2015: A Year In Walking

Published 16 December 2015

Monument to Francis Eldman and Robert and Francesca Hall, who owned Petts Wood, and who saw it donated to the National Trust

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 2014, etc etc etc.

Yes, it’s the Annual Review of Walking in the Rambling Man world. Because at the end of the year, it’s compulsory to review things.

I have to say it’s not been my finest year for walking. For various – valid – reasons I haven’t managed to make it out on a big trip this year, despite my bookshelf positively groaning with guidebooks waiting for me to use. Instead all my walking has been focused on day walks.

So what has happened then? Let’s find out.

That river again

Abingdon, seen on the opposite side of the River Thames

When I started the Thames Path back in 2013, I truly believed I’d be done by the end of the year. It didn’t quite happen.

Still when I left my last job in November 2014, I did think that this would finally give me the time to get all the way to the source. As it happened though, things didn’t go according to plan. I’d intended to take some time off before starting a new role, however that didn’t happen thanks to a cracking job opportunity appearing out of nowhere. And that meant reducing some of my walking plans.

The result was that my Thames Path walking was restricted to four day walks covered in the first six weeks of 2015. I have now made it all the way to Oxford, although that still leaves four more days to do in order to finish it off. Unfortunately they are four days that all need to be done in one go, and the ability to slink off to do them just hasn’t happened. Will they in 2016? Here’s hoping.

The Statutory Wainwrights

The Corridor Route meets the Wasdale Path near the top of Scafell Pike

It’s near compulsory that I spend at least some time in the Lakes each year, and in 2015 this meant a week in Ambleside and a week in Keswick. Whilst not bagging quite as many fells as I’d hoped, I still managed to bring in 13 in the course of two week period that also included family and friends, beer, and more.

Among those in the can were the mighty Helvellyn, and the highest mountain in England, Scafell Pike.

The bad news is that I’m now getting pretty low on remaining fells easily accessible from Ambleside. There’s still a few more to get from there, however the focus is increasingly going to have to be on other parts of the Lakes, so it may be a while before I’m back in the Old Dungeon Ghyll or Sticklebarn again.

Bunch of Loopers

Fields and trees at Mossyhill Shaw

The rest of my walking time has been firmly spent in the company of the London Outer Orbital Path. Or the LOOP as it’s generally known.

I never really intended to do the LOOP, however after reaching Oxford on the Thames Path, I began to cast around for another trail I could do in a series day walks to do. Truthfully it was a toss-up between the LOOP and the Capital Ring, but the LOOP won.

It has, in some respects, been a surprise for me. After 16 years living in London I felt I knew much of it, however it was a desire to know get off the beaten track and see the edges of this massive urban sprawl that led me to walk the LOOP. Yes there’s some naff bits. Quite a few actually. But there’s also some spectacular moments to be walked in Greater London. Few walking experiences will ever surprise me as much as entering a field bursting full of blooming lavender did. London does have some surprises out there.

The LOOP’s not quite done. As I type there’s another three days of walking still to do, but if all goes well they’ll be done early next year.

And the rest?

Small sign saying ‘Users of this field do so at their own risk’

That makes it sound like I haven’t done that much. Which in some respects is true, although I did manage to squeeze in some fells in the Brecon Beacons as well this year, a walk in the snow in the Peak District, and even a stroll along the Fife coastline. But they were just day walks, and that’s not what this site is about.

So it’s not been the best year for long distance walking. Will next year be any better? Well for various reasons next year may not be. I can’t really explain more right now, but some things are going to make it difficult. But walking’s important to me, and when something is important, you need to squeeze it in somehow. And it will.

Besides, if I don’t manage to complete the Thames Path in 2016, I don’t know when I ever will…

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