Tuesday, 23 December 2008


The LEJOG route planning is coming on well. From Land's End to Hebden Bridge is now plotted on the map - probably about a third of the way. On the map, I've just joined the Pennine Way. This now has to be broken down into days after identifying likely stops at the end of each day. Using the Anquet mapping is fun and by using it more and more, I'm getting the hang of its various features.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008


I'm now route planning in earnest. So as not to monopolise the main PC in the house, I've resurrected a laptop I've had for some years and not used much. It needed a new power cable and this has now arrived by post after the first one I ordered had to be returned as it wasn't compatible - my fault; I never realised there were so many different types. My laptop is quite obsolete and the firm that sold it to me, Evesham Technology, is no longer trading, I found. Anyway, full marks to http://clonesuk.com/

I've just about got to grips with the Anquet mapping software and I'm really enjoying plotting the route. I've got as far as Taunton but there will be lots of tweaks to make in order to take in campsites, village shops/post offices and payphones (for uploading to this blog).

Monday, 8 December 2008

Backpackers Club Christmas weekend

Each year, this is held at Biggin, several miles north of Ashbourne in the Peak District. Members camp at a farm site some 200 yards up the road from the village hall where we get together on and off during the day and for the Saturday evening and Sunday morning. Numbers attending were down this year compared to 2007 for some reason.

A little snow had already fallen and it was quite cold. I brought my tent this time, a Wild Country Sololite, after the bad time I had last year with my tarp (see http://litehikersblog.blogspot.com/2007/12/backpackers-club-christmas-weekend.html It took only a few minutes to put up.

On Saturday, a few of us took a walk down Biggin Dale, up Wolfcote Dale and then across some fields. over to Hartington.

We had a pint and lunch at the Devonshire Arms next to a fire. It was a wrench to leave for the walk back. The weather was clear, crisp and cold - a perfect day but it was going to be cold on Saturday night.

During the past week, I'd been thinking that wearing longjohns during the cold nights camping mightn't be a bad thing. I'd never worn them before and looked in my local Co-op. They had them but not in my size at £14.99 (for two pairs). M&S have them so I stopped off in Stratford-upon-Avon on the way up to the Peak District. I never got to M&S, however. Stratford market had them at £3.00, a very tasteful dark grey. Sorted. I put them on on Friday night and they stayed on all weekend. The pack recommended that they be washed before wearing which obviously was not feasible. However, this would have made sense as my legs were a grubby looking grey when I got home. I'm now a definite convert to longjohns but no photos available.

The temperature on Saturday night dipped to minus 3°C and I kept very warm but the tent looked like this when I emerged in the morning.

It was good to meet up with others, some of whom we hadn't seen since the last pre-Christmas do.

Thursday, 4 December 2008


Serious route planning is now underway. I've recently taken delivery of an Anquet DVD covering the whole of Great Britain, having got a really good deal on it through the Backpackers Club. It was a toss up between Anquet and Memory Map and price was the deciding factor.

Frankly, the help files with Anquet are not that brilliant. It would have been nice to have had a few straightforward worked examples but, with some telephone and email help from a friend, Gayle, and lots of trial and error (including losing a few hours work of positioning locations of camp sites), I think I'm making progress.

I've plotted on the map my first three days walking, covering 5-7 April 2009 from Lands End to Point, near Devoran, south of Truro. I've got alternative first day routes as I've not decided yet whether to head for Penzance or keep north of Penzance as I'd like to visit Chysauster, an ancient Iron Age village. There's no real reason why I need make a decision about this until I start the walk as I'll aim to camp wherever I happen to be at the end of each day.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Backpackers Quantocks weekend

Two nights in west Somerset, left of Taunton, both on sites. Our first night was at Quantock Orchard park at Flaxpool. I arrived in good time to pitch before it got dark. Deciding on an early evening meal, my first task was to clean the hard green stuff out of my pan from my last breadmaking session in October. I really must remember to wash up stuff when I get home from a trip (if not before).

The forecast for the weekend was wet and windy. There was some rain on Friday night. Saturday was a perfect day for walking with not a drop of rain. We walked up on to the Quantock ridge and headed for the coast, turning off the ridge to go down Smith's Combe with views of Hinckley Point power station.

We saw a herd of wild deer on the way and called in for an excellent pint of Exmoor at the Plough Inn at Holford.

Saturday night was according to the forecast and very wet and very windy. I'd decided to use the tarp this weekend and it didn't let me down. Well pegged at each corner and, to cut down the draft coming in from the windward end, an umbrella. The evening was spent listening to last week's Bob Harris Show and reading a printout of an email discussion about my favourite ever cinema production Heimat. The evening went all too quickly and the weather discouraged the three-quarter mile trek to the pub.

Sunday morning was a bit on the chill side but the rain had stopped. We walked up Holford Combe up to the ridge again and headed back to Quantock Orchard, the only daytime rain of the weekend catching us half an hour from the end. Never be discouraged by a weather forecast!

Tuesday, 28 October 2008


A quite momentous decision has been made and acted on. I've been faffing around for ages being unable to decide whether to buy the paper Landranger maps for the route I want to do or go down the digital route. I've already got quite a few of the maps for the southern half of England and Memory Map National Parks edition. On the advice of others, I've gone for the digital option and, on price, have ordered the Anquet DVD for the whole of Great Britain. This was with a hefty 29% discount through the Backpackers Club. It should arrive in the next few days and then I can really start plotting my route. There are pros and cons of the two options of paper and digital but I think I've made the right decision. Once my route is complete I'll post it on line.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Backpackers' Ridgeway weekend

The weather forecast was almost right. Relying on it, I didn't take waterproofs in order to keep my packweight down. Foolhardy or what? My pack this trip was a Golite Breeze and the only concession I made to bad weather was a Golite Wisp windshirt. There were just two passing showers on Saturday morning. My packweight (including a tent weighing just over 4lb) excluding food and water was just over 12lb which was good, but why does food seem so heavy? The Golide Stride shorts were good, despite the ribald comments from one or two others.

There were maybe fifteen or so of us but I wanted to get in a bit of LEJOG training so went off on my own on Saturday after breakfast to head for that night's camp. I was wearing trainers for lightness and did nineteen miles without too much effort. It was easy walking, a few miles along The Ridgeway, passing by others on foot, bike and horseback. At one point I found a welcome water tap, labelled as drinking water. There was a plaque next to it, marking the death some years ago of a boy aged 14. Once I left The Ridgeway there was just no-one.

Although it's not far from home, it's not an area I know that well and the views were great, even of Didcot power station in the distance.

Lambourn was a little disappointing in some ways. It's said to be the second most important place in England for racehorses (after Newmarket) and there were plenty around. However, the centre of the town/village itself was a bit down market. We only found one pub to go to that evening and it was OK but no more than that.

The area generally is full of ancient burial mounds and barrows and, in particular, the Uffington White Horse. This can only really be appreciated from above.

On Sunday, most of us set out together to walk back to where we'd left our cars at Saturday's camp. A good weekend.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Bread on the trail

This is something I tried over the last weekend and it worked really well. I brought with me two plastic bags each with a pre-prepared mix of:
  • 3 tbs SR flour
  • 1 tbs milk powder (Plus Pints)
  • a pinch of salt
  • a handful each of raisins, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

I also had a little olive oil and some pear & apple spread.

