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.

A year when an unwanted adventure arrived

December 31st, 2020

We live in a time when all sorts of activities are being sold as adventures. Even a day hike falls into scope for this yet I do not need such branding to make me take advantage of such a possibility. A day with good weather spent in the midst of hill country or along a scenic coastline will do the job for me equally as well. In fact, it has been sufficient sufficient for longer than I care to recall.

2020 has been full of those in spite of the threat that it brought our way. They may have been near home for much of the time so it is just as well that I can walk into nearby hills from the front door of my own house. Long circuits taking in Shining Tor, Cheshire’s county top, along with Croker Hill, Bosley Reservoir and a host of other nearby landmarks saw me begin a summer of longer walks.

Some took me back home from a starting point reached by public transport. These included such places as Buxton, Knutsford, Disley and Whaley Bridge with the second entry on that list being the longest of the lot. The weather was mainly fair too apart from the occasional wetting.

Getting a little braver took me a little further afield. For instance, there were tow long hikes between Leek and Buxton, something that lay in my ideas shelf for far too long. Day trips to Church Stretton in Shropshire and Llandudno in Conway became the limits of my perambulations for the year before a cold weather walk from Hayfield to Chapel-en-le-Frith bookended things and an autumn of lockdown, less enticing weather and an indoor learning project became my lot.

Still, good memories got made in spite of the pandemic and these even included visits to Sheffield that I am not enthused about doing at the timing of writing these words. The hills may have been smaller but the wandering got me away from humanity even if more found their local countryside this year than ever before.

While 2021 lies ahead of us, it is difficult to plan ahead right now. There has been an upsurge in the number of cases of COVID that needs to abate and it does feel that vaccination cannot happen fast enough. This may may the darkest hour before a new dawn but I plan to get to a brighter future before making too many plans.

Of course, we still can dream. This time last year, I was pondering which part of the U.S. to visit  during the summer months. After reading about the states of Washington, Oregon, Wyoming , Montana, Colorado, I settled on the last of these and that remains on the ideas shelf. The Azores are found on there as is the possibility of Madeira and locations nearer home appeal too.

Webinars from Wanderlust as well as the Adventure Travel Festival all fuelled my imagination though dreams of round the world motorcycle or walking trips remain out of the question. It remains good to hear the stories of other explorers’ exploits though and they help to brighten what has been a dark time for many of us.

My book reading continues in much the same vein as I sit out the necessary period of time that is needed for things to settle again. Patience is much required by those of us able to stay safe while we think of those not in such a fortunate position. Adventures can take their toll and this one certainly has so we only can await the prospect of happier ones should they come out way.

Welly walking

December 30th, 2020

Things have been quiet on here since October but life has been busy for me too. Perhaps, that may be a lot of the cause for the online absence. During times of running in and out of pandemic lockdowns, I have a had a technical project to keep me busy: learning a new scripting language that could have a use in my line of work.

Boardwalk at Dane's Moss Nature Reserve, Macclesfield, Cheshire, England

In some ways, that helped with getting through the autumn and early winter periods but I now realise that I could have done with more exercise even if that means encountering more people during risky times. Over the Christmas period, there have been more walks and so sodden and muddy is the landscape that I have been using wellington boots more than I otherwise would. For one thing, they certainly help to keep leg-wear cleaner and drier.

Having the extra cushioning of dedicated walking footwear on my now exclusively local strolls would bring more comfort but wellington boots have a certain convenience about them and even help when crossing the snowy surfaces that we have at the moment. The ongoing cold spell is set to continue yet that is not going to stop my outdoor recreation either, particularly should sunny days come my way.

My reading has been as wintry as the weather. It is impossible to avoid references to snow and ice when reading about Antarctica so finishing off Gabrielle Walker’s Antarctica became a sort of prelude to the ice and snow lying on the ground in my locality at the moment. Then, there is Bernd Brunner’s Winterlust that I spotted in an Explore magazine newsletter nearly twelve months ago and I am working my way through that too. Suitably enough, it adds a quiet muffle spirit reminiscent of its subject as it courses the world while doing so.

Travel is not high my agenda right now given the that things are going and I am not expecting so much of 2021 either. Its first few months may be occupied by an occupied by an ongoing lockdown if my sense is correct and vaccination will take a while to reach a level that helps us. After that, we only can hope that new variants will not outwit vaccines too readily.

Given that, it fills as if local walking and cycling will have a large part to play in my outdoor wanderings for a good while yet. Some will yearn for better while just dreaming and hoping seems safer for now. Taking each day at a time probably is the best way to proceed.

Subscriptions and home deliveries

October 10th, 2020

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.

Path through woodland, Riverside Park, Macclesfield, Cheshire, England

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.

A frosty February day spent around Rothbury

September 26th, 2020

Photographic equipment errors can blight subsequent results. For instance, this summer saw me using a camera at a different ISO setting to what was intended and I did not notice it for weeks. Given that the setting was 320 rather then the desired 400 and I have often mulled over the idea of using 200, it was not a calamity given that I create raw image files anyway.

What reminds me of the above is that a more obvious mishap beset the photos made on the trip described in this report. That time, I somehow knocked the camera into the wrong daylight balance setting. All the images came out far too red but again creating raw image files allowed for a rescue in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom. Being able to bulk copy the new settings was a real bonus so I could ameliorate any annoyance in the act and leave the lesson on file for future reference.

