25 October 2013

To walk or not to walk, the choice is yours

Like most people who enjoy the beauty of the outdoors and the thrill of discovering where a path, dirt track or passageway will lead you, I enjoy looking at maps and planning trips to the countryside. Sometimes though, it's fun to just pick a place, and go! As a child I remember lots of times, usually on Sunday mornings, when my parents would say, "let's go out for a drive" and I would respond at times quite unenthusiastically asking where we were going and for how long... but then I probably just wanted to go out to play with my friends. Now that I'm a bit older I love picking a place on a map, packing a rucksack and heading off into the hills with no certainties about where I'm going or what I'll see.  

It still amazes me that less than an hour's journey from the hustle and bustle of Manchester, it is entirely possible to separate yourself from everyday life, leave your stresses and worries behind, and simply enjoy being free to wander through fields and valleys, past lakes, rivers and tarns, and over fells, hills and mountains. One of the things I love most about getting out into the countryside is the smell of fresh air - you just can't beat that clean and pure flavour that somehow just leaves a healthy aftertaste in your mouth. I am a firm believer that going for a walk in the countryside can be every bit as beneficial and as healing as an aspirin. In fact, the stillness of your surroundings and the sounds of nature are the perfect antidote to beating the blues!

It came as a surprise to me to find that walking and enjoying the countryside hasn't always been quite so easy. Freedom to roam our green and pleasant land hasn't always been granted. In the 1930's there was a mass trespass on the highest point in Derbyshire, Kinder Scout, by some 400 ramblers from Manchester who believed and demanded that they should be given the right and the freedom to access our countryside, much to the unease of local  landowners. The hardworking factory grafters and dockers spilling out of the smoky industrial towns of northern England looked forward to their weekends where they could fill their lungs with fresh, clean countryside air. Yet a small minority of wealthy landowners, some of whom were MPs, did not warm to the idea of their privileges being weakened by opening up their land to walkers. Over 400 walkers made it up to Kinder Scout, barging their way past angry gamekeepers and landowners, only to be arrested by police when they got back down for 'riotous assembly'. Luckily for everyone who now enjoys walking in the countryside in the 21st century, the public began to back these walkers and demand free access to the countryside; so much so that thousands began to protest and the right to roam remained on the public's agenda for some time until in 1951 in the aftermath of the second world war, the post-war Labour government decided that Britain should get its very first National Park, and it was, quite fittingly, The Peak District; along with one of my favourites, The Lake District, Dartmoor and Snowdonia. And as we know, there were plenty more where they came from.

With so many National Parks, woods, gardens and forests right across Britain, there is something for everyone. It is a travesty if we don't explore these places when our ancestors fought and fought for the right to roam this beautiful and unique land that we inhabit. Unfortunately, as well as stunning landscapes, we are also blessed with a rather varied climate which can make it challenging to enjoy the outdoors when it's cold, blowing a gale and bullets of rain are beating down on your face as you try your utmost to stay vertical along the mountain side. So the way I see it, we have two choices: a) put on your waterproof raincoat, pack a flask of hot tea and off you go; or b) wait until it's sunny and warm (nb. option b may incur a long wait).

As the Scottish-born, American naturalist and conservationist, John Muir, once wrote: 'Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves'. 

Here are a few snaps from my recent wanderings in the Lakes...  

Coniston Water
Levens Water, near Old Man of Coniston
View down to Coniston Water
Levens Water

Esthwaite Water, near Coniston
Esthwaite Water, near Coniston


  1. Fabulous Chrissie! We must arrange to go walking together soon; Marlaine X X

  2. Thank you Marlaine! That would be lovely xxx


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