Wednesday, 26 February 2020

South West Coast Path fundraising

Obviously, tackling the SWCP in one hit is a considerable undertaking. It seemed to me that it would be worth using it as a charity fundraiser and not to do so would be a waste. Ucare Oxford is a charity close, not only to my heart but, also, to my one remaining kidney. I walked for Ucare in 2018, raising something over £2,000 on the Great English Walk from Chepstow to Berwick-upon-Tweed. Should you wish to read my account of that walk, then the blog entries start here. I have set up a Just Giving page here. If you enjoy what you read then do consider making a donation, however small.

With just over a week to go, preparation is in full swing. A room in the house is strewn with gear, being narrowed down with what I will actually take with a view to keeping my pack as light as possible. An advantage of the route is that I shouldn't need to carry more than a couple of days worth of food as there are regular places to resupply along the way.

Over the last few weeks, there have been many changes of mind over which bits of kit to take or not take. For example, I was originally intending to wear non-waterproof trail shoes for guaranteed blister free walking. However, a walk last weekend through incredible mud and flooded paths persuaded me to wear boots with strategically placed duct tape on my feet. My left foot generally suffers worst in boots as it is half a size smaller than my right foot.

Sunday, 26 January 2020

Plans for 2020

My hiking plans for the next few months have been thrown into disarray. I had been intending to walk the Hardy Way in February, for which I bought the guide book when in Dorset last year. Then, in April, I was planning to go back to Sweden to walk more of Sörmlandsleden. However, having recently finished reading The Salt Path, I was inspired to walk the South West Coast Path, all 630 miles of it from Minehead to Poole. I've done most of it before over several years but never as a continuous route so this is the plan. I take to train down to Taunton on 6 March and then bus to Minehead.

The guidebook (by my good friend Paddy Dillon) and maps have been bought and I have something challenging to look forward to.

A January night out

Having 24 hours available, I set out from home in the morning with a tent, a bit of food and my new sleeping mat, a Christmas present. This is a Nemo Switchback. With a longish hike coming up, I wanted to try an alternative to an inflating sleeping pad as these are prone to puncturing.

There was a lot of mud and water underfoot and, as I was using a tent, hadn't brought hiking poles. This was a mistake and, in a cleared coppice just outside Little Compton, I picked up a stripped branch which proved to be very useful when navigating muddy stretches as it helped me keep my balance.

I had identified a likely location for a wild camp about half a mile north of Long Compton, a wood with a public footpath running through it. I didn't expect anyone to be passing through as it is some way out of the village and this proved to be the case (as far as I know). My pitch was maybe fifty yards from the path on the edge of the trees with a view across a field, part of Weston Park. I was tucked away, well out of sight. My first little problem became apparent as I unpacked my tent when I realised I had brought the pole for the tent I intended to bring but had brought the wrong tent! Both are stored in green bags.

Anyway, with very little ingenuity I strung the outer between two trees to make a tarp and used my stick as a support at the front, not that this was really needed. The inner I rolled out on the ground to lay my sleeping mat on. Perfect.

I spent a peaceful evening and night. The pheasants were raucous for a while and I heard a distant muntjac in the early hours. In the morning, I broke one of my cardinal rules for wild camping, namely pitch late and leave early. I woke at 7.10, made tea and was about to make some porridge when I heard a vehicle approaching along the side of the field and it stopped right next to where I was pitched. Apparently, on arrival or maybe afterwards when moving around, I'd triggered a security camera so my exact location was known. It wasn't a great problem, however. The farm or park employee gave me a warning about shooting that goes on around here. I said I'd be gone in twenty minutes and he departed. I'm not sure that shooting would actually have taken place so near to a footpath but why were there cameras? Maybe to protect breeding pheasants nearby as the night before I'd spotted the same vehicle on the far side of the field going round to other woodland not far away and I'd heard sounds of possibly birds welcoming the arrival of a food supply.

Anyway, I packed up and went on my way, really annoyed with myself for not striking camp immediately on waking (and waking earlier). Had I done so, I'd have been well away before the visitation at around 8am.

There was plenty more mud on the remainder of my walk but it was a good outing. The sleeping mat proved to be a success. Reviews to these are mixed from a comfort point of view as they aren't quite as comfortable as an inflating mat but I was prepared to sacrifice a little comfort to have a mat which wouldn't let me down. In use, it was comfortable on the leafy floor of a wood except under my shoulder (I'm generally a side sleeper). However, I put the pad from my backpack under my shoulder and this was fine.

So, my wild camp location was good but, if anyone wants to avoid the place and possibly being discovered, it's at SP290343.

Friday, 26 April 2019

Sörmlandsleden Day 16 - Middle of Stage 44 to Skavsta airport

Walking 8.10am to 3.15pm
Distance walked 14km

At the end of Stage 44, I diverted for a short distance on Stage 44:1 to where I knew from last there is a water tap. There are also two shelters and picnic tables. As I was in no hurry, I stopped here for breakfast and read for something over an hour in the sunshine. Another lovely day.

I then rejoined Stage 44 to meet the road into Nyköping and walked along a cycle path. Moving on to Stage 44:2, I bought food for tomorrow's journey at a big supermarket on my route. I had cash on me from a previous visit to Sweden but it seems they only take cards. Managed to pass by two burger restaurants without stopping.

