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WordPress Creative Writing Challenge: Haiku I

Dreaming of the fells
Shimmering mackerel sky
Tempts me from my desk

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Forsaking one passion for another

If you spoke to some people who know me and asked them what my favourite things are, they’re likely to say football and Formula One. This weekend there’s the Monaco Grand Prix, arguably the most exciting race of the season, and a pre-tournament friendly between England and Norway in Oslo. This weekend I will be watching neither of these. I’m off to The Lake District.

I personally don’t think the Monaco race is ever up to much and please remind me the last time England played a properly good friendly game (OK, that Ghana game last year was alright, but apart from that…?). However, I’m not going to The Lakes to avoid these events (I’ll be listening on the radio), I’m going because a couple of years ago Emma and I drove through the Newlands Valley to Buttermere and I fell in love with it.

Setting off from Huddersfield, I’ll drive to Keswick, catch a bus to Braithwaite then walk to Buttermere, taking in the peaks of Grisedale Pike, Hopegill Head, Eel Crag, Grasmoor, Wandope and Whiteless Pike on the way. I’m camping at Hassness on the bank of Buttermere and setting off to Hawse End landing stage via Robinson, Hindscarth, Dale Head, High Spy, Maiden Moor and Cat Bells to catch the boat back to Keswick. I can’t wait!

I do a reasonable amount of walking on my own as Emma works on Saturdays. I spent my 30th birthday at the top of a coastal hill in Mull. I walked over 14 miles in 5 hours in the South Pennines a few weeks ago but this is the longest walk I’ve ever done on my own, over 20 miles in 2 days with higher climbs and steeper descents than I’m used to. I’ve got a tent, sleeping bag, food and other gear to carry around with me (I went out with it all on that 14 miler recently to see if I could cope!) so it’s not going to be a stroll but I’ve got all day to get from Braithwaite to Buttermere (12ish miles via my route) and all day to get back to Keswick (8ish miles) so a gentle pace will do, especially as this lovely weather’s meant to continue. The main thing I’m worried about is that I might get to the campsite at 4pm or something and have nothing to do!

I’ve not camped since I was 14 when I was at an international scout camp called CampDowne ’96 and I’ve never stayed at a campsite. I’ve got a little one-man tent which I put up in the garden easily enough then it rained for over a week and I couldn’t take it down. Then when it dried out, I put it in the shed and some mice have moved into it! I’ve got to get them out tonight while hiding The Cat from them.

I’ll be writing about the walk when I get back on walkingabout.co.uk, though I’ve got a couple of others to write up first, that 14 mile one amongst them.

Wish me luck and safety! I might tweet a pic or two on my way, battery/network depending so follow me @scottbrown_14 if you like.

People should sit less and move more

Castle Hill, Huddersfield

Castle Hill, Huddersfield, on the Stocksmoor to Berry Brow walk

I’m going for a walk tomorrow from Littleborough to Marsden and, to be honest, I don’t expect to see a whole lot of people while I’m out. The weather is forecast to be partly cloudy and 11°C or to put it another way, perfect walking weather. Another walk I took recently from Stocksmoor to Berry Brow was pretty bare. It was more or less the first ‘perfect walking weather’ day of the year and I expected to see more than the five or six people (in only two or three groups) than I did. This has led me to wonder; why don’t people get out any more?

I was just reading a story on the Guardian website about kids being outside and enjoying themselves. It’s increasingly rare to see kids climbing trees, exploring woodland, running around in fields and suchlike. I’m only 30 and I was doing this kind of thing when I was a kid so why has it changed?

Atari 800XL

The Atari 800XL, my first computer

People always point to the rise in computers, the internet, television and other distracting technology. You’ll be lucky to find anyone who uses this kind of tech more than I do, I had a computer from the age of two and Sky TV since before the football was on Sky Sports (in fact, it was the day of the first Simpsons episode to be shown in the U.K., whenever that was). Ok, the internet wasn’t about back then but I still had enough to keep me indoors; Scalextric, darts etc. The difference is that I was almost always out playing football, riding my bike, mucking about with my friends.

I lived around 3 miles from my primary school so at the weekend I used to regularly ride my bike across town to go and see my schoolmates. Once I’d met them, we’d often go to High Elms to ride our bikes around the woods. Mum warned me about ‘dirty old men’, or paedophiles as we now call them(!), but let me get on with it, safe in the knowledge that my gradually built up experience of only being allowed down to the third lamppost on my own, then round the corner at the bottom of the hill, then down to the park, then into the fields next to the park and so on had given me.

This is what makes me think that technology is an excuse adults use for kids not going out. I believe that it’s parents being too wary and not letting kids have their independence. I learnt a lot by riding off five miles from home on my bike at age 10. I learnt a lot climbing the tree half way down the park and jumping off it. Ok, I could’ve been run over while on the ride to Green Street Green or broke an arm jumping off the tree but I didn’t. Even if I did, it’s a lesson learnt!!

