Monday, 3 February 2014

Rumination: Another Dark Season Survived

This last couple of months has not had Winter come down hard on it, there haven't been any exceptional bursts of intense cold and there's been only the slightest flurries of snow, instead it has been a lot of moderate temperatures and rain, not quite on Somerset levels, but the North Country has been kept moist throughout January. So why has this last five weeks or so been so singularly awful, as the arrival of February has been marked by several friends and acquaintances, cursing the previous month and condemning it to history as 'one of the worst ever'?

I have thankfully not been struck by any of the ailments that have been passing around the population, and that's a mighty relief, so all my stresses and strains have come from the consistently grey weather than has hung heavy in the Northern skies, and from the feelings of being overworked and ignored in my job, with no end in sight. Heavy cloud and the hiss of rain is far worse for the temperament than snow, frost, iciness or the sting of sub-zero temperatures that usually afflict us in winter, it's a leaden pall that blocks out sunshine and keeps the days short as the extra minutes of daylight are obscured. Three weeks into January and the benefits of extra light can usually be felt, but this year, a warm glow and the feeling of starting to have daylight in the evening didn't come on until the first day of February. So it's a Dark Season that is best shuffled off into the dustbin of history, and I look forward to having weekends which offer me some respite from the grind of work, back in the regular routine after being elsewhere for most of 2013, but now stuck under a weight of work that isn't lifting, despite all our best efforts, leaving me actively hating my job for the first time in a decade. Indeed, the feeling of having daylight available again for my useful exercise and personal entertainment makes the strains of work recede a bit, as I look forward to reviving my walking career with my 1,000 mile target only 87 miles distant. The Dark Season did bring the odd moment of respite and relief along the way, allowing myself a couple of stretches of necessary exercise, including my 5 mile round trip to Birstall retail park, and another 5 miles on New Year's Day in Calderdale, adding some more tracks to my list of places to go in the future as any walk at that time of year can only counted as necessary exercise for walking off the drinks of the previous night (and for making room for more!).

The best news of the Festive Season itself was acquiring myself Pair of Boots #4 as a Christmas gift from my parents, to replace the prematurely aged Pair of Boots #3, and it's a real case of replacing like for like as they are of the exact same style, but I did prove the necessity to go to Mountain Warehouse in Ilkley so I could pick out the pair myself as the lining in the first pair I tried had an odd wrinkle in them which would have undoubtedly proved irritating in due time. I'll be making an effort to get the 'three seasons' out of these boots that is claimed for them, or at least get a whole two years of done before I inevitably wear them out, I guess I'll have to learn the arts of boot-care, and actually start using that tin of Dubbin which Mum bought for me quite a while ago.

'Meet the New Boots / Same as the Old Boots'

Also added to the New Gear pile, courtesy of My Sis and Dr G, is waterproof bags, absolutely essential if I'm going to try back-packing again (not on my initial slate of plans, but who knows where the year will end up), and also new socks as that seems to be the one thing that Mountain Warehouse seems incapable of doing well (I'm still reluctant to shop at the more expensive stores), but it looks like the ancient Regatta rucksack that I've had for at least a dozen years is going to do another year. Still add new walking literature to the pile to find new trails around the Pennines and to the UK's County Tops, and it feels like I've gained plenty of stuff to utilise in the coming season. Unfortunately, a trip to Huddersfield to seek out the route guides to the major trails of Kirklees came to nought as the tourist information desk had nothing in stock (aside from mounds of leaflets for short walks in the Denby Dale area), it's almost as if they expect all the district's tourist traffic to head straight to Holmfirth?

So, Daylight returns and the worst of the Dark Season slips away, and at long last the third year of my odyssey can get going, and I've had my planning chart to ensure I don't run out of ideas in 2014 and thus added to the slate for the final push are:
  • The Hadrian's Wall path. My first National Trail, and my first Coast-to-Coast trek as I've yet to get to the seaside on either side of the country, and the Wainwright C-2-C is still looking a bit too epic for my liking.
  • The Wakefield Way, for which the route guide has sat on the shelf for over a year, and the Kirklees Way, whose route guide still eludes me, as that will complete the major circular trails of West Yorkshire.
  • Blazing a trail from Morley to all the administrative centres of West Yorkshire's five metropolitan  districts, as I need to walk closer to home and see me some town halls.
  • Going over the top to Lancashire more then the zero times manged in 2013, and getting onto the Witton Weavers Way betwixt Bolton and Blackburn; also getting the girls onto more hills!
  • Starting a nibble at the Trans Pennine Trail, by taking on the authentically Trans-Pennine section along the old Woodhead route from Hadfield to Penistone.
  • Seeking out further railway walks, as I know of three in the immediate locality that I haven't taken on so far.
  • Returning to Mallerstang to get at least one of Wild Boar Fell, Mallerstang Edge or Lady Anne's Highway off my list.
  • Crossing the line of unexplored West Yorkshire formed by the Calder and the Colne, and finding the hidden highlights of Kirklees and Wakefield Districts.
  • Making tracks to the three locations often mentioned but never approached in my travels so far, namely Pendle Hill, Castle Hill and Emley Moor transmitter.
  • and finally, at least one social walk, as I've been a damnably unsociable bugger in 2013, and I need to make amends to my closest friends for that.
That should cover the remaining 87 miles to my 1,000 mile target, and the seven months or so to follow it before my 40th birthday in November, and I can probably justify two drinking sessions to celebrate both of them when they arrive, but for now I'll just look hopeful for the new season as the daylight starts to give me new life and the greyness of winter slips away. I know it's not going to be an easy season as work/life balancing leaves me with little in my tank, but right now I'm feeling positive and looking forward to the new season of walking. I'm not looking forward to having to blog about it, though, I'm pretty sure that is going to be an absolute chore.

Next on the Slate: 2014 starts with me walking somewhere I have never walked before...

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