For newcomers

At the bottom of each post there is the word "comments". If you click on it you will see comments made by followers, and if you follow the instructions you may also comment and I always welcome that. I have found many people overlook this part of the blog which is often more interesting than the original post!

My blog nick-name is SIR HUGH. I'm not from the aristocracy - my middle name is Hugh which relates to the list of 282 hills in Scotland compiled by Sir Hugh Munro in 1891. I climbed my last one (Sgurr Mor) on 28th June 2009


Monday, 20 November 2017

A bit of fresh air

Although I have walked with Pete on Thursdays whenever possible whilst recovering from the broken arm, and then the failure of my other knee on 20th August I have not had a walk on my own. I enjoy walking with others for the company and conversation and general companionship, but when I am solo I have no worries about the other person or persons. Most of us are reluctant to express our true feelings or inclinations all the time, so fellow walkers may have preferred a different route, starting time, or distance, etc., and may also be irritated by diversions, loosing the way, inclement weather or other perceived downsides that may crop up, but they are reluctant to say so, and there I am worrying about those possibilities, whereas on my own I generally welcome (up to a point) challenges that crop up, and if not I can just be cross with myself, so there are no disguised feelings.

Yesterday, in a mood of frustration, despite the knee I looked on the map for a bit of flat, previously un-walked terrain near home, and off I went to the Lythe valley, a drive of twenty minutes.

The map below shows the land as flat and striated with drainage dikes and white (most likely unsurfaced) straight line roads. I parked on the yellow road, but on foot I was soon off onto the unsurfaced stuff, albeit still vehicle negotiable, not that any vehicles appeared. Dismal and chilly weather prevailed. I passed a ramshackle farm with many wooden outbuildings in a state of disintegration, and two long abandoned caravans coated with green mold - there was an atmosphere of hillbilly and Deliverance. I pretended I hadn't seen a decrepit sign saying "no access, no public right of way" and pressed on. The track was strewn with puddles from heavy overnight rain, and I was dodging from one to another, and then frequently switching between the twin tracks, always trying to decide which would give the better walking surface. There was a lone horse in the middle of a field with a blanket; he was looking so sorry for himself.

At the furthest north there was a three-way division of tracks. A middle aged couple were approaching from the most northerly and we met and chatted - he was a fellow knee replacement recipient, and by coincidence with an appointment next week to get his other one sorted. They appeared to be seasoned walkers, and like me they had been looking for territory near home that they had not covered before. They told me that they had been challenged at some time in the past by a farmer on the route I was on. They headed off to the west back down to the main road.

I turned to the east on a muddier lane for a while before heading south on better tracks to complete my circle. Although the sign had said "private" there was a public footpath across the middle of my circuit leading up from the A 5074 but strangely finishing at a dead end a little to the east of my lane. I looked out for the normal "public footpath" signs at both points where this path crossed my route but there were none. Half a dozen pheasants burst up from nowhere at one point. I had seen along the way a number of those blue plastic barrels that I think have something to do with feeding these doomed birds. A lone heron was flying away low over the field to my right.

Although this was a bit of a gloomy walk I felt refreshed and energised back at the car.

The stats: 2.39miles - 1.32 hours - 1.81mph.

At the furthest north I had spied Hollow Stones, 188m, a pleasant little hill a couple of kilometres further north, and I went by car to research the viability of a lane giving access. That looks like a pleasant little summer's evening stroll, whenever?


  1. "Seasoned walkers", so ready for the pot. The implication is that they were "of an age", a vague way of saying elderly, since old - however obvious - is thought to be taboo. Elderly surely equals stringy which could mean mobilising the pressure-cooker except that these days nobody does. The sight of a pressure cooker sitting on a gas ring and blowing off clouds of steam tends to generate unease. After all if the safety valve has been over-secured the thing is potentially a bomb. And yet Grannie R - whose grannie-ship I share with Sir Hugh - regularly used a pressure cooker. The pattern of the exterior, a network of depressed squares, made the cooker look eeriely like a large cast-aluminium hand-grenade where a similar, if reversed, pattern of squares ensures that on detonation the grenade's casing fragments to the discomfort of those in the vicinity.

    But I've been drifting away from my intentions. What seasoning would one use to a prepare a mature walker for the table? Once the choice would have comparatively limited and I'd have said sage because of the word-play and the assonance (ie, wisdom and old age). Since I can't pretend I can even spell some of the oriental additions to the spice range, let alone diagnose their effect, I find that a Google-revealed recipe for a steak-rub (a phrase I regard as rather unpleasant) includes smoked paprika (which is a novelty in itself), black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne pepper and ground coriander. I am fairly sure VR has never served me a steak exposed to these flavours and I intend to ask why. But then I reflect: she cooks few seasoned walkers.

  2. I love the description given in your third paragraph. I can picture the scene perfectly.

  3. It amazes me how you can make silk purses out of apparent sow's ears (seasoned or not) with these walks - that area is interesting in the same way that marginal lands often are - seemingly forgotten, seemingly neglected, lying fallow or just quietly mouldering - hardly worth the effort of farming or caring: but just try 'doing' something, and 'strange' figures pop up from nowhere and demand to know your business on 'their' land - as speaks the sign you ignored: areas like this always seem to be low lying, partly flooded, often at the literal (and littoral) 'water margin' - mud-swathed, miasma-wreathed, rotting vegetation and stagnant ponds, veiling shady dealings and grisly crimes - at once repelling and deeply inviting - almost thrilling: your evocation of Deliverance is most apt.

