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!

Matters of terminology

18th December 2010

Yesterday evening and overnight, a white blanket arrived in and around Macclesfield. A company Christmas night out meant that I was out in Manchester to see the white stuff blanketing there and Stockport too. Again the south of England seems to have been affected too with Twitter awash with transport companies telling what services are running and where. However, it seems that hardly anywhere has escaped with Wales and Scotland seeing some too.

There was a time when this sort of weather was enough to have me out doors pottering over the white coverings but it doesn't seem to hold the same appeal for me these days. Was it last winter's snows that broke the spell? Prior to that, snow was a short-lived visitor that never satisfied my curiosity and was enough to lure me out of doors, even to pace over local paths. Now, it seems that there is a feeling of extra effort required to get about instead, not that I don't have the ability of the kit to be able to get where I want to go.

All of this has me wondering if the same sort of becalming has affected my hillgoing. It's easy to point out causes such as changing job, having busy working weeks, not getting alluring weather or being tired at weekends but there may be another cause: have I more than sated my hill country appetite? With that in mind, it might be an idea to see if there are ways around this if it indeed is the cause.

Popping up accessible little hills might be one of them and my visit to Caer Caradoc last month was very much of this ilk; the fact that it wasn't crowded either helped for enjoyment of the walk. Ironically, this months issue of Country Walking has a feature on walking little hills and Hope Bowdler, not at all far from Caer Caradoc or Church Stretton, gains a mention in there as does Ysgyryd Fawr near Abergavenny. Maybe, creating a collection of little hills on my proverbial ideas shelf for easy planning could help to overcome any present torpor. This is far from list ticking because I like to go for walks to enjoy the surrounding countryside and not to say that I have "done" all the tops on a certain list or other.

The word "little" cropped again in my reading, this time in an issue of TGO that I was perusing on the way down to Oxford for a business trip. What I spied on those pages was a review of Cicerone's Scotland's Best Small Mountains. Since then, I have acquired a copy of the said guide as an eBook and discovered that smallness is in the eye of the beholder. With Country Walking, the sorts of heights are in the 300-500 metre category but many of the "small mountains" are in the 700-900 metre range. There are other contrasts too with some of the hills featured in the Cicerone book being out in pretty wild countryside, a counterpoint to the more genteel surroundings of those in the magazine. The guide starts in the north-west highlands of Scotland and works its way south and throws up a number of options worthy of exploring, some of which I have actually walked. Here, Ben Vrackie and Morrone come to mind but there are one or two others if my memory serves me correctly.

It might that both the magazine and the book are highlighting something of which I have grown short: ideas. There also is the need for time to ponder and plan such things, particularly for those longer excursions. Then, I might be able get things going again in 2011 but my ambitions are sure to be modest. After all, I have been developing a certain dislike for lofty terms like summits and peaks and now find referring to such things as tops to be much more amenable. Whatever I call them, there will be no obsession with these because it will be the walking, exploring and savouring that will matter above all else.


  • Alan Sloman says:

    Nice post John,

    I agree about the “summit” & “peak” thing – I am getting tired of reading blogs that sound more like sports commentaries with athletes dashing hither and thither bagging targets.

    It’s so much better to read well crafted articles that provoke new ideas and thoughts about places you may have overlooked. I remember your magnificent series on Harris a few years ago – I still find my way back to them when planning for my next long walk. It was inspirational stuff – that’s what I go looking for.

    And yes – some of the little ones can be immensely satisfying, and far less crowded as well.

    Keep up the good work! All the best

  • John says:

    Alan, many thanks for the complements and encouragement. Glad to here that my jottings on Harris are standing the test of time for you. While I find that looking at old photos of mine can get me out of doors, it might be time for those previous writings to have the same effect. Somehow, creating and acting on a plan that leads deep into hill country over the course of a week might be the very thing that I need.



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