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.