Saturday, 25 December 2010

Merry Christmas from HikingBlog

Merry Christmas!

I hope Santa brought you all you were hoping for this year? I awoke excitedly at the crack of dawn (well, maybe more like 8.30) to find that he had indeed come and judged that I'd somehow managed to be good enough this year to receive a stocking overflowing with presents rather than a lump of coal. I proceeded to rip off the brightly coloured paper to unwrap a smorgasbord of hiking goodies...

A pair of Scarpa Terra GTX walking boots
2 baselayers from Berghaus and Rab
A book of Peak District walks
and the much needed and everpresent stocking filler - some hiking socks

Phil also did well with a new Deuter pack amongst his stash of pressies. I feel some gear reviews coming on in the new year...!

Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas weekend.

Cat @ HikingBlog

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

J'aime le Massif Central

I've not been getting out much lately, so I've taken to dreaming instead. And then yesterday I fell in love. I've been learning French and I came across the stunning region of the Massif Central. One of the poorest and less visited areas of France it was described by a 19th century author as...

One of the loveliest spots on earth . . . a country without roads, without guides, without any facilities for locomotion, where every discovery must be conquered at the price of danger or fatigue . . . a soil cut up with deep ravines, crossed in every way by lofty walls of lava, and furrowed by numerous torrents.

The Volcanoes of the Auvergne National Park is a landscape of 80 extinct volcanoes, known as Puys, stretching from the grassy domes and craters of the Monts-Dômes to the eroded skylines of the Monts-Dore.

Someone on a forum asked if they could fill a week here. I think I could fill a lifetime. An abundance of peaks to climb, lakes to sail on and rivers to canoe down I feel relaxed and carefree just thinking of it.

“Outstanding scenery with craggy moonscapes and rushing streams, incredibly fresh air, isolated villages where time does seem to have stopped, wonderful food...completely different from the regions of France that most people head to”. This visitor's description has sold me on this place and I hope I'll be heading there sometime soon. J'aimerais pouvoir dire que j'ai été ici.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Camp in Peak Park and help the environment

The Peak District National Park Authority are asking for help from those who enjoy the outdoors and specifically night time in the Peak District. They want our help in taking part in a study of light pollution in the Peak District. All you have to do is look up at the night sky and spot the constellation Orion. Then compare to some charts on their website and submit the results along with your location.

The National Park say “Light pollution is artificial light that shines where it is neither wanted nor needed. Not only does light pollution have an impact on people’s enjoyment of the night sky, it has also been shown to have an impact on quality of life, as well as wasting energy.”

Whether you live in the Peaks, in a town or village, or are visiting on a camping trip you can take part. Peak Park is hoping to become among the first in Europe to be recognised for its work on protecting the night sky, joining Galloway Forest Park in Scotland.

So if you're in Peak Park between 31 December 2010 and 5 January 2011, or between 28 January and 2 February 2011 then take the time to look up at the stars and enjoy them.

Visit for more info.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Winter Weather Forecasts

With the cold, snowy weather looking set to continue into the New Year I came across some really useful sites today that I thought I'd share. Some of you have probably seen these already whilst planning your hiking and camping trips but they'll be of use to those who haven't.

First up is for those who walk in the Lake District:

The Lake District National Park provide a Weatherline service providing a 5 day forecast on their site.

This not only gives you an overview of the weather but also goes into detail covering hazards, visibility, hill fog, winds, precipitation and temperatures. They also have a felltop conditions report, giving you more info on what it is like on the ground. Today on Helvellyn there are patches of snow and ice at all levels and certain ridges should only be attempted by the experienced.

Check it out at:

Next up is Snowdonia:

The Met Office provide weather forecasts for a range of mountain areas but have just updated their Snowdonia forecast to include a section on ground conditions. Its fairly basic but lets you know to expect frozen ground and snow, with more extensive cover where drifting has occurred.

Check it out at:

Finally for Scotland and the Peak District:

The Mountain Weather Information Service provides a weather forecast including the important“chance of cloud free summits”. It breaks Scotland down into 5 areas to provide a more accurate forecast and also has an avalanche guide.

Check it out at:

Goes without saying but if you're heading out, be prepared and don't forget these are only forecasts. Happy winter walking!

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Who wants the Roaches?

Nine bodies and individuals have shown an interest in taking over a prime Peak District climbing site.
The Peak District National Park Authority is now asking for people’s views on what they want from any partnership in control of the Roaches in Staffordshire, a 394ha (975 acre) estate popular with climbers who head for its gritstone crags.

The authority is looking at either selling the land, which includes the British Mountaineering Council-leased Rockhall Cottage, or entering into a management partnership, as part of its cost-cutting measures following budget reductions by the coalition Government.

The Peak authority said the nine interested parties are a mixture of environmental and land management organisations and individuals, some proposing a lease, some a purchase.
It wants to hear the public’s views and is asking for comments and any key questions they would like potential bidders to answer. It is also consulting local councils, neighbours and interest groups.

The deadline for replies is 14 January 2011.

Submissions will be considered before drawing up a final set of objectives for the Roaches. The authority will then decide which partner could provide the best outcome for the future of the site, including conserving its wildlife, heritage and landscape, ensuring open access, increasing understanding of its special qualities, looking after its farmland to high conservation standards and managing traffic.

Shooting rights are specifically excluded, the Peak authority said.

