2016: A Year In Walking

Published 21 December 2016

Slightly muddy looking boots

Mostly cleaned walking boots, but with still some mud lingering...

2016. What a year that’s been. From politics to celebrity death count, it’s been a year. And on a personal level, it’s been rather mad too. Well, they do say that the three most stressful things you can do in your life are get married, have a child, and move house.

I know someone who once tried to do all three at once. How she wasn’t a complete nervous wreck at the end of it all, will be an eternal mystery to me. Although as it happened, the house purchase fell through, so perhaps the answer is right there.

Still I can tell you from bitter experience that doing just two of the items on that list, is pretty stressful. This year has seen the arrival of my second child, and we’ve moved house. Twice. Indeed, we’ve even moved from one part of the country to another for added complexity. So perhaps the question at the end of all that is, how on earth am I not a nervous wreck?

I’d like to say that the answer was walking. If only it were so, although improved access to the countryside and outdoor pursuits was certainly a factor in our decision to leave London. And in the long term, it will certainly help. But with house moves and baby arrivals taking up most of the summer, I confess that this years walking has been slim pickings. Although that’s not to say that achievements haven’t been unlocked…

Thames Path

Narrowboat near Osney Bridge

Narrowboat moored up near Osney Bridge, Oxford

It’s felt a bit like a running joke has my progress walking the Thames Path. I did the first bit in earnest in the spring of 2012 when my son was barely a few months old. But four years on, I made it to the source of the river and my journeys end. Standing, as I did, in a damp field in Gloucestershire, I felt an enormous sense of achievement. And just a little bit wet.

The final twists and turns in the tale of my walk from Oxford to the source back in February, will be published in these pages in the new year, so I won’t divulge too much now. Needless to say though, it was an experience I’ll never forget.

The London LOOP

Coldharbour Point

Coldharbour Point - the original ending of the LOOP

I started walking the LOOP – or London Outer Orbital Path – in 2015, knowing full well that I’d be leaving the capital the following year. Walking it was, to be frank, a farewell tour for the city that I’d called home for 16 years. But not Euston station. I never liked that place, and I still don’t. Not that I can escape it either, given my job requires me to head to the big smoke at frequent intervals, and that the trains from Manchester deposit me at that hell-hole.

I polished off the LOOP in thirteen day walks; ten of which I did in 2015, leaving just three sections to walk before I left for my new Northern England life. They were polished off in March, and provided a memory something I’ll never forget. The sight of seeing wild deer wandering around a north London suburban housing estate is just not something you see every day.

Wainwrights

Reading a Wainwright

If you read my previous post, you’ll have seen charts and everything about on this very subject. Needless to say, my fellbagging wasn’t amazing. Five fells is not the best tally I’ve had.

But what fells! Blencathra! Bannerdale Crags! Mungrisdale Common! I mean, that last one is one everyone’s hit list and no mistake!

Thinking positively though, I’m now reside in close(ish) proximity to the Lakes. Chances of cheeky weekend fellbagging trips in coming years are suddenly much more likely.

And the rest…

Public Footpath sign from 1905

Do Not Trespass. No. Don't do it.

In terms of long distance walking, this hasn’t been a great year. In terms of exploring the local countryside with a small child, it’s been cracking actually. And in-between that I managed to squeeze in the local landmark of the Cown Egde Way (more on that in the new year), and the celebratory Trespass Trail. The latter being a walk commemorating the Kinder Tresspass that doesn’t go to the top of Kinder. Well why would you?

So okay, not the best year in walking. But hey, it happens. And that just means next year has to be much better, doesn’t it?

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