Originally, this was to be a blog about my preparations to enter the TGO Challenge in 2012. For a variety of reasons that didn't happen, so this has now become the repository for my outdoor musings.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Inspiration Part 1 - Things I Saw

My mum and dad are not particularly adventurous or outdoorsy by nature. We did have a holiday on the edge of the Black Mountains when I was a kid which was cool, but I remember grinding to a halt as we walked along the Cat's Back, petrified by the steep (in my incredibly inexperienced eyes) drop on either side. I liked the hills but had no confidence that I could survive in them.

Time passes, and growing up in Bournemouth meant further exposure to mountains was pretty limited, apart from one rather awesome school trip. I had just started the second year of senior school, and I remember bringing home a letter about a trip to Switzerland the following April. I am pretty sure this was an excuse for a number of teachers to have a bit of jolly every April. I had no thought of going along, it was a bit pricy, and so in my mind it was just another letter to bring home for the parents. I don't recall having any emotion about it, good or bad. So you can imagine how stunned I was when dad said “Would you like to go?” “Err, yes?”. “Ok.” Six months later, in April 1982 I boarded a bus with a mixed bag of fellow pupils and headed to Interlaken, where we spent a week exploring the Bernese Oberland. I saw the north face of the Eiger, and although I had no idea of the mighty and often tragic stories that had unfolded on it, I was in awe of it's dominating presence. I do recall feeling so deflated on the journey home, leaving the Alps for dull old Dorset...

A French Alp, not a Swiss one, but you get the idea!

There were a couple of other holidays, where hills and mountains struck a chord, even though they were incidental to the trip. One was a canal boat holiday on the Llangollen canal. I do find canal boat trips can be a mix of relaxing (travelling at 4 m.p.h) and alarming (trying to moor/turn/steer 70 feet of lumbering barge) but one thing sticks in my mind to this day; the almost instant change in landscape as we crossed from Shropshire in to Wales. Suddenly rolling farmland gave way to sheep-clad hillsides, and the further we went the steeper they got. I definitely felt a landscape-based pang. Actually, I also remember on that holiday looking out the window as dad drove us up the M5 and seeing this incredibly distinct range of pointy hills. There was nothing else around them, they just rose up from the plain, about 10 miles from the motorway. I was entranced by them and their possibilities. Years later, after moving to Cheltenham, I discovered the name of this mighty range. Yeah, you guessed it, the Malverns! I told you we didn't have any mountains in Bournemouth, I had to get my fix where I could.

The other holiday that was a real eye-opener was a trip to visit mum's family in Dublin. We were taking the ferry from Holyhead, so that meant a drive up the A5. I was gradually being further and further blown away by the increasingly cool scenery when we passed through Capel Curig and approached Llyn Ogwen and the fantastic mountainsides that surround it. The weather was not great, and the cloud was well down, which just added to the overall effect. I didn't realise that there were mountains like that in the UK. I was stunned, but still scared (it must have been my inner Victorian coming out).

It was not as sunny as this... (Sorry about the quality, camera phone pics stiched in Photoshop)

On that holiday, we did climb the Great Sugarloaf in County Wicklow, and also have a scramble up the waterfall at the end of Glendalough, so maybe I had been inspired...

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