The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Sunday, 29 April 2007

Paramo Azuma Vent Trousers

Last weekend, whilst out enduring my solo 28 miler, I listened to Andy Howell's ( series of podcasts ( from The Outdoor Show at the NEC back in the middle of March.

During the first podcast, he talked to Paramo, who described a particular pair of trousers: the Women’s Azuma Vent.

I’ve been after a new pair of summer walking trousers since late last year (when the zip in my previous pair became a little temperamental). I’ve persisted with the old trousers since, which has occasionally led to some embarrassing and airy times, when the zip has just refused to do up.

I was verging on accepting ‘his & hers matching’ status and buying a pair of Montane Terra Pants, but from the verbal description the Azuma’s seemed to be just the alternative that I was after.

Getting home I wasted no time in getting on the internet to find out more. They seemed to fit the bill (except not being water resistant, but in their favour they are £15 cheaper than the Terra Pants), so I ordered a pair.

I got my hands on them late last week (after a trip to the sorting office). Today I tried them out.

In their favour, they’re very lightweight and feel lovely against the skin. They have plenty of pockets (for reasons unknown some designers believe that women don’t need anywhere near as many pockets as men), and omit the zip that I would never use on the bottom of the leg, as sported by the Terra Pants.

Also in their favour, I found out to my benefit today that the thigh vent does exactly what it should. From my first look at them when they arrived, I didn’t think it would be so effective.

On the downside, I don’t think that Paramo has got the female design quite right. The waist is quite comprehensively elasticated, which should be comfortable, but is surely not a flattering look on anyone. Less than a flattering look would not be a problem, if it was comfortable and practical. However, this is where the designers seemed to have erred most. The elastic is just too strong; there’s plenty of give in it (indeed, I can remove the trousers without having to undo them), but its natural state seems to be squeezing you as hard as it can, which leads to sweatiness all around the waistband (as well as being less comfortable).

I’m sure that I’ve not got a size that’s too small. Everything else fits fine (at least, it fits as well as someone my size can expect; I got the extra small and the hips are a bit big and the legs a bit long), and I’m well within the published measurements for that size.

My other complaint is about the ‘patch’ pockets. As soon as you have a handkerchief in each, they pull the material so that it creases across the thigh, so the pockets are really no designed to hold very much. The standard type of pocket (hand through a slit in the trouser, into a shaped pocket liner) in my previous trousers seemed a much better design.

So, a good pair of trousers with which I’m very pleased. Just a couple of tweaks in the design would make them superb.

Sunday, 22 April 2007

A Solo Training Walk

After yesterday’s half mile stroll along Ogden Water with his mother, Husband decided that his knee was not well enough to join me on our 30 mile jaunt today, so off I set by myself at 8am this morning.

It was almost a repetition of last week’s walk, with the main difference being that I started out by walking through and out the other side of the village to meet up with the canal, rather than cutting a corner off to meet it further along.

The next three hours were spent in the company of a huge number of narrow boats – they really were out in force today, before I reached the pub at which we had lunched last week.

I had just finished dealing with a blister on my big toe (it was actually the one that I got in the last couple of miles last week – I forgot to deal with it last week hence it was still there today) when Husband pulled into the car park, bringing my lunch.

After lunch in the car and a quick glass of sugary juice in the pub (once it finally opened at noon), I was off again, but this time with Podcasts to keep me company.

I’d not been going for long before the rain started – some six hours earlier than the weather forecast had predicted. It turned out to just be the edge of a shower, so I didn’t even break out the jacket and it soon passed by.

Fields were crossed and lanes were walked along until I found myself a couple of hours later nearing another pub. A quick phone call to Husband and he decided to come and meet me again for another glass of sugary drink. I was 22 miles down and feeling good – until I sat down in the pub.

Starting back up after a twenty minute stop went against nature. My body wanted to be lying on a sumptuous mattress under a duvet, not plodding along more lanes (without even Podcasts to keep me company; on the winding, narrow lanes it’s bad enough dodging cars even when you can hear them approaching from quite a distance away (why is it that you don’t see any cars for ten minutes, then two come from opposite directions and find that they need to pass each other just as they reach you walking along?).

Unlike last week, I took the longer route back home from the next village along, by which time my mind was fully embracing ‘last mile syndrome’ and on the one hand I desperately wanted to stop, but on the other hand I was thinking that to make the 30 miles, I should probably carry on past the house to do a quick circuit of a local estate (of the landed gentry sort, not the housing sort).

The desire to be home won, which turned out to be the right choice as Husband met me outside of the house to lead me to the garden bench where a bottle of chilled beer was uncapped and waiting for me. Top man!

