Most of the TGO is great fun (most!), and people come back year after year to do the walk, meet old friends, get wet, some get drunk a few times, some have outrageous numbers of Full Scottish breakfasts. Pretty much everybody (with a few exceptions) will have several wild camps on the way and will be eating dehydrated food....
2020 would have been the sixteenth time I'd done the walk (assuming that I would have finished it!). Most of these have been solo. My three children , who aren't children anymore, have also completed it, and The Lad walked with me in 2019 on his fourth trip. The photos below are all from that trip. The three above are from training trips, which brings me to....
...training. Training is very much an excuse to go backpacking. We've had just one gentle "training" trip this year - with JJ and Beryl who is not really called Beryl. This was a two-night, three day walk in the fog and gloom hills just a bit to the right of Barbon. It was fun. It was cold. And it was damp. Ideal conditions, in fact.
The reason I went with these two was that we'd planned to do the TGO together next May. We had a route which our vetter described as "interesting" which went from Oban to Glen Etive to Bridge of Orchy to Loch Rannoch, round the back of Schiehallion, to Aberfeldy to Kirkmichael, Glen Isla, Forfar and Lunan Bay. It was a straightish and short route but a good one.
Then somebody in China ate a mandolin or something and everything fell over. Our next training walk was to be to Lanarkshire. Companions dropped out early on, but I was determined to go and had stocked up on dehydrated scoff and gas and had briefed the dog. On the Friday I was buying trail food (I was going to try goats cheese and wraps) and was planning to do the packing on the Sunday for an early start. But the virus situation escalated and loads of people turned up at the usual places (Snowdon, Malham, Glencoe) and the A9 was chocablock with voluntary refugees seeking isolation in huge numbers together. There was a general consensus that this was daft. Boris mentioned it in a press briefing and I didn't pack my pack.
Me and Beryl also had a trip planned to Cadair Idris, to attempt to complete the route I'd tried with several others a few years ago but which was taken over by some "experienced" people brought along by one of the group members. Basically, they, and a windy day, took off in the wrong direction together with the group. I determined never to organise another such walk with a group bigger than two or three others, and, mainly just me and Dawn, or just me and LTD. The bigger the group, it seems to me and the more negotiation and compromise is involved. It starts with just one saying "can I come" and they bring somebody else, and somebody else turns up who wants to alter the route to a better way in another direction and ... and..... But that trip became a virus victim as well, so the route is incomplete.
Then, there's Robin Hood's Picking Rods. This is linked to the TGO challenge gathering which, this year was to be in Hayfield. Previous gatherings were at the Snake Pass Inn. One of these was cancelled due to snow.
I managed a few more walks with Crook Ramblers and the March Long Walk in Northumberland, buy the writing was on the wall and , now we are limited to local walks. This may not be too bad provided it doesn't go on too long. But it's made me plan and put some structure to my daily doggy walks with LTD.
So, this is The Plan. I get to go out once a day "for exercise". Crook isn't so bad for getting out into the countryside. In fact, it's pretty easy, although the countryside is on the far, lower ends of North Pennine ridges. The North Pennines, being notoriously wild and a bit empty are, nevertheless quite gentle. The contours are mainly socially isolating and donl;t get too close to each other. And so with the local countryside.
And, it seems, that there's a brand-new constituency of walkers. These are well spread out and don't get too close to each other. There's lots of space. They're families, blokes with dogs. Girlfriends out together. Teenagers. Mums and Grannies. My impression is that they're making the best of it and that most of them haven't done much in the way of exploring the countryside before, or, at least, recently. There's always a silver lining innit?
So, I'll be systematically working my way around Crook in a clockwise direction (widdershins is bad luck), doing doggy walks of 5 or so miles, maybe up to 7. There'll be a map and some pictures and, maybe, some locals will pick these up of That Interweb and, maybe it will inform about where it's possible to go. I think I'm stuck around Crook, but outlying villages will be included: Billy Row, Stanley Crook, Tow Law (maybe), Howden le Wear, Willington...... It's summat to do anyway.
Pic below is dinner at St Drostan's hostel at Tarfside - an establishment taken over by TGO peeps every year to provide refreshments, breakfasts, dinner, sympathy and hot showers before challengers make the final lurch towards the North Sea.