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]

Friday, 29 February 2008

PHD Minim 300 Sleeping Bag

You may recall that on 21 February I ordered a Minim 300 sleeping bag in the PHD sale. I’d ummed and ahhed about it a bit and finally came to the conclusion that I may as well order one so that I could have a look and a feel.

Today it arrived.

Five minutes later, completely forgetting that I was supposed to be cleaning the house, I was lying inside of it on the living room floor. At first sight it had seemed too small for my 5’5” height, even though the short size says it’s good to 5’7”. It turns out that it fits me perfectly (bonus: no carrying around an unnecessary chunk of bag!).

Then I went and dug out Husband’s Rab Quantum 250 for comparison purposes.

Then I stuffed it into the stuff sack. Then I weighed it (566g without stuff sack).

The result of all that was that it has made a very favourable impression and I will be keeping it.

Comparing it with our other sleeping bags (for the record, in the down department, I’ve got a Marmot Angel Fire and a Rab Quantum 400W; Husband has a Marmot Helium and the aforementioned Rab Quantum 250) it seems to me that it should be warmer than its rating.

Obviously the proof of the pudding will be in the eating, but I see no reason why it won’t be eminently suitable for a walk from April through July.

My only complaint (okay, maybe niggle is a better word because the solution is simple) is the stuff sack. All over PHD’s website they say: we make our stuff sacs big enough to allow fairly easy stuffing rather than reducing the bag to the tightest minimum. What air is left in the packed item will easily be compressed out of it, if you are squashing it into a small space in your rucsack. Tiny stuff sacs look impressive: but unless you are a sac-wrestling fan, fighting the gear into them day after day can be an unncecessary chore.

So, why did my sleeping bag come with the exact same size as stuff-sack as they sent me with my Minim down jacket? I did manage to squeeze the sleeping bag into it, but it was definitely a bag-wrestling experience.

Spot the Stumpy One!
Next to the Rab Quantum 250 my new PHD Minim 300 looks baby sized!

Monday, 25 February 2008

LEJOG Fundraising

We decided quite a while ago that in doing our LEJOG walk we would try to raise a bit of money for MacMillan Cancer Support.

Although there may appear to be a particular personal link here, with both of my parents having died of cancer in the last four years (aged 59 and 61) and two other members of my close family having been diagnosed with cancer in the last year (my sister aged just 36), the reality is that none of them has directly used the services of a cancer charity, although undoubtedly they have all benefited indirectly from their work.

Rather my reason for choosing a cancer charity is that statistics say that 1 in 3 people will develop cancer during their lifetime. So, the sad fact is that if you don’t already know someone who has benefited from the work of a cancer charity, you probably will sometime soon. With the disease affecting so many people, a charity that makes life better for a lot of those people seems to me to be a worthy cause.

Last Wednesday we had a very useful meeting with the Fundraising Manager at our local MacMillan office, who will be publicising our walk on our behalf and who has given us lots of useful advice. We came away with a collection bucket and shaker tin (which will not be accompanying us on the walk for obvious reasons, but may come in handy beforehand), as well as t-shirts and polythene ponchos that are so light that we both involuntarily went ‘ooh’ as we picked them up!

I’m now in the midst of designing a panel to go on the back of our backpacks to further advertise the fundraising cause.

Finally, I’ve now set up our justgiving fundraising page, which you’ll find at

I’d be most pleased if any of you has a few spare coins that you’d like to donate to the cause.

And just as a cliffhanger, there is one more thing that I will be doing before (but related to) this walk which is sponsorship worthy … but for now I’m going to keep that under my hat … oooh, the suspense!

Saturday, 23 February 2008

LEJOG Preparation - Progress Report

It’s now just 51 days until we set out from Land’s End! Excitement and trepidation are growing.


The dehydrator has been whirring almost non-stop. I even got up at 2.30am on two consecutive mornings just to move things around in the machine. Yesterday morning I cooked a stew before breakfast time so that it would be dried by the end of the day. My life is being consumed by food and the drying thereof.

