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: Travel

Curtailed adventuring

Thursday, August 19th, 2021

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.

Virtually goes it

Saturday, August 22nd, 2020

Many events are becoming virtual these days. My first notice of the ongoing trend was with business conferences in my line of business but it has not stopped there. As it happens, the pandemic means that large gatherings of people are not the wisest right now so this is perhaps less of a surprise. That last point had me questioning the sense of even delaying events like the Photography Show for six months but even that is going virtual next month as well. This is a trend that applies to both business and lesiure.

After all, Wanderlust have a YouTube channel with recordings of a few of these collected. Some are recordings of live events from before the start of the current pandemic but others like Incredible Iceland or Uncover Guyana are entirely virtual affairs. In fact, I got to join the two events that I have mentioned and would not have got to them if in-person attendance was a must because they often have been held in London.

That last point has not gone unnoticed by organisers either. Regardless of the professional or leisure character of the subjects being covered, attendances are higher with more joining from different parts of the world. The ongoing pandemic may be keeping us apart in some ways but it is bringing us together in others.

There also is the matter of travelling virtually as well. This year, I might have hoped to get to Colorado but that became totally unrealisable and that reality even applies to the matter of getting to and from Ireland too. Normally, I should have gone to my home country at least twice by now and there should be two more before the year is out. 2021 looks more feasible now and it is hard to say how that might go at this stage. Given that, it is little wonder that services like Trek Ireland are turning up for those of us restricted to armchair explorations.

In my case, those home-based global explorations have cause me to survey Backpacker’s Get Out More TV on their own YouTube channel. It is true that these feature a lot of product placement as well as segments from outdoor retailers but keeping our attention on a hiking film possibly demands a lot of patience anyway. Still, they do show something of the areas that each episode showcases so that probably will be enough to get me watching more than the first three episodes that I have seen so far.

From north to north

Saturday, June 27th, 2020

As a western European with a liking for cool temperate conditions, the sweltering temperatures we got on Wednesday and Thursday did not suit me so much and hot nights did my sleep little favours. One saving grace is that these did not stay around that long and today though is cooler if rainier. It would be better to have it dry too but I will more than make do with lower temperatures.

One thing that strikes me is my wanderings often take me northwards. Scotland was a favoured haven for many years and Scandinavia also retains my favour. Of course, we cannot travel so far at the moment and Swedes are even more restricted given their management of the pandemic. In any event, it is either Norway, Iceland or even the Faroe Islands that would lure me their way.

All of that is for the future right now so I am sating my wanderlust through my reading. This often takes me north and that especially has been the case with Gavin Francis’ True North, Malachy Tallack’s 60 Degrees North and Peter Davidson’s The Idea of North. The first of these featured much of Scandinavian Sagas with the second being much more like a journey of personal discovery.

The last of the three is even more literary than the others and conflates British thinking on the north along with that in other more obvious places around Europe, North America and Asia. To me, it feels like a bifurcation even if some British authors and painters did venture to Iceland and Greenland themselves. It may be that the point happens to be that there is no universal feeling towards the northern reaches of our planet.

After all, it might be that what draws me north sends others south and that could apply to reading choices like anything else. As it happens, there is quite a canon of northern reading in my e-book collection. The list also includes Barry Lopez’s Arctic Dreams, John McPhee’s Coming into the Country and Sara Wheeler’s The Magnetic North. It may be that the spareness of the empty landscapes is what allows the creation of more meticulous prose or that the stories are about how insignificant humankind is in such places and is that which draws me. After all, my idea of a good walk is one that includes plenty of solitude.

A growing collection of Scottish could be added here too but for there then being too many lists in one blog entry. Still, there might be something to the explanation being the attraction of emptier lands. Nevertheless, many account feature stories of people too so there may be the sort of tension in my reading that Peter Davidson includes in The Idea of North.

When I went checking to ensure there was no title repetition, I met up with a post from 2014 written after I completed Paul Morely’s The North. That was a peopled tome and included England’s north-west that I read largely on buses and trains during a testing bunch of years when family bereavements turned over my life. Reading my own words now feels a bit like reading those written by another author. All it took was the passing of a few years to do the separation.

