Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Introductory Thoughts 2010

My New Year’s resolution for 2010 came to naught, but it was the hatching of a significant plan, walking the Leeds Country Way. I’d studied the maps and downloaded the path guides already, and thought that 62 miles was not an over-awing distance when there are regular points to catch public transport, for which cost wouldn’t be a worry with my super-awesome Metrocard. The difficulty was I couldn’t figure how my body would react to 12+ miles of walking in a day, I guessed I’d need to do it in the middle of a week off work, with a couple of days to psych myself up beforehand and days afterward to recover. There was surely no way I could walk a stretch at the weekend and then go do a regular week of work. Predictably enough, I managed to convince myself that it wasn’t possible, for I didn’t have the stamina required and I would surely have other things to do with my time off, so it never happened, but the idea was out there.

As it turned out, 2010 proved to be the year of many holidays, as I discovered that it was possible to travel on one’s own and checking into (and paying for!) hotels was not the worst stress in the world. Four times I managed to get away, a huge number for me as I’d managed only one significant holiday away between 1993 and 2009.

First up was London in March, not with walking as my impetus, but concerts and photography. Music making at the Royal Festival Hall and the Cadogan Hall proved to be nowhere near as expensive as I’d feared, so getting in gigs by The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra didn’t break the bank at all. The photography angle was to complete my tour and the Wren churches, and that was the stretch that got the walking in over two days. The first day started out from Charing Cross and featured around 5 miles of a tortuous path to Tower Hill and on to the Barbican, finding the remaining 12 Wren churches in the City, and the second went from Liverpool Street, through the financial district (home of the surviving Medieval churches, oddly), and on a very windy walk from Old Street to Langham Place for the two remaining Wrens and many, others. No idea how far I walked on that day, close on seven miles, I’m guessing, but now I have the Complete Wren Churches gracing my wall at home.

The Wren Churches, by Me

The next pair of holidays feature less walking, Holday #2 was a May Day weekend trip to Welshpool to stay for one last holiday at my Mum’s cousin’s house, a home away from home if my family ever had one and a stop point on many trips away in my childhood. Sadly, AR had gone into residential care and her house was being put up for sale to pay for costs, so this was one last chance for a gathering of our clan, and an opportunity for my nieces to enjoy a small amount of our childhood. So on to the farm parks, narrow-gauge steam railways and country gardens of Welsh Wales, all that was missing was the tour of all the relative’s farms, as the many branches of my Welsh heritage are no longer with us.

Holiday #3 in August was a repeat trip to Northumberland, to get in a lot of what we hadn’t seen the previous year. So I tempered my expectations for walking and set myself as useful bag carrier for whatever would keep the girls entertained. Beach trips, three times over, castle trips to Chillingham and Etal, fun and sights at Alnwick gardens, Seahouses lifeboat day and the Heaterslaw Light Railway. Plus a return to Cragside, finding out the town of Coldstream is closed, and discovering that my joking about the Scottish record in battle vs. the English could be turned into a rather sobering feeling when realising the 16,000 men died at the Battle of Flodden in 1513. There was walking though, a visit to Berwick on Tweed demands a walk of the walls as it is really more fortress than town, and with parents and nieces in tow, that is almost a day’s excursion in itself. The proper walk was an afternoon jaunt through Hepburn forest park and up over the Hepburn Moor to Ros Castle Camp, the best view point on the elevated ridge between the Cheviots and the coast. A really nice stretch to take with my Sis and Dr. G, and a really good opportunity to experience the capricious weather on that part of the coast. Bright sunshine for our start and finish, and our ascent and summit, and lashing rain on the trip over the moor and our descent. Still, worth if for the view and the exercise, but I know that I’m gong to need waterproofs if I’m going to get into walking seriously.

The Cheviots, from Ros Castle Camp

Finally, to London again for holiday #4 in October, so I can take my parents to the London Eye (worth its exorbitant fare) and to the theatre (‘Yes, Prime Minister’ was as good as I could have hoped for), and to give them museum fatigue at Tate Modern and the National Portrait gallery. Also walking, and two nice stretches done, of the three I’d plotted on Google Maps, this time seeking out the so-called Commissioners churches, and to appreciate the genius of Nicholas Hawksmoor. Excursion #1 was South Kensington to Westminster, and that is a lot longer than the tube ride makes it feel, and #2 was a lot of hopping between public transports and walking, taking in Greenwich, Deptford, Poplar and Limehouse. Lots more Churches photographed, and an unknown number of miles walked, I curse A to Z maps for their lack of clarity of scale! When I tire of writing about walking, I might turn my hand to a blog that tries to reconcile my love of Church architecture with my hardened Atheism, but that is very much for another day…

To be concluded.

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