Further details and information on how to submit views can be seen on the Peak District National Park website.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

A lunchtime walk in the snow

I managed to get out of the office at lunchtime today to get my fix of the great outdoors. I'm lucky enough to work next to the canal at Loughborough so I stuck on my wellies, hiking jacket and gloves and headed out for a walk. Well, I say a places it was more like skating over the ice and trying not to end up on my arse!

The sun was out, shining off the crisp white snow, blinding me as a I walked along the canal bank. I braved taking my gloves off, exposing my hands to the cold to take some pictures. The snow seemed to have stilled everything, the birds hiding away in the trees, people wrapped up warm inside and everything was peaceful and quiet and beautiful.

I crunched along towards the bridge. The canal boats, moored up along the edge were trapped in the ice, unable to move until the thaw. Smoke from their coal fires escaped upwards, making them looking invitingly cosy. Then I turned the corner and saw where all the ducks had disappeared to. Dozens of them, eating lunch courtesy of some fellow walkers. The young swan wasn't impressed I got so close and didn't feed him, hissing at me to move away.

And then, all too soon it was time to go back to work. My co-workers thought I was mad, choosing to go out in the cold. And yet, I'd have happily stayed out there all day.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Peak District communities could disappear

Communities living in the Peak District National Park in Staffordshire could disappear, claim people who live there.

Many fear proposed funding cuts of almost 30% to national parks could destroy their living.
"The Peak District is managed more for visitors than residents" said Dehra Griffiths, headmistress at Flash School - which only has 7 pupils.
The relevant government department, DEFRA, says a new consultation will address the problems.
All parties are grappling with the problem of keeping rural communities alive while, at the same time, maintaining the natural beauty of the landscape.

The Peak District National Park, which spans over 550 square miles (about the same size as Greater London), is home to just 38,000 people. Even among these, there are competing needs: the requirements of the farmer, the businessperson, the singleton and the young family are each unique.
Balanced against that are the 10 million or so visitors who make recreational use of the land. Then there are also the environmentalists who passionately defend its unspoilt beauty.
Flash village
The village of Flash, perched high up in the Staffordshire Moorlands (it is generally regarded as the highest village in England), experiences the familiar problems of other Peak National Park villages. Planning restrictions keep the housing stock low. Just five new homes have been built there over the past 50 years.
This impacts on house prices, which, villagers say, are are often inflated and out of reach of most young families.
As families find it harder to stay, the village primary school has seen a serious drop in the number of pupils. There were 15 children not so long ago at Flash Primary; now it has just seven.
"Something has to change. The Peak District is managed more for visitors and for people from outside," warned acting headmistress, Dehra Griffiths.
"The numbers have fallen in a natural way because we haven't enough housing.
"Young people can't move back into the area and can't bring their families," added Dehra.

Spending review
A government spending review, which asks for big savings in almost every department, muddies the water even more. The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), has agreed to a 29% budget cut in its budget over the next four years.

In November 2010, Environment Secretary Caroline Spelman, who heads DEFRA, launched a consultation on how cuts should be implemented, with the aim of responding more to the needs of local people.
Speaking on the BBC Politics Show, Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, the MP for another area of outstanding natural beauty, the Cotswolds, said: "I think that Caroline Spelman has done exactly the right thing to have this consultation so we can ask the people who live in the national parks, the people who taught at Flash Primary School, the farmer, exactly what they want for their own area."

Mr Clifton-Brown is convinced that the concerns of local people should be of paramount importance.
"Unless we actually provide a livelihood for the people who live in the national parks, communities will die out - the national parks are what they are because they were a living landscape.

"They were formed by people who worked there, lived there, made their livelihood there. We have to adapt to modern times; we can't just have our National Parks preserved in aspic, they have to move a bit with the times," said Mr Clifton-Brown.

The Peak District is the oldest of Britain's 15 national parks.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

The Sleeping Bag with Arms and Legs

I was just having a bit of a Google, as you do when you've got nothing better to do and I came across the MusucBag (also known as SelkBag in the USA).

Now Phil is always tossing and turning in his sleeping bag trying to get comfy and complaining he feels trapped and unable to move, a bit like he is in a coffin. When I saw the MusucBag, I loved it. A sleeping bag with arms and legs, that has all the functionality of a traditional sleeping bag but allows you to move your arms and legs freely. What's more they look really cool, coming in a choice of black, lemon chrome, pink or directoire blue. And not only does the MusucBag look great for sleeping in, but also for wearing in the tent, around the campfire or even at home while watching tv.

Okay, so how does it compare to other sleeping bags?

Well, it weighs between 1.4kg to 2.2kg depending on size so a bit heavier than your average sleeping bag (Hi Gear's Ridgeline 3 weighs 1.6kg).

It has been EN 13537 (industry standard) tested to have the following temperature ratings.

Comfort Temperature: 7°C
Limit Temperature: 2°C
Extreme Temperature: -13°C

Personally for me that means it may not keep me warm enough, as my bag has a limit of -0.2 and I often need my fleece liner to keep me comfortable but everyone sleeps differently.

So, as with most camping gear it really depends on what you are hoping to use it for. If you're a hardcore walker and weight and all year round temperatures are important, probably not one for you. But otherwise, if you're after something fun, comfy and multifunctional I like this a lot.

Oh, one last thing, they are priced a bit like the iPhone – expect to pay extra for its design and uniqueness.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Wetton and the Manifold Valley

Where to go for a weekend hiking? That's always the question. Finishing work at 5.00, 45 mins away from each other and its already dark. It's got to be the White Peak again. So out comes the OS map and we pour over it, looking for likely looking places with some interesting contour lines and perhaps some water, but perhaps not. Area picked we scour the internet for campsites (what would we do without it!) and make the necessary arrangements.

