Saturday, 28 December 2019

Hiking in the Crater, The Siete Cañadas Trail, Tenerife

A two-day hike and wild camp in the Las Cañadas National Park in Tenerife. The park has an elevation of around 7,000ft/2,130mtrs and is one of the largest calderas in the world being 17 kilometres across at it's widest point.

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

LEJOG Hike 2020 Update

I have now decided that I will resume my LEJOG hike on Wednesday April 15th next year from Carlisle where I finished in May 2019. I always find that once a date has been decided upon, the rest of the planning becomes easier as the walk somehow seems to become more 'real'. I have been buying one or two new pieces of kit and the purchase of a couple more is planned before the start of the hike. I am looking to keep my base weight down below seven kilos this time so will be returning to using my Trekkertent Stealth 1 tent, which weighs in at around 600 grams without pegs. I made this decision based on a combination of weight considerations and also the failure of the door zip on my Geertop Pyramid tent last time out while I was camping at Coniston Water.

Trekkertent Stealth 1 on the Cape Wrath Trail 2016

I have also purchased a new Berghaus Fast Hike 45 litre rucksack for this trip. Although I was reasonably happy with the Montane Ultra-Tour 55 litre I have used on my last few hikes, there were one or two things I didn't like and the Berghuas remedies these issues. I haven't walked with it yet but am looking forward to doing so as it seems to be an excellent lightweight pack, albeit very slightly heavier then the Montane. The shape of the Berghaus is maintained by a wire frame and foam pad, something that the Montane doesn't have. I found that packing the Montane had to be done very carefully for it to maintain it's shape and for it to feel comfortable. I also wanted more and larger external mesh pockets, which the Berghaus has. At 920 grams, it is around 100 grams heavier than the  weight of the Montane, although with many removable components, it can be reduced to as little as 530 grams. 

Berghaus Fast Hike 45

Another new item will be my shoes as for this hike, I will be walking in Altra Olympus 3.0's. I recently made a video explaining why I was giving up walking in my preferred La Sportiva Ultra-Raptors that I have used since 2015. I have come to the conclusion that my feet have changed shape. At first, I thought I was imagining it but having spoken to other walkers about this, it would seem it's not uncommon. My feet appear to have spread wider, which has caused me problems on my last two hikes. After a little research, I discovered Altra shoes. These are different to many shoes in that they have zero drop soles and more importantly, an unusual foot shaped toe box, meaning that the feet can spread out as much as necessary. I originally purchased a pair of Altra Lone Peak 4's, which although being extremely comfortable, didn't in my opinion have enough cushioning for a long hike with a pack. The stack height of the sole on the Olympus is a full 8mm more than on the Lone Peak, which should give plenty of protection over any terrain. I am planning to make video reviews of all three items in the near future. 

Altra Olympus 3.0

Foot Shaped Toe Box

Sunday, 13 October 2019

Future Long Distance Hiking Plans

The next long hike I am planning is the third (and hopefully) final section of my Land's End to John O'Groats hike from Carlisle, where I finished in the spring. It was never my intention to split the hike into three parts, I had intended to walk it in one but circumstances dictated otherwise. This section will be approximately 470 miles, so will be the longest of the three sections. My route will roughly be as follows, Carlisle to Annan, mostly on country roads. From Annan, I will follow the Annan Trail to Moffat and if the conditions are good, up to the Devil's Beef Tub. From there, I will follow paths and trackless sections over hills to Biggar and Lanark where I will pick up the Clyde Walkway and Kelvin Way to Milngavie in Glasgow and the start of the West Highland Way to Drymen. From Drymen, my preferred route is the Rob Roy Way to Pitlochry and then through the Cairngorms to Inverness. From Inverness, I intend following the John O'Groats Trail along the coast to the finish. I have alternative routes from Drymen (WHW & GGW) and an inland alternative to the John O'Groats trail and weather will also play a part in my daily route decisions but this is the 'outline' route I have planned. I am hoping that this final section will avoid the problems that have delayed me on the previous two and hopefully, I won't have the need to visit any hospitals on this occasion.

Wednesday, 21 August 2019

LEJOG 2019 - My 3 Favourite Gear Items

A short video discussing my favourite three gear items from my 2019 Land's End to John O' Groats hike. All three of these items were purchased from Decathlon outdoor suppliers.

Monday, 15 July 2019

Land's End to John O'Groats - The Cumbria Way video

After diverting to Ulverston,  I set off on the Cumbria Way to Carlisle. Having lost so much time at the start of the hike because of the problem with my infected leg, I did not now have enough time available to complete my hike to John O'Groats. I therefore decided that Carlisle would be a good point to halt the walk and also to re-start the hike across Scotland at a later date. The Cumbria Way proved to be the most spectacular part of my hike to date.

