Through an act of kindness in response to a stressed Sport Editor (poor Patrick), I’ve somehow landed myself in the Sport section to write about my recent hiking experience. Usually my exercise at uni reaches the extent of the odd 10-minute Joe Wicks workout in my room, a 20-minute walk to and from campus and, I suppose, club dancing also counts for something in my sporting repertoire. I have only seven contact hours a week, and each Thursday and Friday “off”, so I thought I should turn the heat up a notch and go on a proper hiking excursion with Outdoor Society.
I’m sure everyone at some point has had to endure a long family walk on a Sunday, or at least I have, in fact pretty much every Sunday when I was younger. But being away from home calls reminiscent tradition to the fore; I look back in fondness at those times in my life and wanted to recreate the experience for myself. Enter: Outdoor Society!
A different location is chosen each week to hike around and this week was Ripley, North Yorkshire, which is only an hour away by coach. It is recommended to wear hiking boots, and for this walk there was a lot of ice and mud so hiking boots were handy, but a trusty pair of trainers with good grip would be fine too. Away with style and just think comfort: thick socks, leggings or sensible trousers and plenty of layers (sorry to be a bore).
I woke up hourly the night before the hike in restless anticipation before the official 7 a.m. alarm finally struck. We met as a group outside the Roger Kirk Centre, where a coach picked us up at 8:45 a.m. and we headed for Ripley. There are two options for the hikes that do vary in length slightly on the day: the medium hike is around 10km and includes a pub lunch; the long hike is around 15km and hikers bring a packed lunch. On this occasion I chose the medium hike – for reasons that may or may not seem obvious.
When we arrived, we began as one big mass and later split off into the two groups; I particularly enjoyed this community feel because even when people begin as strangers, there is always a natural willingness to chat and appreciate the same shared activity together. We walked through fields and woodland, past streams, down long country lanes, through a churchyard, crunched on ice and stroked ponies, all before lunch.
We accomplished about half of the hiking distance by lunch, which made lunch a well-earned break. It was forecast to rain for the whole day – typical – but luckily we almost completely missed it, with the rain just beginning to fall lightly after lunch. The walk wasn’t strenuous overall but some of the uphill lunges were genuine thigh-burners and breath-takers. Though having said that, if you can do the medium hike, you can definitely do the long one too.
The day ended with a brief visit to Ripley Castle, where we walked round the Castle gardens which were free due to the wintry weather – bingo. We even discovered a worn greenhouse that was home to an exotic utopia that displayed a multitude of wildly overgrown plants. And I do have quite a soft spot for wild plants; it looked the perfect set up for a Secret Garden remake extravaganza. Another sublime sight was of the frozen over lake that had water gushing out from underneath through the weir and down into a stream. Animals spotted: cows, ponies, deer, squirrels – some of the quintessential components of the English countryside.
On another note, I was very impressed with the smoothness of the day’s events. Given there was, if you’ll pardon the pun, a lot of ground to cover, the day was well thought-out and organised from start to finish: lunch had been pre-ordered for our arrival at the pub, the map skills of the leaders were almost completely without fault (there was a minor blip of having to jump a fence to avoid backtracking over a navigational error, but this was funny) and the coach was right on time to pick us up and drop us back. The effort that goes into a singular trip seems a lot to organise, but it was pulled off well and these small details all add up to make the trip that bit more appealing, relaxing and motivational to set the early alarm to go again.
If you’re looking for a way to get more exercise into your routine, or would like a trip to admire nature, or even want a day to recharge away from uni, then hiking is a very good option. There are so many stunning places to see around Yorkshire that become a lot more accessible through Outdoor Society: it will guarantee a very zen feeling after and real sense of achievement.