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, 27 January 2008

Wild Camping: The Legalities

I already mentioned below that Weird Darren is championing a petition requesting that wild camping be made legal in England and Wales.

What I’m going to do now is to dredge through the depths of my memory and consult a couple of my out-of-date texts on the subject and explore the legal position as regards access and wild camping in England and Wales (i.e. not Scotland, where the position is entirely different).

(I warn you now that I’m about to witter on at great length and congratulate in advance anyone who trudges all the way to the end!)

Access On Foot
Firstly, let’s start off with the public right to pass on foot over land. Until the implementation of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (CRoW (which was not fully implemented until the end of 2005)), the only legal right one had to pass over a third party’s land was conferred via Public Rights of Way. This was a limited right, in that it only permitted passage along the line of the Right of Way and nowhere else. To stray from the line of the Right of Way would have constituted a trespass to land.

CRoW greatly improved that position as it gave the right to walk freely over designated areas of land. Straying off a Public Right of Way in such areas no longer constituted a trespass.

Access to Camp
The significant limitation (for people like me, at least) of CRoW was that the access granted specifically excluded the right to camp. As such, to pitch a tent or throw down your bivvy bag and spend a night without permission on someone else’s land still constitutes a trespass to land.

The Legal Position
So what does that mean in practical terms?

Well firstly, trespass is a civil wrong, not a criminal offence*. As such although wild-camping is not permitted by law, it is not illegal (a subtle distinction), so you are unlikely to gain a criminal record by pitching your tent on a mountainside*.

As a civil offence, the worst that is likely to happen if a person in possession of land (being not necessarily the owner) finds you unlawfully on his land (i.e. camping without his permission) is that he will ask you to leave.

You have three options at that point. You can negotiate terms for a pitch for the night, you can say ‘No I won’t. Go ahead and sue me’, or you can be polite, adhere to wild-camping etiquette and comply.

If you refuse to leave, then according to a precedent set at common law in the 1750’s, the land owner has the right to use reasonable force to make you leave. Whilst ‘reasonable’ is from a legal point of view an objective term, I wouldn’t like to test what is reasonable in this context!

Legal Remedies
Supposing, however, that you stick to your guns and the person asking you to leave doesn’t choose to force you off his land: what is the worst that can happen to you then? He can sue you**. To do so successfully does not require him to establish that you have caused any damage whatsoever. Trespass is actionable in and of itself.

Now it’s unlikely that any of us wants to be dragged through the courts and it’s extremely unlikely that anyone would go to such trouble just because someone has pitched on their land for a night or two, but let’s say that this scenario did occur: what then would be the cost to the trespasser?

For a civil wrong, a plaintiff is only able to claim damages to compensate him for the harm he has suffered. So, if a wild camper has caused no damage or nuisance, then the land possessor is somewhat limited in what he can claim. Just for the plaintiff establishing that the trespass occurred, a court would likely award nominal damages of a few pounds. In addition, the plaintiff would be entitled to claim the reasonable charge that he could have been levied for a licence to reside on the land for a night (i.e. pitch fees), which again would amount to a few pounds.

My guess (i.e. I’ve not looked for any precedent on this point) is that the courts would regard such an action against a trespasser on wild land, where no damage has been caused, as being frivolous and as such would be unlikely to award costs against the wild camper***. As such, even in the unlikely scenario of a land owner suing a peaceful wild camper and being successful in such action, I doubt that the cost to the wild camper who was willing to represent himself would be great (although undoubtedly the inconvenience to both sides would be significant).

So, What’s The Fuss About?
With it being the case that the remedies against a wild camper are limited to the extent that they are unlikely to be pursued, you may ask why I (and plenty of others by the looks of it) want to be granted a right at law to be able to camp in this manner.

I can only answer for myself, but personally I don’t like to act in a manner that is contrary to the law, whether the act is a civil or a criminal offence. I would hate to be challenged when I know that I’m in the wrong. When wild camping I avoid being seen by anyone else unless they are also wild camping (which antagonises Husband no end when I refuse to put the tent up until I’m happy that the very last person has left a hillside). For me, I want the right to be able to camp peacefully, without leaving any trace, in any reasonable place without being in fear of being challenged for doing that.