Sunday, 16 June 2019

LEJOG 2019 - Mapping my Walk

During my walk, I used Viewranger app combined with OS mapping for navigating and recorded my location through the app as I walked. This photo shows a record of locations recorded on the walk between Hay on Wye and Carlisle. In all, I walked 391.77 miles.

Saturday, 15 June 2019

LEJOG 2019 - Finale

The day after finishing the walk, as I explored Carlisle's interesting and attractive historical centre, I made a point of asking in the Tourist Information Centre exactly where the Cumbria Way terminated as I couldn't find a terminus marker. I had noticed Cumbria Way markers on the way to the Castle and thought that this would make a great terminus to the walk. My guidebook didn't mention a finish point, unlike the southern end in Ulverston, so I thought the castle would be a great end to not only the Cumbria Way, but also this section of my trek. There was no marker visible when I reached the Castle so I asked in the Tourist Information Centre in the square in the town centre only to be told that it finished outside by the market cross. 'But there are signs pointing to the castle' I said. 'Oh yes, I think one guidebook finishes there' said the bored looking woman behind the desk. So there it is. The long distance walk without a definite finishing point. One thing I was sure of, my long distance walk was over, at least for now.

Thursday, 13 June 2019

LEJOG Day's 26 (47) - Caldbeck to Carlisle

I left the village of Caldbeck for my last day on the Cumbria Way and this particular section of my LEJOG hike in clear sunny weather. As I climbed above the village, I had panoramic views of High Pike, the hill I had climbed the previous afternoon and the highest hill on the Cumbria Way. The early part of the walk was a delightful mix of low hills, forest trails and riverside paths. The River Caldew was now sparkling and lively in the morning sun, unlike the more sombre mood it had presented as it had meandered through the previous days lonely hills. The first half of the walk continued in much the same way until the village of Dalston, where the way took on a more urban feel. Here, it became a surfaced cycle track and although it initially still passed through mostly open countryside, the joggers, dog- walkers and cyclists signalled that Carlisle and the end of my walk was now not too far off. Somewhere along the way, as the houses came into view, I lost the Cumbria Way markers but I wasn't too bothered as I knew that I only had to stay on the cycle track and I would arrive at my destination. Soon, I was crossing busy roads in the middle of the city as I made my way to my guesthouse where, with a sigh of relief, I took off my rucksack and shoes for the last time on this trip.

High Pike

Wednesday, 12 June 2019

LEJOG Day 25 (46) - Keswick to Caldbeck

Today was the last day on the Cumbria Way in the Lake District and another superb day's walking. The first part of the walk involved climbing on the lower slopes of Skiddaw before veering off around Lonscale Fell to the remotely situated Skiddaw House youth hostel. This area is known as the 'Back o' Skidda' and marks a transition in the scenery as the rugged mountains give way to huge, rounded hills. Skiddaw House comes as a surprise as it is totally isolated, it's lonely position sheltered by a stand of trees. After a long track through the hills from the hostel, the Way climbs steeply on a very indistinct path alongside a stream to the highest point of the whole Cumbria Way at the summit of High Pike at 658 metres. The views from here were superb and included the Pennines, Blencathra, Skiddaw and across the Solway Firth to Scotland . After absorbing the view from the summit, I headed for Caldbeck where I am spending the last night on the Cumbria Way and also this current trip before completing the final fifteen miles along the River Caldew into Carlisle tomorrow .

Leaving Keswick

LEJOG Day's 23 & 24 (44 & 45) - Coniston to Keswick

Day two started with low cloud and drizzle but after walking to Coniston village from the campsite and having breakfast in a cafe, the cloud lifted with the sun even putting in an appearance in the afternoon. The highlight of day two was the exquisitely beautiful Tarn Hows and the ever expanding view of the Coniston Fells. 

Coniston Village

Land's End to John O'Groats 2019 - Welshpool to Mow Cop video

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

LEJOG Day 22 (43) - Ulverston to Coniston

I left Ulverston after taking a selfie or two at the start point monument. This trail started gently through quiet hills and valleys before crossing into the Lake District National Park during the morning and almost immediately the scenery began changing as the Coniston Fells become more and more imposing ahead. On trails such as the Maelor Way and the South Cheshire Way, I regularly chose to hike along quiet country lanes as a way of more easily and quickly getting to my destination with little worry of missing any outstanding scenery and also to avoid the struggle of searching for invisible paths in the many boring fields of wet grass.This was never an issue on the Cumbria Way as the exquisite scenery kept me enthralled and the paths were always easy to follow. As the Old Man of Coniston and surrounding fells became more visible, I eventually descended to Coniston Water towards the end of the day and camped at a fairly busy campsite. The site was full of groups of ´car-campers´ enjoying barbecues and drinking heavily while listening to loud music. I escaped the noise by heading for a local pub for dinner where I watched Manchester City winning the FA cup before heading back to my tent. To be fair to the 'car-campers', they did turn down the music low at around 11pm and I slept quite well in the tent for the first time on this trip.

