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Going the Distance

"Who the hell stole my hiking staff?"

The return from Scotland and the rare luxury of the TGO Challenge (and for me a fortnight of walking and wild camping is, alas, rare indeed) was bound to leave me feeling a little down once the elation had time to fade, but the UK Games Expo was hard enough on its heels to keep my spirits high for a while. With those two big events gone there was just the humdrum workaday business of the humdrum working day to face.

Something I noticed after my last Challenge was what little appetite I had to go walking in the weeks after the TGO. Compared to the self-powered near-wilderness experience offered there any local day walk looked a bit wan and anaemic, hardly worth the effort, so it was probably a very good thing that this time I had a call from my friend and old hiking partner Martin asking me to sort out a short walk suitable for his young son. Ironically I’ve been trying to get Martin back out onto the hills for several years, always scuppered, quite understandably, by the demands of his business and family life, but now that his First Born Son is old enough to manage a few miles without complaint things may gradually change.

By the time I’d settled on a likely route from the Jarrold Pathfinder series (for convenience, as much as anything) word had spread; and as you can see from the photo we were joined by a few additional bodies, including Mr and Mrs Weasel who were with me at the Expo last month. The particular walk – number 4 in the Cheshire guidebook, for those of you following along at home – was around Bollington, picked partly because there was an option to go either the full 3.5 miles including a climb up to Nab Head, or to skip the hill and walk the route as a 2.5 mile circular instead. Exceptionally lovely weather made for a meadow lunch stop looking like something out of a 1970s chocolate selection advert, but it also wilted a couple of our party a little and we took the shorter route. Nice to be able to make the decision mid-walk, rather than having to plan it in advance.

There’s a lot to recommend the area, with its aquaduct, viaduct, canal, industrial heritage sculpture, attractively rugged buildings and glorious countrside,  and it certainly made for a delightful walk. Two and a half miles is, of course, pretty much nothing in terms of hiking, nor was the terrain strenuous. Pacing was awkward for me, having to slow down not only because the kids don’t walk very quickly but also because they don’t keep walking, and having to navigate for a group is a strangely uncomfortable thing. On my own I never actually worry about navigation. I’m careful, occasionally methodical when needed, and on the whole it doesn’t bother me if I cock things up now and then and have to put in some extra walking or retrace my steps, yet potentially asking the same of others certainly does bother me. All in all, this should not have been much in the way of an enjoyable day out in regular hiking terms.

And of course it was fine, lovely even, because it was a day out with good friends exploring attractive countryside. There was even a cricket match underway when we returned to Bollington, just in case the complete scene hadn’t seemed quite English enough. Martin must have been overwhelmed by the Englishness, come to think of it, as he took us all home for a cream tea and glasses of Pimm’s. It’s how we won an empire.

It’s all too easy to treat walking as a serious hobby demanding serious preparation and challenges, putting it off until the opportunity arises for a “proper” hike, so this gentle nudge was a huge help for me, a reminder that getting out there and getting on with it is what really matters. Although the Pimm’s certainly didn’t hurt.

Categories: Hiking, Outdoorsy
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