We just had a weekend away in the English Lake District, to try and get some fresh air, time under trees and some walking done. The weather forecast didn't look very promising and after several weeks of very poor summer weather, we were resigned to donning waterproofs and just getting out there and making the best of it. As it happens, it didn't turn out that badly and we only got damp.
To quote Billy Connolly, "there's no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothing. So get yourself a sexy raincoat and live a little". For many years I was a fair-weather walker - if truth be told, I didn't really like walking that much, in any weather. I just didn't enjoy the process and how it made me felt. I was perpetually struggling to keep up with my significantly fitter husband and unfit enough myself to make it uncomfortable, combined with joint problems that simply made it painful.
Please click on any of the photographs for a larger view.
But I've recently had to embrace a more active way of life, in a deal I struck with the medical professionals that manage my diabetes. I was on medication that made me thoroughly miserable, but it was a necessary evil for my well being and future prospects. I finally mutinied at the end of 2009 and said I would have to look at alternative methods to manage my health, I didn't feel there was much point in living longer if I was totally miserable, and largely housebound, in the process.
So I was prescribed some initial gym sessions and told that if I'd get fitter, lose a whole chunk of weight, I might be able to manage it better under my own steam without the medication - they'd give me 6 months to achieve that - but it would need work. I was going to trade pharmacological control for personal effort.
The sky above Thirlmere looked incredibly ominous and it was very dark, but thankfully the rain was light and gentle and nowhere near as bad as we anticipated.
So as 2010 has progressed, I've stuck religiously with the regular gym sessions, taking out membership once my initial prescribed sessions expired. I've recently been given a revised regime, as I'd simply progressed beyond the original plans. I'm just about on target for my weight loss plan for the year and am significantly fitter than I was as the New Year started.
So now walking isn't a chore and I really don't care about the weather any more. What's the worst that will happen - I'll get soaked, need to wash my hair and require a change of clothes? I feel significantly better than I did on the medication and know that my health has simply improved for the efforts I've so far made and my improved fitness. It was a win-win trade I made. They thought so too, they've allowed me to stick with this plan.
One of the factors that significantly helped me, was deciding to try walking with a pole - my joint problems and a recent back injury meant I was always a little nervous and tended to guard myself as I walked, meaning that I never truly relaxed when walking on uneven ground, or got up a decent pace and was reluctant to try more challenging paths. I had the idea that being a tad clumsy already, adding a pole into the mix, along with the camera I always carry was just going to be asking for trouble, I would either end up covered in bruises, or more likely, my walking partner would. Or else I'd trip one or both of us up with it and end up with it confiscated on the grounds of safety.
But it simply didn't prove to be the case. I took to using it much more easily than I expected and now wouldn't set off without it. I've taken on steep paths that would have felt insurmountable a year ago and I can now walk faster and with much greater confidence than I ever have before. Such a simple change has been responsible for a massive improvement in both what I've actually achieved, but my willingness to even try. And yes, husband of mine, I can hear you crowing "I told you so".
I love gawping into woodland - I cannot conceive of life without being surrounded by trees. Much of the woodland around Thirlmere is managed forest as a timber crop - and it never ceases to amaze me how quickly the land is re-colonised by young trees after an area has been cleared and you see new trees living alongside established ones. There's a little waterfall running through this scene that I'd not noticed before.
Thirlmere is a reservoir owned by United Utilities and the public are granted permission to access the land. The large lake was originally created from two smaller ones adjacent to two villages, Armboth and Wythburn, which were flooded late in the 19th century to provide water to Manchester. Consequently, there is still evidence of rural life in the area and you can see stretches of dry stone wall and sometimes a lone gatepost amongst the dense woodland.
So come Saturday morning, we were determined to walk along Thirlmere, one of our very favourite spots and donned waterproofs and set off under the trees. The rain was light and gentle and the air very still, so whilst it felt very damp and humid, it was pleasant enough to walk in. The light texture of the rain seemed to cling on everything and all the small plants seemed to be bejewelled with the tiny raindrops. Heavier rain simply bounces off, but these tiny fine droplets clung to the hairs of fine grass seeds and mosses like diamonds. It was very certainly worth damp hair to see them. Unfortunately, due to very low light, they're not as sharp as I'd hoped, but you get the idea.