Thursday, 31 December 2009

All's Well That Ends Well ...

... in the context of: We have few concerns if things turn out well in the end. Perhaps that was William Shakespeare’s point too. [Methinks - on 3/1/10: That a natural law of nature was at work here - That one's point of view is inversely proportionate to the measures of brandy consumed, as long as the temperature remains constant.]

31st December – a magical date. And a day this year when I can claim that 2009 has been good to me overall. The backpacking highlights include walking The Cumbria Way and then walking part of The Cleveland Way with my son Bryn. Next year I aim to walk The Coast to Coast during two weeks of the Summer. Shortly before that I plan to complete my fitness training with 5 days backpacking – in Wales possibly.

I cannot end the year without mentioning Alan Sloman. I didn’t see his name in the New Years Honours list (for outstanding achievement and service to walkers – by way of encouragement to others etc). So I will include him in my Honours List. And I should like to wish him and everyone else that reads this occasional blog a very Happy New Year.

My training for the Coast to Coast starts tomorrow. Or possibly the day after.

Cheers .....

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Pick Up Thy Map And Walk

Map reading has been a particular challenge for me this year but recent events will make it easier in the future. Things are looking good - quite literally.

A couple of years ago I was diagnosed as having a cataract in my right eye. I was informed that vision in that eye would gradually deteriorate and increasingly be affected by glare. I had all of that. The symptoms were exacerbated by the need for a new prescription for my spectacles. An eye test for new specs would have to wait though until after the surgery which would eventually be required to remove the cataract.

As with any surgery there is a risk so the quack makes a judgement, balancing the risk attached to the surgery and the worsening state of the cataract. My name was eventually entered on to The Waiting List four months ago, I had the surgery one month ago and today I was given the all clear. Truly, it was a wonderful thing – within hours of the surgery I could see clearly again through that eye. I will still need spectacles (although a lesser prescription and I’m finding not all of the time) but post-operation it’s as if a curtain has been drawn.

At the pre-operation check up a few months ago I was informed that a cataract was forming in the left eye which rather took the shine off my good news because I expected a 2–3 year delay before it would be dealt with. Vision is already significantly blurred. However, today my name was placed on The Waiting List so I can now expect an operation in 2-3 months to draw back that curtain.

The magnifying glass, which I have been carrying, and which I hadn’t declared on my kit list, is now confined to my desk drawer - redundant.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Brasher Supalite GTX

Boots (footwear, not the chemist) have been on my mind as well as on and off my feet for a while now. Brasher Supalite GTX boots to be precise.

Although they are probably the most comfortable boots that I’ve ever worn, I’m cautious about giving them the five stars that they may well deserve just yet. I wore them on my recent trip to the Peak District and have been wearing them locally on walks of up to 6 miles but that hasn’t demanded much of them. I was almost as pleased with my North Face Hedgehog GTX XCR’s when first wearing them but that verdict turned out to be a bit previous. At less than a year old and without any real workouts the one on the left foot lets water in now. Judging by the reviews I have read then I was probably unlucky and my Hedgehogs weren’t quite right when I bought them.

The Brasher Supalites are just that – super light and very comfy. My size 10s weigh in at 1220 grams (2lbs 11oz). They look, well, errr, normal or near traditional perhaps - boring even. But the spongy feel with each step is just what the soles of my feet, which are prone to soreness, need.

I’ll reserve judgment until after my next backpacking long distance walk. I don’t know when that will be but that’s been on mind a lot recently too.

Monday, 26 October 2009

The Peak District - Sunday

It was a peaceful drive home. Most people still in bed presumably, on a clear, dry day with the sun dazzlingly low on the horizon. I was content to have had an enjoyable short break away from home. There had been a couple of surprises too – The Pennine Bridleway being the main one.

I'm prejudiced. It’s the sort of route that I would avoid, especially so given the statement in a National Trail website that it is a “purpose-built long distance bridleway for horse riders, mountain bikers and walkers”. I don’t see how it can be considered “purpose-built” if it makes use of existing highways. Admittedly, I’m splitting hairs, and I accept that some footpaths may have been converted for other users, but the implication is that it was built for horse riders, mountain bikers and walkers – in that order; sufficient to ward me off.

That's because, regrettably, some mountain bikers bring out the Grumpy Old Man in me. It’s hardly relaxing walking a path with the threat of one or more cyclists bearing down on you at speed. I could go on, but I won’t, other than to say that I suspect few cyclists are aware that (as well as it being good manners and a safety issue) in law, they can only use a bridleway provided that they give way to walkers and horse-riders. Rant over, as they say.

There was no need for a rant in this case anyway because there were no cyclists on the sections of The Pennine Bridleway that I walked. None on the Monsal Trail either although I’m sure that that route would attract many, quite rightly, in finer weather.

The Monsal Trail - Chee Dale

In fact there was hardly anyone around at all, which was the other surprise to add to that of my enjoyment of The Pennine Bridleway. It was almost exclusively just me and Holly. I hope it wasn’t because it had been put about that a Grumpy Old Man was visiting the area.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

The Peak District - Saturday

Holly was reluctant to leave the pub this evening, or rather, once out she wanted back in again. It was blowing a gale with lots of water in it. I was of the same mind as her but it was time to go and our campsite was a 20 minute walk away.

You'll not want to hear about the weather but it has dominated the day so I have to mention it. It's been all kinds of wet.

Despite that, my thoughts while walking today have revolved around the potential for a long distance walk through this area. It's beautiful walkng country. I'll need a more suitable tent though so I was thinking about that too.

"Footpath" beside/in the River Wye

Tonight however, given the weather, it was a comfort when leaving the pub to know that we were walking back to a campervan rather than a small tent.

Friday, 23 October 2009

The Peak District - Friday

In my youth, someone enquiring where another was going, may well have been told "There and back to see how far it is!" It was a gentle way of saying "Mind your own business!". Today though, "There and back to see how far it is." would almost be the right answer; I wanted to know if The Peak District was within a satisfactory range for a weekend of walks. At 130 miles (under 3 hours) from door to campsite gate, it is.

From what I've seen so far it's well worth the drive too. I'm in limestone country and it's lovely.

The Pennine Bridleway - Chee Dale

Following Holly's wagging tail, I've wandered along parts of The Pennine Bridleway, The Monsal Trail and The Limestone Way. More of the same tomorrow.

The Waterloo - where I'd recommend the Robinson's Wags and Witches

Thursday, 22 October 2009

The Peak District Tomorrow

Googling last week, my computer mouse whisked me away to The Peak District. I was dreaming in cyber land rather than walking over land because I couldn’t afford the time to get away. A pity really, and frustrating given the fine weather recently. The weather is on the turn now but so is my luck – I’m off to Derbyshire tomorrow.

It’s just for the weekend but that will suffice to contain a couple of circular walks each followed by dinner and drinks in a pub. If the weather forecast is to be believed, then it may be a bit damp. However, I’ll be living in comfort – meet the Grampavan:

The Grampavan

She (I know a Grampavan shouldn’t be a she but “she” is what I think of her as despite my Granddaughter Tara coming up with “Grampavan”) is an elderly VW T4 Campervan who found her way to me via eBay. This weekend she can park, and hook up to the electric, at a campsite between Buxton and Bakewell for £10.00 per night which will allow me some of the overnight comforts of home.

Back to the maps and googling in the meantime – where to walk ....

