Thursday 24 February 2011

Scaling New Heights

First things first: I am not – and never have been – possessed of a Whippet-like build. Nor, unlike many a mountain-goer, am I one of God’s natural athletes. Aside from walking I indulge in little regular exercise, but my outings in the hills usually keep me in trim, or thereabouts, and a week’s walking holiday often sorts out the rest. A love of food – especially of the stodgy, winter variety – frequently means the addition of a pound or two in weight over the colder months, however this usually drops off when the walking picks up again in spring.

Last week, for the first time since before Christmas, I decided to brave the scales. I casually sauntered over confident that, whatever the outcome, it would be within tolerable bounds, but stared in disbelief as the reading shot into previously uncharted territory. “Liar!” was my first thought, before the panic set in and I broke out in a cold sweat.

Frantically trying to regain control of my faculties, I did what anyone would do under the circumstances – no, not go into denial, but went for a wee, divested myself of as many layers of clothing as it is decent to do in daylight, and tried casually to lever myself against the adjacent worktop. “Phew!” I thought, as the reading settled at something closer to “too much” as opposed to “far too much”. With my heart rate dropping back towards normal I came to the realisation this was one problem I couldn’t ignore.

Apart from over the New Year weekend, most of my walks this year had been grabbed as an hour or so here and there, and I had allowed plenty of distractions – bad weather, family birthdays, home football games, etc – to get in the way of getting out and about. I needed to redress this lack of motivation and have a good, long day in the hills again. Besides everything else we had a week’s walking in Spain on a small group holiday coming up soon, and the thought of wheezing along miles behind everyone else was not at all attractive. So a bit of a fitness-boost beforehand would be no bad thing, and this last weekend provided the ideal opportunity.

Saturday was a grey, misty, drizzly day, so we wandered around town for a while, did a bit of shopping, had coffee and cake (yes, I know! I know!), and bought a few more books (do we really need any more books?). Then, in the afternoon, we went a short walk to blow the cobwebs away and work off some of that cake.

Come Sunday, the weather had not improved any but we packed kit, lunch (modest) and coffee (black, unsweetened) into the car and set off for Church Stretton to do a ten-and-a-half miler taking in the Long Mynd, Minton Batch and Little Stretton. We have done this circuit a few times before, so navigation was easy enough and, even as we dropped down into Carding Mill Valley, it was clear that we were going to have an enjoyable walk.

Encouragingly, the pull up to top passed easily enough – perhaps I am not quite as unfit as I thought – and before long we were bowling along towards the high-point of Pole Bank. Although the low cloud and mizzle put paid to the fine views that are normally to be had from the top, it didn’t matter – we were having a great time anyway. Just being out there getting some fresh air and exercise was reward enough.

Despite the conditions, it was still quite busy. At intervals, walkers and MTBers would materialise out of the gloom, exchange greetings, and fade back into the fog. Just before the airfield we swung down into Minton Batch and stopped for lunch – we had at least earned it by now. It was chilly, so we didn’t linger long, although long enough for a flurry of bikers and runners to bluster past. Then on with the return leg: through the lower half of Minton Batch – reminiscent in places of Scotland – past an unacceptably scruffy farm, and via quiet lanes to Little Stretton and the much busier hillside path back to the car; all in all about 4½ hours of really enjoyable walking, and so much better than lazing around.

Whether I am any lighter for it yet, I don’t know; but my mood certainly is. A few more outings like that should start to move things in the right direction weight-wise, too. And it was great to have resisted the lure of an easy day and a cream tea and kick-started our walking again. It may not have been the most challenging of days but at least one “boundary” is a little less pushed than 48 hours ago, for which I am thankful.


  1. No Jules, I too have never been confused with anyone slender. Actually a bloke in a pub did compare me to Jarvis Cocker once. Yep, he said "Compared to Jarvis Cocker, you're a fat git!". I think if I lived near T'Lakes I'd be whippetesque, but hillwalking once a fortnight isn't doing it for me. I might have to get the ipod out and walk around the park a few times, or go and buy a dingo so I have to walk it all the time. Phil

  2. I can't quite see myself with a hound. Partly I'm not over keen on them, and my selfish desire to be away lots would make looking after it difficult. With better weather on the horizon, I'm hoping more trips t'hills will do the trick. Did around 56 miles last week - more on this soon - but rather buggered it up with 3 more-than-square meals a day, too!