Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Two Falls and a Submission

A wrestling analogy seems appropriate to describe how many of us have battled our way through 2016 - but for us "two falls and a submission" is particularly apt.  As a kid I remember watching Dickie Davies on World of Sport on Saturday afternoons at my grandparents, with Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks going several rounds with each other. They'd take it in turns to leap off the ropes in what I am sure were carefully choreographed manoevers, to pin each other to the floor -banging out the count with their hands.  2016 has been a lot like, but without all the rehearsals and giant spandex wrestling suits.

The two falls were mine - in May I knocked myself senseless when I tripped running through Bowness for a ferry.  The docs told me it would take 12 - 18 months to recover, but I persevered and was making good progress, so celebrated by hurling myself off a footpath along the Eden Valley in October - a smaller concussion this time, but with 3 staples added to the mix.

Steve, on the other hand, is resisting being beaten into submission by a persistent, but as yet un-diagnosed, knee condition, which has resulted in him being on crutches since late August.  Not that this has stopped him completing all the photography for two books, planning the pics for a third and hiking up Loughrigg on a frozen November morning.  Or break-dancing on Grange prom...

You may think that grounding the two people behind a hiking a travel blog would slow things down somewhat, but it's going to take more than that to stop us - plus we still managed to do a whole bunch of cool stuff in 2016.  We've both chosen out top 5 stand out moments of the year to revisit and inspire us to keep battling on - you know, just in case 2017 is getting any ideas or anything...

Beth's Top 5 for 2016

1.  High Cup Nick


We'd been meaning to do this walk for a couple of years but I finally got around to it in September and it easily went straight into my top 10 fabulous walks list.  Mainly because it's a cracking hike, but also because my background is in geology and the rocks are superb.  Of course it didn't hurt that I also discovered some of the finest sloes in Cumbria on the walk which  were swiftly turned into several litres of sloe gin to keep us warm during the long cold winter months.  Where is this amazing crop?  It's...erm...well...it's...sorry - could you repeat the question?

2.  Cream tea on Harter Fell


We had SUCH a lot of fun with this one!  I absolutely love Harter Fell and the views along Haweswater so the idea of having a full cream tea on the top of a fell really appealed.  It's not something I'd try on a trickier fell in unpredictable weather but it was a perfect spring day and we had a ball.  We got a few odd/ envious looks, but I wasn't sharing my clotted cream with anyone!

3.  Craigievar Castle

This was love at first sight. No - this was love before first sight.  I'd seen the photos in the National Trust for Scotland booklet and knew I had to see it for real.  It's not easy to get to, even if you happen to be lurking around the Aberdeen area, but it's well worth the effort.  The only access to the inside is by guided tour, but this was utterly fascinating and the views of the castle, and from the castle, were absolutely breathtaking.

4.  Cheltenham Literary Festival

I'm addicted to both the outdoors and reading so a book festival with an outdoors theme was always going to be a winner.  I saw some great speakers but none of them more "outdoors" than Major Tom himself, Commander Chris Hadfield.  The way he speaks about seeing the planet from space and the need to care for it is truly inspirational and I was absolutely honoured to have the chance to meet him afterwards.  He also inspired my favourite blog of the year, all about why we need to send poets into space...

5.  Bum Cloud over Walney Island


Yes it's silly, but memories should make you smile - and this photo always does that.  We spent the first 6 months of the year producing a series of walks for Cumbria Wildlife Trust and, on this particular day, had had a wonderful time exploring Walney Island.  This photo was taken towards the end of the day when a giant bum shaped cloud appeared perfectly reflected in a small lake, causing us both to dissolve into a fit of giggles.  As the title of the Good Life Christmas Special says (essential viewing this time of year) "Silly, but it's fun"

Steve's Top 5 for 2016

1.  Wetherlam in the snow


One of the best things about being 6ft 4ins is that I don't sink quite as deep into the snow as Beth does - plus she generally tries to tear off ahead so she makes a useful depth gauge. This was a long and challenging walk and the snow was pretty deep in places, but Wetherlam isn't too tricky a fell and we both got home in one piece - Beth's bum was colder than mine though...

2. Zipworld Caverns Blaenau Ffestiniog


We'd done plenty of zipwires and high ropes courses in the past but nothing had quite prepared us for this - clambering around in a cavern deep underground.  Although we knew everything *must* be pretty tightly screwed into the walls, when you're dangling 100ft or so above the cave floor you do feel the need to double check.  Of course, I wasn't scared at all and didn't scream like a girl at any point.  Not even once. Honest...

3.  Snowdon

Technically this was my second time on the top of Snowdon but, as my first ascent was at the age of 4 months in a pram on the train, I'm not going to count it.  This time I went up on foot via the Rhyd Ddu route and despite it being early May, it was another snowy extravaganza.  Along the summit ridge the paths were solid ice, but that didn't stop several hundred other people also attempting the route.  Has to be the busiest summit we've ever been on, but a really interesting mountain.

4.  Kendal Mountain Festival - Ullswater Screening


Throughout the year there are Kendal Mountain Festival events and this summer we spent a lovely afternoon and evening on the banks of Ullswater watching a series of excellent films.  The whole evening was very civilised with picnic hampers and Prosecco as far as the eye could see.  As well as the great films we were also introduced to the songs that became the soundtack to the rest of the year, especially during our extended tour of Scotland - Christine & the Queens and First Aid Kit.  Just humming a few bars and I'm back there again now...

5.  High jinks in a Hilux


I really didn't expect this to be quite as much fun as it was.  I also planned to share more of the driving with Beth but that didn't really happen either.  When Vantage Motors asked us if we'd like to play with it for the weekend I'm not sure they expected it to come back with quite as many miles on the clock as it did - we even managed another cream tea, this time in the back of the Hilux on Walna Scar car park.  It persuaded  us to trade our battered old Freelander in for a rather nice (used) Toyota Rav 4 which will no doubt be popping up in blogs throughout 2017...


We're both now hoping that 2017 will turn out to be a little less painful than 2016 but, whatever happens, we'll still be out there finding fun things to do.

We sincerely hope you all have a very Merry Christmas full of family fun an adventurous New Year full of exciting new challenges!