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!
Around the Spring Bank Holiday weekend, I made a Scottish Highlands return. Due to intrusions of life and escapades that convey me to foreign shores, I have not frequented a part of the world that I continue to admire as much as I once did, and there is much more to savour.
The reminders come from my dipping in and out of Seton Gordon’s Scotland, a compilation of selected writings from the selected author of some renown, made by Hamish Brown. This follows my devouring of Seton Gordon’s Cairngorms while flying from London to San Francisco last month. That followed much the same format and also involved Hamish Brown.
In truth, I often think of the West Highlands as being the epitome of the Scottish Highlands, though the most recent incursions have used Stirling and Aviemore as bases. The latter of these was where I headed for this year’s visit, partly because hotels in Stirling were fully booked and that possibly was caused by a Harry Styles concert in Edinburgh. The Cairngorms return was a welcome one in any event.
2009 and 2010 was when I last was there, so my going back was long overdue. Then, hostelling became my choice of accommodation, but the latest trip saw me ensconced in a hotel for greater privacy. In many ways, the ground covered in May overlapped with those earlier incursions.
There was an ascent of Bynack More, made in blustery conditions that briefly brought some light rain. This lay in my mind since 2010, and it felt not before time when I did it. This also is my first Munro; it was its relative accessibility that initially put the idea into my head and not the fact that I stayed in a dorm of the same name in Glenmore hostel. The day improved during my walk, and I might have liked lingering around Loch Morlich but for my feeling worn after my exertions.
That was resolved by going back there and returning to Aviemore on foot to take in both Rothiemurchus and Loch an Eilean, though any sunshine was made hazy by a thin cloud covering. There was a reprise on the next day, while walking from Nethy Bridge to Aviemore under clear skies and in warm sunshine. Other haunts like Ryvoan Bothy were passed on my hike and there were ample opportunities for photography too. What I could have done without was a tumble that ripped my trousers that cast a shadow over the rest of my wandering.
That mishap and its aftermath feels brief now and I might have fancied staying longer given the continued sunny weather. The trousers were replaced anyway, and any scuffs that I had suffered were well bandaged. However, the size of the Cairngorms began to enter my thoughts enough for me to consider hiring a bike for future off-road wanderings. Cycling would make a good way to reach Loch Einich, for instance.
Craigellachie National Nature Reserve was not ignored either, especially given its proximity. Now that I think of it, there were four incursions. The lochans are best savoured in the morning light while going above the tree line in the evening time grants you views east towards the Cairngorms and south along Strathspey. This is a wee place that offers so much.
Further Highland returns are possible. Seeing Ben Ledi in wonderful sunshine remains an unfinished business, as does reprising parts of the West Highland Way north of Bridge of Orchy to get better photos. The more adventurous prospect of a short backpacking trip from Taynuilt to Glencoe or Kinlochleven has entered my mind too. What went from being a place to explore to becoming a refuge from life’s woes now becomes somewhere to experience again and anew.
Last month, I made a return to North America after an absence of nearly four years. There might have been a trip to Colorado in 2020 only for the pandemic but I chose the San Francisco Bay Area as a follow-up to my time in British Columbia.
This time around, it was hiking around the Bay Area that provided the main lure. San Francisco itself is often beset by fog during the summer because of climatic conditions, but there are clear spells too. The meeting of cooler oceanic air with hotter continental air is the cause of this, and that cooler air also makes the city much cooler than other surrounding areas too.
For photography, that means that you need to take your chances when you get them. My first evening there was a cloudy affair as was the next day, apart from a break in the cloud cover during the morning time. The return of cloud cover did little to help photographic efforts around Golden Gate Park, Land’s End, Bake Beach, Marshall’s Beach, Golden Gate and Crissy Field. There was a lot of fog obscuring the Golden Gate Bridge and Marin Headlands too. A partial reprise a few days later benefitted from an afternoon break in cloud cover to provide some impressive lighting at times.
Before that though, I went to Angel Island State Park where some unusual weather was seen. There was an odd juxtaposition of fog and low cloud along with hot strong sunshine. The latter won out much of the time and I got to see many little lizards scurrying about the place on a hike that took in Mount Livermore as I went around the island. On my return to the mainland, I was drawn back to Crissy Field and the Golden Gate Bridge by way of the Embarcadero and Fisherman’s Wharfe. There were rewards for this reprisal and I tried out a bus on the way back to the city too.
