Sunday, 1 January 2012

Happy New Year! 2011 Review

I am currently sat on my couch with that sort of frustrating trapped feeling you get when you know its been way too long since you got that outdoor fix. It is the outdoor fix that folk like us require in order to stay sane. I am also sat here thinking to myself that I didn't do enough in 2011. So I looked back through my Picasa photo albums to see exactly what I have done in the last year. It is so easy to forget sometimes just how god damn lucky we are to be alive. While others around the world live in poverty and suffer from illness I on the other hand have a beautiful wife who is my best friend, a caring and loving family, amazing friends, a secure future, prosperous career and live in one of the most beautiful countries in the world. I am so lucky to be given life and try every day to appreciate it. Below is just a quick review of days and nights I have been fortunate enough to have enjoyed this year...

February 5th... Sgurr Coire Choinnichean

I didn't get any walking done in January as I was working most weekends. My first outdoor fix of the year was my first trip to Knoydart with Nicky, Steve, Elaina, Kirstin, Maria and Zoe. We stayed at the luxurious Knoydart House, with a awesome views across Loch Nevis from the dining table and a warm outside hot tub, it was heaven. We walk up the Corbett of Sgurr Coire Choinnichean from Inverie and had snow showers on the summit ridge then later in the Old Forge Inn I received a rather painful spanking with a big wooden ore...

Sgurr Coire Choinnichean

February 20th... Win Hill

In February I went up Win Hill with Janet and Simon from my old work place. I love this walk as it is so easy yet it gets you up high and puts you bang in the centre of everything that is great about the Dark Peak. I tried to start a walking club at work but we struggled with the numbers of people prepared to get up early on Saturday mornings. It was a cold dull day and Win Hill was covered in wet snow. Simon sliding down a muddy slope on his backside was by far the highlight of the day, especially with denim being his choice of leg wear...

Simon and Janet on Wooler Knoll near Win Hill

February 26th... River Bollin

I also went for a walk down to my local river the River Bollin in February to see if I could spot the elusive Otter. One place that the Otter is rumoured to live is the tributary known as Birkin Brook. The brook is teeming with fish as it is the outflow of Rostherne Mere which is stocked with fish for the masses of birds that use its sheltered and protected waters. Still no joy finding the Otter, but the Bollin and the Birkin were in spate and I did see the local Buzzards which always makes me smile...

River Bollin tributary Birkin Brook in spate

March 4th... Bow Fell

March saw me head out on my first wild camp of the year, and what a fantastic one it was. I pulled up at the Old Dungeon Ghyll and the weather could not have been better. I tried to eat my lunch on the patio at the Old Dungeon Ghyll while being attacked by a Robin and a Great Tit whole literally stole my Eccles Cake. I ascended to Rosset Pike with a snow covered Bowfell looking alpine above me. Angle Tarn was the original wild camp destination but the bowl the tarn sat in was holding a layer of incredibly cold air. It was still light so I headed for the summit of nearby Allen Crags and found a fantastic wild camp spot near the summit with wide views. Morning came and brought a complete contrast. The next day was cold, drizzle and windy. I made my way across Esk Pike then Bowfell before descending to the Old Dungeon Ghyll...

Wild camp spot on Allen Crags

April 22nd... Harter Fell

Nicky and myself headed up to the lakes on a warm hazy day and decided on Harter Fell as we didn't want something too strenuous but wanted a decent walk. The upper Duddon Valley is in my opinion the most under rated part of the Lake District National Park. We pulled up at Birks Bridge and made our way across the River Duddon then up through the old forest towards the steep ascent of Harter Fell. It was a brilliant day to be out and a fantastic moderate walk. The views from the summit were excellent. We stood in amazement of the jumping Salmon and Trout in the River Duddon on the way back to the car...

River Duddon near Birks Bridge

May... Shining Tor

The Goyt Valley is a part of the Peak District that I had never discovered before. One thing I had always wanted to do was to bag Shining Tor the highest hill in Cheshire, the county in which I was born. Turned out that Shining Tor was by no means the most interesting part of this walk though. The old Erwood Hall and the Spanish Shrine added a fascinating historical twist to the walk. The woodlands around the Erwood Hall area where so colourful. It is definitely a walk I will do again...

