As the year draws to a close, I thought it might be beneficial for me to look back to some of my highlights and biggest achievements of the year gone by (in an outdoors-theme, of course). Too often, I’ve spent much of this year thinking over what I want but don’t have.
Walking the South Downs Way
This was always going to be at the top of my list. It wasn’t just for the fact that I completed my second National Trail but, for walking the full one-hundred mile distance, carrying all of my kit, consecutively for six days.
On the first night, I faced accommodation issues with a fully-booked campsite and the owners nowhere to be seen or found. In the afternoon of Day Five, my waterproofs failed miserably as the sideways rained soaked through to my skin. There were other ‘questionable’ camping experiences in between and I was very tempted to leave the trail early on the last night… But I survived and saw it all through to the end.
Of course, I also learnt a lot along the way – some of which can be applied to next year’s trail (which I’ll talk about in another post).
My First Wild Camp
On the first night on the South Downs, I found myself faced with two options, aside from making an emergency phone to form an immediate exit strategy (I would’ve ideally returned the next day)…
With nowhere legal to sleep nearby, I could either walk on through the darkness of night and deprive myself or sleep. Or, I could attempt my first ever wild camp…
As you may well know, I went for the latter. Had I been able to source water close by, I might well have camped on Butser Hill. Instead, I was drawn to the possibility of a water tap in the woods of QECP.
That was back in May and I’ve said to myself and others that I’d be up for doing more wild camping… It just hasn’t happened yet and this is something I’d like to improve upon in 2020.
Sticking with this theme of tents, I’ve had a few good trips away this year. There’s one I’ll talk about separately in a moment but, with Brunel in Bristol, I first went to Snowdonia in May (we saw overnight snow and frost in the mornings), then Shropshire in July (I forgot to pack my walking boots but it all worked out) and then a solo jaunt to Dorset and the Jurassic Coast in September.
It’s possible I could’ve squeezed one more trip in somewhere but I’m satisfied with this.
Meeting the Outdoor Bloggers
For the first time since joining the group a couple of years ago (thanks again, Mark), I attended an Outdoor Bloggers camping weekend… In April! But also in Cheddar, which is barely a thirty-minute drive from home for me.
I probably wasn’t as social or sociable as some but it was good to put personalities to faces and names I’d known from the internet. When and wherever this event takes place in 2020, I hope that I can make it again.
It was only in November that I decided to start my own Meetup group, Weston-super-Walkers. I’d never used Meetup before but, having moved home to a further ten-minutes away from Bristol, I felt a need to spend more time ‘locally’ and ideally, with local people. I’ve also seen this as a means of filling a bit void in my social life.
There are a number of other south-west Meetup walking groups out there but the vast majority of them specialise in walks that I consider to be too short to justify any form of travel. I like the fact that I can organise this my own way, keep it local, meet more people and, if people want to come along, they will. If not, I can still go for a walk alone.
We’ve just done our second walk together and I already have two more on the calendar.
Continuing with this theme of walk-leading… With Brunel Walking Group in Bristol, I believe that (without counting) I’ve led seven – if not eight- walks in total this year. Before now, I’ve committed to five or six as a maximum. It’s been a very good year, personally and I know I’ve taken something positive from each experience.
I’ve been thinking a lot recently about how I’d like to spread myself between two walking groups as a walk leader. With the Weston group, I’m the sole organiser (hopefully this’ll change one day) and I feel a need to run one event each month. Any more than this could prove to be too much.
With Brunel in Bristol, I’ll try and restrict myself to one every other month… As I have to drive in to Bristol each time, it may be that I only look at organising walks that are ‘north’ of where I live now. While the Weston group may consist of walks heading ‘south’ from my location.
One thing I’ve realised this year is that I genuinely enjoy being able to bring like-minded people together in situations like this.
With the company of three friends, I spent a full week in the Peak District, also during July. This was my third visit to the area, after two previous solo trips. Even though it wasn’t the ‘Scotland’ we had talked about ‘Snowdonia’ of the previous summer; it was a good time away.
I remember feeling like crap for most of the time that I was there and then guilty for that. But I was able to take away a lot from that trip, include my first visit to Kinder Scout, a solo jaunt across Stanage Edge and a scramble up Alport Castles.
I feel like I could now give the Peak District a miss for 2020, though.
Although I’ve barely travelled a distance of ten miles, I did move home earlier this year. From a small village beneath Bristol Aiport and beside the Mendip Hills; to the non-seaside edge of Weston-super-Mare.
This change was to facilitate an improvement in my living situation. From an oversized and underheated flat with damp problems, to a smaller property with its own parking space. Time will tell, how much I value the convenience of supermarkets over being able to do a good walk without touching my car.
Walks with Someone…
This is a topic I don’t like to discuss on such an open platform. Where there are one, possibly two people, reading this who genuinely know the story… There will be others who think they know and I’m sensitive to that, even where people are considerate and well-meaning.
My 2019 began with a lot of promise. There’s been someone in my life and on my mind for the past couple of years. We started doing unforgettable walks together this year, along with other good experiences… In short, it’s never been consistent. I’ve held on to this hope and this belief when I know that it hasn’t worked out. I know that this has done me few favours. I’ve been gutted. Heartbroken. Upset. Still, I wish the other person well. But to grieve, accept and move on; it’s not as easy as it might seem in its simplicity.
I have learnt some personal things from these experiences. I aim to move forward in 2020.
It’s possible I’ve missed out a few items from this list – I can think of completing the Severn Way and Somerset Coast Path as two – but I feel it is sufficient for the time being.