Measuring the route that I actually took, I found (rather disappointingly) that I had only walked 28 miles. On the plus side, I did it faster than last week’s 26 miles.

With twenty walks and just over 300 miles having been covered in training (compared to last year’s 10 walks and 140 miles) I’m content that I’ve done a reasonable amount of preparation. The next two weekends will be walks of more sensible proportions before the big one in 3 weeks time.

A Quick Dash Up A Small Hill

Acknowledging that hills have been woefully lacking in our Keswick to Barrow training, when I found myself in Yorkshire visiting Ma & Pa-in-law yesterday, it seemed like a good opportunity to go and find a hill to walk up and down a couple of times.

Off I went to Ogden Water with Husband and Ma-in-Law and whilst they strolled along the reservoir to the visitor centre for a cup of tea, I set off up along the inlet stream to the moor which houses a wind farm.

The problem with my plan came when I saw the barriers across the path just after I set out. So as to avoid any actual knowledge that the path was closed, I peeled off into the woodland to my right, following a path that was clearly visible on the ground, and came back onto my intended route a way after the barrier – only to find that the stile has been covered in barbed wire by way of further indication that the path was closed (although interestingly all of the sign posts were still in place). I did the obvious thing and clambered over the barbed wire.

Making my way up the edge of the stream it became apparent why the path had been closed, for the erosion of the bank has crept perilously close to the path. I didn’t feel in any danger making my way up there, but considering that Ogden Water is something of a family-out-for-a-stroll-in-sandals sort of a place, I can see why it’s been felt necessary to close route.

At the top I walked around further barriers (which confirmed that it was due to ‘severe erosion’ that the path is closed) and from there I trotted up the stone steps to the gate onto the moor.

With limited time, I decided against a full round, across the moor and back down the hillside at the other side of the reservoir, but instead turned around and retraced my steps to the stream to then trot up the steps the other side of the small valley. Not wanting to disobey the ‘path closed’ signs having now seen them, I took a route back down the spur, although on reaching the bottom I turned back around and made my way half way back up, before returning to waters edge to make my way to the visitor centre to find Husband and Ma-in-Law (where I had a Yorkshire Dales ice cream and disappointingly found that it is made in Cwmbran!).

It was only a half hour walk, but I maintained quite a pace and it involved a bit of a slope, so I was happy with that; after all, I didn’t want to tire my muscles for today.

Sunday, 15 April 2007

The Canal on Our Left

Last weekend we took a 22 mile linear training walk. The plan for today had been 25 miles, but when I came to measure a route last night the one that I planned was actually 26.5 miles. Near enough, I thought, so that’s the route that I printed out.

With much concentration we managed to get out of the house far more speedily than we usually manage (our ability to faff on a Sunday morning is reaching legendary proportions) and were out walking at 9am.

Rather than heading out across fields and coming back along the canal, as we have done an uncountable number of times this year (actually, I could count, but it’s still a lot) today we decided to walk through the village to the canal and follow it for around 14 miles to meet up with the Staffordshire Way, where we were to leave the waterside to take a few fields and lots of quiet lanes, to bring us back home.

We speed walked the first 12 miles in three and a quarter hours (with one break), which brought us nicely to a pub at around lunchtime. With the sun beating down a drink that didn’t taste of plastic (hydration systems are great, but they do have a taste all of their own) was calling, so we popped in for a fruity drink that is no doubt full of sugar and E numbers, and a selection of side dishes.

Half an hour or so later, we hauled ourselves back outside and dispensed with the last couple of miles until we hit the Staffordshire Way.

We followed the Way for a while, then it was on to lanes.

I don’t know how hot it got today, but I would say it was around the 22-23 mark, and even with regular sips of water I was feeling the heat. So, when we met another village and found a pub it seemed rude not to go in an give them some business. As it turned out, half of the world was giving them some business, but we managed to get ourselves a table pretty quickly (I did resist taking my shoes off; although I desperately wanted to, it seemed to be a socially unacceptable thing to do when people were eating in the same room) and discovered that not only is a glass of Apple and Melon J2O not particularly nice, but in this establishment it was also more expensive than a larger glass of ale.

Setting back off for the last 6 or so miles, I didn’t feel too bad, although fatigue did set in over the next few miles, which by way of a change to our planned route (it's bad enough being anywhere near fields of rape in flower, we didn't fancy walking through one) involved more tarmac than I would have liked.

Reaching a village that’s only 2 miles from our house (albeit that our planned route avoided the busy, narrow B road that gives that distance and was thus twice as far), Husband had something of a catastrophic failure of his knee. I left him sitting in a bus shelter as I said that I would pop back home, get the car and go back for him.

