This is the preamble or introduction to Saunterings.
To be precise, these are North-West England Saunterings. That is NWES to me. It contains descriptions of various saunters, ambles, strolls, meanders, rambles and dawdles around the counties of Cumbria, Lancashire and North Yorkshire. I hesitate to call my saunters ‘walks’. A walk nowadays has become a serious business. It might suggest a 10-hour trek to bag 15 mountain tops. It might be part of some epic expedition around, say, the whole coastline of Britain. It might demand precise details of the route (“walk 210 metres north-north-east to a gate by the third tree”) so that you may follow my footsteps. No, my saunterings are more leisurely and aimless than that. And they are mental as well as physical. I saunter, at whim.
As the word suggests, this preamble (or presaunter) is being written
before I have begun Saunterings. Although there is a vagueness to my saunters, I will define in advance
the scope of my ‘North-West England’. Otherwise I will be forever nagging myself: what about Ilkley Moor,
Hebden Bridge, Southport, Mickle Fell, Carlisle, and so on? Are they within my range? So I will define my
North-West England to be the region enclosed by the following eight sides (six straight lines and two wiggly ones):
1.  From near Caldbeck (the northernmost point of the Lake District National Park) east to Fiends Fell, just north of Cross Fell
2.  To just south of Bowes (the north-east corner of the Yorkshire Dales National Park)
3.  Following the Yorkshire Dales boundary, to near Beamsley (the south-east corner of the Yorkshire Dales)
4.  To Hebden Bridge
5.  To Bolton
6.  To Banks, on the Ribble estuary
7.  Following the coast, to Allonby Bay, north of Maryport
8.  East to Caldbeck
This region includes the Forest of Bowland, Fylde, the Howgills, the Lake District, the Morecambe Bay coast, some of the North, South and West Pennine moors, the Yorkshire Dales, and all that lies between them. In total it encompasses about 3,750 square miles (or about 10,000 square kilometres). Needless to say, I won’t rap myself over the knuckles if I stray outside my boundaries. (Note that, with Bolton being the southernmost point, I’ve excluded areas such as Manchester and Liverpool, normally considered an integral part of north-west England.)
I could destroy the aimlessness of my saunters by setting myself some objective, such as to walk in every one of those 10,000 1 km squares. That, however, would be unattainable: some squares are in the middle of lakes, or are marked as 'Danger Areas’, or just don’t have publicly-accessible paths. But if I consider the 400 5 x 5 km squares then the objective to walk in all of those is, in principle, feasible. So I will keep this objective half in mind in the hope that it will help me provide a balanced impression of the region. I will try to more-or-less-randomly visit the various parts of the region and not just focus on the ‘best bits’.
There are a lot of blogs about walks in North-West England (I have listed some of them in Links). Why am I adding another one with Saunterings? Well, why not? These bloggers are presumably enjoying producing their blogs: most have been doing so for years! They provide a catalogue of their walks that they are happy to share with others, although I suspect that they are not too fussed if others find them less interesting than they do themselves.
I hope that Saunterings will be a little different. Most blogs have many photos and few words. Saunterings will have relatively few photos and relatively many words. I realise that this is against the spirit of the age: the typical on-line reader has the attention span of a grasshopper (present company excepted, since you’ve reached here). I picture a typical Saunterings reader taking 5 or 10 minutes in a tea break, or travelling on a bus, or waiting at the dentist, to read the latest entry. Well, I can but hope.
The words in most blogs are almost all about the details of the walks: which paths they followed, what views they had, which peaks they conquered, what the weather was like, who twisted an ankle, and where they had tea and cake afterwards. I don’t know if these bloggers really expect their readers to follow in their footsteps. I don’t expect anyone to follow mine. In fact, I’d urge them not to, as it’s much better to work out your own route. Anyway, from these blogs and with trusty guides such as Wainwright, there are thousands of walks to select from, if desired. I hardly need to provide more.
In Saunterings I will give few details of my walks. The walk is not the point. I rarely go for a walk just for a walk, or for the scenery, or for exercise. I go because I have some topic, issue, angle, aspect, theme, subject or concern that I want to look into. My words are more about this topic, to do with walking in North-West England, than about the walk itself. The walk provides a context or a framework for discussing whatever is on my mind. I want, if possible, to learn something while preparing for the walk, during the walk itself, and in reflecting on the walk later. I would like, if possible, to say something thought-provoking about the walk and not just report that I have walked it. As I say, I can but hope.
For those who insist on some details of my sauntering routes I will provide some in square brackets at the end of each section. These will all be in the format:
[month of saunter; grid-reference of start point; description of route, with bearings on the way; miles sauntered; fraction of the 400 5 x 5 km squares visited so far*].
Most of the saunters will be circular, that is, ending where I started. Sometimes they'll be linear, in which case, naturally, help will be needed from a friend or public transport to get to or from one end to the other (I will indicate these by adding ‘(linear)’ to the description). I will refer to ‘I’ and ‘we’, depending on whether I am sauntering alone or in company. In the latter case, the ‘we’ will usually mean ‘Ruth and I’; occasionally the ‘we’ will include others. Now it is time (January 2018) to begin re-visiting, or in a few cases visiting, the hills and dales of North-West England.
P.S. (added in September 2019). It seems that my walks have been less aimless than I expected. I usually set out with several aims in mind, one of which is to provide a skeleton upon which the flesh of some narrative may be hung. Saunterings has become more a collection of essays than a blog. Blogs are more informal, more regularly updated, have shorter and snappier entries, usually have adverts, often seek to stimulate comments, sometimes aim to make money, and so on. So I don't think of Saunterings as a blog nowadays.
* Footnote of November 2019: I am immensely saddened that some of my energetic excursions leave the fraction of 5km x 5km squares visited (now 147/400) unchanged, because I foolishly walk in squares that I've already walked in. So I'm adding the percentage of 1km x 1km squares visited (now 8.61) in the hope that that figure will at least show some progress (that's what the two decimal places are intended to ensure) - although I do so knowing that I have, alas, insufficient time left to reach 100%.
Top photo: The western Howgills from Dillicar; Bottom photo: Blencathra from Great Mell Fell