Take a Hike

I do try to love all of ‘God’s Creatures’ but this morning I struggled with flies and slugs.

With five weeks to go before I attempt to ascend all 1085 metres of Mount Snowdon’s rocky height, I have had to up my game with the ‘Training’.

I use inverted commas because I am not a natural born athlete. There’s evidence (thanks Daddy) that even at seven years old I resembled a newborn giraffe competing at my school sports day, (facially as well as the legs). But I always gave it my best shot, (which is also recorded in those pictures of me gurning across the finish line.)

Since then I have dabbled only with swimming and distance walking, and I’m not sure if Sailing or Five Rhythms Dancing even counts? I once took part in a ‘Village Olympics’ but that ended in a humiliating ride on a stretcher through the assembled crowd of friends and neighbours, and two spectactularly torn hamstrings.

So this time I’ve set myself the toughest physical challenge of my life to date, (that’s if you don’t count pushing the equivalent of two watermelons down my once tiny birth canal, with nothing but Entonox & Minstrels for assistance). It’s time to get serious with this ‘training’ mullarkey otherwise I’ll be the eejit making friends with the Cymru St. John’s Ambulance crew as they dress my blisters and bandage my torn ligaments.

I live in a leafy valley on the edge of the Yorkshire Wolds which means I have endless hilly routes to choose from as I stand optimistically on my doorstep each morning, with nothing but a pint of water and an Aussie Bite in my stomach. Today I walked to the neighbouring village of Burnby, before turning left and beginning the slow and steady ascent to the top of Nunburnholme Wold. From there I battled through the tall grasses to the woodland path that leads down to the appropriately named Back Lane, leading back home.

When I first started ‘training’ the only way to get my lardy limbs moving was to pump my ears full of ‘banging tunes’ which resulted in less of a walk, more a disco strut, and frequent scrapes with passing tractors that like to sneak up on me from behind. But those early days soon saw me powering up the first 14% climb of Nunburnholme Hill, and marching the next steep mile to the top. Now I don’t even have to pretend to admire the view whilst surreptitiously packing my lungs back into place. With a five mile climb up the rubble-strewn Llanberis Path ahead of me, I decided today to shift my route to encompass a less aggressive but longer climb to work on my endurance.

Now there is no need for earphones, instead I immerse myself fully in the sensory experience of the walk. As a brownie, we learnt how to sit still in the open and listen very carefully, then list each sound we heard using the little stub of pencil and scrap of paper that was a compulsory component of our personal pocket survival kit. Today I listened intently to the cries of baby birds in nests, the intoxicating song of the skylark, jackdaws conversing in an old walnut tree, and the overhead chatter of swallows, martins and swifts. As I climbed the steepest part, alongside Partridge Hall Quarry I listened to my own steady rhythmic breaths as face became as pink as vest, but, having taken off my hoody and tied it round my waist, I felt the gentle and encouraging pat of my iphone in its pouch pocket as it slapped against my right buttock like the hand of an over-friendly training coach and it was good to see the summit ahead.

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From there I was inundated with flies of every shape and size. At this time of year the cunning Boggart (horsefly) is about, lying in wait for a passing juicy bit of hot flesh. Determined not to fall prey to one of these little brown bastards, I put my top back on, hood up, and proceeded on the next leg of my walk fancying that I resembled a lean mean Rocky Balboa, (cue Eye Of The Tiger). The pint of water I’d drunk an hour ago had mostly evaporated off, and I wondered if my friend at Garforth Farm might be home so I could swoop in like a marathon runner and grab a wet sponge as I passed. Her texted reply made me so sad. She was just waiting for the slaughterman to arrive, having taken the difficult but kindest decision to have her lovely old pony euthanised. Teddy was a very special pony with a long history of adoring owners. He was said to bear the ‘Prophet’s Hand’ mark on his neck which meant he was descended from the finest stock, and had a sweet temperament.


The next leg of the walk took me through woodland where in the shady green, the intensity of the fly mobbing increased. What is it with flies and their need to zoom directly into your ears, nose, and mouth? But as my eyes grew accustomed to the dim light, I realised that there was a more ghastly creature lurking at my feet, not one, but hundreds, in various shades of brown and black, some sporting orange flanges, and nearly all of them engaged in some form of repulsive sexual act.

Slugs.

Tip-toeing through their orgy, careful not to step on one for fear of a banana-skin moment resulting in eye-level proximity with their slowly writhing bodies I was very glad to reach the field-edge once more, and step off the silvered path of slime out into the open, just as a fly buzzed straight up my nostril.

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Two gunshots rang across the valley. The acoustics here are deceptive, and it could have been game keepers, or a bird scarer, but I thought of dear Teddy, and wondered if I should call in to Garforth Farm anyway, and offer a consoling shoulder. If it were me, I would much prefer a good solitary cry, and get it off my chest alone without too much fuss, and so I decided instead, to cut across the wheat along a chalky muddy path littered with flint, and crossed a freshly mown field of hay. There is a satisfying crunch underfoot as you tramp down the stubble left behind, and in a fleeting instant I was bathed in the scent of a nearby elder, still covered in frothy blossom, but despite these sensual delights my sights were now firmly fixed on the finish line.

As I descended the steep curvy road onto the back of Low Farm terriers yipped from their kennels and a machine whirred in the yard bringing me back to civilisation and then home.

Five miles. If I double it that would be about right for my Midnight Snowdon Walk.

Yes I think I can do this, and I trust there will be no flies or slugs to contend with.

Bring it on!

#walking #woldswalking #walkingyorkshire #walkingeastyorkshire #flytrouble #slugorgy #opencountry #midnightsnowdonwalk #losingafriend

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