One of the idiosyncrasies of working with children is that I often get asked about my favourite colour, football team, pet, number and so on. Generally, I have pat answers ready: favourite colour – blue, which is the sky, obviously, but also Bluebells, Spring Gentians and the shirts worn by Leicester City, the football team which I somewhat half-heartedly follow. Favourite TV programme – ‘The Wire’, favourite record – ‘Hercules’ by Aaron Neville. favourite number – 1729 because of the anecdote about the mathematicians Hardy and Ramanujan, favourite film – Terry Gilliam’s ‘Brazil’, favourite novel – ‘A Suitable Boy’ – by Vikram Seth, favourite mathematician – Leonhard Euler, but, sadly, I never get asked that one. All of these are trite, stock responses which avoid the decent into endless lists of possible candidates which is probably often what the questions were meant to elicit, in order to derail the lesson and provide a lull in the learning, a bit of light relief amid the serious business of getting to grips with mathematics.
If that is the aim, then the wrong question is being asked: I have no prepared, rehearsed reply to the query: ‘What is your favourite walk?’. Which is why the following message, which I received on my blog last week, has really set me to thinking:
“My name is Luke Rufo and I am the producer and director for a new ITV1 programme called The Nations 100 favourite walks (TBC). We are looking for people who have a connection or story with a particular walk anywhere in the UK and hoped you could help get the word out there. I noticed your blog and wondered if you’d be interested in speaking to me on the phone about your passion for walking and what your favourite walk is?
If you’re not interested in appearing I wonder if you might post the info below to your website or even pass this on to any other walking groups in the UK that might have some unsung heroes and stories that they might share with us.
A New ITV1 programme “The Nations 100 Favourite Walks” (TBC) is looking for walkers across the UK with interesting stories to tell about their favourite walks. The programme would have a mix of local stories set in their favourite walks and there will also be various celebrities who show us their favourite walks too.
We aim to film all over the UK at various walks and we are looking for stories of people who have an emotional connection to a particular walk. We want as many types of stories as possible but to give you an idea of the kinds of stories we are looking for see below:-
Man staves off dementia by walking up and down a mountain everyday.
A couple have done the same walk for the past 30 years
Mountain rescue saved a families lives
Our family business has thrived because of walkers for the past X years
I lost my significant other x years ago but still do this walk to remind me of them.
I’m sure there are many stories and great characters you know about that are connected in some way with a particular walk. We are hoping to begin filming in the next few weeks and all throughout October.
I look forward to hearing back from you to see if it would be possible to put our details out to people or even speak about your own experiences.”
Naturally, this has had me thinking about favourite walks. I’d already been thinking at least in a similar vein, reflecting on my walks over the last few years (well almost 10 years) having hit something of a milestone with my 1000th blogpost a few posts back. My walk up in Teesdale earlier this year, from which the photograph of the Spring Gentians is taken, sprang to mind. But then I was reflecting back, further and further into the past and recalling numerous previous outings, many from long before I started the blog : wild days in the Fannichs and on Creag Meaghaidh; or the first clear day on my first winter trip to Scotland, snow-clad mountains and long narrow sea-lochs receding into the distance in both directions, seemingly without end; or before that my first sight of the apparent alien landscape of Kinder Scout; or, even further back in the mists of time, trips to Dovedale with my parents and my grandmother.
Mulling over a whole host of cherished memories, I thought of the day during our walk from home to Keswick, when A and I crossed from Ambleside to Borrowdale (above) and I was busy again, skimming through the long multi-day walks I’ve done over the years, and the people I’ve walked them with right back to the first, the Pennine Way, which I walked with my Dad in 1985. Now I was thinking that, if I had to chose a favourite walk, it would have to be a longer one, which narrowed the field considerably, but still didn’t seem to make the task any easier.
Seeking a second opinion, I asked A what was her favourite walk, and she threw back ‘Helvellyn‘, which we climbed back at Easter, without any hesitation, but then immediately backtracked by deciding that the walk from our doorstep up to the Pepper Pot, past ‘The Climbing Tree’ might need consideration as a rival for Striding Edge.
Here she is, in The Climbing Tree, from a few years ago now.
In thinking of a walk close to home, special because of its familiarity, I think that A was much closer to the remit than I had been. I was thinking of particular days and the weather conditions they brought, the company I kept on those days, she was considering a longer term relationship with a route.
When I asked TBH for her favourite she instantly hit upon the walk which should have occurred to me: our annual walk up Carn Fadryn, with a gaggle of old friends, during our summer trips to the Llyn Peninsula, on or around Little S’s birthday. To him it’s simply ‘Birthday Hill’. We were there on his birthday this year. Here…
..he’s cutting his cake, three years ago. And this is another three years before that…
Three years before that, and walking was still a delightful novelty for S…
Although he was a passenger for his, and our, first trip up Carn fadryn..
I’m fortunate, in that I often get to climb a hill on my own birthday, a sort of tradition, which I stick to whenever I’m able.
Even the list of hills which I’ve climbed on my birthday would be hard to whittle down to one favourite. There have been some crackers: Liathach, Crinkle Crags, Coniston Old Man (above) among others. Snow-chilled champagne on a glorious spring day on Beinn Bhan above Glenn Loy with my brother will be a tough one to top. But good though they were, I’m slightly envious of Little S’s own Birthday Hill. It’s a modest walk up a fairly small hill, but the views are stunning, the bilberries are sweet and the company is always superb. I think I have my stock answer now, and it’s a pretty fine walk to choose.
Incidentally, if you want to contact Mr Rufo about the programme, I have contact details. I wasn’t sure whether to share them on the internet, but if you leave a comment requesting details I should be able to send them to you privately.