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Hi! My name is Pete Collins. I live in the village of Kensworth, near Dunstable in Bedfordshire, on the edge of the Chiltern Hills.
I was born here in Kensworth in 1957. I went to the village primary school and then to Dunstable Grammar School (it became Manshead Upper School while I was there). I left Kensworth at the age of 18 to study at Hatfield Polytechnic (now The University of Hertfordshire), where I graduated with a BSc in Computer Science.
I worked in the IT industry for over 20 years, as a programmer at first but latterly as a software tester. For most of the time I was contractor, working on short-term contracts for various companies. I worked in The Netherlands three times, in Sweden and briefly in California, but mainly here in the UK. I worked in Abingdon, Liverpool and Welwyn Garden City, and spent the last eleven years of my career in Ipswich. I retired at the end of 2002.
I have always loved walking, especially mountain walking and long-distance footpaths. When I was a child, my parents would take my brothers and I up north every summer where we would go on family walks in the Lake District or in the Howgill Fells (my mother was evacuated to that area from Liverpool during World War II). At home in Kensworth, when I wasn't playing football or cricket with my brothers and friends, I loved to walk the local lanes and footpaths.
When I was 18 or 19, some friends and I walked the Pennine Way (from Edale in Derbyshire to Kirk Yetholm, just over the Scottish border). This had been an ambition of mine for some years. We were extremely lucky, as we did it in August 1976 at the height of the 'Great drought'. There hadn't been any rain for three months, so all the muddy and marshy bits had dried out and we walked on lovely springy turf all the way! We stayed in Youth Hostels (with one night in a hotel as a treat) and completed the walk in two weeks. The following year, we walked the Coast-to-Coast path, which Alfred Wainwright had only created a few years earlier (we found out about it while staying at Keld Youth Hostel on the Pennine Way - Keld is where the two paths cross, and we got talking to someone in the hostel who was walking the Coast-to-Coast). Whereas the Pennine Way was a real hard physical slog, even in the ideal conditions, on the Coast-to-Coast we had more time to enjoy the scenery (we again did it in two weeks, but it was 70 or so miles shorter than the Pennine Way). The scenery was much more varied too, as we crossed the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors, so although the Pennine Way was the greater challenge, the Coast-to-Coast was the more enjoyable walk.
On the summit of Torrecilla in the Sierra de las Nieves, Southern Spain, October 2002. For some reason, this summit was covered in hundreds of ladybirds! The white 'cloud' on the horizon is snow on the Sierra Nevada mountains.
Sadly, for some unfathomable reason all my friends married girls who weren't interested in walking, and so they could no longer go walking with me. Bemused, I was left to go on walking holidays by myself, usually to the Lake District which I have got to know fairly well over the years. For many years I would stay at the wonderful Highfield House hotel in Hawkshead, which is now sadly closed. In 1993, I went on my first organised walking holiday abroad, a two-week tour in the French Pyrenees. I had been putting off going on group holidays for years, worrying how I would fit in with a group of strangers, but I found that I really enjoyed it. The following year I walked in the Tatra mountains in Poland and Slovakia (the holiday also included sight-seeing in Krakow and Prague). Since then I have been on mountain walking holidays in Spain (three or four times, and I want to go back), the Dolomites in Italy, the Swiss Alps, Austria and Turkey. For the last 10 years that I was working, I generally tried to have a holiday walking in the Lake District and another walking somewhere abroad.
Since retiring at the end of 2002, I have temporarily cut back on the foreign holidays. I've been to the Lake District a few times, either by myself or with a friend (at last, I've found one who's not daft enough to marry a woman who won't let him go walking!). I've also been on organised group holidays to walk long-distance paths such as the Dales Way and the Cumbria Way. But I've hardly needed a holiday, as retirement is just one long holiday anyway. I have really enjoyed myself, doing long walks at least two or three times a week, first near Ipswich and now back in Kensworth.
Apart from walking, my other hobbies include bird-watching (hence the many references to birds, especially Red Kites, in my journals), crossword-puzzles, logic problems of all sorts (I'm addicted to Suduko and Kakuro), reading (I particular like the classic nineteenth century authors, especially Jane Austen, and also books on history), and drawing (although I've not done so much recently). I enjoy listening to music - either classical (I usually tune in to Classic FM when I'm driving) or else someone like Richard Thompson, Gillian Welch or the Be Good Tanyas. I support Luton Town Football Club (someone has to!) although I've not been to a match for many years (I have seen them play in all four divisions, though). My idea of a good night out is a few pints of real ale and a decent curry with a handful of good friends.
A very rare photograph of the shy and elusive Lesser-spotted long-legged Hiker (Latin name: ploddingus peterus). Do not be alarmed if you come across this strange and ungainly creature, it is generally thought to be harmless (unless seriously provoked!). Its usual habitat is the chalk hills of the Chilterns in southern England, though it sometimes moves north into the Vale of Aylesbury or east into Hertfordshire. A few reported sightings indicate that it may briefly migrate to Yorkshire or the Lake District. Its diet consists mainly of Alpen snack bars and Corned beef and Branston pickle sandwiches. It is often heard muttering to itself, although its vocabulary is largely restricted to 'Red Kites!' and 'Mud!' - the latter is thought to be a reference to ground conditions, rather than the popular beat combo of the 1970's. (Thanks to my friend Stu for taking the photo - the canal bridge at Linslade is where I started both the Greensand Ridge Walk and the Two Ridges Link).
Update 13/06/15: Another sighting of the elusive Lesser-spotted long-legged Hiker! I glimpsed it in a roadside mirror I passed in Stonor - I turned round and it had vanished!