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Norfolk Weekend - Sunday

Last night, when the chap in the pub asked me if he could give Holly his leftover piece of steak I said "Yes, of course!" when I meant the exact opposite. In the split second in which I had to decide, I didn't know how to say "No thanks" without sounding mean, or how to explain why not without seeming to be churlish.

Entering the pub a short while before, I'd scanned the plates of those dining in order to get an idea of the quality of food. The table next to the chap with the steak was free so when I sat down there I could see more clearly what he was eating and I didn't like the look of it. That wasn't my reason for wanting to decline his offer though.

It wasn't the unappealing thought of Holly eating off the carpet that she was stretched out on either, nor was it about her learning bad habits. It was more about what she might do with the offering given her behaviour earlier when I had presented her with a scrap of my treasured crab meat. As far as she was concerned crab meat was just dead fish. And the best thing to do with dead fish is to roll in it, which she did. She didn't want to waste the stuff by eating it. As it turned out, Holly wasn't interested in the steak (or about hurting anyone's feelings). She sniffed and looked the other way. One of the other dogs in the pub was not so fussy though.

No real losers then, plus I was very happy with my Adnams Bitter.

We are home now after a morning spent wandering along the beach towards Sheringham. We had the shore to ourselves for the most part with Holly happy to be splashing about in the cold sea water. My thoughts were tinged with a little sadness and remorse though, reflecting that since yesterday there was one less crab in it.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Norfolk Weekend - Saturday

Fresh crab meat had been on my mind for a while. Since last month in fact, when walkng through Whitby. Now though, I can happily report that said crab meat is off my mind and in my stomach. One unlucky creature having been consumed earlier today in Cromer, Norfolk.

Holly leading the way to Cromer Pier

We - that's me and my dog Holly - are camping midway between Sheringham and Cromer where the balmy peacefulness of a glorious late Summer evening is breaking as fellow campers stir ino life following their afternoon siesta. Thoughts of food no doubt on their minds now as they make plans for the evening.

Holly doesn't know it yet but we head down the coast again shortly. Not as far as Cromer this time though. My appetite for crab meat and a coastal walk has been satisfied. The pint or two of bitter that I now have in mind are closer to hand.

Sunday, 6 September 2009


The proposed Bank Holiday Weekend coastal walk didn’t come off. Events and a shortage of time conspired to keep us at home. There hasn’t been time this weekend either mainly because jobs at home have to take priority. So the proposal is still on my To Do List.

My computer died on the Bank Holiday Weekend. Recently upgraded with a new power supply, increased RAM and an extra hard drive it was bad timing at the very least for it to conk out. No amount of tickling its insides would produce anything more that spinning fans. The predicament was which to replace - the remaining old bits of the PC or the whole computer. After much deliberation I decided, reluctantly, that I would have to fork out for a new one and here I am back on-line at last.

I would never have believed just how much I have come to depend on a computer at home and how much I would miss it when one wasn’t available. I was a lost soul – backpackless in the dark. Normal service is returned now though. I just have to get on top of the garden and housework.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks

Holly, my dog, is a sprinter rather than a long distance walker. That’s just fine for what she wants to do - a swift burst to chase a squirrel or a rabbit. It’s not ideal for me though. I would like her to accompany me on long walks. Indeed, that was the main reason for getting her in the first place. However, Holly has never shown an aptitude for that.


She’s a Border Terrier, a type of dog originally bred to kill foxes and vermin with breed characteristics nowadays which seemed right for my purpose when choosing her ten years ago. She loves to be out and about but not long out and abouts. In hot weather she seeks the shade and shows how stubborn she can be with her “On yer bike!” look. Understandable really, given that she like all Border Terriers has two coats. It’s not such a problem in the cold. And “wet” is ok, so long as she can choose when, and then only, if she can sit in it. A muddy pond, chrystal clear river or salty sea - it doesn't matter. Just cold and wet.

I don’t believe the old adage that you can’t teach old dogs new tricks. I might agree that it can prove difficult to change old tricks and break old habits but it seems to me that new tricks can be learned at any age. It’s time to put Holly to the test.

If it’s a typically cool Bank Holiday weekend this coming weekend then I hope to go camping with her. A short coastal walk appeals to me, where compromise is the order of the day. She can cool down in the water when she wants, allowing me to take a break and read my book. Beaches tend to be squirrel free too.

Monday, 17 August 2009

The Cleveland Way - After

The benefit of a holiday is that it's a break from a general routine. On the sixth day of a walking holiday I was into another (more desirable) one. I was almost fit enough in health and spirit for more weeks of it. Alas, one week was all that I/we had time for.

My preparations for this walk began in March and they paid off. One knee is still weak but no longer painful. There were no blisters on this walk. The soles of my feet are still an issue but less so. They ache after an hour or so of walking but it is an "ache" rather than pain, and easily remedied with a short halt or the occasional longer stop with boots and socks off. I'm more than hopeful that more weight loss plus another appointment with the podiatrist and the osteopath will bring further improvement.

I was very pleased with the kit except for the sleeping bag and perhaps the boots (See my kit list and previous posts for details). The sleeping bag was warm but I realise now that I need a more spacious bag for a comfortable nights sleep. The boots look and feel good but I am going to try another type for comparison.

It didn't feel as if we had "roughed it" on our holiday. It was a pleasure to camp out in the good weather that we had. The overnight rain whilst we camped at Cote Ghyll camp site, Osmotherley was not a problem but the site was and the midges that live there made it an unpleasant experience. The staff were disorganised and unhelpful, the site is cramped and muddy. There is one decent toilet block and another not so decent. I wouldn't use that site again. I suspect that some of the other campers who I saw, and certainly those that I spoke to, won't either.

Garbutt Farm, Sutton Bank was at the other end of the scale; it is an outstanding Bed & Breakfast. The accomodation is luxurious and the breakfast excellent. Our vehicle was parked there whilst we were away. It's almost on The Cleveland Way, within easy walking distance of a pub and a bus stop for The Moors Bus Service - a service which we used to return from Scarborough and collect our van.

I owe a debt of gratitude to the many (including ourselves) that wished us luck - we received it and used some to good effect. Special gratitude is due to Alan Sloman - a walker extraordinaire, reluctant gear freak and altogether nice guy who gave us such good advice and encouragement. Thank you Alan. I'd like to thank Bryn too, for being such a good son and the perfect companion on The Cleveland Way 2009. And very well done! Clambering up big hills whilst texting - amazing.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

The Cleveland Way - Day 6

11 August 2009

Robin Hood's Bay to Scarborough - 15 miles

For both of us, this is the best coastal section of The Cleveland Way. A number of factors combine to make it so. We are fitter now so negotiating the couple of steep climbs before and the long haul over, Ravenscar to the half way point at Hayburn Wyke is not difficult. The route is clear so no need for stops to consult a map. The path surface is easy on the feet and the views are far reaching, especially today with the fine weather. In all, We can direct our attention to each other and our surroundings.

Looking back (North) from Ravenscar

In clear weather, Scarborough can be identified early on - it's castle a dominant feature on the skyline. As we crossed the bridge at Scalby Mill, on to the Promenade, it was as if we had become the tourist attraction; two sunburnt hikers out of place next to the sandy beach.

This is the end of our journey and this has been a brief account of it along with a few of my thoughts. We, of course, know the full story and will keep it in memory for a long time to come.