The outcome of this effort is that we now have 40 meals dehydrated (2 got eaten in the last week and two more new recipes need testing out of the current total). 70-80 to go…


Last week saw us indulge in a bit of pre-LEJOG gear shopping in Keswick and Ambleside (Husband was rather embarrassed that the shopping trip involve me repeatedly whipping out a set of digital scales and weighing various things; seems like a perfectly reasonable thing to do to me!). Here are the headlines in brief. For the gear-freaks amongst you I’ll try to elaborate on some of these separately sometime soon:

Feet: We now both have new boots (phew!), but for me socks have been causing a bit of unexpected trouble.

Legs: I finally have new waterproof trousers (Berghaus Paclite, which in my size weigh a miniscule 190g). I actually ordered these over t’internet as although I tried them on in Gaynor Sports in Ambleside, they sell them for 10% cheaper (even when taking P&P into account) if you order online than if you buy in store. Seems a bit silly to me, but it was no trouble to order them when I got home, so that’s what I did.

I’m still umming and aahing at some length over my non-waterproof-trouser strategy.

Top: Husband now has one of the superlight Icebreaker merino short sleeved t-shirts. These 150g/m ones seem to be thin enough not to overheat in summer. For my sake, I’m hoping that it will prove to be as smell-free as the thicker ones; it’s got to be an improvement on a smelly-Helly!

Pack: For the last couple of years I’ve been using the same orange plastic rucksack liner that weighs about 75g and cost £1.99. It’s not showing any hints of wearing out, ripping or holing, but it just doesn’t seem right to set out on such a long outing using such a low-tech waterproofing solution inside of my pack (particularly with the lack of a closure mechanism). So, I finally bit the bullet and bought a lightweight waterproof sil-nylon liner. It also weighs 75g, but has the (apparent) advantage of being tougher; moreover, it has a roll-top closure. There’s not much more that can be said about a liner is there?

Sleeping Bag: I blame a chap (chapess?) by the name of Trentham Walker, who left a comment on my blog telling me to stay strong and resist the PHD Minim 300 bag. The confession that he (she?) owns 4 down bags and 1 synthetic didn’t help me to stay strong. You see, I only own two down bags at the moment (plus three synthetic, but for various reasons, they don’t count). Suddenly I felt deficient in the down bag department!

Okay, so in reality there was rather more to my decision than that, but this week I did succumb and order a short Drishell Minim 300 (the main justification being the Drishell outer). I’m not yet entirely convinced that I’ll keep it, but having talked to PHD I thought that it was at least worth a look and a feel.


Things were going well with printing out the maps for the Scottish section of our walk. Alas, then the printer ran out of ink (more precisely, it ran out of blue, which is a bit of an impediment when printing maps, particularly of the wetter parts of Scotland). The ink situation has now been rectified, and printing has re-commenced. I may even get it finished this weekend – then I will start marking on the location of campsites.

Wendy's Third Outing

Glossary: For those who aren't already acquainted with her, Wendy is our Stephenson’s Warmlite 2R; a very lightweight and very sturdy tent.

Recap: Wendy’s first outing was on a campsite in North Yorkshire on a very cold and still night. Her performance was not assisted by a bad bit of pitching (well, it was her first outing and she needed practice at getting herself right) and by morning the inside was running with condensation, both on the single and double skin sections. We conceded that it wasn’t a very fair test as in the exceptionally still conditions most tents would have struggled to remain dry.

Her second outing was on a weekend of wet and stormy weather in Wales. We were jolly impressed at her stability and condensation was not a problem on this occasion. In fact, the only problem was that we had pitched in an incredibly bad position (the pitch having turned into a pond overnight) leading to us waking up in a pool of water. As much as I cursed Wendy when the water was first discovered, she was soon forgiven when the cause was discovered.

Latest Test: Her third outing was once again in very cold and quite calm conditions on 13/14 February. This time we chose a good pitch and we pitched her well (she’s getting used to the process now) and then we did everything we could to minimise condensation: we cooked well away from her and we sat outside until late in the evening when the cold got the better of us and chased us inside.

A breeze picked up overnight (although I’m not sure whether ventilation was affected by having pitched head to the wind).

In the morning I was disappointed to find that despite having done nothing in the tent that may have led to an excess of water vapour (no cooking and certainly no sweating as it was jolly cold; all we did was breathe) the double-skin section was once again damp with condensation.