That reconnaissance came in handy for a trip to Muir Woods National Monument since the journey to Sausalito used the services of the same bus company. Once there, a pre-booked shuttle conveyed me to the National Monument where I spent most of the day. The shade of the tree cover provided some respite from the intense warm sunshine. On the way back from Sausalito, I got a good sighting of the Golden Gate Bridge that encouraged me to walk over and back across it to get some pleasing photos. A mistake with a bus made the return to my lodgings a lot longer, but no harm was done. That misstep was to have its uses for someone else during the following weekend.
Point Reyes National Seashore was my target for the next day, though it might have been better to head to Stinson Beach instead since the weekend bus timings were better for that location. Nevertheless, I enjoyed a shaded hike around Mount Wittenberg and returned to San Francisco at the time that I had planned. Since this was my first time there, I did not overstay to avoid problems with transportation.
Two days later, it was the turn of Stinson Beach and Mount Tamalpais State Park. If this had been a weekend venture, there might have been a circular hike taking in more of the Matt Davis Trail. However, I was sated with the ascent that took me along part of the Dipsea Trail and the Steep Ravine Trail, though the segment of the Matt Davis Trail that I briefly sampled more than intrigued me so it pained me to turn back. That was to catch the last bus of the day to Sausalito, which met with the ferry to San Francisco despite a need to attend to a poorly man at the side of the road on the way. That ferry boat’s close passage by Alcatraz was my closest approach to the iconic location of my trip, and I feel no need to have got any nearer.
Souvenir hunting had its effect on my choices too. For one thing, it drew back to Point Reyes National Seashore for another hike. This time, I headed towards the coast on the Bear Valley Trail before making a loop at the end using the Glen Trail and the Coastal Trail. That gained me expansive views up and down the coast before returning to the Bear Valley Trail near Arch Rock. There was a lot of tree-shaded hiking too, which was just as well given the heat of the day. Getting back to the visitor centre early meant that I could go back to San Rafael on an earlier bus. From there, I went around by El Cerrito to gain some inspiration for a visit to the East Bay Parks.
Before that, I headed to Sausalito for another souvenir and then to San Francisco City Hall once the sky had cleared. From there, it was back to El Cerrito where I made my way to Wildcat Canyon Regional Park. Though there were possibilities for gaining more height, I eschewed these because my legs felt less strong after all my exploits. My passage took me through Tilden Nature Park and then to Tilden Regional Park. After that, I descended to North Berkley, from where I went to Daly City to see if I could reach Mount San Bruno State Park. Fog halted that exploit so I returned to my lodgings, not displeased at being halted. Much had been gained and I flew home the next day without any regrets.
In Britain, last year saw a public jubilee being celebrated though I took no part in that. This year marks some private ones of my own, but it is the silver jubilee of my own shamblings on the World Wide Web that I have in mind here. Things have come a long way since those tentative steps on the now defunct Geocities. In the meantime, my interests in technology and transportation have found other homes to leave what you find here.
In the dying years of the last century, explorations of the sort that you find shared here only could be a pipe dream. Even photographic efforts were only tentative and involved a compact camera. SLR’s and hillwalking all lay in the future. Explorations of English, Scottish, Welsh and Manx countryside could come only because of what I earned from a working life. These needed time to make them happen too and clement weather to make the experiences desirable.
It is only within the last ten years that I could have entertained notions of international travel that has taken me to various parts of Iceland, Switzerland, Austria, Norway, Sweden, Spain, Canada and France. Even a return to the Channel Islands to follow up on a school trip only happened this year. In the next few weeks, I hope to embark on another international escapade, the details of which I will share later.
The wanderings continue and photos keep coming. Since Easter, there have trips to Ireland, northwest Wales and highland Scotland. The last of these saw me spend some time around Aviemore taking Craigellachie National Nature Reserve, the top of Bynack Mór, Loch Morlich and Rothiemurchus. A tumble may have ruined a pair of trousers but it pained me to leave the place with a week of sunny weather in train. The Welsh trip had no such drama and featured the top of Y Garn near the Ogwen Valley on a day of gathering heat.
The weather on the Irish trip was mixed, yet there were a few highlights that avoided the razzmatazz surrounding a coronation. A walk from Newcastle West to Abbeyfeale along the Limerick Greenway convinced me that it is best enjoyed as a cycling route. That exertion may have left me feeling the worst for wear, but that did not stop me heading to Clonmel for a circular hike taking in part of the Comeragh Mountains as well as a walk by the River Suir.
The threat of rain did not stop me spending a few hours around Ballybunion or Galway. There was a soaking at the former after a stroll along the Long Strand and a cliff top walk. That was while I was awaiting the bus back to Limerick and I dried on the way back. The day improved in Galway and I got no wetting around Salthill, it somewhat pained me to leave sunny Eyre Square to return from there. Return visits to either place cannot be discounted, even though I have been scathing about the first of these; my parent’s chosen form of enjoyment was not mine, I need to say.