We realised that we'd not yet walked through the Manifold Valley so that's where we headed last weekend. We'd visited briefly on a previous trip to Alstonesfield and stopped a night at Heathy Roods Farm nr. Butterton but hadn't had much chance to walk along the river. I quickly realised if we could find somewhere to camp near Wetton it would be a brilliant excuse to visit my favourite pub, Ye Olde Royal Oak!

First off I rang Redhurst Farm, who I feel I should try to assist in this blog. The poor lady explained they'd not offered camping for a few years but unfortunately can't get themselves unlisted from the web. She kindly pointed me in the direction of Newhouse Farm which was our campsite for the weekend.

Friday morning the world was cloaked in fog which refused to lift all day. The thought of our views obscured should have put a dampener on things but the fog added a mysticism to the surroundings which only seemed to add to my excitement for the upcoming weekend. After a masterclass in how to put up a tent, instead of wanting to get in and tucked up, I couldn't wait to get out and explore. We went for an evening stroll round the village, taking in the 14th century church, village pub and spooky derelict barn.

Back in our sleeping bags I noticed the church bells ring for the first time to mark the hour. “Do they go all night”. “No, they can't, they must stop, maybe at 11.00 when the pub closes”. “Hmm... does that make, church...?”. “Are they real? Is someone up there ringing them?” That's kind of how the conversation went.

We really liked this campsite, an empty field with few facilities and a bargain out of season. But if you're a light sleeper then the generator noise and the church bells might be an issue. That said I grew to love them, even the 3am chimes!

Saturday morning we set off on a circular route along the Manifold, first heading south out of Wetton. Its the perfect picture of the English countryside, heading past farms surrounded by rolling green hills, reminiscent of Postman Pat backdrops. Then as the road turned sharply we headed straight on down a sloping footpath through the fields and down towards the Manifold River. As we headed down the grassy slope, Beeston Tor appeared on our left, the limestone wall watching over all below.

Down towards the river, the plan was to cross at the Stepping Stones and follow the trail along the other side. But mother nature had a different idea. The river was flowing rapidly and a couple of the stones were submerged under the icy cold water. We considered our options. A huge part of us (the daft, adventurous part) was tempted to try the crossing, perhaps with our boots tied to our backpacks. But with the river moving fast and the temperature so cold, it wasn't worth ruining a day's walking with an injury or a dunking so after checking out alternatives we had to head back up the way we'd come and carry on down the road.

The walk along the Manifold Way, once we got there was relaxed and easy. The river ran alongside us, sometimes running fast with the water whipped up into white peaks, other times calm and gently flowing along through the trees. Thor's Cave was a highlight 360ft up above the river, with views out of the 60ft cave mouth over the surrounding area.

Further on along the trail is Wetton Mill tea rooms, but we turned off up through Wetton Hills where we followed the muddy path between the hills steadily climbing until we came back out over Wetton village.

This was our first camping and hiking weekend since the clocks went back and it was strange to arrive back to camp just as the evening was beginning to set in. We lit the barbecue to keep us warm, them decided to cook. By 6.30pm it was all over, the darkness had set in and then what is there to do for the night except settle down in your sleeping bag! Any tips anyone?

Monday, 22 November 2010

Kinder Scout to be fenced off...!

Due to erosion caused by sheep overgrazing, hikers and wildfires, parts of Kinder Scout are to be fenced off by the National Trust to allow the habitat to recover and new plants to grow. The temporary sheep-proof fence will however have gated access for walkers. The National Trust have invited anyone who loves hiking Kinder Scout to contribute to plans for the exact location of the fence and access points.

Kinder Scout was the site of a mass trespass in 1932 which was instrumental in bringing about better access to the UK countryside for walkers. Enjoyed by thousands of visitors each year it has unfortunately been described as “one of the most damaged areas of moorland” in the UK.

Don't miss the chance to have your say...

Consultation will take place during December and January and will include public meetings on 15 December (6pm – 9pm) at Edale Village Hall and on 6 January (6pm – 9pm) at the Royal Hotel, Hayfield.

Find out more about the restoration project on the National Trust Kinder Scout website

Read our blog: Kinder Scout - up Crowden Clough

Also join up to Kinder Scout Fence on facebook.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

These boots are made for walking - but which ones are made for me?

I went into GoOutdoors yesterday afternoon to try on some new walking boots.

When we first started walking I bought a cheap pair from Regatta as I wasn't sure whether it was something I would be doing regularly. Overall, so far they have been great. Really comfy straight out the box and I don't think I've ever had a single blister. The only factor that has let them down is that since our Snowdonia trip stepping in any kind of puddle has resulted in rather soggy feet. Now I didn't mind too much in the summer, I resigned myself to thinking it was a great way of keeping cool. However, now that its somewhat colder that's not really what I'm after. I've tried treating them with Nikwax but still the water gets in.

So I had a look at the shoe wall and picked out a few pairs to try on that were around my budget price of £100. I liked the look of the Brasher Antuco though I didn't know anything about them. Also there were the Brasher SupaLite GTX which I'd read a bit about. Thought I might as well try on the Hillmaster too and one of the Scarpa boots.

