Well now, this was a good walking year!

Hard to miss…the Jubilee Tower atop Darwen Hill
Hard to miss…the Jubilee Tower atop Darwen Hill
Great Hill hazed out by a stinging snowstorm.
Great Hill hazed out by a stinging snowstorm.

January saw the start of my walking year…I know how obvious that sounds but some years I haven’t started walking until March.

I had decided to have another bash at joining Southport Ramblers after 2011’s falling out with them. This time around I found that I was much better prepared to keep up with them – picking category ‘C’ walks at first proved to be a wise decision. I have to admit that I’m not the biggest fan of the routes offered by the ramblers. We seemed to traverse muddy fields simply for the sake of traversing muddy fields. The highlight of each walk definitely was the company. Our first outing to Longridge in order to take in various country lanes, could essentially have been anywhere. Likewise two weeks later saw us at Saint Asaph for a walk through some more washed-out and verdant fields! Late January saw the weather take a turn for the colder as Karl and I enjoyed a walk in the snow over Darwen Moor. Karl and Anne and I traversed the hills on my mission to acquaint myself with the route of the Anglezarke Amble (I did mention that I’m doing this in February 2016 didn’t I?) This was to be my first West Pennines yomp of the year and a thoroughly enjoyable one…minus a couple of minutes when I had to climb over a barbed wire fence and nearly became an alto singer! A further expedition along Southport’s thought-provoking Coastal Road gained me some more leg milage – twenty one to be precise. The 22nd of February saw me with the Ramblers at Rivington in a very enjoyable, snowed-out walk over Rivington Moor and Catter Nab whilst taking in the sights of Rivington Lower Reservoir and the Yarrow Reservoir on route.

Longridge, Pendle and another top on the distant horizon.
Longridge, Pendle and another top on the distant horizon.

Until the end of March far the most challenging walk of the year came about when we (The Southport Ramblers) went to Chipping, walked over six mile’s worth of muddy fields then took on the steep southern face of Parlick Pike. This would put me in good stead for the rest of my walking year as not even Whernside or Snowdon (the Llanberis route) can measure up to the ridiculous gradient this aspect proffered, by the time I reached the summit, I was shattered. Parlick had been on my ‘to-do’ list for the year, although I had meant to set about it from the top of Longridge Fell – I still intend to do this iconic walk…maybe next year.

Further trips in the first quarter of the year saw Karl and I back at the West Pennines in order to take in Turton Moor and another section of the A.A. whereby we wandered over the side of Turton Heights then back over past Cadshaw to Green Arms Road. I’d never walked in this locale prior to this and was taken aback at just how scenic the West Pennines (including Winter Hill) can be. Another attempt at doing a section of the A.A. on my own resulted in a ten mile walk over Rivington Pike, Winter Hill and many, many miles of roads as my legs started to moan under the stress of so many walks in such a short time. The walk in itself was fantastic but the company was a bit irksome! This would improve dramatically as in March Chris and I enjoyed a quite balmy walk on one of the many trails through Delamere Forest.

April saw me return to do the Coastal Road once again and a trip with the Southport Ramblers to Besston. I’d never heard of the place before and to be honest, I could quite easily forget all about it now as we took in a tiny summit (the name of which I cannot recollect) and we visited a candle factory (be still my beating heart!).

The Middle Way
The Middle Way

May brought with it a couple of Bank Holidays and one of these saw me return to good old Pendle to do ‘The Middle Way’, on a walk which I laughingly referred to as ‘Pen-ny not so dreadful’ I completed my objective of ascending Pendle the undisputed hardest way. The climb itself was hard, but the time to complete the steep ascent was a breathtaking sixty-nine minutes. I had no idea that I could walk so quickly uphill! As this was training for the month after’s Yorkshire Three Peaks attempt, my confidence was escalated beyond my wildest possible expectations. Another walk two days later which would take in Winter Hill via the east and again ran in at around ten and a half miles, left me feeling that this time, more than at any other point in my past, I would be able to get around the infamous Yorkshire three peaks of Pen-Y-Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough.

 

24.5 miles, five thousand feet, one county top and two aching legs!
24.5 miles, five thousand feet, one county top and two aching legs!

And thus onto June and on the sixth I booked a car from Enterprise (A wonderful little Corsa), drove up to Horton in Ribblesdale, met up with the lovely Linzi from Southport Ramblers and Mark – an old acquaintance from my Bolton days and took on the challenge of Yorkshire’s finest. It’s tough going but at no point did I consider not completing the twenty four and a half mile course. I would go on to to scale bigger mountains throughout the year but nothing could compare to the sense of sheer unprecedented joy of arriving back at the Penyghent Café to be informed that we had completed the route in time…eleven hours and four minutes. I believe that there were many factors which contributed to my success: yes the weight loss had definitely been principle among these, but also the twenty-plus mile walks along Southport’s stunning Coastal Road had definitely played a part – as had May’s ascent of Pendle’s ‘Middle way’ – even Ingleborough seemed less challenging than this (though not to be taken lightly, I still paused a number of times). Mark was excellent company – even if he did comment to the effect that I dropped down the hills like a sheep (A sheep? Not a GOAT?) and it was a shame to lose Linzi at Chapel le Dale. I had vowed ‘never again’…that promise would last but two short months as I returned to do the reverse route with Darren and Colin at the end of August. Alas our bid was unsuccessful after some wayward rambling put us on a path which never seemed to get use any nearer to Pen-y-ghent.

