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The hills are calling to me…..

Since 15th April 2010, I have not been higher than 1150ft – and that was on a solitary trip to the Cotswolds. Where I live, in Northamptonshire, is flat – not flat like The Broads, but other than a handful of larger hills (the highest point is 738ft), the countryside mainly consists of gentle undulating farmland, with an occasional wood – and I am bored of it!

Don’t get me wrong – this quiet part of England has it’s charms – it is surprisingly peaceful (as fellow hikers are few and far between), you get to see a wide selection of wildlife, and in amongst the fields you often come across magical places – small overgrown woods, quiet hillside views, and forgotten buildings.

It is just I can hear the hills calling to me….

My favourite place currently is Snowdonia, it never ceases to make my heart pound seeing the mountains  start to loom in the distance. It is no coincidence that, despite the beautiful places we visited during the trip, my favourite view from Offa’s Dyke was of Snowdon in the far distance, and that my favourite picture of my dog is from Y Garn looking towards the snow topped peak. Walking back from the pub in Rhyd Ddu at night is an awesome experience, not because of a belly filled with good food and real ale (although this arguably helps), but because of the dark shapes of Snowdon and her sibblings blotting out the night sky (it upset me immensely when the restaurant at the top reopened and I discovered they leave the lights on at night!)

I have not really even had much experience of big hills. As a kid I vaguely remember trips to the Lake District and Yorkshire, but since I got back into hiking (after I moved back to Northamptonshire incidentally), I have only managed a handful of peaks in Snowdonia (5/6 I think – not even Snowdon!), a few in Brecon Beacons, part of Offa’s Dyke, a tiny bit of South / North Downs and brief foray onto Bodmin Moor.

I can hear the hills calling to me….

I largely blame fellow outdoor bloggers for this manifestation of rock in my head – all this talk (and worse photos) of the Peak District, the Lake District and Scotland…. Scotland especially, every photo of epic mountainous landscapes posted seems to increase the intensity of the call.

I can hear the hills calling to me….. and I may just have to listen!

Exploring Salcey Forest (whilst I still can)

I have just come back from a very pleasant 2 mile wander in a blustery Salcey Forest with the dog (as part of my #1000mile 2011 challenge) – you can view the map at http://new.socialhiking.org.uk/maps/os/daylightgambler/2011-02-04

I vaguely followed my favourite walk as a child – the first part (from the horse-box car park into Knighton's Copse) is pretty much non-existent – destroyed by the heavy machinery the Forest Commission used last year during tree felling. The second part still exists as a quiet, rarely used, small track winding through the trees, before finally joining the Woodpecker Trail back to the car park.

There is something magically about walking in a forest, especially as the trees crash together above you in the wind. Part of the reason I decided on this walk was after reading the wonderful "Many Trees Make a Forest" on Hiking In Finland: http://www.hikinginfinland.com/2011/02/many-trees-make-forest.html

"By day, it is that place where you are a basic, simple, human being again….. You're alive, breathing fresh, clean air, seeing the goshawk chasing a hare, the tracks of an elk and hear the call of the cuckoo"

The second motivation was the recent discussions regarding the sale of Forestry Commission woodlands, from which Salcey Forest is not safe: http://www.northamptonchron.co.uk/news/environment_2_5740/please_don_t_sell_off_salcey_forest_1_2367166

As a general rule I am not really a massive fan of Forestry Commission woodlands – it sometimes seems that logging and commercial activities are often put before the users of the forest (on Offa's Dyke a Forestry Commission vehicle speed up as it past us, purposely showing us with dust) and commercial woodlands seem a little spiritless.  That said though if the "government department responsible for the protection and expansion of Britain's forests and woodlands" makes me feel like that, then how am I going to feel when all the forests are owned by commercial organisations?

Assuming of course I can still get access to them…..