I know that Alan Sloman has had excellent results with Wanda, his Warmlite 2C and the only explanation that I can give for the variance of results is that he uses Wanda solo whilst there are two of us in Wendy. I firmly believe that Wendy would cope just fine, even on a still night, with one person breathing, however, in cold conditions with two people it seems that she can’t quite cope.

That raises the question as to what will happen when it’s raining out and we have no option but to use the stove inside of her. Alan found that this wasn’t a problem, but again he was only producing enough hot water for food and drink for one person. We will have to double those quantities, which will put twice the water vapour into the confined space.

To date Wendy has not dripped on us. The condensation only causes a problem when we brush against it in our down sleeping bags or down jackets. Again, if there was only one person in the tent the space would be so vast that one could manoeuvre without touching the sides. With two people it’s difficult not to touch the sides.

All that may seem like doom and gloom, but I’ve still not given up on Wendy. The difference I see between our LEJOG and the test-runs to date is that (hopefully, at least) on our LEJOG the weather will be rather warmer. Hopefully those few degrees of warmth will be enough to stave off the condensation that we’ve seen to date.

The test period continues…

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

High Seat and Bleaberry Fell

As is so often the case, the main purpose of a flying visit to the Lakes was a shopping trip. There were a few items that we needed to buy for our rapidly-approaching LEJOG walk (just minor items; boots and that sort of thing).

However, even though our visit was fleeting, I was determined to squeeze a walk in.

We had travelled up to Great Langdale on Sunday afternoon and following a chilly night (minus five was the lowest thermometer reading I saw) we headed off to Keswick on Monday morning.

With great expedience, we were finished in the shops before 11am and a quick cup of tea in a café gave us the opportunity to give some consideration to a map and choose a place to walk.

Given the hour of day, our criteria was: 1) short and 2) reasonably local to Keswick (in order to save time wasted by travelling).

Various options were briefly debated whilst hot tea was hastily drunk, with the final decision being that we would pop up High Seat and thence over to Bleaberry Fell from the car park a few yards up the road from Ashness Bridge.

Somehow time had marched on to just after noon (the realisation that the entire 2 litre contents of my water reservoir had leaked over the boot of the car and the de-labelling of new boots may have contributed to the delay) by the time we set out up the hill.

Despite the frozen beck and the icy grass, the sun was beating down on us and by the time we had gained a couple of hundred feet of height I was down to a baselayer and wishing that I was wearing shorts. It’s really not right to be so hot out walking in February!

Derwent Water on a Lovely Day!

A slight detour (and a rushed one at that) was made on our way to High Seat to try to photograph two aircraft flying along the valley below us, and then off we went to the summit.
Look at a bigger version to spot the two planes
Click for the big version of this picture to spot the two planes in the valley

We had it to ourselves for about three minutes, before we were joined by eight or so members of the Tyne & Wear Fire Service.

We didn’t mind the intrusion, mind, as I had other things to occupy myself. In the name of ‘loaded backpack’ training, I had been walking with the stove, a pan, a can of soup and half a loaf of bread in my pack (amongst many other items that were unreasonably heavy for a day-pack). The summit saw me break out the stove and the soup, followed by much slurping and satisfied dunking.

Heating Soup on High Seat
Husband takes control of the camera as I concentrate on heating soup

With such a stunningly sunny day, the top of Bleaberry Fell was perfectly visible to us as we stood at the trig point on High Seat, as was the trodden path that led there. It’s a bit incomprehensible how, in such conditions, and having pointed at and discussed our objective, we managed to wander off the top in the wrong direction and without either of us noticing the error (in fact, I’m sure that we’d have made a better job of it had visibility been bad; at least then we would have paid attention).

We’d gone about a kilometre before we realised that something was amiss. The map came out. We scratched our heads. We beat ourselves about the head for our stupidity. Then we indulged in some ‘good and proper training’ by heading directly back towards where we had intended to be. By the time we got back on track my mind was made up that I’ve done enough tramping through heather for one week.

The mid-afternoon hour at which we arrived at Bleaberry Fell meant that we were bringing up the rear of the people heading back down to the valley, giving us peace and quiet to enjoy the surroundings.

