In the last year and half, walking has changed my life for the better, but it also played a big part in my childhood.
My parents, particularly my lovely dad, are also walking obsessives. I can say, without any exaggeration, that every single family holiday we had from when I was a baby until I was about 13/14 were to the Lake District, Snowdonia (pictured above) or the Scottish highlands.
Back in 1983, my mum and dad spent their honeymoon in the Lake District, and that's when my dad really caught the walking bug. Two years later, when I came along, he certainly wasn't about to let something like having a baby get in the way of his new found passion, so before I was even a year old I had been to the top of many, many hills and mountains.
My sister arrived about 4 years later and then there was no more being carried up the hills for me. The first hill I climbed all the way to the top of on my own was Helm Crag in the Lake District when I was about 4 or 5. After that I went on to climb Helvellyn (via Striding Edge) when I was 7, Scafell Pike and Snowdon when I was about 9 and many others in between.
I have very fond memories our holidays - particularly the ones to the Lakes. We mainly used to stay in Chapel Stile, with the occasional sojourns in Coniston and next to Ullswater. We also stayed in Wasdale (my dad's favourite valley) quite a few times. I have to say I don't think I really appreciated it properly at the time.
Teenage rebellion (well, sort of)
I have to say, I now cringe when I think about how awful I was about walking as a teenager. My dad must have wondered what on earth had happened to the child who used to love going to the Lakes.
Part of my sudden refusal to participate in walking holidays anymore was my own ridiculous, teenage 'it's boring' attitude. It wasn't helped though by the fact that as I put on weight during high school (as I mentioned in my first post), I became embarrassed to go because I knew I was out of shape and didn't want to be left out of breath and trailing way behind.
Basically, I completely lost any sense of enjoyment in walking. I avoided it as much as I could, and I think my poor dad thought that it would stay that way.
A chip off the old block
That didn't stop him getting excited though and digging out all of his maps for the area around Coniston for me to borrow and pointing out the best route for us to climb Coniston Old Man.
Going back to the Lake District felt very much like coming home for me. I spent the entire week we were there wondering why on earth I'd ever refused to go there when offered the chance, and wondering how I could somehow (one day) manage to live there. The fresh air, the beautiful landscapes, the rushing rivers and of course the lakes make it feel like another world - especially when you spend most of your life in the middle of the biggest city in the UK, surrounded by people, cars, noise and concrete.
It rained pretty much the entire week, but neither of us cared. I'd had to talk The Boy, who doesn't have a walking background, into buying some proper walking trousers and waterproofs (he was very grateful I forbade the wearing of jeans after our first walk in the rain!) Meanwhile, I dug out my old walking boots, bought some new waterproof trousers and borrowed a jacket from my mum.
I certainly understand the passion that my dad has for these places now. The physical effort, the amazing scenery and the sense of achievement I got from walking in the Lakes is just one of the best feelings ever. There's not many places left now where you can still feel like you're completely isolated, yet on this holiday The Boy and I went on walks where we didn't see another person for hours at a time.
Holed up in a cosy cottage, with all the lovely pubs of Coniston within easy access, and long walks every day which blew away all the stressy London-life cobwebs, it was one of the best holidays I've had. My only regret is that we
didn't manage to climb the Old Man, as we were waiting for better weather that never came!
Since the Lake District holiday, we've been on a couple of trips into the southern countryside - the New Forest for one - but I have to say that, while still beautiful, it just really isn't the same. The landscape feels tame and too populated when I compare it with the Lakes - I suppose I'll always be a northern girl at heart!
I've been hankering after a return to the Lakes pretty much since we came back. The main issue for us is transport. We don't have a car and I'm now no longer insured on my mum's car, which we took the first time. To be honest, having not driven for a long time I was pretty nervous driving in the Lakes and would love to find an alternative, but am yet to discover the right thing (suggestions welcome!)
Meanwhile, my dad has retired and, as far as I can tell, now spends almost all of his time up in the mountains. His latest exploit being a trip to go climbing in the Alps.
I often wonder if I'm now on the journey my dad took nearly 30 years ago, from walking newbie to veritable expert. I have to say, I hope that I am.