I really wasn't keen on the look of the SupaLites, but knew logically I should be looking for performance over style so gave them a go. Wow, I could seriously have forgotten that I actually had anything on my feet. They are so lightweight and really soft and cushioned around your ankle. I was most disappointed that they felt so good.

I kept trying on our boots, then putting the SupaLites back on, then mixing and matching. Nothing else felt the same. The Hillmasters logically looked very similar in terms of materials. But they seemed much wider and my foot felt a bit lost in them. Back I came to the SupaLites. But I don't want the SupaLites, they won't look exciting in my stocking at Christmas!

Then I came home and began trawling the internet for walking boot reviews and now I'm totally confused. No-one seems able to agree! Half the reviews say they've been worn daily for years and they're the best boots ever, the other half say they fell apart really quickly. Half say they've walked in streams to clean them, the other half say they leak. And there doesn't seem to be any authoritative lifetime test reviews, perhaps because gear moves on so quickly.

So what do you do? I guess you just have to buy the ones that seem right for you and hope that they pass the test of time.

That sounds almost like a decision. But then I have just spotted the Brasher Lithium GTX with 40% off...

So what did I choose? Click here to find out and read the out of the box review.

Monday, 8 November 2010

A gem of a walk surprisingly close to home

I've lived around Loughborough for close to 10 years now and heard people mention Beacon Hill many times but never given it a second thought. I've always imagined it as a fairly ordinary green hillock. So it was a nice surprise when I finally checked it out.

Its actually the 2nd highest point in Leicestershire (perhaps not the hilliest county) and the site of a 3000 year old Bronze Age settlement. We arrived in the car park and climbed the hill to the beacon just as the sun was setting, casting a orangey pink glow over everything. From the top you can look out over Loughborough and try to work out what's what. Loughborough University's Towers Halls stands out as Loughborough's tallest landmark.

Following the path round, we came across some black sheep and long horn cattle grazing. And then had a laugh running headlong down the hill, expecting at any moment to fall over but not really caring. Then along the path, past Jubilee Woods and back round to the car park.

A short, gentle evening escape which showed me its always worth looking for that little gem of a walk that can be found surprisingly close to home.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Our Top 10 Camping Extras

In no particular order, our top 10 little extras we love to take camping with us:

1. Sweeteners
To be honest, I'm not sure if they should be on the list as they pretty much fall into the essentials list. Phil is addicted, at least 4 sweeteners going in every drink, so forget to take them and he is not a happy man. So much so that I've bought an extra set that goes in my pack so I always know where they are!

2. Hot Chocolate
Little sachets that don't take up much space but are a really good pick me up at the end of a hard day walking and good for warming your hands on. Our vote goes to mint chocolate or Malteser.

3. Slippers
Great for wearing in the tent and also for those moments when you need to nip outside but don't want to go to the effort of putting your boots back on.

4. Wind up radio
Puts you back in touch with civilisation when you feel all alone and handy for the weather forecast. Though sometimes all you can get is Welsh or French. Good for a listen as you're falling asleep and charges itself up in the sunlight or with a short session of winding the handle.

5. String
Not the most exciting but very useful. Uses so far: tying wet socks to my backpack to dry them off as I walk; as extra guy ropes used with the walking poles to turn the tent door into a porch area.

6. Hotel toothbrush set
If you're lucky enough to get the occasional overnight stay in a hotel for work, take advantage of it to get some camping goodies. My favourite so far was when I forgot my toothbrush and got given a fantastic mini toothbrush and toothpaste set that took up very little space in my pack.

7. Chorizo sausage
Great as a snack or adds yummy flavour to dried meals. Keeps really well even on a longer trip (well, unless you eat it all!)

8. Spork
Knife, fork and spoon all in one, what more do you need to say? Plus Phil is in love with Spork's sexy curves!

9. Wet wipes
Lovely when you're feeling a bit dirty but short of water.

10. Smartphone
My Samsung Galaxy S does everything... sat nav, camera, compass, weather forecast, e-book reader, addictive Angry Birds app and there for that emergency phone call should you need it. Just gotta watch out for that battery life. Is a solar phone charger worth the backpack space, I wonder?

What are your top things to take camping? Let us know on our forum.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Ramshaw Rocks in the Autumn Weather

Just a short blog this week, looking at some of our pics from the weekend.

Pretty much every hiking trip so far has been accompanied by perfect walking weather, so that we almost began to think we were special. Saturday morning saw me lying looking up at the rain on the tent and Phil making a porch out of the tent door and some walking poles, so we could cook breakfast in the dry.

After numerous choccie biccies bought from the local Co-op we ventured out to walk Ramshaw Rocks. Oranges and yellows are beginning to creep into natures colour palette as we move officially this weekend into Autumn and the landscape seemed fresh and different from when we'd seen it a few weeks before. I couldn't help but be reminded of the chocolate river in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by the orange stream in this pic – too many biscuits perhaps?

One of my favourite parts of the trip was sheltering under one of the huge outcroppings of rock overlooking the road. Looking over to the north the clouds were pitch black so deciding there was only so much testing our new jackets needed we found this spot. Sat on a rock, under the umbrella (thanks Orange for a great promotional freebie) we watched the rain hammer down out of the sky and the cars go past on the road below. No rhyme or reason why we enjoyed this so much, it just felt good to be sitting outside nice and dry while everything around us got soaked.