The entire outing lasted less than four hours and was somewhere in the region of 4.5 miles*.

Another night was spent in Langdale (along with a tent of chaps whose inconsiderate use of high volume voices and forced laughter late at night and early in the morning reminded me nicely as to why wild-camping is so good); once again with significantly low temperatures. It was cold enough that the gas really didn’t want to play on Tuesday morning; it required a good hug multiple times in the process of making tea and porridge, but we got there in the end.

That was our trip over. Far too short, but squeezed into an available window.

(*I’m trying not to seem too sad, particularly as the day was so still, but I did have the anemometer with me and on the top of High Seat during our lunch stop I recorded a top wind speed of 7.2mph).

A Duvet on a Tent
Gt Langdale campsite on Tuesday morning: Is it just me, but if the temperature is -5 degrees and you've got a spare duvet with you, wouldn't you use it inside of the tent?

Beddgelert Day 2

We awoke to a lightening sky and I soon managed to stir myself to face the worst part of any cold-weather camping trip: getting out of the cosy sleeping bag to bare one’s skin and get dressed in cold clothes.

With that chore over with (and it never is as bad as I think it will be), I ventured out to the convenient flat rock that was serving as a kitchen to brew up the obligatory morning cup of tea. I’d realised the night before that the gas canister I’d picked up was less full than I’d thought. What I hadn’t expected was for it to expire at such a key moment as ‘morning cup of tea time’.

Before I went in search of more wood for the Bushbuddy, I shook the canister and concluded it was just being hampered by the cold. After hugging it for a minute and by placing it on my foam sit mat, it obliged us with enough heat to get the water boiling.

I’m not sure how it took us an hour and a half to get ourselves ready to get moving, but it was eight thirty by the time we were ready to go, by which time the sun was up and the breeze had completely disappeared, leaving us with perfect reflections in the llyn and gorgeous sunny glows playing on the surrounding hills.

A perfectly still Llyn yr Arddu

Paying far too little attention to the map and not even considering the compass we wandered off in what we approximated to be the right direction. Initially we took faint paths through the heather, then took a rather direct route over the next lump in the ground, bashing our way through thigh deep heather.

Finally, when the llyns for which we were heading didn’t materialise we resorted to looking at the map properly, which a few minutes later led us successfully to arrive at one of the Llynnau Cerrig-y-Myllt.

Well - wow. What a spectacular sight; a sight that we tried unsuccessfully to capture via a video clip.

Immediately in front of us was the llyn, again with a mirror smooth surface reflecting the surrounding terrain. It also reflected the peak of Snowdon which was across the valley ahead of us.

Below the summit of Snowdon but just visible above the terrain on our side of the valley was a thin band of cloud.

Snowdon Reflected in one of Llynnau Cerrig y Myllt

Snowdon behind one of Llynnau Cerrig y Myllt

All of that was spectacular enough, but what was really impressive was how we could see the cloud absolutely pouring down a hillside to our right and into the valley.

We tarried a while drinking it in, before heading off to cross over a stream and heading directly down hill to the large stream (small river?) that led us down to a road.

It was as we approached the road that we met a chap; he was the first person we had seen out walking since leaving the river within the first hour of setting out the day before.
We met quite a few more people from that point until our return to Beddgelert, one of whom commented that they hadn’t expected the day to turn out well. Whereas our day had been accompanied by clear blue skies throughout, down in the valley their day had had a cloudy start. We felt duly smug.

Although we had enjoyed clear skies, we were seldom in the sun on our descent from the hills, across farmland and along the side of Llyn Dinas back to Beddgelert, and my goodness, it was a bit nippy!

Contrasted with the 30 degrees reading on my thermometer the day before, on Thursday morning that reading was between 3 and 5 degrees. I was glad for my winter trouser selection, even if I had roasted the previous afternoon.

The entire return route was nothing less than pleasant and it was just gone noon when we ambled back into a reasonably busy Beddgelert.

It was a short trip, with a total mileage of under 10 miles, but its right up there as one of the most spectacularly good backpacking trips that I’ve been on. It was just a shame that we hadn’t thrown an extra day’s food into our bags, as the temptation was great to ignore the other business we had to attend to in Wales and instead spend an extra night in the hills.

