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!
There is a saying or proverb in the Irish language that becomes the following when translated into English: the sandpiper cannot attend to two beaches. This and other pieces of wisdom are to be found in The Little Book of Celtic Mindfulness. In fact, the title likely is a misnomer, at least to me, for wisdom fits the contents better than mindfulness, though the greater fashionability of the latter possibly won out in this case.
As someone who has divided his life between different places for so long, the phrase with which I open this piece resonates more easily with me. With family remaining in Ireland and work taking me to the U.K., there always has been a sense of there being different shores. Add explorations across two different continents to the mix, and you very easily can end up without a sense of permanent abode.
Maybe that is one meaning of the Christian wisdom about gaining the world only to lose one’s soul, even if the idea of pilgrimage is baked into that tradition as well. Sometimes, too much application of logic and reason to the ways of life can show you that nothing retains self-consistency, no matter how hard you try.
There is something ongoing in my life at the moment that reinforces the opening point. It causes me to remain focussed on that, so I cannot go further afield, Nevertheless, there remain opportunities for wandering that I can take, and their descriptions may follow at another time. Whenever the weather offers, my body goes wandering too.
Thinking back to last year, my wandering took me to Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Channel Islands, France and California. This is quite unlike the pandemic years that grounded me in my local area, allowing for many deeper explorations. That is being rested these days when I can see other parts. North America remains tempting, as does seeing more of Scotland. Other places may feature yet because life’s plans cannot be set in the stone. The explorations continue.
A matter in Ireland weighed heavily on my mind for longer than expected until its recent completion. There are others to follow, but I hope that their execution will not prove to be so injurious to my emotions. There is more letting go to be done before burdens are relinquished.
None of that helped with my taking advantage of any fleeting episodes of dry, sunny weather that came our way since the start of the year. That there were a lot of grey, outcast days too meant that I never got to feeling too badly about what was left to pass. It is all very unlike this time last year when I embarked on a Pennine walking project in and around Marsden.
None of this stopped me from refining some of the content that got on here, though. Photos got enlarged, many posts had their writing improved, and some early redundant posts were removed. The photo overhaul took quite a lot of time since there are so many of them, even if it also was an automation project of sorts.
Now, I am starting to think ahead a bit more as the rain falls outside the window. Easter is coming, so my mind starts to ponder possibilities for a much-needed getaway, and there may be time for another one in May. Those aforementioned matters will take me to Ireland again and again, so that might add more walking opportunities too. It feels a bit premature to start thinking of trips to other parts of the world yet, but that cannot be discounted either.
Changes that I am making to matters in Ireland were the cause of my spending a lot of time there this past year. That also meant that I really got to see more of the place than ever before. That was just as well for two reasons. One is that my explorations of Irish hill country have been more limited than I fancied. The other is that the pandemic had grounded me for 2020 and 2021. Being over there a lot allowed me to get more courageous again. There is further to go, but this start was useful compared to where I was earlier in the year.
The nerves applied during various trots starting and ending in Marsden during the spring, so some movement was needed. A day trip to Dublin got me started on flying again. After that, there was a hotel stay in Limerick that allowed me to sample the delights of Adare, the Limerick Greenway, the Lough Derg Way, the Slieve Felim Mountains, Killarney and around Lough Derg. Much of this was in unexpected sunshine, and some was inspired by what I saw from my hotel room as well.
A getaway from jubilee celebrations returned my Ireland. This time, my base was Tralee and I got some wet weather as well. Even so, any sunny interludes got used when other matters allowed. A hike along the Dingle Way from Tralee to Camp was one such beneficiary, as was a circular walk featuring Dingle and Ventry. An amble along part of the North Kerry Way also saw dry weather before something inclement arrived in for the evening time. That affected a second trip to Killarney as much as the presence of a bikers’ festival in the town. The weather also affected a hike from Dingle to Anascaul that might have seen me wander up to the Conor Pass if there were better views up there.
The Lake District got some attention for the first time in some years as well. One trip featured both Lingmoor Fell and Loughrigg Fell on a walk that attended to a photographic need as much as using up an idea that had lain in my mind for a few years. That was followed by a reprise of the Fairfield horseshoe, along with an ascent of Helvellyn. All of these enjoyed warm sunshine that allowed many photos to be made.
The same could be said for the major holiday trip of the year, for that took me to Ireland again. Killarney and Cork were the bases for this one. The former allowed me to frequent parts that I had not surveyed for nearly thirty years. There was one all-day stroll that took me around Knockreer Park, Ross Island and Muckross Lake. This was followed by a hike from Kenmare to Killarney that used past of the Kerry Way, with a diversion to the top of Torc Mountain. The Kerry Way also had a part to play in a serendipitous walk that took in the Gap of Dunloe, the Black Valley and the Upper Lake. These were followed by trips to Bantry, Whiddy Island, the Knockmealdown Mountains, Kinsale and Cobh as the weather continued to warm.
