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 31 July 2011

The Roaches

Sitting in the comfort of the living room on Thursday night, pondering where to go for a walk on Friday morning, I decided that there was little point in re-inventing the wheel. Martin’s blog was bound to reveal a good handful of walks, reasonably close to home, from which we could choose, and so it did. We selected ‘The Roaches’ walk which Martin (& others) did in early March this year. A flick though his photos suggested that it would provide lots of interesting things to see, and after a glance at his route map I copied a rough approximation of it onto my map. We were all set to go.

The Roaches aren’t very far from us, but experience has now told us that if you get behind a quarry lorry going up one of the long hills between here and there, the journey can be slow indeed. We got there in the end though and being just past 9am we had the pick of the parking spaces.

Progress was initially slow, as I was particularly taken with our surroundings and had to keep stopping to ponder the boulders, the views, the shapely rocks and such.


“Careful now!” I cried; there’s a big old drop off the side of that rockIMG_1616

Looking back towards Hen Cloud, as you can see, this was the overcast day in amongst a run of good weather. The views became more curtailed as the day went on, but at least it was dry. IMG_1618

Attracted by the chalk marks, Mick checks out some bouldering movesIMG_1619

Big, tumbled boulders

Only one other person was met on the outward leg of our walk. In fact, we didn’t see anyone else until we reached the Hanging Stone, well into the return leg. Then we got to the path to Lud’s Church and suddenly there were people aplenty. Quite rightly so too, as it is a natural spectacle that we both enjoyed.

IMG_1631Mick atop the Hanging Stone. We had lunch on the overhanging bit. Whilst we were there another chap came along and crawled up to where Mick’s standing in this photo. His wife declined to even set foot on the stone. We deduced that neither of them had a head for heights!

 IMG_1633 IMG_1641

Lots of photos were taken of Lud’s Church. None of them does it justice.

Regaining the ridge path we made our way back to Roach End, where the cross-over point of our figure-of-eight route should have been. When we got there (where it was a positive hive of activity with people setting off in all directions) a change of plan was had. We decided that we’d liked walk over The Roaches so much that it was worth walking it again in the other direction, rather than taking lower level paths.

IMG_1645It was worth returning the way we’d come for these rocks alone. We’d missed them on the outward journey, but spent some time pondering them on the way back 

Surprisingly, once we were a few hundred yards away from the road, we were on our own again, save for some climbers and one family seen right at the other end of the ridge.

IMG_1646Three chaps staring down from the edge and one looking rather bored. 

I had wanted to walk over Hen Cloud on the way back, but by the time we were approaching the end of The Roaches my right knee was feeling decidedly disgruntled. In fear of doing some damage that would take weeks to heal, we cut short.

Still, I’d enjoyed immensely what we had done and highly recommend this a walk if you find yourself in the area.

The stats were that 10 miles were covered, with somewhere around 2500 feet of ascent (maybe more if you believe the Garmin Gadget over Anquet). We didn’t get a reading on Mick’s altimeter as it went blank and started emitting a continuous high-pitched noise within the first ten minutes of the walk which got so annoying that after a while the watch got wrapped in my jacket and hidden in the middle of my rucksack. It was still beeping when we got home, but a new battery has sorted it out.

Just a couple more (sheepy) photos from the day:



J99 EWE, J999 EWE, J999 TUP = a sheep farmer with a sense of humour!


Some friendly sheep

Here’s the route we took:


Wednesday 27 July 2011

People On Journeys

You may have noticed that there’s not an awful lot of walking going on around here at the moment. My intention of getting in a 3-day backpacking trip every fortnight has, of necessity, had to go by the wayside for this summer. There are, however, plenty of other people out there at the moment whose adventures I have been enjoying:

- Jack is a chap from Arizona who is now just a couple of weeks away from the end of his LEJOG. He came to stay with us when he was in our neck of the woods and would have you believe that I made him walk really fast on the day that I walked with him. I would claim that it was the fact that I didn’t have to pause to navigate (having walked that section of the Staffs Way plenty of times before) which caused us to speed from Cannock Chase up to Abbott’s Bromley. His blog can be found at

- Another American chap is Ken (from California) who is a few weeks behind Jack. Circumstances meant that we weren’t able to have him come and stay and it was third-time-lucky in trying to catch up with him too. We finally walked (albeit just for an hour and a half) with him as he passed through Dovedale. He’s now up on the top half of the Pennine Way. His blog is at

-Talking of the Pennine Way, Jade and Becks are two girls who are currently walking JOGLE and are somewhere on the south end of the Pennine Way at the moment, although their blog is a little behind (they tend to update it in chunks). I take my hat off to them. They’re young, not dreadfully experienced, and have been fighting injury, but are still cheerfully trucking along. I really hope to catch up with them as they pass by here. Their blog is at

