Sunday, 28 July 2013

Canadian Canoeing and Camping

Oh yeah what GREAT fun....

Like a lot of things that I do in life just on a whim or impulse I did again and went and bought a Canadian style canoe. The last impulse, on the spur of the moment purchase was a caravan, to which I have really grown fond of.

 Ok, for a blog that was initially really about wild camping using a nice really comfy caravan does seem a little of a cheat. But during the winter, and through really hot muggy days it is a real bonus.

We tend to use the caravan as a base camp and return to it if the weather turns really bad and cold or even too hot. Besides the shower and cooker are brilliant ;) lol.

Above you can see the fantastic little tent that has really proved it's worth in the wildest and wettest of conditions, and the caravan which has yet to show it's real worth. But already the Van has added that touch of comfort that I am starting to appreciate as I get that little older.


Yes you can argue that it is my own stupid fault you shouldn't go and buy such things. But when they are looking at you on eBay and your mind wonders to the pioneers of the wild west canoeing up and down vast expanses of rivers and lakes, wild camping as they went trapping all the furs they needed to make a living. What can you do?

So I bought a Canadian look alike open canoe, and you know what? I love it already.

As you can see it is a two seater (should I need them) but mainly it has loads of room for stowing the camping gear.

So the plan is to firstly learn a lot more about canoeing and all the do's and don'ts that are always not obvious to the beginner.

Well, I do say beginner but I do live on a boat so very used to water life, I also had canoe lesson many many moons ago when in the sea cadets as a child. I have got a lot more stupid since then.

Wild camping and wild canoeing is the long goal task and it really does seem very appealing. However I live in central England, not the wild west of USA. So the big question is, can I just jump on a river and of I go? I do have a license for my big boat, do I need license for the canoe?
I believe that I already know that all the farmers and other land owners own the banks of the rivers, so I suppose I need to get permission before I can just come ashore and pitch camp (what a chore).

There must be some great routes where canoeing and wild camping are possible. I have also notice that there are a couple of campsite that I setup just for canoeing and kayaking type people, I must give them a try they seem a great place to learn the ropes.

Of course then there is Canadian style canoeing! You've seem these people that paddle on the same side of the canoe all the time without going round and around in circles. Wahhhoooo I have just learned how to do it, it is brilliant. Although tipping the canoe so far on to one side with the water lapping at the gunnels is an art form I have yet to master.

The weather is set fair for a couple of weeks so of we go, don't laugh, I'll let you know how we get on.

Happy Camping :)

Friday, 28 June 2013

Ok, so I am caravaning too! But hey I do enjoy it.

Caravan and a touch of the easy life


I have had an old caravan for a while now, it got plenty of use when out and about with the family. It had just enough comforts for the less rugged members of the family ;)

Suddenly one fine day half way up Kinder Scout I noticed the first symptoms of Asthma.Then following several visits to the Doctors it was confirmed that I indeed have developed Asthma.Thank goodness it is controllable using two types of inhaler morning and night, but nonetheless it has made me very aware of the dangers that no air to breath can bring to the hiker and wild camper.

Once or twice I have ventured out with a full pack loaded with tent, sleeping gear, Trangia, cooking stuffs, food, maps, dry clothes and toilet paper, only to find myself getting out of breath (quite normally) but worrying is it the dreaded A.

So before a planned weekend hike I took a look at the weather forecast, erm not looking too good, again! Then came the brain wave, why not take the caravan and use it like a base camp when climbing Mount Everest?  Ok maybe not Everest, but you get my meaning.

It worked like a dream. We could set of early in the morning with a much lighter pack than normal, camp out on the hills if we wanted and weather/asthma permitted. Or, return to the relative comforts of a dry and warm caravan.

Now the caravan has become a major part of hiking plans, it has actually opened up places that I thought were to far to travel with just a tent etc. But now further travel and longer stays are now possible.

The caravan is so much a part of our travels that I have now joined The Caravan and Camping club. They offer little sites called CS (certified sites) they tend to be very small sites normally on a farm or similar, are very quiet and for the most part secluded. Perfect for the would be hiker turned caravaner.

So I have learned that it is possible to have you cake and eat it!

Friday, 7 December 2012

hiking, biking and kayaking

You don't have to travel to the Alps to enjoy an active holiday hiking, biking and kayaking. 