At camp, using the frying pan of my Mini Trangia, I heated the olive oil. I added a little water to one of the mixes in another pan (I tried using the bag to do the mixing in but it wasn't very easy). Add only a tiny bit at a time so that it doesn't get too gooey. It's easy to add a bit; it's impossible to take it out!

I then moulded it out flat to about four or so inches across and put it in the pan, turning it after 30 seconds or so to take up some oil on the other side. After maybe four or five minutes each side on a medium heat it was done. If it sounds hollow when tapped it should be ready. With the spread on top this made a superb breakfast washed down with fresh coffee (using a coffee bag). Yum. I shall be doing this again.

Thursday, 2 October 2008


A purchase I made recently was a new pair of hiking shorts. The ones I've gone for are the Golite Stride. http://www.golite.com/Product/ProductByCategory.aspx?mc=2&s=1 They were in a sale for £19.99. I was particularly wanting some that wouldn't chafe the sensitive areas and would dry quickly after rain. I haven't worn them yet and they certainly aren't for wearing around town where I'm known! They are black Lycra (or Spandex) and they are so tight around the thighs and positively leave nothing to the imagination around those sensitive areas. It's as if they've been painted on me. I think I'll reserve them for use in remote parts of the country. But they only weigh four ounces!!

Dr Bronner

I've noticed that US ultralightweight hikers include Dr Bronner's soap http://www.drbronner.com/DBMS/PEP.htm on their kit lists. e.g. http://francistapon.com/ and I also saw mention of it on Chris Cowell's blog at http://www.thecowellfamily.com/hikewales/ I investigated it on the internet and, as always, there was a high-ish carriage charge. A bit of lateral thinking sent me hotfoot to my local health store and, lo and behold, they stock it in various "flavours". As most hikers probably do, I bought the peppermint. At £4.95 for a 213ml bottle, it's good value, I think, as it's very concentrated and the label makes fascinating reading - lots of snippets in very small print. The soap can be used for endless things - washing self, clothes, fruit/veg; it is also effective in place of shaving gel or oil (I've even tried a wet shave with cold water and it's great) and can also be used as a toothpaste and deodorant! All in all, it's cut my pack weight by up to ten ounces for, say a trip of a week or two. Brilliant!
Update: My health food store tells me they can supply a one litre bottle for £11.99 which seems remarkably good value and is something I shall get in readiness for my LEJOG next year. It will be decanted into tiny bottles and included in resupply parcles.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Monday 15th September - Lindisfarne to home

Up with the lark and a walk of three or so miles to the A1 at West Mains to catch the bus into Berwick.

We parted company with Howard as he was booked on a later train. Most days on this trip have some sort of highlight, howver mundane. Today's was at Darlington station where we pulled in and the doors didn't open for some fifteen minutes. Two British Transport Police were then seen running on to the platform. Clearly, someone was being prevented from leaving the train. Did we have a violent criminal or, perhaps, even an escaped prisoner in our midst? The mystery was solved at the end of our carriage when a man was escorted from the train, followed by a broadcast apology for the delay apparently caused by a disruptive passenger. One possible result of this delay is that Frank may have missed his connecting train at Derby.

From Berwick down to York and beyond, the countryside all around seemed so bland in comparison to that we have passed through in the last two weeks; flat fields of harvested crops, quite unremittingly boring. Still, at least these farmers have managed to get their crops in.

As seen from the train, York has its own "London Eye".

At Sheffield, we were warned not to be alarmed. Due to work on a tunnel we were to be re-routed which would involve the train going backwards for a distance. This was actually for quite a distance, quite a number of miles. I'm not sure how far we went back along the line we'd just travelled but, I have to admit being a teensy bit concerned that we might find the next express train south bearing down on us.

[Memo to self: when the next stop past Sheffield is Chesterfield and the train reverses out of Sheffield station, how does it find itself in Chesterfield station, continuing to go backwards to the next stop, Derby?]

The journey home allowed time for one or two reflections which weren't recorded at the time. At first, when walking, I thought that Howard had a strange penchant for sniffing his left armpit from time to time until I discovered that he was lighting a cigarette out of the wind. His retort was that he wouldn't need to get his nose that close to catch the aroma.

Frank wins the prize for embarrassing behaviour. At the village shop at Eskdale Green in the Lake District, Howard and I professed not to know him when he did his bit to support a local business by the purchase of one carrot and one tomato for the princely sum of 17p.

The unpleasant feeling of pulling on wet socks and putting them into wet boots.

Allow us to help those in need, sell back your spare PocketMail and make some extra pocket money.

Sunday 14th September - St. Cuthbert's Cave to Lindisfarne

We spent a peaceful night immediately in front of the cave. None of us know anything about St. Cuthbert or the reason why the Way bears his name. This morning the woodland surrounding us was full of noisy wildlife and a mist hung around for much of the morning. The rain of last weekend is now just a memory. It's been dull and cloudy here all day but dry.

We passed through pleasant countryside towards the coast. It was mainly flat all the way with just one or two hills.

The A1 was very busy and it took a while to cross it. Immediately on the far side, parked, was a 1968 Bedford bus, possible a 16 seater, of the sort one sees in places such as India covered with decorations. This one was advertising some luxury holday apartments and was being used as the support vehicle for a party of a dozen or so walking from Holy Island to Hexham in aid of British Heart Foundation. Howard whipped his camera out and as I joked that the driver would want a donation, a collection box was waved from the window.

We crossed the main line railway (very carefully, in view of the notice warning of 100mph trains) and arrived at the coast at Beal Sands, just south of the causeway to Holy Island. There was a stream of cars coming off the island before the tide came in to cover the causeway.

It was then a level walk north hugging the coastline until we reached Beachcomber Campsite and our journey's end. This is a nice little site with a shop selling a few basics and decent shower facilities.

Allow us to help those in need, sell back your spare PocketMail and make some extra pocket money.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Saturday 13th September - Wooler to St Cuthbert's Cave

Yesterday evening was very civilised. Just behind the Black Bull, along a passageway, is the Milan, an excellent Italian restaurant. A very unprepossessing location but quite a gem. Neither the food nor the service could be faulted (although Howard wasn't over impressed with his canneloni) and the prices were reasonable. It is possibly the best place to eat in Wooler. We didn't actually see anywhere else.

Not a lot to say about today. We visited various shops in the high street as lunches for two days were needed. I regret to say that standards appear to be slipping. Normally, we would stop for elevenses a few miles along the way. Today, elevenses was a bacon roll and coffee in a cafe in Wooler! It was good to be seen supporting a local business.

Once again, we saw no other walkers. Also again, our route towards the coast was along tracks and narrow roads. The entire route today was along part of St. Cuthbert's Way which links Melrose and Holy Island (Lindisfarne). Frank walked this on his own last year.

The countryside is really opening out as we approach the coast; many arable fields and becoming somewhat less hilly, although still far from flat. What we are also seeing, due to the recent wet weather, are fields of barley which have not been harvested and are turning brown.

For others walking this stretch from Wooler, there is no water to be had, at least as far as St. Cuthbert's Cave (and probably further). Consequently, today is the first day that we've had to carry water all day to last us this evening, tomorrow morning and, possibly, the rest of the way to Beachcomber House camp site and our journey's end (about seven miles). Still, at least there is a "blogspot" on the way at the hamlet of Fenwick (assuming it's working).

