Life Gets In the Way: Or How I Paused Travel Blogging To Travel!

So it’s been a few months since I last posted. I went from posting every week to not posting at all.

It wasn’t a conscious decision – in fact when I realised, I felt really guilty (there’s that perfectionist trait kicking in). It wasn’t that I’d made a choice not to post that week, it was simply that life got in the way.

In my last post, I talked about training for my Transylvania hike to raise money for Mind, the mental health charity. I knew that it would be a serious undertaking and that I was going to need to work really hard to keep up with the group on such a hard slog through the Carpathian Mountains.

I was really putting my all into it. Lie-ins were sacrificed and weekends were taken up with hiking bags, water packs, hills and lots and lots of distance. I was seeing lots of new places and pushing myself to get into shape physically – it just left very little time to write about it!

At first I was beating myself up: all these new places and I’m not even writing about them! However, after a bit of reflection, I’ve realised that it was because I was too busy living it. It’s ok that I didn’t post each week, I will still get to put it all down in the blog; it just might take me a little longer!

I’ve got my whole Transylvania trip to write about, including the learning and personal challenges that I faced throughout the experience – but I can do that in my own time. Without the weekly writing schedule, it means I can really reflect on my experiences and put more into the writing, rather than just meeting a (self imposed!) deadline.

For now, I’ll just say a huge thank you to everyone who donated. You helped me to raise an amazing £2150 and contributed to a team total of over £40k for an amazing charity. I’ll share my experiences over future posts – it was one hell of a ride!!

Mam Tor, Peak District UK

I’m still undergoing my hiking training in preparation for the trek in Transylvania to raise money for Mind. So in search of seeking out some good local places to walk, we set off for the Peak District, which is about an hour or so away from where we live.

Mam Tor was our destination; a rather large hill in Castleton. With an elevation of 515m, it was the perfect training ground for me.

We’d decided to take the circular route from Castleton as this would give us a total walking time of around four hours. Ignoring all sound advice from the lady in the visitor’s centre (because who wants to do things the easy way?!), we set off in the opposite direction, towards the steep climb out of a fairly dramatic looking valley. Walking up the side of the road towards Speedway cavern and Blue John Mine, the scenery was impressive, making me feel quite ‘hobbit-like’ due to the size and greenery of the hills surrounding us.

After a bit of creative navigation (we were following this brilliant guide but the signs aren’t great for the path), we found two routes up Mam Tor. We pot-lucked our way up the path to the right, eventually reaching what resembled a slight scramble up the hill to reach the main path. About half way up, I heard one woman remark to her walking partner “Oh I’m glad we are coming down this way rather than scrambling up, that route would have been awful“. Gee thanks lady. As you’ll have guessed, she was travelling in the opposite direction to us, making me wonder if I should have chosen the left path after all.

At the top of the scramble was a clearer path, steeply rising up the hillside. Given that we were fairly near the edge, my unhelpful feeling of ‘wobbliness’ started to surface. I’m not necessarily afraid of heights, but they do make me feel incredibly unstable. I fixed my eyes to the ground and just focused on putting one foot in front of the other. Before I knew it, we were at the top with an amazing view. We stayed for a while watching people paraglide whilst we had lunch.

A little side note: John West tuna lunch pots seem to have become my hiking lunch of choice. There is a gluten free / dairy free one and it’s easy to pack in a day sack. It’s either that or chocolate spread on gluten free bread – either way, I seem to have become stuck in a kind of lunch ‘dead-end’ – if other people have better hiking lunches – let me know!!!

At the top of Mam Tor was a trig point surrounded by little stone images of faces and huts – if anyone knows what their meanings are, I’d be interested to learn!

Looking over to the right, we could see the other path up the hill, which looked far easier and much less steep, but at least I’d had a good work out and pushed myself on a couple of ridge edges.

Once we were suitably fed, watered and recovered from the climb, we set off to the left along the marked stone path. This was much easier going and it became clear why the lady in the visitor’s centre has suggested to take this route. Coming up this path was a much gentler incline and would have much more clearly marked the route.

Passing Black Tor and Lose Hill Pike, we then started to cross a beautiful wooded area which was more stunning (to me at least) than the moors and fields. There is a pull I feel towards trees and woods that I just don’t experience in fields and out on the moors. It’s like an automatic ‘mood-boost’ and I feel much more connected to my surroundings.

Whilst the valley had been beautiful to drive through on the way to Mam Tor, it was the small tree lined area that stuck in my mind long after the walk.

