Wednesday, 19 December 2007

Tarp update

Thanks to those who commented on my last post. I've gone back to the oracle - Ray Jardine in Beyond Backpacking. His view is that, whilst he has camped in all weathers using a tarp, a tarp is not a four season shelter. I think, also, some of the problems I experienced earlier this month were of my own making:

  • I didn't gauge the wind direction properly. The tarp was end on to where the wind was coming from and this produced the wind tunnel effect. I should have rotated it 90 degrees and pegged the windward side right down to the ground.
  • Apart from the end guys, the corners of the tarp are most susceptible to wind. As the ground was soft, I should have used more robust pegs which would not have come loose (hopefully).
  • It may not be a good idea to use the tarp and leave it unattended, particularly when the weather is bad. On a normal backpacking trip, as opposed to a "static" weekend, I would usually be close by.
  • It might be be better to use a tent during the worst of the winter. Unfortunately, my only tent is a Khyam Epic which is heavier than lightweight and does not pack down small. It is really a car camping tent.
  • I shall buy a bivy bag, probably the Alpkit Hunka. This should prevent the sleeping bag getting wet.
  • I plan to upgrade the tarp guys to fluorescent yellow (from black) so that I don't have the problem of others on site tripping over them.

Tuesday, 11 December 2007

Backpackers Club Christmas weekend

The weekend with the Backpackers Club was brilliant; I wish I could say the same of the tarp! For anyone who does not know, I have a Golite Cave. I pitched it in the dark and, because rain was expected, I pitched one end and the sides completely down to the ground. The entrance end was at normal height (although, because one end was really low, the entrance was lower than usual), using a trekking pole fully extended. Although the rain kept out, the tarp was too low for reasonable use because:

Condensation formed and, whilst not enough to drip, nevertheless was unpleasant and it came into contact with my new down sleeping bag. The entrance was really too low to comfortably get in and out of the tarp and I tended to pull one of the front guys out whenever I went in or out.
It resulted in insufficient usable space, particularly at the lower end.

Anyway, I survived. In the morning, I adjusted the tarp by increasing the height at the foot end which appeared fine and, as a precaution, I put my down bag in the car which was nearby. I then went off and left it for a few hours. This was a bad move. The weather took a turn for the worse. It was windy and there was blizzarding snow, followed by rain. When I returned, I found that although the main guys at either end were still firmly in place, the two pegs at the foot end had pulled loose in the wet muddy ground and the guy points had lifted off the pegs. The end of the tarp was flapping in the wind and my Thermarest was wet. As the car was there, I packed up and slept very comfortably in it that night.

I’ve used the tarp a lot over the past five years or so but only over the summer months (apart from the Dartmoor trip a month ago when the weather was calm) and so this was my first experience of using the tarp in really inclement conditions. One of my reasons for testing it is to check whether it is likely to be suitable for my LEJOG in May 2009. The jury is definitely out on this at the moment.

More robust pegs at the corners of the tarp are called for, I think (I now use stout plastic T-section ones for the guys at either end and these are very effective). This might have prevented the problem of the flapping end.

Although pegging down to the ground at one end kept the weather out, I would prefer not to do this. Maybe pitching higher at the foot end with hiking umbrella opened up from the inside and secured to the ground would be feasible.

Apart from that, a sheer lack of "cosiness" was evident – the tarp was like a wind tunnel! When it’s really cold and horrible, I can’t see myself looking forward to spending night after night in a wind tunnel (although the LEJOG won’t start until May and it won’t be as cold). However, I’m not giving up yet. I think maybe a bivy bag (perhaps the Alpkit Hunka for £25) would be sensible, for a fraction extra warmth and to prevent the sleeping bag getting wet.

Comments/suggestions from folk would be most welcome. I wonder if anyone uses a tarp all year round in the UK.