Wild camps are possible at and in the vicinity of St. Cuthbert's Cave for those who wish to take two days to reach the coast from Wooler.

Allow us to help those in need, sell back your spare PocketMail and make some extra pocket money.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Friday 12th September - Ingram to Wooler

Another short day today, about eight miles. No rain so just about right. It was all tracks and tarmaced single track roads all the way so very easy.

Today's highlight was coming to a vehicle which had passed us a little earlier. There were so few vehicles that we tended to remember them. It had stopped at the approach to a forded fast flowing stream. A marker post showed the depth of water to be one foot. They were out of their vehicle debating what to do. It was a Honda CR-V, a four wheel drive. After a while, they were obliged to move as a car was coming the other way. A woman driving a BMW came ploughing through unscathed - too fast, but she was lucky not to flood her engine. The Honda then went through, although one of its passengers preferred to use the footbridge, as we did. Another car subsequently approached the ford but turned back.

We arrived at Wooler at about 2pm. Unusually for him, Howard was in greater need of food than drink so went in search of a cafe. Frank and I repaired to The Angel, one of the several pubs in the town. He said he'd been there last year when walking the St. Cuthbert's Way and that the beer had been good. That much was true but the pub itself was a dive, empty but for us and the staff who were well suited to the place. Definitely not a pub we would care to go to in the evening if we wanted to get out of in one piece.

We're on the Highburn House camping park which seems very good with the opportunity for the first hot shower since Bellingham (Tuesday).

The last backpackers we saw were last Sunday, just before Stonehaugh. Northumberland is so sparsely populated and neglected by tourists and visitors. It has so much to offer but somehow loses out to areas like the Lake District and Yorkshire Dales.

I am referred to as the "resident scribe" on this trip. Payphones, from where I send postings to this blog, are "blogspots". Unfortunately, my mobile won't work with the Pocketmail, which has a pod that is clamped over the earpiece of a phone and another part which is held over the mouthpiece. My mobile doesn't appear to have a mouthpiece so the Pocketmail is not detected. Two payphones haven't detected it either for some reason. Yesterday, two payphones were out of order. Generally though, this is a brilliant device.

This evening, we're eating out and fancy an Italian restaurant we saw as we passed through Wooler earlier. We have two nights left; tomorrow will be a wild camp somewhere and Sunday will be on a site on the coast at Beal but with no facilities nearby.

We've been walking for two weeks. I remarked today that this way of life has become our world and it seems perfectly natural now to get up each morning, walk all day, set up camp, cook (usually) and then do the same day after day.

Tell your friend about PocketMail and let the savings start rolling in!

Thursday 11th September - Clennell to Ingram

I've found in the past that, in the south of England, a place that calls itself something "Hall Hotel" will generally be quite posh. In the north it tends to be different. Last night was no exception. We ate in the bar, a good enough meal (I started with nachos covered with melted cheese and salsa, followed by chicken tikka masala) but it was more of a pub menu, although none the worse for that. There was a large flat screen TV and a pool table in the bar as well. Still, we were very grateful for the pitch so Clennell Hall Hotel gets full marks.

On returning to camp afterwards, I found that some species of wildlife had made off with a fruit scone in a plastic bag I'd been particularly looking forward to - only the remains were there to be seen. Still, my fault for being careless.

Today has been a short one, only about nine miles. Perfect walking weather - occasional sunshine and a breeze - some road walking but single track roads where half an hour goes by before a car appears. When we were not on roads, it was on good paths and tracks.

For the first few miles it was rather like being on the edge of a warzone. We were not far from the Otterburn Firing Range and there was artillery fire going on perhaps three miles or so away.

The highlight of the day was an encounter with some cyclists. We were told that there were four of them but we only saw three. First, we came across a single cyclist, bike laden with panniers. He was from Essex and was on a tour from Newcastle to Eyemouth. He seemed relatively normal. His bike was interesting - a Maclean (a make we'd never heard of) dating from the 1950s, which he'd had from new.

Some time later two of his companions came up behind us. One spoke with a very strong Welsh accent and flew a red dragon flag from his handlebar bag; he told us he was from Wales. He was quite odd, the more so as he was dressed in fluorescent green from head to waist (with matching wraparound sunglasses) and black tights. The other was totally different, wearing collar and tie, grey flannel trousers and black lace up shoes, as if he was off for a day at thie office. His bike seemed to be falling apart and his front panniers fell off when his bike was stationary.
The fourth cyclist didn't show at all. We can only assume he took a wrong turning somewhere, perhaps disappearing up his inner tube.

"Doing what mobile bloggers do - uploading the previous day's posting to this blog at a "blogspot""

Today has been yet another day when we've seen no other walkers.

There is a National Park Centre at Ingram. A notice in the door says it is closed until further notice. When open, toilets are available. There is an outside water tap.

"At the end of the day, caught blogging"

Howard is possibly a little further along the road to acquiring a food dehydrator. Being short of a meal, I donated a home made beef curry which seemed to go down quite well.

Allow us to help those in need, sell back your spare PocketMail and make some extra pocket money.

Thursday, 11 September 2008

Tuesday 9th September - Bellingham to wild pitch north of Elsdon

It rained heavily last evening. We optimistically thought that it might be today's forecast heavy rain come early. It was not to be. However, although it rained most of the day, it wasn't particularly heavy.

We stopped for mid-morning coffee at the Bay Tree Inn at West Woodburn. The rest of the way was generally pleasant but unremarkable. The views would have been better if it hadn't been misty. Lots of sheep and cattle; sparsely populated farming country.

The high spot of the day was as we left Bellingham. There, we stopped to talk to the drivers/passengers of a couple of 1920s Frazer Nashes on a tour of Northumberland.

We liked Elsdon, a village with an amazingly large village green, bisected here and there by roads going in all directions and some very attractive cottages.

Very few vehicles on the narrow lanes that formed part of our route and no other walkers.

We found public loos attached to the village hall which provided us with water before we found our wild camp on Landshott Hill.

My camera has got damp inside and any photos I take give the impression that it's foggy here which it isn't. I may need to rely on the others for photos of this part of the walk , although they are not taking many.

For my LEJOG next year, I had planned to get another pair of Scarpa fabric boots. However, although they have been very comfortable, they are letting in water, despite being Gore-tex lined. I can accept wet feet when water goes over the gusset but this hasn't happened today and I still have had wet feet. Frank and Howard both wear leather boots made by Alt-Berg, a British firm, despite the name. The gusset is higher and their feet have remained dry, not just today but throughout this walk.

My new waterproof, the Mountain Equipment Ogre, is very good so far. It's a good length, not too short. Temperature permitting, I prefer to wear just a T-shirt beneath it. Its breathability seems excellent and the hood is good, always moving with the head; the wired peak is also good, generally keeping rain off my glasses, which has always been a problem with other waterproofs.

The Rab Bergen overtrousers are good as well (I think). The first day I wore them in heavy rain, my trousers underneath seemed quite wet but they've been fine today. I've snagged them, probably on barbed wire. Nothing serious though and I can do a repair when I get home.

