Saturday, 19 March 2011

Boating and Walking - Willington Derbyshire

The sun comes out, I'm at home with no hiking this weekend! What to do ....?

Ah ha! Little Bop!!!!

I have a little fishing boat called Little Bop, one of the loves of my life. I live very close to water, I need to be by water, when the sun glistens across the water I feel a huge glow of a smile rise up through my whole being.

Little Bop has been bobbing gently all through through the freezing winter months, looking all sullen and neglected. Time for a bit of TLC and bring the engine to life :)

A couple of pulls on the starter rope and brrrrrrmmmm away she went ….. no time for preparation or packed lunch, untie the ropes and off we go. The amazing thing is that feeling you get sitting high on a mountain side gazing across a sunlight distant valley is just the same as I get gently tripping down across a lake and river. Total peace.

Turning out of the Marina and heading towards Willington the first thing I noticed is how all the wild life is busy building nests and coupling up ready for the breeding time ahead. New buds on the trees, grass and srping flowers all starting to show new burst of life.

Deciding its time to get out for a walk as slowly drifting down the river is no training for the wild camping and hiking ahead. Tying up to port I'm straight into a local woods, still leafless but showing the miracle signs of coming to life yet again.

The Sun gleaming through the bare branches of the trees makes beautiful mosaic patterns over the forest floor. The tell tale little round clusters strewn around is clear evidence of the very healthy rabbit population in these woods. So much so that the grass is like a well mown lawn, very green, lush and so soft under foot through the constant feeding.

Through the tress, across the water is a local couple of swans preparing the spring home. A robin in a near by tree is singing his little heart out making sure everybody knows he is there.

Wow I so love this feeling of calm, peace and new life bursting forth everywhere you look. Stunning. :)

So looking forward to next weekend up in the Peaks, not sure where yet, but need to start planning now. I great trial run to test out my new home dehydrate food.

This gentle boating slowly drifting along the river has a lot going for it. I am just as close to nature that I would be out wild camping and hiking, BUT it takes just a fraction of the effort, I must not get too used to it, much like everything else in life, all in moderation ;)

Turning back into the marina you notice all the hustle bustle of the wild life in the reeds and rushes, and a huge family of Canada geese grazing on the lush grass.

Wavering Down and Crook Peak

I'd forgotten how beautiful the Westcountry is in the sunshine. Back visiting my parents in Weston-super-Mare where I grew up, this afternoon was a perfect one to revisit a childhood favourite walk. We set out in long-sleeved t-shirts only, unexpected for March, me with borrowed pairs of Craghoppers trousers and Ray-Ban sunglasses, both of which I now have my eye on acquiring when I head back up north!

So where is this walk that I have such fond memories of? Crook Peak in the Mendip Hills. Our family has always known it as Crooks Peak, which to me conjours up images of bandits, perhaps pirates being so close to the sea (well, the Bristol Channel in reality). I only found out different when I saw it in Trail or Country Walking the other month and even then I thought they'd got it wrong, not me. But the Ordnance Survey map definitely has it down as Crook Peak and Wikipedia says it means “pointed hilltop”. Ah well!

There are a couple of ways to reach Crook Peak. You can park in the car park on Webbington Road and climb up the side of the hill picking your way through the gorse. This is the shorter but steeper route. Or you can take my favourite longer afternoon route as we did today.

We parked in the King's Wood car park and started the walk up through the woods, following the West Mendip Way long distance footpath. Today the ground was fairly dry but I've been up here before when I've been picking my way along trying to avoid slipping and falling over in the mud. Many hours were spent in these woods on school camp, gathering fire wood to attempt to cook the evening's dinner. I remember well some hard potatoes!

The ground flattens off as you leave the woods and you walk along to Hill Farm before rising again to the trig point on Wavering Down. I've never before wondered, but quite some discussion was had today as to why the trig point is here and not on Crook Peak which to the eye is clearly higher. We decided it must be due to its visibility from the trig points atop surrounding hills before consulting the OS Map and finding it at 211 metres compared to Crook Peak at under 200. Proven wrong for the second time today!

I've never seen so many animals on Wavering Down as today, two types of cow, sheep and ponies that at one point bolted along the hill at speed. My mum tried to convince me that the brown sheep used to be black but had just faded over time, like a jumper in the wash, but I wasn't having that.

From Crook Peak itself you get a panoramic view including Weston-super-Mare, Brean Down, Brent Knoll, the M5, Glastonbury Tor and Cheddar Reservoir. On a clear day you can see across the Channel to South Wales but today you could barely see the water.

