Sunday, August 26

Summer outdoor walking and ennui?

Whilst out walking the two collies today I was catching up with Podcast Bob and Andy Howell's excellent series of Podcasts covering this year's TGO Challenge. And as I sometimes find with Bob's work my mind tends to go into some sort of free association whilst watching my path ahead, nature around me, and concentrating on the podcast.

I'm not too sure why this happens. Hopefully not due to any subliminal messages buried in Bob's casts. (Only joking Bob! Otherwise you'd be a millionaire by now, and my house would be full of walking gear. Err - hang on - about that last point .........)

But it occurred to me that my posting rate seems to have tailed off recently. And what there has been seems to me to have become brief and (mutter it quietly) even a little lightweight at times. OK, even the greatest writers aren't on top form 100% of the time, and I definitely don't want to fall into the basic blogger trap of posting just for the sake of it. But why the tail off?

So I set to mulling the cause. It's not from lack of thoughts or ideas. Nor any ennui with this site. I think perhaps it's more a sullen reflection of my outdoor adventures this year. Or more over my lack of them.

As I've mentioned in the past, living on the south coast means it is so simple to pop out for day trips along the Dorset SWCP or the New Forest. Lots of open space and paths. But also lots of agricultural land i.e. stick to the path stuff. So I don't really enjoy such outings so much these days.

I'd rather have a short series of exploration type walks in checking out a new area. Or get out for a few days at least, preferably with wildcamps overnight. And whilst that latter goal can be achieved locally, its fraught with far more preplanning/third party permission and far less "I'll pitch it here coz it looks a nice spot".

Then of course many of the local prime walking areas I've either already visited, or just don't go near, especially during the summer months, due to the number of people trying to do the same. August on the coast is a definite No-No.

Hence my enjoyment of trips to wilder areas, but these entail a long journey, usually northwards, and as a result pre-booking days off work (A Good Thing!), cover for home (A Good Plan if I want to find the locks unchanged) etc etc to make a trip worthwhile.

And then there's the niggling back problem, which despite treatment seems to remain largely unchanged. Still enough to niggle. Not enough to stop me doing things if I really want to. I'm starting to think it less a physical source, more my body's way of reminding me of work pressure. (Time for that work/life balance chat with myself again)

Earlier this week I started looking for a late season holiday away with my family. As the kids have become older they tend sort out their own entertainment these days, so breaks outside the school holidays are now possible, and far cheaper. Therefore loads more options. But perhaps too much choice now?

In the past few years we've disappeared to a delectable Devon cottage on the edge of Dartmoor for a quiet week away from the rat race. Nothing but the sounds of birds and the occasional deer rut at night. But this year the cottage was withdrawn from the letting market so that fallback position has disappeared. As a result we've failed to either agree on a location or pre-book anything, which alongside increased work obligations and concerns with job security means its only now we've become aware of the lack of "The Break".

Similarly these concerns have meant my walking trips seem to have been organized at shortish notice, and almost reluctantly (work related again!) Although once I've got going they continue to be hugely enjoyable and a much needed refresh of my mental battery.

A chance comment recently led me to check my trip diary for last year. I've kept a Walks Diary for several years, initially to record routes and possible ideas for the future, but as the number of new local trips lessen, the longer trips are the ones mainly written down these days.

Checking back over 2006 I'd had 3 separate week wildcamp and hosteling trips in in the Lake District, and one off the cuff Dartmoor wildcamp by this time of year. And this year? One week in the Lakes. One long weekend in Scotland. That's it.

I guess the weather has been part of the problem. As I recall longish spells of good weather sparked off at least two of the trips last year. So I've reluctantly come to the conclusion that any similar chance this year might be possible in September, but the drip drip drip of a fast departing Summer seems to be the sound heard with every new rainy day. And the sunny weather this weekend merely underlines the shortening days (8.45 pm here as a write and dark outside already)

The answer? Obvious of course.

Try to ignore my usual feeling of being brain dead at the end of the working day, and get both a joint Break and one more walking trip sorted out. Now.

But as a long married personage (and one who intends to stay that way!) I'm acutely aware that the date for the first needs to be agreed, before I dare pencil in the second. So its back to the web searches and browsing travel agent shop windows for that elusive bargain. And that means consensus. Which in turn means delayed decisions.

Meanwhile the year wends its way further towards cold, damp and darker days.

So that's my excuse. Pitiful isn't it.

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Comments:
...the sunny weather this weekend merely underlines the shortening days (8.45 pm here as a write and dark outside already)...

I find the summer days far too long - the sun is still shining late in the evening and the tent is like an oven!. Also people are still out and about till late - we like to pitch when they are all leaving the hills and won't disturb us. The ideal time for us is around the equinoxes when the sun sets around 6-7pm.

Meanwhile the year wends its way further towards cold, damp and darker days.

Will you be doing any backpacking trips in winter?. The days are shorter and good weather is scarcer, but when it comes it's fantastic.
 
Thoughtful piece, aren't these family commitments a bummer when they stop you getting out on the hill.
Although I think I am enjoying my local walks more, observing the seasons, trying to get more out of them than ever before.
 
I suppose I'm lucky - I work from home so I'm very flexible and only have to arrange with myself for time off! Also my kids are no longer at home - most of the time.
I go on shorter, more low-level walks with my other half, and again I'm lucky in that she's pretty good at understanding my obsession about scrambling up hills on my own. This year I've been fortunate in having the time to do quite a few trips - and once again by some quirk the weather has been favourable. But it hasn't always been like this - I've had year after year in the past when kids were in the priority and it's been 4 in a tent in rainy Norfolk or Cornwall, or gritting my teeth in a Florida theme-park. All of which doesn't really help you through your mini Slough of Despond! All I can say is: "Carpe Diem", and spend the afternoon, you can't take it with you...
 
Good thoughts folks - let's try to all stay positive. Spring will soon be here
;-)
 
i know how you feel John.living in London it is hard to get out to wild placesbut i have found this year that i have discovered a love for rural Britian.Its hard to find a camp spot but they do exist.like yo said in a earlier comment on mt blog,join the wild camp guerilla movement.
mike
 
Only post when you feel like it. This is supposed to be fun :-)
 
Only post when you feel like it. This is supposed to be fun :-)
 
Good advice you'all
;-)
 
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