The end of the Fairfield Horseshoe - Low Pike!
The end of the Fairfield Horseshoe – Low Pike!
The Coniston Range as seem from Low Pike.
The Coniston Range as seen from Low Pike.

In between the two Yorkshire assaults there were a few walks – including two trips to the glorious Lake District. The first trip was again with the Ramblers under the pretence of ‘We’re going up High Street’ – this was a blatant mis-direction as in fact the hill which we did ascend was the much lower (but still a Wainwright!) outcrop of Arthur’s Pike. Although the walk in itself was ‘lovely’ and the company was as good as ever, it just didn’t seem to be that much of a challenge a week after completing the Y3P. The second return to the Lake District however, was a real belter as four of us took on the impressive Fairfield Horseshoe. Karl and Sue were almost apologetic for the abysmal weather that stuck with us for over half of the walk…I was overjoyed to not be able to see the route in full and thoroughly enjoyed the whole day. If I only stick to one intended walk next year it would have to be another one of these Lakeland Horseshoe routes – preferably the Kentmere Horseshoe. That being said, there is another return to Horton in Ribblesdale planned in May!

From here on in the walking year became considerably easier. Yes there was a rather boring ascent and hair-raising descent of Winter hill and a record attempt at Pendle’s stepped path from around the back of Pendle house – in just fifty-seven minutes. On the same walk I also discovered the wilder side of Pendle at Churn Clough and Deerstones – locations to which I will surely return.

Yr Wyddfa - Or Snowdon as the rest of us call it!
Yr Wyddfa – Or Snowdon as the rest of us call it!
Connor and Darren in front of a hill which I cannot name!
Connor and Darren in front of a hill which I cannot name!

Ultimately, the ‘big walk’ came around. If the Y3P taught me anything it was a sense of perspective, we can only ever walk one footstep at a time. This would be a good motto onto which I would hold on as Darren, Connor and I took on the Welsh giant of Snowdon from Llanberris. Yes, it did prove to be easier than I could have hoped, but, was this only relative to the rest of my walking year? If I hadn’t already done two speedy (for me) walks up Pendle, the arduous trek up Parlick, the two Y3Ps and ultimately Fairfield’s Horseshoe would it have seemed as easy? Snowdon is a beacon in every sense of the word, it’s a challenge even once one has ascended it and I can hardly wait to return in the spring of next year to complete the challenging ‘Watkins Path’ again with Darren – though I’m not sure we’ll be roping in Connor to do this one! There would be few walks for the rest of the year, save for one adventure to do Rivington Pike with Chris…and a last visit to Pendle for All Saints Day, more stunning sceneryand the walk re-routed at Under Pendle, which is never a down-turn given that it’s my faourite part of the area.

It looks a long way to the top...but it really wasn't, thankfully.
It looks a long way to the top…but it really wasn’t, thankfully.
The sun sets on my walking year...it's been a fantastic, challenging and thoroughly rewarding year.
The sun sets on my walking year…it’s been a fantastic, challenging and thoroughly rewarding year.

In October we visited the lovely city of Edinburgh and on a leisurely amble I ended up climbing to the top of Arthur’s Seat – a hill of which I’d never heard before our visit. It was a thoroughly enjoyable dash to the summit and I’d love to return to take in a more circuitous route as opposed to the ‘up and down’ direct approach that I took.  Finally in November, Karl and I met up once more with the intent of completing another section of the Anglezarke Amble, but, with the main road from Egerton to Belmont being something of an ice rink we headed to the east – Edgworth and took in the bleak but captivating Holcolmbe Moor. This was about as remote as I have been all year, I doubt that I saw twenty people on the walk and would certainly not want to do this one on my own. We must go back one day when it’s warmer to ‘bag’ Bull hill but for now I’m glad to have made it through the day without falling over!

 

 

And so ends my walking year. It’s unlikely that I’ll add to my twenty four walks total – the greatest number (by far) that I have completed in one year. I can congratulate myself that I’ve taken on some big challenges in the Yorkshire Three Peaks, The Fairfield Horseshoe and the completion of Snowdon and I’ll be hard pressed to surpass this next year…but surpass I shall as I intend to re-visit Horton in Ribblesdale (with Darren) and to complete the Anglezarke Amble, the Watkins path up Snowdon and there are still those wretched four missing peaks from my ‘Top ten of England’ to tick off. Of course there will have to be more trips to Pendle – I’ve not completed all possible routes up there yet and well, I still love it there. I’m hopeful that Karl and I can get back to Keswick to do the classic Skiddaw via Ullock Pike and wouldn’t it be wonderful to replicate Julia’s walk over Broad Crag and Ill Crag before arriving at the mighty summit of Scafell Pike – it’s been too long since I last went there! For now it’s a case of feet up and build up the calories on mince pies ‘cos come February they’ll certainly be getting burned off again!

Oh I nearly forgot to mention: the hardly-coveted ‘Walk of the Year for 2015’…well I’m afraid that vanity wins out. Whilst achieving Snowdon with Darren and Connor was very rewarding and a great summit to tick off, and the Fairfield Horseshoe was again a great walk with great company…I did the Yorkshire Three Peaks for God’s sake…that was the ultimate highlight!

Andiamo!