The National Trust has put together a glorious outdoors tour around its land and properties in the Surrey Hills, getting off the beaten track, enjoying the rolling landscape - and benefiting from expert insight into the history and nature of the area from National Trust guides.

Using a combination of mountain biking, hiking and canoeing, you'll travel through iconic locations such as Box Hill, site of the exciting Olympic Cycling Road Race (remember Emma Pooley, Nicole Cooke, Lucy Martin and Lizzie Armitstead's epic efforts to win Team GB's first medal?), wild Hindhead Common, the dramatic Devil’s Punch Bowl and the historic River Wey Navigation.

Accommodation is in historic inns in the market town of Dorking and the county town of Guildford. Guests also enjoy exclusive access to National Trust properties such as Polesden Lacey, and sample Surrey Hills' famous wine at Denbies Vineyard. Delicious local and homemade lunches are provided every day.

Sam Bayley, National Trust Head Ranger at Leith Hill and Holmwood Common, leads the tour. He says, 'We have long wanted to be able to really take people into the heart of the Surrey Hills, and by bringing all of the places together we can follow an unbroken trail across this fabulous and diverse landscape.  

I’m particularly looking forward to cycling some of the Olympic road cycle race route, although I’m glad we’ll be going down the zig-zag road at Box Hill and not up!'

There are two departures planned for the tour: a shorter three-day version in April 2013, staying in the National Trust’s Henman Bunkhouse at Leith Hill; and a full seven-day tour in June 2013, starting at the eastern edge of the Surrey Hills estate, ending up some 70 miles further west.

The price for the three-day trip is £499 per person including all meals. The week-long activity holiday costs £899 per person to include breakfast, snacks and lunch, plus dinner on two evenings. 

All equipment for cycling and canoeing is included, so the guests need only bring walking boots/shoes and suitable clothing.

For full details of the itinerary and how to book, visit

The Lake District - Tarn Hows

Opps, it has been a very long time since our last update/blog and a lot of water has gone under the bridge, I mean that literally.

Since mid summer time here in the UK it seems to have done nothing but rain, rain and even more rain. I know we are known for our green and pleasant land but marsh and wet land seems to be taking over with rivers swollen and lakes full to overflow.

Maybe we should take up boating? Actually, thinking about it that is not such a bad idea. 

Wild camping canoe trips!!!! 

What do you reckon, is anyone into that sort of thing over here in the UK? I would love to hear from you.

Right back to hiking: As you know we were to set off for the glorious Lake District, and we did! However the plan did have to take a little change. I have suddenly found out that I am now asthmatic!

Yes I know! ...... WHAT!

Take this brown inhaler attached to a big Perspex tube in the morning, and at night.  Make sure you carry this blue one with you everywhere you go!  Oh my!

As you all well know when you are out for a few days Wild Camping you get rid of everything except the bare essentials, even the kitchen sink.  So where was I going to put all this medical gear?  I am pleased to say that common sense did prevail after talking it through with my doctor and fellow hikers. “Take the caravan and use that as a base”!   

Actually it worked really well we managed to get out into the wilds of the mountains and could return to the caravan if needed.

We found a great little camping field on a lovely farm not far from Broughton in Furnace.

Moss Side Farm allows camping and caravans, great views over the valley, nice facilities, and a some very unusual fowl roaming around the farm.

We spent most of our time up and around the hills just N/E of Coniston in the beautiful hills up and around Tarn Hows. This is a very picturesque lake nowhere near the size of some of its large neighbours, but even more lovely in many ways.

Like all wild camping you have to pick your spot carefully well out of sight and not conspicuous. There are some lovely spot up in the hills, not so high that it is very cold and rocky, but high enough to be secluded with fantastic views. 

If you are anything like us the one thing that you can’t skimp on is food, we do love our food, wild camping or not.  Now that we have a food dryer we can have very healthy meals with plenty of re-constituted vegetables.

So into the Trangia goes water to boil, dried chicken pieces, lots of dried vegetables, noodles and spicy stock to supply the taste.  Of course a reviving cup of tea to finish.

We were very lucky with the weather we had the driest few days that they had for a while, so the ground under sleeping bags was cuddly and soft, and not too wet for walking. The sunshine in the morning was enough to make the most miserable of people smile with absolute joy.

