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.

Taking the Plunge: Anxiety and Travelling

I’m not going to pretend that I came up with the idea for this post by myself. I didn’t. I read a post by Lauren Juliff on which brilliantly encapsulated some of the fears I have about travelling – especially travelling alone. You can read the post here.

Lately, I’ve been wanting to prove to myself that I can do things on my own. That I can pack up, travel to another country, talk to people I don’t know and join trips on my own. For all the travelling that I’ve done, I’ve always been with friends, a partner or family. There has always been someone else to double check my travel plans or help me plan a route from A to B.

I’m a big fan of the ‘Into the Wild‘ movie which covers the true story of Christopher McCandless – I was first introduced to his story in a tent one night in Yosemite and it had a profound affect on me. Whilst there are different views on McCandless’s story, the quote of ‘happiness only real when shared‘ really stuck with me. I’ve always thought that travelling is something to be shared. That being said, I’ve spoken to friends who have experiences of travelling alone and have found it to be life-changing; really helping them to build confidence and self resilience. It got me thinking that ‘happiness only real when shared‘ could still be true – but that sharing might also include sharing an experience with yourself or a group of strangers.

So, after much consideration and in a moment of recklessness / bravado, I booked a trip. I wanted it to have a focus so I chose to book something that allows me to raise money for a charity. I picked Mind, the mental health charity because mental health is important to everyone. I have my own experiences of anxiety and depression and in my working life, I’m involved in the commissioning of mental health services – so I understand how much they can help someone who is struggling. The trip is organised so I have some structure to fall back on, but I will be travelling with a group of people I don’t know, so I will have to rely on myself.

I’ll be camping for four nights in Transylvania, walking 5-8 hours a day in the Transylvanian Alps and reaching peaks of 2,400 metres. It’s a challenge, and a big one at that. I’ll need to train. I have to fundraise a minimum of £2,000 – on that note, please donate what you can and share the link as widely as possible!! I’ll need to face my fear of heights and my anxiety of new people, but I’ll be doing it for a brilliant cause. I’ll get to see somewhere new and I’ll be spending my time with like-minded people. I’m hoping that this will be amazing experience that will help build confidence and really show me what I’m made of.

I’ll be sharing some of my training hike locations through this blog, along with stories from the actual trip: ‘happiness only real when shared‘, right?