Outdoor Discoveries

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!

An Irish Year

25th December 2022

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.


15th December 2022

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.

Broad Scars, Malham, Yorkshire, England

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.

It takes time to write

14th December 2022

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.

Malham Cove, Malham, Yorkshire, England

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.

Why write?

8th December 2022

Over the last few weeks, it may have been that I found the act of writing a piece cathartic. Admittedly, it helps if you are recalling a different time, as I am doing on my transport website at the moment. Then, there are the things that I have been adding to my technology website as well.

There are plenty of reasons for needing an escape. It appears that life is full of industrial relations disputes at the moment, with rail, airport, postal and healthcare staff all being in dispute with their employers regarding pay increases and other working conditions. It also has been a change of commencing a dramatic changeover in my Irish business holdings. Because others are involved, that weighs on my mind too.

A few of the these mean that I am fatigued, so outdoor outings are less likely, and the weather has not been that promising either, even if it is sunny outside at the moment while others worry about heating and other costs of living. It all means that I am looking forward to an end of year break lasting several weeks that allows me to recharge myself. Like the last few years, this will be a staycation at home, with possible day outings that have not come to mind yet. Transport strikes will constrain getaways for me anyway.

There also is a long backlog of trip reports that I can add here as well. A lot of these convey my mind to different and happier times, which also helps. Some are pre-pandemic, while others take me to other parts of the world. After those, there are photos to add from recent trips to Ireland.

All this activity gets me away from the current times for a while, and allows any troubling feelings and thoughts to fade away. This kind of apparent escapism may be frowned upon in Buddhism, since it might take one away from full presence in the here and now, but mindfulness offers its own forms of refuge. Christianity has its refuges as well, and they are much needed right now. Brighter times will arrive; for now, we need to have patience and forbearance. Things need to flow; and a gentler flow of recollections is better than a torrent of worries.


7th July 2022

Recently, I began to look through my pipeline of trip reports that await completion, and one thought struck me. It seems that my outdoor outings are bedevilled by qualms following interactions with other people. That then means that I leave it a while for emotions to calm before writing full accounts. There is always some censoring that one can do, but it is the prospect of reliving an imperfect encounter that can hold up things, even if it should be the cathartic that moves one beyond the experience.

There are various kinds of these at work here, and the pandemic caused a few spells of awkwardness. One example was when there was a gate that was opened to me that I possibly should have helped to close, given that there was frisky livestock in that field and some overenthusiastic dogs. Fears of contracting infection overruled all of that, and also messed up the giving of directions at one point earlier this year. It also messed up interactions with others, one of whom then thought I was being standoffish and rude. When fear is used to get everyone to be careful, it takes time to move beyond it afterwards.

These things weigh on the mind of a sensitive and shy individual who does not want to have his fumbles on view to others. Getting disoriented on other people’s land is one of them, and it got me shouted at by someone on a quad bike quite a few years ago. People generally are helpful, though, but a lot can be read from a tone of voice. Even there being a loud barking dog next to a public right of way can be off-putting, leading one to think that it was kept there for a reason.

Conflict is one thing that I like to avoid as much as possible, though that can be trickier with multi-user areas and misuse of rights of way. During the pandemic, many off-road bike riders began to use public footpaths, and this led to something of a stand-off this past spring. While cyclists may want access to all public rights of way, there is something very liberating to use one where you do not have to think about being knocked over by someone else. It can be the case that off-road cycling becomes a menace to other outdoor enthusiasts and takes away a lot of the relaxation and enjoyment that should be offered.

While one should be fully present out of doors, there is the possibility of lapsing into daydreaming and then walking past someone who knows you. It becomes more difficult when neither of you have met for a while, and they recognise you without your recognising them. So, when you walk past them, then they might be offended by it. Sometimes, the passage of time might mean that both of you have changed so much that there is nothing much in common any more, so a conversation may not work anyway.

At the heart of all this essentially is fear, mainly that of upsetting others. Clearly, no one gets it right all the time, so there is a need to accept what happens and to let go of any worries that arise. It not only can delay writing trip reports, but it also can forestall outings if not kept in check. Still, there is a positive energy in all of this because it can motivate one to go to quieter places so that solitude can work its restorative magic.