Rydal circular Grasmere walk

2020 – a year of walks in one post

I didn’t get very far afield these last twelve months – for pretty obvious reasons. Hence no big hike or trip writeups as separate posts.

There was, though, one Scottish trip and one jaunt to Snowdon, both very early in the year. And Anita and I managed to have a van trip short break to Northumberland and one (return) trip to Newborough on Anglesey. Both under covid rules etc and a bit strange but very enjoyable/restful.

I have the good fortune to live next to Marsden Moor and the surrounding hills and there is a seemingly endless supply of paths (with 63 miles of PROW / Public Rights of Way paths in the area) to be combined in all kinds of ways to suit the time I have / weather / my mood. So my ‘backyard’ was my outdoors world for much of the year.

And I started scouting out more fossil rocks across the area (see later) as well walk a couple of the Marsden Walkers are Welcome routes, to ‘keep an eye’ on them.

So here are twelve months of walks, with a really short description for each, in one post.

Some of the walks are short – but involve people close to me. And in lockdown 2020, short walks in the countryside, especially with friends and family, felt as epic as long days or multiple days in mountainous places!

I hope you had a happy (circumstances allowing) and healthy 2020 – on the hills or not. Although I imagine for some it has been all kinds of stressful and challenging, my best wishes are with you.

There is so much published about the physical and mental benefits of walking in the countryside or wilder places, whether low level or high mountain. I won’t add any thoughts to that vast amount of thinking other than to corroborate that being able to get out of the house and enjoy the views around me and focus on the details of the microflora and fauna beneath my feet was a blessing.

Mostly my local excursions have been just me out on a mooch. But Anita and I also had some great walks, with the chance to talk away from being cooped up 24/7 in the house. And I’ve had a handful of lovely walks with one friend at a time – again, good for the body and soul.

Other than the February Snowdon trip, sadly there was no pub to retire to afterward on any of these walks – so here’s to better times ahead!

2020 walks and trips

February – Glencoe

At the end of January into early February, I headed to Glencoe with a few others to climb big hills (in my case), scale icy ridges (in their case), and stand and watch lots of red deer. This is always a great trip, full of arresting views and sociable evenings. Most of my photos were taken through a waterproof pouch .. due to rain, sleet, snow, and hail!

Glencoe trip 2020 Glencoe trip with Buachaille Etive Mor Red Deer in Glencoe

February – Snowdon in The Snow

February saw me join a few Marsden mates on a trip to Llanberis, to walk up Snowdon – hopefully in the snow.
I think this was my 7th mostly annual trip to Snowdon. Each year there has been anything between 5 and 30 folks on it.

Thanks to Storm Jorge, this year we had a bit of grim time of it towards the summit. So much so and with the hard frozen snow and gale-force winds (having to flatten down on a couple of occasions so as not to get blown over), I turned back at Clogwyn bridge, as the haul up the snow-covered ‘killer convex’ was not great. And I refused to use the rail line as happens with others (which has sadly caused some real issues/fatalities in some years).
After a day battling Storm Jorge on Snowdon we stayed at @lodge.dinorwig for the night, they provided a great evening meal and breakfast: recommended.

Snowdon Hike Feb 2020 with HalfwayHike blog Snowdon Hike Feb 2020 with HalfwayHike blog

May – a Grasmere overnighter.

We were invited to stay in the same house as other humans for the first time in months. Whilst it was allowed, I’d be lying if I said I was 100% relaxed at any stage of the two days and one night.
Anita was rightly exasperated with me shoulder-charging* clumps of people off paths, so she could walk in a shielded 2-metre bubble to enjoy the views. My recurring walking question in 2020: why do so many people not go with the polite single file option but instead spread out to occupy the whole path?
We had a decent circular walk around Rydal Water and then Grasmere lake, the walk had some good elevation and lots of lovely views. It follows the medieval coffin route at one stage.. but let’s not go there.
*Ok, the shoulder-charging was just in my head. My anxiety aside, we had an excellent short stay with my brother and family. Seeing some of the family and spending an evening in their company was a wonderful thing.
Rydal circular Grasmere walk Rydal circular Grasmere walk

July – a walk in Sherwood Forest

This isn’t the stuff of intrepid yomps across far-flung mountains or a challenging day on our local hills and moors.

But for 2020 – during a relaxation of Lockdown – it was epic.

We got to see our daughter, son-in-law, and our lovely granddaughter. Enough of the Zoom catchups.. this was a real catchup, even if for just one day.
There are lots of great paths through Sherwood Pines and the takeaway cafe and picnic benches all helped the socially distanced meetup.

A very happy day.

Sherwood Pines family walk

August – a van trip and walks in the Dunstanburgh area.

We spent three nights at Dunstan Hill campsite in our campervan, using it as a base for walks to Craster in one direction and Bamburgh Castle in the other. The weather was great, as were the views. The beaches are big enough that even with a few other folks around we were nearly always 100 metres or more from anyone else. And as well as some van cooking we made the most of take away food and drinks from pubs (particularly the lovely @theshipinnlow ), cafes, and a roadside pizza van.

