Countryside Wanderings

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.

2012, before an advancing life storm

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

For various reasons, this summary of my walking during 2012 is arriving twelve months late. That’s mainly because I was not in the right frame of mind for writing it this time last year. The subsequent year has been life changing yet wandering through countryside not only did not stop but its restorative effects never were more needed. Before that though, things felt more steady and here is how things went.

January saw me staying local with a three counties (Cheshire, Derbyshire & Staffordshire) stride between the Cat and Fiddle Inn and Buxton that took in the Three Shire Heads bridge. It was having extra time on the day that allowed that to happen even if I arrived at Grinlow Tower, or Solomon’s Temple, too late in the day for much in the way of photography. Even now, I have yet to be there on an occasion when the conditions allowed for the sort of photographs that I like to savour and there were two visits during 2013. Some things take time to happen so patience is a prerequisite.

There no such constraints when I walked from Alnmouth train station to Embleton by way of Northumberland’s pleasing North Sea coastline and the remains of Dunstanburgh Castle, now under the care of English Heritage. What I got to experience was the sort of crisp sunny day that adds so much to a walk. That was much more than a previous walk in the same area more than six years before.

March was a quiet month on the walking front because of heavy work commitments and April was little better even if I was not working as hard. Even so, I did to walk up Nab Head near Bollington as an addition to a cycle that circled around by Pott Shrigley. Even with a heavy cold towards its end, May worked out much better with an evening spent around Tatton Park and other spots in Knutsford. The next day saw me get as far as Waterhouses in Staffordshire to fulfil and often aborted scheme: following the Manifold Trail from there to Hulme End. When that turned out to take less time than expected, I extended the walk to take in both Wolfscote Dale and Biggin Dale to finish up in Hartington. That was another design fulfilled on a day when sub eventually beat cloud cover to deliver its delights to anyone out and about. Later in May, I returned to Northumberland to visit Alnwick and Warkworth to see their castles.. The day was a hot one so it was best to limit exertions and a previous heavy cold made that all the better as a plan. There were enough sights to savour anyway and, with views along the Aln and the Coquet available so easily, there was little need to rush along anyway.

The extended public holiday weekend at the start of June, the bank holiday was moved from its usual place at the end of May, offered an opportunity for a getaway and I struck lucky in Scotland’s Eastern Highlands. Having based myself in Pitlochry, I took in the shores of Loch Ericht and sampled a little of the scenic drama of Glen Tilt. Sun was in short supply at times and it limited what I could do when capturing a view of Blair Castle. Even that was better than the wetting that anyone attending the Diamond Jubilee Events in London when rain that was very typical of the year pervaded.  Just like a previous trip to Pitlochry nearly six years earlier, my walks were mere tasters and I was more than happy with that at the time, unlike that preceding visit that left me yearning for more.

Having had it in my head for a while, I finally got to do an evening walk from Wilmslow to home after work during June, mostly using the route of the Bollin Valley Way except for where bank erosion necessitated an untidy diversion. It should have been a matter of reversing a previous walk along the route done of a winter afternoon whose timing mostly is lost to memory unless digital photos offer some resuscitation.

Even with 2012′s reputation for wet weather, I still got some other pickings from its summer and limitations on sunshine were a marked feature of otherwise dry weather walks. Looking on the positive side, it may have been better than walking in sultry heat. One outing in such conditions happened in July with a visit to Sedbergh from where I walked as far as The Calf in the Howgill Fells. That out and back trek definitely was satisfying and left me open to more like it. That I tasted my best ever fish and chip supper added to the appeal. Maybe I should go there again and there’s more of Cumbria and Yorkshire to be explored or revisited as well.

August saw me head to Wales twice. First, it was to the Gower where I walked over Rhossili Common before picking up the coastal path from Rhossili to Port Eynon by way of Worm’s Head. The walk was a glorious one even with cloud advancing from the west all the while. Also, I’d like to revisit the portion near Port Eynon because it looked very primeval and I was passing it with the object of catching a bus on my mind. As it happened, roads around the Gower were chaotic and the bus that I was making nearly was two hours late as a result. Still, I got back to Swansea for the night before light failed and electrical rain storms made landfall.

