weekend walking trip

Exceptional People under a Single Banner

Posted on Updated on

Why are some people so nice to others? Would you go out of the way to help someone? Have you carried a stranger’s bag up a mountain just because the other person was weak? Do you remember the last time, you kept rubbing the frozen hands of another person, trying to warm them up, because he was freezing? Or would you invite strangers to your home, on Christmas and share your meal with them?

Not many of us are such exceptional people. But I was lucky enough to meet some such exceptional folks, all packed near a tiny village in Bedfordshire and this small tribute is for those few who made a lasting impact on my life.

Hi, I am Vikas and this is my story. I was fortunate enough to be in the receiving end of all this and I would like to share some of my best experiences in Cranfield with you.

Story 1:

I come from a city in South India and, like some of you, this was my first time out of home. My first time I had left India and straight in to Cranfield. During the orientation, we were introduced to various clubs and societies and for some reason, I decided to join the Walking Society at Cranfield University. (Which later in hind sight was the best decision I ever made.)

The rumours that the best quality products of any go to the USA and Europe and India gets the second or third grade products (because it is sold at a cheaper price affordable to many), is true. On my first walk from University to Cranfield village along with 89 other students, my almost brand new pair of sneakers split. The lower half was ripped away from the upper half as I stepped in to the muddy fields that took us to the nearby village. I then removed my shoe lace, used it as a string to tie the 2 halves together and continue to drag my feet slowly, over the 3 kilometer walk, through the mud and slush, till we reached the university. (Trust me that wasn’t a pleasant start.)

One of my first walks with the walking society and the first acts of kindness I experienced.

But that is where I met Kristina. She was  the society’s founder and the walking leader back in my day and she had planned the walk to the village that very day this incident took place. Now, believe it or now. She walked by me, the entire duration, as I walked sloppily in my torn shoes, making small talk and gently encouraging me to carry on walking. Once the walk was done and we reached the Mitchell hall, I expected her to say good bye and leave just like everyone else who enjoyed their first walk with the club. But she did something I will never forget. She drove me in her car, all the way to a shop called GoOutdoors (in Bedford which was around 15 miles away from University) and helped me select some good hiking gear (as I was totally clueless about even the basic asks of hiking in a terrain like UK) and also used her own discount card to get me the best deal out there and dropped me back at my accommodation.

I was taken aback by the love/friendship/ camaraderie (call it what you may) that she was able to show a complete stranger. This was the first time she met me and she went out of her way to do this for me. Why would someone do that? I do not have an answer. But all I know. She was an exceptional person and just to spend time with her. I did all the subsequent walks whilst at Cranfield University.

Story 2:

Snowdon summit. We made it!

My 1st weekend walk was to an exceptional place in Wales called Snowdonia National Park. It was a snow capped mountain peak of 1,085 m. Being among the least fit trekkers and completely unaccustomed to the weather and altitude, it was definitely a struggle to walk 10 steps up the mountain, without having to gasp for air. My hands and feet were freezing, my nose had turned pink, my spectacles broke and my snow cap which was drenched in sweat, started to freeze. The logical judgement call at this point would have been to request me to abandon my trek. But along with Kristina, there were 2 others who saved me that day and helped me reach the top. Sarah Bergin – an exceptionally strong Irish lass, stood by me all the way, fed me chocolates and water at every other break I took and once we were at the top and I was shivering in the cold, she sat behind me and hugged me to share body warmth. That hug of life really did save me that day.

Snowdonia National Park. Sun had come out!

The other person I am thankful for was our walk leader for the trek, Professor Toby Breckon. He was another exceptional mountaineer too. He sat beside me, my rubbing my freezing hands, feeding me hot tea to keep me warm.

If not for Sarah and Toby. I would not have made it up the mountain and had my swig of whiskey at the summit. Now, when common logic dictated that I be sent back to the cabin, on the grounds of being unfit, why did they pull me along and go out of their way to support me? I do not know why. But thanks to them, I successfully completed my first ever mountain trek and came back in one piece.

Story 3:

Peak District: Snow everywhere!

Excited from my 1st mountain hike, I decided to tempt fate again on my 2nd mountain hike to Mam Torr in Peak District  National Park. While my previous hike was snow clad only at the summit, this was a winter trek where we had to walk waist deep in snow. And being a person born and brought up in South India, temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius is something I’ve been accustomed to. So, a snow trek in winter in Peak District was definitely not in my comfort zone. Of course I had to go prepared. While my fellow trekkers carried 2 layers in their bags and wore 2 layers on themselves to protect themselves from the cold, I was 4 layers of clothing and 3 additional layers in my back pack.  Half way up the mountain, I was drained of energy and my back pack weighed a ton.  Well, it seemed like a ton to me.

