And so, we reach that time of the year where we are prone to a bit of reflection on the 12 months gone past and look forward to the New Year that is on its way. As is traditional I have decided to have a bit of a review of the last 365 days of walking and together with my good lady wife we have introduced the “Woodys” – our very own walking awards (there is no actual prize before you get excited). So, put on your dinner jacket and bow tie or evening dress for the ladies, imbibe a large amount of champagne and get your winners speeches ready as we start with the Woody for Animal Encounter of the Year...
|Spot the seal|
2012 was our year of the goat, we saw the largest goats ever the other week when we were walking up Stoodley Pike (they were very cute though) and we also saw the amazing balancing goats of Anglesey that were being used to manage some of the vegetation on the cliff edges. They were very clever as they moved around on the rocks just above the sea. If they had slipped I’m not sure how they would have got back out again. We also managed to see a slow worm on Arran as we came down off Goatfell. It was just sat there in the middle of the track looking all snaky. However, the winner has to be the seals at Millport harbour on Great Cumbrae. It was just magical, a lovely little cove, crystal clear water with the sun glinting on it and around half a dozen seals popping their heads up just off shore and playing about. Jo and I stood and watched them for ages while we waited for the bus back to the ferry.
|Camping in a vineyard|
The next category is Campsite of the Year. We didn’t actually do that much camping this year compared to previous years – possibly due to the weather. We did start the year off though with our first ever stay in a camping pod at The Quiet Site near Ullswater. For those of you who don’t know what a camping pod is, it’s a curvaceous shed. They have a light and a heater but everything else you have to bring yourself. Bearing in mind that we had chosen February for our first time in a pod it was, to put it bluntly; bloody freezing the first night (this was due to us not working out how to operate the heater). The next night was a lot better as we borrowed an additional heater and we were as snug as a bug. The other thing noteworthy about The Quiet Site is the bar. Set in a converted barn it is stuffed (literally) full of animals, it’s like a taxidermist’s idea of heaven. Everywhere you look there are glassy eyed furry things in cabinets. We also gave Thirlspot Farm a go in the Lake District. Having driven past it many times its close proximity to the Kings Head pub swung it for us and we were not disappointed. It was pretty cheap but clean and had all the necessary facilities. Even though it was next to the road it was quiet and the pub was excellent. This year’s Campsite of the Year though has to be Ty Croes on Anglesey. Believe it or not it has its own vineyard. It’s just down the road from Newborough Beach (more of that later) and our stay there was just so incredibly relaxing that it had to win. As we now want to finish off the Anglesey Coast Path we will definitely be back there next year.
|Picnic spot of the year|
What is a walk without a picnic? We have found some really good picnic spots this year but the ones that really stand out must be the bench just below the summit of Dodd in the Lake District where, just the other week, we sat drinking hot chocolate with Baileys in it enjoying the view over Derwentwater as everybody else in the country ran around doing Christmas shopping. Jo and I also tried to get out in evenings after work for local walks when the nights were lighter so we had a few picnic teas and we had a lovely time sat on top of White Nancy with some sausage butties one night. Our top picnic spot of 2012 though was on the beach at Cladach on Arran having just climbed Goatfell. The view across the water and the lovely autumn sunshine would probably have given it top spot anyway but the weird way that the waves came in and ran along the beach with a load roaring noise gave it an extra reason for winning.
|Valentine's Day in a howling gale|
2012 was of course notable for the sheer amount of rain that fell so it would be remiss not to mention our Worst Weather of the Year. First up, rain. We did a walk from Betws Y Coed round Llyn Y Parc in the pouring rain. It started as that thick drizzle but as we got half way round it turned into a torrential downpour, everything got wet. It worked its way through our coats and trousers and the paths were muddy and slippery. At least there was plenty of water going over the Swallow Falls. From rain to sun and the day we did the Fairfield Horseshoe. It must have been the hottest day of the year as we did the 12 mile route. We didn’t take enough drink and we got really badly sunburned – a valuable lesson learned I think. Without doubt though the worst weather we had this year was the wind when we went up Ard Crag and Knott Rigg. As we had already aborted this walk once the previous year due to high winds we decided to press on this time. I think there must be something about this corner of the Lake District that acts as a wind tunnel. It was so windy it nearly blew Jo off her feet at one point – quite a way to spend Valentine’s Day.