A couple of short walks rounded off the weekend - one at 7am on Sunday, down Biggindale some distance and then back along to Dalehead and the other stopping off on the way to Ashbourne and parking the car at Milldale and striking up to head down Hall Dale to the Dove and back to Milldale - both only about three miles each but at least it wasn’t raining.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

A wet weekend coming up

Am I looking forward to the coming weekend? Well, yes and no. It's a Backpackers Club weekend in the Peak District, on the same pitch for two nights. I'm determined to take the tarp, rather than a tent and the forecast is WET. With the Lands End to John O'Groats trip coming up (albeit not until May 2009), I'm keen to put the tarp through its paces. I have to know that it will withstand rough weather. The car will be nearby if it blows away.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Backpackers' Dartmoor weekend

A turnout of around a dozen. The first night's camp was on a site behind the pub where we were scheduled to meet. A good carvery meal and a couple of pints of Courage Best stoked up the fires for the next day's hike. The walk was across the A30 on to Dartmoor via Great Nodden, Nodden Gate and then to a wild camp in a depression just south of a bridleway SSW of Great Links Tor. Three of us stopped there for the night and others went on, presumably to find somewhere better but that's the last we saw of them! Our stop was good enough with a decent water supply nearby. It wasn't that cold but having eaten, we retired to our respective shelters (me to my tarp) around 7.30pm. It was a cloudy evening with no moon so it made sense to get into sleeping bags. It was my new bag's first outing (Mountain Equipment Xero 350). I was impressed with it, certainly warmer than the one it replaced. I think I could still be cold in it on a colder night. One reason may be the fact that I had the tarp open at both ends so inevitably it was going to be affected by this. I think as winter comes I must pitch one end (the foot end) down to the ground. This will certainly keep rain out. I'll also try shoving a fleece top or similar down to the bottom of the bag and wrap my feet in it.

Much of the evening was nicely spent listening to Outdoors Station podcasts (from the CD that came with a recent TGO magazine) covering this year's Challenge across Scotland - well done Podcast Bob (of fame) and Andy Howell. The sound was very good - so much so that I heard a cock crowing in the background and took my earplugs out, thinking that the sound was from outside in the middle of Dartmoor. Next day, I found that one of the others had also been listening and was alarmed to hear the sound of running water which he thought was outside his tent.

Up early next morning after some nine hours sleep (three more than I'm used to) and we set off, past the Bleak House ruin, heading back towards Sourton Tors. I left the others to go down to Meldon Reservoir and back to the pub to leave for home. A really good morning's walk to cap a great weekend.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Beacons day walk

A friend found he had a weekend free of domestic ties so he and I headed for the Brecon Beacons on Saturday for just a day walking. We parked the car in the Blaen-y-Glyn car park at GR550175 and headed up along Craig y Fan Ddu to the junction of paths above Cwm Cwareli and then to Fan y Big, Cribyn and Pen y Fan. Lovely clear views. Down then above and to the west of Upper Neuadd Reservoir and down a very steep rock strewn path to Lower Neuadd Reservoir. The route back to the car park was by the edge of Taf Fechan Forest and then a short stretch of road and by then it was getting dark. An exhilarating day.

New sleeping bag

I've just ordered a Mountain Equipment Xero350 bag - recommended as being lightweight (700g) and warm (down to -5C). I'll be taking it to the Backpackers Club meeting on Dartmoor next weekend and hope it's suitably cold to test it properly. Will report back on this.
It was a choice between this bag and the PHD Minim 400 but, as standard, that comes without a zip but the zip adds £24. Weight wasn't, therefore, a consideration but I got an excellent price on the ME from , 25% off RRP. Can't be bad.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Backpackers Club Wiltshire weekend

The weekend was very good with a turnout of seventeen members. The weather was kind for the time of year, quite warm, especially on Sunday, and no rain. The first night was spent at a farm site in Mildenhall, just outside Marlborough. The walk on Saturday was to the next night's halt at Wilcot, a distance of sixteen miles although not everyone followed the same route. Mine took me to Avebury to see the ancient stone circle. Whilst there, I met someone I used to work with whom I hadn't seen for about 27 years - amazing. The camp that night was adjacent to a pub, the Golden Crown. The available loos left a lot to be desired but the beer was excellent.