Back at the tent it was time for an early night and it was a cold one. My new thermals which I'd tested out watching tv and wearing as pyjamas at home in bed were fantastic. A Trekmates SnoPro set for £7.99, I can't rave enough about them. As soon as I put them on I can feel the additional warmth and they are soft and warm and wonderful. Sad I know to get so excited about something so unsexy but I love them. By the way did I tell you about my £2 Aldi special hat...! We woke up to our first frost, the ground all white and crisp and the tent coated in icy chunks. Cue a huge great barbecued breakfast to keep us warm.

Overall a different trip (excluding the common denominator of food which is central to all our trips). Perhaps not the best because I struggled with a cold all weekend. But some very enjoyable bits nonetheless and I wouldn't have missed it for the world. And my parents are happy cos I've started my Christmas list – new boots please, no more cold wet feet for me!

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

WARNING - Walking Route Cuts .....

Impending Government cuts could put the countryside out of bounds to walkers, according to the Ramblers.
The charity is predicting a return to the 1960s, with footpaths blocked and rights of way not maintained, if expected cuts to local authority budgets are imposed.

The coalition Government’s comprehensive spending review will be announced tomorrow and the Ramblers fear the cutbacks, of up to 40 per cent, will herald a return to the deplorable state of the country’s footpaths 50 years ago.

The organisation issued a top ten of walkers’ favourites that could be under threat, including Cumbria, North Yorkshire, the Peak District and Cornwall.

Ramblers’ chief executive Tom Franklin said: “In 2010 people feel confident that the footpaths they plan to follow will be open and easy to use.  If we return to the forbidden Britain of the 1960s, with its pot-luck footpath network we will see a dramatic reduction in the number of people walking.

“This not only spells bad news for the economy, but a decline in walking will also put an unsustainable burden on the NHS.”

The Ramblers said £7.3bn was spent on visits to the countryside last year. But the charity said cuts to rights of way budgets will make walking in many popular destinations problematic and will adversely affect tourism – the last thing rural economies need in these troubling times.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Wild Camping

What is it and why do it?

Wild camping is really just that – camping in the wild rather than at a commercial campsite. Simply find a suitable spot to pitch your tent and spend the night with just the stars and wildlife to keep you company.
On our previous camping trips we’d found that we always preferred the smaller less commercials sites which allowed us to feel more at one with nature rather than the huge family oriented sites with play areas and hot showers which are really far too close to being at home, back in the real world. Give us a farmer’s field with access to drinking water and we were happy.

So when we came across the idea of wild camping it sounded perfect. Get away from everything and best of all, its free!

Where can I do it?

In England and Wales (with the exception of Dartmoor) wild camping is not permitted unless you get permission from the landowner. However so long as you pitch in remote areas, above the last farmers wall or fence then it is generally accepted and the worst that is likely to happen is that someone might ask you to move on.

In Scotland the Outdoor Access Code legislation of 2005 made it legal though irresponsible wild campers have made some communities turn against the idea and according to The Guardian wild camping may soon be banned again in certain areas.

Rules of Wild Camping

The main rule of wild camping is that when you leave no-one should be able to tell that you have been there. This means that you need to follow some guidelines:

* Never stop more than a night in the same spot as this can kill of the grass, bracken or whatever covers the ground beneath your tent

* Take all your rubbish away with you

* Take a trowel to bury your ‘business’, and if the ground is too hard to dig take that away with you too

* Ensure that your toilet are is 30 metres or more from running water

* Do not use standard soaps to wash or wash up as these will pollute streams and kill fish and other wildlife

* Don’t light fires

The last point is debated by some as they consider this one of the best parts of wild camping. However not only can it be easy to start a fire which spreads and causes damage, the dry dead wood can be an important habitat for small animals. Also don’t forget the whole campsite should look exactly the same when you leave as it did when you arrived.

And finally...

* Don’t forget to make sure your wild campsite is near a source of water. If you’re going for more than one night you would struggle to carry enough water with you for drinking, cooking and washing. Plus it’s half the fun. For more info on drinking water from streams see my Wild Drinking Water blog

* Keep your pack light, but make sure you have everything you need – the eternal camping challenge!

Click here to read about our first wild camping trip in The Rhinogs, Snowdonia

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Wild Drinking Water

When it comes to wild camping, you are going to need to find yourself some wild drinking water.

The first important question is where do you find it?

Before you go it is a good idea to plan your route around streams that are marked on your OS map to make sure that you should be able to find enough to keep you going. One thing to note though is that they may be harder to find than you expect and if it has been very dry recently you may not be able to find them at all, so always have a backup plan. Alternatively you could be lucky like we were on our trip in Snowdonia where there had been so much rain that there were plenty of streams around.

Always make sure that the source of water you choose is running water, as stagnant water is more likely to contain algae, bacteria and dead fish or animals. However after that there are a number of options.

Option 1: Drink straight from the stream

Many walkers particularly of older generations will swear by just drinking the water straight from the stream. They will say it is the best tasting water they have ever had and that they have never been ill in over 40 years of drinking it.

We even met one guy who said when he was a child in Snowdonia they got all their water from streams and they’d drink it until one day it would have a funny colour, taste or smell at which point they’d go further upstream and find a dead sheep in it. But they still didn’t get ill.

However, there are many bugs about including relatively new ones such as ecoli which wasn’t present in streams back then. So it is up to you whether you drink the water and take the risk or play it safe and look at other options.

