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!

A year in two halves

2nd February 2011

There was one event in my life over the last year that very firmly punctuated the year in outdoors terms: a change of job. Whether it was the cause of putting my hill-going off track or not, there clearly were less outings in the second half of the year and those that were enjoyed weren't so extensive. The strange thing though is that a Christmas spent with the folks in Ireland seems to have recharged things for me. After all, there already has been a proper day out among the waterlogged hill country around Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) in Wales very early in this year with a mad dash up to Fort William and Glenfinnan together with a crossing to Ireland to savour the delights of Howth near Dublin following it. In previous years, it often has fallen to the last weekend of January before I managed to get out at all. There are other schemes in mind but more armchair exploring could be needed before anything comes of them.

The first few months of last year had me standing on hilltops more often than is usual for me and January and February fitted into this pattern with walks over Place Fell in Cumbria and Diffwys near Dyffryn Ardudwy, respectively. The weather was very amenable in both cases with a touch of spring being felt on the second excursion to contrast with the sights reminding onlookers of winter during the previous one. The other major outing in February was a cycle that took in Gawsworth, Astbury, Little Moreton Hall, Holmes Chapel, Goostrey, Over Peover and Chelford. Though I was tired after that jaunt, it sowed the seeds for a cycle to Chester later in the year.

March saw me move things up a gear again by heading to Scotland to see some Scottish snow-covered hillsides around Glen More among the Cairngorms. Braving some showers was the price that I had to pay for this but the rewards from the short sampling session more than compensated. In fact, it may have set the scene for a busy April that featured an Easter Sunday trot from Baslow to Bamford while shadowing the River Derwent. That wasn't as low level as it might sound but I headed to greater heights in the form of Carnedd Moel Siabod and Y Llethr in Wales too. Revisiting the trip reports for these makes me realise that I was more active than I now remember myself to be.

My recollections of May are stronger and it started with a Mayday bank holiday weekend visit to the Isle of Man where I savoured some of the ups and downs of the coastal path, Raad ny Foillan. That was a good introduction to Manx walking and I hope to follow up the outing some time. A trot from Selkirk to Melrose had it share of ascent and descent too as it brought back to a part of the world where I hadn't been for a few years. Later, I discovered that the Kerry mountains around Killarney can get some hot sunny weather. In fact, it could have been the most sun that I have had on a visit to the alluring area.

As it happened, May ended with the commencement of the distraction that was to occupy my mind for much of the next few months: a change of job. It was amazing to see how this really punctuated my outdoors year. The weather remained balmy as I pondered what I was doing with visits to the National Trust managed woods around Alderley Edge for some unwinding on lengthening evenings. That spell of good weather came to an end later in June but not before I snatched the chance to head north to the Isle of Arran and Kintyre for what became my only real longer summer break in Scotland. That didn't prove to be the end of my feeling hot sunshine for the year because a business trip took me to Sweden where long hot evenings allowed me to savour the delights both of Sodertalje and Stockholm.

From July on, the rest of the year gained a much quieter feel when it came to enjoying the outdoors. Nevertheless, I did manage to base myself in Aberdeen for the English August Bank Holiday weekend. Having not been there after a first visit more than a decade before, it was time to revisit places encountered before and exploring those that were new to me. The latter point brings to a first visit to Braemar that took me up to the top Morrone/Morvern with heavy showers making rainbows in the sunshine before things dried up later on an otherwise chilly day. The outing had a real end of year feel with that coolness though Edinburgh felt warm in the sun when I sneaked in a trot about its heart between trains. Maybe I should have based myself there instead, like I did for the same weekend in 2009.

For some reason, the rest of the year felt as if the stuffing had been knocked out of it for me and my outings appeared to reflect that. Nevertheless, I did get to cycling all of the way from Macclesfield to Chester, a brainwave that came to me earlier in the year. It also proved that Cheshire is far from flat though I knew that anyway. Ironically, my end of British Summer Time hike along the High Peak Trail and the Tissington Trail from Pomeroy to Ashbourne on a day when cloud overcame sun as I went further south. Following old railway alignments meant that ups and downs were kept to a minimum on that October afternoon but the distance covered was felt for a while afterwards, ironically for longer than the effects of my exertions in crossing Cheshire if my memory is not failing me again.

Breaking away for a hill country outing seemed to have become difficult for me but November saw me on top of Caer Caradoc in Shropshire due the perceived accessibility of the hill. Shrewsbury remains another idea for urban pottering as does Oswestry so it wasn't about standing atop a hill. In fact, the very next issue of Country Walking featured low hills with good views and put into my head the idea of collating a list of a few of these for times when inspiration was hard to locate.

December's snows may have been disruptive and I was to feel the effects of that when I popped over to Ireland for the Christmas but they were restorative when it came to getting me out of doors again. For one thing, there was a quick visit to the hills near Glossop that was more about broadening my experience of winter condition than covering much in the way of distance. Then, there was wandering around local haunts in Wilmslow (Lindow Common became a 2010 discovery for me), Macclesfield, Prestbury and West Limerick. Surroundings may have looked totally different and very pretty on these short strolls but they very much helped me in the restoration of my hill wandering mojo. Now, I need to ensure that it doesn't leave me again. After all, 2011 has started well and I really do need to set down some more trip reports as well as ensuring that my working life doesn't overwhelm everything else on me again.


  • Alan Sloman says:

    It’s good to look back; the good times can so easily be forgotten in the muddle of the present.

    I treat my blog a little like a diary, with one or two things cut out, and one day, when I can’t get up and go anymore, it will be a good thing to look back on with a smile.

    So, what are your plans for this year?

  • John says:

    I seem to be more visual when reminding myself of good times. It’s those photos that I acquire while out and about that act as reminders. Sometimes, I get to thinking that I need to do better and that’s enough to get me going out the door.

    As for this year’s plans, I’m afraid that a busy spell at work has deflected me from making some over the last few weeks. Once I make a quiet space, I need to grab out a map of Britain and Ireland and make some decisions. Then, there’s the matter of booking some time off to make use of my ideas. Might be a job for the coming weekend…

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