Summit trig pillar on Shining Tor

June 25th... Crow Point

June saw me visit my dad who lives in Barnstaple, North Devon. My dad has made a name for himself around his local town as he spends a lot of time picking up litter at Braunton Burrows, a place I loved playing on as a kid when visiting my family. Braunton Burrows is the largest sand dune system in Britain. It was also the first United Nations Unesco Biosphere Reserve in Britain. The area is also part of the North Devon Coast Area of Outstanding National Beauty. The burrows are rich in wildlife, especially insects and butterflies, and has an internationally recognised abundance of rare and in some cases unique flora and fauna. We had a great afternoon walking around the headland, dad on his off road disability Tramper vehicle. I took my new bike down to Devon with me and cycled home after the walk from Braunton to Barnstaple along the excellent Tarka Trail and South West Coast Path route...

An old wreck and an old boat

June 26th... Dunkery Beacon

This was probably my favourite walk of 2011. I have always wanted to walk up to Dunkery Beacon, the highest point in the Exmoor National Park. It is an easy walk as a bridleway from the road takes you up a very easy ascent to the summit. Dad asked if I wanted to do it and I was obviously up for it. The bridleway meant his Tramper could easily make it up there and beyond. What I didn't bank on was dad asking me if I fancied getting up really early in the hope of seeing the sun come up from the summit. We had watched the weather forecast and seen that it was perfect weather for cloud inversions, excellent I thought but surely we won't see one from up there. How wrong could I have been, it was unforgettable. Probably one of the best mornings of my life and I never thought for one moment I would ever have stood on top of a hill with my dad watching the sun come up over a cloud inversion. Just typing about this moment makes me tingle. It was absolutely amazing!...

Sunrise over cloud inversion from Dunkery Beacon

July 23rd... Delamere Forest

Delamere is another childhood favourite. We often went out in the car for a drive and ended up having a picnic in the forest. From my front door I can jump on a train and for a very reasonable fair end up getting off a train thirty minutes later in the middle of a huge forest. The train station is literally in the centre of the forest and there are many walks and cycle routes through out the forest. On this occasion I decided to get off the train and ascend Old Pale Hill for a view over the forest then a circular walk taking in some of my favourites spots, including the stunning Blakemere Moss. It was the perfect day to test my new camera and polarising lens...

Blakemere Moss in Delamere Forest

August 7th... Culag Woods

In August we returned to Ullapool with Steve, Elaina, young Craig, Sandy and Louise. Ullapool is one of my favourite places on earth, such an excellent base camp for discovering so many amazing landscapes. The weather was pretty pants, so bad in fact it kept us indoors a few days and I think there was only one day when it didn't rain at some point. One place I always visit when I head up this way is Culag Woods. It is a small natural woodland above Lochinver looked after by the local community. Nicky and myself stumbled across Culag Woods one day and went in for what the notice boards said was an hours stroll. We were in there for just over five hours as we found it so magical. Steve and Elaina had visited the woods with us before but it was a first for Craig, Sandy and Louise. Plus we did the right thing and visited the Lochinver Pie Shop for Venison and Cranberry delights...

The magical Culag Woods

August 9th... Stac Pollaidh

Determined to beat off the weather we agreed to attempt Stac Pollaidh while in Ullapool. Steve had climbed it many years ago in the forties or something and Nicky and myself climbed it three years ago. Craig was climbing it for the first time. It started well as we set off from the Loch Lurgainn car park. The unmistakable ridge above looked as impressive as ever and there wasn't any rain. As we got to the shoulder of Stac Polly though the weather came in and we get soaked. We reached the Bealach and made the sensible decision to descend. Despite the weather turning absoilutely freezing and soaking for a while we all danced, literally, along the path back to the car...

Craig and Nicky on Stac Pollaidh

August 11th... The Quinag

I wanted to make sure I did something big while I was up in Ullapool. The one day that gave us sunny was the only opportunity to do something big. Nicky was studying at the cottage. Steve, Elaina and Craig wanted to go to Sandwood Bay, so I would be on my own for the day. I set my sights on Ben More Assynt but when I approached it from the road it was still covered in high cloud that didn't look like it was going to lift so I decided on the backup plan which was to walk over the Quinag summit of Spidean Coinich. In the end I actually walked to all three of the Corbett summits on The Quinag and it was a fabulous day out. The geology on Spidean Coinich was incredible. If it wasn't for the cloud inversion on Dunkery Beacon this would have been my favourite walk this year.  