The walk back to Mildenhall on Sunday was about eleven miles, starting along the Kennet & Avon Canal. I caught up with a few of the others having a coffee in a pub garden and we then parted company, they to continue along the canal towards the village of Wootton Rivers and me to head away from the canal towards higher ground, passing over Giant's Grave and then dropping down to a green lane eventually leading to Savernake Forest. I then cut through the forest for a couple of miles and then it was only a mile or two back to the farm site of Saturday night. All in all, a good weekend. The next one is in November somewhere on Dartmoor.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Backpackers Club

Having joined the Club earlier this year, I thought I ought to see what their weekend meets are like. I'm planning to go on their Wiltshire meet next weekend, possibly the last camping trip until Spring next year (unless I'm really brave). Will report on the weekend shortly.

Thursday, 20 September 2007


Just returned from a weekend in Calais, filling up the car with wine from my usual place cph (formerly Perardel) Been going to them for some years and they are a very large cut above others, such as Eastenders. That's me stocked up for the next year or so.
I hadn't realised that the coast down from Calais was so attractive.

There seems to be a coast path but the only book covering it (or part of it) is published by Cicerone and that only covers 360km from Mont-Saint-Michel to Morlaix on the north coast. Maybe there's a project to take on some time - explore and research a new book! Just need a few months off work for that. Maybe after I've done my LEJOG in 2009.

Wednesday, 5 September 2007


I've taken delivery of The End to End Trail by Andy Robinson, published by Cicerone . It appears to be well worth having with loads of useful information about planning long distance walks and much specific info about the LEJOG itself, such as strip map routes for areas not covered by existing publications (e.g. between Offa's Dyke and the Pennine Way). His first section was along the North Cornwall Coast Path. Now, because I've walked most of the SWCP before, I wasn't planning to do it again (albeit in the other direction) as I felt that an inland route would be quicker. However, it is such a glorious walk that now I'm wavering. His daily mileage for a two month schedule is greater than I'd envisaged for myself, particularly as the SWCP is hard-going at times. I have in mind the stretch between Bude and Hartland Quay which is a day long series of switchbacks, about ten of them, I think. Still, it's my LEJOG and I'll make my own decision (but maybe not just yet).


Tying good and secure knots is a must-have skill when out on the hills and mine have often been a bit dodgy, to say the least. In particular, I've always had a problem with securing the end "beaks" of my tarp to the supporting poles so thay have become loose in the night and flap around. At the weekend, I put my tarp up in the garden at home and endlessly practiced clove hitches for this and for tent pegs. I also perfected the art of a taut-line hitch for guys and a sheet bend, in the event of ever suffering a damaged corner of the tarp. As the tarp can be used in soft ground where pegs may pull out, I also need to practice attaching the guys to other objects, such as logs, rocks, etc. I ran out of time to do this.

Monday, 27 August 2007


In 2006, I planned to walk the LEJOG in 2007, allowing two months. However, as I started to work out a route, I realised that it was going to take longer, possibly three months. Given that I was probably only going to do it once in my lifetime and that I wanted to make it an enjoyable experience, I wanted to do it properly and not in an unduly rushed way. Therefore, the idea was shelved temporarily.

The walk continued to niggle away and I read various accounts of the walk by others, following Alan Sloman’s blog and Mark Moxon’s ebook and Imsodave’s online diary. A firmer plan was established on 19 August 2007 at the revolving restaurant at Elveden Center Parcs during our wedding anniversary dinner. My wife, Amanda, suggested that I set a time for it but, for various reasons, it can’t be in 2008. I want to avoid school holidays, as it would clash with others at work who have younger children. I want to do it when daylight hours are reasonably long. Amanda, bless her, can cover much of my work after some re-training. This will maintain a source of income.

