10 Feb 2011

The ingredients of a good walk

I apologise for posting several recent blogs on a similar theme, but it just so happens to be what I’ve taken photographs of – and where we’ve spent time recently.

It was my husband’s birthday earlier in the week and as he has a few days of annual leave to take this financial year, he thought that he might as well take a few days around his birthday, so that we’d have a choice of days on which to try and get out for some fresh air, should the weather not co-operate on the actual day. As it happens, Tuesday proved to be the best day of the week and an ideal one for wrapping up warm and heading out to stretch our legs.

Please click on any of the photographs for a larger view.

The summit of Beacon Fell. the very grey and misty start had thankfully lifted to the most glorious day.

We were talking in the car on our way home about what a nice day we’d had and listed some of the highlights and decided that these were often the ingredients that went to comprise the more enjoyable days. So these are the bullet points that seemed significant and entertaining – to us:

  • It was quiet – although we went to a popular and favourite beauty spot, it always feels like a bonus to go mid-week when you often get the place pretty much to yourselves.
It had rained relentlessly for the previous 3 days and it was rather squelchy underfoot in places, but sunshine after rain of that nature does provide a rather special atmosphere.
  • We only really passed the occasional dog walker and other mature types like us taking advantage of a day off or enjoying their retirement. We passed grandparents with a cheerful small dog and equally cheerful young grandson, wearing the most fabulous fleece hat adorned with dinosaur spines. When admiring said headwear, he provided a suitably loud dinosaur roar, just in case we weren’t certain what type of beast he was. He advised us that he was looking out for real dinosaurs and bears, so we were more vigilant from that point forwards. Just in case he was lucky.
I must admit to looking a little more carefully into the dark corners once I knew there were dinosaurs and bears lurking. But thankfully the only wildlife we saw were some squirrels chasing each other along the branches, obviously thinking spring was in the air.
  • This encounter left us with a question – why do dogs always prefer disproportionately long sticks to carry? What primeval instinct drives them to drag one along, seemingly far too large for them, causing passers by to swiftly take evasive action to save their shins. You’d think that there would be an optimal size of something like 4 times the width of the dog’s skull – but not so, it would seem, dogs, even quite small ones, will valiantly persist in carrying a stick or branch several times their own length. And for some reason, equally unfathomable, Mr Boo obviously sports the look of a man who would be good at throwing said sticks and he often finds himself with a stick at his feet and a hopeful looking dog attached.
I have posted photographs of this fabulous carved snake before, but the light made the fabulous textured carving on his head rather more visible and we approached it from a different angle. It might just make you jump if you didn’t know it was there.
  • Talking of dogs, whilst we had our favourite car park almost to ourselves, there was one other very small car parked nearby and our lunchtime entertainment took the form of an extremely large (sans stick, presumably he never found one quite large enough) Irish wolfhound that had to be shoe-horned into the aforementioned very small vehicle before departure. I was so sorry that I’d put the camera away at this point. But I had to admire the fact that he’d clearly done it before and knew just what was required to cram himself into the inadequate space. Clearly his daily walk was worth that effort.
I’m not keen on snakes, I certainly wouldn’t have got this close to a real one, but he does have a rather lovely face which is beautifully carved from a massive hunk of timber, with lovely and very tactile textures.
  • I saw my first lamb of the season – very small and still wearing its protective plastic coat, presumably only born in the last few days.
  • We had a very brief and fleeting encounter with a barn owl. As we were driving back towards home, we must have disturbed it on a fencepost at the roadside. It took off and flew alongside the car for a few yards and by the time I’d tried to get my husband to take appropriate action to allow me a photograph, it had veered off to the side and was now behind us, but the close proximity of another rather impatient driver close to our tail meant that we were unable to stop quickly and by the time we’d extricated ourselves from the traffic, the barn owl had seemingly settled somewhere out of sight, despite returning and carefully scanning the area he’d last been seen. I was gutted not to have got a better look or an opportunity for a photograph.
You always know that it has been a good day when you drive home to a sky like this.
5 Jan 2010

I stole some time to get some fresh air

Some days, whilst you know you have a lot to get done; that persistent and pressing niggle of work that needs your attention – outstanding paperwork, bills to pay, e-mails to answer, you actually get more achieved by actually totally ignoring it and just literally walking away from it. Yesterday was one such day.

After the laziness and over-indulgence of the festive period (which has its own rewards from time to time too) and being house-bound due to weather conditions, expected deliveries and waited-upon phone calls, my son and I were climbing the walls wanting to get out and stretch our legs. As the morning progressed, it was obvious that it was going to be one of those fabulously special winter days when the air is dry, crisp and the sun bright and you just want to be out in it.

I’ve never been afraid of the cold, whilst I don’t do well in it due to suffering with Reynauds, I have good outdoor gear and an extensive collection of hats, gloves and scarves and so we wrapped up and headed out, small camera bag over my shoulder – even on my usual daily walk I always take a camera.

Please click through the photographs below to see larger versions, they end up rather dark on the pages here.

I’ve photographed this scene in many weathers and seasons and this was about as pretty as it gets.

It was treacherous underfoot – snow that fell on 17th December and had been added to several times since, had variously melted, been disturbed and re-frozen several times, to leave an underlying blanket of hard, rutted, very slippery and pretty unpleasant ice. Atop which another couple of inches of snow had fallen – just enough to disguise the underlying ice to keep you fully aware of every step and to ensure the placing of feet most carefully.

Looks can be deceiving, the icy mud under the snow made for an interesting walk here.

A few years ago after getting stranded 3 miles from home in similar conditions underfoot when buses stopped running and getting home totally exhausted from the walk, trying to remain upright without pulling too many muscles, I invested in some Spiky rubber over-soles for my shoes – they’re like large heavy duty, shaped rubber bands impressed with hard wearing metal studs, that you stretch over your shoes or boots and they give a fabulously confidence-boosting level of grip to already good footwear, which may not always be enough on such days. The Spikys are perfect for such conditions and I don’t get to use them to their full advantage very often. I felt that I got my money’s worth in that one session.

A nearby waterfall that looks spectacular in cold weather.

I was most glad of them yesterday, I couldn’t possibly contemplate such a walk without them. I was able to walk pretty normally at a decent speed on terrible surfaces and combined with my walking pole, made good progress.

The sheep were digging through the snow, but seemed to be finding things to eat.

It felt fabulous to get out in the fresh air, blow the cobwebs out and stretch my legs – I hadn’t realised that I was actually getting to like my daily walk as much as I was and that I’d actually reached the stage of missing it. A considerable amount of the pleasure was being in the company of my 22 year old son, something I certainly do miss now he’s away at university most of the time – I didn’t even mind the daft hat he selected. We returned home feeling totally revived – it’s odd how sometimes strenuous exercise and working up a sweat actually invigorates and totally revitalises you. I got more work done once home than I probably would have done without taking that break. The time spent was well-invested.

I find myself drawn to the geometry of fence posts to photograph.

I must remember this on days when I feel jaded and the workload ahead of me feels insurmountable.