I had intended to sit down and write this in that gloriously liminal time between Christmas and New Year, which was spent at my mum’s in North Wales. But alas, lazy afternoon games of scramble and walks on the beach took over, and now here we are at the end of the first week of 2024.
I chose nurture as my word of the year in 2023 – and it felt like I thoroughly embraced that. It wasn’t a year for major big adventures or big memories, but it was a year in which I nurtured what I’d already built in terms of my lovely community around Look With New Eyes, my freelance work, which is continuing to grow and plenty of time outdoors – be that shorter walks, time in the hills or dips in the lakes.
After sitting down with my diary and looking back over my camera roll, these were the five highlights that brought back some of the happiest memories.
#1: 12 dips in Rydal Water
After starting my outdoor dip challenge in 2022, where I completed one a month (mainly in the Lake District),I decided that for a different approach in 2023.
I would focus my monthly dips around one lake – Rydal Water, which is the closest lake to where I live in northern part of Ambleside.
One of the things I’ve loved most about this challenge is returning each month and seeing how the landscape has changed – when the old oak tree comes into leaf, when the reads on the banks are tall and willowy and when the bracken turns from green to copper on the fellsides.
I’ve enjoyed dips at 6 am in May, last light in October, in the summer rain and under muted December skies, and I’ve honestly loved each one.
I made a little reel on Instagram to reflect the changing seasons, which you can watch here.
#2 Reaching 100 Wainwrights on Steel Knotts in October
After four and a half years of climbing Wainwrights, I finally made it to 100 in October on a very soggy day on Steel Knotts near Ullswater! So many wonderful memories from this challenge – and throughly looking forward to the next 114 hills!
#3 A dip in the ocean and a cliff top walk from St Bees along the Cumbrian Coast in June
One of those gorgeous summer days when the stars align – a train/bus trip to the Cumbrian coast, a warm dip in the sea, a clifftop walk to the RSPB reserve and an ice cream on the beach to round it all off.
It’s the third time I’ve walked along this route, and it’s one of my faves in Cumbria outside the Lake District.
#4 A birthday adventure to Eskdale
Keeping up the tradition of birthday adventures in the Lakes, this year I headed out to the Western Lake District, catching the La’al Ratty steam train from Ravensglass into Eskdale for two nights of hiking, secret Japanese gardens, red squirrels and a birthday dip. Perfection.
#5 Overnight adventures at various YHA’s with days on the hill
I grew up staying in YHA hostels as a kid, from Scotland to Norfolk and even one with no electricity in mid Wales. I love the way they provide an afforable base for adventure and the Lakes is lucky enough to have a number of hostels (I actually spent my first year working for them in Keswick but moved on due to Covid) and this year I’ve stayed in quite a few at either the start or end of some of my hikes – YHA Coniston before climbing the Old Man in March, YHA Patterdale in July before heading to the hills above Howtown on the boat and YHA Helvellyn for a night in a land pod in October.
I love how even one night away can feel like a mini holiday, even though I live here in the Lakes – plus, I love having a good old chat in the lounge or self-catering kitchen, sharing stories from days in the hills with other hostellers.
Embracing the small moments
Alongside these adventures and milestones, I’ve treasured dearly the smaller moments – that perhaps aren’t quite as stand out, but bring moments of contentment in day to day.
A few stand out moments….
- Watching cormorants fish in Rydal Water with a mug of steaming hot chocolate from the flask in February
- Visiting Dora’s Field in Rydal when the daffodils and later the bluebells are in bloom in spring time
- Collecting wild garlic in the woods around Rydal and making a delicious wild garlic risotto
- Enjoying a spontaneous chippy tea in Rothay Park in Ambleside after work amongst the new spring blossom.
- A picnic just off the summit of Wansfell on a lovely circular walk from Ambleside in April.
- The joy and luck of having a back garden with mountain views and being able to watch the seasons change – from crocuses to daffodils to foxgloves, flowers and falling autumn leaves
- Hitchhiking back from Langdale in September after I missed the last bus after an epic day on the Langdale Pikes. Being picked up by Roger, who was in his 50’s and retraining to be a mountain leader – and celebrating the absolute joy of the outdoors at any age and any ability.
- Enjoying the best soup I’ve ever made (sweet potato and peanut) in Red Bank Woods on a walk from Elterwater to Ambleside in November.
What didn’t go so well in 2023
After really embracing running the first two years after I moved to the Lake District, I’ve really struggled to find much consistency this year – either due to time or, once I start making a little progress, niggerly little injuries such as foot pain and shin splits. I want to try and prioritise fitness a little more this year, perhaps looking at more strength work to prevent injuries and trying to carve out time to embrace a run before work.
The summer also felt like a bit of a frustration. A steaming hot start to June felt like a slog (I’m more of a mild/cold weather girl than heat, hence moving to the Lake District 🤣) was followed by contracting shingles at the start of July which took some weeks to shake off properly. August passed by in a flurry of rain – all in all just a bit of a meh season this year!
I also started a new full-time job at the start of late spring (which brings financial security to my freelance work), and it felt a tough balance learning the ropes and dealing with the familiar Lake District crowds again whilst also keeping up with freelance commitments.
Looking forward to 2024
It’s felt really good to sit down and write a more personal blog post again – I’d love to make time for more personal writing in 2024 and I’ve toyed for months with starting a Substack. But I equally know I have quite a lot on my plate and starting a new project isn’t quite the right time – perhaps later on in the year.
I have chosen the word momentum to guide me this year – to build on the foundations I began to lay in 2023.
I’m actually in the process of taking steps to redesign Look With New Eyes this year. Unbelievably the website actually turns 9 in February – I started it during a backpacking trip to Eastern Europe in the winter of 2015. It was a bit of a jack of all trades travel blog up until I moved to the Lake District in 2019 when I decided to niche the site down and focus on providing useful content for those planning a trip here. My focus for the first half of the year is to build more content and resources on the website and hopefully relaunch the site at the end of the summer with a more streamlined and user friendly design – so watch this space!
In terms of the outdoors, I’m only 7 Wainwrights away from being half way through my challenge of all 214 – so hoping to reach that goal and climb a few more! I originally aimed to complete them before I’m 40 (which is now next year – eek!) But I’ve decided to just go at a steady pace and enjoy them rather than trying to use all my free time to relentlessly tick off hills.
Thanks again to those of you who continue to read my rambles and follow my adventures across social media – it really does bring me so much joy in sharing them with you and I can’t wait to continue this in 2024.
If you are interested in a trip down memory lane, these were my review posts from previous years….
Not strictly an end-of-year review – but most of my highlights in 2019 were from the summer!