thought.photos

occasional snapshots of thought

Meadowsweet and Summer Weather

Posted on 18th August 2017

The summer break can’t come soon enough as each successive year in higher education becomes more pressured. Long gone are the days when some academics would disappear at the end of teaching and not return until the start on the new autumn term. For many of us, that’s a good thing but like all pendulums, this one has now swung too far in the other direction. It’s very difficult now to find the dedicated time we once had for curriculum development and the creation of new teaching/learning materials. Just at a time when our institutions are being judged on their teaching excellence and we are being challenged to be even more excellent teachers, our opportunities to make this actually happen are being reduced. But life is full of ironies and as I get older, life in higher education seems to become more ironic by the day as universities change the way they operate in order to game the system that attempts to measure their success in teaching, research, the employability of students and a dozen other spurious metrics. Yes, I’m looking forward to a few irony-free weeks.

So I’d booked 7 nights at Ambleside YHA way back in December thinking that this would be my main fellwalking trip of the year. I’d carefully planned 7 day walks and calculated that I could possibly complete 45 Wainwrights during the week but, letting myself off easily (this is a holiday after all), I’d be happy to do just 25. The best laid plans…

+Read more

An Election and the sublime North-West

Posted on 10th August 2017

When Theresa May called the snap election for June the 8th, she obviously didn’t realise that I had a trip to the Lakes booked on that day. Bookings for Youth Hostels need to be made well in advance in order to guarantee the best rooms and I’d made this June booking way back in December. This would be my first trip away from home during a general election. Naturally, I didn’t manage to get myself organised in time for a postal vote and so this would also be the first time I hadn’t voted in any election, general or otherwise. Major fail. On the other hand, I live in a very safe Tory seat, so my vote has never counted for anything. Despite this, I was annoyed with myself.

On the plus side, my daughter, Tilly, would be accompanying me on this visit and despite the fact that she isn’t quite old enough to vote, there was a deal of excitement around the election within her friend group, involving a great deal of debate on Facebook Messenger. At the centre of this debate was Jeremy Corbyn, who seemed to have assumed the role of either pop idol or bogeyman, depending on point of view. I was a mere observer but it was great to see my kid’s generation engage in political debate.

+Read more

Blea Tarn from Lingmoor

Scatterlings and Outliers

Posted on 9th July 2017

After a day of useful presentations and interesting conversations in Manchester, I returned to the Lakes with a new phone for the second leg of the May tour. The first leg had been pretty successful with 15 Wainwrights in 3 days, not a bad average. But I still hadn’t reached 100 and the weather forecast didn’t give much hope, describing conditions as “changeable”, which in Lake District speak means “raining most of the time with a few dry spells”. Under the circumstances it seemed like a good idea to plan for bagging a few outliers and low-hanging fruit.

As it happened, the Friday didn’t look too bad, so I decided to take on another of Stuart Marshall’s walks in an attempt to finish off the Far Eastern Fells, a Troutbeck Medley. The word “medley” is used here to mean a walk taking in a number of tops that have no geographical relation to one another save that they are all close enough together to make the walk possible in a long day. In other words, a walk that no right-minded person would do. Which, I think says more about my determination to wrap up the Far Eastern Wainwrights than it does about wanting to actually enjoy the endeavour.

+Read more

Looking south to Froswick and Ill Bell from the path to Thornthwaite Crag.

Horseshoes and Rounds

Posted on 20th June 2017

For the past few years, a group of like-minded educators have gathered to discus the specific issues involved with the teaching of web design. The group was formed by my good friend Richard Eskins at Manchester Metropolitan University and this year’s Web Teaching Today event was hosted by Richard at MMU. I took the opportunity to bookend the get-together with two trips to the Lakes with the prospect of bagging my 100th Wainwright.

My key task on this trip was to complete the Far Eastern Fells and I began the visit by tackling the most easterly (and lonely) of all the Wainwrights. I was following a walk designed by Stuart Marshall, from his book Walking the Wainwrights. The premise of this book is that it covers all the Wainwrights in the minimum number of circular walks. In this case, just 36. Each walk is designed to be walked in a day (providing there is enough daylight). Up until quite recently, I’ve considered Stuart’s routes to be slightly ambitious and have used the book to plan shorter versions or variations. However, I’m now confident enough in my fitness and my navigation skills to attempt some of his longer walks. The Swindale Round includes just 4 Wainwrights and at 11 miles, is one of Stuart’s shorter routes. Ideal for a day when I had to drive a couple of hours to the start point (I’d stopped over in Southport on the way up to the Lakes).

+Read more

Rainbow over Ullswater

Peat Hags and Skylarks

Posted on 30th April 2017

This post could easily have been titled, “Picking up where I left off”, because on the morning of 10th April, I parked the car in exactly the same spot I’d parked on my last visit to the Lake District, back in October. St. Peter’s Church at Howtown is at the start of numerous walks in the north-eastern fells and I was very glad to be back there after a winter hiatus.

