Friday, 3 December 2010

Walking in winter

I love walking in winter.

The rewards of a winter walk are manyfold: the hills are quieter with fewer people traipsing about; B&Bs are cheaper out of season; and the skies can be gloriously clear. Best of all, you do not have to get up at some ungodly hour to see spectacular sunrises.

Compare it to the summer: hills teeming with people only willing to walk a mile from their cars; sweltering hot days where you sweat yourself to an early grave and campsites that charge you an arm and a leg for a tiny pitch.

A few walkers I know put their boots away in September and only get them out again in March. I understand their reasons, but mourn their loss. Some of my favourite walks have been done in winter; I shall never forget a particularly memorable day spent gambolling through knee-deep snow on Kinder Scout.

True, it is cold, but an extra layer of clothing can easily fix that. Meet winter hikers in pubs and the conversation will invariably turn to base layers, fleeces, hats and gloves. People will show off their latest warming acquisitions with pride.

The largest problem is the short hours of daylight and the corresponding long, dreary nights. Saying that, it is easily possible to walk more than twenty miles on good terrain with a couple of short stops, and the lack of daylight forces you onwards. If you are worried about being benighted, then choose shorter walks. Instead of a fifteen-miler, do a shorter ten-miler and spend longer in the pub at the end.

My wife is an archetypal Mediterranean lady; she loves the sun and starts to go numb when the temperature drops below fifteen degrees. Despite this, I am slowly converting her to the joys of winter walking. I doubt I shall succeed in getting her to camp in winter though - she has more sense than that.

I really love the winter.

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