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!
Eventually, my ongoing attention to website appearances was going to include what you find here. The changes have been evolutionary and updated some underlying technologies as well. There has been simplification too as well as some rethinking of what should be in the different sections.
All the images in the photo gallery are now the same size and many film photos were rescanned. Some have been replaced with digital ones and the prospect of doing so was the cause of some added trip ideation. In part, the wanderings around Calderdale, Marsden and Hadfield were inspired by this and day trips to Dublin and the Lake District also aided the effort. Some photos were removed without the prospect of any replacement too. Sometimes, images can feature subjects that no longer inspire or have been added when photo albums acted as components of trip reports, things that now appear on this blog. Times change and so do we.
As I was doing all this, knowledge of the happenings in Ukraine hit hard since global wanderings feel more plausible in the absence of global strife. That feeling has eased now and several trips to Ireland have happened. These took me to places new and old. The former of these included Lough Derg, the Slive Felim hills and the Clare Glens while the latter included Killarney and parts of West Limerick like Adare. More may follow yet.
This past spring has been a busy time for walking in areas of hill country and growing boredom with what is near me in Cheshire and Derbyshire after traipsing around various places repeatedly during the constrained times of the pandemic led me to look elsewhere and Marsden caught my attention again after around fifteen years of not venturing near the place.
First up was a trot from Marsden to Hadfield that retraced steps not taken since 2002 when I was only starting hill wandering and a dull day heavily limited photographic efforts even if it brightened up near the end of the day. The reprise saw brighter sunnier weather albeit with a bracing aspect in the form of a stiff chilling easterly wind. Even so, I enjoyed my stroll along the Kirklees Way as it rounded Wessenden Moor and passed numerous reservoirs. Eventually, I passed onto the Pennine Way that conveyed me across the A635, over Black Hill and down into Longdendale. There was an intrusion in the form of an American hiker with two dogs who asked for a photo while my mouth was full of food but that passed and it was the edge above Crowden Great Brook that really held my attention.
On Holy Thursday in 2007, I headed north from Marsden to Littleborough as part of an ongoing Pennine Way project but low cloud intruded on the start of that walk so photos were limited. That made a partial reprise of that hike a possibility so I started from Todmorden on a southbound hike to capture what I had missed. Ultimately, I overdid it and arrived in Marsden in darkness so the compensation had not been gained and it took several returns to the area before photographic possibilities were largely consummated. Still, Calderdale and its nearby moors were kind to me even if their popularity slowed me down at times. From Blackstone Edge, things were much quieter but the day was moving on as I made the most of the available light. Even so, my sightings of the Castleshaw reservoirs left me in doubt as to my misremembrance enforced tardiness. More was to come in my sightings of Pule Hill and Holme Moor in very much faded light. That was to apply to Redbrook, Black Moss and Swellands reservoirs as well so thoughts of a return were forced into my mind. Eventually light failed and I decided against a steep descent on not finding the path so I went another way that got me to Wessenden Reservoir after an improvised crossing in the absence. Still, the waterfall looked appealing in the night light and it was now easy strolling back into Marsden in the quietude of the time of day. That did nothing to remediate my mixing up train times so I had a much-delayed train journey back to Macclesfield with a tight connection in Manchester that was aided by the last train to Macclesfield being late. That was just as well since there should have been another but for there being a shortage of train drivers at the time. The day had been eventful and I am not just talking about a momentary standoff with a cyclist around Calderdale either; they seem to be getting everywhere but that is another subject.
While the stage was set for several returns, the weather was not playing ball when I needed it to do just that. Still, I returned to Marsden in hope. Things looked promising as I headed out of Marden along Waters Road. My good fortune persisted as I continued along the track by Willykay Clough. Unfortunately, it was not to last and I lost out when I was wanting the cloud cover to stay away. There also was a biting wind from a northerly direction but that did nothing to keep away the numerous hill runners who were out and about. They went another way so all was quieter again but the sun was in hiding. Scrambler bikes were heard and I wondered what the point of their short rides was with their turning back at a pass to avoid being spotted. To me, it looked a little cheeky and I continued on my way on a day full of compensations. One was finding that path that I missed on the previous hike and I was glad that I had not tried it in the dark even if I had a head torch (there has been a scary moment when one did not fall to hand but all was well). The could cover had broken by this point and it have been understandable if I had been wondering at my impatience but the cold would have explained that. By the time that I got back to Marsden, many were outside enjoying what by then was feeling like a warm summer’s day. For me, it was back to the train station for a more timely return home.