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Beddgelert - Day 1

Just as we were enjoying the frozen delights of the Langdale Valley the week before Christmas, v-g of were out in the Beddgelert area. Reading their excellent trip report, it got me thinking about a trip to that area.

It must be four years since I walked along the river at Beddgelert, and more years since we ventured up onto the hills behind it.

So, I looked at a map and came up with a route, with the intention (shamelessly stolen from the v-g trip report) of camping up by Llyn yr Arddu.

Our customary level of faffing before leaving home, plus the journey time, saw us setting off from the free car park in Beddgelert (contrasted with the one on the other side of the river at which a £3/day fee applies; I know not why the difference as both seem to be council car parks) at just a few minutes after 1pm.

Under stunningly gin-clear skies, off we set along the river, where I met with a bit of a surprise.

I know that there has been talk for many years of re-opening the railway that used to run along this route (the old track-bed of which formed part of the highly accessible footpath along the river). What I didn’t expect as we got to the second bridge over the river was to find a railway line running across the footpath.

My first thought on seeing the narrow-gauge tracks was that the tunnel, which has been closed for at least eight years for safety reasons, must have been repaired. Then I realised that with a railway now running through it, the footpath would not go that way in any case.

My second thought was correct, and the path still takes the route of the old ‘fisherman’s path’ along the very edge of the river of this part of the route were proved.

This ‘path’ used to be a perilous route around a rocky outcrop, using only natural footholds. For passage along it, the iron handles that are tied into the rock were a handy aid.

About four years ago a path was built around the outcrop, giving a good and easy path in place of the previous clamber. The old iron handles now look superfluous, but I guess that it was easier to leave them in place than to remove them.

After leaving the river, we made along lanes and across farmland, still revelling in the unseasonably warm weather. I couldn’t believe when I looked at the little thermometer hanging off the back of my pack (which admittedly in direct sunlight) to find that it read 30 degrees! In mid-February, I ask you! No wonder I was hot, even though I was wearing a thin baselayer and had my trousers hitched up into highly unsexy make-shift shorts.

The crossing of a lane marked the end of the low lying farm-land, and the start of the ascent up Yr Arddu, which is initially through woodland at the top of which we paused to collect fuel for the Bushbuddy.

A deviation was taken from the line of the right of way marked on the map (the RoW seemingly not being passable), and upon reaching a stream we opted not to try to rejoin the right of way, but instead to follow the stream up – or at least that’s what we did until I made the incredibly bad judgement call (with the benefit of hindsight) and decided that a route to our left looked easier than going straight up over boulders.

An arduous period of heather-bashing, interspersed with quiet cursing, saw us get back to the stream just before Llyn Yr Arddu came into view.

A pitch by the outlet stream looked feasible, which would give us the evening sun – but it wouldn’t give us the best of the views (and my goodness the views were good up here), nor would it give us morning sun (in the unlikely event that we were still there when the sun made it high enough to come over the hills).

The first views of Snowdon, from below Llyn yr Arddu
Snowdon comes into view, as we climb up to Llyn yr Arddu

So, we made our way to the far side of the llyn, where we found an excellent flat pitch with fine views, with Snowdon dominating immediately to the north. (Just before I started typing this I thought I would see how our outing compared with v-g’s, as although I completely stole their idea, I didn’t actually look in detail where they’d gone. The answer was that our trip was remarkably similar, and it amused me to see in one of their photos that we had pitched on the exact same spot as had they; obviously the best choice of the terrain!)

Taking advantage of the last sunshine of the day, our bags were ditched by our chosen pitch and we quickly made our way unburdened up to the top of Yr Arddu, from where we drank in the magnificent views, with Snowdon to the north, Cnict to the east and the sea a way away to the south west.

Poorly positioned photo; well pitched tent!
A poorly composed photo, but a well pitched tent!

With the tent pitched, the evening was spent feeding the Bushbuddy as we made tea, then our evening meals, followed by more tea, whilst watching darkness fall with a good play of light on the surrounding tops.

