December 2013 -
As the years tick by, walking gets harder. Not in the physical sense, although the right knee is a bit stiff now and I do tend to reach the pub a bit earlier these days. No, the challenge is in finding the time to get out there.
Corrour in the snow
Walking was previously a spontaneous, near-constant pastime, with few of life’s other chores getting in the way. Nice weather? Let’s go for a walk. Nothing planned for the weekend? OK, head for the hills. The pinnacle was one glorious summer working near Loch Lomond, when every evening was spent exploring the Trossachs hills, making the most of Scotland’s twilit evenings.
Having reached middle age (I’m taking 35 as the marker), things are a bit trickier. Work commitments get a bit more serious; friends are less flexible, their kids too young to be dragged off for a wild camp; and money that used to go on train tickets and a new bit of kit are tied up in the mortgage. It becomes three months since the last big trip, then six months…
To fill in the gaps, I find solace by indulgently planning my next trip to the hills. First, get out the books (‘100 best walks in Scotland’ by Cameron McNeish is my personal source of print inspiration). Next, a big pot of tea and some biscuits. Then, start browsing online for cheap train tickets and any special offers and of course checking for routes on Car Free Walks. This is the most enjoyable stage: a chance to consider returning to favourite old stomping grounds, such as the Western Highlands or the Lakes, or considering lesser know places such as Pembrokeshire or the North Yorkshire Moors.
The current target is Braemar and the Southern Cairngorms. Nothing is fixed yet; it needs to be squeezed in around work, my brother’s 40th, a new nephew or niece arriving, a wedding etc blah blah. But that doesn’t stop the planning; I can blissfully pass the time anticipating a spring weekend with clear blue skies, a dusting of snow topping off the brown hills, maybe the sighting of a ptarmigan or golden eagle.
Come March, as I’m blustering about in the rain, frantically searching for the relative comfort of a bothy, I’ll no doubt be longing for that pot of tea and the walking books. But the memories will still be archived in my mental walking scrap book, and planning for the next trip will begin on the train home… definitely Pembrokeshire next time. Or possibly The Gower. Or maybe Exmoor, or the Howgills, or Cornwall….
The Cairngorms (but not actually Braemar)