Even with the same midday prediction of trouble with cloud cover as the previous encounter with the area, I persisted with another Marsden to Hadfield walking idea. There were variations from where OI had gone on previous trots that the walked started similarly to its predecessor. It took a map enquiry from another walker to highlight my slow progress in adjusting to a post-COVID world and I reproached myself for being unforthcoming but I had a long way to go and an appointment with hope. There were bright spots and I made images of the Castleshaw reservoirs that advanced on what went before. The same could be said about Pule Hill and its surroundings because the aftermaths of hail showers bring their recompenses. Other places brought a bit more photographic joy too and a bit of National Trust work made the way to the A635 much easier. Beyond that, navigation and bog trotting became more challenging so getting to Black Hill was slow work. Once there, I did not delay and started the descent to Longdendale by a gentler moorland route that left me with a longer walk to Hadfield and its train station. Even so, the gentle quietude of what is now a heavily industrialised valley laden with reservoirs and pylons prevailed and other walkers shared words with me. Daylight was in short supply as I neared Hadfield but it held long enough for me not to need a head torch. The day had been long and tiring but there was a lot to savour.
Eventually, there was resolution and near-complete closure. The last Friday of April came free and the weather remained sunny all day so another attempt was made. In many ways, this was a reprise of the third Marsden trip of the year, albeit with many deviations. It also saw me take my time in many ways. The route took me away from Waters Road and around by March Haigh Reservoir before I retraced old steps. Heat haze may have affected views over the Castleshaw reservoirs but what I go was as good as I needed it to be so I was sated. Brun Clough Reservoir saw a visit and I got over the wire fence to rejoin the Pennine Way because my patience did not extend to finding the stile and I often wonder how entry points to access land get so rationed. That made no impact on my mood as I attended to my photographic objectives. Various reservoirs were ticked off a list that also included Wessenden Reservoir and I crossed some rough ground using my access rights so as to avoid retracing steps. There even was an ascent of Pule Hill so this was a day that was working for me and the evening light was attractive as I returned to Marsden to start my train journey back to Macclesfield. it was now time to look to other places because the moors around Marsden may have seen times when things did not work out for me but they also kept me engaged in so many other ways as well.
In spite of the pandemic, 2020 turned out to be something of a vintage outdoor activity year though most of that was local and I never got to Scotland, let alone overseas. If anything, 2021 has turned out to be more restricted even if I have been fully vaccinated for a while now.
During late May and early June, I was starting to get out and about though numbers of others doing likewise meant that it did feel uncomfortable at times. The Spring Bank Holiday weekend showed me both quiet countryside and busy places. A reprise of a walk between Disley and Macclesfield proved to be a quieter affair though the same could not be said for one from Monyash to Bakewell. With few places to go and the onset of warm sunny weather, places like Bakewell or even Youlgreave meant that these were not places to linger. The same could have been said of the Hope Valley the following weekend but I still walked from Hayfield to Hope while keeping to quieter parts of the Great Ridge. Again, warm sunshine had drawn many out of doors and there were busy trains to bear as well. Nevertheless, there were no longer term effects even if I was not fully vaccinated at that stage.
From then on though, it looked as if things were reopening too quickly given the case numbers. Even delaying the full withdrawal of restrictions was insufficient for my sense of safety. In many ways, a more gradual reduction would have been better since so-called “Freedom Day” was in fact “Anxiety Day” for anyone was nervous in their disposition. To be fair, many have been sensible and much continues as it was with the use of face coverings and social distancing.
Last month, I took a break of several weeks from work but the timing was not in many ways the best for outdoor excursions. “Freedom Day” came in the midst of it so that was one reason not to be so carefree and a scorching heatwave persisted for the entire week as well so outdoor activities were stymied by lack of acclimatisation. After those, there was yet another reason for my persisting with a “homecation”.
In some ways, this takes me back to my student days in Edinburgh when research work, lack of money, living in a wonderful city and a strong interest in computers conspired to delay the development of any interest in explorations of hill and coastal countryside. The interest in computing still remains and I embarked on a major PC upgrade that did not run so smoothly so it took several weeks to settle everything done again. That not only kept me indoors a lot but was the cause of my working up quiet a sweat as I carried things between my work area and my home office. Also, worries about wreckage of expensive equipment entered my mind and heat was not helping the machinery either.
Those worries were to prove groundless and everything has settled in again though ongoing assessments regarding cooling and noise reduction continue. Usefully, the weather has cooled and become more autumnal in feel though warmer temperatures are predicted without their reaching abnormal highs. Damper weather now abounds though there are interludes for getting out and about on sunny evenings as well.
Video viewing earlier in the year became the cause of my acquiring a GoPro camera and an extension pole. Later, a magnetic mount for attaching the device to clothing and other similar materials was acquired and all has been put to some use. However, videography is a very different activity to photography so things are very experimental at the moment since there is much to learn.
