Some walks have a special place in your heart, like a fondly loved tune or a favourite meal. This walk is one of mine for reasons I can’t truly explain. It’s not especially dramatic, doesn’t possess any features of great interest, in fact I would imagine the “big peak” baggers would call it dull. Perhaps it’s the peace and solitude, possibly the open expansive views, or just simply it’s such a quiet and little known or walked area. Whatever the reason it’s a great easy stroll that fits in with the laid back atmosphere we always seem to conjure and cultivate on our Xmas weekends.
After our cracking day out to Hadrians Wall and an evening of curry, quizzes and stories it was time for a more leisurely day. Best way to begin such a day is with a humungous fried breakfast served with toast and several pots of tea. None of us are especially great cooks (well Mark is actually but let’s not build his part up) but boy do we know how to fry sausages and bacon and boil unfeasibly large amounts of beans in a pan. Refreshed and stomachs full to bursting we needed exercise so we “popped out for a stroll”.
We headed on the same route as we did last year (minus the clear, cold, snowy conditions) but when I plotted the route it came out at 7.5 miles which surprised me as it always feels less than half that.
D is now the proper mountain man so declined the offer of a kiddy stroll in favour of joining that seasoned group of mountaineers that is me, Mark, Geordie Munro and Uncle Fester – building parts up again there. We strode, well ambled, along the quiet and muddy banks of the Mohope Burn below the hostel where we met up with the advance summit party who’d got up at the crack of dawn to bag what turned out to be spot heights on the moor.
This prompting a new tedious train of thought about possible guidebooks and tick lists. EWO then took a sideways step away from convincing us that weather is sunny and cloudless when it clearly isn’t, to trying to convince us that the moors were not boggy when they clearly were. We decided it was time to move on and headed on up towards the moors. Not without losing one of our party though. You’re probably thinking it was the younger member of the party, worn down by the relentless pace of the experienced members. Wrong, it was Uncle Fester who bailed out – he can’t walk for two consecutive days the poor old lamb. Despite this set-back we recovered our composure and carried on.
There was a biting cold wind blowing so we took a stop in the forest of the Corryhill Plantation. It was dark and gloomy but again for reasons I can’t put my finger on it was a wonderful 30 minutes. We sat, brewed tea , ate cold apple crumble and custard from a sandwich box, and relived, at D’s request, some of our favourite days in the mountains from years gone by. Mark has detailed this in his blog post of the same day as well as a rather dated and embarrassing photo from the 80’s. If I ever get the time I’d love to scan in some of those old photos and tell a few more of those tales from years gone by, they were good times.
We continued up onto the Dryburn Moor and on to Greenleycleugh Crags. As expected it was boggy unlike the assertions of EWO!
Small in stature and little more than a line of loose boulders it’s an esoteric spot which I’ve grown to love. The view spreads from the western Lake District to Cross Fell and over to the North Sea. Doesn’t really qualify as a “hill” but it would definitely make it into my book of “small hills with disproportionately fine views”. It’s up there now with Carn Fadryn, Foeldrygarn and Arnside Knott in my affections. It’s lonely, unspoilt and evokes feelings of a bygone age. Despite the road only a few hundred metres away it feels like a step back in time to a simpler age. It’s a beguiling place and one I urge you to seek out when you are up this way
Due to the late start the light was fading so after a brief pause we headed down through the open moor and upland fields down to West Allendale.
We caught sight of a couple of deer in the woods as we descended the ever steepening slopes to the river including a rather precarious and dated gate.
Back in the valley we crossed fields of mud and passed through the sleepy farms at Broadlee and Hesleywell back to the hostel. It was pretty much dark when we got back but we all added this walk and this day to our list of the best ever. It says much for it’s quality that it shares a place with some well known and distinctive routes from my past. My first ascent of Ben Nevis in winter, Piz Palu in the Bernina Alps, Chrome Hill in the White Peak, Sgor Gaoith on skis to name a few. It deserves it’s place.
Having visited this area for the past 3 years and this walk in particular the last 2, perhaps its familiarity that gives this walk it’s special place. They say familiarity breeds contempt. I disagree, and this weekend epitomises that sentiment. To me familiarity is bred from memories and my memories are my story of who I am and the person I’ve become. My passion for the outdoor life is very much at the core of my personality so my memories of my walks both favourite and less well cherished are an integral part of that. As I have changed so has my appreciation of the mountains. In my callow youth I became the peak bagger, seeking out the highest summits, the well known mountains, the longest routes, compiling and checking off lists, reluctant to repeat a mountain (“nah, went up that one last year”). Nowadays I look for unusual places, hills I’ve never heard of or visited, intriguing routes, quiet places. When I’ve found them I like to revisit them and enjoy them time over adding to that list favourites and special places. Familiarity breeds close acquaintance and an understanding of charms and subtleties. You come to feel at home on a walk
This passion for the outdoor life began while I was at University through it’s Hiking club. I forged some great friendships from those beginnings with people who shared that passion. These friends that were with me right at the start are still my best friends today. They have shared in many of my formative experiences in the hills and been part of most of the those favourite days. They are part of that familiarity that marks out who I am. We’ve all grown up (a bit!) through various careers and now into building our own families but the outdoors is still that constant binding thread. These weekends are a fundamental part of my life and I can’t imagine it any other way. When we get together that familiarity breeds a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere of friendship that I’d struggle to define. The old favourite stories from 30+ years that we re-tell time and again (and often joke about) remind me of good times, no, great times that we’ve had and like the favourite walks are part of who I am, my story, that I now tell through the blog. It will be sad day if we stop telling them or sharing the memories. I can’t imagine not spending the last weekend before Xmas in a Youth Hostel, the first weekend in the school summer holidays in North Wales or any other of the regular get-togethers. Familiarity breeds lifelong friendships.
Next year it’s off to somewhere new. Goodbye Ninebanks (for now) and thanks for all the fish 🙂