The article says that the ‘roaming radius’ of kids had shrunk by 90% in the past 30 years from the 1990’s, when I was out and about – makes you wonder just how far I would’ve gone if I was a child of the 50’s or 60’s! Perhaps I was an exception to the rule but I feel it was good preparation for life, especially how I’ve gone about things, moving away from home and all.

Hackney Marshes

Get these pitches used!!

I despair when I walk or drive past football pitches on a Sunday morning in autumn, winter or spring and they’re not being used. Why aren’t they being used? If you didn’t have a match on a Sunday morning when I was a kid there was no chance you’d find a goal to have a kickabout in, you’d have to wait until the afternoon.

Getting outdoors and closer to nature helps to keep children fit, they can learn about the world around them, and most of all its fun. Building a den, picking flowers, climbing trees – the outdoors is a treasure trove, rich in imagination. It brings huge benefits that we believe every child should have the opportunity to experience. And there are huge costs when they don’t.

Too right. Another good point:

But it’s essential for children to play out and for us to guide them, so that they know the dangers and boundaries. They love the canal, for instance, and it’s good that they should learn about all the wildlife there, but also about the risks of water.

Most of us live too much of a sedentary lifestyle these days, myself included. I’m making changes in my life right now that involve moving more and sitting less. I know I’ll benefit from this in later years and I enjoy it right now so it’s a win-win situation.

My message to everyone reading this is get out more. If you’ve got kids, get them out of the door. Go with them. Even if you don’t want to go with them, send them out anyway. Set rules, of course, and give them a phone or whatever so you can keep track of them (text messages and Google Latitude on a cheapo Android phone will do the job). Everyone will benefit in the short, medium and long-term. It gives kids a respect of the outdoors that will serve them well in later life and keep them fit.

If you want to read what walks I’ve been doing, by the way, I’ve got a new website where I’m keeping track of such things with photos, downloadable routes and maps and other useful features. Check it out at Walking About.

We’re off the The Lakes!!

Borrowdale from the top of Honister Pass

Borrowdale from the top of Honister Pass

Emma and I always go away in January. It’s cheaper than going away during the summer, there are no kids about and Emma works all over Christmas so it’s a good time for her to recharge her batteries. Once again, we’re off to the Lake District for the 4th time in 5 years, Hawkshead for the third time in three.

The Newfield Inn, Seathwaite, Duddon Valley, Cumbria

The Newfield Inn, Seathwaite, Duddon Valley, Cumbria

If you’ve never been to The Lakes, you must go. There’s no more stunning a place I have ever seen. Every corner you go round on their fantastic roads, you’ll see a different thing. It may be a deep valley, large lake, small tarn, high waterfall, one of England’s highest mountains or that pub you knew was around there somewhere, you just weren’t sure where. Once you get out of your car, of course, there is some fantastic walking to be found. More on that later.

Wordsworth Street, Hawkshead

Wordsworth Street, Hawkshead

Hawkshead itself is a fantastic place for a holiday, especially at this time of year. There are 4 pubs all within a 2 minute stroll of each other, ideal for when the nights come early and the weather’s cold! Log fires and real ale abound. The place is packed full of little stone streets and wonky cottages, there’s a lovely church, a co-op, a few outdoorwear shops and a couple of eating places. It’s a bit of a honeypot town in the summer but you really get to enjoy the place in the winter when there’s less people around. The pubs can get fairly busy even at this time of year so I wouldn’t like to think what they’re like in the summer.

Just down the road is Grizedale Forest, a place with walks for people of all abilities. Emma and I usually do one or two of the walks during our stay (I’m trying to persuade her to do the longer one this time round… she’s not having it!).

Wainwright's Scafell Guide

Wainwright's Scafell Guide

The walking is the main thing we go away for. This Christmas, I bought Emma a collection of Wainwright’s Walks. We had a go at Catbells last year but the weather was pretty poor, it was quite misty and Emma really didn’t fancy the full walk. We got most of the way there, though. So, Emma’s task is to look through the books to find walks she likes the look of.

If you’ve never heard of Wainwright’s guides, they’re handwritten, hand-illustrated guides to walks on each of Lakeland’s fells. They’re very detailed and although they were originally written some time ago, the version’s Emma’s got are up-to-date with current paths and sights.

Wainwright Illustrations

Wainwright Illustrations

Also, he explains what you can see from the summit of each fell, which is great. Despite the fact we’ve been going for years, I still can’t tell which fell’s what and I often cannot tell which lake is which, from a distance.

I’m sure I’ll be putting a few photos of the holiday on Twitter, as we go along. Follow me at @scottbrown_14 if you like, I’ll try to make you jealous! Looks like we’ll have to get any serious stuff done early in the week, though.

Hawkshead Weather 14th Jan - 21st Jan 2011

Hawkshead Weather 14th Jan - 21st Jan 2011

I can’t wait to go, now. Just half a day at work then that’s it!