One of my saviours! 

That’s where I met Michal.  He was carrying, what seemed like an equally heavy bag but then he offered to carry my bag up the mountain. Shamelessly I gave it to him because I could not go on further. Then, he slung my bag on his chest and started climbing effortlessly up the mountain as if he were a machine.

His wife Gosia was equally kind-hearted. She had 2 trekking poles, which she had got for herself. Without a second thought, she offered me one of hers so that I can support myself during the climb. You must also consider, they only met me a few hours earlier, when the trek began. Yet they carried my back pack and shared their hiking gear with me.

Now, why would someone go out of the way to help others, when they barely even know them by name? I have no answer, but thanks to them, I was able to walk over frozen glaciers and waist deep in snow and make back down alive, without a scratch on me.

Story 4:

The Peak District Walk, was the last mountain trek for the year and Christmas was nearing. Most of Cranfield University students and staff packed their bags and left for home. The only ones left behind were the locals, the overseas students from India and China, and sheep! The whole place was eerie and silent. There was nothing much to do but sit in. Imagine being among the 20 students, being left behind in an empty university, during Christmas break, having to remain cooped up indoors for nearly a month because it was either raining or snowing outside, while most of your friends were in their homes enjoying some family time with their nears and dears. I can tell you from personal experience, it was depressing.

Rambler with a warm heart. Thank you, Paul!

But that is when we met Paul. An elderly gentleman who lived in Cranfield village. On seeing us being marooned in the University, he planned and arranged for a walk around the Cranfield village, on Christmas day.

We trod along with him as he told us folk tales of events that had come to pass. He then invited us to his home where we enjoyed a cozy meal by a crackling warm fire place listening to soothing music from his old gramophone. We remained in his home for the next few hours as heard stories, played board games and heard some country music while some of us dozed off drowsily in his living room.

My English Christmas.

That evening, he baked us a fruit cake which he flambéed in front of our eyes. I remember as if it were yesterday, the image of him serving me a plate for flaming goodness, with a smile on his face and a twinkle in is eyes. It was priceless! Till this day, I am still trying to understand, why he invited us to spend one of the most important holidays with him, while for all the logical reasons, he could have spent it with his family and friends, just like everyone else. But I can only thank the heavens and call ourselves blessed to be able to spend a special occasion such as Christmas with him and it was, still is, and always will be my most memorable Christmas in England.

Now, if you are wondering why I am blabbering on and on about my personal experiences, it is because they are all connected. Kristina, Paul, Sarah, Michal, Toby and many others were all the core members of Cranfield University’s Walks  Society. They were walk leaders, trekking guides, event organizers etc. who played valuable roles in shaping up the club and its legacy  to be what it is today. Unbelievably, all these wonderful and exceptional people fall under a single banner “Cranfield Walking Society”. It is an open society which believes in more the merrier. And I was fortunate enough to join the Society. These are just some of my most treasured memories from being the society’s member and if you would like to meet them and their successors, walk with them and make your own memories. I invite you be a part of it too.

Vikas,  Coimbatore, India

Former Cranfield University’s student and a  walking society’s committee member

 

31 May – 2 June Lake District: bookings now open

Posted on Updated on

   Special weekend trip organised by Cranfield University’s Walks 
@photos courtesy of Cranfield University’s Walks: April 2012 trip to Lake District.

31 May- 2 June walking weekend in Lake District, cost: £50 members only. Cost includes: 2 nights accommodation in YHA hostel in Ambleside; breakfast on Saturday and Sunday; and an evening meal on Saturday evening.

Only 18 places available.UPDATE ON 29 APRIL: fully booked
Book your place now by paying the full amount to Glenda at CSA 1st floor.*           

Transport: car sharing, 3-4 drivers sought. Journey duration: 3.5 hours one way. Cost of petrol to be shared amongst occupants of each car. Food: For both days of walking you will need to provide yourself with a packed lunch, some high energy food to keep you going throughout the day and at least 1.5 litres of water. Itinerarydepart on Friday afternoon from Cranfield University, return back on Sunday evening. Detailed program will be available nearer to the date of each trip. Guide: An experienced walk leader and a member of staff.

Equipment: please note NO GEAR, NO GO policy for this trip. This includes walking boots (NO trainers!), waterproofs (jacket and trousers), warm clothes and a NON-COTTON base layer – and NO jeans please!.

Walks: Moderately challenging – Saturday walk about 14 miles. Shorter walk on Sunday morning. Exact program to be confirmed. Example route 1 and route 2.