* Just for completeness, there are circumstances where trespass is a criminal offence, for example via Sections 6-10 of the Criminal Law Act 1977 (so be careful of wild camping with a pen knife unless you can justify having that pen knife in your possession!). See also Section 39 of the Public Order Act 1986, which makes it a crime if you have refused to move on and have also used ‘abusive or insulting words’ towards the occupier of that land – but interestingly this one only applies if there are two or more of you.

** Technically he could sue you even if you did comply with a request to leave, as you’ve already committed the wrong at that point.

*** Actually, if the small claims procedure was followed, I can’t think how you’d avoid paying the costs, but in that case they'd be relatively low in any case.

It’s a long time since I studied this subject and I’ve had no call to keep up with any developments since that time. My textbooks on the subject are also long out of date – so it’s possible that I’ve said something above which is no longer true. If you know that I’ve said something untrue then let me know – I can soon remedy it by deleting the post!

Wild Camping: Time For A Change

I'm sure that many of us give passing thoughts to things that we think should be changed in the world, but so often we fail to do anything to try to effect that change.

Fortunately, in the case of the change that many of us wild-campers would like to see to access laws (a subject about which I will blog separately; I'm doing this rather out of sequence), Weird Darren has taken the bull by the horns and has organised a petition on the 10 Downing Street website calling for a change in the law.

Another of the Outdoor Bloggers, Blogpacker, wisely suggested that to highlight this issue further those who have an interest in this subject should write to their MPs.

So, I have drafted a letter to send to my MP. As far as I recall, this is the first time that I've ever written to an MP.

Here's the draft that I intend to use. If anyone spots any wild inaccuracy or has any comments on it, please let me know.

Dear Sir,

I would like to bring to your attention an e-petition that is requesting a legislative change to make wild-camping in England and Wales legal. The e-petition can be found on the 10 Downing Street website at

As the law currently stands, the position regarding wild-camping is inconsistent between England and Wales when compared to Scotland. By virtue of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, which granted wide-ranging access rights in Scotland, it was made legal to wild-camp (within certain remits) north of the border.

Although the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 greatly improved access rights in England and Wales when compared to the previous position at law, it specifically excluded the activity of camping from the access granted.

As is evidenced by the number of people who have signed this petition within the first few days and without any media coverage of which I am aware, the need to bring the position in England and Wales into line with the position in Scotland is well supported.

I would make clear to you that the right being requested by this petition is not to allow people to pull up at road-sides in their cars and camp willy-nilly on farm land.

The right being requested, as is already encapsulated in the law that applies in Scotland, is for people who are accessing the hills and countryside on foot to have a right at law to be able to pitch their tent or lie out their bivvy bag for the night, strictly following the ‘leave no trace’ principles.

If enacted in the same manner as applies in Scotland, anyone abusing this right by causing damage, litter or nuisance would be acting outside of the right permitted at law and thus the position of the land owners would be protected.

Would you please support this initiative to effect this change in the law?

Yours faithfully

If anyone else also feels moved to write to their MP on this issue, please feel free to copy all or any part of this letter.

Saturday, 26 January 2008

LEJOG - Train Tickets Purchased

Some months ago I looked at train ticket options to get to Penzance, from where we can get a bus to start our LEJOG walk. I found that as long as I ordered far enough in advance I could get a single ticket for £16, which seemed like a bit of a bargain. I duly made a vague mental note to buy tickets three months in advance.

Alas, buying train tickets was not in the forefront of my mind two weeks ago. It took until today for me to realise that time was pressing on and that transport needed to be arranged.

So, I have this afternoon had a lengthy battle with thetrainline.

As much as I’m grateful for the internet having given the ability to book travel tickets at a time that suits without leaving the comfort of my armchair, thetrainline really does have the ability to vex me.

Only in thetrainline’s world does a single ticket exist that can only be purchased if you also buy the single ticket for the return leg at the same time (is that still the case? It was something that I encountered a few years ago) and only in the world of rail pricing can the same journey be bought cheaper by either splitting the tickets or by buying a ticket for a longer journey than the one you intend to make.

