Near the Cirque de Troumouse, taken on a holiday in 2007 staying in a gite near Gavarnie
So it is perhaps not surprising that after I retired, and sat down one sunny day with a glass of wine and a piece of paper to make a list of things I would like to do with this next phase of my life, one of the items I wrote down was "Walk along the Pyrenees."
I read a magazine article about someone who had walked the GR10, but after a little research I decided the HRP, the Haute Randonnée Pyrénéenne, sounded more interesting. "Fine," I thought. "Let's book a train ticket and get started!" - But then it occurred to me that I had never actually walked more than about 10 miles in one go in my life, or spent a night in a tent; so perhaps a little preparation would be in order?
In October 2007 I bought some equipment, including a trusty Terra Nova Laser tent and a Gossamer Gear rucksack, and looked around for some walks to do. The Greensand Way passes within 100m or so of my house so it seemed a good starting point. I was dropped off at the end of the route, a pleasant village called Hamstreet, south of Ashford, and in two days walked the 45-odd miles back to my house. The only real problem I had was finding somewhere sufficiently secluded to put up a tent for the night, but I managed. Shortly thereafter I went to the other end of the Greensand Way, Haslemere in Surrey, and again walked home, this time in three days.
After that I began to pick up speed. I walked the North Downs Way, then the Wealdway, then the South Downs Way, then the Ridgeway. Finally, in June 2009 I walked the Pennine Way, about 300 miles altogether and quite hilly in places. When I finished I felt good, and decided that I was as ready for the Pyrenees as I would ever be. In May 2010 I walked the Wealdway again, this time from South to North, and on 31 May I set off for the Pyrenees...
My next blog entry will describe how I became so interested in the Pyrenees in the first place..
If I get time I write some notes about the other walks too, at some point.
On top of The Schil, high up in the Cheviots and approaching the end of the Pennine Way for the first time, 2009
High Cup Nick, a beautiful glaciated valley near Dufton in Cumbria. I camped here when walking the Pennine Way for the second time, Sept 2014. What a view to wake up to!