The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Great Whernside and Buckden Pike

Tuesday 3 March

Mick was keen on today’s plan to go up Great Whernside, as it gave him the opportunity to revisit the remote hostel of Hag Dyke, which he recalled from the week spent there (and scampering around the nearby lumpiness) whilst undertaking his RAF Aircrew training in 1977. Things looked different today to how they looked on that visit, but that was on account of the amount of snow that was lying today. So much snow that even I, hater of gaiters, decided that it was most definitely a gaiter day (a very good decision, even if I do say so myself!).

Having parked Colin in Kettlewell, as neatly as we could without any visibility of the markings of the car park (turned out, once some of the snow had thawed on our return, that the car park wasn’t set out as we had expected and that we had parked straight across 3 spaces!), we headed uphill and were soon wading through the result of fresh snow and strong winds: extensive snow drifts.

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Nice blue sky, but how were we to know where the car park lines lay?!

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Good visibility in between showers, and a consistent blanket of snow

Regularly we were post-holing to knee deep (and occasionally deeper), but the wind was on our backs and there were some good sunny intervals, so even though it was relatively hard work to haul ourselves up the hill, it was a good enjoyable outing…

IMG_4451 …except for about five minutes as we set off back down (wind now in our faces), which was timed nicely as a hail shower came through.

By the summit there had been no question that this wasn’t an appropriate day to complete the originally planned 12.5 mile circuit, taking in Buckden Pike too, hence the retreat was made, which saw us arrive back at Colin a few minutes before 1pm.

Now, that was a bit early to just spend the rest of the day sitting around so, over lunch, I contemplated the map, with a riverside amble in mind, whereupon it occurred to me that if we drove a few more miles up the road, we could still do Buckden Pike as an out-and-back. Somehow I thought we were opting for a 4km walk; looking at the map now I have no idea how I reached that conclusion, considering that as the crow flies, the summit lies around 2.5km from the road, and the crow-flies route wasn’t even feasible!

What we also hadn’t appreciated as we set out was that the weather was about to worsen (contrary to what the forecast had told us this morning), with the wind picking up even more and the periods of blue sky becoming a rarity. Spindrift was our almost constant companion on much of this walk, along with some surprisingly deep drifts:

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Not one of the deep bits!

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A bit inhospitable (actually on the descent, but if I sneak it in here, I’m sure no-one will notice)!

By the last bit of the ascent I was beginning to dread the descent, knowing that the spindrift (and any passing hail shower) was going to be hurled straight at us, but first we had to visit the trig point, which we did, having avoided the ice-patches and having managed to stay on our feet in the wind. It certainly wasn’t a place to hang around, though.

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We even walked beyond the trig point to get to the cairn.

The descent wasn’t as bad as I had expected, but it did highlight quite how much the wind had picked up (amazing how fast knee-deep post-holes in the snow can fill in too; even though we spent very little time on the top, our footprints were gone by the time we retraced our steps). I also came to appreciate how deep some of the snow was, when a step into an unexpectedly-hip-deep bit saw me face-plant. My mind went back to my snowboarding days as I thrashed around in the drift, struggling to get back up with nothing solid beneath me to push against. It wouldn’t have been so bad if I hadn’t had the exact same thing happen again a dozen paces later!

Back at the road, the weather south of Kettlewell was so calm, with such a thaw going on in the nearby fields, that it was hard to comprehend the conditions we’d been in an hour earlier. The difference a few hundred feet makes!

The stats for this good-fun-but-quite-tiring day were 5.5 miles for the first outing and 4.25 for the second, with around 2800’ of ascent between them. For some reason, it wasn’t a popular day to be out; a group of five people were seen (at a distance) ascending Great Whernside as we descended; two other sets of footprints were seen on the lower reaches of Buckden Pike; otherwise there was no evidence of anyone else on these hills today.

(Post Blog Note: My proof-reader says that he doesn’t think that I’ve conveyed there quite how windy the second outing was, nor quite how spindrifty it was. Here’s a 19-second video snippet that perhaps illustrates the windiness, even if the spindrift doesn’t show up particularly well:

.)

