Luckily, part of that has included some walking and I managed to get out and about for a couple of days over the Christmas period. I wasn't going to let the rain put me off!
Apart from the usual reasons that I wanted to get out walking, which I've waxed lyrical about many times already, I also had an extra reason over the holidays - new boots! My parents bought me Brasher Lithium GTX boots for Christmas and I really wanted to try them out.
The first time we got out for a walk was on Boxing Day. The weather wasn't looking great, but I think my parents and I (and my sister to a lesser extent) were feeling a bit stir crazy and really wanted to get out of the house!
My mum being a keen bird watcher, she steered our choice of walking location to the Dee Estuary and specifically the Burton Mere wetlands. It's not the most beautiful of places on such a grey day, but there's nothing like getting out in the open air and stretching your legs after the indulgence of Christmas Day!
Although my mum had told me previously that they had spotted short-eared owls there before, I hadn't been expecting to see any, as they usually come out in the early evening. However, we'd only been walking for a matter of minutes before we spotted the first owl, and as we carried on we spotted at least 3 more.
The photos above and below (and you can see more in my gallery) show one of the owls flying low over the estuary. They really are beautiful creatures - I couldn't help thinking that the way they fly and the shape of their wings made them seem almost like giant moths - and it was a pleasure to see so many of them.
We thought we'd managed to get away with the walk without heavy rain when, at the very furthest point from the car of course, it started. At first it wasn't too bad and we turned for home thinking we wouldn't get too wet, but before long it was more of a torrential downpour! Luckily my waterproof kept my top half dry, but as we'd only been planning a stroll, none of us had bothered with our waterproof trousers, which turned out to be a mistake.
By the time we reached the car the rain had certainly taken effect and we were all pretty wet. Having said that, we were also pretty cheerful, as we'd enjoyed the walk despite the weather. We all felt refreshed and it was great to get home and have nice hot showers, tea and mince pies. Lovely!
The next day, my dad and I decided to brave the weather again and head out to the hills near Llangollen (north wales). My dad walks in this area and the higher hills of Snowdonia regularly and is used to the drives up into the hills. I, on the otherhand, hadn't been for a while and so as we neared our destination I have to admit to clinging to the seat as we bumped down the final stretch of narrow roads.
We parked up and headed off to climb the first of two relatively small hills. First up was Bidulph Tower, quite a straightforward climb, up grassy paths and through large stretches of heather. At the top was a small cairn, a trig point and wonderful views across the hills.
I was in my new boots again and for my lining sock I had chosen so called '1000 mile socks'. I'd owned these for a while but hadn't thought to try them out before. Now I wish I never had.
I had a horrible feeling that my heels were rubbing as we walked down from Bidulphs Tower and began our next ascent onto Vivod. I could feel my feet moving in my socks, which hadn't happened when I wore my boots the day before. I started to get the impression that it was the socks that were the problem, which seemed ridiculous given that they are supposed to stop you from getting blisters, but somehow I could just tell they were the issue.
Luckily my dad comes prepared for these types of walking injuries and my blisters were soon encased in Compeed, which has to be the best invention ever! I decided to leave off the 1000 mile socks and do my best in just my walking socks. With the Compeed on and the 1000 mile socks removed, I was actually able to walk pretty much normally again and we continued on to the peak of Vivod and then down the side of the hill towards some managed forestry land.
It was really windy and as a result the weather was changing rapidly and clouds flew overhead with some speed. One minute there was rain and the next sunshine was breaking through the clouds. As we made our way down the hill the rain was prevailing, but this time we'd both waterproofed ourselves from head to toe and the rain didn't bother us much.
Carrying on along the edge of the forest, we came across quite a few fallen trees - evidence of even stronger winds - and worked around them to continue along the path which eventually hit one of the forest tracks. At this point the original plan had been to carry on another mile to a third peak, but by then my blisters were starting to protest again and I was further cursing my choice of socks. In the end we decided to turn down the forest track and make our way back round to where we'd left the car.
I felt a bit sad that we hadn't managed any bigger climbs over my Christmas stay, but the weather couldn't be helped and it just gives me a good excuse to do more in future. Needless to say though I won't be wearing the 1000 mile socks again - I think they're still languishing at the bottom of my dad's rucksack in fact.
Here's to a walking 2013!
So those were my last big walks of 2012, and they certainly weren't a bad way to round off my first full year of walking obsession.
I'm really looking forward to 2013 and the new adventures it will bring, so here's to a walking 2013 and getting even more people out and about in the great outdoors.
Happy Walking people!