Travel Jottings

Celebrating the best bits and bobs to be found while exploring Europe and North America. Much is inspired by real outings, whether they were walking, cycling or photographic in nature, while virtual blundering in the name of planning them has turned up some gems too. Regardless of how they were found, I hope that they keep coming so I can continue to share new things with you here.

England: Where My Hill Wandering Began in Earnest

Upper Eden Valley, Appleby-in-Westmorland, Cumbria, England

When I moved from Edinburgh at the end of my time in university, it was to the east Cheshire town of Macclesfield that I came. Along the way, I spent some time on the doorstep of the Yorkshire Dales National Park while in Skipton on a training course for six weeks. That was an opportunity that I couldn't let pass so bicycle excursions took me as far up Wharfedale by bike as Buckden. Places such as Bolton Abbey, Burnsall, Grassington, Kilnsey, Starbotton and Kettlewell were passed on those merry wanderings and it was all undeniably pleasant stuff, even if the ups and downs didn't go so well with a road bike without its lowest gear; it was my fault that I left the transmission side of things even further than that and a replacement eventually had to be sought. This taste of the Yorkshire Dales was enough to get me started on savouring the delights of the English countryside and that hasn't stopped yet.

After I finally had settled in Macclesfield, that exploration continued. Being in a quiet country town instead of a vibrant city means that your mind turns to different things and getting to know where you live takes on a different meaning. My initial excursions involved cycling but walking began to take over after I realised that my dislike for descending steep hills and the effort need to ascend them made cycling a less practical option. That statement may surprise those who think that Cheshire is flat but it has its hillier side and Macc, as locals call it, is not on the edge of the Peak District National Park for nothing. In fact, I can look out on appealing hill country from the comfort of my own house when visibility is good and that's often enough to set me into going out and about.

Another factor that counts against exploring countryside by bicycle is having to carry yours to wherever you want to go. Having a car makes this more achievable but using public transport makes it a rather more challenging feat, even with bicycle friendly bus services running in some places and the ability to carry them on trains. The result is that leaving the bicycle behind can be liberating and most of my traversal of hill country is now done on foot, not at all a bad thing given that you get more time to look around you and enjoy what's there.

I am not sure how my hillwalking hobby came into being but my starting to read the magazine Country Walking might have had something to do with it, especially when it came to ideas for where to go. However it came to pass, Derbyshire came to see me rather a lot at the beginning though I inexplicably go over the county boundary only occasionally nowadays. The Yorkshire Dales became another regular destination for continuing my outdoors confidence building. The Lake District came later and remains another of those parts that I continue to see a lot. After that, there is Northumberland, Staffordshire and Shropshire. So as not to spread myself too thinly, I am thinking of restricting myself to these "northern" counties for now and there's plenty that I yet have to discover without going further afield. The likes of Dartmoor, Exmoor and so on may have their appeal but it's better to realise that there is enough on you plate already and not to overdo it.

Those explorations have contributed to that which you find here any continuing them should extend what's here. The plan is to grow things organically in place of embarking on larger efforts like the one that created the compilation of local news outlets. They can feel soulless and devoid of personality so the slower approach is the one that I prefer. The other upshot of this is ideas for articles (just see the ones on Cheshire and Cumbria for that) can be turned into something too and bare website listings made into more useful offerings. There's no way of telling how things may develop but I am hopeful of continual improvement and new material that will draw back visitors time after time. There's a good way to go but there is the line about a journey of a thousand miles beginning with a single step.