Monday, 10 June 2019

LEJOG Day's 20 & 21 (41 & 42) - Arnside to Ulverston

Yesterday, was almost a rest day. After deciding I wanted to hike the entire Cumbria Way from Ulverston to Carlisle, I studied the map for some time and decided to take the train from Arnside to Grange over Sands across the estuary. This six minute train ride between the two stops saved a huge looping walk around the top of the estuary and although I wasn't overly happy at taking transport, my desire to walk all of the Cumbira Way overrode my desire to maintain the integrity of the walk. Having alighted from the train, I strolled around the pleasant town of Grange over Sands, stopping at a cafe along the promenade for tea with great  views of Morecambe Bay. I then followed a shoreline path the short distance to Kents Bank where I checked into a hotel for the night.
The walk to Ulverston from Kents Bank was a mostly delightful walk through quiet, low hills and forests, alongside rivers and seashore with great views to Morecambe Bay and the distant Lake District fells. The end of the walk degenerated into a struggle to find my way out of a boggy swamp that was supposed to have a path running through it according to the map. Having decided to turn around, I struggled to find my way out of the swampy woodland and after crashing around for some time, finally located a track leading to a country road into Ulverston. Tomorrow, I start the Cumbria Way to Carlisle.

Village of Cartmel

Sunday, 9 June 2019

LEJOG Day 19 (40) - Over Kellet to Arnside

After packing up and drying my tent in the warm early morning sun, I made my way towards Arnside, where I planned to stay for the night. The walk was a complete contrast to the previous days high level romp and consisted of quiet lanes, field paths, canal towpaths and woodland trails. I stopped for breakfast in Carnforth and later, as I reached a viewpoint over Leighton Hall, enjoyed excellent views over Morecambe Bay. Passing the ruins of Arnside Tower, I descended to the seafront where I stopped for a welcome cold beer overlooking the sea. I have now walked 305 miles in total.

First view of Morecambe Bay

Saturday, 8 June 2019

LEJOG Day 18 (39) - Slaidburn to Over Kellet

After a 30k hike today, my feet are now quietly smouldering under the table in the pub. Today was superb, an airy, roller coaster yomp across the fell-tops of the Forest of Bowland on a wide track. I left Slaidburn and was soon struggling to find the path as it disappeared into a really boggy area but after fighting my way through this, I located the track that was to be my route across the Forest of Bowland fells. The weather was superb and allowed me to enjoy the far-reaching views across the fells, with hazy views towards the Yorkshire Three Peaks. After descending to Hornby, I followed quiet country lanes to Over Kellet where I checked into a campsite before strolling (okay hobbling) to the pub. A shorter day tomorrow to Arnside. Carlisle is getting closer!
Leaving Slaidburn

LEJOG Day 16 (37) & 17 (38) - Heptonstall to Slaidburn

The walk from Heptonstall to Kelbrook followed sections of the Pennine Way and Pennine Bridleway National Trails. This was to be my last section of the Pennine Way and I felt a slight pang of regret at my decision not to follow this wonderful trail to the border. The weather was the best so far on the walk and I relished hiking through the remote terrain in the perfect conditions. Passing Gorple Reservoir, I climbed through rough moorland before joining the Pennine Bridleway. As I reached a pass, the ground opened out in front of me and presented me with wonderful views of the surrounding countryside. I romped along the clear track with superb views opening out ahead across the towns of Burnley and Nelson and towards Pendle Hill. After more superb scenery on the Pennine Bridleway, I followed paths to Trawden from where I mostly road walked to Kelbrook, my overnight halt. 
The following day, 
I continued to follow sections of the Pennine Bridleway as well as the Lancashire Way and numerous quiet country lanes as I made my way to Slaidburn. This was more of a transition day across quiet countryside and although I had many good views of Pendle Hill, I missed the open country of the previous day and found the many miles of road walking tiring. Eventually, I arrived at the pretty village of Slaidburn where I was met by a friend and driven to his home in Giggleswick where I was made very welcome by him and his wife.

