Finding a High Place

A change of scene is enough

If I feel like climbing something to get as high up as I can, but don’t have a lot of time there’s a small hill I can get to that takes me about an hour to get up and back. This is a place where I can experience the feeling of climbing up above my immediate area and get a good view of all the other areas to explore and have adventures, stretching from the mountains of the north right down to the coast in the south.

So, a quick look out of the window to check what the weather is doing, grab my coat and boots/wellies depending on the conditions and I’m all set to go and see what I can find. As I leave the familiarity of the home and step out, that feeling of release fills me and I’m totally focused on where I’m going and what I’m about to face. Although this is only a small hill it still commands respect, the going starts on tarmac roads then changes to rocky tracks, heading up in to steep slippery paths through a forest where the trees roots are all set to ruin the trip. This coupled with fields full of sheep and horses, means I need to keep my wits about me but not so much that it takes my focus away from enjoying the walk.

Around the corner I go and up the familiar steep hill that leads to different escapes and adventures, only this time I’m going a bit further up so the climb up takes a bit longer. No matter though because I’m in explore mode and my mind is starting to unknot from the mass of things I have bumbling around. As I climb up the world below me starts to open, my house, town and the adventure grounds beyond. I’ve been up here so many times before, but each time there’s something different about the landscape.

Leaving behind the ordinary

I reach the corner where I leave the road and start up a stony track at the foot of the hill and immediately the environment changes. Leaving behind the road, now its trees, hedgerows and gravel paths, different bird sounds start to ring out and I get a real sense of being in the foothills away from the hustle and bustle of normal life. The path up is quite stony and the odd tree root is sticking out all set to ruin the trip, but I can pick my way through and eventually reach a bend where there is always a big muddy puddle filling the path in front of me. If I’m in wellies this of course in no problem, but today, I chose to wear boots, so to avoid wet feet, I scramble over the bank at the side and jump across the worst of it.

Anyway, that obstacle behind me I reach the gate. To anyone else this is just a normal gate, but to me it stands for something so much more. This is the point I walk up and out of the trees, and the path becomes more like a mountain track (it’s not of course, because it’s just a hill but it feels like it all the same), the view opens up to mountains and hills, and it gets quieter because not many people venture to go much further than this. 

As I go through the gate the path turns into much larger stones, so I need to be a bit more focused and watch where I put my feet. In the summer if it gets warm, this part of the path becomes a sun trap inviting other creatures out of hiding to sunbathe, and I need to be extra especially careful where I tread! but not today. Today I can just plough on letting my mind wander and contemplate the environment.  

Stop, Look and Listen

The slope is getting steeper now and just as I get to a corner, I stop to catch my breath, and take time to absorb what’s around me. Adopting my tried and tested approach I;

Look – what colours, shapes, can I see

Listen – what different sounds can I hear

Smell – What’s in the air

Feel – Get in touch with the surroundings and soak up the quiet.

Anyway, onwards and in this case, very much upwards, I’m faced with crossing a field of horses and sheep. This doesn’t bother me, and I’m quite used to it, but all the same these are someone else’s pride and joy, so its important not to frighten them, and pass through as quickly and quietly as I possibly can. So, it’s through the gate on one side along the side of the field and over the stile on the other side.

Obstacle passed without mishap I can now concentrate on getting up the last bit before “topping out” on what should be the summit path but really, is just the highest point of the forestry. This bit is perhaps the most challenging part and I need to be completely focused, the path vanishes under a load of ferns and turns into a narrow-overgrown strip that suddenly steepens dramatically covered with broken earth and stones. Each step here loosens the ground underneath my feet, and I need to scramble for footing. I usually end up crawling up using my hands for the last bit, and then clambering over a big step up right at the end onto the track at the top.

The same route, but always different

I made it! So, what’s to see today. The view is always different from up here, there’s enough height to leave you feeling you’ve climbed up something, but not so much it takes ages to get here. I like it most of all because its challenging enough to put off most people and it’s left alone. I often pass a few people out for a stroll at the bottom but from up here I’m nearly always on my own – solitude – which suits me just fine.

Today is a good day, I can see the beacons mountain range and these sparks memories of all day adventures up and down the peaks I can see, which from here look miles away and unreachable. Straight in front of me I can see a smaller but no less exciting hill (some would call this a mountain – maybe a story for another time), which I know I can reach in an afternoon from my house. I’m excited at the thought that given enough time there’s nothing stopping me going peak to peak on one long adventure. Beyond that the sea, today a silver strip on the horizon, shining so intently as if to say, “you should be here not up there”. 

The quiet of my surroundings, the intensity of my environment all leave me in a state of zen totally relaxed and full of ideas for adventures further afield and plans for what could be great days out. Gazing at the view, the possibilities are endless, but for today its time I ventured back.

I immediately need to get the focus back to the here and now, because the slope I scrambled up I now need to get back down. Sometimes its better to be here just after the rain because the ground is less likely to be loose and you can get a foothold somewhere, but today its not, so I end up on my backside, with my feet in front as a brake, and my hands each side to steer me down the easiest route. Just as I stick my boot in, right at the critical moment, the soft earth moves, and I move with it. Fortunately, this is only for a few inches and I can find the bank again, allowing me to stand up and walk down to the track below.

The animals have shifted in the field below to the other side so I can get over the stile and across without any problem. Then I reach the path that takes me back to my corner and the road to civilisation. Thoughts are turning back now to what I need to be doing with the rest of the day and tomorrow, but the time spent focussing on what adventures I can have, and the hills and mountains that I see have inspired me enough to embrace the life I’m heading into with a fresh outlook and renewed energy.

This is another one of my favourite outings – long enough to empty the mind and refresh the soul, whilst short enough to be able to do with little or no planning. Oh, and it doesn’t cost a penny – what’s not to like.

Outside time 1 Hour

Environment – Woods, Birds, Open Hillside, Steep slope climbing

Motivation – Mountain top feeling without the mountain, Solitude

Kit Needed – Coat, strong boots/wellies, (Depending on the weather)

Cost – ZERO!

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