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Rombald’s Moor

Monday 2 March

Since Mick first joined me on my Marilyning quest at the beginning of December, snow has featured in 20 of his Marilyn-walks out of 37. Mick claims that I choose to go out when the weather turns arctic. I reckon it’s Mick that causes the change in the weather*. Either way, it was no surprise to wake up in Halifax this morning to find a white world outside, with heavy snow falling.

Happily, the snow had stopped falling by the time Colin had had his annual health check and we had driven to Rombald’s Moor, so it was mainly in sunshine (but with a strong, cold wind on our backs) that we yomped the not-quite-a-mile from our parking place up to the top of the Moor. It was with that strong, cold wind in our faces that we ambled back.

Why the yomp there and the amble back? Well, we set out from Whetstone Gate on a track along the south side of a wall and, when that track expired at the mast, we expected to find some sort of a path or trod. None could be found, and that seemed odd, as there’s almost always a trod (at the very least) next to a wall and surely we couldn’t be unique in our choice of starting point for this top. It took me a while to think to look on the other side of the wall, and sure enough, there lay the answer – on the other side lay a flagged motorway of a path.

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However, with a wall and a line of barbed wire between us and it, we had to continue yomping through heather (periodically plunging a foot into a pool of iced-water, in my case) until a crossing place presented itself.

Even with the yomping, there was no huffing and puffing required. Colin had done most of the work for us, so we only had 100’ or so of up to get to the trig…

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…from where there were good views to be had (not that this snap really demonstrates that fact):

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Of course, we did follow the flagstones back to Colin, where I decided that I hadn’t walked far enough, so left Mick to sit in Colin for a quarter of an hour, with the request that he stop and pick me up on his way down the road, which bumped my mileage for the day up to a whole 2.75 miles.

With more snow forecast for tonight, it made sense to go from there to park ourselves in our car park for tomorrow’s walk and spend the night there. That plan was thwarted when we found the little lane containing that car park to be closed. That led to us driving further north than we had intended (no great hardship when the journey is along Wharfedale on a sunny-but-wintry day), which in turn has led me to think that if we’ve come this far north (to Threshfield) we may as well go a bit further north still, which in turn means that we will be walking a couple of hills tomorrow which didn’t feature in the plan for this trip at all.

(*Some might just say “It’s winter; you’re walking up hills – what do you expect?”)

Monday, 16 February 2015

Grayrigg Forest and Lambrigg Fell

Sunday 15 February

Quite ridiculously, I completely failed to notice the weather this morning. Never mind the time spent with the blinds open, I had been standing outside for a good five minutes when the chap to whom I was chatting (next to the water tap; the full watering can he held throughout our conversation must have been much heavy) mentioned what a nice day it was. I looked up and he was absolutely right – there was not a cloud to be seen.

Even though we had spent another night in Patterdale, we were heading south down the M6 today, picking up a couple of hills that sit adjacent to the motorway on our way.

Grayrigg Forest (just south of Tebay) was the first on the agenda, and having opted for the longer route of skirting around to its west side, we parked up accordingly. We then met the local farmer, who suggested (quite politely, I must stress) that if we took the alternative route I had noted (setting out from the layby at the nearby viewpoint on the A6) then we wouldn’t need to climb over any of his fences or walls. Not being a fan of climbing walls we took his advice, tootled a little way up the road and opted for the shorter outing.

In positively spring-like weather we made our ascent up tussocky grass, before hitting the steep terrain, which was … well, very steep! Steep as it may have been, it was proved to be a good route choice when, at the top of the steepness, we saw ahead of us the very gate in the ridge wall that someone had mentioned in their log on hill-bagging.co.uk. Once through the wall it was then just a simple matter of making our way westwards until we found a trig point:

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The views over to the Howgills were superb, but the sun was in the wrong place to capture the best of them on memory-card. Even the view over the M6 and the adjacent train line wasn’t bad:

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Descending a different, but probably equally steep, route we were back at Colin within an hour and a half, having covered 2.5 miles with 1000’ of up. It was then just a short drive down one junction of the M6 for our next objective: Lambrigg Fell, which looked thoroughly uninteresting from the motorway.