When I get back to my computer (Sunday) I'll write a final piece, edit where necessary and add some photos. I think I'll be ready to start planning my next walk then.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

The Cleveland Way - Day 5

10 August 2009

Runswick Bay to Robin Hood's Bay - 15.5 miles

Walking around Whitby at lunchtime was more about avoiding others than searching for that crab sandwich I had thought about the evening before. The place was heaving. Even in the rain. I could feel myself getting grumpy so it was a relief to make our way up the famous 199 steps to the Abbey and then to the open space beyond. The crab sandwich proved to be as elusive to us as did the creatures themselves to the children dangling bait in the harbour, and presumably to the crab fishermen. Fresh crab was off the menu.

What was on today's menu as it were, was rain which slackened to drizzly showers by the time we reached Robin Hood's Bay. It was refreshing though. After the hot weather we have had up till now, Bryn and I were agreed that the change was a welcome one.

I'd be happy for it to change back again tomorrow though.

Robin Hood's Bay

Monday, 10 August 2009

The Cleveland Way - Day 4

9 August 2009

Saltburn to Runswick Bay - 12.5 miles

A change of plan today to resolve a problem; a joint unshakeable craving for a plate of Fresh Whitby Haddock with chips, mushy peas and bread & butter (you know - the thin sliced white bread with the warm butter that might well have been applied with a paint brush).

On our schedule, we would walk through Whitby tomorrow lunchtime. However, ours would be a meal to linger over (queue for too most likely). Not fast food to be consumed in the middle of a 15 mile walk.

So, 20 minutes after arriving Runswick Bay, parched and desperate for the aforesaid fish and chips, we were on a bus, Whitby bound, salivating.

I have to tell you, that this evening, we ate the most delicious Haddock & Chips that you could wish for.

Trenchers Fish Restaurant - Whitby

We bus back to Runswick Bay in the morning where we continue our journey south which will bring us through Whitby again. Whitby Crab sandwich and a pint of bitter for lunch methinks.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

The Cleveland Way - Day 3

8 August 2009

Battersby Moor to Saltburn - 17 miles

Coffee in bed this morning. With fresh milk too! Bryn had secretly carried a pint of it as a surpise treat. There was plenty left over to mix with our porridge before we set off this morning as well.

There was no rush to leave as we were hoping to arrive in Kildale to find the village shop open on arrival. It wasn't but we didn't have long to wait. Then, with more water and a few snacks on board we were off on an already very hot day.

There were a lot of other walkers around today. Remarkable, I thought, to see whole families including young children on such long walks, and refreshingly nice to have friendly conversations with others along our way.

Highcliff Nab - Overlooking Guisborough with the North Sea in the distance

We are in a B&B now after a good days walk on another hot dry day. Washed, laundry done, fed and watered, and looking forward, after a good night's rest, to the start of our walk down the coast tomorrow.

The Cleveland Way - Day 2

7 August 2009

Osmotherley to Battersby Moor - 18 miles

Squadrons of midges were waiting for us when we emerged from our tents this morning. After our hurried breakfast (and during theirs) we set off on what was to be a marvellous walk.

The views from our route over open moorland were breathtaking, as were some of the ups and downs - which probably comprised the best part of 3000 feet of ascent overall in mostly short sharp climbs.

Bryn spotted some level, lawn-like patches of grass about 2 miles short of Kildale where we are wild camping. There is no water here nor proper shelter but we have sufficient of the former and are not expecting nasty weather. We're not expecting kamikasi flying things either.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

The Cleveland Way - Day 1

6 August 2009

Sutton Bank to Osmotherley - 14 miles

Nah then!

It's been fine and warm so it was great to be out all day. We walked North along the western edge of the North York Moors National Park, and with only about 750 feet of ascent over the 14 miles it was more like a long stroll.

Arriving at Osmotherley in the early afternoon we had tea followed by shandy, and had a good chat with some Coast to Coasters before checking into Cote Ghyll Caravan and Camping Park - not the best of camp sites or pitches but with good showers.

There are three pubs in Osmotherley but we settled for The Queen Catherine for dinner. Expecting a harder days walk tomorrow, boringly we have retired to our beds and it is now 2130 hrs.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

The Cleveland Way - Day Before

5 August 2009

Sutton Bank

There's something special about the A1. It's not something that I can explain easily or briefly. Part of it though, is that even on the modern motorway sections I sense that I'm following the general route of an ancient highway. It's ironic that I should feel disorientated on a road but I do get that feeling on the M1 for instance - hardly noticing great towns and cities on the way. Not so on The Great North Road.

The journey north therefore added to our already high level of excitement to be on holiday, our adventure, at last. So, shortly after booking in to our B&B (Garbutt Farm, Sutton Bank, which is very comfortable, luxurious even, with the bonus that our vehicle can be left here securely whilst we are away) we spent the evening at The Hambleton Inn, here on Sutton Bank, where we have happily calmed down, satisfied our stomaches and quenched our thirst.

An excellent start.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

The Cleveland Way - Before

On Wednesday, Bryn and I drive to Sutton Bank, North Yorkshire, where, on the following day, we set off on our six day walk along The Cleveland Way to Scarborough; a walk of about 90 miles. Our planned overnight stops are: on arrival at Sutton Bank, then Osmotherley, a wild camp somewhere in the Cleveland Hills south of Kildale, Saltburn, Runswick Bay, Robin Hood’s Bay and Scarborough. We’ll be camping out each night except the first at Sutton Bank, the last at Scarborough and in between at Saltburn-by-the-Sea where B&Bs have been booked.

I should feel as if I am almost at the end of the road on a journey that began in March to prepare body and kit, and the end of the road being Scarborough where, when we arrive, Bryn and I will have achieved our aim of walking part of The Cleveland Way. For both of us though, it’s the true start of a longer journey - a return to backpacking and a future with all its rewards.

We’re hoping for fair weather on this trip but prepared, we think, for the worst. We’ll be looking for some decent food (Fish and chips in Whitby and Scarborough of course) and the odd drink (pubs are a bit thin on the ground before the coast but there’s more than enough from Saltburn onwards). You should be able to read about our trek here.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Look Forwards

Only a week now until Bryn and I arrive on the launch pad - well, our start point at Sutton Bank, North Yorkshire, for The Cleveland Way. And yet.…… I find myself thinking about another long distance path; The Coast to Coast, which runs from St Bee’s in Cumbria to Robin Hood’s Bay in Yorkshire - 190 miles in all. I’m eager to walk that route next year. Thoughts of that are probably more about setting a new challenge though and having another “look forward” in place when the current one has passed.

In the meantime, I’m keen to continue blogging. The technical side has not gone strictly according to plan. I had wanted to send pictures as well as text when walking. The posh phone that I wrote about at the beginning of July should have enabled me to do so but my contract with Virgin Mobile didn’t work out. Therefore, I still rely on the text only PocketMail device whilst on the move, adding pictures from a PC at a later date.

I might have to tinker with the title of this blog. “The Cleveland Way 2009” won’t serve if I’m wittering on about another trek in another year. Brian walking? Brian’s walking? Brian wittering?

[Prodnose: Laters! First things first. Get your mind in gear.]

Right you are! The Cleveland Way 2009. Next week.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Clean Socks

I had taken my socks off at some point during the night - absent-mindedly, only half awake. As you might your clothes, in the early hours, after falling asleep fully clothed, inebriated perhaps following a night of excess. (If you haven’t done so then you should try that - the next day just gets better and better as you recover.)

I had followed Alan Sloman’s advice, except that I had fallen asleep after doing so. “Try wearing Bridgedale liner socks beneath your Merino walking socks …….. Wash the liner socks every night and then put them back on in the tent - they dry in minutes on your feet.”