We did have the one day when the wind was so strong it was almost impossible to make headway, it seemed like one step forward and three steps back.  Even the mountain sheep had enough and were hunkered down behind any shelter that they could find. We won’t mention trying to have a wee in these conditions.

But in its own way that is just how we like it too, it is so invigorating.

Roll on the next time J

Sunday, 19 August 2012

A 6/7 day wild camp - planning

6/7 day wild camping the thought makes my heart thump, wahooo!

We have three weeks to decide exactly where - We know it will be wild camping in the lake district somewhere, and to get everything ready.

As we have done a fair bit of wild camping we do know the main equipment needed for such an adventure. But will always go through a list that we have prepared. No matter how good you are it is so easy to forget either something essential or the special thing you like to take that makes it all the more enjoyable.

I wont put the list in this post but I will upload as another page, it might be of use to you.

When we start planning a wild camping trip like this the two things that always jump to mind to consider, they are WATER and the WEATHER.

The weather we can do nothing about yet but we know we have the right clothing providing the weather stays within it`s normal parameters for the lake district. However if a couple of days before we are due to go the weather forecast looks bad, we stop ans take a re-think.

This might mean a complete cancellation or looking for somewhere else where the outlook is far better and safer. The odd day of rain, fog, mist, gales and freezing nights is fine, but 6 days of blizzard would spoil things a little. Always plan with safety in mind.

If you have good shelter, and the right clothing that you should you need for the trip, the most important thing to consider is drinking water. Especially if the weather is going to be hot and sticky.

But even in lovely mild, cloud covered Sky's, water is a real MUST when you are out hiking. Try and go one day without water and you will be in trouble. Yes we can go three days, and some people even longer, they make the headlines as miracles and wonders etc.

So always plan your trip so that you ALWAYS have good water to drink and cook with.

FOOD! Yes it is true we can go quite a while without food, however you do feel really rubbish and weak way before you die, lol. So food is a good thing to have also.

The main worry we always have is weight. If you are out in the wilds for 6/7 days you will find that you need a LOT of food to carry.

Our answer ?

We cut loads of vegetables into nice small slices/chunks and blanch or part boil for a few minutes. Drain and and allow them to completely dry of excess water. then place them into your drier (see ours here). Then dry them according to your driers instructions.

You will be amazed how so much veg can weigh so little and take up so little room. Of course we do the same with other produce too like mushroom, chicken chunks, small pieces of beef and various fruits.

Then while boiling water for very cheap packets of flavoured noodles pop in some dried meat and veg and you have a great tasting and nutritious meal.
What do we cook on? The ever faithful Trangia, we wouldn't go anywhere without it. See here.

So while we get on and plan our drop off point and our route to make sure that we have water, and while we get all the died food ready. We'll post this blog and start checking through our check list, and make sure we have the right maps etc.

The first decision is made already.

As I was looking for likely place that fit our need I noticed the pub called the WoolPack Inn. Located by the river Esk, Eskdale. So then searching the Internet I easily found their website and dropped them a little email asking if they knew of somewhere that we could camp (start our trek from). I received a lovely reply stating that hey have a Field we can use and that there is a campsite near by to if we would prefer.

Looking further at their website we soon noticed that they have a restaurant with a great choice of menus. Not what you would call “wild camping”, but coupled with the friendly reply it was an easy choice

Furthermore the hiking from here looks fantastic, plenty of streams for fresh water, and the temptation of Scafell pike. We have never been ones climbing the highest, or walking the longest. We are more the “wow, look at that” type of people. Walk slowly with our heads up taking the beauty of it all the way in, and keeping it there. Fantastic, cant wait.

See you soon :) .......

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Hiking and Holidaying in the Lake District

Hikers and fell walkers are always on the look-out for new adventures and one of the top UK walking destinations to explore is The Lake District. The Lake District provides some inspiring panoramic scenery, with incredible walking routes. 

However, the weather can be a bit changeable throughout the year, so if you're going to visit it's worth making sure you find some equally inspiring accommodation to make the most of this tranquil part of Britain.
There are many campsites and caravan parks, hotels, bed & breakfasts and self catering holiday cottages in the Lake District which all offer a relaxed holiday experience.