Whereas air travel websites tend to give you not just the result of the exact search you made but also similar options which are cheaper, on thetrainline you have to spend hours searching every reasonable journey you can think of to find one that comes in at a sensible price.

My first search today told me that it would cost us £182 to travel to Penzance: somewhat more than the £32 that should have been available by booking three months in advance and not a price that I was willing to pay (particularly when I could have hired a car one way for £65!)

With even the National Express coach option coming in at more than I was prepared to pay (in fact, still more than the one way car hire), I started being more inventive with my search for cheap train tickets.

To make the same journey but to buy separate tickets (one set of tickets to Bristol and another set from Bristol to Penzance) more than halved the headline price, bringing it down to £90 for the two of us – even though it involved the same journey as the default option!

As a more extreme option, to go via London brought the price down to £52 (Midlands to London: £11 each; from London to Penzance: £15 each). How silly is that?

Search after search gave various options. It took me a while to find the solution, and in the end it was a simple one. By delaying our start date by just a day (leaving LE on Tuesday 15th April rather than Monday 14th), the £16 train tickets are still available.

So another tick on the preparedness checklist: the train tickets are bought.

Let The LEJOG Training Commence!

I’m feeling immensely unfit. A bit of a hip problem has caused me not to have run since October and the couple of hours I’ve spent walking over local footpaths each week has not been anywhere near enough to maintain fitness. A bit of pre-LEJOG training is well overdue.

So, this afternoon, to start the campaign, we set out for a slightly longer walk over local fields and along the river/canal. It’s a route with which we are familiar, having been featured in our Keswick to Barrow training over the last two years.

Today the weather was kind to us and the fields were not as muddy as I had expected (although it was apparent from the position of the ‘tide marks’ that some of the paths by the river would have been impassable a short time ago).

Everything was going swimmingly well until about two-thirds of the way round, when we got to fields that usually contains cows. We entered the field just as the herd, which had been in the top field, decided to move en-mass down to the bottom field, across the path and to the pond beyond.

Cows scare me (along with horses and dogs; I’m really not well suited to walking in the country!), so I was hanging back a bit to see where the herd was going, when I noticed the bull. For no rational reason (I’ve heard in the news of many people trampled by cows; I don’t recall having heard about a bull attack) bulls scare me more than cows.

After a bit of dithering, I decided that with the bull occupied in the pond with his lady friends, I could make my way gingerly across the field. Alas, when half way across the herd decided that they’d had enough of the water and started making their way back towards us. With visions of being trampled, I gave scant thought to standing my ground, then made haste back towards the stile from where we had come, mentally scratching my head for a way around to avoid this field.

As it went, the herd soon ambled back up to the top field, leaving the bottom field empty for us to pass by unscathed. Phew!

A few fields later it was sheep. A non-scary animal, but noteworthy today for it seems that it’s been a bad week for sheep in our neck of the woods. We saw three lying dead in the field, and that was just in the vicinity of the path. Surely that’s not normal?

A bit of National Forest (one of the two-foot-high-seemingly-dead-twig plantations) and a crop field (I’m afraid that I exercised my right to follow the line of the ROW, even though it had been cropped over) led us to a golf course, where fortunately Husband was paying attention. Left to my own devices I probably would have been hit by a ball.

The last couple of miles, from the canal (the tow-path of which was comparatively teeming with people), made me realise quite how unfit I am. Okay, so we’d walked at a reasonable pace and without stopping, but it was a bit disconcerting to be feeling that ‘exercised’ after the distance we had covered.

The house came into view not a moment too soon and I’m pleased to say that a sit down with a cup of tea worked wonders; it nearly made me think that I could go out and walk the same route again!

The stats for the day:
Distance: 9.25 miles
Ascent: Under 400 feet
Max Wind Speed Measured: 25.1mph

Friday, 25 January 2008

LEJOG - The Big Picture

With a few hours at my disposal with scant little to fill them, I sprawled on the floor with a 1:800k map of the whole of the UK, a pen and a pile of little dot-stickers.

The stickers were used to mark the start point of each day of our planned walk, each one sequentially numbered, giving a dot-to-dot of our route.