As I put the wringed-out socks on my feet the night before, I couldn’t help wondering if this was one of those cruel hoaxes - accepted innocently only to realise later, embarrassingly, that you had been well and truly duped. Like the recruit sent to the Quartermaster’s store for a Long Stand. To be asked, having waited outside for 30 minutes “Is that long enough?” Or, to be sent to the same place by the Platoon Sergeant to get some Sky Hooks.

No. Alan Sloman wouldn’t do that to this recruit. And he hadn’t.

So I pass on his advice. Wear two pairs of socks when walking (which for me and most walkers is the norm). At the end of the day, wash and then put the still wet liner socks back on. When tired at night, I’m dead to the world moments after my head hits the pillow so my variation on his advice was to fall asleep in wet socks. It worked though - the socks were dry.

It was an odd sensation; putting wet socks on, and I did get cramp in my lower legs briefly. An odd thought too, momentarily, before dropping off; sock, line and sinker? Then, this morning, grateful thoughts - that my floor was a dry carpet rather than wet grass, that my socks were dry and that Alan had taken the time to tell me.

Thanks Alan.

Monday, 20 July 2009

The Cumbria Way - After

After spending the morning exploring Carlisle I returned, along the coast by train, to South Cumbria. Then, the following day I left for home. So there has been plenty of time in which to recover from and reflect upon my walk.

I didn't cover vast distances each day when compared to some - those who are walking or have walked the LEJOG or JOGLE (see Great Blogs that I follow) for instance. Since my five day walk I have raised my level of admiration and respect for such people.

My body coped well with the walk and I am very pleased, and relieved, about that. The soles of my feet were a problem; they were fairly sore most of the time and I got a couple of nasty blisters on the final day. This is to be expected but I will try to firm up my feet in some way before Bryn and I set out on The Cleveland Way. My main pre-walk concern had been whether or not my right knee would last the course. It did. I wasn't so organised when setting out, in the rain, on the final day's walk and forgot to take my daily dose of pain killers which were meant to numb my right knee. As it turned out there was no pain just the odd twinge so I'm off the pain killers now.

I'm very pleased with my kit too - especially the rucksack. Yes, especially the rucksack - it's lovely. The packed weight went up to 24lbs depending on food and water which was more than I had aimed for. It wasn't a problem but I will try to reduce it further. I didn't know it at the time but somewhere north of Keswick on Day 4 my rucksack rain cover flew off. I could have done with that on the following day especially. My sleeping bag was the main casualty - it got drenched. The replacement rain cover will be secured to the rucksack in future so that if the elasticated band does ease off then I'll still have the cover. I was in shorts for the whole journey. Leaving out the long trousers would save me some weight. However, I was glad to have them for my evening out in Carlisle on what was more like a Winter's night. (The Cumberland Show, an internationally recognised annual show was cancelled whilst I was in Carlisle - rained off!)

I wasn't sure about the blogging when I left either. I wondered if I would have enough to say or the time to say it. The problem though was keeping it short. One of the joys of walking solo is the time you have to think so I had plenty of material as it were. I said little about the route. I probably said too much about food. The strangest thing for me though was/is writing something yet not knowing who I am writing it to. Knowing who, or at least a sense of who you are writing to is much more normal. I'm not sure how to come to terms with that aspect. I will though because I have proved to myself that I can blog and that I enjoy doing so. I'm not sure what others make of it but it's a record for me and if it serves to encourage someone else - someone like me perhaps; getting on a bit, (Patrick, a cheerful, enthusiastic young gentleman from Worcester, who I camped next to at Calbeck reminded me that you're never too old), someone who would like to try something new or get back to something he or she once did, then I hope these ramblings can light or rekindle that fire.

Friday, 17 July 2009

The Cumbria Way - Day 5

17 July 2009

Caldbeck to Carlisle - 12 miles

Full, glorious peals of the cathedral's bells hit me as I stepped out of The Sportsman Inn, Carlisle's oldest pub. I stood in awe. (13 bells in the full ring I found out later.)

Better late than never, I thought; I had arrived in Carlisle without fanfare five hours earlier. The evening before I had been settling down for the night, the rain falling on my tent. It was still raining. It hadn't stopped so I was drenched to the skin when I arrived in Carlisle, cold and suffering with very sore feet after a 7 hour/12 mile trudge - the last 5 miles over tarmac.

After booking into a B&B, a long hot shower, dry clothes and a marvellous home-cooked English meal in a good pub, I was on the mend.

I didn't enjoy this day's walk. It had to be done though - to complete the 70 miles. To feel the satisfaction of having done so, to soak up the comfort of the clean white sheets that I will sleep on tonight. And to hear those bells.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

The Cumbria Way - Day 4

16 July 2009

Keswick to Caldbeck - 15 miles

Someone sat on my spectacles last night (no names but his initials are Brian Cowling) bending the frame and forcing a lens from its fitting. Luckily, I found an optician in Keswick who was able to repair them.

Given that I was in town and that the shops were open, I couldn't resist the urge to vist the George Fisher shop; they have all sorts of outdoor goodies. I now have some new lightweight tent pegs. All of this caused a late start to today's walk.

Dinner at Throstle Hall Farm, Caldbeck

I'm tucked up in my tent now sheltered from the light, drizzly rain and set for an early night. I ate "in" earlier deciding to give the pub, which is just down the road, a miss. I'll have more time for that tomorrow, in Carlisle.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

The Cumbria Way - Day 3

15 July 2009

Dungeon Ghyll to Keswick - 15 miles

In his book, Cumbria Way, Paul Hannon describes my route today as passing through the very heart of Lakeland, leaving Langdale by way of a splendid mountain pass, followed by a magical walk along a green floor of Borrowdale and by Derwent Water. He sums it up perfectly. i would add though, that in my case, I found it hard going.

Leaving the camp site at 06:15, it was still raining hard as I struggled over Stake Pass and then picked my way along the boulder strewn path alongside Langstrath Beck.

Langstrath Beck - looking north

I was a fully laden boat labouring in stormy weather. Sirens were guiding me though, beckoning me to Keswick. The Sirens were two pasties; one a Cornish, the other a Steak & Gravy. I knew this for certain because they had tempted me before. And they knew that I wanted to devour them. It is what drove me on - through the rain and over the rocks to Keswick before someone else could get their sticky fingers on them.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

The Cumbria Way - Day 2

14 July 2009

Coniston to Dungeon Ghyll - 12.5 miles

Dinner at The Black Bull in Coniston last night was just what I needed. Mind you, I wouldn't have been a good judge of its quality; I was ravenous and ready for anything as long as it wasn't moving.

The B&B was just what I needed too. They provide "Breakfast to Go" for those wanting an eary start - which I did this morning. Intending to get the miles under my boot I soon found that my state of mind had changed; yesterday I was focussed, mainly, on getting from "A" to "B"; today I'm much more laid back. I've had a gentle dawdle with no particular rush to get anywhere, enabling me to take in the ever-improving rugged scenery.


I'm typing this in the early afternoon at The New Dungeon Ghyll Hotel. There is a pot of tea before me with cake and there's half a bitter to follow. I am within half a mile of The Dungeon Ghyll Old Hotel where I'm hoping they can provide me with some more of the Coniston Bluebird Bitter that I quaffed last night. I have all the time in the world and haven't decided yet whether or not to stay at the nearby campsite as planned or go on. It's a glorious day and I fancy some more walking.