- Walking rather further than LEJOG is Charlie who is currently walking all eight points of the compass around the British mainland in a single, 2000-mile walk. Sensible people would split such a walk into three separate walks :-)  Charlie has previously walked LEJOG and with my memory for ridiculously trivial detail I remembered the name (actually it was the mention of drinking real ale that jogged the memory) and I confirmed that it is in fact the same Charlie who Alan Sloman bumped into during his LEJOG in 2007. She obviously caught a walking bug! Her blog can be found at

-Continuing with the walking theme but slightly further afield, Hassbackwards are currently just 270 miles from the end of the Appalachian Trail and are struggling with injury. With 1900 miles down and so few to go that must be a truly dreadful position to be in. You can find out how they get on at

- Continuing with the North American walking thing, Erin is solo-walking the Pacific Crest Trail (albeit she’s been in company much of the time so far). To me (for whom walking something like the PCT is a completely alien thing), her blog is an excellent and interesting read. Add in adversity with the snow and water levels this year (hopefully she’s beyond the worst of both now) and with an old ankle problem that’s causing her problems, I’m hooked. You can find her at

-We’ll stay in the Americas for the next one, but this time by bicycle and in South America. Nathan is now well over a year into a journey from the top to the bottom of the American continent. He’s not doing it quickly; he’s doing it interestingly. Some of his stealth camps in North America were quite audacious and he’s not afraid of taking side trips or short days to enhance the enjoyment of his trip. From the look of his bicycle, he’s not having a lightweight trip either! You’ll find him at

(At this point I realise quite how many long journeys I’m following at the moment! Thank goodness for all these good people to keep me sane.)

- On an equally big scale, but with a different mode of transport, Roz Savage is currently rowing the Indian Ocean and in doing so is seeking to become only the second female to achieve a solo row of it. She was also the first female to solo-row the South Pacific. It was during that row that I first came across her, and immediately set about devouring her experiences on her first (Atlantic) row. Her earlier rows were perhaps more interesting from a blogging point of view, but I still like to have my daily fix from her from the middle of an ocean (even though, on this one, for fear of pirates, she’s not publishing her progress). You’ll find Roz at

- Sarah Outen is quite simply amazing. She was just 23 years old when she became the first female to solo-row the Indian Ocean in 2009 and with her enthusiastic blogging about it I was hooked as soon as I found her. Not satisfied with an adventure that big, she decided that her next big trip would be ‘London to London, via the World’, an entirely human-powered trip out on which she set in April. She’s currently in China, having kayaked the English Channel and cycled the rest of the way from London. When she reaches an ocean she will row across it. One of those oceans is the North Pacific. If I remember correctly, when I followed two chaps who rowed the North Atlantic a couple of years ago, they were the first to achieve the feat (and there were a couple of edge-of-your-seat moments even then). And Sarah’s going to do it solo. Gulp. She may not be blogging regularly on this trip, but she’s certainly one to follow. She’s at

- Not strictly on a big trip right now, but so often on one that she’s always worth keeping an eye on, is Christine the ‘German Tourist’. She’s just finished (although not completed – she’s very bitter about that) a canoe trip down the Yukon and later this year intends to tackle JOGLE. Her annual mileages make my efforts look like baby steps. Another very well written blog which you’ll find at

-And finally there’s Martin. He’s also not on a trip right now but is out and about so often that his life is one big walking (and sometimes cycling) adventure. Every few days he’ll have something well-written to keep me entertained (not to mention a little green with envy). Martin’s at

(Pity I didn’t write this post a few weeks ago, as if I had I could have included Ron’s big 70th birthday adventure in the list, but I’ve left it too late as he’s finished his cycling trip. He may be enjoying the end of his nomadic lifestyle, but for me the end is a shame, as it was another excellent journey to follow.)

I’m sure that there are many other excellent adventures going on out there and being reported by the marvels of modern technology, but I think that’s probably enough to keep me entertained for now!


Wednesday 13 July 2011

Vango Eos 350 - The Photo Compilation

Well that was a bit of a trial! It's a long time since I compiled a group of photos into a video snippet and I'd forgotten the details of how to do it. I got there in the end though.

Can't claim that it's exciting. It's just a bunch of still photos (mainly taken by my sister) of the half-hour process that was the pitching, admiring and de-pitching of the Vango Eos 350 (about which I wrote in the post below).

Here it is - all 2 minutes of it:

Tuesday 12 July 2011

Vango Eos 350 3-man Tent - First Look

A couple of weeks ago Go Outdoors asked us to pick a tent up to a stated budget, and we chose the Vango Eos 350: a 3-man tunnel tent. Go Outdoors lists this as a backpacking tent, but at 6.2kg that’s not a use to which we’ll be putting it (although I did see a D of E group using either this or another very similar Vango model a few weeks back).

