New Year, New Adventures (2023)

It feels good getting out and about and getting some exercise at the beginning of the new year: start how you mean to go on. I ran on New Year’s Eve, conscious that with various things going on in December (lots of travel, for work and because of my Dad dying, and then because of concerts and carol services and colds) I was not feeling particularly fit. It was really nice to bump into Lesley from choir and her husband Alan when I was nearly home and to have a chat with them, though sadly their christmas had been a fairly quiet one due to children and grandchildren having colds and various other illnesses; but I do love being out for a run and being able to stop to have a chat with friendly people (what I don’t understand is the people you say a cheery ‘hiya’ too and they just scowl at you).

Rosie, a friend from choir, had said on the running WhatsApp group that she’d be free for a run on New Year’s Day. The rain it rained, the roads were flooded, and as I waited for her at Kershope (because I was early), I rather hoped she’d forget or be unable to make it… she did make it, and we did the nearly-8km loop and both ran far better than we expected. It was a great way to start the New Year, the rain seemed to hold off while we were actually running, and I was really glad to have made the effort.

Today dawned bright, sunny and frosty. I had suggested cycling to a friend but it was so cold I wasn’t sure I’d find it that comfortable, and also the roads might be icy. I was also extremely late getting up and out of bed and dressed, partly as I’m reading a good book (This is Happiness by Niall Williams; a poetically-written recounting of a time when electricity was only just arriving in Ireland) and partly as I was a bit headachey having drunk too many gin and tonics last night. Penny sent a message asking what I was up to and I suggested a walk – after a bit of thinking at both ends we decided to meet in Armathwaite. I’ve cycled round that area but never walked or run round there.

There’s a footpath along the river – running fast and full today – which you can follow in either direction. We headed in a north easterly direction before crossing the road and following the footpath through fields towards Ainstable. There are stunning views across to the Lake District fells: the photo is similar to many I have taken on my bike from this area, but the view remains one that fills my heart with joy every time.

The public footpath then cuts around Ainstable past a rather nice looking house (the path has been diverted to avoid going through their garden, and they have planted a yew hedge to stop the hoi-polloi like me looking in or traipsing across their garden) and then through the edge of a farmyard on a lane which is clearly little used (grass down the middle).

We got to another farm, where it wasn’t at all clear what way to go: fortunately a man turned up in a car and it turned out that the ‘gates’ were up because the farmer was moving some sheep. We followed an old track which led into another field with more stunning views – the photos this time are looking eastwards towards the Pennines – and where the sheep ran away from us (the photo before these two had the last few rushing through that open gate). We then joined up with an old county road which led a tree-lined route down to Longdales (I think it’s called). There are some really lovely properties in this neck of the woods and I keep wondering whether I really want to move to ‘urban’ Penrith!

From there it was a short walk to get to Coombs Wood: a Forestry Commission wood on the slope of a hill which leans steeply down towards the river Eden. The light was gorgeous, with everything russet and golden, and mist rising from the fields in the valley which had hardly defrosted from the overnight and morning ice. As we came out of the woods on the path back to the Pheasant Inn, Penny bumped into someone she knew: I think the Forestry Commission overlaps with so many other bodies (Natural England, RPA, etc.) that it’s almost inevitable that she and Tim between them know most of the ‘outdoors’ types in Cumbria.

This was definitely a walk to do as a run, perhaps including some extra loops in Coombs Wood.

Looking back at the past two years, in 2021 I made all sorts of resolutions (my sort-of-6 at 60), which I mostly fulfilled; last year I had had a busy but lovely time over Christmas and the New Year, including going to Bristol to see my parents and to buy Isabella a violin. This year December was sadder, but I feel as if 2023 will be the year for plenty more outdoor adventures: I have a cycling book I want to do more routes from, and gave Penny one for Christmas; there is a Wainwright-bagging running book to emulate; and Penny gave me a book about walks and swims in the Lake District. I feel as if I want to do more writing, mostly about the outdoors; I’m also trying to keep up duolingo every day; and I’m aiming to do my ATCL (singing diploma) this year. And, of course, in what will doubtless feel like a few short weeks (mid-March), I start a new job.

I hope before then to have some enjoyable winter weather however: ideally some snow!