* Please note that the cost of this trip has been  paid for in advance by CSA, to secure our places. Therefore bookings are refundable only in exceptional circumstances. Before a refund will be agreed, you will be asked to find a replacement.
Photos by our amazing photographers: Asteris, Ali and Periklis.
Find out who joined Cranfield University students last year on their trip to Lake District: see last year’s post.

Weekend in Snowdonia National Park

Posted on Updated on

   Special weekend trip organised by Cranfield University walks. Get to know UK more –  its amazing scenery, dramatic landscape and beautiful countryside.   

10th-11nd November, 2012 – walking in Snowdonia National Park- an area of outstanding natural beauty.

Cost: £47 members, £57 non-members. Cost includes: 2 nights accommodation in YHA hostel Pen-Y-Pass, breakfast on Saturday & Sunday morning and an evening meal on Saturday night.

 Only 13 places available. Book your place now by paying the full amount to Glenda at CSA 1st floor.*   
Update on 10 October 2012: all places are now booked – sorry!
Snowdonia National Park. Photo by: Plas Dolmelynllyn Country Hotel

Transport: car sharing, 2 drivers sought. Journey duration: 3.5 hours one way (186 miles). Cost of petrol: to be shared amongst occupants of each car, can be calculated using an online calculator. Food: For both days of walking you will need to provide yourself with a packed lunch, some high energy food to keep you going throughout the day and at least 1.5 litres of water. Itinerarydepart on Friday afternoon from Cranfield University, return back on Sunday evening. Detailed program will be available nearer to the date of each trip. Guide: An experienced walk leader/member of staff and a former walking club member.

Equipment: please note NO GEAR, NO GO policy for this trip. This means that walking boots (NO other shoes!), waterproofs (including waterproof trousers), warm clothes and a NON-COTTON base layer are a must for this trip. NO jeans please!

Walk level: Challenging  – Saturday walk about 14 miles. Shorter walk on Sunday morning. Exact program to be confirmed.

Read about our earlier weekend trips with Cranfield University’s students to Lake District and Brecon Beacons National Parks.  

* Please note that the cost of this trip has been  paid for in advance by CSA, to secure our places. Therefore bookings are refundable only in exceptional circumstances. Before a refund will be agreed, you will be asked to find a replacement.

Walking in Wales: Cranfield University students jump 4 joy!

Posted on Updated on

A special walking weekend in Brecon Beacons National Park organised by Cranfield University’s Walks took place 25 to 27 May.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Altogether, 12 Cranfield University students of 8 nationalities (Spanish, Chinese, English, Iranian, Dutch, Indian-Portugeese, Ecuadorian and Czech), 2 family members and 1 walk leader/university staff  took part in this special trip to South Wales.

The weekend started very early (6am) on Friday morning by a road trip to the seaside town of Tenby; 10 students in 2 cars convoy. Getting on a boat from Tenby to Caldey Island was so relaxing – indeed surreal, after several hours spent driving on a busy motorway. A quick picnic lunch at the grounds of Caldey Abbey; then most of us opted for a cliff walk to see the lighthouse and then hit the local beach. Dip into the cold sea was followed by building an impressive sand castle – with a sophisticated drainage system,  green roof and very own Great Wall of China.

In the late afternoon we headed inland. Accommodation was booked at YHA Danywenallt by the beautiful and tranquil Usk Reservoir . This is where we met the rest of our group. Big thank you goes to Toni, Hostel Manager, who arranged for everyone to have accomodation at YHA Danywenallt; in spite of 3 of us originally booked to stay in nearby hostel YHA Brecon.

On Saturday we did a moderate to hard 23 km (14.5 miles) walk, conquering 4 top summits of Brecon Beacons, including the highest peak Pen y Fan (886m) and neighbouring Fan y Big (719m).  We were being blown away on top of these mountains – not just by the beauty of the place but quite literally,  by winds reported to be reaching 80 km (50 miles) per hour.

On Sunday we did a shorter, about 10 km (6 miles) walk; along the river Hepste, through woodland, walking up and down to a number of enchanting waterfalls – including the famous Sgwd yr Eira (meaning “Fall of Snow“) behind which we walked, took photos  and where we had a picnic lunch.