Looking at the map I found a shorter route, although it didn’t quite go as planned. As I hit a huge crop field, with no view of any of the other boundaries and without any path on the ground, I kicked myself for not having the 1:25k map with me, from which I could quickly have deduced where I was and where I needed to go.

As it went, I indulged in a little trespass and hopped over a gate to find myself on the B road sooner than I wanted to. A bit of a jog to get the worst part of the road over with before any traffic came, and I soon left the road to take a slightly longer route that would see me crossing fields rather than diving out of the way of cars.

I covered these last 3 miles in record time (amazing how you can find energy in weary legs when you need to), but for my haste did incur a small blister on the inside of my big toe (never had one there before).

My mileage for the day was 26 miles in 9 hours (including all of the breaks we took). Husband’s mileage was 23 miles.

Plan next week is for 30 miles. Here’s hoping for a miraculous recovery of Husband’s knee.

Time for a Lengthy Update

I’ve been quiet of late as I’ve been trying to put together my full write-ups of my last three walks (I’ve no doubt got lots of relatives staring at their letter boxes on a daily basis waiting for them to arrive).

By way of a summary:

Cumbria Way
On 28 March we went off to walk the Cumbria Way. We could hardly have wished for better weather given the time of year. The first day was fine, but very hazy; the second brought drizzle; the third was back to fine and very hazy. Days four and five were stunning clear blue skied days. We’re just not used to being out in the hills in such conditions! Of course, the clear days did bring cold nights and on two mornings we did wake up to a frosty tent. The night up by High Pike was definitely the chilliest – that tested my lighter sleeping bag down to its lower limit (and I was impressed)

We completed the walk without a problem and had a fantastic time. We happily would have continued beyond Carlisle and seen where our feet would take us – but alas responsibility gave the louder cry so we had to return to reality.

Alan Sloman
Alan Sloman is currently walking from Land’s End to John O’Groats via a somewhat interesting, and longer than normal, route. I’ve been reading his blog since he started it (, and after listening to his podcast with Podcast Bob ( I got in touch and arranged to meet up with him to walk with him for a day.

So, Good Friday (6 April) was a bit of a departure for me, as I’ve never before met up with a complete stranger to go for a walk. I caught a couple of trains to get me to Prestbury, from where I walked the 2.6 miles to Bollington where Alan was staying. Having introduced ourselves, we set out for the scheduled walk to Edale, and after twenty minutes or so realised that we were walking in completely the wrong direction. Ooops. I must be a bad influence.

We got back on track and only had one other minor navigational issue before we finally got ourselves out of Bollington in the right direction an hour later.

The day was perfect for walking – clear and sunny, but with a nice cool breeze.

I walked with Alan (who is a very nice man) as far as Chapel-en-le-Frith, when, after he had led me to spend an hour with him in the worst pub in the entire place (it was the first pub we saw; upon leaving we found another five or six pubs up the road that looked infinitely nicer – but sods law would dictate that if we’d shunned the first pub we wouldn’t have found another) I left him to his final few miles and I walked up to Chinley to find a train to take me back as far as Derby. Standing on the platform at Chinley (where it really is just a platform in the middle of two tracks – there’s nothing else there to warrant calling it a station) I called Husband who kindly agreed to come and pick me up from Derby.

An excellent day – and a few tips picked up for our LEJOG expedition next year – the main one (particularly after the start we had to the day) that 1:25k maps are definitely worthwhile.

Pity this is just a summary – I could enthuse at some length about this day!

Easter Saturday
Despite having walked 15 miles with Alan Sloman on Good Friday, a training walk was called for on Saturday. Husband and I set out under clear skies to take our usual route across fields and along lanes, but after a couple of hours rather than swinging back around to make it a circular route, we continued along paths that we haven’t walked since this time last year.

These paths eventually brought us to the Trent & Mersey Canal at Armitage and we followed the canal (with a brief detour via a pub for a spot of lunch) for what felt like about 20 miles, but in reality was only 8 (ooh, the feet ached by the time we left the tow-path at Shugborough).

It was then but a hop skip and a jump to get ourselves onto Cannock Chase, where by freak coincidence we found ourselves approach Stepping Stones at the exact same moment as another chap who is on our Keswick to Barrow Team was crossing over our path. He had also been walking for 6 hours, so the fact that we happened to reach the same point at the exact same time was quite a feat.

We met him again a while later (when we decided to climb a slope up to the high point of that part of the Chase, just for the fun of it), but by then we had called my Mother to ask for a lift home, so had to head off back to Rifle Range Corner where we had arranged to meet (even summoning the energy for a bit of a jog in the last mile).

The mileage for the day was 22 miles in around 7.5 hours (including breaks).

And that brings us up to today…