Posts Tagged “UK”

It is said that our Northern Hemisphere ancestors were familiar only with white swans. When they sat round the fire talking about the swans they had seen, there was no need to specify the colour: The mere concept of a black swan was absurd.

However, sometimes these things are a matter of perspective. I happen to come from a land Down Under where Christmas is in summer, where mothers hop around with their young in a pouch, where spiny mammals lay eggs, and where the swans are most distinctly black. And so it was many years before I first saw a white swan.

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I’ve written several posts on my experiences with the Pennine Way. This time, I wanted to talk about the technical details: Where I stayed, the equipment I used, the trade-offs I made, what worked and what didn’t. I’ve also made a few suggestions for shorter routes if thru-hiking isn’t an option.

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It’s now three years since I successfully completed the Pennine Way, and two years since I wrote about the first half my trek and how it ended in injury. After a week in the north of England I made it into Scotland, and in Edinburgh I planned a return.

And so it happened: After visiting the Scottish Highlands, the Lake District, and the Isle of Man, I was ready for another shot at completing the Way.

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I’ve spent most of my life in Australia, it is my home, and I’m proud of it. But there are many parts of it that I’ve never been to, and many iconic experiences that I’ve never had.

So the question becomes: How well do I need to know my country anyway?

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This time last year I was in the middle of walking the Pennine Way. I’ve already written an overview of the experience, but in this post I want to give a feel of some of the many experiences on a long and varied trail.

This post covers the first half of the walk, from Edale to Middleton-in-Teesdale, where I left the trail for an unscheduled injury break. The second installment can wait until mid-August when I resumed the trail.

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When I have been on walks with small children, I have often felt that they are seeing things that I don’t see. Sometimes it’s the little details that I’ve seen thousands of times but never really observed. Other times, it’s the things I don’t see because they’re not there. But the child has a confidence that goes beyond “I’d like to imagine I’m seeing something”. It appears to me they are actually seeing and responding to whatever it is. No matter whether it is there or not.

Here are a few examples I’ve seen while out hiking.

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This year, I climbed to the highest point of five different nations for the first time: Australia, England, Wales, Scotland, and the Isle of Man. I also climbed the highest point of my home state of Victoria for a second time.

Climbing the tallest mountain in my home country has been on my list for years, so I made sure I did it before exhausting my leave going to the UK. Doing the UK Three Peaks was a key part of my planning for exploring the UK. I was already planning on spending a lot of time in England, but this gave me a goal to target: I wanted to make sure that I spent at least a week in Wales and Scotland, rather than just dashing in, climbing a peak, and dashing out again. The Isle of Man felt too small to spend more than a few days on it, though I found I could have easily spent longer (it doesn’t seem as well known as it should be).

One of the things my list shows is the importance of choosing your countries carefully. The highest point I reached during the year was in Switzerland, at least a kilometre higher than I got in Australia. And yet it still wasn’t enough: to reach the highest mountain in Switzerland I would have had to go another kilometre up and used specialised equipment. I only spent about six hours in France, and still ended up climbing higher than England and Wales. I seriously considered visiting the Netherlands and trying to reach its highest point (a mere 322.7m high), but decided (wisely) that I’d prefer to spend my time exploring the Swiss Alps.

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This year, I was in the UK for 2.5 months, and one of the things I wanted to do was lots of walking in English countryside. Walking the Pennine Way offered one good way to do it.

What’s the Pennine Way? National Trails UK explains:

Steeped in history, this National Trail chases along the mountain tops along the rugged backbone of England and offers 268 miles of the finest upland walking in England. A once in a lifetime experience.

It also gives you magnificent scenery, follows the best section of the historic Hadrian’s Wall, and even takes you into Scotland.

Not everything went to plan, but in the end I completed it, and that’s the main thing.

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