I hadn’t planned a visit to the Lakes in April but it just so happened that I’d booked some leave over Easter and that coincided with my mum’s second knee replacement operation. So, I was in Southport to take her into hospital and to take her home later in the week. In between times, I managed two trips up to the Lakes, the first, to complete the Fusedale Round that I didn’t have time for at the end of last year, and the second to take on the Martindale Round.

+Read more

Cribyn, Pen y Fan and Corn Du from Cefn Cwm Llwch

Keeping my hand in

Posted on 22nd January 2017

The last time I did any serious walking was back in October and the next planned visit to the Lakes is in May so I took the opportunity afforded by some good January weather to make a trip to the Brecon Beacons in order to keep myself in reasonable fell-walking condition (keeping my hand in). For whatever reason, I’d never visited the Brecon Beacons before despite them being just two and a half hours from home by car. I know some parts of Wales reasonably well; many childhood holidays were spent in North Wales and I spent 3 years at university in Mid Wales but other than a trip to the Ebbw Vale Garden Festival in 1992 and a short break on the Pembrokeshire coast, I don’t really know the South at all. So, yesterday morning, I got up in good time (not too early), set the sat-nav for Brecon and set off in search of the Brecon Beacons.

+Read more

Looking east from Harrison Stickle summit

Self analysis in the Central Fells

Posted on 22nd October 2016

Stephen Hough, the concert pianist, was this week’s castaway on Desert Island Discs on BBC Radio 4. During the programme he said something that really resonated with me. I’m paraphrasing but he said something to the effect of “life is about negotiating that space between the extremes where everything matters and where nothing matters and happiness lies at the point of balance between the two”. I recognised this as an important illustration of the way my own mind works and have long been conscious of the fact that I have a tendency to an imbalance in favour of everything matters. In some respects, this is a good thing. I believe it makes me a better teacher, improving empathy and organisation. But in other ways it can be negative, causing stress, especially when I can see that there are problems with things I think really matter but over which I have no control (a frequent occurrence in university life).

One of the best ways I know of redressing that imbalance is to indulge in some enforced nothing matters activity. Or rather, nothing matters except for that particular activity. In my case, the activity happens to be solo walking in the Lake District fells. When I’m out there, completely alone and in the presence of significant natural beauty, nothing else really matters – it’s a great antidote (or at the very least, an effective coping mechanism).

So, last weekend I headed up to the Lake District, looking for the antidote and hoping to tidy up my fell walking record in the process by finishing off the Central Fells.

+Read more

The view from Great Crag

Unfinished Business in Langdale

Posted on 27th August 2016

For the second year running, I made an August trip to the Lake District with my daughter, Tilly. She’s a very good walking companion with plenty of experience from her Duke of Edinburgh Award and scouting expeditions and it makes for a welcome change to the solo walking, which I usually do.

The object of this visit was to take in some classic walks, the Langdale Pikes and the Kentmere Round and thereby get close to finishing the Central Fells and starting the Far Eastern Fells but as with most of my trips so far, our plans were compromised by the weather.

+Read more

Above Watendlath looking west

Taking the rough with the smooth

Posted on 6th August 2016

The 214 challenge is well under way and what could potentially have been a dalliance is now heading towards 25% completion. There’s no way I can back out now, provided I can maintain motivation even when facing the most frustrating of walks. One of the important lessons I’ve learned about fell walking is that, just like every other aspect of life, there is rough and smooth in equal measure. This is not something I was expecting but perhaps I was just naïve.

+Read more

Striding Edge and Grisedale

A Year and a Storm

Posted on 19th June 2016

It’s now exactly one year since I began my fell walking challenge. I’ve completed 30 0f the 214 Wainwrights; not bad for year 1 but I will need to step up the pace just a little if I’m to complete the challenge before my 60th birthday. I had wondered if I could sustain my interest in this project over the longer term but at the moment I’m still very keen. I’m just 5 Wainrights short of completing the Eastern Fells and I’ll be back in the Lakes for a week at the end of July to bag those and make a start on the Central Fells. With experience, my route-planning is getting better and I’ll be taking on the Central Fells in a much more ordered way.

Last Saturday I drove up to the North West because I had to be in Manchester on Monday and Tuesday. That gave me the Sunday for a quick trip to the Lake District. I had in mind a walk from Patterdale taking in Nethermost Pike and Dollywagon Pike via Eagle Crag, the east ridge of Nethermost Pike and Hard Edge. I’d seen this walk described in the April 2016 edition of Trail magazine and decided it looked like a fun day out. I varied the published walk slightly by returning via Grisedale Tarn, just in case there was time to include Seat Sandal (as it turned out, there wasn’t). The 18km walk took eight and a half hours to complete.

Naturally, I checked the weather before starting out. The forecast was for “light cloud” and no rain until later that evening. I’m now very glad that the forecast was wrong because had it been right, I may never have attempted this walk.

+Read more