I'd like to find a public phone in order to send this to the blog. Another reason for a halt at the next pub; they may have one - there continues to be no Virgin/T-Mobile network coverage in this area.

Monday, 13 July 2009

The Cumbria Way - Day 1

13 July 2009

Ulverston to Coniston - 15.5 miles

Niggling thoughts about what I may have forgotten and qualms about my knee (which has been giving me trouble) faded gradually as I made my way north from Ulverston this morning. Arthur (Brother-in-Law) had dropped me at the start of The Cumbria Way after breakfast where a short time before he and Bernice (Sister) had sung "Val deri, val dera, with a knapsack on my back" together.

The rain that had been forecast didn't fall - it's been a fine, warm day. The crowds of tourists that I had pessimistically expected didn't turn up - it was mainly just lots of cows and sheep, and me. And ever improving scenery. It has been a great start to my walk.

The locals turn out to greet me

Highlights of my day have been: stopping a pace short of a snake basking in the sun - it slithered away as I tried to take a photo; a sparrow hawk a couple of yards away studying me from its perch in some bracken; and now this - an Internet Cafe in Coniston where I can get no network connection on my mobile phone.

I'm in an excellent B&B - Lakeland House, which is also an Internet Cafe - a new experience for me. A dash though before my time runs out.

The next three nights I camp out. Before that though I'll be spending the evening in the pub round the corner which is also the brewery. Steak I think and a pint or two of bitter.

And now I remember. I did forget something - it was the half bottle of fresh orange juice that I was going to have with my breakfast at Bernice and Arthur's.

Friday, 10 July 2009

The Cumbria Way - Before

On Sunday I drive to Cumbria and then on Monday set out on The Cumbria Way - a 70 mile route from Ulverston to Carlisle which I plan to walk over a 5 day period.

I don’t really know what to expect which is as it should be. I’m not familiar with the Lake District so this walk, which runs through the middle of it, should give me a good overview. Or perhaps that should be an "under view" because the path keeps, where it can, to the lower ground. There are a couple of high points though (Stake Pass and a contour of High Peak) and I believe the whole route has 10,000 feet of ascent.

Apart from it being a holiday in the Lake District, this is the conclusion of my preparations for The Cleveland Way walk with Bryn in August. This is my dress rehearsal.

Getting me and my kit ready for walking has been a challenging yet enjoyable journey in its own right. Reservations about my preparedness at this stage centre on fitness and technology; my knees aren’t performing properly and I’m not confident with my mobile phone or about mobile blogging yet.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Diabetes UK

James Readman and a couple of his mates (20 - 21 year olds) are walking 65 miles of The Cleveland Way starting 17th July. They are trying to raise £200 for Diabetes UK.

I don't know these lads but James contacted me on the scrounge and as I think it's a fine thing that they are doing I've sponsored them. If you'd like to as well then you can donate directly HERE or via their BLOG where you should be able to follow their progress. Check em out!

Saturday, 4 July 2009

A Walking Phone

I’ve got a new mobile phone. It’s a posh one.

Mobile phones are not really my thing. Issued with one at work several years ago, it’s a lifeline should there be a problem when lone-working. That has been the purpose of my own personal similar device. Selfishly, for use at my convenience when needs be; not for anyone to contact me. So my mobile phones are normally switched off until I need them.

As I recall, I have only ever sent two text messages. That was done under instruction from my 10 year old Granddaughter. And I’ve forgotten how to since then. My Daughter assures me that once I start texting then I’ll wonder how I ever made do without it. “What?” I think. “Like car windscreen washers, non-stick pans & e-mails.” Hmmm. Perhaps. Mind you I didn’t see the point of canned shaving foam when it became available. [Caveman, about his wife, to his friend: “She calls it a hat! But it’ll never catch on.”] So what do I know?

My new personal phone, a Nokia 5800, isn’t primarily for texting though. As well as calls in and out, it’s for internet access and blogging on the move. It’s more a walking phone than a mobile phone. In camera mode I will be able to upload images to this blog. And combining camera with phone seemed an obvious way to reduce rucksack weight by a few precious ounces. Gayle (we’ve not been introduced so I hope she won’t mind me talking about her) in her blog of 1st July makes a convincing case for taking a camera though so I’m not so sure now.

Texting and packing a camera; something to think about.

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

At the Gym

It’s a struggle going to the gym.

I didn’t attend at all last week. Various appointments, work and otherwise, conspired to keep me away [Prodnose: “Yeah, yeah. Excuses, excuses.”] but I’m determined to put in as many appearances as possible during the coming month [Prodnose: “Manana methinks …” Me: “HUSH!”]. Getting fit enough to walk the walk was one of the aims listed in my first post on this blog. It’s the vital preparation. There was a time when I could get fit and improve stamina on the go. Not now though. I remind myself I’ll not make it let alone enjoy the trek if unfit, so I need to get on with it. [“Prodnose: I’ll believe that when I s……” Me: “Enough!”]

Why is it a struggle? Well, my more affordable Off-Peak membership limits attendance times and to weekdays. I have to fit the sessions into my working day between noon and 2 o’clock, and around the other things that have to be done during that period. And, the fact is, I don’t really enjoy working out.

A session is about 40 minutes in the gym and 15 minutes in the pool. The swim is more a wallow to cool me down but there is movement. It’s a struggle all the same.

Prodnose: A Beachcomber character; favourite reading for me as a schoolboy.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Knee pain

I’m troubled by knee pain as reported here and elsewhere in this blog so a visit to an osteopath seemed in order. The osteopath informed me that one of my legs is longer than the other by one centimetre. Hard to believe but there it is. I couldn’t help thinking “Thank God for metric! If talking imperial the difference might have been greater: half an inch.”

I lie on my side as instructed, (not quite wild-eyed, looking for, yet not wanting to see, the surgical saw) wondering what comes next. Fingers (his) was the answer - prodding and pushing, with great force, the stuff (tissue? ligaments?) in my thigh. This is because I have, as he put it, “Right sacroiliac dysfunction.” Which means, as I understand it, that the right side of my pelvis is rotated to compensate for the fact that a joint isn’t working. This appears to make the leg on that side longer and, misaligned, puts pressure on the knee, (which has also suffered wear and tear) causing, he believes, the pain. By the end of the session, magically, cleverly, my legs are now the same length; metrically and imperially. I have special exercises to carry out in order to strengthen the muscles in that area and I’m boosted by the thought that the pain may disappear in the weeks to come.

He didn’t like the look of my feet though (I’m not too pleased with them either) so he referred me to a podiatrist. I’ve seen him. He’s seen my feet. Done scrapy things to them with a scalpel - ever so gently, such that I hardly felt a thing (and he assured me that was down to his skill rather than me being ankle dead). He cut my toe nails and instructed me how to look after them properly too; essentially, don’t cut them again. Just file them once a week.

A note to myself: (“Pay attention in the rear rank - this is important!”) If I’ve got a problem then don’t delay. Sort it.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Karaoke & Keswick

It was 50 years since I had last visited Keswick. I was a Boy Scout then. Wandering around the town again on Sunday I remembered nothing of the place or the experience save for a couple of presents I had bought as a boy. A brooch for my mother; an actual bird's foot with embedded gemstone. And a record, on a postcard, for my brother; Hoots Mon, There’s a Moose Loose aboot this Hoose - Lord Rockingham’s XI. Such taste. Lasting memories of Sunday will include Keswick as a shopping Mecca for walkers and that the Steak & Gravy Pasty followed by a Cornish Pasty, from The Cornish Pasty shop on Lake Street, were delicious.

