The maps are out, the home study resembles a particularly exhausting session of the board game Risk and the kids are trembling in dark corners. My fourth trails book is commissioned and I’ve a strong suspicion this will be the one to fulfil me the most.
Quiet Walks for Quiet Minds will be published by Sigma Press in 2018; a collection of routes for those seeking solitude far from the maddening crowds. The idea has been germinating for some time – possibly since seeing a photo online of a queue of bank holiday hikers waiting patiently for their turn to take a selfie at the summit of Pen y Fan* (at least they were waiting patiently; we hikers are nothing if not polite). Hooray that they’re out there, taking in the fresh air and the views. But I couldn’t help thinking… is that really the point?
For me, the answer is ‘not really’ (my children are possibly the only two Pen y Fan baggers who’ve seen the view from the top solely thanks to a birthday card pinned to my writing desk; we avoid the motorway jam from Storey Arms by climbing on a deserted, mist-shrouded October morning, me cheerfully telling the kids it’s the taking part that counts and not the being able to see something as luxurious as scenery). Maybe I’m the one missing the point; maybe I’m turning into my parents. But, for someone who really likes other walkers, I just don’t want to see that many of them on my walks.
My own mind is certainly becoming quieter as I start to work out what’s important in life and what really isn’t worth worrying about. It’s a slow process and I’m not there yet – I’m still travelling hopefully and probably very far from arriving. But I’m learning to react differently, seeing minor bumps as just that instead of the onset of the end of the world, and my fortnightly Friday walks are playing a major part in that.
So I draw up a very long long-list of the quiet corners I’d like to include in my book (although my absolute favourite spot in Wales might not make the cut; last time I was there, the people count over six miles was three, a ratio I’m keen not to increase by telling you lot where it is). Some are walks I’ve been enjoying for the last 20 years and some I’m shamelessly stealing from friends. Some are very recent surprise finds by Lionel, whose regal refusal to climb stiles means that Plans A, B and C regularly have to be abandoned, leading to Plans D that prove as delightful as they are unexpected.
So the next year of Fridays will be happily spent on secluded summits and in quiet cwms, juggling a notebook, camera and large bag of cheese to bribe a haughty large greyhound along paths he doesn’t much fancy the look of. If you see us, do say hello! But only briefly before moving along quietly, please….
* Other mountains are available