On the walk back, while my parents continued along the flat, my dad challenged me to go off path and cut the corners, heading down hill then back up the other side and meeting them back on the West Mendip Way path. It made a nice change, some contours and a climb over a gorse bush where there was no way through. As always Crook Peak provided a great family afternoon walk, before we headed home for afternoon tea and the rugby. It might be small but it's one of my favourites.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Wistfully planning for Wild Camp in Wales

Weekend trip cancelled due a chest infection but after weeks in the office, I had to get out. I took a wander along the river at Burton-upon-Trent. I love that instant feeling I get, better than any drug (not that I'd know) and you know the best bit of the walk? It absolutely pissed it down. And it was wonderful. The smell of the rain was so intense and it ran off my jacket onto the legs of my jeans and soaked them through and all in all it was just wonderful being out.

OS Maps a must have
Then I went home and got a bit carried away on a shopping spree. Well OS maps were 3 for 2 and you know you'll use them at some point right? I love having a new map, it's like the very beginning of a new trip, the seed from which it will form. Once you've got the map you can start planning. I could spend hours just looking at a map, its contours and features and not even make any decisions, just enjoy exploring the area through my eyes and the paper.

I also bought Backpackers Britain: Wales which was absolutely brilliant as a starting point for planning a 4 or 5 day trip. Our trip to the Rhinogs always stands out in my mind for the wild camping, the challenge of the hike and the sense of achievement that followed and I've been longing to challenge myself again in that way ever since. The book has a route plan for each major hill or mountain range in Wales, along with suggestions for wild camp sites, bothies or other places to stay. It's very unlikely we'll take a hike from the book and walk it step for step but we'll certainly use it as our inspiration and a trip to the Carneddau looks like it may be in order.

Click here to view all map types OS, Garmin, Memory Map, plus all navigation tools

Monday, 14 March 2011

Endangered crayfish moved to 'safe' pools in Derbyshire

A rare species of crayfish is being protected in a £20,000 project in the Peak District in Derbyshire.

More than 100 white-clawed crayfish have been moved to pools in a disused quarry where they cannot be infected by non-native species.
UK crayfish have been devastated in recent years by signal crayfish which spread a disease to them.
It is hoped the crayfish in two ponds on land owned by the National Trust will flourish in the new environment.

Aggressive foreigner

Project workers and volunteers moved the crustaceans to the site from the National Trust's nearby Calke Estate.
Other sites in the Peak District may be used as safe havens for the crayfish in the future, Peak District Biodiversity Action Plan co-ordinator Karen Shelley-Jones said.

"Our white-clawed crayfish are being severely depleted by the non-native signal species, which is bigger, more aggressive and largely unharmed by the plague which it carries.

"In recent years crayfish plague has wiped out Peak District populations in the Manifold and Dove, but we used healthy donor sites in wetlands on the Calke estate and now the crayfish can breed safely away from potentially risky river habitats."
The white crayfish is listed as "endangered" on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

scary hikers cookbook

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Vote to conserve our outdoors

Your vote is needed to secure funding for one of four nominated conservation projects in the UK. From 9th March, through Trail and Country Walking magazines' website Live for the Outdoors, you can place your vote for which project should be undertaken by the European Outdoor Conservation Association.

The four projects are:
1. Re-wilding Ennerdale: This project will protect and expand the woodlands of Ennerdale valley, Cumbria including protecting the native red squirrel

2. Conservation and Restoration in Snowdonia: This project will control and eradicate non-native plant species and maintain and repair heavily used footpaths

3. Lake District Path Repair: This project will focus on two hugely popular walks; Striding Edge and Scafell Pike; repairing and re-routing paths and protecting rare and threatened species

4. Sustainable Three Peaks route: This project will look to create an alternative Yorkshire Dales Three Peaks route making the section from Pen-y-Ghent to Ribblehead more sustainable and protecting the peat habitat

The European Outdoor Conservation Association is a charitable organisation which funds specific outdoor conservation projects. It's members are outdoor organisations including many of the manufacturers we buy from such as Berghaus, Deuter, Lowe Alpine, Mammut, Nikwax and many more. Every year members nominate 3 projects each and this year members of the public are being asked to vote for one of the shortlisted projects.

Over the last 4 years the EOCA has funded 26 projects worth $640,000. These have included repairing trails in the Eastern Tyrol and Scotland, sending an expedition to research what will become a protected area of Madagascar, creating elephant corridors in India, protecting the red-footed falcon in Bulgaria and the brown bear in northern Spain, saving an ancient forest in Sweden from logging, replanting mangrove swamps in Sri Lanka and Atlantic rainforest in Brazil and cleaning a mountain in Kyrgyzstan.

Four very worthy causes, all you need to do is choose one and vote.

Click here to vote now.