Fortunately, it was rather more interesting when we were actually on it (although that was perhaps mainly because of the stunning blue skies), but it was certainly far from spectacular:

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There are many lumps and bumps on this large upland area which looked equally as high as one another, so I was glad to have inserted a precise waypoint into the mapping on my phone, so I could be sure which particular lump (and which particular tuft atop that lump) is currently thought to be the top:

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Having taken a slightly circuitous route to the top (intentionally so!), we took a more direct line of descent, giving us a total mileage of 2.3, with (wait for it … drum roll) 250’ of ascent.

As tempting as it was to squeeze another hill into the day, the cupboards were sufficiently bare that if we didn’t go to a shop then it would be an unorthodox mix of foodstuffs for tea tonight. So, with our sensible heads on, we shunned more sunshine and views from up high, declared Lambrigg Fell to be the final hill of this trip, and headed off to find a shop.

Place Fell and Hallins Fell

Saturday 14 February

Finally a good weather day! We got views not just from one summit, but from two – and we got to see, from a distance, the tops of all of the hills we’ve visited this week. We even got a bit of sunshine.

All was quiet as we made our way up our first objective: Place Fell. A couple of chaps, out with their dogs, were the only people we saw between Patterdale and the summit, and only one more chap (and his dog) was seen between there and Martindale.

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The first big chunks of blue appear as we head up the south flank of Place Fell

Hallin Fell was a different matter, but even though quite a few people came and went as we picnicked on its summit, it deserves to be far more popular considering the fantastic views it boasts.

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Either I shrank in all of that rain yesterday, or that’s an obelisk atop Hallin Fell, rather than a trig point!

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Lunchtime view looking to our right

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Lunchtime view looking to our left

From Hallin Fell I had come up with two contenders for the return route: up Boredale to Boredale Hause, or along the side of Ullswater. Both routes were identical in length and in ascent, the only real difference (other than terrain, views and popularity) being that the waterside route was undulating, whereas Boredale would have one significant climb. After a small amount of indecision, it was the waterside route that won the toss and after a steep bit of descent to get there, we joined the dozens of other people who had also opted to stroll along the lakeside. We only gained solitude when we took the up-and-down option at Silver Point, rather than going around the outside.

That decision bumped our ascent for the day up over 3500’, with 11.2 miles covered, and (much to Mick’s approval) we were back in Patterdale in good time for kick-off in the rugby.

St Sunday Crag, via Arnison Crag and Birks

Friday 13 February

I’ve many a time said that I don’t see the point of slogging all the way to the top of the hill if there’s no prospect of having a view at least most of the way. I’ve also many a time said that I’m not one for going up hills in strong winds. As such, my only possible excuse for today’s excursion was that we were nearby and couldn’t think of anything better to do with our time.

On the bright side (metaphorically speaking; there was no actual brightness at any point), the forecast rain hadn’t arrived when we set off, allowing us some vague optimism that the forecast might have been overly pessimistic.

As we briefly joined the path out of Patterdale, there were two people ahead of us and two behind. They went straight on when we turned towards Arnison Crag and they were the last people we saw until we rejoined that path on our return, whereupon two more people were seen. Surely it’s unheard of to go up St Sunday Crag without even seeing evidence (i.e. footprints) of anyone else? Okay, so conditions weren’t great, but I didn’t actually get blown off my feet, so they can’t have been that bad!

Our ascent to Arnison Crag was mainly sheltered, so it wasn’t until the top that we got the full force of the wind. Given that we were at only half the altitude of our main objective of the day, it didn’t bode well for conditions later on.

A bit more shelter saw us huff and puff our way steeply up to Birks, by which time we had ascended from simply ‘murk’ to ‘fully in the cloud’, and once on the ridge we were staggering around like drunks in the wind.

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A short-lived hole in the cloud saw me grab for the camera. This was by far the best visibility we had on the entire ascent.