After all that, it feels like a time to realise that there is a need to live with the ongoing pandemic and I am of a cautious persuasion. Yet, I am spotting some possibilities that may help with confidence building since case numbers have not gone as high as was predicted. They did rise dramatically in July but it looks as if the Euro 2020(1) football tournament cause a lot of that since they also reduced substantially afterwards. If there is a chance for some stability and the weather offers some motivation, this may become a good time to get going on longer trips again. The pace of advance will be slow and there are other things to occupy me too since there has been a lot of self-learning of new computing tools over the last year. Life can become very full so gaps do not always happen so they often need to be made.
We live in a time when all sorts of activities are being sold as adventures. Even a day hike falls into scope for this yet I do not need such branding to make me take advantage of such a possibility. A day with good weather spent in the midst of hill country or along a scenic coastline will do the job for me equally as well. In fact, it has been sufficient sufficient for longer than I care to recall.
2020 has been full of those in spite of the threat that it brought our way. They may have been near home for much of the time so it is just as well that I can walk into nearby hills from the front door of my own house. Long circuits taking in Shining Tor, Cheshire’s county top, along with Croker Hill, Bosley Reservoir and a host of other nearby landmarks saw me begin a summer of longer walks.
Some took me back home from a starting point reached by public transport. These included such places as Buxton, Knutsford, Disley and Whaley Bridge with the second entry on that list being the longest of the lot. The weather was mainly fair too apart from the occasional wetting.
Getting a little braver took me a little further afield. For instance, there were tow long hikes between Leek and Buxton, something that lay in my ideas shelf for far too long. Day trips to Church Stretton in Shropshire and Llandudno in Conway became the limits of my perambulations for the year before a cold weather walk from Hayfield to Chapel-en-le-Frith bookended things and an autumn of lockdown, less enticing weather and an indoor learning project became my lot.
Still, good memories got made in spite of the pandemic and these even included visits to Sheffield that I am not enthused about doing at the timing of writing these words. The hills may have been smaller but the wandering got me away from humanity even if more found their local countryside this year than ever before.
While 2021 lies ahead of us, it is difficult to plan ahead right now. There has been an upsurge in the number of cases of COVID that needs to abate and it does feel that vaccination cannot happen fast enough. This may may the darkest hour before a new dawn but I plan to get to a brighter future before making too many plans.
Of course, we still can dream. This time last year, I was pondering which part of the U.S. to visit during the summer months. After reading about the states of Washington, Oregon, Wyoming , Montana, Colorado, I settled on the last of these and that remains on the ideas shelf. The Azores are found on there as is the possibility of Madeira and locations nearer home appeal too.
Webinars from Wanderlust as well as the Adventure Travel Festival all fuelled my imagination though dreams of round the world motorcycle or walking trips remain out of the question. It remains good to hear the stories of other explorers’ exploits though and they help to brighten what has been a dark time for many of us.
My book reading continues in much the same vein as I sit out the necessary period of time that is needed for things to settle again. Patience is much required by those of us able to stay safe while we think of those not in such a fortunate position. Adventures can take their toll and this one certainly has so we only can await the prospect of happier ones should they come out way.
This has been an exceptionally tough year for retail and hospitality businesses and it is not over yet. In fact, it looks as if the start of 2021 may be no better. My line of business differs from these so I am one of the lucky ones in many respects since I have been able to work throughout the whole episode. Even then, I have not been immune from the added tension of the times in which we find ourselves.
That also means that I am not doing many of the things that I normally would be doing. International travel needs to wait as does staying away from home. The fact that town centres got too busy for my sense of personal safety has had its own effects so I avoid them as much as possible. One consequence is that I now subscribe to every magazine that I read aside from ones that I can get delivered whenever their content appeals to me. Going to a bookshop to see what new books are out is postponed because going online does much of that for me. Even with hand sanitiser usage, you never know what you could spread by touching books in shops.
Given all this, I still fancy getting out and about in hill country when circumstances allow. There is a walk from Hayfield to Chapel-en-le-Frith that I fancy reprising in brighter weather and with warmer clothing should the day be chilly as we can expect over the next few months. That would allow visits to the tops of Mount Famine and South Head together with a repeat encounter with Brown Knoll. The latter has planted in my mind the possibility of going from Hayfield to Castleton that could take in Rushup Edge along the route. With the way that things are at the moment, that probably needs to wait but ideas are needed for better times.
Speaking of idea collection, I have been catching up on unread issues of Scottish Island Explorer. In one sense, they have been planting in my thoughts the prospect of a long overdue return to the Western Isles and Arran together with other unvisited islands along Scotland’s western island call too. After those, there are the nation’s Northern Isles that have been on my radar only for other destinations to draw me to them instead. It is good to stock up with hope in the knowledge that some challenging months lie ahead and my ongoing reading may add more to these.