This is proving to be a long posting but it's only 7.40pm, I've eaten and it's raining hard and is very blustery. I'm listening to Classic FM. Frank and Howard are in their tents (I assume), although the noise of the wind would make holding a conversation impossible. I think the weather will improve tomorrow. The weather forecast even mentioned sunshine.

The tarp should hold tonight with the new pegs holding the corners down.

Allow us to help those in need, sell back your spare PocketMail and make some extra pocket money.

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Wednesday 10th September - NE of Elsdon to Clennell

Our very early night last night was interrupted somewhat by our being discovered by a herd of inquisitive cows. They nosed around for about fifteen minutes or so before accepting our presence on their patch and moving away. It was possibly an advantage that we were pitched quite close together which meant that they weren't tempted to wander between us.

It was quite a rough night but the tarp stood up well, although I went out at about 11pm to tighten everything up. With a tarp, I've found that it's essential to have the ridge line as taut as possible.

We mad an earlier than usual start at about 8.30 and made our way through Harwood Forest, quite a large area of conifer woodland. Although there was a footpath marked on the map, it rarely followed the line of the firebreaks. Instead, it weaved its way through the densely planted trees which would not have been easy to navigate. Therefore, with Howard and Frank's 1:25000 maps and superior skills of navigation, we covered the two miles or so until we emerged on to a cinder track which led us a further couple of miles through and out of the forest.

From there, we headed across moorland, eventually reaching and passing through the villages of Hepple, Sharperton, Harbottle (where the pub was shut) and Alwinton, beyond which is Clennell, which consists only of a caravan park and an hotel. The park's web site is out of date; it no longer takes campers and no amount of sweet-talking would sway them. The park wardens were none too bright and were slavishly following orders from the owner. We filled up our water containers without asking and went next door to the Clennell Hall Hotel. I went into the bar and asked if they could help three tired walkers and my innate charm and hang-dog expression resulted in permission to camp in a paddock in front of the hotel. No charge but, of course, they'd appreciate our custom in the bar this evening.

A few times it threatened to rain today but only a few spots fell now and then. The expected sun didn't appear but you can't have everything. Along the way today, we've seen the flattened grass and detritus, evidence of the level that the rivers rose over the weekend.


Monday, 8 September 2008

Monday 8th September - Stonehaugh to Bellingham

We spent part of last evening at the Stonehaugh Social Club, a wooden building dating from 1954, serving mainly the village but also open to campsite visitors. The "landlady", Moira told us about village life and I bought a booklet, "Stonehaugh - a forest village", written and produced to raise funds for a new village hall. This is in course of being built, a Finnish wooden eco building and ultra modern in how it will be heated and powered.

The village (and two others) were established in 1952 to house forestry workers but advanced production methods and mechanisation meant that fewer workers were required. Other residents moved in. The village is not for everyone - the only facility is the Social Club.

Saturday night at the Club was the annual leek competition and charity auction, one of the key events of the year. A fascinating and strange community.

The campsite at Stonehaugh is highly recommended. It's only a short way off the Pennine Way and ideal for those who can't face the final push to Bellingham.

Today was the first day for a week or so when we knew it wasn't going to rain. There was still a lot of water underfoot though.

We followed the Pennine Way up to Bellingham, a very uneventful seven miles or so. It was a short day as planned and we checked in at the Camping & Caravan Club site, Brown Rigg and also collected our resupply parcels which had been sent the week before last. Today we've had relatively light packs; tomorrow they'll be some 3kg heavier - most food for six days and, for me, 500ml of meths as well.

Worth mentioning here is my use of meths. I use a Mini Trangia and, hitherto, a 500ml bottle seemed to last no more than about three days. This trip I've left the Trangia burner at home and have been using a Varga Triad stove with the Trangia. It only weighs 1oz, a saving of 3oz. More to the point though, a 500ml bottle of meths has lasted ten days. That's ten cups of water boiled each morning and heating ten main courses and heating water for mash, spaghetti, etc., to go with it.

We've been into Bellingham and had pots of tea and bacon & egg rolls. I gave into temptation and had a knickerbocker glory.

Now it's hot showers and a bit of home cooked rehydrated food a bit later. The dehydrator has been a great success. Despite his denials, Howard looks as if he might get one soon as the food that Frank and I are eating is possibly more appetising than what he has been eating. He's not so likely to become a mobile blogger though!

Allow us to help those in need, sell back your spare PocketMail and make some extra pocket money.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Sunday 7th September - Once Brewed to Stonehaugh Campsite

Morning - there are 100 flood warnings across the country today; seven are severe and they are all in the north east! It's still raining here intermittently and more is forecast for today but the worst seems to be over. There will be a lot of waterlogged ground. However, we start with everything dry which lifts the spirits.

I started off wearing a T-shirt but within 200 yards it started to rain but, fortunately, today's rain was bearable. Showers, heavy at times, came and went and we even had some sunny spells.

We followed the Pennine Way towards Bellingham, following a short stretch of Hadrian's Wall. It was very wet underfoot;lots of leaping over waterlogged and boggy patches. In places where stone slabs had been laid over well used stretches, the slabs were up to six inches under water.

Instead of having a day off in Bellingham tomorrow, we have decided to have two short days. We're at the Stonehaugh site in Wark Forest. We arrived at about 3pm. The site is officially closed temporarily as it is too wet for vehicles but the warden said those magic words that all hikers like to hear, "I never turn backpackers away."

We've been given a key to the loo block and the only sounds are from a rushing stream and a wind turbine next to the loo block. We have the site to ourselves. The approach to the site is most unprepossessing. It's through a timber yard and then through a small housing development, presumable built originally to house forestry workers maybe in the 1950s. It's an odd sight in such an isolated spot.

We saw a few other walkers today, two doing the Pennine Way from north to south. It makes a change from the last few days when we've seen virtually no-one.

Tea is being drunk; we'll "eat in" later as there isn't much else to do although I understand there's a social club open at weekends, presumably serving both the site and the nearby residents. Howard has been told they sell cheap beer.

Everything is looking a lot more positive than yesterday morning. I have wet boots and wet feet again but everything else is dry and IT'S NOT RAINING.

Allow us to help those in need, sell back your spare PocketMail and make some extra pocket money.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Saturday 6th September - Sinderhope to Once Brewed YH

The rain and wind continued throughout the night and on into today. Moving up from the riverbank yesterday evening was definitely a good move - I'm sure that the spot where we had pitched would have been under water within a couple of hours.

We were lucky to find the place we did - there was nowhere else. I slept well but woke a couple of times to find a corner of the tarp had come adrift and was flapping in the wind. I then wished I'd brought a bivy bag as the end of my sleeping bag is a bit wet (along with everything else).

We road-walked up to Allendale Town where we found an excellent cafe with bacon baps and tea. We discussed the onward route to Hexham - about ten miles. There were two or so moorland routes but we decided to catch a bus as the weather is so awful. We are now whiling away the hour before the bus in a pub with a blazing fire.

We have a free day tomorrow. I'm hoping that the youth hostel at Acomb, just north of Hexham is still open. If it is, I'll aim to stay two nights to dry out. I also need to find an outdoor shop to get some more robust tent pegs.

