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Richard Baker

Interpretations of our Natural World Through Images and Literature

An Eskdale Escape

Earlier this week I managed to spend 2 days camping and walking with my girlfriend in Eskdale. The universe seemed to collect and compose all the most perfect of components for this break, with an almost idyllic wash of low wind, endless blue skies and persistant sun.

The valley itself was an area of the Lake District that neither of us had explored before and we were both truly blown away by it’s beauty. It was like being taken along an experiential conveyor belt that was motoring steadily into sensory and spiritual overload. Even with the Fred Witton race taking place that day, the area we explored was about as desolate as you could hope for on a late spring Sunday afternoon in the Lake District.

Over the days, we walked, we talked, swam, sat, listened and just let the scenes rinse into us. Hundreds of millions of years of slow distortions, fractures explosions, grinds, crumbles and cracks to be treated to, in such imposing but beautiful prehistoric towers of compression.The most beautiful ghylls taking water down into the Esk below, made the perfect resting spots, the gurlging and rinsing sounds of gentle wet contact over rocks I find the most soothing on Earth.

With Mental Health Awareness Week coming to an end, I genuinely could not think of a better tonic then emersing yourself in the outdoors. Slowing life down and allowing the vastness of a landscape to truely effect you, the sounds of the natural world to heal you and taking the time to notice the small things we share the world with.

There is just an endless amount to love and to learn, whether its distinguishing the tiny complex chatter of busy birds by a slow quiet stream, or becoming familiar with the different families of trees that frequent lowland forests or claim a solitary watch on a mountainside.

On our way back to the car we swam and walked along the most tranquil and beautiful pools and falls of the Esk and I felt utterly revitalised and refreshed ready for my return to work that evening and with plans for my next adventure already clicking into gear.

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Afternoon Storm and Benevolent Branches

Distant squeals, a deep crush over green,
Like listing metal under vacant oceans,
A wet wind whips, dry tarmac into life,
Big burly mood now muddies into motion.

Thick air churns like stones in a mixer,
But bitter boiling brood just tickles,
The proud spring hedgerows and wet mossy walls,
That encase sprite bells under deepening canopies,
Of smooth old beech trunks, calm and tall
As I fold and fall fetal into damp forest floor

Great Douk Cave

I have been in a bit of a creative void for a number of years, but recently, rather suddenly, I have emerged from the tundra, throwing myself into the outdoors, into running, writing, reading, into learning and into life, with a passion and conviction I wish to transfer into several creative projects through this blog.

When we challenge ourselves and test our resilience and resolve I feel we gain the richest rewards.

This was a short poem inspired from my first experience caving on a crisp late winter evening

To crawl upon the scars of time,
Where wet cathedrals long to wait,
Midst ancient grinds and fractured lime,
Organs lull mortal minds sedate,
In cascade corridors, not yours or mine,
At alters, prone, no mark of man.

Sinews humbled between hallowed stone,
To breath again at the floor of eternal skies,
Orion laughs, Betelgeuse bellows,
Our effete tongue against the cosmos cries,
This restless edying rock sublime,
Was never yours nor mine.

57 Mile Lancaster Canal Walk for MS in Under 24 Hours

It has taken me 6 months to complete writing this short account of my walk, but hey ho. Life.

Rather impulsively, after spending the summer blasting out 30 mile walks, I planned to complete the 57 miles of the original canal Lancaster canal path from Preston to Kendal, in under 24 hours, to raise money for the Multiple Sclerosis society..
I gave myself a target of a few months to raise some money which set the date for mid November. Ideally people tend to do these things in July or spring. But I’m rather silly.
Closer to the time, a family friend volunteered to join me with a couple of lads from his work. The company specialized in health and safety gear and kindly sponsored the walk, creating personalized florescent gear.
After assembling on the bank and a bit of light stretching, we set off just before midnight. Within the hour I was already out of sight of the group, at a pace I intended to keep for the next 17 miles, while I was able. Way I see it, you may as-well get a stomp on while you are able to, balancing out the likely hood of a major crumble in progress towards the end.
The towpath leaving Preston was a major blow to moral. Of the entire canal i think this was in the most need of work. From here to Owd Nells at Bilsborrow, I slogged through deep mud and collapsed banking not far from falling in at times, despite the headtorch.
Its a rather odd experience walking through the night, this being my first time. I’d intended to get a few hours kip before I set off, but with my mind racing with anticipation I found it impossible. This worried me slightly and knew it would come to head later on.
Leaving Catterall, I got the call from my friend at 4am that his hamstring had gone and his team were calling it a day unfortunately.
I arrived in Garstang at just before 5am. 17 miles complete. I passed by my hometown, under the bridge that led to my house and began the 12.5 miles leading to Lancaster. It was during this period the sleep deprivation started to bother me. I attempted a nap on a bench but quickly gave up and carried on. I had no sleeping bag and it was cold. I became frustrated. The tunnel of vision of the headtorch and the monotonous towpath at night was tiresome and I longed for light.
Eventually the light arrived and the world around tentatively crept into view. I had my headphones in at this time and my mood drastically improved. It was an incredible moment seeing the much longed after dawn into life with my soundtrack of choice.
I was approaching the bay horse area at the time and someway over the 20 mile mark.
Just before 9:30am i arrived at Lancaster. Having done 32 miles before midday was a strange feeling. I had barely stopped between Preston and Lancaster and when I had, it was very briefly. My feet were starting to feel a little like concrete. I had about 40, 50 minute break in Lancaster and a local pal kindly sorted me out with some food and services which was most welcome!
Back to it and onwards past Hest Bank, Bolton le Sands and I stopped for a pint of coke at the Canal Turn in Carnforth. I’d started to stop more regularly now, and checking the feet. I had some ibuprofen gel and then Id talc them to keep them dry. Approaching 40 miles my splits were slowing but I managed to put in 3 miles at almost 4mph which was encouraging. Although this didnt last.
I passed Tewitfield locks at 2:30pm and my cousin met me a little further along to see us to the finish and then 2 other pals.
The last 15 or so miles were excruciating. Legs were seized up and the pace had really slowed down. Just another 5 miles, just another 3 miles. Easy distance to tackle when you are starting out but I was down to almost 2mph at this point and had been awake for over 40 hours. My decision making was massively impaired and I was experiencing mild hallucinations; Industrial machinery in the surrounding fields and multiple dogs ahead instead of the one. Id dread to have thought how Id have coped If I was on my own. Luckily I wasn’t.
Finally arriving to my family and friends at Kendal at around 9:45pm, I was overwhelmed, emotional and utterly detached from their elation. I was on another plain. A chap in the pub said I looked in incredible shape for the distance I’d traveled. Ill take that. I didn’t take many photos on the walk itself, but I have attached pictures taken when previously exploring the route.
Over £1500 was raised for the MS Society and I was proud of my effort. Intrigued by endurance, physical and psychological limits i wasn’t disappointed by this walk and I continue to walk and train for more endurance events with the 2018 Trailwalker and 2019 LDWA 100 mile the majors next in line.

Predatory Paddy.

Nicky Nook: Post 3

Nicky Nook – Post 2

Welcome Rays on a Blustery Day

Nicky Nook Post: 1

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