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!

Can it get too hot for walking?

14th August 2008

We humans are a fickle bunch when it comes to weather and I am no different. My ideal walking conditions involve a dry sunny day with a bit of a breeze and temperatures between 10 and 20 degrees Celsius (I have to say that the Fahrenheit temperature scale is next to meaningless for me). Over the course of this year, I have been battling that easy inclination to stay at home on grey days or any time when rain threatens. While it can be a good way of keeping you at home to get things done, you can overdo it too and never get out there at all.

I think that you could ask any walker and they’d suggest that soggy days are a turn off but I have thought of another one: hot boiling sweltering sunny days like what we had at the end of July. Some adore these but I don’t think that they’ve ever really suited me; I suppose that we all differ from one other. To me, it could be seen as being just as unpleasant for hiking as getting constantly soaked. In fact, if you don’t watch it, the health consequences of being out in boiling heat could be worse than wet weather. Hydration is very much part of this and OutdoorsMAGIC recently posted a very useful article on the subject that provides some food for thought. Otherwise, head coverage, keeping well watered, using good sun screen and finding the occasional shady rest spot to keep yourself together is all very much in order.

What has put this idea into my head was my going for a circular hike around Welshpool that took in a part of the Offa’s Dyke Path a few weeks back. I experienced the sort of weather whose absence is source of many a moan. Last year was a case in point but those who were on the receiving end of the deluges last July really did have cause for complaint. Its timing was unfortunate in the sense that it happened during the summer school holidays and it might be all that some remember of 2007, a travesty given the wonderful start that the year had. Even though I too have fallen victim to this notion of a summer climax, I am beginning to come around to the delights of a cooler if damper summer, particularly when it comes to wandering through hill country. Another downside to this idea of there being a climax to the year is that your outdoor outings plummet in frequency once August has passed. It’s all too easy to do and I know because it tends to happen to me. It’s almost as if I hibernate until December when I manage to get going in earnest again. That’s a pity because autumn can have lots of special moments to offer.

Speaking of autumn, it has a lot to offer those who wander through hill country. The days might be shorter but they are cooler also and without being too chilly. Destinations that are thronged in July and August are quieter, just like they were in April and May. After all of that, there’s the glorious autumnal colour that can come upon us, depending on the year (drier summers are better for this, apparently). The ambiance might be like the calm after a storm or, if you prefer, after the climax but there’s much to savour in the mellowness.

I have often talked of my liking of spring on here and I now want to make better use of the delights of autumn but there’s another matter taking up occupancy in my head: is it worthwhile scaling back summer walking a little and devoting a bit more attention to the rest of the year? For one thing. the ever present threat of global warming might well make this approach something of a necessity.

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