Later - we arrived in Hexham. The TIC told me there's no longer a YH at Acomb and they ascertained that the campsite at Fallowfield, north of Hexham, is closed due to the weather. A swift decision was made. We caught a bus to the YH at Once Brewed. We were allowed in at 2.30 to leave our packs and then repaired to the Twice Brewed Inn just down the road to return at 4pm to book in. As Howard said, any fool can be uncomfortable. Very true. We then hung all our stuff in the excellent drying room. We'll eat out tonight.

This morning I'd planned on returning home as things seemed so dismal. With dry kit and better pegs for the tarp, the world looks rosier although the forecast is for more rain tomorrow. We'll probably have our day off in Bellingham on Monday.

Allow us to help those in need, sell back your spare PocketMail and make some extra pocket money.

Friday 5th September - Garrigill to Sinderhope

Quite a chilly night but we woke to a still morning but all too soon the midges came out to feed on us. I managed to eat breakfast before they located me but drank coffee and packed up with a mozzy net over my head.

We called at the post office/shop in Garrigill, clearly in danger of closure. Once the present owners give up it will finish.

It came on to rain as we left so it was on with the waterproofs. It was a steep climb out of Garrigill and on a rural road over the top for a few miles down into Nenthead. We called in at the Nenthead Mines Heritage Centre (lead mining) where there was a cafe. Stoked up with a cheese toasty and a pot of tea. We stayed quite a while but the rain didn't let up.

The rest of the day was spent partly walking on minor roads and partly over waterlogged moorland, heading in the direction of Hexham which we should reach tomorrow. The rain just continued to come down. It was not nice.

We had hoped to camp on some access land before the moorland ended but nowhere was suitable and it was too exposed to the elements. We came to the River Allen and crossed a bridge next to a ford near Sinderhope. We found a reaonable pitch next to the river. Behind us was a belt of trees behind which was a largish house with half a dozen or so Discoveries and similar vehicles outside. An upmarket fishing party perhaps. We kept a low profile and were not disturbed.

However, we were concerned at the rate the river level was rising as it rushed by only feet away. It rose about two feet in the space of two hours which was quite alarming. It was gone six o'clock but we made what in retrospect was a wise decision to move on. By the time we left, the river was lapping the edge of the bank and, further along, where we had accessed the riverside, the path was under water.

We are now pitched in a secluded spot out of sight. It's still raining and the forecast is for much more tomorrow - lovely.


Thursday, 4 September 2008

Thursday 4th September - Low Moor Caravan Park to Garrigill

Our meal out yesterday evening with Michael and Caroline was a treat. It was good to catch up with old friends. We could hear the rain hammering down outside but when we were returned at about 11 o'clock it had stopped and, as far as I know, it didn't rain during the night. The forecast today is supposed to be better but there's a red sky which doesn't bode well. So far (it's 6.30am) it's a calm day.

Later ... within an hour of setting off the rain had begun. Not too hard but enough to need waterproofs. We reached a stream/river at the far side of a waterlogged and pathless field. The bridge, if there had ever been one, had disappeared. We hunted up and down for a crossing point. It seems Howard got across but I didn't see it. Frank got across (just). I happened to have sandals so put them on, strung my boots around my neck and, with the aid of a walking pole, got across without mishap. We then mislaid Howard and didn't see him again until the evening.

Frank and I stopped for lunch in the rain and then girded our loins for the approach to Cross Fell. It was a long and laborious wet hike up although the views across the Eden Valley towards the Lake District were superb. Mist came down as we approached the top but then miraculously cleared and from there to Garrigill we had the most amazing wide ranging views all around. I had thought that Cross Fell was always wet and misted over but I was proved wrong today.

Down from the top we passed the junction with the Pennine Way and then followed the Way past Greg's Hut down to Garrigill but it was a long, seemingly never-ending slog - around 12km.

We're pitched behind the village hall next to a river and the midges are out in force and very hungry.

Allow us to help those in need, sell back your spare PocketMail and make some extra pocket money.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Wednesday 3rd September - Bampton Grange to Low Moor

Even the church clock nearby chiming every quarter of an hour didn't seem to keep us awake. We struck camp in the rain - we're beginning to accept it as normal.

Route-finding away from the village was challenging to say the least and the whole day, when not on tarmac, was very wet and muddy underfoot. The Lake District is now truly behind us.

We crossed over the M6, a glimpse of the so-called civilisation we have chosen to leave behind for a short time.

It was minor road walking all the way then through Newby to Morland. At one point before Newby we were accosted by a charming lady in a Landrover Discovery who kindly relieved me of my underpants (in fact, wet ones plus socks (all washed three days ago) which were hanging off my pack optimistically trying to dry, together with my wet Thermarest) to take them home to dry and also who invited us for a meal this evening. This wasn't altogether an accident. By prior arrangement, I'd posted a resupply parcel to friends, Michael and Caroline, who have quite recently moved from Oxfordshire to live in Morland but Caroline did just happen to be passing by.

We reached Morland at lunchtime and spent some welcome time out of the rain in the comfort of the Mill Yard Cafe, a gem of a place and all the more so for being quite unexpected. Prices were also very reasonable - home made Three-bean soup, good bread, pieces of three local cheeses and some Morland chutney, together with a pot of tea all for about six pounds. It was lovely. This is a place to be highly recommended.

We then braved the rain for a muddy field, woodland and road walk to Low Moor Caravan Park on the A66 in good time to pitch and smarten ourselves up to be collected at 6.30.

Allow us to help those in need, sell back your spare PocketMail and make some extra pocket money.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Tuesday 2nd September- North east of Troutbeck to Bampton Grange

We had some torrential rain and gusting wind during last evening and much rain in the night. My tarp, a Golite Cave, stood up to it extremely well and I stayed drizabone.

My Thermarest deflated in the night. My mind raced to contacting home to order one to be sent on ahead for collection until I realised that the valve had come undone. Sorted. In fact, I have some adhesive with me that would repair a pinhole. The trouble can be finding the hole. When I've had one before, I immersed the Thermarest in the bath at home. Here, I think that there would be no shortage of puddles this morning to do the job.

Today was a "changeable" day weatherwise. Lots of rain and, over High Raise, we were hit by a hailstorm. In fact, on the weather forecast this morning, it was said that we'd had the wettest August since 1942 - I can well believe it.

So, mainly wet but not too much ascent. Now and again, when the cloud cleared we had some far reaching views but they tended not to last long.

We've ended the day at Bampton Grange. Having located nowhere to camp, we headed straight to the pub, the Crown and Mitre. having ordered a drink and made enquiries of the landlord, he made a couple of 'phone calls and we are now camped in the back garden of the cottage next to the pub. Not too far to stagger home tonight!

Howard has done all the route planning. I don't think that it follows exactly the Lakeland to Lindisfarne route according to the book but he seems to have done an excellent job so far.

Sunday 31st August - Wasdale Head to Chapel Stile

It rained on and off during the night and was still raining when I got up at 6.30am to bag the use of the single wash basin in the men's loo behind the Wasdale Head Inn.

The three of us, me, Frank and Howard, belong to the Backpackers Club (http://backpackersclub.co.uk/), a motley collection of oddballs - some more mad than others. They now know that they may feature in this blog so have been warned to be on their best behaviour.

It was a long haul up to Sty Head and the cloud came down as we reached the ridge. Occasionally, there was a view to be had of Styhead Tarn.

