It's amazing how things develop. After all, this blog started out as a news section for the rest of the website. With encouragement from readers, it has become a place for relating my
countryside wanderings and musings about the world of outdoor activity. Walking, cycling and photography all are part of what I do out-of-doors and, hopefully, they will continue to
inspire me to keep adding entries on here. Of course, there needs to be something of interest to you, dear reader, too and I hope that's the case. Thanks for coming.
Though it has been quiet on here over the last few months and COVID-19 restrictions complement the wait for vaccination, I have managed to get out for some local wandering. Some of the walks necessarily have not been of much note but there have been deeper incursions into nearby hill country too when time and weather allowed. Even the threat of wintry weather was not enough at times.
One outing took me to the top of Croker Hill via Langley before returning via Bosley, North Rode and Gawsworth. That was at the end of February when a sunny Saturday was on offer for a long day out that started from my own doorstep. Having some time off around Easter allowed for more like this with Shining Tor and Shutlingsloe acting as fulcrums for to six hour hikes, again without recourse to any motorised transport whatsoever. Tegg’s Nose Country Park and Dane’s Moss Nature Reserve saw visits too, which all helped for getting out in fresh air to burn off fat gained over the winter.
That I got engrossed in learning new computing languages probably helped me to pass the time though that did no favours when it came to keeping up the amount of physical activity. My hope is that the arrival of longer evenings and the presence of spring followed by the coming of summer will help me to get further afield subject to any restrictions brought on us by the ongoing pandemic. Like last year, we all only have to see how things proceed.
The first day of most years for me involves the changing of calendars and there have been times when that happened later because I was away from home at the time. For one thing, spending the Christmas and New Year period with family in Ireland meant that it was as my late parents’ house where I went changing calendars at the start of a new year so doing the same in my own one was something that had to wait. In 2019, I was in Tenerife for New Year’s Day so there was a delay then too. In 2016, 2017 and 2018 there was no such thing and 2020 has followed that trend.
The calendars that I like to hang on my walls are of the scenic variety. If at all possible, ones with bright skies are preferable, especially during the darker months of the year. Scotland has featured a lot with ones from Colin Prior, Scottish Field and the Scotsman all having been former mainstays. Expanding travel horizons has changed that with scenes from Norway, Sweden and Iceland adorning my walls this year together with two from Wales. Last year, there were two from Ireland in place of the latter but the other mix was the same.
For a long time, I liked Colin Prior calendars until they seemed no longer as fresh a concept as they once were. Photography has changed a lot in the last two decades so the original appeal of panoramic format photos of similar localities in Scotland no longer has the hold it once did. Instead, I now order panoramic calendars featuring Scandinavian scenes from a German publisher and I have been known to get Alpine ones too.
Otherwise, Swiss, Austrian and Spanish items have been acquired according to where I went during a given year and there are times when I buy too many calendars so I need to keep a watchful eye on that. Even with sending some as gifts, there can be a surplus without due care so I do some accounting as I go and 2020 was good for that. Some magazines come with calendars but there have been less of those this year.
The current times mean that we need every form of brightness that we can get so the scenes that I have arranged on my walls have more of a use than they usually do. Good memories can be recalled until opportunities to add more become more realisable. Unlikely as it appears for now, 2021 may help with that yet so our ongoing patience and perseverance could see their eventual reward in time.
Photographic equipment errors can blight subsequent results. For instance, this summer saw me using a camera at a different ISO setting to what was intended and I did not notice it for weeks. Given that the setting was 320 rather then the desired 400 and I have often mulled over the idea of using 200, it was not a calamity given that I create raw image files anyway.
What reminds me of the above is that a more obvious mishap beset the photos made on the trip described in this report. That time, I somehow knocked the camera into the wrong daylight balance setting. All the images came out far too red but again creating raw image files allowed for a rescue in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. Being able to bulk copy the new settings was a real bonus so I could ameliorate any annoyance in the act and leave the lesson on file for future reference.
Given I finally had got to Rothbury after having designs on such a trip for what seemed light an age, the easy fix to those photos probably was just as well. Just like the North York Moors that were featured in an earlier post, this too was a long way to travel for a day trip, though that never did stop me getting to other parts of Northumberland since they are afflicted by the same disadvantage.
Rothbury was reached later in the same week as an icy encounter with Roseberry Topping. The chance of a bright day added to the required motivation input even after an outdoors escapade earlier in the week, especially since an early morning start was needed. It also was good timing for travel by double decker bus for the last part of the inbound journey.
Though Newcastle was dull while I was passing through the city, Rothbury was bright and sunny with clear blue skies overhead when I arrived there. My intended walking target was Simonside so I soon left by way of St. Oswald’s Way to make the most of the time that I had. The day may have been laden with wintery crispness but I was to pass a harbinger of spring once I passed Whitton: snowdrops.
After passing Sharpe’s Folly on my way towards Hillhead Road, the surrounding views opened as I followed the track with height being gained as I did so. Though looking to my left brought my eyes towards pleasing sights, it was what lay to my right captivated my attention at various points throughout the day. The white-topped summits of the Cheviots not only acted as a reminder of winter but also contrasted against the otherwise green landscape bedecked with some brown patches.
