9 June 2015

My 5 best walks - so far!

I seem to be spotting lists everywhere at the moment. Everyone's publishing their 10 top tips for this and 6 best hints for that, their how to's and how not to's and it got me thinking. 

So here goes, in no particular order, 5 of my own best walks - so far!

Number1 - Cadair Idris.
I hadn't had much luck with Wales and although we'd had several walking holidays in Snowdonia and the Brecon Beacons, my strongest memories were of damp cottages full of sodden clothing and pubs that shut on a Sunday. We were staying in Dolgellau and had already slogged our way through the murk to several summits where we'd assured each other that the views would be amazing if only these clouds would lift/rain would stop/mist would clear. Cadair Idris was our last shot and it was with no great expectations that we set off up the pony path in low cloud. Amazingly the higher we climbed the clearer it got and by the time we reached the top of the zigzag path I was stripped to shirt sleeves and for the first time in a week my waterproofs were safely stowed away. A couple of hours later I was still in shirt sleeves but this time sat on the sea wall in Barmouth, eating fish and chips and looking up at what had become and continues to be one of my very favourite mountains.
Cadair Idris - photo courtesy of The Old Rectory on the Lake. I'd given up on taking the camera out!

Number 2 - Hannah's 1st trigpoint
Much more modest is Hope Hill, the rounded hill we can see from our kitchen window.  Seven year old Hannah had been begging to come with us on a proper walk for months so one winter morning we set off from home to climb Hope Hill. Properly equipped with boots, backpacks. sandwiches, crisps, sweets and teddies we made our way through the woods to the bottom of the hill. Egged on by the promise of her packed lunch Hannah made short work of the 282 metre climb and some 3 miles from home she ticked off her very first trig point. She's joined us on many walks since then and is looking forward to climbing Pen-y-ghent this summer.
Made it!

Number 3 - The Coast to Coast
In May 1995 we left home to walk the Coast to Coast. We were younger and poorer in those days and there was no way we could afford to pay for a fortnight's accommodation so we packed up the camping gas and sleeping bags and what passed in those days for a lightweight tent - all 4lbs of it. I carried the gas bottle and flysheet. Tony took charge of the tentpegs and poles. We made do without a ridge pole and relied on some tight guying to keep the nylon from suffocating us in the night. Advertised as a 2-man (sic) we could only get in by undressing in the open and taking turns to limbo dance into bed. Fortunately we camped as near as we could to a pub every night and were duly anaesthetised from both embarrassment and the hard ground. It rained every day. Every single day. Despite having chosen the last week in May and the first week in June for our walk, 'cos everyone knows it never rains at Whit, not a day went by without precipitation of some sort. Our waterproofs were nonbreathable plastic that left us wetter on the inside than the outside and crackled as we walked and we ran out of what little money we had (I blame all that beer) somewhere around Richmond. It was wet, it was tough and it was wonderful and exactly 20 years later it's still one of the best two weeks of my life.
Angle tarn on the Coast to Coast - in rather better weather 

Number 4 - A Dales High Way
A Dales High Way is the long distance route we devised ourselves, bitten by the bug from those early years of Dales Way, Coast to Coast and Pennine Way walking. By September 2007 when we set off to walk the 90 mile trail in one go we'd softened up a bit. Hot baths, comfy beds and a week of full English breakfasts were the order of the day but that didn't detract from the challenge. We still had to average 15 miles a day carrying a full rucksack over some of the highest points in the Yorkshire Dales. We walked from our home in Saltaire over Rombald's Moor and Malhamdale, past the limestone scars of Attermire and on over Ingleborough. We rounded Whernside and looked down over the tiny, isolated farm I grew up on at the top of Dentdale and we hiked into the beautiful Howgill Fells. The sense of achievement when we reached Appleby was immense. We'd done it. We'd created a route. We'd spent nearly two years walking and re-walking, choosing some paths and discarding others, and finally it was complete. A High Way through the Yorkshire Dales.
On A Dales High Way above Dentdale
And finally

Number 5 - Whernside where it all began
Whernside wouldn't be everyone's choice of a favourite walk. In many ways it's not mine. Without the rocky scrambles to reach the summits of Ingleborough or Pen-y-ghent, climbing Whernside is just a long slog up a steep hill. But it's my steep hill. Our sheep lived on Whernside and as a small girl I walked to the fell and back with my Dad. Several times a year we joined other shepherds for the gathers, meeting on the tops to drive our own sheep down for tupping, lambing, clipping and so on. There are few walls or fences on the fell. Instead the sheep are hefted, learning their heaf, their own patch of ground, from their mothers when they first go to the fell as lambs. Generation after generation of hardy little Swaledales all passing a genetic memory down the years. And I was a hardy little thing as well. Stomping up and down Whernside in my wellies and my mum's cut down mac, never thinking that one day I'd be walking those same hills for pleasure. So Whernside may not be very thrilling, nor is it a great beauty but it's the walk that led to who I am today.
A good shepherd needs his dog 

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