The Art of Loitering*

Old map england

In the morning I awake / My arms, my legs, my body aches / The sky outside is wet and grey / So begins another weary day.

The nutty boys in surprisingly serious mood. Except, of course, that there was always more to Madness than novelty party tunes. (The video for Grey Day is however, reliably nutty.)

We’ve had a long run of grey days here. It’s dreich. We’ve managed to get out a couple of times none-the-less. We dragged the kids down to the Cove and across the Lots on Christmas Day. On Boxing Day, with my in-laws minding the fort, TBH and I had an afternoon turn around Eaves Wood. The following day we walked to Arnside for a very late breakfast. At lunchtime. That was a particularly grey day, with Arnside Knott hidden by cloud and not visible even from Arnside Tower Farm (i.e. very close by).

It was good to get out though and for our return to Silverdale it had even stopped raining.

Having a walk together without the kids gave us a really good opportunity to talk, and, it being this time of year, to start making some plans for the year ahead. I recently picked up ‘In Your Stride’ a book by A.B. Austin, published in 1931. I’ve only read the first chapter so far, but it has really had me thinking. It’s called ‘The Art of Loitering’ . (As luck would have it, you can read it here.) In it Austin advocates exploring Britain over the course of a year, dedicating one month to exploring, divided between eleven monthly weekends and one week’s holiday. It’s hard to find a passage to quote, but he makes an excellent case – I recommend that you read it. In a similar vein, TBH had been chatting to a friend who ‘does’ one city each year. With those ideas in mind we began to think about our year ahead.

Old map Britain

The first thing that struck me – considering the year ahead in this way – is that I don’t do too badly as it is. Put in our regular annual get-togethers: the highlands in March, Nether Wasdale in May, a week at Towyn Farm in the summer, the ‘Adults’ weekend in the Autumn and our pre-Christmas bash in a Youth Hostel and we’re almost halfway there already.

One section of Austin’s ‘The Art of Loitering’  covers the potential cost of his suggestion:

That, you may protest, is rather a tall order, for who has leisure to go exploring all the solitariness that is left in England while he has to find the means to spread butter on his daily bread ? The question may be answered by asking another. How much do we spend on holiday comings and goings every year, including not only our annual exodus to sea or countryside, but all our odd motoring, sporting, walking, climbing, butterfly-catching escapades ? How much, in other words, does our leisure cost us ?

He goes on to make some suggestions as to how to make savings: travel over-night to save on one night’s lodgings; sleep out or in barns (this was 1931); visit popular places out of season. I’m surprised that he doesn’t advocate camping, which is our favourite for many reasons, one of which is cost. Most of our regular trips work out pretty reasonably. We’ve added a couple more weekends to that list, booking cheap accommodation via a source which Austin might not recognise: Travelodge’s winter rooms sale. I know – not an obvious choice for getting away from it all, but functional, and in the sale potentially very well priced. So far we’ve booked a weekend in Tadcaster and another in Wakefield. Again – perhaps not places which immediately spring to mind, but there is method in our madness. Tadcaster was cheaper than York and is only a few miles down the road. York will be this year’s city. Lots to see: the city walls, Jorvik, the National Rail Museum, York Minster (if you have other suggestions please pass them on). Wakefield, meanwhile, has the new Hepworth gallery and the Yorkshire Sculpture Park on the doorstep.

Ruskin's drawing of York Minster

So where else should we go? I fancy a look at the Shropshire Hills, TBH wants to go back to the Forest of Dean. I have some other vague plans and wild aspirations, about which, perhaps, more later.

Aside from the obvious places where would you recommend?

The old maps and Ruskin’s drawing of York Minster are here because I don’t have any photos from our walks and I don’t like my posts if they don’t include any pictures. Yes – I really am that shallow. Oh – and because I like maps and drawings.

Which brings me to another point, a guilty pleasure I suppose, does anybody else find themselves looking back over their old posts when they really ought to be doing something more constructive, or is that just me?

* Another title might have been ‘Making Plans’ which instantly puts the tune ‘Making Plans For Nigel’  into my head. An alternative to the Madness to leave you with.