Given I finally had got to Rothbury after having designs on such a trip for what seemed light an age, the easy fix to those photos probably was just as well. Just like the North York Moors that were featured in an earlier post, this too was a long way to travel for a day trip, though that never did stop me getting to other parts of Northumberland since they are afflicted by the same disadvantage.

Rothbury was reached later in the same week as an icy encounter with Roseberry Topping. The chance of a bright day added to the required motivation input even after an outdoors escapade earlier in the week, especially since an early morning start was needed. It also was good timing for travel by double decker bus for the last part of the inbound journey.

Snowdrops, Rothbury, Northumberland, England

Though Newcastle was dull while I was passing through the city, Rothbury was bright and sunny with clear blue skies overhead when I arrived there. My intended walking target was Simonside so I soon left by way of St. Oswald’s Way to make the most of the time that I had. The day may have been laden with wintery crispness but I was to pass a harbinger of spring once I passed Whitton: snowdrops.

Sharpe's Folly, Whitton, Northumberland, England

Shirlaw Pike, Rothbury, Northumberland, England

Cheviot Hills, Northumberland, England

After passing Sharpe’s Folly on my way towards Hillhead Road, the surrounding views opened as I followed the track with height being gained as I did so. Though looking to my left brought my eyes towards pleasing sights, it was what lay to my right captivated my attention at various points throughout the day. The white-topped summits of the Cheviots not only acted as a reminder of winter but also contrasted against the otherwise green landscape bedecked with some brown patches.

The track was left to reach Whittondean and going beyond that took me onto open moorland. Handily given that I was crossing soggy bogland, the path was paved. All the age of my map was plain to see so it was just as well that I had the OS Maps app on my phone for adding the extra details. Quite why I had not got to buying a newer paper map is lost to me but it would have added the route of St. Oswald’s Way for one thing.

At that time, thoughts of depending on a phone app given the vagaries of signal and battery life felt imprudently trusting. Still, it all held together on the day and even showed another public footpath over Simonside that itself came in being after 2005, the publication date of my Explorer map. Since then, I have chosen phones with lengthy battery life and they came into their own during this year’s travails when they allowed me to leave paper maps at home for various local day hikes where I largely know the lie of the land anyway. Still, I am mindful that the phone is doing the locating so I need not lose that ability for myself in case I ever need it again. After all, devices are not that infallible.

Garleigh Moor, Rothbury, Northumberland, England

Dove Crag & Rothbury, Northumberland, England

Shirlaw Pike & Dove Crag, Rothbury, Northumberland, England

Old Stell Crag, Rothbury, Northumberland, England

Simonside, Rothbury, Northumberland, England

A relatively timely arrival at the eastern end of the Simonside ridge added a certain complacency about route timing that soon got dispelled by the false summits that I met along the way. The whole section may have been around three  kilometres in length but the afternoon passed as I pottered from east to west, especially given the arresting views that lay all around me. Winter whitening of various sections and the presence of icy patches added to the need to concentrate on what was at hand. That really applied to the steep western descent  from the actual summit itself.

By then, it was late afternoon and I needed to catch a bus at a certain time too. Even with this and with others going the way, I was not going to rush but any coated patches were left after me soon enough along with any gathering of humanity. Then, it was a matter of descending through forestry to Great Tosson, an act greatly aided by the use of walking poles to speed things though there was ample time to survey the surrounding scenery as well.

From Great Tosson, there was a road descent to Newtown after which a byway returned me to the banks of the River Coquet. Once across to the other side, I was bound for the bridleway taking me back to Rothbury again. That the sun continued to lower in the sky caused no concern given the progress that I was making. A lost time had been made up again without the need for rushing; it was all a matter of maintaining a steady if unhurried pace while relishing what lay about me.

In fact, there was enough time before my bus came to visit a shop for some provisions and a new map of the area. After that, my journey home began and I could wonder about returning to Coquetdale. Though current circumstances may delay that, I still have spied a possible route taking in Cartington Hill and the Cragside Estate. Having an excuse to revisit a place never is a bad thing to have.

Travel Arrangements

Return train journey between Macclesfield and Newcastle extended by a return bus journey on route X14 between Newcastle and Rothbury.

Lazy loading

September 5th, 2020

It may be autumn now and the nights really are drawing in on us but I still have walking ideas. They are fairly local, which is useful given the times in which we find ourselves. For instance, I have another idea for a walk between Whaley Bridge and Macclesfield: this one would go via the Goyt Valley instead of Taxal Edge where the previous ones went.

There is another and that brings me to recent wanderings. One of those took me from Leek to Buxton via Ramshaw Rocks. Since the day became dull, I would like to go back to those rocky outcrops again to come away with better photos. The route could be varied according to available hours of daylight if so needed.

Other rambles did better with sunshine. One took me around hills near Church Stretton in Shropshire while another gained me my only exposure to sea air of the year so far. That was around the Great Orme near Llandudno in Wales and it rounded off an extended bank holiday weekend that also featured the aforementioned Shropshire and Staffordshire/Derbyshire hikes. All were good for my emotional well-being during what has been a very tough year.

As a dark patch continues to lift, I also got in some website tinkering and that explains the title of this post. Some may not have heard of the term but many will have encountered the behaviour: a web page that does not load all at once but only when a visitor scrolls down far enough to need the outstanding sections. That is called lazy loading and I decided to try it out with the images on this blog. If it is too much of an acquired taste or is too distracting, just let me know and I will make adjustments. Otherwise, the tinkering and the toddling will continue.


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