Myself on Quinag's Sail Garbh summit

August 13th... Inchnadamph Bone Caves

Weather forecast wasn't looking great for our last day in Ullapool, but there was a four hour weather window from midday to afternoon. We decided to explore the Bone Caves near Inchnadamph which we had all past and read about so many times but never bothered to explore. It was a surprisingly interesting walk down a lovely glen. We saw the almost unbelievable Fuaran Allt Nan spring and had great fun in the caves. This including myself being dared by Steve that I couldn't fit through a hole which the guide book described as only passable by small children. Steve lost the bet as I squeezed through, the bet was that he would buy my seafood platter that night at the Kylesku Hotel. Great holiday away with great people, and meeting young Craig for the first time was such fun...

Craig, Elaina, Steve and Nicky in the Bone Caves

August 22nd... Black Hill

I decided to take a day off during midweek in August as I needed a break from work and a day in the hills. I chose Black Hill in the Peak District as it was one of the harder Peak District walks I still hadn't done. It was a great time to do a hill which is often described in negative terms, known for its unforgiving boggy terrain. However on this sunny warm day I found a transformed Black Hill. Work by the Moors for the Future foundation have transformed this once quagmire back to a lush green landscape full of wildlife. The Crowdon Horseshoe was very enjoyable and totally unexpectedly so...

Common Lizard on Black Hill

August 27th... Monsal Head

The Monsal Head Social Meet organised by Terry Bond was a undeniable success at the end of August and I was very glad to have been a part of it. It was a fantastic weekend with lots of laughter and I met lots of new like minded outdoor folk. The meet brought together a large number of people who had only communicated via online Social Media. I went on a walk with several folk including Gareth from Webtogs, Phil Sorrell from Social Hiking, Pilgrim Chris, photographer Giles Babbage and Mike Beaumont. The walk was down Millers Dale along the wonderful River Wye which was teeming with Trout. Great walk and a great weekend...

Monsal Head

September 23rd... Dunham Park and River Bollin

Struggling to get my outdoor fix in September I took a morning off work and took a stroll from my front door down through Dunham Park to the River Bollin. On the way I discovered the Dunham Massey Brewery which I have to admit I have made several trips too since. I can't resist their moreish Chocolate Cherry Ale. Instead of eating my lunch at my desk at work, I sat by my favourite three trunked tree by the River in the sun eating a freshly made sarnie...

Triple trunk tree by the River Bollin

October 15th... Goretex Bloggers Summit in Germany

I was offered an all expenses paid trip to the Goretex European Bloggers Summit in October. It was an eye opening experience that I will never forget. Gore were fantastic and treated us like royalty. I learned so much about designing and testing outdoor equipment. They really impressed me with their incredibly stringent testing which guarantees their brands quality. We also walked a short hike in the Bavarian Alps, which included descending by candle light through the woods. The weekend was great and I met lots of new people including my four companions for the weekend the fellow British bloggers Dave Mycroft, Fiona Williams and Tom Evans who were all great fun. A truly unique experience...

Gore-tex European Bloggers Summit at Gindelalm

November 10th... Ben Lomond

This was probably the second worst experience I had ever had during the last decade of hill walking. I headed up to Scotland for a few days as I needed a break and it was Frank's Final Munro Weekend in Glencoe. The plan was to spend the first night wild camping on the Ptarmigan Ridge then bag Ben Lomond the next morning. This plan was on and off until the day as the weather forecast wasn't great, but come Thursday I opted for the wild camp as the weather was surprisingly good. It turned out to be the worst camp ever as I had to bail at 2am when the tent finally succumbed to the incredibly strong gusts of wind, descending an unfamiliar mountain from 700m to almost sea level in pitch black and storm force winds ain't easy. I was very proud of how I dealt with the situation calmly and got down safely knowing I had the right equipment and experience. As I love telling people...I nearly died...