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The Art of Loitering*

14 thoughts on “The Art of Loitering*

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      Just the sort of thing I’m after. Right – I have a few months now to sell this to the rest of the family!
      Cheers Danny – a healthy and happy 2012 to you too.

  1. Travelodge sales are great. I get around the country a lot and have stayed in several although some are a lot better than others. Stayed overnight in the Tadcaster one about 18 months ago and didn’t really enjoy it (after I eventually found it – think Travelodge have updated their location details online now though)
    I don’t actually spend that much on butterfly catching escapades 🙂
    Where would I recommend? Always found Chester very nice, and Leeds. Further north Edinburgh is a great city. Lived there for a while back in the early 2000’s.

    1. beatingthebounds says:

      I’ve been to Edinburgh a few times, for New Year once, for the festival once, and on quite a few other occasions when it wasn’t quite so busy. I don’t really know Leeds or Chester at all – so ta for those suggestions.
      Perhaps you should try butterfly catching escapades?

  2. The weekends that we fit in between the proper holidays are important in breaking up the year. Gives you something to look forward to especially at this time of year. Not really a city person myself but I used to like Chester. The city is nice and it has the walls to walk and the river Dee as well where you can take boats out and stuff. We tend to use Premier Inns more than Travelodge – more expensive but generally nicer and they always have a proper restaurant onsite to do a good Breakfast and the kids can always eat free

  3. beatingthebounds says:

    Apart from Towyn farm we haven’t planned any other holidays as yet, so looking forward to a few weekends has become all the more important. Weekends in cities wouldn’t be my first choice, but it’s something we do now and again and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I’ve enjoyed our trips to Paris, Madrid, London, Glasgow, and Luxembourg.
    I’ve only ever been to Chester Zoo – some of our friends got married there would you believe – great fun, the kids loved it. Chester, with two reccomendations, now heads to the top of the list then. (For next year – we don’t want to get carried away here!)

  4. I’m looking at this from a different angle as it were, ie heading south from the Highlands, but when our guys were primary school age we did a lot of short breaks where we could combine a visit to a city with days of child-sized walks. Edinburgh is good for that, but you say you’ve been several time. We enjoyed Yorkshire on several occasions, with visits to York, Eureka (I love hand-on science museums!) and the usual walking. The Scottish Borders – Jedburgh/Melrose is another good area with a castle on every corner – and not just stately manor type, but ‘proper’ castles with dungeons and spiral staircases for young uns to explore. We used to go when Historic Scotland held a free weekend. Or Northumberland with one trip to Newcastle (if they need a city fix), Holy Island, Hadrian s wall and forts, etc.

    1. Oops, I see you’ve already got York on your list. Well, I’ll second it as family friendly! We used to do the SYHA family offers when we took our sons. Now we use the Travelodge Sales too. It’s an okay spot to lay my head for one night or two; so far booked Dublin for April and Blackpool for June to attend different events. For future, consider Glasgow for your city break. The new transport museum is wonderful – even for folks not at all interested in transport!

      1. beatingthebounds says:

        Thanks for all of these lovely suggestions! We did a weekend in Glasgow a few years ago, but without the kids – we did mostly arty places – Rennie Mackintosh, the Burrel collection, Kelingrove museum – now that you’ve reminded me I think that would be a good one with the kids. I’d quite like to visit New Lanark too. We took the kids to Eureka, they loved it, I was a bit disappointed, but I always compare Science museums to the one in Manchester which I love. I have been to both Jedburgh and Melrose but I think both visits must have been criminally brief, because I don’t remember a great deal about either. Haven’t been to Ireland for years – and would love to go back.

        1. beatingthebounds says:

          Blackpool is practically on our doorstep – the kids love the Tower and the Zoo. The last time I went for weekend there I discovered my inner prude and was appalled (but it was a bad weekend all round).

        2. Oh, New Lanark is great. We stayed in the SYHA several times during the ‘offer weeks’. The hostel is fun – it’s in an old mill workers building and you can look around many of the other old buildings. We went in the winter and the waterfalls on the river by the mills are pretty impressive. .

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