Then on by Sprinkling Tarn and on to Angle Tarn where we stopped for lunch.

The rain came on then and stayed with us for the rest of the afternoon. It was a long day and strenuous - the long descent into Mickleden leading into Great Langdale was particularly hard work - rocky all the way down.

We're now camped at Chapel Stile and it's a lovely peaceful evening. The rain of the day is now just a memory and the sun is shining (a bit).

Only one bootful of water today.

Have a spare PocketMail laying around, sell it back to us and help those in need.

Saturday 30th August ~ Below Hooker Crag (Muncaster Fell) to Wasdale Head

I've had trouble with this Pocketmail technology but it is probably my own fault. I haven't been able to "send" either with a mobile phone or by using a payphone. I dial the specified number only to have a female American tell me that my device has not been detected. I've reread the manual and think the reason is that I'm keeping the "send" button pressed when, in fact, I'm supposed to press and then release it. There's a payphone here somewhere and when I've finished this posting I'll go off in search for it.

Today has been good but quite hard work. After calling at the superb village store in Eskdale Green, there was a long ascent up through Miterdale Forest and on to Whin Rigg. We caught glimpses of Wastwater far below. It was quite boggy in places but we found a nice stop for lunch overlooking a small tarn. The views were never good as there was a mist obscuring the detail of the fells all around but there was no rain and it made good walking weather.

After Illgill Head, it was a long descent to Wasdale Head. We called in for a pint of Piper's Gold at the Wasdale Head Inn before going to pitch at the small site nearby below Kirk Fell and Great Gable.

Tell your friend about PocketMail and let the savings start rolling in!

Friday, 29 August 2008

Friday 29th August: Ravenglass to Muncaster Fell

An uneventful train journey from Oxfordshire to Ravenglass. Only one connection missed but no great problem. A pot of tea consumed at the cafe on the Ravenglass/Eskdale station. We filled water bottles and started our two week epic hike to Lindisfarne.

The weather is set fair at least for the next day or so. Thunder storms are a possibility on Sunday. It's a calm evening now, very mild. The wild pitch somewhere on Muncaster Fell is on a raised grassy area with boggy bits all around. A meal has been consumed, a cup of real coffee drunk: all is well with the world.

The JVC Pocketmail I'm typing this on was a steal on Ebay for 99p [plus P&P]. It arrived yesterday. It worked using the home phone but I can't get it to connect with the Pocketmail number using a mobile. Will have to find a payphone.


Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Coast to Coast

Am off on 29 August to walk from Ravenglass to Lindisfarne. Part of the aim is to decide which gear is going to take me from Lands End to John o'Groats next year but it should be a good fortnight away. Here is the schedule:
route-scheduleand here's a map of the route

The route is from a book by John Gillham.
Have got to get busy cooking the food I want and dehydrating it. I'll send a resupply parcel to somewhere near the half way point.

I hope to blog each day, 'phone signal permitting. My gear for this will be a Palm Tungsten E2 and a Sony Ericcson T610 (which I hope to have shortly from Ebay). I think the Palm has now been discontinued and, although the Palm web site gives a list of compatible Bluetooth 'phones, they are all obsolete models. Still, if I can pick the 'phone up cheaply then it's worth trying.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Dartmoor - bloggers' weekend

Well, I think it was a success. Good to meet up with faces, old and new. The rain could have been worse and at least it didn't rain all the time. In fact, Saturday evening was so nice that I returned from the pub after only one pint to enjoy the view from the tent! Yes, tent. A last minute decision for me was not to take my tarp but, instead, my new Wild Country Sololite. It was good, easy and quick to put up and kept out the rain on Friday night. I probably won't use it again now until the winter as the tarp will suit me me better for the summer months.

A few minor bits of kit were bought on the way down in Bristol - an Exped Dry Bag (XXS) to keep dry bits of kit like 'phone, GPS, Palm, car keys, etc. and two Source 2 litre water bottles.
Saturday was spent with John Hee on a circuit taking in Lints Tor and Fur Tor avoiding paths wherever possible and just following compass bearings across bogs and leaping across streams. No good having Goretex lined boots if they go in bogs over the tops! Still, it was a good day in good company.

Here are some photos.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

LEJOG schedule

I can't really get my head round this. I know that I'm not due to set off until early April 2009 but the detail of it is not falling into place. As far as Cornwall is concerned, I had thought of just ploughing up the middle until I get to Devon. After all, I've walked the South West Coast Path before and, although I'll do it again one day (as it, and the beer and pasties, were so good) but it's so up and down and in and out. On the other hand, I might just be tempted to dip in and out of it.

The other thing that's testing me is looking at the schedules of others who have done the walk. Their routes are all neatly planned in advance so that, at before they even start, they know where they are going to be at the end of the day on each date. I'm not sure that's for me. I'm no novice at multi day hikes and what I've tended to do is, if the weather is good and I'm feeling fit, to go on until perhaps the light fades and then look for somewhere to spend the night (usually wild camping). It's amazing how unfussy I can get about the quality of a pitch if it's getting dark! On the other hand, if it's raining, I might want to stop early. At the moment, I'm not necessarily intending to find a proper campsite at the end of each day, although I will take an exhaustive list of sites with me so that, at a given point, I'll know where the nearest site is.

However, I'll need a food parcel once a week so I'll need to know where I'm likely to be each weekend. The route is largely planned in outline (apart, once again, from Inverness northwards). Northern Scotland is so vast and empty, I'm not sure that I want to spend days floundering around cussing my lack of navigation skills. Perhaps better to stick to an eastern route which isn't so remote.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008


Just got back from a weekend in Rutland - a birthday outing. Not walking but in the campervan on a delectable site at Whissendine, north west of Oakham - Greendale Farm - I can thoroughly recommend it. Just fifteen pitches and "adults only" (no, not what you're thinking - what it means is no kids cavorting around disturbing the peace).

I didn't get any walking done, although took the bike on a very pleasant 10 mile circuit. Nevertheless, Rutland appears to be a potentially good area for rural walking. I see that Andrew McCloy's eastern LEJOG route passes through Oakham. However, I must get next year's LEJOG done first and that won't be taking me as far east.

What seems to be a compulsion for me is that whenever I'm out walking or on the bike, I cannot help looking to either side of the path or road for potential wild camping spots - very sad.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Peak District

Just come back from a great weekend in the White Peak area. Drove to Youlgreave, leaving the car in a secure location there. The basis for the weekend was the John Merrill Challenge Walk, about 25 miles - a challenge if done in a day but otherwise a very pleasant circuit for a weekend. The official start and finish point is Bakewell but no reason why it has to be there.

We (that's Frank and me) pointed ourselves towards Monyash, where we stopped for a pint at the The Bulls Head - shows how long since I've been there - it was called The Hobbit previously and the name was changed 16 years ago, although I assume it was The Bulls Head before then. It was raining by then and our route took us to Flagg, Taddington, up Monsal Dale in pouring rain, over the viaduct to the campsite at Park Farm. A good little site with decent facilities. The evening was spent in The Packhorse at Little Longstone.