Weather on both days was fantastic: sunny and very warm. Overall, the trip to South Wales was a great success: Cranfield University students just could not stop jumping 4 joy!-)

Big thank you goes to all Cranfield University staff and students who made this special weekend trip to South Wales possible

  •  Toby, Lecturer from School of Engineering; our walk leader and also driver, for taking his time off to spend the weekend with Cranfield University students and for guiding our group through the spectacular Brecon Beacons National Park
  • Sue and Glenda from Cranfield Students’ Association  for taking bookings, liaising about our accommodation and for providing us with endless streams of helpful advice.
  • Our drivers: Toby, member of staff and our walk leader; and Pedro, PhD student who came forward at a late stage of planning this trip and thus allowed further 4 students to participate.
  •  Our photographers: Belen, Ali, Xiaojian and many more – thanks to you we now have many amazing photos from this trip that can be viewed via our Photos page.   
  • Lovely Margaret and Dawn from the Community and Development Office  for their continuing support.

ksodo – event’s organiser & 3rd driver

Read about our previous walking weekend in Lake District.

© Cranfield University Walks, 2011 – 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Photos may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to cranfielduniversitywalks – Cranfield University’s walking society at https://cranfielduniversitywalks.wordpress.com/

The Queen joins Cranfield University students on a Lake District trip

Posted on Updated on

A special weekend trip to Lake District took place last weekend 20 to 22 April, organised by Cranfield University walks. Altogether, 13 students of 8 nationalities (Italian, French, Spanish, Greek, English, Iranian, Chinese and Czech), 3 family members, 1 walk leader –  member of staff and Her Majesty The Queen participated!-)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Accommodation was booked at YHA Grasmere – the staff there were so nice and helpful; our group did not miss a delicious dinner on Saturday night in spite of our earlier cancellation and even candles for our walk leader’s birthday cake were found for us in the hostel’s kitchen! -) On Saturday we did a moderate to hard 11 miles walk “The Fairfield Horseshoe from Ambleside“. On Sunday we did a shorter, about 6 miles,  circular walk from Coniston – along the Coniston Water, through woodland, pass enchanting waterfalls, stopping for a picnic lunch by another body of water called “tarn“. Overall, we were lucky with the weather; getting bit wet on Saturday whilst on Sunday the rain caught with us as we set off for our return journey to Cranfield.

Big thank you goes to all Cranfield University staff and students who made this special weekend trip to Lake District possible

  •  Toby, Lecturer from School of Engineering; our walk leader and also driver, and his girlfriend Alison, for taking their time off to spend the weekend with Cranfield University students and for guiding our group through the beautiful Lake District.        
  • Sue and Glenda from Cranfield Students’ Association  for taking bookings, liaising about our accommodation and for providing us with endless streams of helpful advice.
  • Our student drivers Periklis and Asteris: for their flexibility and willingness to wait for participating students who could not leave for the trip as early as planned. From my experience, organising transport for walking society’s activities at Cranfield University is such a nightmare; without our student drivers who are willing to car share this trip (and most of our trips, actually) would not materialize!                            
  •  Our photographers: Belen, Ali, Periklis, Asteris, and many more – thanks to you we now have many amazing photos from this trip that can be viewed via our Photos page.   
  • Lovely Margaret and Dawn from the Community and Development Office  for their continuing support and for coming up with the marvellous idea to take Her Majesty the Queen with us to Lake District!-)


ksodo

20-22 April, Lake District: book your place now

Posted on Updated on

   Special weekend trip organised by Cranfield University walks.

20th-22nd April, 2012 – walking in Lake District,  cost: £60 members, £70 non-members. Cost includes: 2 nights accommodation in YHA hostel Grasmere in Lake District, breakfast and an evening meal.

Only 13 places available.
Book your place now by paying the full amount to Glenda at CSA 1st floor.*           
Get to know UK more –  its amazing scenery, dramatic landscape and beautiful countryside.                                                        

 

Transport: car sharing, 3-4 drivers sought. Journey duration: 3.5 hours one way. Cost of petrol to be shared amongst occupants of each car. Food: For both days of walking you will need to provide yourself with a packed lunch, some high energy food to keep you going throughout the day and at least 1.5 litres of water. Itinerarydepart on Friday afternoon from Cranfield University, return back on Sunday evening. Detailed program will be available nearer to the date of each trip. Guide An experienced walk leader and a former walking club member.

Equipment: please note NO GEAR, NO GO policy for this trip. This includes walking boots (NO other shoes!), waterproofs, warm clothes and a NON-COTTON base layer and NO jeans please!.

Walks: Moderately challenging – Saturday walk about 14 miles. Shorter walk on Sunday morning. Exact program to be confirmed. Example route:                                                                                                                   http://www.stridingedge.net/walks/2004/8%20August/2.8.04.htm

* Please note that the cost of this trip has been  paid for in advance by CSA, to secure our places. Therefore bookings are refundable only in exceptional circumstances. Before a refund will be agreed, you will be asked to find a replacement.