Therefore, I have decided to start in early May 2009 and allow between 2-3 months.I intend to camp most of the way wherever possible. Wild camping will be easy in out of the way areas but not so in more populated areas, although I have wild camped in some very dodgy places at home and abroad where I have kept my head down until darkness falls and been up at first light to move on. It’s not always very relaxing! So, on returning home on 20 August, I looked out the Caravan & Camping Club sites book (I belong to the Club) to investigate mainly their Certificated Sites. These consist of over 1,250 members’ only sites which are able to take up to five caravans or motorhomes; many also take tents (numbers generally limited to the space available). I’ll assume that all take tents for my purposes. On-site facilities for these range from very basic to not so basic. The sites book also lists the Club’s own sites and non-Club commercial sites. Altogether, there are over 3,500 sites listed. The Caravan Club also has a system of certificated and other sites across the country. I intend to see if their certificated sites take tents as well as caravans, etc. I stayed on one when I was doing the Cumbria Way and I wasn’t required to be a member, but if their certificated sites will take campers then it might be worth joining the Caravan Club for this.The Backpackers Club also has a directory of farm sites, but I have heard that it is non too reliable. I will look into this.

Walking routes from west to east across Cornwall and Devon appear to be thin on the ground. Andrew McCloy’s book, published in 1994, mentioned a Lands End Trail, being then just a draft document. I thought that some 13 years later, this might have come to something but a Google search revealed nothing. Must make further enquiries.

Looking at the Long Distance Path Chart, apart from the SWCP, most trails go from south to north. There’s the Two Castles Trail from Launceston to Okehampton, which may be useful for about 40 miles and the Grand Western Canal path from Tiverton to Taunton. It looks as if much of Cornwall and Devon must be traversed by way of tarmaced roads, albeit quiet ones. I shall have to study the routes that others have taken for inspiration.

I’ve had the Andrew McCloy book for a few years. A look at imsodave contained a link to a Cicerone book, The End to End Trail: Land’s End to John O’Groats on Foot: Walking from Lands End to John O’Groats by Andy Robinson. This is probably worth getting.

I have the Memory Map National Parks edition which I will use to plan the parts of the route that will take me through National Parks. By the time this has been completed, I anticipate that I will upgrade to the complete version covering the whole country.

Thursday, 23 August 2007

Brecon Beacons weekend

Just back today from the second Bloggers' weekend away, this time in the Brecon Beacons. Good to meet up with some familiar faces and some new ones. The weather started off good and then deteriorated overnight on Saturday and was wet into this morning.

I had a pig of a drive to the tiny village of Glyntawe where we were to leave cars. Traffic was bad and somehow, at one point, I took a wrong turn and found myself on the way to Cardiff down the A449. Still, my detour back to the A40 took me through Usk which I hadn't visited for years. I eventually arrived at Glyntawe, found a layby to leave the car, hoping it would still have wheels on two days later (it did).

The directions we'd been given were good although, close to the beginning, finding the way across a rocky stream was a bit tricky as it wasn't clear where to go on the other side but the way emerged the closer I got. Then it was just following a generally distinct path, using the compass at times. On arriving at what I thought was the sheepfold I found nothing but a stream in a dip. However, on exploring around a bit I saw a sign of life up a side "valley" which turned out to be Mick. I negotiated a second rocky stream with slippery footholds and had to divest myself of my map carrier and backpack to cross without getting wet. Mick and Gayle were at the sheepfold and Alan Sloman turned up some ten minutes later. Very enjoyable getting to know some more like-minded folk for the first time.

Ali and Lay arrived a couple of hours later in the dark. We kept ourselves amused before they arrived drinking single malt and watching meteors. No-one else came although we saw some lights. Duncan, Darren and Mike met up with us the following morning along the route.
Mick and Gayle left after breakfast to generally head home and Alan and I set off for the next night's halt. I was keen to find out as much as I could from him about his LEJOG completed a few weeks ago as I am beginning to make plans to do it myself at some time.

