Monday, January 7

December walking

Contrary to what I would have expected (and would have predicted, given the generally awful weather), the last month of 2012 was a real feast of walking for me.

It kicked off in dramatic fashion with a visit to Edinburgh early in the month, combining work (a site visit to the new Forth Crossing) with the pleasure of a weekend in the Scottish capital.

At my host's suggestion, we signed up for a six mile walk in the Pentland hills with his regular walking group. I'd been very envious of a walk he'd done earlier in the year in the same area, which I'd seen the photos of, and was keen to enjoy similar views.

With such expectations it was bound to fail; although I look back on it now as a memorable experience, at the time it was something of an ordeal! Three miles of climbing with ice and snow underfoot, cold conditions and little sunshine, followed by three miles of mud of the kind that you don't know how much of your leg is going to disappear each time you put your foot down. Right in the middle of those six miles, the main peak of Allermuir was wreathed in icy mist. It's good to laugh about it now, and I was saved from despair by the good company and the promise of ale at the end of it, but the walk will go down in the annals of history as the one that gave me a new perspective on mud.

Christmas was a time for urban walks - a Christmas day stroll from Deptford to Tower Bridge along the river gave us a glimpse of sunshine after a morning of heavy rain, and the chance to pop into the Mayflower pub for a lunchtime pint. We climbed Stave Hill to look across the treetops to Canary Wharf, and to add a few flights of stairs to my friend's daily pedometer total.

On the return trip, although the light was fading by now, the last of the sun's rays lit up the buildings across the other side of the river as we passed by.

On Boxing Day we headed along the river in the other direction, all the way to the Thames Barrier with a couple of pints of Doom Bar to keep us going, and just managed to get up the hill to Charlton Village before the rain returned with a vengeance.

A trip to the Austrian Tirol to visit my sister, her partner and my niece, offered the opportunity for some rather more dramatic walking, although we were restricted to mostly flat paths on our family walks. A walk around Schwarzee near Kitzbuhl gave us lovely views of the jagged mountains once the clouds parted in the late afternoon.

On the last day, my elder sister and I took a yomp up the mountain at the back of Ali's house to get some cardio-vascular exercise - the views were almost as spectacular has they had been from the cable car we'd ridden on the first day we arrived, with the added thrill of having to dodge across the ski slopes a couple of times, in between the skiers.

The photo below was taken from the lower slopes of the valley, showing the church in Hopfgarten, which dominates the village.

An evening return flight meant that I was late joining the new year's eve celebrations - the plus side being that I didn't drink a great deal and was able to leap out of bed the following gloriously sunny day and make the most of the holiday.

My chosen walk started at Toys Hill in Kent, and was six miles of glorious views, steep hills and almost deserted footpaths around Chartwell; a route recently devised in celebration of National Trust founder Octavia Hill, who lived in the area.

Although only six miles long it had a number of good climbs and descents, sufficient to give me a bit of a workout and raise my temperature on such a balmy day.

Some great trees too - I was able to add to my burgeoning collection of photos.

1 comment:

colleen said...

You can almost smell the clean air from those mountains.

Funny how long or short 6 miles can be; last weekend we walked from home to Clissold Park, bus to Ray Stitch, then down Essex Road to Angel. Interesting walk, but those pavements surely make your back ache the next day. All take, no give.