Thursday, 31 December 2015

Walking Review 2015

It is that time of year again where I dust off my Blogger page (I really must integrate this properly into my website) and submit my walk review for the year. While I almost always post what an excellent year it has been for walking I think that has been especially true of 2015. First though some stats, in total I managed 67 walks over the course of the year (just one short of 2014) during which I clocked up around 520 miles in distance and over 85,500ft of ascent, not bad going!! 

My longest walk of the year, a near 15 mile exploration of Whernside and Scales Moor.

Approximately half the distance I walked was in the Yorkshire Dales. Indeed the 33 walks I managed in the Yorkshire Dales in 2015 equals my best since 2005. The Yorkshire Dales has always been the area I return to the most but for some reason it seems that this year I have been on a voyage of discovery in the Dales, not only finding new places to walk but retreading some of my early adventures. In fact one of the highlights of my walking year was enjoying the superb views from the likes of Buckden Pike, Fountains Fell and Nine Standards Rigg that were denied to me in earlier visits.

It was third time lucky for me when I finally got a good view from Nine Standards Rigg.
During the course of my wanders in the Dales I finally got round to visiting all the trig points within the boundary of the National Park when I bagged the trig on Calton Moor at the beginning of December. Meanwhile, back in June, I revisited the top of Yockenthwaite Moor and in doing so completed my second round of 2,000fters of the Dales.

By the trig point on Calton Moor, the final one I hadn't visited in the Yorkshire Dales.

 Although not comparable in terms of the quantity of walks I also had a fairly productive year in the North Pennines, with a total of 8 walks covering almost ninety miles of this often overlooked Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Highlights of 2015 included a superb walk contrasting the dramatic scenery of High Cup and the tarn laden moorland of Backstone Edge. Another grand walk was the linear walk from Murton to Stake Rigg visiting all the major summits in the Warcop Range.

Heading towards Mickle Fell on a cracking linear walk across the Warcop Range.

By concentrating mainly on the Dales and North Pennines I did somewhat neglect the more southerly Pennine areas, something I will have to try and make up for next year. Away from the Pennines I fulfilled a long held desire to go walking in the Galloway Hills in south-west Scotland. The walk over Merrick, the highest in the Southern Uplands, gave me a real taste of what a rough, lonely and utterly beautiful walking area it is. If I can get over my distaste for driving long distances it is definitely an area I'd like to explore further.

The Minigaff Hills in Galloway as seen on my return to Loch Trool from Merrick.

While I've always enjoyed a good waterfall I think it is fair to say that in 2015 I've gone a little bit waterfall mad. This is partly because I've finally cracked the art of getting a good waterfall shot (thanks Tim and Jack!). Perhaps also it is just a reflection of my obsessive nature and the need to tick off lists of targets. Having visited just about every summit, trig point and tarn in the Dales perhaps it is unsurprising that waterfalls would be next. On the other hand it could be that they are just so damn beautiful.

Aysgill Force, one of a number of beautiful waterfalls I visited in 2015.

Weather-wise I personally can't have too many complaints, indeed for the first ten months of the year the weather was remarkably kind. I didn't get wet very often, the skies were remarkably clear of haze and nor was it too hot during the summer. Of course it all started to go a bit wrong at the end of the year. While there has been a lot of press coverage of the flooding in December the wet weather really started at the beginning of November. The horrendous scenes we've seen on our television screens are a result not just of heavy rainfall over a few days, but from prolonged wet weather stretching back almost two months. It has stopped me from heading out a few times but that is but a mild inconvenience compared to the pain and misery it has inflicted on communities that have been flooded. 

Water everywhere above Cray Gill after the start of the heavy rain in mid-November.

2015 saw a record number of visits to my My Pennines website. In total the website saw over 78,000 visits during the course of the year, a 13% increase on the number of visits in 2014. In addition to a record number of annual visits 2015 also saw a record month in August when over 8,500 visitors came to the website. Strangely the most popular landing page continues to be, for the third year running, a walk I did on Winter Hill back in 2010. The My Pennines Facebook Page also continued to grow and with one day of the year to spend I reached the milestone of 1,000 likes. Thanks to everybody who has supported my website, Facebook page or Twitter Feed during the course of the year. Truly it would not be worth doing all this without your support.

My friend Wally on Wild Boar Fell's Nab, visited on one of my favourite walks of the year.

As always at this time of year I not only reflect on what I've achieved over the last 12 months but look forward with anticipation to what I hope to do in the next year. I've already started planning my walking itinerary for the coming year and unsurprisingly it includes more walks in the Dales and lots more waterfalls! In addition to making up for hardly visiting the South and West Pennines in 2015 I also hope that 2016 will be the year that I finally get round to visiting Kinder Downfall.

Watergrove Reservoir and Brown Wardle Hill on my only walk in the South Pennines in 2015.

Finally, as has become a tradition, here are my favourite walks, views and walking moments of the year...

Top 5 Walks of 2015:

Click on the links to read the full walk reports.

  1. High Cup and Backstone Edge (North Pennines)
  2. Whernside and Scales Moor (Yorkshire Dales)
  3. Wild Boar Fell and Swarth Fell (Yorkshire Dales)
  4. Merrick (Galloway)
  5. Buckden Pike via Buckden Gill (Yorkshire Dales)
Honourable mentions go to Cray Gill, Yockenthwaite Moor, Sir William Hill, Cross Fell, Attermire Scar, Mickle Fell, Cosh and High Seat.
My walk along High Cup and Backstone Edge was my favourite walk of the year.

Top 5 Views of 2015:
  1. The Galloway Hills from Merrick
  2. Mallerstang from High Loven Scar
  3. Three Peaks country from Cosh Knott
  4. Murton Fell from across High Cup
  5. Westmorland from Nine Standards Rigg
The views on the descent of Merrick towards Loch Trool were simply stunning.
Top 5 Most Memorable Walking Moments of 2015:
  1. More than a 'moment'. Spending an hour and a half in the company of the red squirrels of Snaizeholme. Utterly delightful.
  2. Descending Merrick towards Loch Enoch in the heart of the Galloway Hills. A whole new world ahead of me.
  3. Standing on Murton Pike, a small island in a sea of cloud during a temperature inversion.
  4. Taking my ten year old nephew Liam to the top of Helvellyn.
  5. Bagging the trig point on Calton Moor to complete my set of Yorkshire Dales trigs.
Spending time with the red squirrels of Snaizeholme was my favourite walking moment of 2015.
5 Least Favourite Walking Moments of 2015:
  1. Being ambushed by a herd of beef bullocks in a field outside of Knaresborough. I had to take cover in a fence corner and wait for the farmer to rescue me.
  2. My Panasonic camera, having survived a number of falls, finally came a cropper on 28th March when I slipped and dropped it on Sigsworth Crags in Nidderdale. Fortunately the replacement camera I bought, an Olympus EM-10 has proven to be a more than worthy replacement.
  3. Slipping in the snow on Norwood Edge and landing knee first on a rock buried under the snow. Very very painful but thankfully no lasting damage.
  4. Forgetting to put my gaiters on before heading over the full length of Darnbrook Fell in the snow. I got so much snow in my boots I began to get seriously concerned about how cold my ankles were getting and was very relieved to get back to Arncliffe.
  5. Getting a bollocking from a farmer in Raydale after rescuing a new born lamb that had been abandoned and was freezing up on Wether Fell.
Getting hemmed in by bullocks on a field near Knaresborough