Walks and Hikes in The Lake District
The Lake District is has a wide range of beautiful walks and the Lakeland region is popular with both experienced fell walkers, hikers, ramblers and also families and those wishing to simply enjoy a relaxed stroll amid the countryside.

Tourists in The Lake District will have a most rewarding experience when exploring the rolling countryside taking in the beautiful panoramic views of the lakes.

For families, there are some fun family outings to be had in the Catbells area by Derwent Water. The views are of the surrounding Keswick fells are some of the finest in the Lakeland area.

For a slightly more invigorating walk, the walking route across Loughrigg Fell (which lies between Grasmere and Ambleside), is without doubt one of the most idyllic parts of the Lake District and should be high on the list for any hikers or walkers.

Probably one of the more renowned features of the Lake District is Scafell Pike. Scafell Pike stands proud as England's highest point. It rises up to 978m (3209ft) above sea level and can be seen for miles around the Lake District.

Scafell is a popular hiking destination for the more experienced, and fit walkers. The surrounding area offers up some of the more taxing but equally beautiful walks, not ideally suitable a casual walk! But for those who make the climb, the views and rural circumspection is something to capture on camera.

A large number of tourists who holiday in the Lakes, just a simple walk along the lower lying fells is enough to satisfy the appetite for views and the wonder of the areas natural habitat. For these less adventurous walkers, there are some quiet routes with extremely tranquil and panoramic views around the north side of Skiddaw, and also the fells around Shap.

All these routes are without exception beautiful, but as is so often the case, with beauty there can also be danger. Fell walking and hiking in the Lake District can be more taxing than your average British ramble.
Walkers in the area should prepare and be aware of how quickly the weather conditions can change on the hills and in the valleys. 

Bad weather can often 'close in' and conditions deteriorate very quickly, especially in winter months. Even spring and autumn the weather can be unpredictable in the Lake District (as with the rest of Britain) so inexperienced walkers are advised to check local tourist information alerts, weather alerts (such as the Met Office) or consult tour guides when heading out for some of the longer more exposed routes.

This truly beautiful part of England is ideal for a UK holiday or even a weekend break. There are plenty of places to stay and explore such as: Ambleside, Keswick, Bassenthwaite, Borrowdale, Braithwaite, Caldbeck, Vale of Lorton and whether you choose Lake District cottages, Lakeland hotels, bed & breakfasts or even just camp sites, the views from much of the holiday accommodation can inspire walkers to get out there and provide a comfortable and relaxing experience to return home to after a day of exploring the Lakes and surrounding majestic countryside.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Dinard, France – the Place Colard market and the Promenade au Clair de Lune

Last month I had a crazy idea in my head about buying a gorgeous and cheap house in the middle of nowhere in Brittany, France.  And so, coming across some cheap flights (£50 all in for 2 people from East Midlands airport to Dinard airport) on a whim I booked them.  Of course I then realised that buying a house in the middle of nowhere where I'd have to fly and then rent a car each time I wanted to get there probably wasn't the best idea...and so a fantastic weekend trip to Dinard was born.

Everyone has heard of St Malo but we'd never heard of Dinard which is the next resort over, across a small channel.  Apparently though Dinard is known as the Cannes of the North and has had a number of famous visitors.  We picked the most stunning weekend to go, the weather was gorgeous and we were able to enjoy some time on one of Dinard's beaches.  It was also really pleasantly quiet, with very few tourists (why am I telling you about it?!) and surprisingly little English was spoken by the people we met, which was brilliant as we really wanted to practice our French.

We arrived late on Friday night (well about 9pm) and almost everything was closed, including our hotel!  They had left us a note in the window though, so we called the number...and then started to panic as no-one was answering.  About 20 minutes later, after following some suspicious French people into the hotel foyer, the completely bonkers Audrey came down the stairs and eventually managed to get us checked in, with keys to our room.  It was certainly an unforgettable welcome to France!  Soon after though we were settled in and down the road at Flo's, who was much saner, and stayed open to cook us some lovely galettes (French savoury pancakes) and to give us our first French conversation.

Our Saturday was already planned out, we wanted to visit the market at the Place Colard which comes every Saturday morning.  Arriving there following an enjoyable walk through the local streets, we found every single inhabitant of Dinard – it wasn't uncomfortably packed but there were so many more people there than we probably saw for the whole of the rest of the weekend.  And we soon found out why...the market is truly unforgettable, like nothing we had ever seen before in our lives...

