclesfield to Congleton and from Eaton to Kidsgrove in pleasant conditions allowed me to bring my walking of the trail towards a good end. A final evening stroll was sufficient for me to walk the final short stretch around Bollington before I then walked home to my house. The bank holiday weekend at the end of the month allowed me the opportunity to start off the Rob Roy Way by walking from Drymen to Callander with an overnight stay in Aberfoyle. This got me into nice countryside that I hadn’t visited before and it seems more than worthy of a return.

After what must sound like a bountiful August, hillwalking activities were less prevalent for the rest of the year, even if I had planned not to have things slow down. September and November stand out as months when you could have said that I had gone into hibernation. October saw me head out for a local constitutional to take in the Autumn colour, follow streams in local hill country and visit the South Pennines for a hike lacking in any real progress on completing the missing link in my Pennine Way journey so far. In December, I decided to vanquish any sense of hibernation by another wander among the hills lining the Cheshire-Derbyshire border followed up by a fleeting unintended visit to the hill country of the Long Mynd near Church Stretton.

All in all, 2007 was another good walking year for me. Unless you lost out in the flooding (and I don’t envy anyone who did: hope it all works out all right for them), it would be a travesty to remember 2007 for its sodden summer when we had so much clement weather earlier in the year. As it happens, the continual greyness that pervaded nearly all of 2004 remains with me with 2007’s bright spots easily cause me to forget any grey bits. The proverbial question of what 2008 will bring does raise its head as it is wont to do; so also is the realisation that the future is not ours to see (we’re probably better off!). I never go in for big plans anyway but that doesn’t stop me having ideas in my mind for when the opportunities to explore them arise. We’ll see what happens…


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