Then we got to the icy snow-banks on St Sunday Crag, where our outing would have certainly been curtailed if we hadn’t had spikes in our bags, which were quickly deployed to our feet. By the time we got to the top of the snowy bit, a careless stumble had seen one of my spikes put a new (and long) hole in my trousers; hey ho - they were due some more darning about now anyway*.

More staggering, bracing and the occasional crouch ensued as the path levelled out towards the summit of the hill, and the occasional ‘ouch’ emanated from my direction as frozen-rain/snow had now started to fall and some of those shards of ice were quite prickly as the wind drove them into my face. However, there was no chance we were giving up this close to our objective and soon enough it emerged from the gloom ahead of us.

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Mick would happily have taken the long route, via Grizedale Tarn, to form our return route, but I fancied sitting in the dry with my book for the afternoon more than I felt like spending at least an extra hour out in the rain, so after a bit of navigation that would not be suitable material for a master class in how to leave a summit, we retreated back the way we had come.

The path around the NW side of Birks got us out of the wind for the rest of our descent (whereupon lunch would have been had except that by now it was raining sufficiently that staying hungry until we got back to shelter seemed like the better option). The only other bit of eventfulness on the descent was the incident that saw Mick’s poles thrown to the bottom of a scrambly bit, only to then decide the scramble was ill-advised and a different route around was required.

With a diversion to collect the poles from the bottom of the crag, we loped onwards and downwards, arriving back at Colin thoroughly wet with 6.2 miles covered with 2700’ of up.

 

(*I have a pair of 10-year-old Paramo Cascada trousers that have been worn a huge amount. Many people would have considered them to be worn out a few years back. I’m now seeing it as a challenge as to how many times I can sew them back together and squeeze more miles out of them, but as more and more of the material wears through, I may soon have to concede defeat.)

Great Mell Fell

Thursday 12 February

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Today being the occasion of a Significant Birthday, Mick got given the choice of what he wanted to do and the decision made was to go into Keswick to fondle gear – something we’ve not done for years.

Being the best weather day of the week so far, Mick was easily persuaded that a very quick hill en-route to Keswick was a good idea, and so an outing was had up Great Mell Fell (a hill which has always drawn my attention when travelling along the nearby section of the A66, as from that viewpoint it sits as a lone pimple in the landscape).

The top of Great Mell Fell was plain to see as we drove towards it, as were the tops of Little Mell Fell and Gowbarrow, which had been in cloud when we had stood atop them over the past couple of days. All of those hills were also clear to see when we finished the walk. It was a fluke of timing that the middle third of our walk was in the company of a snow shower, and whilst snow is preferable to rain from a getting-wet point of view, it does tend to rather restrict visibility and so, once again, we saw nothing from the top.

Aside from the snow shower and restricted views, it was a pleasant little circular outing, which we completed within an hour, with 2.2 miles walked and 950’ of up gained.

As for the trip to Keswick, Mick came away with a new pair of gloves (one can never have too many pairs of gloves!) and, even though I had no intention of buying anything, I came away happy with a new fleece and an insulated jacket.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Gowbarrow Fell and Aira Force

The first look out of the window this morning, just as I was poised to spring out of bed ready to embrace the day, revealed a scene so foggy that I decided that another hour and a half of repose was called for and thus it was approaching quarter to eleven by the time we made tracks towards today’s objective of Gowbarrow Fell. The delay had been worthwhile, in that there was some visibility by the time we set off, but it was clear that we were in for another murky day:

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At 350m there’s enough visibility to be able to see all the way down to Ullswater.

A very pleasant path took us undulatingly along the edge of the hill until, by a ruined building, we headed off on an icy path up to the trig point atop Gowbarrow Fell.

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By then, all views had been lost (although we could see enough of our surroundings to appreciate that they were very nice) and it was rather bracing up there, so we didn’t pause for more than a few minutes before shunning the obvious, made path and taking a less-travelled line down to Aira Force and High Force.

We’d not visited these falls before and I’d not anticipated that they would be as interesting as they were, with deep gorges, some associated narrows, a high fall and a couple of pretty stone bridges. We even managed to bag a particularly good, sheltered lunch spot overlooking one of the narrows.