We all are going through testing times at the moment so you only can dream of long distance travel even if you see airlines restarting some of their routes. Until I go from north to north in reality, there could be more virtual travelling via accounts written by others. Some will be adventurous enough to start roaming soon enough but I reckon that it is better to see what their experiences are before doing the same myself. The pandemic journey is not over quite yet.

Pondering time’s passing

Saturday, June 6th, 2020

Earlier this year, I spent a stretch of time perusing guidebooks while pondering and plotting a summertime North Atlantic escapade. U.S. states like Montana, Wyoming, Washington, Oregon and Colorado all came within the scope of this armchair knowledge gathering. Of the lot, it was going to be Colorado that was getting my nod for a July 2020 excursion with Denver and Boulder offering themselves as likely basis. Of course, the arrival of a global pandemic has eliminated the possibility of any such thinking becoming reality for this year but ideas remain live in spite of this so another year may offer and I now need to wait for that.

Another guidebook for Colorado may await and there are others for California and Ontario too but guidebook reading has been parked for now even if continue to get through a backlog of travel magazines. After all, there now is plenty of time to get back to it again. In the meantime, I have returned to other nature and travel books. The planet’s northern reaches have become part of this with Malachy Tallack’s 60 Degrees North and Gavin Francis’ True North having been completed and I am now in the middle of Peter Davidson’s The Idea of North before going on to Barry Lopez’s Horizon. The time feels right for reading these since guidebook reading for me involving website address gathering and I just want something engrossing that will help to relax me in these testing times.

In parallel, outdoor reading in local parks during the now departed spell of warm sunny weather saw me complete Edward Thomas’ Icknield Way before making a start on his In Pursuit of Spring. The first of these documented a journey on foot trying to retrace the route  of the eponymous long distance thoroughfare while the second describes a journey by bicycle from London to the Quantock Hills in Somerset. If anything, the latter happens to be the more readable of the two and I intend to get it completed even if warm sunny weather does not return to us all that soon.

The reason for the title has nothing to do with the forestalling of trips away by current necessary travel restrictions though. It was caused by my listening to a program hosted by Don Letts on BBC Radio 6 Music last Sunday night in an effort to curtail restlessness at bedtime last Sunday night. What occurred to me then was the passage of recent decades and the way that I have not caught up in some ways.

This matter brings up the subject of music and that is not customary for this blog. It reminds me of how the 1960’s felt to me in previous decades. During my childhood, it was a mere 20 years before and figures like Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger and David Bowie were active as part of what felt to me like an afterglow of that decade. This was before the revival of interest in music from the same decade during the 1990’s when it was just 30 years before. Now that the last decade of the last century itself is pushing on for being 30 years ago and it was the decade when I began to find my feet in life, the 1960’s feel even more distance and that realisation gave me something of a shock when it hit me.

An upshot of all this is the added need to collect new experiences as restrictions are lifted. Such is our current situation that I will not be in the vanguard of wider travel and that especially is the case given my dependence on public transport. Nevertheless, those expanded horizons discussed at the start of this entry again begin to loom larger after other places nearer to hand are revisited before them. These will be in Britain first before other European destinations around Scandinavia or in the Alps get tested first. There may be a need to do these in a new way, not only because of our changed world but also because of my changed perspective. More time may allow me to further develop what that might mean.

A November day spent around Ladybower Reservoir

Tuesday, May 26th, 2020

If it not for other intrusions, there could have been many of account from previous years making their appearances on here in an effort to clear a backlog. Some even might have thought it a retrospective like what Cairngorm Wanderer is doing but that would be the wrong impression. Other missives might have share sunny moments from those previously limited opportunities for outdoor exercise like what Tarmachan Mountaineering has been doing. Alas, the worries of the moment overwhelmed me so it only is now that I am getting to flesh out this post for your perusal.

Thankfully, things are looking up a little now and the Spring Bank Holiday weekend saw me finding emptier corners for solitary relaxation. As you would expected, they turned up in some lesser frequented spots like around Pott Shrigley, Rainow, Higher Sutton, Bosley and North Rode. Each did me the world of good and there was no need to deal with human encounters given the added alertness required of the time in which we find ourselves.