Option 2: Boiling water

Boiling water will eradicate the majority of parasites in water (though not all). The main drawbacks are that the water is needs time to cool down before it can be drunk and potentially before you can store it depending on the type of container. Also you will be using up fuel in the boiling process. However where you need hot water e.g. tea and coffee or cooking, this is a reasonable option.

Option 3: Treat it

This is the option we chose for our wild camping trip. Chlorine tablets can be bought very cheaply from outdoor stores (GoOutdoors 75 tablets for £4.50). Filter the water first with a fabric filter and then add 1 tablet to a litre of drinking water. Leave to work for 30 minutes and your water is safe to drink. Drawbacks are that the water does have a chlorinated taste which will bother some people and others won’t mind at all. Initially I wasn’t keen on the taste but did get used to it very quickly and soon barely noticed it. However you can also buy neutralising tablets to take away the taste and Lifesystems produce a pack that contains both. Also as with boiling it is not a quick method.

Option 4: Use SteriPEN

SteriPEN uses UV light to kill 99.9% of all bacteria. It works best in clear water as sediment blocks the light. The latest model is around the size of an electric toothbrush and you simply stick it in your water, push the button and in seconds it purifies your water. The only downside is that this is probably the most expensive option unless you are a hardened wild camper in which case over time it would pay for itself.

Option 5: Filter it

There are many filtration systems available, we’ve not used one as yet so if anyone has any recommendations let us know. Traditionally these used a pump system with tubes but more recent inventions have been smaller and simpler.

Go Outdoors have the Aquamira Frontier Pro Filter which rather than treating volumes of water attaches to your water bottle and filters water as you drink it. This means it is a small, lightweight and easy to use system.

I’ve seen a number of walkerson forums mention Katadyn products. They have a range from a bottle and filter similar to the Aquamira right up to a £200 pocket filter use by aid organisations which comes with a 20 year warranty!.

Overall there a number of options available to you based on your personal preference, budget and the amount of wild camping you intend to do. The key thing is to keep an eye out for water on your walk and fill up at each opportunity to make sure you don’t run out.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Wild Camping in The Rhinogs, Snowdonia - by Cat

Snowdonia National Park - 4 days, 2 aims – to experience wild camping and to come back still speaking to each other!

Reading an article on wild camping in Trail magazine we knew it was something we needed to try. To experience being all alone with nature, completely free and reliant on ourselves. We settled on the Rhinogs for our location, craggy, as we like it and less visited than other parts of Snowdonia for a truer wild camp experience.

We parked at a car park and campsite next to Cwm Bychan, at the end of a long winding road through the Welsh countryside. We paid our car parking fee and set off back along the road to find the path to get up started on our trip.
I’d agreed to come to the Rhinogs based on there being “no climbing, or like difficult high up stuff” because I’m scared of heights. Fine with rollercoasters and standing looking out from the top of a tall tower but having to rely on my feet and the rest of my body to keep me safe – no thank you. So the beginning of the walk involved a steep scree slope up the side of the hill!

Reaching the top we followed the so called footpath alongside a small stone wall. I was eaten alive by midges, which obviously decided I was on the menu for that day, leaving over 50 bites just on one arm and me itching for the rest of the trip. I’d definitely recommend some insect repellent as I’m not normally one to get bitten.

As we walked along we realised that our intended campsite for the night may be a step too far so revised our plans and decided to leave the marked footpath. We started down the heather covered slope, heading towards Rhinog Fawr, aiming to follow the path of a stream to find a camp and some water for the night. It was a tough descent, not being able to see our feet but we made it unscathed to the bottom and by following the stream (or at least the area that seemed more wet than the rest) we found our way down to a waterfall and camped up overlooking Cwm Bychan.

Before coming we’d debated the many options for water, reading various blogs and forums for advice and trying to decide what to do. We’d decided on treating our water with chlorine tablets so having camped for the night we headed over to the waterfall for our first water collection and treatment. All very nice and easy, the only difficult bit was not falling in! I can’t say I was too keen the first time I tried drinking it, but as the trip went on I couldn’t wait to get some more down my throat.

The next morning, we rose and prepared breakfast on a huge flat stone near our camp and we sat in the early morning sunshine eating our first meal of the day, checking out the Welsh and Irish radio stations and looking at the magnificent view.

We knew the plan for the day was to continue to follow the stream as far as we could then head up out of the valley through what looked on the map like a bit of a pass. We wanted to reach Llyn Du by nightfall and set off in high spirits.

Soon though the terrain was getting to us. Every step we took was hard work. The ground was soaking from the rain the previous week, my waterproof boots didn’t seem so waterproof, Phil had lost his best sunglasses and it was all seeming much harder than we’d expected. Each time we thought that we just needed to climb the next mound, we’d get to the top and find another one. And then the straight line on the map would turn out to have a ravine in the middle so that we needed to find a way around.

That said I was in surprisingly good spirits and kept us both going, despite occasional concerns that we might need to get rescued if we couldn’t make our way out. That would look pretty stupid and we might be on the TV on one of those rescue programmes which would be very embarrassing. Phil was struggling and when he fell down a hole, up to his thigh in muddy water I wasn’t sure he was going to get up again. Thankfully his trusty, and now rather bent, walking pole had saved him from injury and off we went again.

Eventually we came up against the rocks; the path out of the valley no longer looking as clear as it had on the map. So we decided there was only one thing for it... we needed to climb! Off came the packs and up I went first, pulling the kit up behind me with Phil pushing them up from below. Amazingly I actually enjoyed this scramble. I think the thought of finding out what was outside the valley temporarily held back my fear.