The next day we diverted from the Challenge route and headed north to Cressbrook, stopping for a bacon butty and tea at Katie's Kitchen at Wardlow Mires - a welcome break. Then via Foolow to Eyam, the old plague village, and a pint at The Miners Arms. After that, we dropped down to the River Derwent and climbed up to Froggat Edge, an exhilarating walk along the edge before cutting across to spend the night at the Eric Byne Memorial site, just above the Robin Hood Inn (yes, we went there). The site was good although the facilities were quite basic. The setting is superb though. There must have been about thirty or more youngsters on a D of E weekend there and it was an amazing sight, on Sunday morning at about 5.30am seeing them packing up. The only sound was them rolling up their survival bags and packing away. I don't know if they were under orders not to make a sound but it was very impressive.

Keeping our distance from the DofE kids

After breakfast, a pleasant walk down through Chatsworth Park to the tearoom at Edensor, meeting friends who'd come along just for a day walk back to Youlgreave, with more rain in the last hour before getting back to the car.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Digital TGO

Well, my email to Zinio did the trick and July's TGO arrived in my in box today but no explanation why it's late or that it will not be late again.

Monday, 9 June 2008

Digital TGO

This is beginning to annoy me. The advertisement for this says that you get the magazine before it is in the shops. Last month, on 30 April, I emailed to jog their memory that I hadn't received the latest issue. It was sent right away. This month, here we are on 8 June and it still hasn't arrived. I've emailed them but no response as yet. I am seriously unimpressed.

Monday, 12 May 2008


All will be quiet in this neck of the woods until at least 26 May as this blogger is away on holiday. Don't even bother coming back before then.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Backpackers AGM

This was a well attended event with around 100 or so tents and three tarps at the camp site and a lot of new ones on display. Lots of familiar faces and some fellow bloggers as well.

The weather was better than forecast with rain only coming on Sunday morning. Saturday's main event was at the village hall in Ashford-in-the-Water, with traders offering lightweight gear that's not available in the shops and a lot of money changed hands. At the site, I was persuaded (by me) to buy a tent, a Wild Country Sololite, mainly for winter use when it's too inhospitable to use the tarp. It seems well designed and well made. It weighs 1.9kg which is acceptable. I wasn't wanting anything ultra-light as I have the tarp for that. Many thanks to Ali of Wild Country who very patiently demonstrated how it was set up.

I had to try it out so one night this week was spent in it in the back garden. It was a still night with no rain but it seems fine. Of course, it hasn't got anywhere near the space of the Golite Cave but that's fine. It's not meant to be a substitute and it will only be used on 10% of outings. Inside there are two pockets for personal items overnight and a hook for hanging a light from. There's room for a pack either in the inner or in the porch. There should be room for cooking in the porch, provided I can ensure that there's sufficient ventilation. The porch interior can be enlarged by taking a peg out and thereby shortening the length of the inner - a neat idea. I'll get away for a weekend with it some time to give it a good test.

The weekend was over all too soon and no real opportunity to get any serious walking done. Still, that wasn't the intention and there'll be more trips away as summer approaches.

Sunday, 27 April 2008


Here's a photo of our first grandchild, Kezia Maia, at two days old. All well but this will probably be the last mention of her on this blog until she's joining me backpacking.

Saturday, 26 April 2008

A result

Further to yesterday's posting, I'm free to go to the Backpacker's AGM today! Kezia Maia arrived this morning at 7.10am, only 12 days late. All well. Will go over to Cambridge to inspect after returning home on Sunday.

Friday, 25 April 2008

Backpackers Club AGM weekend

Am looking forward to this event at Ashford-in-the-Water, near Bakewell, on 26/27 April, particularly the ultra-lightweight gear that will be on show in the village hall. It's been too long (February) since I last used my tarp and the weather is now warmer although the weather forecast is for some wet. I think it's certain I'll be going; the only possible hiccup is the fact that my daughter was expecting her first infant on 13 April. It still hasn't turned up and she's booked in to be induced tomorrow, Friday. She's thoroughly fed up, tired and wishes it were all over, having had a difficult time over the last nine months, what with the worst possible morning sickness and having been on crutches since January suffering from spd which has been painful. My wife will, of course, go and inspect the infant when it arrives. At the moment, I appear still to be able to head for the Peak District.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Digital TGO

Well, after a little bit of bother and a couple of 'phone calls, I've just received the May issue of TGO. Had I continued with my paper subscription, I'd have had it a couple of weeks ago. Still, I should have the June issue in a couple of weeks so that's the upside I suppose. Well, how is digital? I'm impressed actually and although not everyone will necessarily get on with reading on screen I don't have a problem with it and it means that future issues shouldn't go walkabout around the house. My reason for going digital is because I don't like throwing this type of magazine away and I have Trail going back to 1990 and TGO for the past couple of years. It's all getting a bit too much and there is the occasional rumble of complaint from SWMBO. Among the magazines I scanned bits of and then disposed of a while ago were some issues of The Great Outdoors (TGO's old name). It was a very different magazine then. Roger Smith would remember it well (he mentions "the old days" in the current TGO). The articles were very different and so were the people who wrote them; seemingly a very different generation. I recall one in particular where the thumbnail photo of the writer showed a middle aged chap in a woollen cardigan, shirt and tie. Of course, that may have been Roger Smith (if so, I apologise) but times have certainly changed and for the better.

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

LEJOG training

I take the view that it's never too early to start training for a really long hike even though, in this case, I'm not planning to leave until April next year. Between now and then, I'll be getting out with a loaded pack. In the meantime, I've just started specific gym training. Now, I have to say that I'm not exactly a gym virgin. I've been going to one three to four times a week for over twenty years so it is something I genuinely enjoy doing. However, my trainer has started me on a regime which is aimed at me being able to do long days without being too exhausted. I mentioned to him the 35 miles a day done by Francis Tapon (site takes an age to load but it is worth it). Now, given that I think my longest ever has been 25 miles with a full pack, I don't think I'll get to 35 but I intend to train for more than I expect to actually do. I generally do a mixture of weights and cardiovascular. The new programme (most of which has me wearing a pack with, at the moment 6kg weights inside) includes using a contraption where I'm strapped either side of the waist by elasticated straps on pulleyed weights and do loads of runs and lunges forward and at the extreme jumping up and down on a step, rowing machine, a stepper and, on a treadmill (running machine) alternating 2-3 minutes (total about 16 minutes) uphill on a 15% gradient at 6kph and on a 1% gradient, jogging at 9kph. Now if all that's not fun, I don't know what is.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Just a short trip but a good one. I was out for a day and a night. Using OS Landranger 180, I set out from Lee Abbey on the coast just west of Lynton. The Valley of Rocks was amazing as usual with mountain goats and wild ponies around. My walk took me along the coast path, around Woody Bay to Heddons Mouth. I came across an odd signpost which had to be worth a snap ...

The path went inland. I left the coast path and went in to have a pint at Hunters Inn, a bit out of season with scaffolding around but the beer was good. I went south to Parracombe, over Challacombe Common to the B3358 and followed a path east just south of the hamlet of Challacombe. It was raining a bit by now and quite muddy. However, it wasn't particularly cold. Clothing worn was basically waterproof overtrousers, a Golite windproof top and I used an umbrella for much of the time which was fine as it wasn't windy. At GR718408 I headed north towards Saddle Gate. The path was a bit indistinct and the mist came down, but by following a compass bearing it wasn't difficult to keep in the right direction. At Barbrook, just past Shallowford I filled up with water and a short distance off the farm road around GR714455 there were any number of good wild camping opportunities, one of which I took. I spent a very peaceful night although woke to rain at 6am. Still, this didn't last and I set off at seven to head back to Lee Abbey. On the way I came across a strange notice at a river crossing ...