Back in November 2017, none of this could be foreseen and my task then was to recuperate and recharge after a stressful few years that life had sent me. When opportunities arose, I got out then and found quieter spots but encounters with humanity had none of the edge that they do nowadays. The stroll described here had an immediate forebear and shared with it echoes of my early efforts at hill wandering. That came from my first ever encounter with Ladybower Reservoir being on Holy Saturday in 2002 and this hike allowed plenty of time to admire that attractively placed body of water.

Returning to Easter 2002, the whole weekend had me spending a lot of time in the Peak District. It started on Holy Thursday when I tried out the Doctor’s Gate Footpath and a little part of the Pennine Way before returning to Glossop. Good Friday then was spent around Glossop and nearby Hadfield with a first visit to Longdendale, a place which appealed me in spite of the electricity pylons. Though the collection of reservoirs hardly were so intrusive, I was left wondering how it might have appeared before they were built and any appearances have done nothing to forestall return visits.

Ladybower Dam, Yorkshire Bridge, Derbyshire, England

Though it similarly is a piece of human landscape engineering, that thought about wildness in Longedendale never really enters my mind when it comes to Ladybower Reservoir. The more natural appearance of the setting might have something to do with it and the absence of electricity pylons has to help as much as sights of steep-sided valleys with fingers of water reaching into them. At least, that is how it always seems to me whenever I think of this area and the photos accompanying this piece of writing may confirm that.

In many ways, the hike from November 2017 that is described here also reprised parts of a journey taken on a damp autumn day in another of the early years of this century. Then, the day improved as I continued all of the way Edale but the 2017 counterpart had no such need as it remained sunny all the way until sunset.

Looking west along Woodlands Valley, Hope, Derbyshire, England

Crook Hill, Ashopton, Derbyshire, England

Ashopton Viaduct, Ashopton, Derbyshire, England

Wheel Stones, Ashopton, Derbyshire, England

Both walks, though separated by more than a decade, took a similar course: on arriving at Hope train station, I started to make my way towards Win Hill. It may have been a place that I have visited on numerous but every time has been different. Such is the spread of seasons and variability of weather than it is difficult if not impossible to see it and its surroundings in the same kind of light more than once.

This time, my chosen route took me past Ryecroft and Thornhill Carrs on a variety of footpaths chosen to reach the top of Win Hill from the east. As I went over the top, the views all around and below me looked resplendent in the autumn sunshine. That I was not stopped in my track by the sights would be a surprise except that I had a circuit in mind before nightfall so that kept me moving but the scenery was much enjoyed too and the portfolio included views over Bamford and Yorkshire Bridge towards Stanage Edge as well as what you see above.

View east from Wooler Knoll, Hope, Derbyshire, England

Crookstone Out Moor, Edale, Derbyshire, England

Once over the summit, I dropped down to Hope Cross after which I started my descent to reach the River Ashop in the Woodlands Valley. From there, I continued to Ladybower Dam while enjoying the fading light of day and with my legs feeling less energetic than might have been desired. There was nothing for the task but keep going up and down as the track shadowed the shoreline. Along the way, a farmer was out to see his livestock while my journey continued.

At the dam, curiosity overcame any physical fatigue to see where the northern end of the Derwent Valley Heritage Way was to be found before retracing my steps and following it as far as the A6187. All the while, daylight faded to darkness and my head torch was used not only for navigating the gloaming but also the dark of night with a field being negotiated without rancour or error.

That added challenge may have cost me time on the way to Bamford train station though and I missed a train departure by a mere minute. The next day came sunny too as if niggles come in pairs. However, the fact that I had enjoyed a superb day out was more than enough recompense for any forgettable irritations.

Travel Commentary

A day when the railways faced major disruptions hardly was one to travel from Macclesfield to Hope for a walk in the Dark Peak but no one was to know ahead of time and it did not delay my arrival in any event. As it happened, the journey home was slightly blighted by my missing a train at Bamford by less than a minute. That forced a wait of an hour me and getting back to Macclesfield from Manchester also was complicated by disruption elsewhere in the rail network. Even so, rail travel travails on that day have done nothing to deter me from trying again; these things ebb and flow.