I’m pleased to say that having looked at the finished ‘big picture’ it looks to be mainly sensible. There is the day on the Pennine Way which ends three miles further south than it started, which (as I’ve commented before (see here and here)) just feels wrong on a south to north walk. Also, there are a couple of places in Scotland where we seem to be taking a less than intuitive direction, but that’s mainly due to a lack of obvious paths taking a more direct route.

The main result of the exercise, however, was to make me go ‘eeek!’. It looks an awful long way when you look at it on a single piece of paper like that!

Monday, 21 January 2008

My Mom

My Mom.

13 September 1946 – 18 January 2008

So that’s now both my mom and my dad bravely battled and been taken by cancer in the space of four years.

The other two remaining members of my immediate family, who were both also diagnosed with the disease in 2007 seem to be winning their battles. Fingers crossed, touching wood and doing all other similar superstitious things that bring luck (because surely but surely we’re due some luck now?) they will both be fine.

Believe it or not, I’m now going to make the outdoors link that this blog demands. You see, without my mother, this blog would not be here – and I don’t mean that in the simple ‘without my mother I wouldn’t be here’ way.

My mother was not an outdoorsy sort of person by nature. She was quite happy camping, but given the choice between camping somewhere hot next to a beach or camping somewhere by hills and walking in them, her underlying preference would always have been for the beach.

Fortunately (for me, that is; my sister is less enthusiastic on the subject) my parents reached a happy compromise. The summer holiday would be camping somewhere in the vicinity of a beach and where the weather would likely be warm. The early and late holidays of the year would be spent walking.

And so it was that before I could even walk I was being taken up mountains and gaining a love for the great outdoors.

Whilst it remained that walking may not have been my mother’s first choice of activity, I do believe that she did enjoy it – although a hint of a precipice scared her silly. The words ‘Will you get away from that edge Gayle!’ still ring in my head if I get close to a cliff edge and I do recall her telling me that she had a great debate with my father at the foot of Swirrel Edge telling him that it was far too dangerous for me and my sister (later admitting that she just didn’t fancy it herself); she conceded the debate when she saw some other children coming down it, chiding herself that if children could do it, she could do it.

In recent years, mother often commented that Husband and I must be mad to go out in the weather conditions that we often encounter. After our December trip to the Lakes, when telling her that the temperature was -4 degrees for a good chunk of our short stay, she shook her head and asked where we got this streak of madness from, as she felt that it couldn’t possibly have been from her.

Then I reminded her of the camping holiday in the New Forest when I was about nine or ten. I distinctly remember that for more than one night we all slept wearing big jumpers over our night-clothes and with wool balaclavas on our heads and then woke in the morning to find the gas was too cold to use and the water had frozen. She conceded at that point that maybe she may have had some small influence!

Yesterday I very quickly sought out a couple of her old photo albums and flicked through for some appropriate photos. I didn’t find the one that I had in mind, but here are a couple of old pics of my mother in action.

May 1982 on top of Helvellyn. You’ll note that Mother is wearing the highly appropriate apparel of shorts and a bikini top (although she does have walking boots on). I’m the one sitting on the trig point (aged seven).

January 1988 on the Roman Steps in the Rhinogau. Ma’s the one in the orange caggie; I don’t think that I should admit to being the one wearing red socks over my trousers!; Sister is in her usual place on such walks, bringing up the rear and looking none too happy about the whole outing. I know not why me and ma were looking so intently down at the ice between the slabs!

Saturday, 12 January 2008

LEJOG - We Have A Plan!

When I first sat down at the computer, with maps and various notes written on bits of paper surrounding me, I put a finger in the air and guessed that our route from Land’s End, via Lizard and Dunnet Head, to John O’Groats would be about 1200 miles long.

Working on that basis I calculated that we needed to aim at an average daily mileage of 16 miles.

I have now completed the first cut of the route planning (and am just dancing a jig by way of celebration; it’s been quite trying at times!).

The total distance has come out at 1252 miles. If we discount the last day (which is John O’Groats to Duncansby Head, at only 2.3 miles long; it doesn’t really come within the ‘LEJOG’ description, but we will walk it for completeness) then we will walk on 78 days, giving a daily average of a tiny smidge over 16 miles.