|Getting sunburned doing the Fairfield Horseshoe|
While we are on the slight low points let’s get our Most Uncomfortable Walk of the Year out of the way. The contenders were the above mentioned Llyn Y Parc walk as well as another trek along Baslow Edge. Jo’s boots were getting on a bit and had started to leak so when we did the Baslow Edge walk she was walking in two puddles and was not a happy bunny. We went out and bought her a new pair which she was wearing when we did the Fairfield Horseshoe. So Fairfield is the winner as not only was it boiling hot and we were lacking in drink but Jo was in agony by the end and could barely walk due to her rubbing boots.
OK that was the bad stuff out of the way so back to the good. Jo and I have had a bit of a year of it this year, on the plus side we got married but we also had a load of stress and worry about our jobs and lots of other stuff going on so we have needed the odd bit of running away for some time off which brings me to Best Escape and Bringer of Sanity of the Year. Sometimes you don’t need a full blown holiday, sometimes just a good day away from it all is enough to get your head straight and one such day was our “Christmas Shopping” trip to Keswick. The plan was simple, drive to the Lakes, buy what we needed and then go for a walk which led to us doing Wainwright number 59 (Dodd) as a bit of a bonus. Another grand day out was the day trip to do Lingmoor Fell followed by a plate of goulash in the Dog and Gun, life doesn’t get much better than that. However, the top Escape and Bringer of Sanity was our few days on Anglesey; the campsite in the vineyard, Newborough beach and the delights of the coastal path made life bearable again.
|well worth the money|
Jo and I had a bit of a difference of opinion when it came to our Favourite Bits of Kit of the Year. I went for walking stuff with my new North Ridge Agility Pro technical trousers and the Sprayway Nyx coat that I won from Country Walking Magazine high on the list. Jo went with the camping toaster, which I have to admit is pretty nifty and makes an evening in the tent more homely as well as the tent itself. In the end though Jo chose her Marmot gloves as her favourite things as they keep her hands warm and dry whilst I went for my Salomon 4D GTX boots which are the most comfortable things I have ever put on my feet.
Food and drink now with first Teashop of the Year which was a close fought category with our old favourite Laura In The Lakes in Keswick who are purveyors of a fine breakfast as well as massive sausage rolls and a new one in the National Trust for Scotland’s property at Brodick Castle on Arran which has a lovely terrace with a view over the gardens to drink your coffee and munch your scone. This year’s top of the teashops though is Faeryland in Grasmere; a grand view over the lake to Loughrigg, rowing boats, an odd collection of tea pots and generous portions of cake make it a clear winner.
The second of the food and drink categories is Pub of the Year. It was hard coming up with a short list never mind to choose a winner. The contenders were narrowed down to The Vale, Bollington who provided the beer for our wedding as well as being generally excellent, great atmosphere, good food and sponsors of the local walking festival and the town’s cricket team. Joining them was The Church in Uppermill which is just one of the quirkiest pubs anywhere with peacocks, morris dancers, their own brewery and a portion of fish and chips that would feed a family of four ... for a week. The top pub though was The Dog and Gun in Keswick for the goulash, dog biscuits (not in the goulash), the money pushed into the stonework and general hubbub of a walking/climbing/outdoor type nature.