The first thing of note and what has really stayed with me were the seafood stalls.  Thousands of oysters in their shells, ready to be eaten, huge live spider crabs and lobsters which when disturbed would start to slowly crawl around and plenty of fresh fish.  I've never cooked lobster or crab but would think it would be an interesting experience getting them home from the market!

Of course the stalls we were looking forward to were the cheese stalls and there were plenty of them too.  We tracked down one in a big open fronted van and I took the plunge, asking in French for some 18 month matured Comte cheese (which we had to try having seen it on the Hungry Frenchman with Raymond Blanc) and some tomato and olive gouda.  And that was the start of our lunch. 

Next at a saucisson stall we tasted saucisson with ceps, which was mouthwateringly stunning and purchased 4 different sorts, getting 1 free for being the first customers of the day.  We then bought a baguette traditional, some cider (the favourite drink of Bretons) and some tomatoes and after seeing the rest of the stalls (which included lots of fruit and veg, deli stalls, clothes and household goods and some hot food stalls with pancakes and vietnamese being the most popular) we headed down to the beach for a gastronomic delight of a simple continental lunch.

After lunch we went for a walk along the Promenade au Clair de Lune which is a pleasant stroll around the coastline including views over to St Malo and further round the boats in the Port of Dinard alongside with the fringes of some gardens.  Of course the name suggests that you should walk it in the moonlight, when I believe it is all lit up, and no doubt this would make for a romantic after dinner walk.

I could write on forever about our weekend in Dinard.  But as you can probably tell I'd definitely recommend it, especially if you can get cheap flights and hotels deal like we did.  If we'd had longer there are some great walking and hiking trails around Brittany including national parks and also canoeing trips.  To find out more I'd recommend looking on this site.

Our trip really got us even more hooked on France and last weekend we cooked ourselves a 3 course French meal to relive the coming soon at Phil's foodie site

P.S. Despite the strange arrival, the hotel we stayed in (the Comfort Hotel, Dinard Balmoral) was perfect for what we needed for the weekend.  Breakfast was lovely and really fresh like all food in France (though not cheap) and we were allowed late checkout to make the most of our Sunday.  I'd definitely recommend it for a stay.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Stanage Edge and Bamford

Wanting to explore a new area of the Peak District we came across SwallowHolme campsite in Bamford, near Hathersage. This was a perfect location for many potential walks, allowing us to explore Stanage Edge and is also a reasonable distance from Ladybower Reservoir.

Setting off on the Friday morning we were lucky enough to have a rare spot of sunshine, adding to the feeling of excitement and as usual it wasn't long before we were amongst the rolling green hills of the lower Peak District. Unfortunately the sunshine wasn't to last and most of the weekend saw the refilling of the local rivers and reservoirs but it was a great start nonetheless.

All that rain meant that the river alongside the campsite was rushing past as though it had somewhere better to be. Both the road and railway line run very close to the campsite but neither really bothered us much throughout our stay. In fact we felt incredibly close to nature, choosing a corner pitch near the river and being visited frequently by the robin and other birds. A hungry mother duck with 3 baby ducklings was happy to eat our bread, with Mr Drake chivalrously refusing to accept any.

Saturday the rain let up for a while so we donned waterproofs and headed out in the car for walk. Parking under the shadow of Burbage Rocks we headed up onto the top towards Stanage Edge. The rocks are gritstone and with the strange smoothed rocks and sandy path it felt very similar to The Roaches. The view though was quite different, much wilder and emptier with huge swathes of brown and cream moorland.

After a short while I did feel it was all a bit same-y, unlike The Roaches which constantly changed throughout our walk. The weather didn't give me much time to change this opinion as the wind blew in chilling everything and black clouds raced across the sky towards us. We hunkered down under a rock, feeling slightly Bear Grylls like (despite the emergency poncho and umbrella!) and sat out the storm before returning to the car.

Back at the camp, tragedy had struck. Only 2 ducklings were now following their mother and unfortunately she didn't seem any more worried or adept at looking after them, so it wasn't really a surprise when another was missing on the Sunday. Nonetheless nature seemed rather cruel that weekend.