Sunset reflecting on Llyn yr Arddu
Husband played with various settings on the camera, so we have lots of versions of this photo. This one came out the best (perhaps unsurprisingly, using the 'sunset' setting)

By the time we got as far as putting the food on to heat the stars were a-twinkling. By the time we got to our post-meal cup of tea, we had a fine night sky in which the view of the stars was only marred by the amount of light being provided by the moon.

Finally, with the temperature having plummeted and with feet going numb we retired to the tent, looking forward to yet more fine sunshine and outstanding views the following morning.

Friday, 15 February 2008

A Quick Taster

Our trip into the hills this week was a very short one: we were out for just 24 hours. However, it was a truly fantastic outing, for which award the stunning weather had to help.

More about it later, but for now here are a couple of photos:

Snowdon behind one of Llynnau Cerrig y Myllt

Looking at Snowdon beyond one of the perfectly still Llynnau Cerrig y Myllt, with a nice bit of low lying cloud to complete the picture

Is There A Ghostly Backpacker?

Looking at the full-size version of this blurred one I immediately spotted what appears to be a ghostly backpacker just left of centre (see it?). Husband came up with the perfectly logical explanation for the image, but I still think that it's a bit spooky.

Found It!

Yep, I finally found the head torch that I thought that I had lost on the Pumlumon hills on the first weekend of December.

I’ve harked on and on about having lost it and yet had managed to procrastinate at great length about replacing it, for despite having searched seemingly everywhere in the house and car, I still harboured secret hopes that it would turn up.

On Tuesday night I packed my pack for our first backpacking trip of the year.

I had, of course, checked my pack at least six times in the Big Hunt for the Headtorch.

Thinking through many times the circumstances when I had last had it (about five minutes away from our pitch in the Pumlumon area, I had realised that I was still wearing it; I took it off and stowed it) I concluded that the only pocket available to me at that time (what with my backpack being on my back) was the pouch pocket of my Velez.

What I had overlooked was the hip-belt pockets on my Osprey Aura.

So, as I went to put the camera in the hip-belt pocket just before we set off on Wednesday morning, there I found the long lost head torch.

My second thought (after running through the house shouting ‘I’ve found it!’) was ‘That’s £30 saved that I could put towards that PHD Minim sleeping bag’! Oh dear. I am a hopeless case.

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Random Thoughts of the Day

Another New Sleeping Bag (because 4 just isn’t enough?)
In PHD’s last sale I bought a Minimus down jacket. I’ve been impressed with it’s snuggly warmth for very little weight.

Thanks once again to Darren’s heads-up, I saw that PHD has another sale that started a few days ago. I tried to avert my eyes, but accidentally saw that they are offering a Minim 300 sleeping bag at the remarkably small price of £109.

At 570g, it’s 300g lighter than my girl’s model Rab 400, which is a pleasing prospect for a long walk, so I’ve ummed and arrhed at some length. I won’t bore you with all of my thought processes on whether to buy or not!

If I was still a gainfully employed person with money at my disposal, I don’t think that I would hesitate in buying one of these to try it out. Given that I’m now officially a housewife to a retired husband, a little more justification has to be made.

As nice as it would be potentially to cut 300g off my LEJOG pack weight, I’m not sufficiently convinced that this is a bag with which I would be comfortable. So, thus far, I’ve managed to talk myself out of buying one (being female, however, I do reserve the right to change my mind on a whim!).

We’re off to Wales for the rest of this week. It seems rude to spend a few days in the Principality without spending at least one night camped on a hill-side in an unlawful manner, so that’s exactly what we intend to do.

Everything is packed ready to go; all we now have to do is decide exactly where it is that we’re going to walk (I have a pretty good idea, I just need to look at a map).

Of course, a trip of this nature is going to eat (quite literally) a little into the pile of dehydrated meals that we’ve been amassing, but on the plus side it will also serve as a good test of a couple of new recipes. There are some things that just don’t look like they will rehydrate properly, and my ‘Chick Pea Stewy Thing’ is one of those meals. Tomorrow night will be the moment of truth when I will be sitting on a moon-lit hillside either tucking into something tasty or wading my way through something that didn’t quite work. After the hideous biryani experience last year, I sincerely hope that it’s the former!