There were unforgettable events the day before when I’d been visiting family in South Cumbria. A pub Karaoke night with sister, brother-in-law and nephew till the early hours of Sunday wasn’t something I had thought could be so enjoyable.

I’ll be passing through Keswick again in July when I walk The Cumbria Way. I might have to settle for something tasty from the excellent Booths supermarket if I make the early start I’d prefer on that day.

After a good look around the area - driving as far north as Caldbeck, which will be another stop-over on The Cumbria Way, and a pint of Jennings Bitter in the Oddfellows Arms, we (me and Holly, my dog) were back home before mid-night.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

The Happy Wanderer

Sure signs that a long distance walk is in the offing: an occasionally cracked face as a smile appears uncontrollably and without apparent reason (“Ooo, ‘ee looks really ‘appy!”), a spring in my step, a sprong in my heart - "Val-deri, Val-dera, Val-deri, Val-dera-ha-ha….", and maps spread out on my table.

All are evident. Evidence, if needed, that I will be happily wandering soon. Next month actually when I plan to walk The Cumbria Way trail. OK - so it’s not a Polar crossing but it’s my version of a demanding trek with a knapsack on my back as final preparation for The Cleveland Way.

Knees and feet “Live long and prosper” (“Dif-tor heh smusma” in Vulcan). Gallons of Lake District rain & pints of bitter. I can’t wait.

The maps are out

Friday, 5 June 2009

Kit - Part 4, Rucksack Weight

Limiting my fully packed rucksack’s weight to 20lbs (9.07kg) is challenging me. I will have to revise my Kit List down further to stay within that limit or increase the weight allowance. Revise the list down I think.

I’ve replaced most of my equipment with the lightest alternative, yet the weight, as I write, is 18.7lbs (8.5kg). That is before stowing the final few items including food though. There is still scope to save a few ounces here and there - with the relevant software I could print out some map sheets rather than carry the OS Explorer Maps for instance. I'm considering MSR’s PocketRocket Stove (or a Primus), Titan Kettle and Cup. I haven’t bought them yet so the weights shown on my spreadsheet are unverified. I may do without the cup. There were one or two lighter options for some of my new things but the cost was prohibitive for me. No, I will have to take less.

I could do some creative accounting. For example, moving walking poles (see my spreadsheet) from the “rucksack” to the “worn” category would save me 1lb 4oz (575g). My own version of “quantitive easing”. I think not.

It seems to me that the problem stemmed from a wish to take more spare clothes. Touristly - I arrive at a night stop, shower, change into some glad rags and go down the pub. It’s feasible; The Cleveland Way is not a wilderness walk. Bryn and I will use bed and breakfasts as well as tents. So cut the pub or don't dress for the ball. Methinks - a wash, the pub? Yes, definitely, but less sartorial.

Spare footwear is included in my kit list but the weight is not accounted for yet. I would like to take them but my North Face Hedgehogs, UK size 10, weigh in at 2lbs 1oz (940 grams). On-line searches reveal lighter makes, however, the choice is bewildering.

I’ve decided. It’s a compromise (not a cop-out). The 20lb limit applies to everything including food and water but I can exceed that weight to accommodate spare footwear. Hedgehogs, for the time being at least, you’re coming with me.

Hedgehogs - A temporary reprieve?

PS. Tuesday 9th June.

Purchased a Primus Micron Stove, MSR Titan Kettle & Cup - total weight (including gas canister) 440g (15.25 oz)

Thursday, 28 May 2009

A two day walk

Employing the basic method of measuring a route on a map (marking a strip of paper against the route shown on the 1:25,000 map and then measuring the total length) produced a distance of 15.6 miles between my start point in Caterham along The North Downs Way to my overnight stop at Dorking. In all probability it was less than that but to me, on the ground, on the day, it seemed much more. I put that down to the state of my fitness rather than the condition of the (well manicured) paths of Surrey, downland England. And to my measuring method.
On my way
The reason for the walk was to test my fitness, in particular to see how I would cope with walking a distance in excess of 15 miles. So I set off from Caterham on the morning of Friday 22nd May, spent the night at a Bed & Breakfast in Dorking and returned along the same route the following day.

The section of the National Trail that I walked is a well trodden route and waymarking is fairly good. Despite that, and the glorious weather, and that it was the Friday before a Bank Holiday Weekend, there were few people on the trail. Surprisingly, there weren't many more on the Saturday either. The description of the route is well documented elsewhere so I'll not elaborate here other than to say that there are many interesting places along the way (Reigate Fort for example) and fine views overlooking the likes of Redhill, Reigate and Dorking.

View west to Box Hill from Colley Hill (TQ 245523)

As I said, the aim was to test my fitness. Well, I completed the walk of course and from the knees up I was just great. Plenty of puff. A feeling of elation to be walking with a pack on my back again - the Osprey Exos 46 (made up to a packed weight of 22lbs on this trip) is fantastic. Luxuriously comfortable, practical, attractive - Cool!

My knees and the soles of my feet would tell a different story though. They started to complain after about 5 miles and were really shouting by the end of each day. It may be that it is to do with the way I walk - I have had knee problems in the past and the pain/discomfort was not evident on the uphill sections. However, I'm hopeful that it's more about a need to get fitter. Although I was wrecked on arrival in Dorking, I was fairly well recovered after an early night and a good sleep. It wasn't as bad on the second day either. We'll see.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Short term targets

I promise not to go on about it in future blogs but I have to record that I have met my short term target to reduce my weight by 20lbs. When I stood on the scales on Monday morning this week, I was 20lbs lighter than I was on 9th March when I had decided I would try to lose that amount. I'm keen to remind myself that I have not been, and am not on, "a diet". I've changed my lifestyle so that I eat mostly the same things as before but less of them - mind you, my garden compost heap is testament to the fact that I am eating a lot more fruit. And I am more active of course. My efforts have paid off over the last 10 weeks and I am very pleased (not too smug I hope) with myself. I am still overweight but I'm confident that more pounds will go in the coming weeks. I'm not in a rush though and I am no longer focused on the issue.

This week, I hope to complete the other part of my short term target; a longish walk. On Friday I plan to walk from Caterham, Surrey, west along the route of The North Downs Way to Dorking. I'll stay at a Bed & Breakfast overnight (no wild camping on this trip) and then return along the same route on Saturday. It's about 16 miles in each direction.

Some may wonder "Why The North Downs Way?" Well, my start point is close to my daughter and family's house and they will put me up for the night before and after the walk. And, more importantly, they will look after my dog Holly - a 10 year old Border Terrier who loves to walk but wouldn't be able to manage the distance I hope to cover.

My Weight: 12 - 18 May -2lb. Since 9 Mar (10 wks) -20lbs.

Monday, 11 May 2009

The excitement is back

The excitement that I felt whilst prepararing for my first long distance walk (The Cleveland Way) many years ago was accompanied, naturally enough, by a feeling of apprehension. I was setting off on a great adventure. Would I be capable of completing the course? The same excitement was always resuscitated during the build up to subsequent long distance walks and it is with me now. The apprehension was not long-lived after embarking upon that first walk but it has returned. It has been a while since I have walked 15+ miles a day so I'm not sure how well I can cope. The mind is willing but I have yet to see if the body is still able. "You'll be alright!" I hear you say - well the kinder folk out there will be saying that.

I'll have some idea later this month of what I'm capable of when I take a two day walk in southern England, and then a better idea in July when I spend a week in the north-west. "I'll be alright!" I hear myself saying.

