Wednesday 21st September 2022, 12.15pm (day 4,045)
The title of this post is not ironic: despite appearances, this place really is called Skiddaw Forest. I don’t know if other parts of the world use the word or its equivalent to describe places that are as vastly treeless as this is, but we English do pride ourselves on our sense of wry humour, do we not. (For more pictures of this and nearby places, see my Lake District walking blog.)
The spectacular scenery of St Helena is enhanced by the fact that the pattern of vegetation one sees in the UK is reversed. It is the coast, the lower levels, that is rocky and barren, and the mountains which are covered in lush vegetation: all down to the fact that the rain falls high up, but not low down. This is taken from the Blue Hill area, looking down to Sandy Bay, past the basalt pillar known as ‘Lot’ (and his wife is somewhere over to the right of this image).
Yes folks, after 615 consecutive days on the island of Great Britain, I have finally left it. It was February 2nd 2020, in Bucharest, that this blog last featured anywhere outside England, Scotland or Wales. You know the reasons why. And yes, I appreciate travel can be seen as a privilege, and I’m grateful that I’ve finally broken the run, for all that the last 20 months have, at least at times, seen plenty of interesting sights.
This is not my final destination: instead this was taken on my first descent, into Keflavik airport, where I and the family were last seen waiting out the 12-hour flight delay that EasyJet (never, ever again) subjected us to in July 2019. I changed planes here and moved on. You can tell it’s Iceland, though — only that island has random burned bits like this, huge lumps of volcanic cinder that just seem here to be a normal part of the landscape.
The A93 runs north from the town of Blairgowrie, in Perthshire, to Braemar in Aberdeenshire. Just north of this point — and a couple of hundred feet below the point from where I took this picture, looking back into Glen Shee — the tarmac reaches the Cairnwell Pass, which at 2,199 feet above sea level, makes it the highest public road in the whole of the UK. It’s called the ‘Old Military Road’ as it was originally built as part of the general plan to assert military dominance over the Highlands of Scotland after the last Jacobite rebellion in the 1700s.
The start of teaching has been delayed four weeks this year, but the summer can’t last forever. This is basically my last three-day gap of freedom before it all kicks in. And in weather like today, I made the most of it — as did the other walker just visible on this shot, below the summit of Ether Knott, a minor protuberance above Borrowdale. Behind, Skiddaw, one of the Lake District (and England’s) 3,000-footers. Boosting one’s immune system is very much the way to go, whatever the lockdowners think.
Up in the air again, from Manchester airport heading roughly north-west, though not very far (so if you want, you can deduce where I travelled to before I post from t/here tomorrow). Not long after take off, visual interest was added to the flight to the south, where this cloudscape revealed itself. I wasn’t sure at the time where this might be but a subsequent look at the map suggests the hills in the background must be Snowdonia, in the north-west corner of Wales. It’s the general golden wash that I like about this photo, however. Far better weather up there than down on the ground today — as is often the case, of course.
I am speaking at a conference this weekend, so today was my first flight since the EasyJet Iceland debacle back in July. (Never ever again, EasyJet.) Fortunately all went perfectly today. As to where I flew to — well, you can find that out tomorrow. The flight meant it was my first opportunity in those four months to get shots like this. All of Europe seemed to be covered in cloud today; only these peaks made it up above the grey. I don’t know exactly where this is, somewhere toward the eastern end of the Alps so maybe Austria or Slovenia, but this will have to join the list of locations in which I can’t even identify a country for certain.
I needed to at least try to clear my head, in various ways. Sometimes I think that my project to walk all the Lake District twice has been over-extended, that I’d like to finish it now, or at least earlier than projected (which is some point in 2021). Then I go, and I remember why I go.
I like the walker visible on this shot, just past where the curving path seems to disappear higher up. Gives it a grander sense of scale. The valley is Borrowdale.
If you think I was staying in and working on a day like this — you obviously don’t know me very well. This picture is taken from around 3,000 feet up, on Skiddaw, fourth-highest mountain in England, yet with almost no wind today it wasn’t even particularly cold. A glorious day: can the rest of 2019 be like this please?
On a day of ideal walking weather, the Lake District was not a place to go to for the solitude — at least, not the parts of it that I hung out in, namely Great Langdale and the 2816 feet (858m) summit of Crinkle Crags, one of Wainwright’s “Top SIx Fells”. But I cannot begrudge anyone else their enjoyment of the fine conditions today. We are just the same, after all.