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!
In a previous post, I mentioned Ken Burns’ magisterial The National Parks: America’s Best Idea and even wrote a few words about this documentary film series. Not living in the U.S.A., I found this quite accidentally when reading an article on either the Outdoor website network (probably the Backpacker part but I am not sure now). Both are part of the same media group and I became a subscriber to Backpacker magazine in 2020. In Canada, there is Explore and they perform much the same function for that part of the world.
Before this, I was inclined to do long trawls through guidebooks for acclimatisation and awareness. This can work but it is not just time-consuming but also can be trapped within one’s own predispositions. After all, America’s National Parks are known by many around the world so it can be easy to gravitate towards them but there are other kinds of public lands that are amenable to exploration, some of which abut conurbations so they can be easier to reach. Here, I am thinking of what lies on the doorsteps of San Diego in California, Portland in Oregon or Phoenix in Arizona. Two of these came to my notice in a serendipitous manner, the first from a tragic story on the Backpacker website and the last from a Wanderlust webinar.
There also is the usefulness of a more gradual approach taken with an open mind. A concerted effort can and does help but the slower accumulation of insights and possibilities is how I got going in hillwalking in the first place. It happened so naturally that I hardly noticed what was happening and this also brought with it a growing cultural awareness. The same approach might help to restart nascent explorations of North America yet.
All this highlights background realities regarding the scale of North American wilderness as well as equipment choices offered by brands that are not so pervasive on this side of the Atlantic like Canada’s Durston. There are times when you need to watch for product placement though and Backpacker’s online webinar series from 2020 was a case in point, especially given they erred on the side of overdoing just that at the expense of conveying an experience of the wild places that were featured.
Still, knowing the cultural side of things remains ever useful and that returns me to the feature film series mentioned at the start of this piece. The history of the American National Park system was not that well known to me, even if I was well aware of the influence of John Muir from my reading of his writings during the winter of 2017/8. What happened after him and the issues surrounding the various contradictions of a motto like “For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People” became plainer to me as I watched the film series.
The tension of high visitor numbers is very clear to us now and it always has been a problem as has allowing people to visit using their cars. That there has been road-building in otherwise pristine areas is part of this, even if that was curtailed in Denali National Park in Alaska by a persistent campaign by one of the park naturalists. The conflict between conservation and having visitor services like hotels and other amenities pervades today and that is likely to continue. Even so, there has been progress too with a different attitude to wildlife meaning that we now need to keep away from wild creatures rather than mingling among them as once was the case.
There is much to learn about another continent half a world away and doing this one morsel at a time makes things stick better. The more gradual approach also allows for added serendipity so you get to find out about places that do not come to light from a concerted effort.
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.
For many, 2020 will be recalled as being very testing whatever their endeavour. Thankfully, my own line of work continues throughout the turmoil but others are not so lucky and the world of magazine publishing is just as affected. Even without an ongoing global pandemic, market conditions for the publishing of paper magazines are challenging anyway even if many have embraced electronic delivery.
The effects of all the change are more evident in photography and other activities affect by rapid changes in technology. Looking at computer magazines, numerous titles have disappeared from what once were loading newsagent shelves during their heyday in the 1990’s. Even long-standing ones like PC Plus were not immune nor were others like PC World, PC Answers, PC Format, Linux User & Developer, Web Designer and Net. As personal computing became more mainstream and mobile devices became more powerful, the preceding interest waned and anything that remained often went online for technology news.
Of course, this is not a technology blog but photography is closer to the interest in outdoor activity. Here, there also was a surfeit of titles but some have gone. Photography Monthly and Advanced Photography are among these but most remain, perhaps due to digitisation of photographic capture and other innovations. Photography also is a subjective practice so it is easy to concentrate on camera performance when it is the combination of composition and exposure mastery that really matters.
Maybe that is why Outdoor Photography remains the only such title that I read. It focusses on technique, experiences and results so the content feels more substantial to me and I enjoyed clearing my backlog of unread issues throughout April and May. Its publishing scheduled has been buffeted by the ongoing pandemic to the extent that it virtually became bimonthly instead of monthly. A lockdown cannot help when it comes to getting new photographic content and the economic impact also diminishes advertising revenue.
Outdoor and travel magazines are similarly afflicted. For instance, Backpacker skipped an issue (July/August) because of the falloff of advertising revenue while the team focussed on creating useful email newsletters and content like How to Hike During COVID. Its content may be American in focus but there remains some commonality for elsewhere too and I look forward to seeing what is in the next issue of their magazine.
Another title that has had its publishing schedule altered is Wanderlust. Admittedly, thoughts of overseas travel are something that many are putting on hold and I count myself among them. Maybe that is why the current issue of the magazine focusses on Britain itself and that follows surveys that they did. It could be that I am not the only one thinking of a staycation this year.
Even though there is a chance of flights to some destinations becoming more realistic, my own sights are set closer to home for the moment. A backlog of unread issues of Ireland of the Welcomes is being reduced at the moment and there are there are unread copies of Scottish Islands Explorer to follow those. Reading will be plentiful for a while yet. There are other possibilities like the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man but getting to any of these remains restricted for now.
Despite all of this, one still can dream about heading further afield. Giving the way that things are at the moment, it is better to be patient. That will allow one to see if Lonely Planet Magazine returns to news-stands as well as gaining greater experience in very changed circumstances. We already have learned much and there is more to add to our knowledge and experience. Given the risks, it is better to be vigilant and careful since we need a sustainable return to some sort of normality that will persist. That also is better for anyone adversely effected since there is nothing worse than a regression.