Later this month I plan to walk a small section of The North Downs Way - fifteen plus miles in one direction (staying overnight at Bed & Breakfast accommodation) and then walking back to my start point the following day. More about that in a later blog.

In July I aim to spend a week in The Lake District. I'm spoilt for choice on where to go of course but the general idea is to find a demanding, continuous route (camping & Bed & Breakfast). More about that in a later blog (as well as blogs en route) too.

Three sets of excitement. I hope I can cope with that as well.

My Weight: 5 - 11 May -1lb. Since 9 Mar (9 wks) -18lbs.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Shangri-La 1 & Big Agnes Air Pad

I used my Golite Shangri-La 1 and Big Agnes Clearview Air Pad overnight for the first time at the weekend and I'm very pleased with the outcome.

The Shangri-La is excellent. It's lightweight of course and, packed away, doesn't occupy much room in my rucksack. Erecting it is simple. Admittedly, I put it up in bright, dry and calm conditons on a level garden lawn. Putting walking poles to a second use as tent poles is a great bonus. Inside the shelter there is plenty of space for me, my bed and rucksack. Just one slightly negative comment which is that there was quite a build up of condensation overnight. In defence of the shelter, it may be that I restricted the airflow by pegging it out close to the ground. Overall - five stars so far though.

Five stars for the Big Agnes Air Pad too. I'm a light sleeper and prefer a soft, warm bed. The Air Pad is both. I sleep better when using two or more soft pillows as well so I cheated on this first night by using a couple of pillows that won't accompany me on any walk. On this occasion they helped ensure a comfortable night.

My Weight: 28 Apr -4 May -3lbs. Since 9 Mar (8 wks) -17lbs.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Progress - and it shows

When I declared in the first post of this blog that Bryn and I were going to walk part of the The Cleveland Way, I also declared that fitness was an issue. Furthermore, that I aimed to reduce my weight and improve my fitness and stamina. I feel that I have made significant progress with part of that aim; I have reduced my weight by a stone. That's 14lbs off the targetted 20lbs reduction before we set off on our walk in August.

I have shed the 14lbs over 7 weeks by eating less and exercising more. Exercise so far has consisted of walking rather than driving to work most days (it's almost a 5 mile return trip), occasional slightly longer walks with my dog and some bicycle rides of 5-10 miles. Exercise gets bumped up this week though as I move into Phase 2!

My gym membership has been reactivated and I have been swimming. I'm not a strong/fast swimmer - it's more a case of moving whilst floating, and that movement doesn't come easily. It's takes maximum effort. It doesn't look pretty but those in the pool at the same time should take comfort from the fact that I do not displace as much water as I used to though. I start the gym workouts followed by swims this Wednesday and Friday and thereafter twice a week. I plan to ride my bicycle further and more often too.

There has been progess this week on another front as well. I reached the ripe old age of 63.

Monday, 20 April 2009

Kit - Part 3, Shangri-La 1

Cantonese is a sing-song language. Unaccountably, I love the sound of it. Not that I would have the faintest idea about what was being said. It's just so appealing. In the jumble of sounds there's a flat "a" - similar to the sound you would make as the sides of your mouth rise into a smile to say Cumbrian "path" rather than The Thames "Parth". "La la laahh" - the last word stretched out and at a lower frequency. La la laahh. It's what I am reminded of when I say Shangri-La; "Shan gri laaahh ..". Ahh so - perhaps now you know what I'm on about. Yes - my shelter has arrived. My very own GoLite Shangri-La 1 [*Initial comments below]. She's the 2009 version in evergreen rather than the Chinesey bamboo (yellow). She looks like a Helen to me.

Here she is; Helen (pronounced Herren) Shangri Rahhhh ....

GoLite Shangri-La 1

Agnes is here too. Big Agnes Clearview Air Pad, who weighs in at 460g (plus a net bag at 15g). It should have been the lighter Mummy version (a minimised, Egyptian Mummy shape) but the on-line supplier sent the wrong one - a Rectangle; that's not an insulting description of the supplier, it's the shape of the pad. I had the option of returning it but my impatience won the day when I just had to try it out on my living room floor. I can live (for the time being) with the extra couple of ounces.

It takes a little more that a dozen big puffs (no sniggers at the back please) to get the pad into shape. Worryingly, then amusingly, it hisses slightly (like Gollum in the book) as your body changes positon on its surface. What a treat though - to move on to my side and not feel my hip touch the floor. Excellent. Impressive for the brief spell on the hard level floor of my living room. I'm hopeful it performs as well overnight on a less even pitch.

* Shangri-La 1. The shelter is supplied without guys but I prefer to use some front and rear so I have borrowed two from elsewhere. It came with six pegs but I have supplemented them with another three; two for my guy lines and one for the open door flap. The tops of the issued pegs are quite sharp, so they dig into the hand as they are pushed into the ground. I will be swopping them for another type of peg.

The poles inside the tent are 7' (feet) apart. The high point, inside at the front pole is 3' and at the rear pole 2', although the height can be adjusted somewhat by raising or lowering the poles - walking poles in my case. There is a 7' spread between the two front pegs and a 4' spread at rear. The tent's front flap, shown open in the photograph, can be sealed closed with what seems like a strong zip.

It's easy to fold the shelter and slide it into its small sack.

My Weight: 14-20 April -2lbs. Since 9 Mar (6 wks) -12lbs.

In case you noticed/wondered - that's a blackbird near the tent. It's pulling out a worm to take back to it's young, in their nest nearby.

Monday, 13 April 2009

These boots are made for walkin'

These boots are made for walkin'
and that's just what they're for.
One of these days these boots are
goin'tut walk a Yorkshire moor.
(With apologies to Lee Hazlewood & Nancy Sinatra)

My new boots are such beautiful looking objects, they wouldn't seem out of place, to my eye, on a mantelpiece. It would be tempting to keep them, unused and in pristine condition for that purpose. However, they were made for walking and that's what they have been doing. Not far though. On Saturday we wandered through Putnoe Wood and then on into North Bedfordshire.

Putnoe Wood, Bedford

Then on Sunday, we followed the bank of the River Great Ouse, upstream through Bedford.

River Great Ouse, Bedford

Properly christened, my boots rest now in the dark of my understairs cupboard with their tongues hanging out. Muddied, no mantelpiece for them now.

Weight Watch: 7-13 April -2lbs. Since 9 Mar (5 wks) -10lbs.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Kit - Part 2

All of a sudden, shoe sizes are a complicated mystery. An internet search for shoe size comparisons produces fine looking tables but each shows different results. UK shoe size 9.5 is European size 44 on one table and 43.5 on another. UK 10 is 44 or 44.5 and so on. However, none of that really matters because boots have to be tried on in a shop and that is what I did. I now own a pair of Scarpa ZG65 XCRs (labelled as: UK 10.5, EU 45 and USm 11.5 - what ever that is). And they are within sight as I write. They encase my feet. Earlier, on their first outing, fellow dog walkers spied them almost before they caught sight of the rest of me and "ooohs" & "ahhs" followed. More about boots in due course - after they, hopefully, have moulded to the shape of my feet.

A feature of new boots, like many other things new, is that they tend to stand out, showing up the things around them as shabby. In this case my trousers. New trousers will have to wait though as I should like to try those on before buying them when I am a size smaller. I'll need a pair that don't clash with my new, flashy walking poles - Black Diamond Contour Elliptic Compact.