Despite Go Outdoors being prompt in getting the tent despatched, it took us over a week to get our hands on it (entirely our fault for not being able to guarantee being at home for a full day in the intervening period). Still, we got it in the end, and I was itching to go and pitch it so as to get a proper look at it.

Following a couple of days of showery weather, it was Sunday before it first came out of its bag, and Sunday coincided with some family visiting. My 89-year-old gran was somewhat bemused when we arrived at her house and immediately set about putting a tent up in her garden!

The set-up was sufficiently obvious that, without a glance at the instructions, it took us 10.5 minutes from unzipping the bag to having a pitched tent. Admittedly, we didn’t put out the guy lines (grandmother might have objected to us trampling her flower beds to achieve that), but it did include the attaching of the inner tent (which was the most time-consuming part of the whole pitching process). The inner has, however, been left in place, so in future we will pitch as one and I don’t expect that it will take longer than 10 minutes even with all of the guy-lines.


Once pitched it proved to have a sleeping area that looked perfectly big enough for three people – or in our case, an excellent size for two people and a couple of bags. The porch area is also looks to be big enough to store a car-camping stove, a box of stuff' and still have enough room for a couple of chairs. Head room clearly isn’t enough to stand up, but at 145cm in the porch area it’s enough to sit on a chair inside.

Access is via doors on either side of the porch. Much discussion was had about the merits of a door on either side versus a single door on the front of the tunnel, and the conclusion we reached was that it’s swings and roundabouts. However, the lack of a mesh door on the outer means that you could be forced into the inner tent on a midgey evening.

Retreating to the inner tent I then came to notice that there wasn’t a full mesh door there either, although I did find the mesh flap at the top of the door. Combining the dark colour of the outer, the green inner and the lack of a full mesh door, it’s pretty dull in the inner (a good thing for 5am on a summer’s morning; not so good on a midgey evening).

IMG_1595My sister helps me illustrate the mesh panel at the top of the inner door

The light levels are better in the porch, with a couple of windows on the front of the tunnel. My gran was particularly taken with the windows. Actually, she was pretty taken with the whole tent. Things have changed a bit since her camping days!

Taking the tent back down took 4.5 minutes and that was to the point of having it zipped inside of its bag. It was nice to find that the bag was big enough to fit the tent back in on the first attempt.

Obviously, I can’t say anything for durability at this stage; the quality didn’t look obviously dodgy, but one of the elastics that hold the clips that connect the ground sheet to the fly did snap on first pitching. At the moment I’m putting that down to a one-off fault, and thanks to a good spares-kit it took me but a matter of seconds to pull out a new bungey and tie it on.

Our verdict on first pitching was that this is a tent that would suit our needs for a car-camping trip. And for the price (it was £89 when I chose it) it looks good value for money to me. Given that, as I type this, it’s been reduced to an incredible £54 (with a Go Outdoors discount card), if you’re in the market for a tent of this type and size, then I don’t think that you could go wrong in buying one.

Go Outdoors currently stocks a range of 96 tents, all the way from cheap tents designed for the festival market (although from our observations on campsites around the country, equally based on useable for campsites) right up to big family tents. They’ve even got a few bivi bags (starting at £25) in the range.

(I gave my sister the camera for most of the pitching/de-pitching exercise. She took plenty of photos. I’ve been trying to compile them into a little video snippet, but Windows Movie Maker has got the better of me tonight (in that it keeps locking up). I’ll post it tomorrow night if Movie Maker lets me finish it.)

Sunday 3 July 2011

The First Six Months

I haven’t posted any graphs since The Gratuitous Graphs of February and said then that I wouldn’t post any more until the end of May. Incredibly, I managed to resist even then, but with the first half of the year having passed I thought it was time to see how things are progressing against this year’s target. Here’s how the year’s going so far:


The Miles per Month chart is looking quite healthy so far. The second half of the year never looks so good, and I anticipate that things will drop of sharply in July and August as a couple of things are going to hamper my walking activities:


The next one isn’t really relevant as I don’t have any ascent based targets and have never compared my ascent figures year-on-year, but I thought I’d include the graph anyway:


My target for the year is to average 5 miles per day. There will now be a sharp drop off back down towards the pink line, but with only 380ish miles left to walk over the next six months it looks to be achievable:


Considering that we generally had such fantastic weather for the East to West Walk, it’s surprising that wet weather (whether rain, showers or drizzle) takes up such a large part of the weather pie chart (but I suppose that it has rained on almost every walk I’ve taken since 9th May!):