There was a return to Scotland too, though luck with the weather was such that a return trip is in mind. Staying in Stirling again would allow the Ochil Hills and Ben Ledi to be revisited. That awaits longer hours of daylight and a favourable weather window. The two trips that I have had already whetted my appetite for a part of Scotland that I either overlooked or surveyed twenty years before.
There was one trip to the Welsh hills too. This took me to the Ogwen Valley for a dramatic day that saw me go over Glyder Fach and Glyder Fawr. Eroded slopes were the cause of some adverse comment, but this was a warm, sunny day that offered much. Any plans for descending to Pen y Pass and Llanberis were rejected for time and transportation reasons. Assessing one’s progress often needs a change of route, not that it mattered in this case.
The last Irish trip did not allow more hill wanderings. Time was short, the weather was unfavourable, and other matters needed attention anyway. It was not as if a lot of satisfaction had been given, so I was not put off by this. The temptation might have been unwanted anyway.
The rest of the year saw me grow increasing tired, mostly because of lack of progress with the things that I need to get done. They are spilling into 2023, but that is another year. It remains to be seen how that will go, but trips to Galway and Clare as well as other parts of Europe and North America entice. Only time will tell how things proceed.
It is amazing how a matter can play on your mind and weigh you down. There has been one of those pressing on me over the last few weeks. Thankfully, I have found a way of moving things along that sets the scene for the start of 2023. All are happy, which is the main thing.
The same thing cannot be said for all the strikes that are happening at the moment. It feels as if everyone is on strike and that this is the new winter of discontent. The weather probably is not helping moods either, but the main reason is the state of the economy right now. Christmas is set to see transport, healthcare and postal industrial actions. Quite why they are not giving everyone else some respite astonishes me.
Maybe it is a certain lack of progress. That is how it feels with one matter that I have ongoing; a tradesman is failing to complete things for me, and this is not leaving things in a great state. The time of year is not helping either, and there is always the way that the end of a year feels like a deadline.
All of this means that walking trips have not happened since the second Scottish outing happened in September. The cause is preoccupation rather than lethargy, which also can strike at this time of year. It all has caused fatigue too, so I am hoping for a restful Christmas break where I can recharge myself.
There were ambitions for a mid-winter getaway, but these have been shelved. There was such a trip to Mallorca in 2016, and I had not realised how worn out I must have been. The pandemic has made me more self-aware, so that helps. What once might have been attributed to colds and flu now get seen as fatigue, and I heed the signs accordingly.
Before I decided against them, I was looking at the possibility of spending some time in either the Azores or Madeira. Air fares were expensive and flights from Manchester were not that frequent either. Going elsewhere might have got me away from a general state of depression, only for other preoccupations to thwart this. With all the strikes, that probably is just as well.
2023 may not be the year of possibility that 2022 was, but it still offers a fresh start. Only time will tell what that means. The current state of affairs surely cannot be sustained, and we all need a lift. Let’s see what comes.
The last few weeks have seen a spurt of writing on my part. On here, that has manifested itself as an effort on catching up with the writing of trip reports. So far, I have been getting them done for 2018, but there may not be as many for 2019 as I might have feared. After those, we are into 2020 and pandemic times. The passage of time may mean that those will not feel as raw as they otherwise might have done. 2021 seems to have been a walking gap year in many respects, so my next move would be to write up the outings for 2022.
With all of these, it is not the actual writing that takes time, but the choosing and processing of any photos. With digital capture, it is very possible to make many images, only for choosing between them to become difficult. Even with using Adobe Lightroom, this is quite a task. Once decisions are made, the actual processing does not take that long, especially since I do not go overboard on tweaking photos and there is ever advancing automation that helps as well.
Still, the selection process does bring its own rewards because it reminds me of what I experienced out on the hike in question. That helps with doing the writing afterwards as much as taking my mind away from all the doom and gloom that pervades us at the moment. As much as having too many photos can be frustrating, they undoubtedly act as an aide de mémoire when there is a lag of some years between hiking and writing.
Thankfully, the whole process is cathartic as well. Otherwise, it might become a chore that one wishes to avoid. Maybe, that is partly why the backlog has resulted. There are other reasons too, such as the rawness of looking back during lockdowns. It is easier to recall freedom when you still have some than when your movements of restricted. That is how it is now, so the therapeutic side can win.