Wild camp above Loch Lomond

November 12th... Beinn Fhionnlaidh

After nearly dying on Loch Lomond the night before, I headed up to Glencoe to meet friends at the Clachaig Inn. It was a great weekend as we celebrated Frank turning sixty years old and bagging his final munro Beinn Fhionnlaidh. There was lots of alcohol drank that weekend and lots of laughs. Frank was really chuffed as over twenty of his friends and family managed to make it all the way to the summit, despite some never climbing a hill before in their lives. I have only twenty Munros under my belt, god knows how Frank and other people have achieved all 283 of them!...

Myself and Frank at Beinn Fhionnlaidh Summit

December 2nd... Blencathra

Early December saw the first proper snow fall in the mountains, so as is the case every year, I took a day off work and went snow chasing. Via the wonder that is Twitter I had learned the night before that Blencathra definitely had a sprinkling so headed that way. I attempted Sharp Edge but as snow showers came in and the knife edge ridge was quite a challenge. As I got closer to the Bad Step I took the sensible decision to turn back as the going was just slippery wet snow and ice. When I reached the summit via the other ascent route the clouds opened and revealed a stunning wintery panorama...

Blencathra sporting Movember Trucker Style Tash

December 16th... Dunham Park and River Bollin

I have done this walk several times this year as I can do it from my front door, but this time was definitely my favourite. The first snow we had seen here in Altrincham this winter had landed so it was time to take another morning off and head outdoors. The golf course was beautiful, covered in snow and backed by stormy clouds and sunrise. The weather closed in as I got down to the Bollin Valley and turned into heavy wet snow for the rest of the walk...

Dunham Forest Golf Course in snow

Not bad for someone who thinks they didn't do enough last year!


  1. Great memories there...not sure about climbing Stac Pollaidh in the forties though you cheeky git! Great photo of Nicky and Craig, really sums up how much we enjoyed ourselves that week!

  2. I can't believe we didn't meet up last year! At least we'll make up for it on Knoydart this year :-)

  3. Not a bad effort Jamie ;-)

    All good fun, even the not so good bits :-) The joys of enjoying the outdoors

  4. Some superb trips there Jamie. I have to say that I am envious of the quinag one after admiring it from the valley a few months back. It looks a beast!

  5. Was a pleasure to meet you Jamie, heres hoping your jaunts and trips are just as memorable in 2012

  6. My favourite in all that is definitely your Merv Hughes impersonation.


    Orrabest for 2012!

  7. A fantastic set of photos and trips there. It looks like you were in some great places and had some great weather (except Ben Lomond ;-) ). As James says, that Quinag outing is one I'm very envious of. All the best for 2012!

  8. Steve, wondered if you would have spotted that! ;-)

    Elaina, so glad you guys were such a big part of most things I've done outdoor this year! :-)

    Kate, we will most definitely be making up for it with Knoydart this year! Can't wait its going to be great! :-D

    James, read your year review too and thought it was great, so glad you brought Rueben not only into your life but mine too! The Quinag was a fantastic day out, no way I could resist doing all three after doing the first one. :-)

    Gareth, was great to meet you too, hope we meet again in the summer for the next social meet. :-)

    Scotty, it was just for you matey! Hope the crazy dugs are okay, and the missus! Maybe see you this year on the mountains at some point. :-)

    Nick, the weather is no coincidence, the older I get the less adventurous I get, the more I just enjoy it and the more of a fair weather walker I've become :-)

    Thanks for all the comments guys! Hope to see you all in 2012!

  9. Happy New Year mate! :)

    Gotta say, your post on Dunkery Beacon was one of the best without a doubt. Fab pictures and lovely story. Brought a tear to my eye that did (no shit).

    All the best my friend :)

  10. I don't generally enjoy reviews, but this is a cracker! What a fabulous idea, with some great photos - I've made a mental note to do something similar at the end of 2012. (Is it too late this year?). You've evidently shared a nice variety of trips, from one end of the country to the other. If my 2012 review is a patch on this one I shall count myself a lucky man.
    Happy New Year!

  11. Hey beatingthebounds, thanks for your comments. I'm not usually a review of the year fan either. I think the ones you see on the telly that are all the same make me dislike them! I think the key is keeping things short and sweet so you don't bore whoever looks at it. :-)