So, this is the plan:
1 *** Land's End to Marazion *** 17 ( 17.0 )
2 *** Marazion to Mullion Cove *** 17.8 ( 34.8 )
3 *** Mullion Cove to Garras *** 14.75 ( 49.6 )
4 *** Garras to Carnon Downs *** 18.75 ( 68.3 )
5 *** Carnon Downs to Shortlanesend *** 6.3 ( 74.6 )
6 *** Shortlanesend to St Columb Major *** 16 ( 90.6 )
7 *** St Columb Major to St Mabyn *** 16 ( 106.6 )
8 *** St Mabyn to Alturnun *** 16.1 ( 122.7 )
9 *** Alturnun to Launceston *** 9.7 ( 132.4 )
10 *** Launceston to Sourton *** 19.7 ( 152.1 )
11 *** Sourton to Crediton *** 21.25 ( 173.4 )
12 *** Crediton to Tiverton *** 16.25 ( 189.6 )
13 *** Tiverton to Sampton Peverell *** 6.5 ( 196.1 )
14 *** Sampton Peverell to Taunton *** 18.75 ( 214.9 )
15 *** Taunton to Bridgwater *** 16 ( 230.9 )
16 *** Bridgwater to Cheddar *** 15 ( 245.9 )
17 *** Cheddar to Cheddar *** 0 ( 245.9 )
18 *** Cheddar to Gourdano *** 23.75 ( 269.6 )
19 *** Gourdano to Chepstow *** 18 ( 287.6 )
20 *** Chepstow to Monmouth *** 18.75 ( 306.4 )
21 *** Monmouth to Pandy *** 15.75 ( 322.1 )
22 *** Pandy to Hay on Wye *** 17 ( 339.1 )
23 *** Hay on Wye to Hay on Wye *** 0 ( 339.1 )
24 *** Hay on Wye to Kington *** 15.5 ( 354.6 )
25 *** Kington to Knighton *** 14.25 ( 368.9 )
26 *** Knighton to Mellington Hall *** 13.65 ( 382.5 )
27 *** Mellington Hall to Buttington *** 13 ( 395.5 )
28 *** Buttington to Llanymynech *** 10.5 ( 406.0 )
29 *** Llanymynech to Bronygarth *** 14.15 ( 420.2 )
30 *** Bronygarth to Hanmer *** 16.1 ( 436.3 )
31 *** Hanmer to Whitchurch *** 11 ( 447.3 )
32 *** Whitchurch to Whitchurch *** 0 ( 447.3 )
33 *** Whitchurch to Weston *** 18.8 ( 466.1 )
34 *** Weston to Congleton *** 17.5 ( 483.6 )
35 *** Congleton to Horwich End *** 17.8 ( 501.4 )
36 *** Horwich End to Edale *** 8.6 ( 510.0 )
37 *** Edale to Crowden *** 16.2 ( 526.2 )
38 *** Crowden to Marsden *** 12.5 ( 538.7 )
39 *** Marsden to Hebden Bridge *** 17.5 ( 556.2 )
40 *** Hebden Bridge to Hebden Bridge *** 0 ( 556.2 )
41 *** Hebden Bridge to Lothersdale *** 17.8 ( 574.0 )
42 *** Lothersdale to Malham *** 15 ( 589.0 )
43 *** Malham to Horton in Ribblesdale *** 14.7 ( 603.7 )
44 *** Horton in Ribblesdale to Hawes *** 14 ( 617.7 )
45 *** Hawes to Keld *** 12.9 ( 630.6 )
46 *** Keld to Baldersdale *** 12.25 ( 642.8 )
47 *** Baldersdale to Langdon Beck *** 14.1 ( 656.9 )
48 *** Langdon Beck to Dufton *** 12.7 ( 669.6 )
49 *** Dufton to Alston *** 19.3 ( 688.9 )
50 *** Alston to Greenhead *** 16.3 ( 705.2 )
51 *** Greenhead to Once Brewed *** 6.84 ( 712.0 )
52 *** Once Brewed to Bellingham *** 16.1 ( 728.1 )
53 *** Bellingham to Byrness *** 13.9 ( 742.0 )
54 *** Byrness to Refuge Hut *** 19 ( 761.0 )
55 *** Refuge Hut to Morebattle *** 13 ( 774.0 )
56 *** Morebattle to Lilliardsedge Park *** 12.4 ( 786.4 )
57 *** Lilliardsedge Park to Hog Hill *** 16.7 ( 803.1 )
58 *** Hog Hill to Peebles *** 21 ( 824.1 )
59 *** Peebles to Pentland Hills *** 18.4 ( 842.5 )
60 *** Pentland Hills to Linlithgow *** 21.7 ( 864.2 )
61 *** Linlithgow to Kilsyth *** 22 ( 886.2 )
62 *** Kilsyth to Kippen *** 15 ( 901.2 )
63 *** Kippen to Beyond Brig of Turk *** 18 ( 919.2 )
64 *** Beyond Brig of Turk to Killin *** 22 ( 941.2 )
65 *** Killin to Meall nan Sac *** 16.5 ( 957.7 )
66 *** Meall nan Sac to Loch Erich *** 16 ( 973.7 )
67 *** Loch Erich to Garva Bridge *** 22.5 ( 996.2 )
68 *** Garva Bridge to Fort Augustus *** 15.8 ( 1012.0 )
69 *** Fort Augustus to Cannich *** 24.25 ( 1036.3 )
70 *** Cannich to Loch Monar *** 19 ( 1055.3 )
71 *** Loch Monar to just after Craig *** 14.8 ( 1070.1 )
72 *** just after Craig to Kinlochewe *** 8.9 ( 1079.0 )
73 *** Kinlochewe to After Loch An Nid *** 14.8 ( 1093.8 )
74 *** After Loch An Nid to Beyond Inverlael *** 17 ( 1110.8 )
75 *** Beyond Inverlael to Oykel Bridge *** 13.25 ( 1124.0 )
76 *** Oykel Bridge to Lairg *** 17.8 ( 1141.8 )
77 *** Lairg to Loch Choire *** 17.6 ( 1159.4 )
78 *** Loch Choire to Kinbrace *** 18.15 ( 1177.6 )
79 *** Kinbrace to Sron Dubh *** 15.9 ( 1193.5 )
80 *** Sron Dubh to Watten *** 21 ( 1214.5 )
81 *** Watten to Dunnet *** 14 ( 1228.5 )
82 *** Dunnet to John O'Groats *** 21 ( 1249.5 )
83 *** John O'Groats to Duncansby Head *** 2.3 ( 1251.8 )