Heading out of the trees and into the fields, our sense of direction failed us again as the path became unclear. A mother and daughter pair were also struggling with the route and we took it in turns to follow each other, sharing confused discussions on the same maps we were using.

Eventually, we crossed Spring House Farm and headed back towards Castleton. Next time, I’d look to extend the walk by heading to Hope first and then back to Castleton and maybe also taking some time to visit Peveril Castle, which looked intriguing, perched up high, keeping watch above the village.

Rector’s Palace, Dubrovnik

Rain and thunder indoors?!

It was tipping it down and, as beautiful as Dubrovnik old town is, we were a bit sick of being so wet! We went looking for somewhere to dry off and found two beautiful places. The first was a wine bar, tiny in size and decorated with hundreds of used corks. It was elegant enough to feel special, but not too upmarket that we felt out of place in our rain gear. The atmosphere was really friendly and after a couple of glasses, we felt brave enough to head back out into the rain.

Running across to the Rector’s Palace, we didn’t know quite what to expect, but the beautiful building was a gem, with lots of rooms filled with old furniture, paintings and trinkets. It gave us a real sense of Dubrovnik’s history and it was fascinating to read about the uses for the building and it’s customs (for example, the Rector couldn’t leave the building without permission of the Senate – as big as the building was, I’d have gone a little stir-crazy!). The building even had a dungeon, which was suitably dark and claustrophobic- an interesting contrast to the fancy rooms above.

The main hall’s ornate twisting staircase boasted an open roof over the centre of the square, which meant that the rain poured down through the middle of the building, leaving dry pathways around the edges of the walls. As we started up the stairs, thunder rolled out and we stopped on the landings to take in the scene. It may have been the wine from earlier, but there was something so powerful about the rain cascading down over the edge of the staircase as the lightning flashed above us. It may not have been the most picturesque place we visited on the trip, but it certainly created a memory that will stay with me for a long time.

Pendle Hill and Sculpture Trail

In a recent post called ‘Taking The Plunge‘ I talked a bit about my decision to undertake the huge challenge of going trekking in the Transylvanian Alps to raise money for Mind.

As part of that, I’ve been undertaking more hikes to support with my training, so when the sun came out recently, I jumped in the car and took off to Pendle Hill to enjoy the view.

I’d visited Pendle Hill a couple of weekends back to tackle the actual hill climb and it had been much colder then. The initial part of the walk is up a grassy hill, leading up to steep stone steps that wind their way around the hill side to the summit.

Although the views are great from the top, the harsh wind at the time had me pulling at my hood and feeling the cold cutting through my layers. By the time we’d walked to the bottom, I was wearing my windbreaker, a hoody and gloves.

Flash forward to a recent weekend and the weather couldn’t have been more different. The sun was shining, it was warm enough to leave the jumper behind and out came the sunglasses.

As I pulled up to the main car park in Barley, I realised my mistake; it was race day at Pendle Hill. A huge gaggle of people, all ready to run up the hill, a mixture of serious racers, fell runners and people out running for fun (!)

This changed my plans somewhat as I wasn’t feeling ready for a walk up the hill whilst being overtaken by runners – if I get out of breath taking my sweet time on those steps, I sure as hell don’t want to feel worse about my fitness by being lapped by ultra fit people in running shorts!!

I turned out of the car park and weaved my way through the groups of runners, keeping the Pendle Inn on my left. Passing the garage, I then headed up the lane, following the signs for the sculpture trail.

The first part of the walk was a fairly straight, uphill path, leading past the two reservoirs on the right. This gave a fairly good view of the forest I was about to enter.

The sculpture trail is set in Aitken Wood and as soon as I started up the steep path, I knew I’d made the right choice about my route. The trees towered overhead and the sunlight cutting through the branches created a beautifully lit view. There was a smell of burning through the wood and it reminded me of being in Yosemite, my favourite place in the world.

Along the trail, the sculptures were dotted around, often hidden back in the trees, meaning that some of them needed a little more searching to be found. The trail is obviously designed for kids, however I had loads of fun seeking out the sculptures and trying to solve the riddles that accompany them – so big kids like me will have just as much fun!

At one point, I shared my route with a family and listened to them telling stories about how the unicorn came to life when no one was looking. I realised that I’d been making up my own stories in my head as I’d walked: the unicorn was Artax (the horse from Neverending Story), the twisted bits of metal from a dystopian world and the chair with eyes from a Hocus Pocus type witch.

By the time I strolled back down the path to the car, I was feeling refreshed, with a head full of dreams and stories.