(As an aside, in undertaking this trip, I’m turning a blind eye to the fact that my car has failed me three times in the last week (impressively, for three completely unrelated faults), and have my fingers crossed that it will now behave itself for another few thousand miles - or at the very least until the middle of next week!)

Head Torch
It’s to be our first camping trip of the year; nearly two and a half months since I lost my head torch in the Pumlumon Hills: and still I have not bought a replacement.

That gives me two choices for this week: 1) take advantage that Father Christmas brought Husband a Petzl e+lite to go with his existing Tikka Plus, and use one of those; or 2) make do with the Alpkit model, which is great for the money but does leave a little to be desired.

Whichever I go with, I will have a torch with me – but I really must stop procrastinating and sort myself out with a new Petzl Tikka Plus ASAP.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

The National Memorial Arboretum

Variety being the spice of life, we thought that for today’s walk we would vary from our usual local circuit of paths over local fields.

My first thought on seeing the fantastic weather forecast was that we should venture into the Peak District or into the Shropshire Hills, but those thoughts were soon countered with how busy both locations would be on a sunny Sunday.

The next plan was that we should pop over to the National Memorial Arboretum
at Alrewas, which we had been intending to visit for a while - and what better way to get there than on foot?

As we set out, I felt a little self-conscious walking through the village in trousers and shoes absolutely caked with mud from Wednesday’s walk (oops didn't get round to cleaning either), but we were soon on the canal and then on fields beyond, heading rapidly in the direction of Alrewas.

Posing Nonchalantly
I pose nonchalantly at a bridge over the River Trent

Looking Across the River to Alrewas

Looking over the River to Alrewas; What a glorious sunny day!

The A38 proved to be a bit of an impediment to our progress. Last year or the year before, the crash barriers in the middle of the A38 were replaced, and they were replaced with substantial new barriers somewhat taller than the standard model. Alas, when they placed the new barriers, they didn’t leave a gap at the point where the right of way that we were following crosses the road. So, not only did we have to dice with death in negotiating the busy dual carriageway, but we also had to clamber over two sets of barriers.

The next impediment was the impassable overgrown undergrowth about a hundred yards further along the right of way (I got the distinct impression that not many people pass this way!). A small backtrack and a minor diversion (not to mention the negotiation of a barbed wire fence) brought us back on track, only then to find that a huge, partially burnt rubbish heap lay in path of the right of way.

Over it we clambered, to then find that the tunnel under the railway track, which is marked on the OS map, doesn’t actually exist, but two good stiles and a sign telling us to stop look and listen for trains gave us comfort that we weren’t trespassing on the railway track as we crossed it.

A few paces further and we found ourselves on the outskirts of the arboretum.

We stopped to read a few of the memorials in the ‘death by motorcar’ section, a few in the ‘stillbirths’ section and a few of the Armed Forces memorials. Passing the RNLI memorial garden, we then started heading towards the crowds at the huge new Armed Forces Memorial.

This new national memorial consists of an obelisk, two semi-circular walls (with a gap in between which forms the central walk-way) and two straight walls, one running just inside each semi-circular wall. (for those saying ‘eh’ just now, some photos on this page
probably describe it better.)

Engraved on the walls of the Memorial are the names of all of those in the British Armed Forces who have lost their lives in the course of duty since the second world war.

There are an awful lot of names on those walls. Worse, there’s an awful lot of blank wall space that will yet be filled.

Husband sought out and found the names of ex-colleagues of his that he knew would be there and we spent a while looking around.

The Last Set Of Names on the Memorial
The last set of names on the wall, from 2006; amongst them ex-colleagues of Husband.

Because of the rapidly approaching rugby kick-off (or, perhaps more precisely, because of the late hour at which we had set out) we didn’t stick to my plan of walking a circuitous route home. Instead we retraced our steps, battling again with the blocked paths and with the traffic on the A38.

In the name of training, this walk was completed with backpacks. I’m glad that no-one asked us what we were carrying (something that happens to us every now and then when we’re walking places where you don’t usually see backpack-toting, mud-adorned people), because I would have had to confess that both of our packs primarily contained rolled up bath towels! My pack, weighing in at a modest 5.5 kilos, gave me no bother.