The track was left to reach Whittondean and going beyond that took me onto open moorland. Handily given that I was crossing soggy bogland, the path was paved. All the age of my map was plain to see so it was just as well that I had the OS Maps app on my phone for adding the extra details. Quite why I had not got to buying a newer paper map is lost to me but it would have added the route of St. Oswald’s Way for one thing.
At that time, thoughts of depending on a phone app given the vagaries of signal and battery life felt imprudently trusting. Still, it all held together on the day and even showed another public footpath over Simonside that itself came in being after 2005, the publication date of my Explorer map. Since then, I have chosen phones with lengthy battery life and they came into their own during this year’s travails when they allowed me to leave paper maps at home for various local day hikes where I largely know the lie of the land anyway. Still, I am mindful that the phone is doing the locating so I need not lose that ability for myself in case I ever need it again. After all, devices are not that infallible.
A relatively timely arrival at the eastern end of the Simonside ridge added a certain complacency about route timing that soon got dispelled by the false summits that I met along the way. The whole section may have been around three kilometres in length but the afternoon passed as I pottered from east to west, especially given the arresting views that lay all around me. Winter whitening of various sections and the presence of icy patches added to the need to concentrate on what was at hand. That really applied to the steep western descent from the actual summit itself.
By then, it was late afternoon and I needed to catch a bus at a certain time too. Even with this and with others going the way, I was not going to rush but any coated patches were left after me soon enough along with any gathering of humanity. Then, it was a matter of descending through forestry to Great Tosson, an act greatly aided by the use of walking poles to speed things though there was ample time to survey the surrounding scenery as well.
From Great Tosson, there was a road descent to Newtown after which a byway returned me to the banks of the River Coquet. Once across to the other side, I was bound for the bridleway taking me back to Rothbury again. That the sun continued to lower in the sky caused no concern given the progress that I was making. A lost time had been made up again without the need for rushing; it was all a matter of maintaining a steady if unhurried pace while relishing what lay about me.
In fact, there was enough time before my bus came to visit a shop for some provisions and a new map of the area. After that, my journey home began and I could wonder about returning to Coquetdale. Though current circumstances may delay that, I still have spied a possible route taking in Cartington Hill and the Cragside Estate. Having an excuse to revisit a place never is a bad thing to have.
Return train journey between Macclesfield and Newcastle extended by a return bus journey on route X14 between Newcastle and Rothbury.
It may be autumn now and the nights really are drawing in on us but I still have walking ideas. They are fairly local, which is useful given the times in which we find ourselves. For instance, I have another idea for a walk between Whaley Bridge and Macclesfield: this one would go via the Goyt Valley instead of Taxal Edge where the previous ones went.
There is another and that brings me to recent wanderings. One of those took me from Leek to Buxton via Ramshaw Rocks. Since the day became dull, I would like to go back to those rocky outcrops again to come away with better photos. The route could be varied according to available hours of daylight if so needed.
Other rambles did better with sunshine. One took me around hills near Church Stretton in Shropshire while another gained me my only exposure to sea air of the year so far. That was around the Great Orme near Llandudno in Wales and it rounded off an extended bank holiday weekend that also featured the aforementioned Shropshire and Staffordshire/Derbyshire hikes. All were good for my emotional well-being during what has been a very tough year.
As a dark patch continues to lift, I also got in some website tinkering and that explains the title of this post. Some may not have heard of the term but many will have encountered the behaviour: a web page that does not load all at once but only when a visitor scrolls down far enough to need the outstanding sections. That is called lazy loading and I decided to try it out with the images on this blog. If it is too much of an acquired taste or is too distracting, just let me know and I will make adjustments. Otherwise, the tinkering and the toddling will continue.
Many events are becoming virtual these days. My first notice of the ongoing trend was with business conferences in my line of business but it has not stopped there. As it happens, the pandemic means that large gatherings of people are not the wisest right now so this is perhaps less of a surprise. That last point had me questioning the sense of even delaying events like the Photography Show for six months but even that is going virtual next month as well. This is a trend that applies to both business and lesiure.
After all, Wanderlust have a YouTube channel with recordings of a few of these collected. Some are recordings of live events from before the start of the current pandemic but others like Incredible Iceland or Uncover Guyana are entirely virtual affairs. In fact, I got to join the two events that I have mentioned and would not have got to them if in-person attendance was a must because they often have been held in London.
That last point has not gone unnoticed by organisers either. Regardless of the professional or leisure character of the subjects being covered, attendances are higher with more joining from different parts of the world. The ongoing pandemic may be keeping us apart in some ways but it is bringing us together in others.
There also is the matter of travelling virtually as well. This year, I might have hoped to get to Colorado but that became totally unrealisable and that reality even applies to the matter of getting to and from Ireland too. Normally, I should have gone to my home country at least twice by now and there should be two more before the year is out. 2021 looks more feasible now and it is hard to say how that might go at this stage. Given that, it is little wonder that services like Trek Ireland are turning up for those of us restricted to armchair explorations.
In my case, those home-based global explorations have cause me to survey Backpacker’s Get Out More TV on their own YouTube channel. It is true that these feature a lot of product placement as well as segments from outdoor retailers but keeping our attention on a hiking film possibly demands a lot of patience anyway. Still, they do show something of the areas that each episode showcases so that probably will be enough to get me watching more than the first three episodes that I have seen so far.