I have not used walking poles before but having read good things about them felt that I should like to give them a go. Having deliberated for ages about this model or that, I thought it was time to just go for it and the knowledgeable chap in the Outdoor Shop at Stony Stratford made the decision easier for me. With luck these will be just fine. A lighter, tougher model might follow, although I suspect I'll grow fond of the ones I now have and they'll become trusted friends. Alan Sloman (see link in right hand column) has his Wanda tent. If they graduate then I may have Piotr and Petra poles.

What else is new? Well my sleeping mat is. It's just that it hasn't arrived yet. I ordered and paid for a Big Agnes Clearview Pad but a UK dealer dashed my immediate hopes by refunding my money and saying sorry but they were out of stock - despite what it showed, and still shows, on their online store. Another one is on order elsewhere and I expect to receive it later this week. As I mentioned in a previous post, I have only slept on a foam mat before and I'm impatient to try out one of the lightweight inflatable mats. The Big Agnes Mummy seems to fit the bill for a Summer trek. Its 20" x 72" should accomodate me and its 2.5" depth should soak up some, hopefully all, of my hip pressure (I wish I could sleep on my back). The price of thirty something and a weight of 396g (14oz) sounds excellent too. A NeoAir has been suggested but that is not available yet and, perversely perhaps, I'd like to progress to that after experiencing a next-step-up in the evolutionary chain from my wide, fairly lightweight, thorn ripped, hard foam mat. The unnamed foam mat was never my friend but it was a quantum leap from a ground sheet.

Finally, for this post, I've been looking at images of Montane jackets and trousers. I have a Berghaus goretex jacket which I consider uneccessarily heavy for The Cleveland Way in the Summer. The Montane Litespeed Jacket and the Featherlite Waterproof Trousers, in the region of 170g each, look better than good. They may feature in a future Kit - Part 3.

Weight Watch: 31 Mar - 6 April -3lbs. Since 9 March (4 wks) -8 lbs.

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Kit - Part 1

I've bought a new sleeping bag. It's a Snugpak TravelPak Lite which, with its compression bag, weighs in at 875 grams on my scales. That's a saving of 525 grams (about 1lb 2oz) on my Snugpak Softie 6 - Kestrel which has a packed weight of 1400 grams. The TravelPak Lite was available at a special show price of £29.00 at The Ordnance Survey Outdoors Show last weekend. Googling the TravelPak Lite now seems to confirm that I got it at a good price. I hope it helps me have a good sleep too when I try it out in the warmer weather.

The Outdoors Show was not quite what I had hoped for. I saw, and was able to drool over, some solo Terra Nova tents but I was hoping to check out other items - sleeping mats and walking boots in particular. I only saw two large Exped mats and there weren't many boots on display. I've only ever used a foam mat but my old bones can't easily rest on those now and I'm informed (by the Snugpak Rep at the Outdoors Show) that I should be thinking "sleeping systems" in this day and age. So I need to stretch out on a Thermarest or an Exped mat, an Exped Down perhaps, to see what they can do for me.

My fairly new Brasher Hillmaster boots are very uncomfortable and hurt my feet. The previous two pairs, now retired, were fine - comfortable from the outset, neither pair needed to be broken-in. The new ones are different; they seem narrower and the rubber sole doesn't give me as good a cushioning effect as before. They feel a long way from being broken-in. I'm not sure if they ever will be. I don't understand why they have padded suede uppers which extend well outside the boot (it looks more like a fashion/style change rather than a practical one). Nor am I certain as to how that part should be cleaned and cared for. So they may have to go. I have always favoured leather boots. It seems to me that they give the best ankle support when needed and I have assumed that they are easier to clean. Perhaps now is the time to get used to non-leather boots though. Perhaps I need to get with it. So I am considering the lightweight, Vibram soled and very attractive looking Scarpa ZG65 XCR.

I need a new tent or shelter too (I'm wearing out - so's my kit). I have a Litchfield Viper 2 tent which I bought about 20 years ago at the YMCA shop in Covent Garden. It's flysheet usually suffices in the Summer but that, plus poles and pegs weighs 1300 grams so I'm looking for a lightweight alternative. That's why I drooled over the Terra Nova at The Outdoor Show and why I daydream about a Hilleberg Akto but the prices aren't lightweight. I'm considering the more basic, but lovely (in evergreen) Golite Shangri-La 1. It's a solo shelter without poles but it's lightweight (600g) and more affordable.

Weight Watch: 24-30 March -1lb. Since 9 March -5lbs.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Twenty pounds

Twenty pounds - it's like a tune in my head, playing over and over, on a loop.

I have set a target to reduce my weight by 20lbs before 5th August. I've made a good start without starving myself and principal among the beneficiaries so far seems to be my knees; they don't ache as much now. It seems to me that there have been several factors which have caused them to ache or swell up intermittently in the past despite a doctor telling me a couple of years ago that "they [my knees] were wearing out". I worked it out that my driving position in the car was the cause that time, so I changed my basic Primera for my much more comfortable Volvo V40 and my knees got better. Last year one knee packed in whilst I was walking home from work. The culprit that time was my office chair or rather my sitting postition in front of the computer. The chair was old, couldn't be adjusted properly and I had made do, ignoring the warning signs. A new chair revived my knees. On The Cleveland Way once, with Bryn, on the approach to Saltburn-by-the-Sea, my knees puffed up making it difficult, and painful, to walk. I think the downhill sections across the Yorkshire Moors had done for them on that occasion (I'm hoping that walking poles might alleviate the condition this time round). Recently though I think my knees problem can be attributed to a poor diet which included too much sugar and fat. They are ruled out or strictly limited in my current diet though. That and a slightly more active lifestyle seems to be doing the trick.

Twenty pounds is the maximum weight I have set for my fully packed rucksack. I have started to compile a kit list (see link on the right hand side) but I feel that getting the pack below 20lbs isn't going to be easy for me. Bryn and I are going to the Outdoors Show 2009 at the NEC Birmingham this coming weekend. (Ten year old Grandson Rueben is coming with us.) I'll be on the lookout for lightweight items of kit. Lightweight on my back but not on my pocket I suspect, so my £20.00 pocket money won't go far.

Weight Watch: 17-23 March -2lbs. Since 9 March -4lbs.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

We are going

Bryn and I are going to walk part of The Cleveland Way. Bryn is my thirty something fairly fit son. I'm his overweight ageing dad.

The main issues have been, or still are: time off work, fitness and equipment.
  • Time off work is settled. Setting out on 5th August 2009 we have eight days; a day to get to our start point, six walking days covering 90 miles and then a day to get back to our respective homes.
  • Fitness - working on it. We have another 20 weeks (approx) to prepare ourselves. My plan started a week ago with a slight change in diet and minor exercise. My aim is to lose weight (a pound a week) and to improve strength and stamina. Bryn's aim is the same but he is not seriously overweight as I am. He attends the gym. I will from next month.
  • Equipment - working on it. The Cleveland Way was my first long distance walk - about 20 years ago when I was much fitter and leaner. My rucksack then (when including food and water) weighed up to 42lbs. This time I plan to keep the pack weight under 20lbs. There have been massive and exciting changes to trekking equipment since my first walk and Bryn and I have been checking out some of the highly desirable lightweight gear now on offer. My (retired) Berghaus Pulsar 60BC Plus rucksack weighs 4lb 6oz. I've just bought the most beautiful looking Osprey Exos 46. It only weighs 2lb 2oz!

Weight Watch: 9-16 March -2lbs. Since 9 March -2lbs.