Monday, 19 December 2016

Another year ticks by. A review of 2016 in the great outdoors.

It's almost the end of December 2016. Christmas is looming and we're having a lazy afternoon at Crowther Towers. The Christmas cake's in the oven.

January seems a looong way back. Me and my pal Chris spent a night out in the Howgills. It was WILD. Wet and windy. The Enan leaked and was subsequently replaced by Hilleberg. Excellent service from them and Taunton Leisure.

Later in the month, Chrissie and I took the van up to Coniston. Islay was tiny, having come to us just before Christmas. So, we were on tiny-dog-walks but still managed to hook up with our friend Peter Dixon and Oscar the Mountain Dog. As is usually the case with us, life was focused around the needs of the little chocolate lab. Not forgetting her big sis, Pebbles the boxer, of course.

February brought some proper cold weather. Chris and I did our own, lazy and thoroughly enjoyable, three day, Yorkshire Three Peaks. At around -6C the second night's camp was probably the coldest I've yet done.

In March, I grasped the bull by the horns and took my little pal, now almost six months old, for her first backpack and wild camp. Not far from home on the lower slopes of Kinder. Such fun. Apart from shouting at me as I put the tent up, she was no trouble. What a treasure. I was still grieving the loss of Tilly just a few months earlier, but it became clear I'd found another backpacking soulmate.

At Easter, we joined our good friends James and Reuben for a couple of days van camping in Dumfries and Galloway.

April found me introducing a new friend, Jamie to the delights of backpacking. Jamie's eager and keen to learn and we found uncharacteristically fine weather on a jaunt over Bleaklow, taking in one of our favourite wild camp spots. Notice, Jamie followed mine and Chrissie's advice in his choice of tent.

We had a glorious time wandering the Scottish Highlands in the van for the whole of May. We made separate backpacking excursions, not quite feeling ready to take the pups together. It was fabulous. During our journey we were pleased to enjoy the company of David, Andrea & Peter along with their tribe of gorgeous hounds and the always enigmatic, Claire. We must repeat this Scottish adventure.


Shortly after returning home in June, I joined Chris for the final week of his JOGLE ride, from Bristol to Lands End. I had many reminders of my own LEJOG in 2015.

July was the only month this year I didn't wild camp. We became a little preoccupied with the purchase of a new van, managing just a short, shake down trip to Hawes.

August must surely have been the highlight month for Chrissie and I as we completed a nine day backpack through Arctic Sweden. Words can't do it justice.

Back in the UK, during September and October, we spent three weeks in our new van, travelling through the Dales and Cumbria. For this trip we aimed to backpack together with both dogs. We'd never attempted this before. Along the way we met up with several of our online friends: JennyMikeDawn and, once again Peter and Oscar. We've met so many great people through Twitter and other online media.

Later in October, Chris and I cycled the Reivers Route, my third crossing of England by cycle.

In November, we returned to Kielder, again in the van, for another couple of backpacks, each with our own pooch this time.

In December, Islay and I joined David and Moss with the van for a couple of days walking from Hawes.

And that's about it for another year.

As I write, Islay's on reduced walks cos not only was she spayed a coupla weeks back but she got an infection around the scar. Oops. She's presently on antibiotics and recovering well. So much for our plan for the two of us to snatch a Kinder backpack in recent days. Pebbles, meanwhile, has been in season, thereby scuppering our plans to have them both spayed together, in the hope of having only one recuperation period. Oh well.

By any standards it's been a good year. We've been on the receiving end of some unpleasantness recently but it's overshadowed by the friendship of good people. We hope to meet many of you out there in the new year.

Have a happy Christmas one and all and a 2017 full of your own adventures. And, in the words of the late, great Dave Allen..."May your God go with you".