Stories of all the journeying over the decades would have stunned a young university student all those years ago, and there may be more yet. New locations continue to beckon to me and old ones entice return visits. More of those may await and inspire more writing on here afterwards.
After my trip to Ireland in March, I noted how much good it did me and started pondering an Easter getaway to further the improvement. After surveying possibilities and rejecting a few because of the predicted inclement weather, I decided to base myself in Jersey instead.
For the sake of speed, I flew there and back to enjoy a week-long stay. St. Helier was where I based myself and a good bus network got me where I wanted to go. After that, ferry services allowed day trips to Saint-Malo and to Guernsey. What was not so convenient were some of the timings with an early morning arrival from Manchester along with early morning sea and air departures. The departures particularly meant that breakfast was skipped on some mornings in favour of getting something on the way.
Arriving early on Wednesday did mean a day of exploring though and it was possible to check in early at the hotel too. A stroll across the beach took me to St. Aubin, from where I ventured to Noirmont and wandered around its German gun emplacements. Sunshine was in short supply when I began this and cloud cover grew all the while with rain encroaching on the way back to st. Helier with the tide having come in while I was in Noirmont. It moves fast on these islands and covers a large area as it does so.
Thursday saw me head to L’Étacq, from where I was to walk all the day to Rozel in bright sunshine. Along the way, I passed Grosnez Castle, Plémont, Greve de Lecq, Bonne Nuit and Bouley Bay. After Greve de Lecq, there was an inland detour before the coast was reached again near the Devil’s Hole. A motorsport track meant another slight detour later on, but this was no deprival. There was plenty of dramatic coastal scenery to savour on what was the longest hike of the trip, and all the ups and downs made for tired legs too.
Friday became a day composed of shorter trips. The first was to La Corbière, whose dramatically sited lighthouse grabbed my attention while passing on the bus the previous morning. Next was Noirmont again, this time in bright sunshine so better photos could be made before strolling back to St. Helier across the beach. After that, there was an evening visit to Gorey to see and photograph Mont Orgueil Castle. That was a short stay but it was still long enough for the tide to come in to its full extent.
For Saturday, I went to Saint-Malo to retrace old steps from a school trip longer ago than I care to admit. The old town looked stunning as ever despite being festooned with a crane. Most of my time was spent beach hiking as far as Pointe de la Varde. The sun beat down on me as I did so and it felt unseasonably warm to me too. On the way back, I followed the GR34 and along a promenade much traipsed in that August numerous years ago. There was a brief call to Centre Patrick Varangot where we stayed back then. The hostel had not changed much apart from the sports facilities in front of it. Being there and spotting the hypermarché where midday lunches were sourced brought back some memories before I returned to the coast again. That was a quieter interlude before I ventured among others again, and especially so around the old town, which was very busy. Fancying somewhere quieter, I went out along Môle des Noires, a breakwater with a lighthouse at its end. By this time, I felt tired so I returned to the ferry terminal even though it was a bit early. It had been a good wander anyway.
On Sunday, the skies grew cloudier, but there was ample time for photographic wandering around St. Helier. That was followed by a saunter from Rozel to Gorey past St. Catherine’s under clouded skies. That may have limited photographic activity yet it was still a good stroll and finding a good vantage point for viewing Mont Orgueil Castle in the wrong weather was no perturbation.
Rain made a visit on Sunday night but I still went to Guernsey, perhaps with more hope than expectation. The weather improved as the day wore on, so there were plenty of dry interludes and occasional sunshine too. My wandering took me out of St. Peter Port, past Fermain Bay and as far as St. Martin’s Point before retracing my steps with some unintended deviations. There were views of nearby Herm and Sark to complement what was on Guernsey itself. There was a motorsport event at St. Peter Port so I was happy to get away from that, and there was plenty of peace and quiet away from that. While I might have fancied a visit to Castle Cornet, I thought it to be best to be at the ferry terminal in plenty of time with a deliberate detour through the town centre.
Tuesday morning was the drier part of the day and desire for a sighting of Jersey cows sent me out to St. John. That errand duly satisfied, I then made my way to the Waterworks Valley, through which I headed to First Tower on the island’s south coast. That was a rewarding hike and would benefit from a sun-blessed return, yet I did not feel short-changed. A stroll along the promenade by the beach returned me to St. Helier before the rain got too heavy and I was back in my hotel relaxing before my early departure the next day.
The whole trip had been very rewarding, and whets an appetite for a longer visit to Guernsey and perhaps Brittany. Only time will tell what becomes of such prospects with what else there is in my life. There was much gained in any event.
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.