The stats were 9.75 miles, with (wait for it…) around 300 feet of ascent.

Saturday, 9 February 2008

Peewiglet's Coast to Coast 2007

For those of you who may not have already noticed (because I don't know how far behind the times I am here), Peewiglet has posted the next section of her 2007 C2C account. Patterdale to Shap.

For those who haven't before read one of Peewiglet's walk diaries, get over there and have a look.

Friday, 8 February 2008

LEJOG Preparation: Review of the Week

Two training walks this week.

Last Saturday was 11.5 miles over our usual range of local field paths, and along the canal. The only interesting features were the presence of a vague dusting of snow on the ground and the number of people that we saw. I attribute the latter to the former. We’ve walked variations on this route a lot over the last couple of years and have never before met another person on those fields; on Saturday we met four different sets of people. It was either freak coincidence, or everyone saw the snow and thought ‘how pretty; best go for a walk’.

The second was a 9.5 miler on Wednesday morning. Weather was great. Ground was very muddy indeed. It set my mind a-whirring once again on the subject of footwear … but that’s a different subject.

For reasons related partially to budget and partially to having something that I know that I can and will eat, I came up with the (madcap?) plan of dehydrating most of the evening meals that we will consume on our LEJOG. Other meals (or at least the makings for those other meals) will be bought en-route.

I’ve finally (and once again rather belatedly) decided that it’s time to get moving on cooking and dehydrating. I’m reckoning on preparing around 100-120 meals (‘Is the girl mad?’ I hear you cry). With 66 days to go until we set off for Cornwall, the dehydrator’s going to be working overtime.

So, this week’s food tally is: 9x meat chilli; 3x veggie chilli; 3x veggie pasta sauce; 2x turkey green curry. 17 down. 103 to go…

I still have no headtorch. I still have no waterproof trousers (although that’s just a matter of finding out what size I need). More alarmingly, I still have no boots. However, we do now have a spare battery for the camera, plus and two spare memory cards on their way to us. Oh, and one of the underwear issues has been sorted (subject to test drive-comfort test). So that’s a few things knocked off the ‘to buy’ list.

Friday, 1 February 2008

LEJOG - Clothing and Gear

Two days ago Mr. Sloman kindly pointed out that it is only 76 days until Husband and I set off on our LEJOG adventure. That’s a calculation that I’d been avoiding for fear of sending myself into blind panic.

Whilst I had been avoiding the precise calculation, Alan’s countdown did come the day after I had started compiling a ‘to do’ list of all the things that need to be completed before we go. To start with it all looked achievable; since then I’ve added to it quite comprehensively.

One area where you may think that I would be quite prepared would be in clothing and equipment – after all, walking and backpacking are things that we do on a reasonably regular basis and theoretically we won’t need anything special for LEJOG that we don’t use on our normal sorts of trips.

That’s all well in theory, but the reality is that I’m horribly ill-prepared.

Tonight I did a quick mental run through of what I need to sort out clothing-wise and shocked myself with the result. Starting with my feet and working up, this is how it looks:

- Footwear: I have both boots and fell-runners that I’m happy to wear for short trips, but nothing yet that I’m overly happy with for a longer venture. It’s a subject about which I will blog separately, but boots are definitely top priority to sort out.

- Socks: I’ve plenty of socks and plenty of those are perfectly comfortable – but they’re all getting rather old so multiple new pairs will be required.

- Trousers: I have two pairs of summer trousers, but the fly zip has failed on one of those causing a bit too much ventilation not to mention a touch of indecency. I’m still umming and arring about what trouser strategy to go with.

- Waterproof overtrousers: my previous pair died in December and still need to be replaced.

- Underwear: I could venture into ‘too much information’ territory here and make myself blush, being the shy little being that I am!

- Sun hat: I need one that will protect my neck as well as my face (just on the off chance that we get some sun at some point).

Or to put that another way, except for shoes, socks, trousers, overtrousers, bra and hat I’m all set in the clothing department…

I feel another ‘eeek’ moment coming on.

At least the equipment department is looking better, where the only item that I can think that I need (well, except for a mobile blogging device, but I’m working on that) is a head-torch to replace the one that I carelessly lost back in December.