The weather was good and we made it early to our camp for the night. Dawn arrived, having been lurking in the Beacons for the past couple of days. I thought my tarp was quite minimalist until I saw some others! Mike's Siltarp was not much more than a figleaf, Darren had to retreat into the corner of his when the weather roughened up in the night and Bob and Rose had to turn theirs around when the wind and rain changed direction in the early hours. I had a small amount of rain come in at one end of mine which could have been avoided if I'd pitched one end a bit lower. Tents are just too heavy to carry.

Next morning, Sunday, it was still raining and everyone headed for home, with the exception of Mike the Chef who intended to make a week of it (he didn't). Alan and I were the last to leave and we sloshed across the moor to a tarmaced road and on down to Glyntawe.
Altogether a successful trip, despite the weather.

Tuesday, 31 July 2007

Back to the beginning

I need to get back to where this blog started and talk a bit about lightweight kit. My first tent for many a year was in 1990 when my wife bought me a Khyam Epic 1 (for a milestone birthday). At that time, I wanted to get back into camping but wasn't then into multi-day hiking. My memory about what my thoughts were then is a bit hazy but it was really a tent for car camping. It was really very good, though, and its selling point as with other Khyams at the time was that it could be put up in twenty seconds. Although that's an exaggeration, it was very ingenious. The poles were jointed and attached to the inner. On taking it out of the bag, it need a shake about and then the joints would be snapped into place and the inner (with integral base) would be pegged down. Then the flysheet would be thrown over it and that pegged down as well. I've only used it once in the last couple of years and the base is beginning to become porous but, with a plastic sheet underneath, I think it will last a while yet.

However, some years ago when I first came across Ray Jardine's book, Beyond Backpacking, and was wanting to do some long distance hiking, I came to realise that my Epic wasn't the right tent for the job - too heavy and not at all the right pack-down size and shape for carrying in a back pack.

Jardine says that to become really lightweight, the three heaviest pack items should be looked at - the pack itself, the shelter and the sleeping bag.

Jardine advocates using a tarp and I ordered his Golite Cave 1 which I've used many times and it's really quite brilliant. With pegs, it weighs 18oz; if I were to invest in titanium pegs, this would cut the weight down. It's also the packed down size of it - about the size of a grapefruit. To start with, I'd rely on picking up sticks towards the end of each day to use as supports at both ends but, as I wasn't always successful in finding any, I eventually invested in a couple of Leki walking poles. I've used these for their intended purpose now and then but primarily they're for keeping the tarp up. It can also be supported by trees if there are any close enough to each other or at one end only to a tree, hedge, fence or gate and a walking pole at the other end.

Apart from weight and size, as it's open at both ends, it's really good to be able to see what's going on outside and to wake up in the morning to an incredible view without having to get out of a sleeping bag and undo a zip is a real pleasure.

It has to be said that the wind can pass through it but if possible it should be erected side on to the wind (unless there's going to be an unmissable view next morning)! The sides can be pegged right down to the ground to keep wind out as well although, weather permitting, it's nice to have the sides elevated from the ground. This also gives more height to the interior.

The tarp appears quite flimsy and can be a sod to put up in the wind and can be a bit noisy in the wind when pitched. Sometimes, if the weather is bad, it can look a peculiar shape if I've put it up in a hurry and it's worth then adjusting it so it's stable and not going to collapse in the night (which has happened occasionally). Usually, though, I get it right and one of my best efforts was in the Lakes this year on a superb pitch above Grasmere. It was a shame to take it down next morning.