  4. RR - I'm not sure if you are saying you object to using "seasoned" in that context. I did not want to imply aged, rather that they were obviously experienced, wearing good gear and carrying the OS map which they produced when we were discussing the distant hill I had seen, and then demonstrating an obvious familiarity with map reading, together with the general impressions I received from the rest of our conversation; "seasoned" pretty well sums all that up in one word.

    I wouldn't have been surprised to see one of those old pressure cookers if I'd peeked in through the window of one of those decrepit caravans.


    Gayle - I worked quite hard to try and get the atmosphere and ambience across, so your comment is appreciated.


    gimmer - Well I survived without being kidnapped and worse. I think you must have been there yourself from your description.

  5. did I ever tell you the tale about walking through the Iron Curtain via the scrubby wooded marshes along the Danube one foggy frosty December night ? one of those places and moments that never fade . . .

  6. Well done for getting out for a stretch - although at first glance I thought you'd decided to walk 'A Breath of Fresh Air' :
    .... but best leave that until next year!

    As Gayle observe, your descriptions are wonderful. I could almost feel the atmosphere of the day.

  7. JJ - Thanks for that. I didn't know about the reference you mention. I had a quick look and will delve deeper shortly - looks interesting especially as it is local for me.

  8. gimmer - It's not all relevant but nevertheless your comment brought back to my mind an excerpt from John le Carré's The Secret Pilgrim - so haunting:

    "Hamburg had always been a good place to be English, now it was an even better place to be a spy. After the lakeside gentility of Zurich, Hamburg crackled with energy and sparkled with sea air. The old Hanseatic ties to Poland, northern Russia and the Baltic states were still very much alive. We had commerce, we had banking - well so had Zurich. But we had shipping too, and immigrants and adventurers. We had brashness and vulgarity galore. We were the German capital of whoredom and the press. And on our doorstep we had the secretive lowlands of Schleswig-Holstein, with their horizontal rainstorms, red farms, green fields and cloudstacked skies. Every man has his price. To this day, my soul can be bought for a jar of Lübeck beer, a pickled herring, and a glass of schnapps after a trudge along the dykes."

  9. or just about the whole of 'Riddle of the Sands' !

  10. needlesshaste - welcome to my blog, I don't think you've been here before, but new commenters are very welcome. I agree about Riddle... it was perhaps the seminal espionage work, no doubt having had some influence on le Carré - a classic, and a memorable read - wouldn't want to end up like Erskine though!

  11. Lighten up dear bro. Of course you didn't mean "seasoned" in that way, but there's no reason why I shouldn't. However I'm entitled to infer a degree of age. Seasoned can mean experienced and experience usually involves the passage of time (eg, as in seasoned oak), more rarely an intensity of events, usually malign. Basically it implies something that has been exposed to a sequence of seasons, but that's boringly literal.

    But here's my point. Your posts about walks include a recurring theme: that you've "used up" all the walks that are close to hand and must now travel further to gain what you fondly imagine to be the "new" experience. That newness can only reside in a route you haven't done before; that once "done" a route loses its major attraction.

    Yet every ascent of The Knob is "new", you aren't the person you were on the previous ascent, your reactions differ, your perception of your surroundings change. Of course such matters are harder to excavate than merely listing the OS symbols you pass by and that are made flesh. And no I'm not suggesting that every repeated walk should end up as a disquisition on Proust. You're a walker with thousands of miles miles behind you, that experience can be made to work for you if you set it against present-time and explore the difference.

    Slocum had a story to tell and told it, but I can't help wondering what might have happened had he survived. Being down at the pub when someone said, "Not again, Josh. It's all in your book. What's Spray worth on the open market?" Changed his pub, no doubt. Unaware he would be accidentally caricatured by Coleridge. Actually the dates don't square up but you get the idea.

    Incidentally I suspect you're under-educated on pressure cookers.

  12. Actually I've re-read your post, wondering whether I read it all the way through first time round. It is much more than a chain of OS symbols; feel free to delete my previous comment. Unless, of course, it resonates.

  13. The business of saying, or writing that repeated walks provide a different experience every time is, I have to say reluctantly, a walking writer's cliché. BUT, like many clichés they have established that status because they are true. OK, I know some are woefully bad and not true. There are many walks I have repeated because of the renewed pleasure they give me each time. If you were to "search" on my blog for "Whitbarrow" you would find good examples, with varied posts on the subject of that wonderful limestone escarpment only fifteen minutes drive from my home.

    I'm not sure how you deduce I am under-educated on pressure cookers. In my kitchen drawer there are many bits and pieces which are never used, and whose real purpose I have forgotten about - one of them is the cylindrical valve thing with adjustable ring weights that went on top of a pressure cooker to control the pressure. I think the pan part of the device is somewhere in the undercroft of my house keeping company with rarely used gardening implements and redundant Calor gas bottles etc.

  14. I invite you to dwell (for some time) on the subtle difference between a cliché and a truism.

    Expecting to find a pressure cooker in an old caravan seemed unlikely and beside the point. The fact that the components of a pressure cooker are widely dispersed within your residence doesn't convince me you understand the device's principles, rather the reverse. In any case I wasn't selling pressure cookers, more the unease they generate (though not for Grannie R).