A look back at 2008 Part 3: Beyond Midsummer17th January 2009
Midsummer in 2008 might have been a time when I felt that the year had peaked and the encroachment of unsettled weather may have had something to do with that view. Certainly, the year will not be remembered for having a sunny summer and many were disappointed, even if it did have its better interludes. Personally, I reckon that it’s best to try and enjoy what is visited upon us at any time of year and seem to have come to the conclusion that the traditional summer holiday season is overrated. There may be more hours of daylight but, if the days get too hot, it may be worth sticking to the cooler parts of the day and that reduces the amount of time available for wandering through the countryside anyway, perhaps restricting the time available until it is not that much different from spring or autumn anyway.
Even with the feeling that the second half of a year feels like an anticlimax after the first, I continued to get out into attractive countryside. I found hot sunny weather in July, was extremely lucky with my visits to Scotland in August, had an easier September and October before taking advantage of numerous wonderful opportunities in November and December. There was much to behold so here are a few recollections of it all.
In walking terms, July was another fallow month with a sun scorched saunter along the Offa’s Dyke Path near Welshpool at the end of the month being the main trip of note. Otherwise, time limited by other activities ensure that most of my major outdoors activity was to be cycling rather than walking. The month’s mixture of weather contributed too but I was feeling that the best of the year had passed by this time anyway and began to wonder if the timing of the school holidays was more than a little nonsensical. I also got to mulling over island wandering as a possibility for my now habitual longer Scottish walking break. My few hours on Kerrera in May may have had something to do with this inspiration coming upon me and I felt the need for a longer break anyhow.
The main even in August was that island hopping trip to Skye and the Western Isles. Though anyone surveying the weather and the weather forecast on the eve of the trip might have questioned my sanity for even considering what I was about to undertake. In the event, I struck the jackpot: while other parts of the U.K. and Ireland were getting a soaking, I managed to find wonderful sunshine and avoid those downpours. That was thanks to the belt of rain getting stuck across the north of England and the south of Scotland. Harris was to prove the highlight of the week without Skye failing to satisfy or the peace of the Uists being forgettable. However, it does need to be said that South Uist felt a little like an anti-climax after Harris so it might be best to journey in the northbound direction on any future visit. A social visit to Edinburgh followed but I still got in a few hours among the Pentland Hills, an area that I surprisingly ignored when I lived up there in that city.
September & October
September and October proved to be pivotal months for a lot of reasons, the economic situation in the wider world being one of them. For me, it was a period lacking in longer walking excursions but shortening days meant that walks at lunchtimes started to take over from evening cycles. Another trip to Ireland in September allowed me to spend a few sunny hours around Gougane Barra. Even though I felt unable to add a fuller narrative for that trip, the photos found their way into the photo gallery very quickly. Alongside this, the realities of writing a longer trip away were made plain to me as producing reports for my Hebridean trip began to take eat up their share of time. It wasn’t just the writing that slowed progress since choosing and processing the photos to be included as part of the descriptions nearly were more rate limiting than the actual writing itself. That experience had been happening throughout the year but it really came to a head with the larger block of writing. Staying with the subject of lessons learned, I started to cast more of a critical eye on the focus of the blog and came to the conclusion that much of the musings on public transport really belonged elsewhere. In time, another blog was spawned for that but travel matters relevant to exploring wonderful countryside will continue to make their appearance here. In time, it may happen that old posts falling outside of this might get moved elsewhere as part of continued content reshaping but I’ll leave things as they are for now.
November saw me re-emerge into areas well populated by hills again. The first of two trips to Cumbria saw me embark on an out and back trek from Windermere’s train station to Yoke. I had gone north with a few ideas in mind and this proved to be just as well when public transport and the available daylight constrained my ambitions a little. Neither did anything to spoil my enjoyment of the day. A miscalculation on the following weekend had me walking from Ardlui to Butterbridge a day too early for good weather to do its magic on the landscape. in some respects, the hike echoed my February outing to the area in that showers got going to make things feel unpleasant as I dropped down towards the end of my walk. I may not have seen the countryside in its best light but plans for potential excursions came to mind and they may compensate for this at some suitable juncture in the future. Dullness of a drier variety was set to dominate my walk from Ambleside to the top of Red Screes and back the next weekend. Some sunshine managed to escape from its cloudy prison towards the end of the walk but the intense cold remains in mind, particularly since the turning on of Ambleside’s Christmas lights delayed my journey home.
December may be considered by meteorologists to be the start of winter but my walking was not about to go into hibernation, especially with the possibility of sampling some snow. So, the first Saturday of the month saw me return to the Howgill Fells after the briefest of visits a few years earlier. The snow that I met got me wondering about winter skills and such like but the experience was one not to be missed. The day after had me out exploring Macclesfield’s hills with an out and back hike from my own doorstep. I might have been trampling familiar ground but there were some new sides to be seen too. A trip to Ireland for Christmas and New didn’t stop my walking either, even if road walking took up the most of what I was doing. Nevertheless, I got to get off road to explore around Springfield Castle near Broadford in County Limerick and even got to sample a little piece of the Dingle peninsula around Camp and Castlegregory in Kerry. Sunshine enlivened both walks but that part of Kerry was frequented by a biting wind while we were there; nevertheless, it didn’t stop me wandering a little way along a track (used by a tractor to get winter feeding to livestock by appearance of things) through the dunes at Maherabeg (Machaire Beag in Irish) in the late evening sunshine, at least shadowing the Dingle Way if not actually following it. That brought a year packed full of walking trips and opportunities to a delightful close. 2009 awaits.