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I do like how I’ve captured Mick looking at the tree in wonder at how it comes horizontally out of the rock face before making a 90 degree turn to head skywards!

Looping back around below Gowbarrow Fell, along another lovely hillside-hugging path (which must usually boast excellent views over Ullswater and the hills beyond), our outward route was picked back up and our lollipop-shaped walk completed, totalling 8 miles with 2400’ of up.

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Little Mell Fell

It was approaching half-past two this afternoon by the time we pitched up at the campsite at the foot of Little Mell Fell, and by the time a late lunch had been eaten, tea drunk, faffing completed and boots donned, it was approaching half past three. I was determined, however, to get out for a leg-stretch. Aside from anything else, I couldn’t possibly finish the day with only 800 steps on my Fitbit!

Although I had intended Little Mell Fell and Great Mell Fell to form a single outing, the former was the obvious choice for a very quick late-afternoon outing, so that’s where we went.

Very quick it certainly was: twenty five minutes after setting off we were standing at the trig point, trying not to think about how splendid the views would be if we weren’t fully enclosed in a cloud.

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If it had been just a tiny bit earlier, we would have headed down the north side of the hill to make a decent circuit, but as it was we dropped down to the east, where we met a few patches of snow deep enough to get into the boots (gaiters would have been a good idea, but I do so hate them):

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Within the hour, we were back at the campsite, with 1.7 miles walked and 700’ ascended.

As much as people are enjoying inversions on the bigger hills, I do hope the cloud base is a bit higher tomorrow!

The Cloud (Again, So Soon)

With a desire to go away at the weekend, but with only two days at our disposal, it made sense to go somewhere reasonably close to home, and as I had rather enjoyed The Cloud and Rudyard Reservoir when I was there in November (at which point Mick was failing to grasp the concept of retirement) a revisit fitted the bill perfectly.

After a chilly week, temperatures were forecast to rise over the weekend, but on Saturday morning, as we set out from the south end of the reservoir, it was still bitter out – once again giving the bonus of frozen mud. We capitalised on that bonus by opting for the muddier (and undulating) west side of the water for our outward route.

Beyond the reservoir, the flatness of a disused railway bed then took us to fields (which would have been horrible in warmer weather), thence into woods and by-and-by we approached The Cloud, accompanied the whole time by the sound of the local rifle-range.

Visibility wasn’t as good as my solo visit, but there were still views to be had:

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An early lunch break on the top proved that the popularity of the summit when we had arrived was just a freak of timing. By the time just half of a sandwich had been eaten everyone else had left and we remained in solitude throughout three sandwiches and a flask of tea each. Not wanting to push our luck (or was it just that it was jolly cold, sitting up there?), cake was saved for later, and down we went.

The picnic bench I recalled having seen at Rushton Spencer seemed like a reasonable cake-eating spot. It did make us feel like small children though, with our dangling legs, as it was apparently too much effort for the installation contractors to bury the legs so that the table sits at an appropriate height:

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The disused railway bed gave us a swift and easy walk back down the east side of the reservoir (it’s an incredibly pretty reservoir; not what I’d expect to find in Staffordshire at all), which was, by now, reasonably busy with families out for a stroll. It’s a good job it was an easy stroll too, as by this time I was feeling far more exhausted than I should have after a 12.5 mile walk.

Half an hour after getting back to Colin, I was struck with an enormous headache. Sunday morning saw me struck by a cold. That explained the exhaustion then! Alas, the poorliness caused an early return  home and thus the plan to visit another hill on Sunday was abandoned for another time.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Omitted Summits

A few weeks ago I decided that I needed a new spreadsheet. Thus far the only consolidated record I’ve kept of hilltops I have visited has been via an app on an iGadget. It’s a very good app, but I’d be a bit lost if I was somehow to lose access to the data contained in it, and it struck me that I could make more use of the data (e.g. produce fabulous graphs!) if it was in a spreadsheet.

It was quite an arduous process, purely because I decided to fill in all the missing ‘date climbed’ information whilst I was at it. With much searching of my blog, of my pre-blog write-ups and of my walking stats spreadsheets, I was able to fill in the dates for all but 4 hills. Those 4 (three of which formed a single outing) pre-dated my records* and I can’t find any photos either.

