Category Archives: wandering

Finishing 2017 in Dartmoor and in the Cotswolds

2017 ended very locally. Very beautifully, very painfully, very strangely.

In November, my lover took me away on a surprise trip to Dartmoor National Park. I have written about this phenomenon before – of going away without knowing where. And of how much I love it, and live for it, never knowing, never preparing. But what made it even better was the Wistman’s Wood. The forest I had forgotten about  for two years. And suddenly, there it was, at our doorstep. The weather was gloriously moody, yet not serious. There was more light than rain. The gnarliness of Wistman’s Wood was even better because we had not expected it.

IMG-20171105-WA0018

This is how my first Dartmoor visit stays with me: utterly gorgeous autumn lanes, forever meandering, forever narrow. Huge fir trees escaping towards skies, while tiny ones held themselves closer to the ferns. The famous tors were there just like in story books, and we climbed one. I will remember the nighttime mists, the flood lights and shadows we projected to the skies. The boggy meadows where you should keep to the paths. But of course, you do not.

I saw my first ever badger crossing the road we were walking on, saw a sudden stone cross appearing from the mists, hares jumping across rivers. It was a perfect trip, filled with stepping stones, late autumn moods, warm rooms, villages more real than Hobbiton, pubs more cosy than a goose mother could dream up in her feathery bed (and with actual geese and chicken visiting us at our table), amazing scones in a pub and just happiness, without the words ever getting used or thought about.

20171103_203236

*

And in December, a trip to Cotswolds followed with friends. It was supposed to be a quiet one, I know. Just relaxing, just sitting by the fireplace, going for short countryside walks, and all those things people do in Castle Combe. Drink sherry. Gently mock the lawn of the golf course. Yet somehow, I was never there in my mind.

25520999_10156039434105152_824731645_o
Cotswolds in December sunshine. (Photo brutally stolen from Rainer S.)

Once again, we got amazing weather for the entire trip, from Lacock to Castle Combe and beyond. I was tired. I was confused. I just never fucking recognise when the seasonal depression kicks in. I have become quicker at recognising it, for sure; now it takes me a couple of weeks to discover what is going on. Not that the heureka is the highlight of my month, but at least then I know. But being around friends and trees is always so good. Even if you might as well not be there. But maybe it does make a difference. You just can’t tell because of your disturbed brain chemistry. But what definitely helps is the sun, the neolithic stone formations, old mounds and trees with visible root carpets. And the goodness of people. And some ale.

IMG_20171221_145652_156
Into the light.

And that was how 2017 ended. All together, around 30 days spent walking, so a wonderful year filled with mountaints from Scotland to Wales and Uzbekistan. Not to mention the coasts and the forests. Yup. All will be good. Also this time.

Advertisements

On turning 35 in Snowdonia National Park, Wales

I’m 35 now. To celebrate the arrival of this strangely angular number, I travelled to Snowdonia National Park in North Wales. I took my lover and my four amazing friends with me. Everything else we needed was already there.

Apparently, this location is the wettest place in the United Kingdom. Which did not throw us off our track to walk up the path to Moel Siabod. Up to a point, I mean. We had to turn around before the summit scramble because the winds were getting too stubborn. And we were getting too wet. But the mountain lake was unforgettable in its grim wavyness. And we imagined dragons looking over us. It is easy to see the legends coming to life in here.

By next day, a group of us joined our mountaineering instructor Huw Gilbert from Expeditionguide, and we drove to Ogwen Valley to do a grade 1 scramble up the Seniors Gully on Cwm Idal. Afterwards, we found a fairy glen, more amazing mountain scenery, a man-made canyon, and I ventured on a grade III scramble (the Tryfan Bach approach on Little Tryfan) in the nearby mountainhood.

It all ended in a little church in a little village. No one got married. But nearly everyone got really soaked again. This time in a hot tub. There’s nothing like a hot tub with autumn rains and mountain views, by the way. I forgot about my angular new number, and just soaked in all the rain, the mountain paths, the cliff walls, the rainbows and the wine, and the absolute bestest people to head into the unknown with. (Not all of them pictured. <3)

 

London’s most industrial walk

August is ending.  Summer is ending.  New jobs are starting. Sounds like a perfect reason to walk from Rainham to Purfleet.

If I offered walking tours in all possible genres, I’d be crafting itineraries for London’s most industrial walks this week. Rainham to Purfleet is one of those little magical ways which perfectly combines the exploratory feel of your childhood with the quiet epicness of your 20s. But even more importantly, it really opens up an alternative route for flâneuring in London, giving you a chance to walk past pallet factories, odd black cats, concrete barges, soft mud rivershores and even Europe’s first wind turbine park. Not to mention the apocalyptic Rainham Marshes with the grazing cows and Eurostar trains speeding away in the background, through the pylon forests.

“The Boudicca Walk” of Epping Forest that never happened

Planned: The Boudicca Walk in Epping Forest, London/Essex

Walkers: E,E,N,L

Date & Distance: Saturday, 22.07.2017; 17.3K

The thing is that sometimes you get a completely another walk than you were planning for. You might read about a route with interesting historical connections (such as Queen Boudicca fighting the Romans), you might download a new and an interesting app, but when you can’t find the beginning of the trail for three times in a row, and then lose the first half of the trail another three times, it is time to accept the fact that it is not going to be one of those walks. Even when your friend has the patience to help you out with your lousy city map reading skills.

Yet!

This is how we ended up following random arrows and feeling – at least on my part – completely back in childhood again. This is one of the things I don’t like about these last decades – it feels like too many things have deadlines, or are recordable and trackable, dulling our sense for innate wanderlust.

20170722_140645
Towards the mirabelle tree.

Happy to lose the trail

Thanks to the moody weather and the trail that had no descriptions online, we actually ended up having a lovely walk through the part of the Epping Forest I had not fully explored yet. For example, a part that looked like a scene from The Predator.

We found a swing that swung you above the forest river and an effingly rich mirabelle tree which we properly foraged thanks to L’s backpack throwing skills. We saw a forest grove that looked like it belonged to a time without humans. And we found a pub with nice food and a coffee place with even nicer coffee. Who we did not find was Harris, the hawk, who had gone missing somewhere in the area (there were posters).

20170722_130052
England or Predator?

Next evening

I remember the next evening as well. There was a smell of freedom in the air. I went to a park close to my home just to smell it. The smell of “I have no responsibilities”. Sometimes, but only sometimes, it smells so so sweet. Even when you’ve just ran out, thinking how really, trully summers really are the most melancholy seasons.

But my home park was kind to me. I discovered/created a new game you can play totally alone. It helps when there are no kissing teenagers around, thinking god knows what of you.

So.

If you near anywhere swampy, you can start mapping out the zones of differently cool air that lingers around the area. I have experienced this twice, when growing up and now (still growing up) – the walls of cold air guiding you into invisible labyrinths. Now, how to build new type of walking experiences around invisible air walls… That’s a task for some other season.