I’ve only scheduled in four rest days, which is not to say that we will only take four. Those that I have scheduled in have been for a purpose (in three cases we have family/friends accommodation nearby, in the case of Cheddar we just want a look around the area). Other rest days will be taken as and when we want or need them.

Next in the planning process is to print out the final 28 days-worth of maps and check that they look sensible, then I’ll be checking out the accommodation (most of which I’ve noted as I’ve gone along), then I’ll turn my thoughts to resupply.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

LEJOG Planning Passes 1000 Mile Mark

Things have been quiet on the LEJOG planning front for a while. Having sped through England and Wales in a matter of weeks, Scotland has been taking me somewhat longer, partially because it’s been more difficult to plan but mainly because I’ve just not been dedicating enough time to it (and it wasn’t helped by operator error which saw me have to undo an entire afternoon’s work; three days forward, three days back, all in the space of a day).

However, tonight the planning reached Fort Augustus (via the fifth option that I described here), which takes the cumulative mileage to 1012 miles – which feels like a significant number.

Theoretically a few more days of battling with Anquet mapping should see the first cut of the mapping complete (the first cut may be the final cut, or I may tinker a little). The only fly in that optimistic ointment is that now that I look at the maps and books again, I have no idea how it was that I intended to proceed from Fort Augustus to Glen Affric, and why I thought that that was a good direction to take. Hopefully after a bit more staring at the maps and books and a bit more head-scratching it will all flood back to me.

Monday, 7 January 2008

Wind and Rain?

I awoke this morning to the sound of rain hitting the windows and wind whistling through the trees. My thoughts turned to my new Paramo Cascada Trews and my new anemometer, both of which are begging for a test run in suitable conditions.