Distant view o Stoodley Pike

Friday, 7 June 2019

LEJOG Day 15 (36) - Marsden to Heptonstall

Yesterday, after the previous challenging day on the Pennine Way, I climbed out of Marsden back onto the moors and picked up the trail again at Standedge. Although the wind was still cold and the skies grey, the day remained dry until near the very end. This part of the Pennine Way follows some gritstone edges and also passes numerous reservoirs. I stopped for lunch at the White House, a pub sitting alone high on the moors on Blackstone Edge before carrying on to Stoodley Pike, a large monument standing on the moors above Hebden Bridge. As I descended to the village, the heavens opened and I arrived dripping wet in nearby Heptonstall after a lung bursting climb to the village. Here, I checked into a pub for two nights to give me a rest day and a chance to explore the area. Overall I walked 20 miles.

Leaving Marsden

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

LEJOG Day 14 (35) - Hadfield to Marsden

The UK climate, the gift that just keeps on giving! After almost a month, the wind is still freezing and feeling more like January than May. Today, I set off from Hadfield (you'll never leave), and headed along the reservoirs of the Longdendale Valley following the Longdendale Trail. The bitterly cold wind whipped up the grey waters of the reservoirs into waves and I wondered what it was going to be like on the hills. Reaching Crowden, I began climbing on the Pennine Way towards Laddow Rocks as the rain got down to business and the wind helped it along, blowing it into me. As I climbed higher, it got worse. And worse. Laddow Rocks is a cliff edge with a very narrow path right on the edge of the cliffs so I paid close attention not to slip. After a good soaking and blasting by the wind, I descended a little and the conditions eased slightly. There is absolutely no shelter along this section of the Pennine Way so you just have to take what is thrown at you. After three tricky river crossings that in normal conditions are a simple step or two on stepping stones, I began the climb to Black Hill. As I entered the mist, the wind and rain returned with a vengeance and I sped past two walkers paused by Soldiers Lump, a trig point on a stone plinth and almost ran down off of the top. I knew I had one more obstacle on my way to Marsden, the river at Dean Clough. This is a steep ravine and normally, the river is crossed by simply stepping over it. Today, it was a more serious undertaking and I searched for a crossing point before wading into the icy water at the narrowest point. All that remained was the final climb to the road which I accomplished with surprising ease. The walk wasn't finished but I knew from Wessenden Head that it was now all downhill through the Wessenden Valley to Marsden, where I checked into the pub I am now staying in and sank gratefully into a hot bath with a cup of hot tea. I walked 15.5 miles in 6 hours.

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

LEJOG Days 12 & 13 (33 & 34) - Wincle to Hadfield

After a day with my friend Nigel, I was back to walking solo as I headed for Tegg´s Nose on the Gritstone Trail. The weather was again cold and grey but as the route skirted the western edge of the Peak District, the scenery became progressively more spectacular. Having lost the route of the Gritstone Trail towards the end of the previous day, I navigated my way back onto the route and picked up the markers again shortly before the climb onto Tegg´s Nose. This steep climb on to the summit afforded fantastic views of the surrounding countryside and I spent some time exploring the remains of the millstone grit quarry. The day became a series of climbs and descents to the village of Disley, where I was picked up by Nigel. 


LEJOG Day 11 (32) - The Gritstone Trail - Mow Cop to Wincle

Today was the start of the Gritstone Trail and it proved to be a far more scenic and interesting walk than the previous two trails. I was joined today by a friend who is providing me with accommodation for a few nights in Macclesfield. The views today were at times outstanding and from the summit of 'The Cloud' we had great 360 degree views that included Jodrell Bank and Kinder Scout. Towards the end of the day, we lost the Gritstone Trail signs and head for the village of Wincle, where we enjoyed a beer before being picked up by my friends wife.The weather wasn't the greatest as it was quite cold with occasional showers but this didn't detract from a really enjoyable walk. Tomorrow, I will be following the remainder of the Gritstone Trail alone as I head towards the Pennine Way.

The Cloud, The Gritstone Trail
Me on the summit of The Cloud

LEJOG Days 9 & 10 (30 & 31) - South Cheshire Way - Whitchurch to Mow Cop

May 4th & 5th - South Cheshire Way

Having resumed my hike after taking antibiotics and resting my leg, I continued the walk from Whitchurch, where I had caught the train to Stoke on Trent over a week earlier. For the last two days, I have been following the South Cheshire Way but this trail, as with the Maelor Way, while useful to link Offa's Dyke with the Pennine Way, has little to recommend it. So far, it has consisted mostly of farmland, field after field of calf deep grass, often with no obvious path. Yesterday, I walked 23.5 miles from Whitchurch to Crewe, today I did 14 miles to Mow Cop. The South Cheshire Way is done with now, tomorrow I start the Gritstone Trail which I hope will prove to be a more scenic experience.