The second photo – a ‘squircles’ collage – summed up the short break for me, taken from my Instagram account.

Dunstanburgh Castle
Dunstanburgh Castle, about 30 minutes walk through fields from the campsite, right to Craster or left to Bamburgh on the coastal path.

Dunstanburgh in 9 squircles

September – a van trip to Newborough with forest, dune complex and beach walks

We had our second carefree (if you don’t count social distancing, masks and sanitiser) summer holiday (a.ka. a long weekend), this time in lovely Newborough, Anglesey. We have visited a few times over the years, it’s a semi-remote, quiet (except the carpark and beach on a sunny day) place. We explored paths through Newborough Warren, the woodland nature reserve and beach walks to Ynys Llandwyn, and enjoyed the sand dunes, fish and chips, and blue skies.

And this time around, we had 24 hours of gale-force winds to add to the campervan fun.

Newborough Warren Anglesey
Anita on Ynys Llanddwyn / Llanddwyn Island. An island only in high tides, it served as the picturesque focal point for a day-long meander from the campsite, over sand dunes, through the forest, and along the beach… and back.
Newborough Warren Anglesey
The wild ponies of Newborough Warren. Lynn Peninsula across the water in the background.

Newborough Warren Anglesey Newborough Warren Anglesey

Solo mooches or walks with friends

Pretty much all my moors mooching this year has been a solo affair. Except for some lockdown walks with Anita, to get a leg stretch and some elevation above the village – we were lucky to have a good spring and early summer weather-wise.
I did though have occasional walks with some mates, usually just two of us but sometimes in a small (less than 6) group.

Marsden Moor Wessenden hike
Anita as Queen Of The Castle, above the top end of the Wessenden Valley.
Fox cubs quarry Marsden
Some fox cubs that I kept returning to, in a high quarry above the village. Sitting there quietly whilst they came out for an explore was a peaceful, focussed distraction from doom-scrolling of social media on my phone or watching the daily covid updates on TV.


Marsden Walkers are Welcome team hike
A walk on the moors in January, pre-covid (but there was still less than 6 of us..) for friend Jenny’s birthday* and to recce a new walk for Marsden Walkers are Welcome.  L- R: Me, Bob, Taru, Karl, Jenny [* We had a drink of fizz on the top of March Hill to celebrate].
The March Hill recce was to finalise a circular route for a mesolithic themed walk. Marsden has an association not just with the period itself but with various amateur and professional initiatives to study it in this part of the world. I created a page this year about that: Mesolithic Marsden.

Marsden Moor Cupwith circular walk
I had a handful of one-to-one walks with friends Jenny, Stephen, and Taru, ranging across moorland, farmland, and woodland. All great catchups and made a nice change from me being eyes-down on the moors staring at fungi or fossils (see next section)!
This one was with Stephen (and Loki dog) and was a Cupwith Res, March Haigh res circular out from Marsden.. just short of 8 miles.

Fossil walks

One of the outdoorsy things I did this year was starting to map where there are visible, sizeable fossil rocks around the Marsden Moors.
When I spot a fossil (or someone has told me of one to go look at – thank you Ian and Stephen respectively) I note the location with What3Words (as it’s quick and easy) and eventually, I’ll add them to a Viewranger map/’route’ for others.

If you have Instagram, search for ‘#marsdenfossils’, I post pictures of them there.

There are a few different plant types I have seen so far, I have no geology knowledge so it’s very handy to have a geologist postgrad studying an MSc in the family: my son Joe has filled in some (all) of the gaps in my sketchy understanding of what I’m seeing.

Of course, there will be hundreds if not thousands of other fossil rock examples hidden under the peat or encased still in other gritstone/sedimentary rocks across the area. But when you stumble across an exposed fossil rock, it’s amazing to think that the plant’s impression still survives after c.320 million years (with several hundred if not thousands of those exposed to the worst of Marsden weather!).

Fossil rock on Marsden Moor
A screengrab of one of the #marsdenfossils posts on my Instagram. This one didn’t have a What3Words location added.. I’ll have to rectify that at some stage.

Beer hunting

One of the enjoyable outdoor things I did during this year was to search for hidden beers, along with some of my running and walking local mates. The idea being, someone hides a beer anywhere across the wide reach of the hills and moors and then drip-posts a series of increasingly obvious location photos, as the hours and days (sometimes) pass. The walker / runner who works out the location first (or is quicker off the mark) heads out in whatever weather to find the bottle or can of beer.

The clues and discussion are mediated by a closed Facebook group but it still feels like a shared (if not heroic) endeavor. And a great antidote to any sense of isolation from friends during this year. It would still be great to be in the pub with them though!

Beer Hunting
Me out on a very wet beer hunt, poaching the poacher.


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