Out of bed I sprang to go for a quick yomp around the local footpaths.

As is so often the case, I excelled in the faffing department, so it was an hour later by the time I came to the leave the house – by which time the sky was clear blue and the sun was shining – but I suppose that I shouldn’t really complain about having to walk in sunshine should I? (but I am going to complain, because if I’d known that I wasn’t going to get wet I would have worn my Rab VR trousers which were already covered in mud; now I have two sets of mud-adorned legwear to wash!)

However, there was still a bit of a breeze blowing for anemometer testing purposes (and, of course, even without new things to test, it’s always nice to stretch the legs and fill the lungs).

So, the (entirely underwhelming) stats were:

Distance: Just 4.25 miles
Ascent: Under 300 feet (did I ever mention that it’s pretty flat around here?)
Wind speed: around 12-15mph, maximum speed recorded: 19.6mph.

Saturday, 5 January 2008

A Frivilous New Toy

I can’t defend this new toy as being even remotely necessary. It was entirely a frivolous purchase, but in my defence, it was purchased with money given to me as a Christmas gift and I think that that demands that something other than just mundane items be bought (although perhaps a head torch would have been the more sensible option, all things considered).

The background was that a few weeks ago, standing on top of a windy hillside on which I was struggling to remain on my feet, I commented to Husband that I’d really like to borrow an anemometer off someone. It’s not something that I would want long-term, but I thought that it would be nice to know (purely from a curiosity point of view) what different wind-speeds feel like (particularly what the wind-speed needs to be to knock me sideways).

I had assumed at this point that anemometers were dreadfully expensive items.

A Google search just after Christmas proved that you can actually buy a cheap model for a mere £20.

I had also assumed that they would be heavy and cumbersome devices that you wouldn’t want to carry on more than a handful of day-trips.

It turns out that a cheap model is smaller than my Nokia mobile phone and weighs (according to my not-calibrated balance scales) a tiny 45g. At that size and weight I’d happily throw it into my daysack on a regular basis, so I bought one.

I actually went for the model that does temperature and wind-chill as well as windspeed (it also shows current windspeed, average and maximum in any one session) purely because that one was in stock whereas the basic model wasn’t.

It arrived yesterday. Prior to using it in anger, the good points seem to be that it is very small and light and looks to be easy to use. On the down-side, it doesn’t look very rugged at all (but then I’m sure that that’s a function of price, and this was the bottom end of the range); hopefully I’ll manage not to sit on it or bash it against a rock before I’ve fulfilled my purpose with it.

Bring on the windy-day walks…

Thursday, 3 January 2008

Cannock Chase and Dovedale

Yesterday saw us take our first walk of the year. It was not long, nor particularly interesting, but it fitted nicely into a spare hour and a half that we had available to us.

There’s really not much to say about it. The location was Cannock Chase. The route was almost our usual 7.5 mile circuit, except that half an hour into it I realised that, even with the ridiculous pace that we were setting, it would be difficult to fit the distance into the time. So, we wandered onto paths that we’ve not before trodden and ended up completing a very brisk 5 miles (which just about qualifies it to go in my mileage log).

Today we had more of a plan and more time available to us. The chosen location was Dovedale.

Friends had suggested a walk there a couple of months ago, but knowing that it gets ridiculously busy on a weekend, we’d plumped for somewhere slightly less obvious on that occasion, leaving Dovedale for a weekday. Today looked a pretty good choice to avoid crowds - a weekday with temperatures forecast not to rise above freezing and with snow threatened.

There were a few cars in the car park just outside Thorpe when we arrived, and off we set along the east side of Dovedale.

The few people pottering around had petered out within half a mile and for the next mile or so we enjoyed solitude in which to appreciate the surroundings and the birdlife.
Pity I didn't take a photo that showed the true nature of these rock features.

A half-hour interlude was had when we came across a stray, young dog and made endeavours (successful) to reunite it with its owner (who turned out to be a local farmer). Alas, despite sitting next to Dovedale Holes for that half an hour, I completely failed to take any photos of them!