As part of this process there were a few incidents of kicking myself when tops that I previously had ticked (in the belief that I had visited them) had to be unticked as a result of finding statements, written by my own fair fingers, like this:

“Brandreth turned out to be horribly uninspiring. If we ever find ourselves with 213 Wainwrights under our belts, we will have to go back to go to the summit proper, as we couldn’t quite find the enthusiasm in the bleak greyness to detour over to the summit.”

and this:

“By the time we reached the top [of Pavey Ark] there were so many people crammed onto the highest point that we decided not to add our sweaty bodies to the jam, so made do with a bit of ‘oohing’ at the view from a few paces away before heading on over to Harrison Stickle.”

and this:

On our way we discussed whether to detour over to the third top [Loft Crag], but decided to give it a miss.

(I was actually able to re-tick Loft Crag when I read further and found that it did subsequently receive a visit.)

I think it’s quite probable that never again will I get within paces of a summit and made a conscious decision not to visit it!

 

(* Many hills pre-dated my records, but I’m ignoring childhood ascents and only counting ones that I either have recorded or clearly remember.)

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Random Witterings

The Permutations of Garmin-Gadget-Failure

On the left side of the following photo is my Garmin Gadget:

Garmin Gadget and Filthy-strapped watch

Filthy-strapped wrist-watch included for scale.

It’s a Forerunner 305, which is quite an old model now, but it does the job I want it to do, which is to measure how far I walked and the timing. The problem is that, on my bony, skinny wrists, it’s not at all comfortable to wear it. Instead, it lives in the mesh pocket on the lid of my day-pack. That means that I often carry my pack when I don’t need it for any purpose other than as a Garmin Gadget carrier.

The Garmin Gadget (GG) has never (yet!) let me down. I have, however, let myself down in respect to using it. Here are the common failures:

  1. Turn on GG before setting out on walk; place by window to obtain satellite signal; forget to pick up before leaving; upon returning from walk, switch it off with nothing recorded.
  2. Turn on GG before setting out on walk; obtain satellite signal; put in top pocket of day-pack; forget to press ‘start’; finish walk with nothing recorded.
  3. Turn on GG before setting out on walk; remember to pick it up and start it; complete walk but forget to stop it; drive off somewhere, very quickly increasing the recorded mileage and speed.
  4. Decide to take day-pack on walk for no reason other than to give a pocket in which to hold the GG; check contents of pack (decide not to take anything out for fear of forgetting to re-instate it later); go out for walk; remember after half an hour that the GG is still sitting, switched off and completely forgotten, in the living room.

I managed number 4 today. On the last trip I managed 2 and 3. On the trip before I managed 1 and 3. Sometimes I do despair of myself.

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Mud Season

Mud Season started late this year, but it is now in full-swing, making some of my local walks thoroughly unpleasant to the extent that I’m just not prepared to tackle them. In previous years I’ve resorted to walking the local lanes. This year I’m generally just being lazier.

Gorgeous Day

That’s how gorgeous the weather was today!

This morning dawned a gorgeous crisp, clear winter’s day and I set out in the hope that the mud would be frozen solid. So it was – and all evidence was that the mud on the route that I took was as bad as I’ve ever seen it.

That set me to thinking: I would not voluntarily choose to go out and take a walk that I know is going to be significantly muddy. However, I don’t let Mud Season put me off going to walk in new places, where the mud might be (and often is) just as bad as on my local paths (such as last week’s jaunt up Black Down which was a mega-mud-fest). Why does mud become acceptable (to me) when not guaranteed to be present, but is totally unacceptable when known to be present?

I suppose it’s the same attitude as is common towards walking in the rain: I will seldom choose to set out for a walk in the rain, but if it rains when I’m out then that it far more acceptable.

I’m not sure what conclusions I draw from that, other than that I am a fair-weather-walker at heart, that I can’t wait for the end of Mud Season, and that I’m hoping for many more crisp winter’s day in the interim.