Outdoor Excursions

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.

Category: Scotland

Subscriptions and home deliveries

Saturday, October 10th, 2020

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.

Path through woodland, Riverside Park, Macclesfield, Cheshire, England

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.

Reeling in some leap years

Thursday, February 27th, 2020

There was a series on Irish television called “Reeling in the Years” where each program covered happenings in a certain year in the past using archive footage. The concept may not have been all that original though the focus of Irish events gave it a certain uniqueness. It was the sort of light television programming that could be repeated endlessly should a vacant slot need occupying.

Of course, that is not how I tend to view the entries on here and I often struggle to complete a trip report as I have been doing for a while with a day spent along Derbyshire’s Great Ridge in the autumn of 2017. Sometimes, what should produce a timely report can gain the feel of an archive item.

Nevertheless, 2020 is a leap year and a very rainy, snowy and windy February gains an extra day; it is hard to believe that we were basking in unseasonably warm sunshine just over a year ago. Perhaps, it is little wonder then that I often state that we get weather instead of seasons and such is the defining characteristic of a maritime climate.

January and February often are the quieter months of the year so there is some time for looking back and a little forward planning. Thus, I take this opportunity to cast my mind back over leap years from a outdoor wandering vantage point since that stops me at 2000 when I commenced my working life after formal education.

By 2004, my pedestrian hill wandering had come into being with Scotland being a major focus along with England and Wales. The year itself was terrible from a weather standpoint with the summer being a washout. Only some flexibility at work allowed me to snatch a drier interlude to go north to Lorn and Lochaber to make the most of a fleeting opportunity.

2008 then was the third calendar year for this blog and saw a high point in my Scottish rambling. Until very recently, a week in August spent among some of the Western Isles became my most adventurous escapade ever. Skye was a staging point and I managed to avoid much of the rain that came from a stalled front lying across Ireland, England and Scotland. It now seems surreal that there was some glorious weather to be enjoyed on Harris, Berneray, North Uist, Benbecula and South Uist.

The occasional good fortune of those islands again manifested itself in 2012 when they in fact endured a drought while the the rest of Britain has the wettest summer ever. It was only the dryness of the Outer Hebrides that stopped the year going down in records as being wetter than in 2000, a year that I hardly regard as being that rainy at all though there were autumn deluges. The differences in weather were missed in 2012, not only because of a certain weather myopia but also because the heavy workload of 2011 had drained me to the point that energy for planning a return to the Western Isles just was not there.

By 2016, major changes were taking place in my life after the passing of both my parents. These were becoming evident in 2012 and the combination of a busy working life and ongoing inheritance works became enough to break me. One saving grace was that I started exploring elsewhere in Europe and that began in 2015. 2016 saw an extended weekend spent in each of Austria and Norway while there also was a mid-winter break in Mallorca. It was the latter than really taught me a lesson with a heavy cold and the others might have been but palliative care for an ongoing malaise. Changes were coming.

As I look back, it is tempting to think that leap years are not always the best for me though I now reckon that they were not as bad as I might have thought them at the time. 2020 could prove no different but that remains to be seen. Changes are continuing and I now work for myself so overseas and other excursions can continue alongside the other things that need doing. Only time will show what chances are available.

Into the 2020’s

Wednesday, January 1st, 2020

2019 had its share of preoccupations, both political and professional, and I did get out and about more during the first half of the year than the second. Weather had its part in that as much as those aforementioned preoccupations but the dividing line appears to be my trip to British Columbia in July. That also needed recovery from jet lag together with financial restoration.

Before all that, there were numerous trips to Yorkshire and Scotland between February and May. The Yorkshire outings took me around Settle and Malham after a visit to the North York Moors near Great Ayton. Easter was spent around Edinburgh with excursions to Linlithgow, Peebles and Penicuik getting me out into more natural surroundings on a sunny weekend that rather spoiled me. Subsequent return visits in May even featured a return to Stirling as well as another stopover in Linlithgow.

The Canadian trip was the highlight though and my base in Vancouver allowed for plenty of exploration around the city itself as well as fitting in side trips to North Vancouver, Squamish and Vancouver Island. The introduction was so thorough that I struggle to think of an excuse to return and there should be plenty of those as long as I figure out how to spend time on any associated long flights.

To some, 2020 is not when the new decade begins but popular opinion is not awaiting 2021. For me too, a certain wistfulness has descended and I look back to 2000 when I began my career and 2010 when I changed jobs. The 2010’s have been life changing too and unwanted political developments to come in 2020 will bring more change. For that reason, I am not planning very much and will see how the year goes.

It this was 1990 or 2000, my sentiments would be more optimistic since that was the world view at the time. However, all that has dissipated and popular dissatisfaction is causing all sorts of upheaval. Throughout all this, it is important to keep a sense of perspective so it is likely that sunny days will lure me out of doors like the last days of 2019. After all, my late mother left me with a constant desire never to waste bursts of sunshine.

We appear to live in a time when making one’s own new happy experiences is never more needed and then there is the necessity to share them. Distractions in 2019 have lengthened the trip report backlog though I am writing one at the moment. As I now look to 2020, that motivation is one that feels sound even if I largely will let the opportunities come to me. Then, less of them get wasted and more stories are there to be told. If a few are uplifting too, that will be even better.