What was on the other side was down. A walkable slope (if barely) with bracken again making it hard to see where to put your feet. Surprisingly someone had actually built a wall down here, though I couldn’t for the life of me understand why they would have wanted to. Upon reaching the bottom we were excited at the prospect of a grassy field leading down to the forest. But of course it couldn’t be so easy and the wet clumps of grass sunk under foot. A rain storm looming we decided to camp for the night in the shelter of some rocks.

Sunday came and yesterday’s wet socks tied to my backpack we set off. We’d not seen anyone since we’d left the car park and I have to admit to feeling slightly relieved when we hit the main path out of the woods where there were a number of walkers out for the day. Nice as it had been to be alone, I felt reassured knowing we were trying to walk a path that had been walked before and that there was a good chance we’d make it home.

That said the adventure wasn’t over yet. We followed the main path until such a point as we were between two hills, then climbed over a wall to our left and started on a smaller windy footpath round the side of the hill. It’s quite rocky and steep in places but a good path nonetheless. Climbing up we saw others coming down, who all reassured us it was 15 minutes to Llyn Du. As we walked my biggest fear was that we’d get to the lake to find it surrounded by tents, a huge anti-climax to our first planned wild campsite. 40 minutes later we came across it surrounded by rocks and had our first up close view of Rhinog Fawr.

It’s impressively rugged and first impressions were that it looked more of a place for proper climbers than hill walkers. And you can’t even see the summit. The only path up appeared to be scree and it looked an incredibly difficult ascent. We ummed and aahed and decided to pitch our tent whilst we thought about it as it clearly wasn’t a place to climb with our 65 litre packs on. Phil edged toward not needing to climb it and not wanting to, whilst I felt I’d be forever disappointed to have come and not reached the top. We saw people starting on their way up and over lunch I timed them on their ascent, which they made surprisingly good progress on. Families with small children passed us, having come down the Rhinog which made me think it couldn’t be that hard. That said, I was edging towards not climbing it when Phil said, “come on we’re going up and back tonight!”

I have to say it was the scariest thing that I’ve done in years and at times I felt like I couldn’t go up and I couldn’t go down. I’m ashamed to say there were tears before I made it to the top. Being us, we managed to lose the path, which didn’t help, and to reach the top we had to pick our way over and around small boulders. But the view from the top was magnificent, looking out over where we’d come from; the forest, the lake, the surrounding hills, and out across the Irish Sea. After recovering it was time to pick a path back down and once it was decided I didn’t feel too bad about the descent. But when we ended up halfway round the lake looking across at our tent that was a real low point. All I wanted was some food and my sleeping bag.

And some food and sleep did me wonders. Waking up the next day, by the side of the lake with just a couple of sheep and three mountain goats for company, I’ve never experienced anything like it. A dip in the lake didn’t seem quite as appealing as it had from my sofa at home but we did have a refreshing wash in the ice cold stream.

The final part of our trip was down the Roman Steps which were running with rain water so that it was more like walking down a stream at times. It was a lovely, easy walk and as we headed back to the car we had time to reflect on the whole trip. We’d definitely achieved all we set out to despite not covering the distance we’d expected. But what an achievement. And we’d learned that walking is more about the experiences you have rather than the distance you cover or the places you tick off. It was such a challenge, at times everything seemed to go wrong and climbing Rhinog Fawr was terrifying. And yet if we were to do it again I wouldn’t change a single thing.

Ramblers urge walkers to push Defra on outdoor access.

Britain’s biggest walking charity is urging walkers to step up the pressure on the Government to recognise the benefit of taking to the great outdoors.
The Ramblers say the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is overlooking the access needs of walkers in the English countryside. 
A white paper from Defra on the natural environment does not include access issues and the Ramblers are urging all walkers and outdoor enthusiasts to make their voices heard in a consultation that is running at the moment.
Adrian Morris, Ramblers head of walking environment, said: “This is a great opportunity for walkers everywhere to have their say on the future of England’s natural environment. Currently the paper fails to take into consideration the importance of people’s ability to access the countryside.
“We’re urging walkers to air their views on how access and recreation can be better integrated into the other themes of the paper, and highlight that footpaths and access must be priorities in the Government’s natural environment policies.”
The full Defra consultation document, which contains details of how to submit a response, is on the Defra website.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

The Roaches up for SALE .......

Nine expressions of interest have been made over the future of a Staffordshire beauty spot. The Peak District National Park Authority has put the Roaches, stretching over 975 acres, up for sale.

The authority said those expressing an interest had not outlined figures, but had broadly given their vision.
It has set out criteria that a buyer has to adhere to and the one that it thinks fits the bill will be sold the area, rather than the highest bidder. 

Head of property at the authority Matthew Croney said: "I guess it is an unusual thing to do. "But the Roaches means so much to so many people for so many different reasons that as a responsible local government, we have to make sure that it goes to the right hands."

Asked what the criteria was that buyers would have to adhere to, he said: "It's really to carry on achieving the National Park statutory purposes that we've managed it for. "So for conservation, recreation and contribution to the local economy and community. So they're the basic premise on which we were looking for a partner or new owner."

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

High points in southern England - walk.

Those who fancy donning their hiking boots and heading to the highest places in the south of England can do so in a walk run by rangers from the Dartmoor National Park Authority later this month.

On October 27th a four-hour walk will take place in the Okehampton area, taking in High Willhays and Yes Tor, on the ridge above the area's military camp.

