This time last year we were just coming out of what was hopefully the final lockdown in England – I was also just coming out the back of yet another foot injury. On the upside I’d lost a lot of weight and even though I’d been unable to do much training for the previous few weeks, I was feeling quite fit. With the end of lockdown in sight I also had a lot of walking planned for the year ahead – and most of those plans actually came off! In the end, 2021 was one of the best year’s walking I’ve ever had, certainly the best and most productive since 2013. I did significantly more miles, more height gain and visited more new hills and trig points than 2019 and 2020 combined.
Much of that ‘success’ is down to a change in the way I was able to walk. In May last year I bought a campervan and I wish I’d done it years ago – it has been a real game-changer when it comes to walking. Not only does it provide a great ‘base camp’ for doing a series of circular solo day walks in an area, it has also allowed me and Chris to complete two linear long distance routes. You may not be aware that my long-time walking companion has moved out of his bricks and mortar into his car, full-time. You can read about that decision here.
Over a series of long weekends in the summer we completed the Yorkshire Wolds Way and managed all but the last day of the North Wales Pilgrim Way. We would meet up at a convenient camping spot on Friday night, close to the end of Saturday’s walk route. On Saturday morning we’d leave one vehicle at the end of the walk and drive to the start, leaving the other vehicle there. At the end of the walk we’d drive back to the start, pick up the other vehicle then drive to another camping spot somewhere close to the end of Sunday’s walk. We’d then repeat the ‘two-car shuffle’ for Sunday and Monday’s walks. In this way we would use just one day’s holiday and have a three-day weekend leapfrogging along the path. Our camping spots are typically off-site, or stealth camps if you prefer – this includes remote car parks, pull-ins and laybys on quiet moorland roads. So far we’ve had some great locations.
My hope is that I can continue this success into 2022 and I have a lot of walks planned for the year ahead. We plan to continue using the two-car approach for at least a couple more paths. I’m hoping to merge parts of the Ravenber long distance path with St. Oswald’s Way to come up with an 11-day walk across the Northern Pennines to the Northumberland coast and on to Lindisfarne. We also hope to complete my Tip-to-Tip straight line challenge walk across the Yorkshire Dales and get the rest of the Dales 30 Tops completed too.
Although most of my walks are no longer done alone – thanks to Chris’s willingness to endure my company – I still hope to do some solo walking this year. I enjoyed the Cross Borders Drove Road in Scotland last year so much, I’ve decided to try another one of their long distance trails, the Speyside Way and I’ll be setting out on that walk in the middle of May.
I also have guide book updates to catch up on. Chris and I have already walked the Herriot Way this year (using two vehicles, as described above), but I also want to update the Eden Way and the Yoredale Way. The former I will probably do as long weekends using the campervan and the Settle-Carlisle railway that runs close to the route and the latter is already booked as a B&B walk in early August.
The campervan has given me so many more options to enjoy walks. Rather than doing a couple of solo day walks each month in the Dales or the Peaks, I can now do two, three or even four day weekends and cram several walks into a long weekend. If I plan my holidays properly I can have several long weekends each summer, and still have room for a couple of long distance paths using B&Bs. The result is lots more walking! Long may it continue.
A quick word about the North Wales Pilgrim Way
I did this walk because Chris wanted to do it. It’s essentially a series of old pilgrimage routes tied together through North Wales and the Lleyn Peninsula. I organise most of our walks and although Chris often gets an input, we mostly end up walking the routes I want to walk. Chris has been fine with this so far – he doesn’t like planning stuff and as long as he’s walking, he’s happy. So, when he suggested doing this route it seemed unfair of me not to agree. I have to admit after I looked at the route on the map I wasn’t that impressed. The first couple of days of the walk lived up to my expectations, and we spent a lot of time crossing fields (and hundreds and hundreds of bloody stiles) and farm yards and I have to admit I got quite grumpy about it.
From day 3 onwards things began to pick up though and we had some great scenery ahead of us. Day five and onwards was really enjoyable and I really began to enjoy the path. This was helped by some absolutely stunning camping spots too and I enjoyed the warm evenings spent chin-wagging, as much as I enjoyed the walking. Once we approached the coast the path really becomes interesting and day nine and ten were absolutely sublime. We still need to go back and finish the last 20 miles and I certainly want to do that.