A YEAR IN REVIEW
Well, 2014 didn’t pan out quite as planned. The Continental Divide Trail didn’t happen, I postponed that which left me open to the possibility of Te Araroa in New Zealand, which also didn’t happen. You never know what’s around the corner though and to quote an old adage, one door shuts and another opens.
Left with no plans of any notable duration, I was right where I wanted to be, open to possibilities, last minutes getaways, and able to grab opportunities at short notice.
It also gave me a chance to work on my photography which is something I always dabbled in, but never really focused on. Before long, especially during the latter part of the year, my walks were taking twice as long because I was stopping to take shots all the time.
So, after Facebooks pathetic effort on my year in pictures, I thought I’d do it better. This is my year in photos. They’re not all about arty stuff, or the quest for the perfect sunrise, the ideal country path, the timing of perfect light through the trees or a river moving at just the right speed. It’s just a visual of what I’ve been up to this year, with a little writing of course.
After one of the wettest and wildest winters on record in the UK, there wasn’t much change into January. I start a little training after the New Year, just to keep the legs in shape but the countryside around where I live was still recovering form the rain.
A long overdue review of the ZPacks Hexamid Solo shelter was a decent excuse to get out in the woods for the night. It’s been my shelter of choice for two years now and the post is one of the most popular on the blog.
Finally, the storms were dying down and we got a little sun. Temperatures started to increase and I got out to play on my local hills with the sun on my back.
In 2013, I hiked my local trail, the South Downs Way, something I hadn’t done since I was sixteen years old. I enjoyed it so much that I did it again this year, and have promised myself to do it every year as well. I managed the 100 miles in just under three days, eager to get some miles under my shoes after being cooped up for the most of the winter. It wasn’t intentional, I just felt good and went with it. The post I wrote after is here – A Splash of Tabasco and Summoning the Devil.
The Brooks Cascadias firmly cemented their position as my number one trail shoe. These are the Cascadia 8’s, but there is a review of the 7’s here.
Having worked at a Yoga Centre and also hiring a taverna on the island of Crete a few years ago, I made several freinds on this wonderful island. Truly a walkers paradise, it has everything from impressive mountains, a fair share of gorges, forest, quiet beaches and of course, a rich history with visual reminders. I grabbed a week enjoying the early spring sunshine, one of the best times to visit the island. The flowers were out in bloom, the countryside still green, and Tzatziki with chips is still epic.
Plakias on the south coast of Crete. Plenty to do but still with a sense of peace and quiet, especially in the surrounding hills.
Triopetra Beach – isolated on the south coast and home to the best taverna in Greece, run by my mate Adonis.
Even the bus stops have a certain beauty on Crete, this is Rethymnon on the north coast.
With the summer well and truly under way, it turned out to be a an absolute beauty, at least down south. I grabbed a few overnighters using the MLD Trailstar. Shamefully, it hadn’t been my first choice for an overnight shelter but after using for a few trips in June, that soon changed.
(Photo: jeremy Rowley)
June also saw me returning to a regular part of the South Downs, near to Bignor Hill. A ten mile circular walk (more of a figure of eight actually) was rapidly turning into my favourite walk. As much as I ventured elsewhere, this little corner of south east England just kept calling me back. I think I must have walked this route at least twelve times in 2014. This particular visit turned out to be the most fruitful for photos as well and I managed to snap three that I was very happy with, in the fact the first shot of Stane Street (an old Roman road) is probably my favourite pic of the year.
Stane Street, an old Roman road linking London with Chichester, is clearly seen here as the raised area between the two trees. This turned out to be my favourite pic of the year.
On the same walk, this is still Stane Street, taken just before entering Eartham Woods.
Eartham Woods again, just before exiting near Burton Down.
