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Hiking / Rambling / Walking

As long as I can remember, I've enjoyed walking in the countryside. From an early age, my parents took me walking in the Yorkshire Dales and Moors, the Lake District and in Scotland. My school geography teachers were also keen walkers and encouraged an active school rambling club - and the school CCF organised "Arduous Training Courses" involving pretty strenuous hikes all over the Lake District. Later, during my 20 years working in Manchester, I kept myself fit by playing a lot of cricket and by rambling all around the Peak District, as well as spending many short breaks in North Wales and the Lakes - and when I returned to Ripon in 1989, I embarked on a mission to explore every corner of the Yorkshire Dales.

Some friends and I thought it might be a good idea to try to develop a new "Long Distance Footpath" in the Dales, so we devised the "Round-the-Dales Walk" - a circular route of about 170 miles, circumambulating the National Park. We researched it all pretty thoroughly but, because several stretches didn't conform to existing rights of way, the Countryside Commission and the National Park authorities were not over-keen. Now that we have the "right-to-roam" over open moorland, I would rather like to resurrect the idea so, if anyone is interested in helping to research and then publish this delightful route, please contact me and I will supply full details of the walk.

I had already completed one or two Long Distance routes - and my partner Jane, also a keen walker, was eager to add a few more to the list. So far, the list includes the Cleveland Way, the Coast-to-Coast, the Cotswold Way, the Dales Way, the Dales Three Peaks, the Gritstone Trail, the Lyke-Wake Walk, the Pennine Way, the Two Moors Way, Offa's Dyke, some of the Pembrokeshire Coast and most of the West Highland Way.

However, Snowdonia has always been a firm favourite for both of us. We've done all the Welsh 3000s, some of them several times, and countless other wonderful walks in North Wales. The place was becoming like a second home for us - so we've now bought "Twryg", a small cottage in Tanygrisiau and, when we're not using it, it's available to let at very reasonable rates. Situated in the heart of Snowdonia, it really is the perfect base for a walking holiday. For more info, visit www.twryg.net

Over the last few years, Jane and I have also tended to explore further afield, with walking holidays in Crete, Ithaka, Majorca, Provence, Sardinia and (more recently) Tasmania, New Zealand (twice) and Peru.

Age takes its toll - and I decided quite a while ago that, in my 60th year (2009/10), before I'm too old, infirm and grumpy, I would walk from John O'Groats to Land's End. It didn't happen then (too much work to do!) but it's happened now!  I didn't do it all in one go - it took 123 days of walking, in 18 separate stretches, spread over about a year from 1 October 2011 to 20 October 2012 - and it came to a total of around 934 miles and 20,245 metres of climbing.  Called the "Andante Project", it was much more than just a walk - the idea was to make it a sort of "Musical Pilgrimage" and to take the opportunity to explore the state of music-making throughout the country. We contacted every musical group or organisation we could find along the route, invited them to join us for bits of the walk (on a sponsored basis, to raise funds for charity or for themselves) and also met with some of them in the evenings to discuss their music, needs, problems, funding requirements etc.  At the end, I produced a report, summarising my findings - and this is available for download here (The Andante Report - see right).  It has been sent to the Ministers for Arts, Culture, Education, Arts Council and a host of other agencies, organisations, associations and individuals interested or involved with music and music education. It is already creating quite a stir!

What next?  Well, I would love to do a similar project in New Zealand but, that apart, I'll just try to keep fit and explore more bits of the UK and other parts of the world that I haven't seen before.