Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Waterproof socks

For some years, I've thought the concept of waterproof socks a good idea. Obviously, with boots with a waterproof membrane, they aren't necessary. However, I'm not now particularly keen on boots, apart from in winter when, for me, boots are really the only option. I have found that, however well the boots have been fitted for me, I still get blisters, usually on my heels.

I've come to love wearing trail shoes. Over the years, I got through about six pairs of Merrell Exotechs and then the updated Motovator. They were supremely comfortable with a good Vibram sole. They weren't waterproof but with SealSkinz socks they were very good and I walked 500 miles of the South West Coast Path with them. I knew my size and periodically I'd just order another pair online. However, the Motovator was discontinued a few years ago and nothing replaced it with a decent sole tread. My SealSkinz then failed. The inner membrane then seemed to come adrift between the inner and outer layers. I sent them back to SealSkinz and they replaced them with another pair but after a few outings, they let water in. Waterproof socks that weren't waterproof. Not good. Since then I've sent two more pairs back for the same reason. This week, I've received a third pair and we'll see how they perform. Full marks to SealSkinz (the company) for not quibbling but surely I can't be alone in finding the socks unsatisfactory.

Whilst on the internet this week, I found that Trekmates do a waterproof sock, the Amphibian, selling for £29.99. It's somewhat different from the SealSkinz product. The latter can be worn in place of a normal sock but the former is intended to be worn over a normal sock. Anyway, it seems that the Amphibian is being discontinued and Trekmates are getting rid of their remaining stock. All they have is size Small for shoe size 6-7. This should do me and, at a sale price of £9.99 plus p&p they seemed worth trying. I'll post my findings in due course. If they are good, I wonder why they are being discontinued.

On my Exmoor outing last week, I wore Inov-8 Roclites with ordinary socks. My feet got wet a few times but dried out. I don't have a problem with blisters caused by wet feet. I just don't like the initial sensation of my feet suddenly getting wet but, after a while, most of the water goes out and my feet warm up. I think, on balance, I'm prepared to put up with this rather than suffer blisters in boots. At the moment, I'm planning to wear shoes on the TGO Challenge in May. They were superb on the last section from Braemar to the end last year.

Thursday, 17 March 2011


An opportunity for a couple of days backpacking on Exmoor. Started with a lovely walk the seaward side of The Valley of Rocks, observed by the resident mountain goats. Along the harbourside of Lynmouth and then along Lyn Cleave and then Myrtleberry Cleave, following the Two Moors Way to Watersmeet. Continued alongside East Lyn River to Rockford, Brendon and Malmsmead. Had to make way here for three Exmoor ponies which hurtled past me to rejoin others that I'd passed by minutes earlier.

Then headed south past Cloud Farm and into Doone Country. I saw smoke and flames ahead and was quite concerned until I realised it was controlled burning of bracken and heather. The flames were impressive.

Oare Common looked good for a wild camp but it was too early. Later found a very nice pitch at 794445. No-one passed by to disturb me. Was away by 7.15 and followed a path on the west side of Badgworthy Water and crossed the bridge at 796437 to follow a track which took me by the ruin of Larkbarrow, after which there was a vehicle track south to a road. Here I rejoined the Two Moors Way, passing by Warren Farm. The path just past the farm to Prayway Head started well but involved a stream crossing followed by a long steep climb which was tussocky, wet and muddy. Not good. Having done that, it was easy going by Ravens Nest to the road at Prayway Head.

The track then went by Exe Head and then above a stream in a valley to Hoar Oak Tree. I wanted to head for Cheriton but somehow went in the wrong direction and found myself on the wrong side of Hoaroak Water. Still, it wasn't too bad and I found a bridleway to Stock Common, then Radsbury, East and West Ilkerton, collecting water from a stream for tonight's camp at Caffyn's Cross. It's raining a bit and I can hear a fox barking some distance away.
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Tuesday, 1 March 2011

TGO Challenge

Well, the route is in, modified as suggested by our vetter. Our train tickets for the journey to Mallaig have been bought. We have to wait a few days before being able to book the journey home. I have a printout of our route on A4 sheets pinned to a wall upstairs. Much easier than a screen to get an overall view of it. The main modification to our original route was making the stretch from Inverie to Fort Augustus four days instead of three. It was thought that we would possibly spend more time than was wise at The Old Forge at Inverie which is right next to where we shall disembark from the Mallaig ferry. I've never been to Knoydart so our first few days are going to be magnificent. Hope the weather is good.

Backpackers Oxfordshire weekend

We spent Friday night at Manor Farm, Barford St. Michael. About twenty of us so a good turn out. Saturday saw about eight of us heading for Whichford, others taking different routes. It rained much of the day and it was so wet and muddy underfoot.

©Grant Currin

We didn't actually have to go through this water. It was deeper than it looked and was very soft underneath. We managed to make our way around the side of it. Went through Milcombe and Lower Tadmarton.  Stopped for a pint at the Chandlers Arms at Epwell - an excellent pub, especially as we escaped  a really heavy downpour while we were there.

This seemed the only way to get rid of all the mud

We then followed the Macmillan Way to Whichford. The Norman Knight there was good. The church clock rang out the time every quarter of an hour but it didn't seem to bother anyone.

Sunday's weather started well but it later came on to rain.

©Grant Currin

We were joined for the day by Sue, who wanted to find out what life with the Backpackers is all about. It was a baptism of fire as far as the weather was concerned. There seemed to be even more mud and rain than the day before. She wisely brought overtrousers and gaiters.

A lack of fear of horses and bravado helped her get through the ankle deep mud without mishap. Will she be back or have we put her off?

Our route took us through Hook Norton by the brewery, to Wigginton and on to South Newington for a pint at the Duck on the Pond and then back to Barford.