So, what are the drawbacks of a tarp? I've heard of problems with condensation but I've only experienced this once. In fact, it's possibly better than a tent in this respect as condensation tends to disappear outside easier than with a tent, which is more enclosed. The guy tapes look extremely thin but are surprisingly strong. I think the key is to make sure that the ridge cord is as tightly stretched as possible by the supporting poles at either end and, as long as the guys from the poles to the ground are also very tight, then it will hold up. This tarp will sleep two with gear inside if necessary but for one the space inside is very good with room to sit up if pitched high enough.

I'm definitely a convert but I'm always looking for ways to lighten my load even more and there are tarps which are lighter in weight - one day, maybe.

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Update on Colin Fletcher

I've received the book The Thousand Mile Summer. Amazingly fast service from a secondhand bookseller in the USA - just £11.00 including carriage. I've started reading it and it's very well written and should be good. However, Mr Fletcher was no ultra-light hiker. His pack weight, not including water, was 55lb 1oz, including fishing equipment. His sleeping bag weighed 5lb 10oz.

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Colin Fletcher

Back in the work harness after a two week break (broken in the middle by one day at work which really wasn't fair but, unfortunately, unavoidable). Awaiting me at home was the double treat of Trail and TGO. TGO carried the sad news of the death of Colin Fletcher last month, aged 85. He was a Welshman who had lived in California for many years. He was a writer and an amazing hiker in his earlier years. His books included The Complete Hiker (three different editions), The Man Who Walked Through Time (an account of a walk through the Grand Canyon – I have this book and will read it again) and A Thousand Mile Summer, a book he wrote in the late fifties being an account of a hike in the High Sierra. It is said that he took the time away in order to decide whether to marry a particular girl. They were married on his return but apparently the marriage didn't last long. On Amazon, this book commands a ridiculous price but I've ordered a second-hand copy on which is much cheaper even including p&p. Trail didn't mention Fletcher at all which, I think, shows up one of the differences between the two magazines, something which I intend to reflect on in a future posting.

Sunday, 24 June 2007

Gone away

I'm now away on holiday for two weeks from 23 June so no point in visiting this blog for the time being. This is not a hiking holiday; there has to be some give and take in married life! It won't be at all bad though - two weeks meandering in a 22 year old VW camper, one week in Norfolk and the second week in Cornwall.

Tuesday, 12 June 2007

Lakes weekend 8-10 June

Had a great weekend based around Grasmere. Just need to get a brief posting up to acknowledge that. Good to meet other like-minded bloggers and would be keen to do something similar again. Someone mentioned the Brecon Beacons.

Sunday, 3 June 2007

Walks done

Just for the record, these are the multi-day hikes I've done:
Pennine Way
Cumbria Way
Cotswold Way
Oxfordshire Way
Peddars Way/North Norfolk Coast Path
South West Coast Path - Minehead to Sidmouth (Sidmouth to Poole left to do)
Wainwright's Coast to Coast
Camino de Santiago (last 200km from Villafranca del Bierzo)
Siena to Rome - the last part of the Via Francigena taking two weeks
So many more to do. These are some that come to mind that I would really like to do:
Pennine Way & Coast to Coast again.
North of England Way (Ravenglass to Scarborough)
West Highland Way
Southern Upland Way
Cape Wrath Trail
Lands End to John o'Groats

Food for thought

An experiment for next weekend in the Lakes. I most definitely am not a vegetarian and like at least a bit of meat with a camp meal. Peperamis are OK - they keep until opened but you can eat just so many. Beef jerky in sealed packs is alright. However, today I went to my local butcher and bought a chunk of smoked dry-cured bacon. He says smoked will keep longer than unsmoked and should be OK in a backpack for a week or so. In his shop, it isn't kept in a fridge; he says the cool atmosphere in the shop suits it well. A bit of this chopped up in a pasta or rice meal should be pretty good. I might also try frying some up for breakfast on the Trangia.