I drove down the Dartmoor to meet up with blogger Tony Hobbs where we walked for a couple of days and spent an overnight camp. I had not been to Dartmoor since I was a kid, when my parents took me down there pretty much every year for the summer holiday. I have fond memories of the place, running around free, wild swimming in the River Dart and glorious weather. My recollections were all rekindled, even the midges. The blog post is here.
For the first time, after living here for most of my life, I decided to go and walk around my home village, just for the fun and to get a bearing on where I lived. It proved one of the best walks of the year and I was amazed at how many footpaths criss-crossed the countryside. I subsequently walked the same, or a similar route many time. You can read the blog post here.
AUGUST & SEPTEMBER
A long hike somewhere always beckons every year. If it’s not a 2,000+ miler then a few hundred hits the spot. August was the month for a return to EL Camino de Santiago on the 500 mile Camino Francais route through Spain. I had, in fact, walked the same route in 2013, along with the 500 mile route from Le Puy en Velay in France to link in with the Camino Francais. The 2013 trip was something I had promised to do ever since 2002, when I walked it for the first time.
2014, although for pleasure, was also for work. During my hike I collected GPS data for the route, along with 2,500 photos for an American Company called High Sierra Attitude, who, along with Guthook Hiking Apps, are releasing a smartphone app for the route. Latest I have is that it will certainly be ready for the 2015 season and along with the map of the Camino Francais route, with positional locater, elevation graphs, and information on everything you need on the route such as where to stay, eat, historical interest and much more. I’ll have a release date for you when I have it.
There’s always an epic sunrise on EL Camino.
Ascending into the Pyrenees on day one.
Sunset just outside Atapeurca.
Walking the road coming into Catrojeritz.
Near to Muxia, an extension to the Camino ending on the west coast.
The Atlantic coast, end of the line.
With a warm September, the trend continued well into October and at times, even November. I grabbed most Sundays to get out and walk and take advantage of the indian summer.
Leith Hill, Surrey.
November turned out to be a very busy and fruitful month. Investing in a new camera, I took more photos during the last three of the months of the year than the previous nine months. Several trips to the New Forest ensued, I was shortlisted for two categories in The Great Outdoors Magazine Awards so had some of the best of the Lake District for a few a days as well as visits to Kingley Vale, and several chilly mornings and evenings trying to get a shot of Knepp Castle in Sussex.
After hearing about an ancient Yew tree wood called Kingley Vale, near Chichester, from a hiker on EL Camino, I decided to go down and take a look myself. In fact, I’ve returned twice since. Full of history, it is reputed to be the burial ground of Vikings who lost out to the locals in a battle. Kingley Vale is home to one of the oldest Yew woods in Great Britain and with the legends, ancient tumuli on the summit and great views over the English Channel towards the Isle of Wight, it’s well worth a visit. Country Walking magazine have an article I am writing on Kingley, due out in autumn next year.
The New Forest
The Lake District
Taking it all in on Blencathra.
Several hours spent waiting around in the cold, but I think it was worth it.
Phil Sorrell from Social Hiking was down south on a work do and along with Jannion Ireland from Routebuddy which seemed a decent excuse to get up in the hills. Jannion planned a great route around the Surry hills near Leith Hill and again, amazingly, the weather was fantastic.
I managed a few bimbles around Arundel, one of my favourite towns in the south east. This shot was taken on a path from the town to Houghton bridge, along the River Arun.
Finally, my year’s end centred around a little village in Sussex. Every year around fifteen friends gather just outside of Brighton for an annual walk to Alfriston. I believe the walk is in something like its 45th year, after a few mates first walked it back in the 1970’s and have continued to do so ever since. I wrote a post on the trip of three years back here.
Wrapping up at sunset on the annual Alfriston walk.
The crew outside Southease Church.
I’ve also been to the Alfriston area, or a little south of it to Cuckmere Haven, where the River Cuckmere meets the sea. With the towering white cliffs of the Seven Sisters, the river winding down to meet it and some amazing evening light, it’s a very special place.
Hope you all had a great year. May 2015 be a cracker.