Cooler temperatures have encouraged me to hop upon on a bicycle that is left permanently on a bike trainer. It got so hot at times this past summer that this was the last thing that I have contemplated. Some may think that such an act would be dull but I avoid anything like boredom by catching up with some reading at the same time.
This has been how I came to start through my back issues of the Irish Mountain Log, published by Mountaineering Ireland and one of the few remaining news stand titles that feature Irish hill walking. However, the organisation also covers other similar activities like mountaineering and climbing in both its indoor and outdoor forms.
That may be one reason why its editor insists in calling outdoor activities that take place in hill and mountain country a sport but funding for outdoor activities can come from government sports agencies for whatever reason and Ireland is among those. For instance, the Irish Trails website is funded by the Irish Sports Council.
However, I don’t think of my hill wandering as being sport at all and I also find the expression alienating. To me, sport is a sterile thing with its focus on competition while my motivation for walking through the countryside is as much as about enjoying natural sights and sounds as getting some space to clear my mind. At heart, I am also an explorer so I like to see new sights too. It is about savouring surroundings and experiences rather than having a head filled with thoughts of conquest and victory.
The Irish Mountain Log does feature some of that so I would prefer outdoor-focussed activities to be called something more than a sport even if that attracts some funding. Mountaineering Ireland may support competitive events but they do include mountaineering and hill walking so my suggestion is that the label becomes “sport and outdoor activities” or “sport and outdoor pursuits”. The titles may be longer but they sound more inclusive and might incorporate better the social side of these activities that is important for so many in Ireland.
Everyone can have a hiatus and there has been a long one on here for entries like this one. In my case, it is not as if I have been away from hillwalking. As it happens, I have had more trouble motivating myself to write stuff on here than getting out among hills and there is a growing list of Trip Reports to Come too. What has happened is that procrastination has got in the way of my getting those additional outings shared and it gets worse as the list grows longer. In addition, an old bike of mine has found its way onto rollers in an effort to increase fitness and reduce flab. The former has been a success so far and the latter needs more in the way of effort so the bike trainer will not be left to gather dust like another road bike that I acquired in April but that was taken out on a short cycle between Macclesfield and Buxton yesterday.
The inspiration for this post though is an email that I unexpectedly received from the publisher and editor of a walking magazine that I thought was defunct: Walking World Ireland. My impressions led me to join Mountaineering Ireland to received its journal, Irish Mountain Log, as a substitute. However plans are afoot to get Walking World Ireland back on newsagent shelves again, albeit under a new guise of Mountain World Ireland. Here is the text of that email:
An apology and announcement to readers of Walking World Ireland
From November 28th:
Walking World Ireland will become Mountain World Ireland
As a subscriber to Walking World Ireland, you’ll have noticed that the magazine has not been published for almost a year now – since the 2014 Annual.
As editor and publisher I want to apologise sincerely for this. We value every reader very highly, and it was only after a prolonged period of business difficulties that the decision to suspend publication was made. Since that moment it has been my clear hope and intention to return WWI to the shelves as soon as possible.
The reason I’m contacting you today is to let you know that the magazine is indeed making a comeback. I’m delighted to be able to say that, and I hope it will also come as good news to you.
From next month, Walking World Ireland will resume publication as Mountain World Ireland. It’s a small change, reflecting a slight but exciting change in emphasis – largely the result of the countless conversations I’ve had with readers over recent months.
Mountain World Ireland will remain at its core a hillwalking magazine, celebrating, as ever, the beauty of Ireland’s mountain landscapes and the pleasures and challenges they offer. But more, it will celebrate the wider world of mountain sports – the people and activities that inspire us as lovers of high places.
I hope and trust that this rebirth will meet with your approval, and will continue to inform, entertain and inspire you as WWI did. I want to thank all of you for the patience you have shown, and for the many, many expressions of support we have received from readers and subscribers. I hope to hear from you again with any comments you may have on our future direction. Anything, in fact, that you have to say.
Finally, I want to assure all of you with unfulfilled subscriptions that we will honour all our outstanding commitments, and if you’re unsure where your subscription stands, do contact me at [email protected] or on +353 (0)86 805 4590.
Copyright © 2014 Mountain World Ireland, All rights reserved.
You are receiving this email because you have previously subscribed to Walking World Ireland
Our mailing address is:
Mountain World Ireland
10 Kickham Road
Some of the sentiments sound familiar so I will wait and see what becomes of these plans. An improving economic situation may help the new venture so I wish it well while intending to savour what is on offer. If anything, the WWI offer had gone a little repetitive so a refresh was needed anyway and a break often can make for a good reboot as has been seen with many a movie franchise. My Irish travel horizons may have been narrowed by life events over there in recent years but there may be a chance to do some explorations of my own yet.
As for the future of this outpost, I hope to get more trip reports shared and the summers of 2013 and 2014 came good enough to lure me out and about on welcome and much needed escapades. Usual haunts like the Scottish Highlands, the Lake District and the Peak District saw incursions along the Gower, Monmouthshire, Yorkshire and Northumberland. The perceived need for better photos drove quite a lot of these and the Lake District photo album is being rebuilt at the moment too. Also, there may have been visits to other places too and there are musings that I wish to mull over on here too once procrastination has been banished.