Starting at 10:30 BST, this will climb to the cairn at High Willhays, which is far from being the highest point in England but does represent the only area of land in the south above 2,000 ft.

High Willhays is the loftiest point at 2,039 ft, while Yes Tor is 2,032 ft, a few hundred yards away along the ridge.

While this is Devon's highest point, walkers can also enjoy neighbouring county tops including 1,378 ft Brown Willy in Cornwall and 1,703 ft Dunkery Beacon in Somerset.

Walk the hills for Cancer Research

ENTRIES are still being welcomed for an annual charity walk over the Malvern Hills in aid of Cancer Research UK.
The walk will start at Castlemorton Common, just outside Welland,  (Saturday, October 16) and offer three, five or nine-mile routes for ramblers of all ages and abilities.
Since 1999 the walk has raised more than £72,000 toward’s the charity’s fight against cancer.
Anyone wishing to take part can simply turn up on the day between 9am and 9.30am. For more information call organiser Ray Worth on 01684 892772
Malvern Gazette

Friday, 8 October 2010

Light up their buckets

Those who are enjoying the delights of this year’s Matlock Bath Illuminations should look out for volunteers with bright green buckets at the Mon Saturday, October 16.
Friends of the Peak District will be doing their bit to raise funds for their work protecting and enhancing the Peak District.
“We’re going to be out in force, talking to people about how they can help us,” says Danny Anderson, fundraiser with Friends of the Peak District. 
“Now, more than ever, the beautiful Peak District landscapes need protecting, so every penny counts.”
Friends of the Peak District will be by the Pavilion and around the river from about 6pm and during the illuminations.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Hen Cloud and The Roaches - Late Sept 2010 by Cat

Driving up the road towards the campsite we got our first view; Hen Cloud and The Roaches all in a line, craggy and looking rather prehistoric. What a fantastic welcome to this area we were now so keen to explore. We weren’t too sure where the campsite was but as you drive up the road you come across the farm which has a sign on the gate telling campers that the field is just up the road. We didn’t know what to expect of this site, but pulled up finding a large field with a few tents already pitched.

That evening, after dinner, sitting there chatting to fellow camper and climber Jamie it was a stunning night. The air was cold and crisp and the moon was full in the sky. We couldn’t have asked for more perfect weather for the time of year and we were lucky enough that this lasted the entire weekend. Despite having a 3-season bag I did have to test out my fleecy inner liner for the first time on this trip, but then I’m definitely a cold-blooded animal! Will be interesting to see how it goes as we move into December and January.

Saturday morning the sun rose in the sky and shone over the now much busier campsite which during the night had become full of climbing enthusiasts. As we weren’t planning to take our packs with us so didn’t need to be careful about weight, we could afford a bit of a luxury weekend so tucked into our full English breakfast while Jamie went off down the road to buy his.

Water and other facilities are just down the road at the farm but I will admit we went down in the car! Made me think when I got home and saw one of those charity ads about a small child who walks miles every day to fetch the water for their family. That said we were just being a bit lazy and even without the car this would still have been one of our favourite campsites.

If you want to avoid the road, you can get up to Hen Cloud the way we did. In the back right corner of the field is a hump of earth where you can get into the next field. Cross that one and you get out the other side onto the lane, where at the cattle grid you can follow a path up through some wooded ground and out onto Roaches House Lane. Alternatively head up the road to the tea rooms.

The Roaches on a nice weekend probably isn’t the place to go if you like to be alone with nature as this was definitely (by a considerable way) the busiest walk we have done. But definitely don’t be put off by this as there is a good reason why it is so busy and why people from all over the world come to The Roaches.

Walking up along the main ridge path, you’re suddenly surrounded by huge formations of grit stone rocks and rock-faces with climbers hanging off. As you walk further you pass another route to the top which comes past Rockhall Cottage and up some steep steps and out to the west views of Tittesworth Reservoir. Next up, right on the main trail was Doxey Pool bright blue and shimmering in the sunlight. On closer inspection though it was slightly murky and I’m not sure I could be lured in by the legendary mermaid (or even a merman!) that is rumoured to live there.

Follow the path and you reach the trig point, where we had panoramic views of the surrounding area, being able to see the Shutingsloe (aka the Cheshire Matterhorn for its definingly recognisable shape) and over to the mountains of Wales. Then a trek down into the woods, past an ice-cream van and onwards towards Lud’s Church.

Now, given our usual challenges with paths and maps and the fact that Lud’s Church was on Secret Places of Britain I was fairly sure we would spend hours wandering round and round and possibly end up disappointed. Happily I was wrong; Lud’s Church is actually very well signposted and after avoiding the mud we came to Robin Hood’s secret hideout.

For those of you not in on the secret, Lud’s Church is a deep chasm, formed by a massive landslide and historically a place of worship for the Pagans and the Lollards as well as being used as by many legendary characters to avoid the authorities. The original entrances are now closed off to protect them from erosion so wait for the path down the steps into the chasm below. As the light only penetrates the bottom on the sunniest of days the walls are covered in moss, and when the light does shine through it has in places a mystical quality. Perhaps not so secret and hard to find but well worth a visit.

We returned to the campsite, following an alternative and more challenging route back along the Roaches and tucked into some hearty game soup for dinner. After an awe inspiring walk, we’re definitely planning a trip back soon to climb Hen Cloud and to walk the nearby Ramshaw Rocks.