We are now down to the final four awards; if this was the Oscars then these would be the ones for best film, director, actor and actress. These are the most prestigious of the Woodys, the rest have just been 1,800 words of preamble really. This is where the action and the glamour really are as we decide initially on Moment of the Year
|this picture does it no justice at all|
Wow have we had some moments this year! There was, of course, the whole getting married thing but as this blog is ultimately more about getting people out and about I will concentrate on the outdoors moments rather than trying to inspire you to tie the knot – that has got to be your decision. So, what did make the shortlist? There was the sight of a spitfire flying along Dunmail Raise as we wandered along the Fairfield Horseshoe. Due to us being somewhere around Heron Pike we found ourselves looking down on it as it made its way towards Thirlmere, it was a pretty impressive sight. Talking of impressive, Castlerigg stone circle near Keswick is always a sight to behold as it nestles in its ring of mountain neighbours but the evening we went was particularly good as was one of those spectacular sunsets that are all pinks and purples and oranges. I tried to take some pictures on my iPhone but they didn’t really capture the moment. The ultimate Moment of the Year though (not counting the wedding) has to be those seals at Millport again – they really were that good.
|First peak for Mr and Mrs Wood|
We have done a lot of hills this year. 25 new Wainwrights plus a return to the Langdale Pikes as well as getting out and about in other parts of the country has meant there have been some fine summits for us to savour. The day we went up High Street we did 5 Wainwrights, each of which was a beauty. The summit of High Street and its flat top, historical connections and view which went from one end of the Lake District to the other was particularly good. We went up Holyhead Mountain, the highest point on Anglesey, and sat watching ferries leave the port below and travel over to Ireland. Then there was the previously mentioned “Christmas Shopping” trip that ended in us climbing Dodd with its easy walk up through the forest and fantastic view of Bassenthwaite, Derwentwater and the North Western fells. Earlier in the year we had ticked off little Loughrigg a hill that definitely punches above its weight and goes to prove that you can’t measure a hill’s worth in just feet or metres. The winner though was our first Scottish peak, Goatfell on Arran. What a mountain that is. It is steep and rocky with views across the other Arran peaks, up to the higher mountains on the mainland and across the Firth of Clyde. It was our first summit as Mr and Mrs Wood and we couldn’t have picked a better one so that was Summit of the Year.
|A deserted beach with mountains - best of both worlds|
Talking of views you don’t just get them off the tops of mountains. If I name my favourite view contenders then the ones from High Street, Goatfell and Loughrigg would be in the top five but there was also a very fine view from the cliffs above South Stack on Anglesey with the big drop, churning sea and gleaming white lighthouse with masses of seabirds swirling around. The winner though wins by a long way; it was during a little evening stroll, the first evening of our stay on Anglesey, and we wandered on to Newborough beach. We walked along for a short distance to a tidal island with an abandoned church before turning back. The view across the beach to the distant silhouettes of the Snowdonian Mountains was far and away the best view of the year and I can’t wait to get back there.
|The fabulous Win Hill|
But, beat it we did.
|Halfway through day one of the coast path|
I really struggled to decide between these two walks but in the end I managed to choose a winner. The runner up for my walk of the year wasn’t some big day hike through the hills it was a simple little evening stroll on the beach at Newborough on Anglesey. I guess we walked maybe two miles out to the island and back with little sandy insects squishing between our toes. We had the place to ourselves and the sun was just going down. There were interesting rocks, ruins, quirky wooden gates and the above mentioned View of the Year, it was absolutely stunning. If you really need to get away from it all and have some you time then this is the place to go.
Which brings us to the winner of Walk of the Year, can I have a drum roll please? My choice for the best walk of the year keeps us on Anglesey where we did day 1 of the Anglesey Coast Path from Holyhead to Treaddur Bay. The start was a little underwhelming if I am honest, from St Cybi’s church past the ferry port was not what we were expecting but from then on it just got better and better. We were soon out of town and into a little country park, climbing up over cliffs, going past sea arches, looking down on lighthouses. We went up Holyhead Mountain, and to the RSPB reserve at South Stack. We saw standing stones, little sandy coves, deserted beaches where we could have a paddle and more birds and butterflies than we managed for the rest of the year combined. It was absolutely the best walk of the year and one that will be hard to better in 2013.
That was it, my review of the last twelve months and associated prize giving, I hope it wasn’t too arduous reading it but if you would like further details of these walks please feel free to drop me a line through facebook, twitter or by leaving a comment below and I will do my best to get back to you.
I hope you had a great 2012 and that 2013 will be even better – Happy New Year to you all, Col