Saturday, 2 June 2007

Ordnance Survey maps

Have taken delivery this week of OL7 The English Lakes South-eastern area in readiness for a long weekend next weekend backpacking and wildcamping with a few others (they know who they are). OS maps are just superb; you know you can trust your life to them and it's usually one's own navigation skills that let the side down. The map came from the Backpackers Club, a great advantage of membership being maps and books at reduced prices and a by return service.
It brought to mind problems when walking abroad. I was thinking of Germany and Italy in particular when, armed with local maps, on each occasion I was following a route which I knew to be right when I came across a house built where the path should be and no sign of a path or a diversion of one which meant retracing steps. This just wouldn't happen over here. I think the Ordnance Survey should offer their services abroad. So many of the "foreign" maps are just a joke.

Sunday, 27 May 2007

Not prevaricating

I recall that my pack on the Pennine Way must have weighed at least 30lb and I'm only 5' 6" or so and weigh 10 stone. It wasn't comfortable either but I had no idea then about going light. There was a young lad we met who was carrying what must have been the original rucksack. It was canvas with a wooden frame and must have been excruciatingly heavy, particularly when wet. He said he was trying to get hiking out of his system and I wonder if he ever did.
After I finished the Pennine Way in 1977, I didn't do much more apart from day walks until 1990 as other things intervened (as they do). In 1990, I took myself off to the Lake District for a week at Keswick Youth Hostel and did day walks from there. I bought the first ever issue of Trail Walker (as it was then called) in Keswick and I've had every issue since, although I think I won't renew after the present year's sub expires. It's not what it was and TGO has more appeal now. But what to do with innumerable Trails? What I'm doing as a long term project with a view to future downsizing house-wise is scanning what I want from the mags with a view to disposal of them. I've already scanned a quantity of The Great Outdoors (as TGO was originally called) as there's some good stuff in them and it seems a shame just to send them for recycling but you can't keep them for ever.
After Keswick, there were similar trips to the Peak District and elsewhere but no multi-day hiking that I recall now.
Some years ago, I bought a Khyam Epic one-man tent which was great and it went up in seconds but probably best for car-camping. I still have it and it's very serviceable but when, a few years ago, I got to thinking about backpacking and cycle camping for a few days I came to realise that it wasn't right - too heavy and the wrong shape and size when packed to carry easily.
I then heard about Ray Jardine and bought his Beyond Backpacking which really opened my eyes to what could be done in the way of lightening up. I don't agree with all of his philosophising and in future entries I go into more detail about base weight and individual items of kit. So, over and out for the moment.

Saturday, 26 May 2007


While I should have been blogging on a Saturday afternoon, I was starting to celebrate the centenary of the birth of John Wayne! Watched True Grit which I'd never seen before. An excellent film. It featured Robert Duvall in a small part. He's been in lots of films but I thought he was superb in Lonesome Dove which was shown on BBC4 a few months ago. A real saga and the book's the best I've read in a long time.

First beginnings

Well, I have to start somewhere. Hiking for me began in the early 1970s when I was living in Bristol as a student. Day walks locally and in the Forest of Dean, mainly with a friend, Tony Martin, led to us doing the Pennine Way over 1975, 1976 and 1977. 1975 was as wet as it could be (waking up one night in the tent, which had been pitched in desperation on a cobblestoned path near Ponden, to find that there was two inches of water inside the tent); 1976 was the drought year and 1977 was hot and dry as well.

I lost touch with Tony many years ago. He came from somewhere in the Forest of Dean. if anyone knows of him then I'd welcome some news.

The backpack I used then came from an Army Surplus store in Bristol. There wasn't much choice then and lots of people had these. I still have it. Could I sell it on Ebay? Not very comfortable and the sleeping bag was stored in a black plastic bag on the outside at the base. My stove was a bog-standard Camping Gaz, I wore denim jeans, a woollen jumper and Tuf work boots. Still, it was all an unforgettable experience.

I'll leave it there for the moment. The layout and design will change as I discover more of the world of blogging so please bear with me.