2014: A Year In Walking

Published 17 December 2014

Thames Path near Staines

Blimey, it’s December already. Where did the year go? It only seems like twelve months since I was sat here, trying to write something about 2013!

Years, it must be said, are strange things. I mean, just look at this last one. Twelve months ago I had a one year old child. Now he’s two! How on earth did that happen?!

A lot can happen in a year. During this one I’ve not only watched a toddler grow and become articulate, but I’ve also left my job in order to have a small break, and then take up ahead of some different challenges in the future. Oh and I’ve done some walking too.

Down the river

The Thames at Weybridge

The regular theme this year, as it was last, was walking the Thames Path. And yet again I failed to get anywhere near as much of it done as I ever intended. Part of the problem was that the year started so badly. It seems so long ago now, but at the beginning of the year we were being battered by storms, and there were floods everywhere. Even my local park was closed at one point due to it being mostly underwater and unusable, and this was in a quiet suburban part of London. At one point in January I was sat on a train heading back to London from Oxford, and looked out at where there should have been fields, and just saw lakes. It wasn’t until the end of March that we finally felt the Thames might have recovered enough to venture out on it.

But the biggest blocker to a Thames Path adventure came in the form of that small child. Small children are great, but one year olds aren’t the best thing to have with you if you are planning on doing a twelve mile walk. We stalled the decision – and the walking – for some time before eventually deciding that our days of walking the Thames Path as a family were now over.

Even then, general life conspired against me getting too far along. However since finishing my last job at the end of November, I have managed to make it as far as Henley on a couple of day hikes. And maybe 2015 will be the year I finally manage to complete it.

Off to the highlands

Autumn Leaves

Generally I try to have at least one week’s big walking trip a year. Now this isn’t something I was able to do in 2013, however in September I headed up to Scotland to do the East Highland Way.

If you’ve never heard of it, it’s a week long walk that goes from Fort William (end of the West Highland Way of course), and goes to Aviemore where it connects with the Speyside Way. It’s a fantastic walk, and I’ve been busy writing it all up. Look out for more on it in the new year.


Cairn on the top of Watson's Dodd

If I don’t get to the Lake District at least once in a year, I’m liable to explode. So it’s a good job we had a week in Ambleside in March. Over the course of the week there was lots of walking, some visits to the pub and even a trip to the soft play centre! Wahoo! But most importantly were two day walks and completing nine new Wainwrights.

Okay, I may need to up my pace if I’m ever to get the lot done by, oh I don’t know, the time I’m sixty, but it was a start. Alas a second trip I hoped to make didn’t happen. Well, there’s always 2015.

And the rest

Flooded subway near Westhumble

Also on the tick list this year the Thames Down Link which is a trail that links the Thames Path with the North Downs Way. As you do. There was also a trip up Snowdon, meaning I finally managed to do a mountain I have been aiming to do for years. There was also the Thames Path Extension, wandering from the Thames Barrier to Crayford Ness. Oh and a couple of sections on the Wales Coast Path. But at 870 miles long, I don’t think I’ll be bothering to complete the whole thing.

Reading all this, it’s obvious that my trail and fell walking has been a bit sparse. What can I say? I must aim to do better next year. Not being in work may help with that! But also I just need to book out time to do things. Work takes so much of your life, and then there’s family and friends. It can be hard to fit everything in sometimes, especially when you have an active toddler to look after. But it’s important to try.

I have, perhaps, been more successful in another area. Writing about walking. It’s always annoyed me that I haven’t anything on this site about my time on the West Highland Way, and only limited stuff about the Pennine Way. So I decided to spend some time to fix that. As next year marks 60 years since the Pennine Way was officially opened, I’ve focussed on that and have so far written 25,000 words about my walk, covering about half of the trail. I’ve been writing it in dribs and drabs for most of the year, squeezing it in in the odd half hours that I’ve had free. It’s a massive undertaking; perhaps the biggest writing challenge I’ve done. Writing about a trail I walked between 2006 and 2010, using my completely disorganised notes is a big undertaking. However it has brought back some good memories, and I’ve been surprised by how much I have remembered.

Along with 24,000 words I’ve written on the East Highland Way, there’s already a lot of content lined up for this website next year. Indeed perhaps my bigger problem is not having to find time to walk, but finding the time to write about it when I do.

Roll on 2015 then. And if we don’t see each other before, have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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