Logjam

Wednesday, July 3rd, 2019

One I feature a trip report for an overseas trip on here, chances are that urban strolling gets mixed in with rural hiking. Separating the two has a habit of feeling very wrong even when the the countryside explorations are subsets of what else occupied me. The comment applies as equally to Swedish explorations as much as they do to Aberdonian ones. It might be tempting to move the urban activities into my Travel Jottings and leave the shorter incursions into more more natural surroundings for here but it just feels like I am doing the whole task a disservice so they all end up here instead.

That has its consequences and the Swedish trip report was the cause of getting in the way of adding other content on here. After all, the trip was a six day affair and writing up each day would have proved challenging on its own but I left the whole lot go together. With overseas outings always likely to combine urban and rural, that conundrum is likely to remain but there may be chances for a split just as well. An Easter sojourn in Edinburgh could lend itself to such division and they are some ideas in my mind for purely urban explorations just as well. It all depends on how I feel about things at the time.

Another outcome of the uncomfortable juxtaposition of walking around built-up and wilder areas is that I decided on a name change to cover what is here that little bit better. After all, all my walking and cycling takes me out-of-doors so Outdoor Excursions is now the name you find at the top until I find something else or get in the mood for a change.

As it happens, there have been a few names for this place over the years and Collected Musings of a Hill Wanderer still feels the best even it now longer fits the style of the rest of the website. Maybe, it can return as a strapline even if I mix up the destinations for my wanderings these days. What will not alter is the intended focus on celebrating quality time in more natural surroundings while a better name might come to mind.

A busy spring

Friday, May 31st, 2019

The continuing non-availability of Northern train services on Saturdays due to industrial action became such a source of personal confinement that their restoration produced such a dramatic effect. From February until now, I have been away most weekends making use of the increased opportunities for train travel. The promising weather helped too even if it meant that water supplies were not getting replenished as required after last summer’s extended spell of hot and dry weather.

The result was that Yorkshire got a lot of attention throughout February and March. It started with a visit to the North York Moors on a sunny day in February that felt more like summer than the actual time of year. Roseberry Topping was revisited as well as nearby hills as I traced out part of the Cleveland Way on a circuit centred on Great Ayton’s Train station.

Other circuits were followed by train as dictated by the extent of day ranger ticket areas. Two of these took me between Leeds and Carlisle so it might have been inevitable that I ended up getting ideas for walking outings as a result. The departure point for such attentions was Settle since I had not passed Attermire Scar or visited Malham and its nearby tarn for far too long. Sunshine may not have been in ample supply through my walking rounds so another trip to Malham Cove cannot be ruled out and it could see me going to Skipton on foot as well. There were two outings in total and there already is another in mind.

It has been a spring full of city visitations too. In the north of England, the tally included Newcastle, Leeds and Sheffield and Scottish cities like Edinburgh and Stirling got their share of attention too and there even was a trip to Cardiff for some wandering by the River Taff. More will be written about these below while Newcastle saw more wandering than other northern cities as I pottered along by the River Tyne on the way to Wallend using part of Hadrian’s Wall Path. That again was a quieter stroll and there was much to savour on a journey from a city centre to greener parts of its suburbs.

An elongated Easter weekend allowed for a longer stay in Edinburgh that has been in mind for some time and there was a truncated effort in 2017. 2019 saw no such intrusions so I was there from Holy Thursday through to Easter Tuesday as planned. That allowed for a lot of city rambling and there there were two visits to Linlithgow. Hill wanadering featured too and days were spent among the Pentland Hills and doing a round of the hills encircling Glen Sax. Along the reminisces and silly daydreams entered my mind but the time spent around a city where I spent part of my university years also became a chance to deal with any episodes of unfulfilled promise that returned to haunt me.

When I moved away from Edinburgh in 2000, there may have been an element of unfinished business that drew me back again and again to somewhere for which I still hold much affection. The 2019 version of the same was a suboptimally composed photo on Calton Hill so I returned on the Mayday bank holiday weekend to set that to rights. Other sights like the city’s botanic gardens and Costorphine Hill Local Nature Reserve were frequented too and the latter featured on another visit during the following weekend.

Though I was bound for Stirling, a stopover in Edinburgh did allow me to revisit the Royal Mile and Costorphine Hill in good sunshine for the sake of a little closure of what was becoming like an Edinburgh trilogy. Stirling saw plenty of sauntering with photographic pursuits in mind but the prospect of a walk among the nearby Ochill Hills remains outstanding so that could be another excuse to go back up there again.

After all those weekend forays elsewhere, it now feels as if some quiet time at home is in order and that pervaded the Spring Bank Holiday weekend aside from the aforementioned day trip to Cardiff. Others making the same journey had the attendance of a Spice Girls concert in mind but designs were far more demure as I avoided bands of cyclists to amble by the River Taff to take in the spring foliage on trees around Bute Park and Llandaff on a sunny afternoon that could not be enjoyed further north, such was the available weather. The summer awaits so only when that arrives will its roaming be revealed.