Husband in his element (he *really* wants a dog)

Towards Milldale, we started meeting people again, but we were soon by ourselves again as we left the valley and set off across farmland.

‘It’s snowing’ I said to Husband - but you really had to concentrate very hard to catch sight of the miniscule flakes that were occasionally falling. It was hardly the ‘blanket of white’ that had been forecast (now there’s a surprise).

My goodness, it was cold, mind! Particularly when we gained the higher ground (where I’m sure that the views would have been fine, had the day been a clear one) and got the full benefit of that -7 wind-chill. I was certainly ruing my failure to take a buff or scarf with me to save my frozen chin!

Plenty of fields, that would have been very muddy in places had the ground not been frozen solid, led us to a lane, where we were to pick up the Limestone Way, which would take us back to Thorpe. It's not a good photo at all, but anyone know what that structure is?

I obviously hadn’t paid too much attention when I planned this route, because I completely failed to notice until we hit the Limestone Way that we’d walked this section before, albeit in the other direction, back in 2006.

A thousand gap stiles (and very narrow gaps at that) led us back to Thorpe, where to avoid the road we headed back, around the conical looking Thorpe Cloud, to Stepping Stones, from where it was but a hop skip and a jump along a now remarkably busy riverside path, back to the rather-busier-now car park.

It was a jolly pleasant 8 miles on a jolly cold-feeling day.

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Found It!

Unfortunately, it is not my head torch that is now found. That is still worryingly missing.

However, I have finally found the hill that is responsible for a small scar on my forehead.

I don’t recall the incident, but apparently when I was a very wee girl I was being carried up a hill in a child-carrier on my father’s back. All was going fine until my father tripped and fell, catapulting me out of the carrier. Having flown a short distance, my rapid descent was halted when my head hit a rock. I’m told that I screamed a lot – and I still have a tiny scar.

What I didn’t know until tonight was where I was when this incident happened. My mother told me (or at least what I heard, perhaps incorrectly) was that it was on Gunner’s Howe, but she couldn’t tell me where that was. A search on Anquet didn’t help and neither did Google.

Then tonight, whilst browsing various Mountain Rescue Team incident reports (as I do on a regular basis – the LAMRT ones can be particularly entertaining), I came across a reference to Gummer’s How.

It’s a small thing, but it’s nice to finally know where it was that I got that scar.

Whilst I’m on the subject of head torches and Mountain Rescue Teams (which I sort of was), it’s apparent from the MRT incident reports (again, particularly LAMRT) that a lack of torches and/or lack of navigational equipment/ability are an increasing problem.

Broken legs and ankle injuries are currently outnumbered by people who forget that it gets dark quite early at this time of year, or who can’t quite see the path and aren’t prepared to end up in the wrong place.

Back in October, LAMRT put it quite bluntly thus:
This is the 3rd incident recently and the nth of many, where the victims went up a mountain without any realistic possibility of getting back down without assistance.

This is entirely preventable with sensible and simple preparation.

Don't be too ambitious, set off early enough to complete the route before dark, take a torch, learn to navigate, and to quote Gordon Ramsey, 'get some balls'.

There aren't many hills in the Lakes that don't have a simple valley route down from, that in turn, won't lead you to a road, village or town. It might not be where you parked your car, but that's a minor inconvenience compared to the inconvenience of 18 team members giving up 3 hours of their lives to sort you out!

This may seem harsh, but the problem is getting worse, and will almost certainly continue to do so.

Unfortunately, the people they rescue are not generally people who read their website (or at least I assume not, because surely if you did read their reports you would have a torch in your bag or make absolutely sure that you were off the hill before dark?).

Since that warning was given 16 of their 27 call-outs have involved lost or benighted walkers. Quite obviously, and understandably, they’re getting rather fed up of this trend, so yet more good advice was given in yesterday’s rescue report:

Two men were unable to find their way off Red Screes after taking longer to complete their walk than planned, and became stuck in the dark. They were located by team members and escorted down. All returned to base in time for 2008. If you've still got any money left, and didn't get a headtorch for Christmas, go and buy one tomorrow.

Given where this post started, I think I’m going to have to fork out for a new headtorch, aren’t I?