An excellent outing.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

TGO April

I think this will be my last paper TGO as my sub for the next twelve months will be digital. In many ways, TGO surpassed itself this month in my view. I was particularly interested in the feature on Stephen Pern. I'd never heard of him or his writing. I immediately found a web site and bought, second hand, his book "The Great Divide" being an account of his walk along the CDT in the States. It arrived promptly. Having dipped into it, I can say that he writes well and I'm looking forward to reading it cover to cover.

The other person of interest was Francis Tapon; hadn't heard of him either. The article on him could have been longer but hey. He has a web site http://francistapon.com/ which has a lot on the APT, CDT, etc.

Am hoping to get away for a couple of days on Exmoor later this week; hope the weather's not too wet. The south west has been very wet and windy so far. A wild camp will go down very nicely thank you.

Friday, 22 February 2008


I've just renewed my TGO subscription for another twelve months. No regrets, it's a good mag especially now they're really plugging lightweight hiking. However, I've gone for the digital only version and will see how I get on with it. Having every issue of Trail from issue 1 and TGO for the last couple of years, it was getting out of hand. As a long term project, I've been scanning the magazines - not every page but just what I think may be useful - routes, etc., but it's quite time consuming and I haven't done any for a while.

Friday, 15 February 2008

Bivy bag - a success!

Well, last weekend was the first outing for the bivy bag from Alpkit , the Hunka, a cheerful red colour which they call Chilli - it largely matches the colour of my sleeping bag; the alternative was black. The location was the Bedfordshire/Northamptonshire border. The weather was still, dry and, at night, cold, both nights dropped to -3C. I was under a tarp. I slept pretty well both nights. In the morning, there was not a hint of damp between the (down) sleeping bag and the bivy. Basically, it was doing the job it was intended for and seems to be a brilliant piece of kit. No-one else on site was using a tarp. There were five Aktos and, without exception, they had all suffered badly from overnight condensation. There was none under the tarp, which was frozen both inside and out. The photo here doesn't really show this.

Generally, I become more impressed with the tarp with each outing. I know I had problems back in December - see http://litehiker.wordpress.com/2007/12/10/backpackers-club-christmas-weekend/ but there are so many advantages with a tarp. I really must do an in-depth posting about this when time permits. I've researched various tents (the front runner so far is the MSR Hubba HP good price, good weight, but I'm in no hurry, particular with spring coming on. At the moment, the tarp is the favourite for LEJOG next year.
A plan for the spring is using the bivy bag without the tarp.

Sunday, 27 January 2008

A new piece of kit

I ordered an Alpkit Hunka this week. Amazing value for only £25 (as long as it does the job). Very good service - I ordered it one day and it arrived the next. I tried it out on the floor at home and my ME Xero bag fits nicely into it. Can't wait until the 9 Feb weekend which is the next Backpackers Club weekend I shall be going on. I shall be taking the tarp whatever the weather.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

A cold and wet weekend in the Peak District

Had a really great weekend in the Peak District with the Backpackers Club. Started at Wetton on a farm site. Was dark when I arrived and snow had started falling a couple of hours earlier and was still coming down; quite cold as well. For my first night I’d brought my Khyam Epic tent, having made a footprint for it as the sewn in groundsheet had become porous. It went up within five minutes. It actually sleeps two I think so is quite spacious for one. Unfortunately, it must weigh 4-5 kg so is useless for lightweight backpacking. However, for car camping it’s great and my car was on site.

After getting back from the pub, listened to an episode of Hancock’s Half Hour, downloaded on to my mp3 from www.archive.org – a really great resource.

In the night, the temperature plummeted and by morning the tent was frozen. I had cold feet so really must work out what do to about it as I only have a ¾ length Thermarest. It’s amazing how much difference it makes having a decent mattress. Once or twice in the night, it slipped down a bit, leaving my shoulder touching the tent floor and really feeling the cold.

Walked with two others via Hartington to Reaps Moor, just outside Longnor. The pitch was a field at the back of a pub where we ate that evening. I was using my tarp, a Golite Cave 1. It was a wet and blustery night but it took it in its stride. To make sure I didn’t get wet from the head end, I put up my Golite umbrella from the inside, wedging it in and that was very successful. As I didn’t have a bivy bag, I thought I’d try sleeping in my down bag inside a plastic survival bag, just as an experiment. Definitely not a good idea. It’s amazing how much moisture the human body gives off! After a couple of hours, I woke and, realising it was wet inside the bag, I scrambled out and bundled the survival bag next to me. Next morning it had gone! Blown away! I panned the surrounding countryside for it but no sign. It’s bright orange. In the end, one of my companions located it the other side of a nearby stone wall. I hope that Alpkit get their Hunkas back in stock soon.

My stove is a Mini Trangia, using meths. On more than one occasion over the weekend, I had the devil of a job getting it to light, using a fire strike and matches. I think maybe meths and cold do not mix. I wonder if anyone else has had this experience.

Having tried this winter camping lark recently, I’m starting to think that a tent might be sensible for winter use. It can be a bit chancy leaving a tarp unattended and exposed to the elements. One that was mentioned on a www.backpackinglight.co.uk podzine was the Wild Country Sololite, weighing in at 1.9kg and costing only £120. I can’t find any reviews on it, unfortunately, not can I find anywhere that stocks it to go and have a look. Given that I’d mainly use it in the winter, I’m not inclined to spend up to £300 or so for something like an Akto as most of the year I’ll continue to use the tarp. However, the jury’s out on what I’ll use on my LEJOG next year. A tent may not be as weighty as I'd thought, given that I would do without walking poles and a separate groundsheet (and a bivy bag). There would certainly be some weight offset.

An idea I had to save weight with the tarp would be not to carry a separate lightweight groundsheet but to use a survival bag opened out and pegged down. Can't think why I didn't think of it before because I always carry one.

Heading back to Wetton on Sunday was a wet and windy affair. Still, the company was good, up to twenty of us in the pub on Saturday and, for me, the Backpackers Club has been a great discovery.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Various ramblings from home

I'll be using the tarp again next weekend in the Peak District and will hope for some reasonable weather. I've beefed up the four corner pegs to make sure it stays put and have replaced the two end guys with reflective ones (courtesy of backpackinglight.co.uk ) Such nice people to deal with. I also ordered a head mozzie net and they threw in a tiny bottle opener and Outdoors Station mp3 CD. I also got a Gossamer Gear Polycryo groundsheet from winwood-outdoor to replace my usual space blankets. It should be more durable. I also want to get a bivy bag from Alpkit but unfortunately they're out of stock.

For winter use, I'm thinking of a tent, not necessarily ultra-lightweight, but still light. Contenders are an Akto and various others but also the Warmlite which a couple of fellow-bloggers have. My main question which hasn't been answered yet is whether I can cook inside it with my Trangia. If not, how do Warmlite owners manage to cook? Even with, say, gas-fuelled stoves, what happens if it gets knocked over inside? Cooking outside when it's pouring down is not on.