Many of my family memories are of going on walks, but, what with my brother being away at uni, and me working some Saturdays, we don’t go on as many as we used to, except when we’re on holiday, so we took the opportunity of the post-Christmas bank holiday to go for a walk in London.
We’ve done some amazing ones, though. We’ve climbed Snowdon once together, and gone down it twice – I’ve climbed it twice and gone down three times after Lauren said she wanted to do it, then regretted it, and asked after about twenty minutes whether we could go to a museum instead. It was worth it (in my opinion, anyway) when the clouds cleared on our descent and we were greeted with spectacular views, and when, the next day, she looked out of a bus window and said “we climbed a mountain”. Maybe.
In August 2014, we tackled Bleaklow in the Peak District, using some slightly-tricky directions and an Ordnance Survey map, and no compass, in… interesting visibility. We nearly got stuck in a few bogs, had to walk along a riverbed (which is apparently a perfectly sensible route for the Pennine Way to take), had the life scared out of us by hares, grouse, sheep and an owl, and had a few worrying moments when I wasn’t convinced that my sense of direction and map-reading skills were good enough to get us out. It was worth it, though, when we eventually found the wreckage of the B-29 plane that crashed there in 1948 – the site is too inaccessible for it to be recovered, so it’s been left as a memorial to the thirteen crew members who died there, and it is incredibly moving.
We’ve clambered across a rockface on the fisherman’s path near Beddgelert, holding onto iron handles driven into the rock – I was about 12 when we did that so it felt very exciting. We’ve lost dad up more than one mountain – most notably one in Scotland, which was behind the place we were staying in and didn’t seem that high from the bottom. Mum lost a shoe in the mud on the Medway river one Boxing Day (and we’ve never let her forget it). I got stuck on top of a pill box one New Year’s Day, having clambered on top to see if the view was better (it wasn’t), and then got too scared to jump down again. We went about half a mile the wrong way (up a hill) at the beginning of a walk in the Peak District this summer, and it’s only one of many times we’ve gone wrong somewhere. We’ve explored parts of London we’d never otherwise go to, from one of several books of walks we have at home, with some fascinating history and weird features that we probably wouldn’t notice otherwise.
So the combination of a bank holiday, no plans, and a beautiful sunny winter’s day last week was the ideal opportunity to go for a walk in the city. We got our walking boots, wrapped up against the wind, packed a lunch, and drove into town to start at Tower Bridge (pro-tip: there are at least two car parks near the Tower of London that charge £2.50 for the whole day on Sundays and bank holidays). We were following a route from Tower Bridge to Limehouse, along the river and through the old wharves. It was a gorgeous day, and we were all pretty happy to be outside in the sunshine after such a rainy Christmas. Being us, we took much longer than the suggested time – we had to stop to look at things, take pictures (especially dad), and have our lunch, and occasionally get a little wrong-footed because the book was published almost twenty years ago… We had a lovely time, and came home feeling incredibly windswept but satisfied. None of us had been round there before, and it was great to recognise places – The Prospect Of Whitby pub, for example, can be seen from the other side of the river. I also enjoyed feeling like Sally Lockhart, and seeing the narrow streets and passageways – particularly the stairs down to the river – added a whole new layer to my mental image of the area. We usually do circular walks, but this one was linear, so we had to take the DLR back to the car – in true Stringer fashion, we got the wrong branch and had to suffer Bank station unnecessarily. But nonetheless, it was an excellent use of our bank holiday.