What about the middle bits?

I was absolutely delighted to get these three books as gifts last Christmas, and I’m really looking forward to exploring some new hiking and walking areas on this lovely island of Ireland.

Christmas BooksI’ve been wanting to get my sweaty paws on Kieron Gribbon’s book, “Ireland’s County High Points: A Walking Guide” for ages, and now I have my very own copy.  I don’t think I’ll be setting any records with regards to how quickly I complete all of the CHPs, unless there are records being set for the slowest, but I’m really looking forward to doing some CHP bagging in due course.  Starting with the smaller ones…obviously!

The other two books are Helen Fairbairn’s Ireland’s “Best Walks: A Walking Guide” and Joss Lynam’s “Best Irish Walks“.  These two are so far well-thumbed, but we haven’t had the chance yet to try out any of the walks detailed within, apart from a couple of locations that we’ve skirted close to on our own previous walks.  Presently the road map is being studied, alongside the walking guide books, and I hope that weekends where we’re both free, and the weather isn’t inclement, the trusty VW campervan is going to be loaded up with hiking gear and we’ll hit the road.  Walking guide books are a great way to easily explore an area where the number of walk routes, summits, attractions etc could be overwhelming…so little time, so many options. but there are also a few gems in areas that I didn’t even consider for walking, and I will enjoy discovering those too.  However, another reason I’m looking forward to going on some of the featured ‘best’ walks is to try to determine the criteria used to decide whether a walking route qualifies as a ‘best’ walk.  I say this because I was a little dismayed to find the map page in both books clearly showed a distinct lack of ‘best’ walks in any of the central areas if Ireland?  (The pattern of walking locations does also look suspiciously alike, but I won’t go into that!)

Ireland's best walks: a walking guide Helen Fairbairn - Collins - 2014 http://amzn.to/1B0coiA

Ireland’s best walks: a walking guide
Helen Fairbairn – Collins – 2014

Best Irish walks Joss Lynam - Gill & Macmillan - 2001

Best Irish walks
Joss Lynam – Gill & Macmillan – 2001

What? Nothing in the Slieve Blooms, Ireland’s oldest mountain range; nothing in the Ballyhouras, Silvermines, Slieve Aughty ranges?   No featured routes along the many miles of canals, rivers and lough systems, abundant in the Midlands and Central Plains areas?   There are, in my opinion, whole swathes of central Ireland, that may not have dramatic high summits, or wild coastal areas, but still have a breathtaking beauty in their own right, and plenty to offer anyone looking for a good walk.

Perhaps I should write my own walking guide book, with the emphasis on Ireland’s Middle Bits!  Then again, maybe I won’t…I quite like the fact that many of the places where we walk are quiet and relatively undiscovered, and maybe these treasures of the ‘middle bits’ are more enjoyable because of that fact.

Plan B, better than Plan A – Part 1 of 2

Sometimes Plan B is better than Plan A ever would have been.  This just might have been one of those occasions.

After a really pleasant Saturday spent at Lough Boora Parklands, I definitely wanted to get more out of the long Easter weekend.  The engine part we needed for the camper van was still stuck in the UK, and so it was easy enough to convince the husband to come out for another day.

Perhaps Lough Boora left me feeling cocky, but driving home Saturday evening we discussed what we might do on Easter Monday, and we both decided that we’d like to go somewhere that was a little more testing.  A bit more of a challenge, but not so much that I was daunted at the prospect.

Arderin

Arderin was possibly a little ambitious, and I knew I wouldn’t manage to do it as quickly as many of the reviews claimed on the Mountain Views website.  I’ve had similar experiences with time-estimates for the summit of Lachtnafrankee when I went up there for a geocache a few years ago…20mins up and down from the parking lay-by… yeah, right!  However, Arderin was local, a county highpoint for both Offaly and Laois, and from Googling it every which way I could Arderin looked achievable as long as I told myself that it was OK to take my time.

And it probably would have been.  As we drove up through the forestry to the nearest parking spot, we both gasped with delight, upon driving around a corner and seeing a beautiful frozen waterfall ahead of us, twinkling in the morning light, filtering through the trees.  Of course I was so fixated by its beauty (the photo really DOESN’T do it justice!) that I didn’t consider just how cold it had to be, for a waterfall, in a forest, to be almost completely frozen…

Arderin 05

It was a balmy 7°C, with a light breeze, when we left home (less than 9 miles away).  Arriving in the car park, the car thermometer stated it was now –2°C, and getting out of the car we were met by a fairly strong, constant breeze, with a chill factor well into the minuses.  We layered up, we even layered Millie the dog up (I’d learnt my lesson on bringing middle-aged JRTs up mountains!) and then I went to suss out the path from the car park down to the gully…which was most conspicuous by its absence.  I could clearly see the path up to the summit from the other side of the gully below…but I couldn’t see any path from where I was in the car park, down to the gully.  (Further research online that evening showed me that there apparently is a reasonable path down, if we’d gone 100 yards up the road)

Now I understand that some scrambling is occasionally required, and that not everywhere has a flat path for access.  But at the moment I only have a pair of walking shoes.  They’re good ones; if I hadn’t bought them in a factory outlet, they might have been considered reasonably expensive ones (I googled them!), but they are still shoes and offer no ankle support.  One of the many lessons I learnt on the Devils Bit was that scrambling up and/or down rough ground needs ankle support, and that these walking shoes weren’t particularly suitable for that kind of jaunt.

I looked down the gully, at the lack of path, at my walking shoes and I started to have second thoughts.  Millie was looking miserable already and we hadn’t even left the car park.  My cheeks were almost numb with cold and the husband just had THAT LOOK about him.  All you ladies with long-suffering husbands, you’ll know exactly the LOOK I’m referring to!  This is meant to be fun, and this wasn’t going to be fun.  I really did want to ‘bag’ the summit of Arderin, but ultimately I wanted to enjoy the experience.  More importantly I wanted all of us to enjoy the experience.  But today, in these conditions, knowing that my meagre fitness level was going to make it hard work anyway, this wasn’t going to be fun.  I couldn’t see a fun element to this at all.

Misery Hill Is Closed

But I absolutely did not want to go home!  And the (former) Venture Scout in me always likes to be prepared, usually grossly over-prepared (you should see what I make the husband carry in his Lowe Alpine daypack – just in case!), and so I dragged out a few printouts of alternative walks that I’d hastily shoved in the glove box – and in the warm shelter of the car, we decided to form Plan B…

[to be continued…]