The Summer Bank Holiday weekend allowed time for a trip to Pembrokeshire, again revisiting somewhere not sampled since 2006. Only the Sunday of the weekend offered much in the way of dry weather and there even were showers in the evening time. Before then, I got in a walk from Strumble Head all the way to Fishguard under ever cloudier skies. The day started well so I saw Strumble Head at its best and very nearly got lured southwest instead of following the planned eastbound course. It was completed in dry weather so there were no complaints, especially with the drenching that came the next day.

The second weekend of September granted us a glimpse of how the summer of 2012 might have been and I popped over the county boundary into Derbyshire for a stroll by the River Dove that took me from Thorpe to Hartington. The southern end of Dovedale was mobbed with families and I couldn’t get into my stride as I would have liked but things were so much quieter north of Milldale that there was no such concern. What took over as I neared Hartington was how hot the day felt in the afternoon sun after I had emerged from Wolfscote Dale. Any thoughts of an extension as far as Longnor or Crowdicote were set aside in favour of returning home. Quite how those wearing suits during the well dressing ceremony stuck their attire in the heat is beyond me. Maybe I am more warm blooded than some…

September ended with another sunny interlude and that drew me along the Saddle of Kerridge and onto Tegg’s Nose before I turned for home in the fading light. Ambitions for a trip to Teesdale in County Durham were frustrated by fatigue so the more local yomp was what was needed. Indeed, it made me ask why I didn’t head out among nearby hills more often than I did. Local walking has set that to rights though a Teesdale incursion has yet to happen.

The first Sunday in October allowed a trot along the Goyt Valley that had lain in my mind for a while. On the day, so many walking possibilities came to mind that I had difficulty choosing between them. There was walking home from the Cat and Fiddle Inn to take in Shutlingsloe along the way. Trotting along the Gritstone Way between Bollington and Disley was another though a late start put paid to that option; it was to serve me well later. The sight of cloud advancing from the south decided me at the Cat and Fiddle Inn so I headed for the Goyt Valley and it wasn’t a bad choice at all. The ground conditions were well soggy after all the rain that had fallen during the preceding six months and that was expected. Autumn and winter walks bring with them encounters with mud so that was no irritation and I had sunshine as far as the dam of Errwood Reservoir. Cloud took over then and the shore of Fernilee Reservoir was shadowed under overcast skies. Since I quite fancy retracing these steps with some sun, that is another excuse for a return sometime. When Whaley Bridge was reached, there was no dissatisfaction and it had been great to clear my mind.

November saw me make two trips to Tatton Park near Knutsford after some photos of autumn colour. The first of these involved some foolish conduct on my part and what I got for my pains was a ripped jacket, soggy feet and clouding skies that thwarted my hopes. The second outing set things to rights and all was unperturbed again. It was in that spirit that I made use of a possibility left unused the month before: following the Gritstone Trail from Bollington to Disley with a visit to Lyme Park. The morning was glorious and clouds left the sun alone until I had got as far as Sponds Hill. Much was savoured before them and it was my first sighting of sunlit Derbyshire hills from there. It was with satisfaction that I dropped into Lyme Park and ambled unhurried from there into Disley. There was one final trot before November was done: along the Macclesfield to Congleton along the banks of the local canal. The section between the Bosley locks and Buglawton was a delight even under cloudy skies and with declining light. Though I repeated the trek in the opposite direction, it remains worth revisiting.

December brought more fraught prospects and Christmas week was a difficult one for our family. Worries about my parents’ health pervaded and there were much needed short walks taken for head clearance. One of these took me over to Tatton Park again and the winter sunlight did nothing to disappoint, if only I wasn’t feeling so raw inside. 2013 then looked a tall order yet I made it through the year. At the point, 2014 looks less foreboding and it will be taken one day at a time. Life is not for grand designs right but smaller ones will do just fine. Hopefully, your 2014 will bring you good things and I am happy to await what it brings me.

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