Reaching Oppeby, I cut through a housing estate to join Stage 46:1 by the river and this brought me to the airport.

Having time, I passed by a tiny F11 fighter plane museum (open weekends only), with an F11 stationed outside, and then went to inspect the carved wooden Mother Earth sculpture facing the runway.

Last task was to find my pitch for the night. I had identified a belt of woodland not far away but, in fact, have found a spot only ten minutes from the terminal. I hope it's not too noisy. Shortly after I'd pitched, a plane burst into life and very noisily warmed its engines up for twenty minutes only about two hundred yards away. There is other aircraft noise now and again and a bit of road traffic but I expect (hope) that it will quieten down later.

I've set my alarm for 3.45am. I have to be at the terminal two hours before my 6.30am flight home.

Sent from my iPhone

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Sörmlandsleden Day 15 - Överdammen to middle of Stage 44

Walking 8.10am to 2.50pm
Distance walked 17.5km

The day started overcast but the sun broke through later. Although I've been wearing shorts for the past week, I have trousers for travelling home on Saturday and they were a bit grubby as I'd been wearing them for walking the first few days when the weather was colder. I dunked them in the lake to get some of the dirt out. I should have thought to have done it last evening and then they'd have largely dried out overnight. Anyway, I wrung most of the water out and draped them around my pack and they dried during the day. They are better than they were.

I suddenly found myself in the middle of a silver birch plantation. My favourite tree.

Completing the rest of Stage 36:2, I went on to 36:3. The route notes said the trail went over a "mountain", Jätterberget, all of 72m above sea level - little more than a hill.

The remains of a WW2 air surveillance station on  Jätterberget

Now and again over here, I've come across large ant hills made out of pine needles and absolutely teeming with ants. Swedish ants are about four times the size of those in the UK. They don't have wings and I don't know if they sting. Anyway, the path up to Jätterberget was alive with ants and I found them crawling up my legs!

Not a lot more to say about today. Stage 36:3 completed my circuit which I started on Day 10 by meeting with Stage 44 which leads back to Nyköping. I picked up water at the same excellent spring and pitched early at the same spot as at the end of Day 10.

Sent from my iPhone

Sörmlandsleden Day 14 - Vibberholmen to Överdammen

Walking 7.50am to 3.50pm
Distance walked 17.5km

A lovely sunset over the water as darkness fell last night. 

This morning, a ship went by, possibly bound for 

Promising to be another fine day, I walked the trail, often down to the water's edge. It then went inland and passed by the site of a Kolerakyrkogård, a cholera burial ground, dating back to the 19th century. There's nothing there, just part of the woodland now. 

Reaching Lake Navsjön after 6.5km, I came across a peculiar structure called a Kolarkoja. This was a charcoal hut, occupied at one time by charcoal burners as the procedure took some time and meant the men didn't have to return home each night. 

I stopped at a shelter by the lake and took the opportunity to rinse out some items of clothing to freshen them a bit and replenished my water from the lake. Dotted around this end of the large lake were fishermen. One was descaling a large salmon by the water side. 

Stage 36 ended here and I then went on to 36:1, a good, clear, level path for most of the way. 

I stopped part way to fill my small bottle at a spring, one of those with a wooden cover. The stream next to it was a vile reddish brown colour but the spring water was surprisingly clear and uncoloured. 

At Gälkhyttan I went on to Stage 36:2 and, after about 2km, reached my halt for the night. There's a shelter and toilet on a finger of land jutting out into the lake. I've pitched on the westward side as it is much less windy and faced the afternoon sun. 

Just reading

The shelter guest book shows many visitors this year but very few spending the night although two Germans overnighted here only last night. Before that, the last overnighter seemed to be on 1 March. 

Sent from my iPhone

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Sörmlandsleden Day 13 - Viggudden shelter to Vibberholmen

Walking 8am to 4.50pm
Distance walked 18km

I left Grigory (I think that's how he anglicises the spelling) for him to walk about 9km north to Buskhyttan to catch a bus to Nyköping and then to the airport for his flight home to Poland. It was nice to have some company.

I walked the remaining 3km of Stage 39 along the coast to Västra Kovik, an up and down path over and between rocks. Then on to Stage 38. It was quite a climb up to Gullängsberget but great views across the Baltic. There is a Viking grave here, basically a massive mound of rocks. I had breakfast here.

Lunch overlooking the Baltic

At Uttervik, the route notes directed me to a water tap at the village's water treatment plant, just 200m off the path. Stage 38 ended at Lilla Uttervik and went on to 37 which took me through Sjoskogen nature reserve. Quite lovely. I then headed for the large village of Nävekvarn and its small supermarket to do what should be my final resupply.

On the edge of the village is a causeway to a tiny island on which there is a shelter. Unfortunately, it was too early to think of stopping for the night.

I walked on along the mainly rocky coast for about 3km until I found the perfect spot. There are wooden benches and barbecue facilities. Just feet away from are rocks which lead down to the sea. It doesn't get much better.

There is a guest book to sign which I did. Many others have also signed. Most are local and from other parts of Sweden but quite a few from other countries. Germany is well represented. There is a column to check for having overnighted here but not many have, although someone from Germany slept here on 21 April. I can hear a deer barking not far away.