I don’t see as much of my dad as I could so last Sunday I went that extra mile – and a few more – and walked 6 hours or so from home over the moors to his house.
I actually joined the Pennine Way up at the Rochdale Road, having cut across the moors from Eastergate down in Marsden. The route along the Pennine Way from Marsden to Stoodley Pike is pretty straightforward, as its flat once you climb out of Marsden, but this one was more of an inner than outer journey in some ways.
And that was something I thought I’d write about (as much as the walk itself) as I’ve been reading “The lost art of walking” by Geoff Nicholson (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lost-Art-Walking-Philosophy-Pedestrianism/dp/159448998X), which is an essay on how walking impacts on your thoughts and psyche and outlook as much (or more) as its about getting from A to B. Actually, it’s a lot more than that, with lots of great literary references and humour, a great read if you’re into walking and hiking, Or just perambulating. Or mooching. okay, enough.
Without getting too psychogeographic – which I may not be at all, depending on how demonstrably I understand the term – this hike involved a lot of thinking and remembering as much as stepping, striding and yomping*.
So, last Sunday I walked over to see a man who used take my brother and I for long Sunday walks along the grand union canal in our part of Buckinghamshire. And a man who yomped us (*I can say that, he was in the forces and encouraged us to wear Air Force boots and jumpers.. ) through the Chiltern woods. I’m grateful for the love of the countryside he gave me and I was thinking about that as I hiked across his house. But he was also a man who tended to dish out constant caustic comments and a casual derision for the world, as we journeyed along. Basically, my old man could be difficult to deal with and could be soul sappingly negative about me, my brother and pretty much everyone/everything else. But like I said I’m grateful for love of the outdoors I got from him and I enjoyed the long hikes and being up in the woods or out along the canal and the fields with him, my brother and our two dogs. And I was thinking as much about that as the “wonder what the old man will say when I get to his place” aspect as I stepped across the rocks at Blackstone Edge and walked towards the roman road – which I didn’t spent much time on, as it would have been a bit of a detour.. I’ll go look at it in more detail another time.
Back from the (pretty dramatic) rocks and path to thoughts about my Dad, as I hiked towards his place : seeing the wider view as I get older, he had his reasons for all that negativity and I’m not going to betray his privacy and history to go into that. The fact I was happy to make the long walk over to his on Sunday says something I think. Why I mention all that is because it was going through my mind as I walked over to him. I was looking at the scenery, sweepingly rugged as some of it is, but I was also lost in thought a fair bit. I think that’s what happens on walks, some more than others. This one just happened to be a real see saw between the here and now of the Pennine Way and recollections of youthful walks.
Some walk facts : (enough with the psycho blahblah) this section of the Pennine Way is in parts beautiful and also industrial. You walk along black gritstone cliffs – essentially ancient lagoon beds I think – and also shadow a Roman road at one point (see link, above). But you also see lots of evidence of near history with the water catchments, the reservoirs with their 1920s dressed stones and the footbridge that takes you high over the M62 motorway. That bridge was a first for me, I’ve driven under it countless times over the years.. but being on it you realise how high and how windy it is. I had to wait for a load of mountain bikers to get in front of me before I crossed but just remembered to take a photo as the last one shot by me.
This part of the Pennine way is a real mix of history and if it’s occasionally a bit too pedestrian and a bit industrial feeling, in places it is genuinely ‘ wild’ and provides some great views.
And there’s a pub halfway (The White House) .. who knew. Not me, obviously, I didn’t have any money with me. School boy error. Always carry a compass, a penknife .. and money for an emergency beer. I’ll know next time though and I’ll stop for a contemplative pint and some psychogeographical navel gazing, before striking out for the last couple of hours to my Dad’s.
The time went pretty quickly, with Stoodley Pike appearing across the moors quicker than I thought and it was nice to get down to Dad’s for a cup of tea on the sun deck and for Brodie Dog to crash out at my feet. I think he was chuffed that I’d walked across and the cup of tea was followed by a nice glass of wine 🙂 It was great to get a lift back home from him as well.