Camping in Whitchurch before setting off again

Thursday, 25 April 2019

LEJOG Days 5 to 8 (26 to 29) - Welshpool to Whitchurch

After taking a three day break in the hope that the rest would help, my leg was unfortunately no better on today's hike. My schedule was based on an average of 19/20 miles a day but today I struggled to complete 11 miles over flat ground along the Offa's Dyke Path following the Montgomery Canal and River Severn to Llanymynech, where I obtained a room in a pub. On the upside the weather was the best so far. 

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

LEJOG Days 1 to 4 (22 to 25) - Hay on Wye to Welshpool

The first two days of the walk were dogged by a bitingly cold easterly wind that saw me sleeping in all of my clothes in my tent at the end of the first day in Kington. Because of this, I didn't get too much sleep and felt lethargic on the walk over to Knighton on day two. At times, I was slow going up the many steep hills along the Offa's Dyke Path,  although much of the day passed through some beautiful scenery.  There were also numerous sightings of the Dyke along the way. Because of the cold, I stayed in a very reasonably priced room above a pub in Knighton at the end of day two in the hope of getting a better nights sleep. Day three turned out to be the best day so far. Having felt lethargic on day two, today was completely different after a good night's sleep. The section from Knighton to Montgomery is extremely hilly  so I avoided a couple of them by road walking most of the way to Newcastle. I met virtually no traffic on the tiny lanes and as I am not actually doing the Offa's Dyke path, I wasn't bothered about missing any of it. It was a good decision as some of the later ascents were brutal. As I crossed a river near Newcastle, I saw a large shape in the water that dived when it realised I was there but then spent around five minutes peeking out at me from the rocks on the riverbank. I initially assumed that the creature was an otter but subsequently come to the conclusion that it may be a mink. In all, I walked 21 miles, the longest day so far. I woke up on day four in Montgomery to find I had a nagging problem with my lower leg. Towards the end of day three, I had experienced some pain in the area where the shinbone joins the foot but brushed it off and assumed that it would be gone in the morning. As I set off walking from Montgomery, it became clear that this was not something that would just 'go away' as the sharp stabbing pain in my shin nagged away at me. I had taken Ibuprofen, which seemed to dull the pain a little but as I walked, the problem became worse. Luckily, the majority of the section from Montgomery to Welshpool was over level ground with occasional sections of the 'dyke' to admire.

Friday, 5 April 2019

Old School or New? - Using Electronics for Navigation

As I prepare to resume my trek to John O'Groats next week, I have been loading the GPS files and OS maps onto my smartphone and tablet as well as my handheld GPS unit. I was therefore interested to read a thread started by someone in a Facebook group asking for advice regarding navigation while out on the trail. The majority of the responses went something along the lines of 'ALWAYS take a paper map and compass as electronic devices fail' On the surface, this would seem like good advice but does it really stand up to scrutiny? There is no doubt that OS maps are superb and a fantastic tool for finding your way around the hills of the UK and there is something aesthetically pleasing about spreading a map out and tracing your route through the contours, but in this day and age, is it necessary to always carry paper versions? Some years ago, I started doing ever longer hikes and began to find the amount of paper maps required something of a problem. The sheer volume of space and weight on a moderately long trail is an issue when trying to keep the weight down and this is where GPS entered my thinking. I had only recently begun playing around with a very basic Garmin unit but this was no good for OS maps, being mainly for finding your grid reference or following a 'breadcrumb' trail or recording your route. It was then that I discovered a wonderful navigation app called 'Viewranger'. This can be loaded onto a smartphone or tablet and then loaded with OS mapping. Not only that, it can perform a host of other functions to help with navigation such as storing your intended route, which you can then follow with your position marked on the map so you always know exactly where you are. It has many useful navigation tools but one other useful feature is something called 'Buddybeacon'. With this, your location is sent to the Viewranger website and family and friends can log in using your I.D. and password and see your current location. The only drawback with this is that it requires a phone signal to log your positions, although it will update all of your recorded positions when you once again come into range of a signal. The navigational side of the app only requires a GPS signal to operate, so you don't have to worry about losing a phone signal. The 'traditionalist' view of using technology is that a paper map and compass should always be used regardless. 'What happens if your battery runs out' is the usual dire warning. 'The Mountain Rescue' teams warn people not to venture into the hills relying solely on electronics'. Yes, they do, but this I feel is aimed at those who set off with no previous navigational skills and rely solely on a smartphone and something inadequate such as Google Maps to find their way around. For my trip, I will have a smartphone loaded with Viewranger/OS Mapping, a 7" tablet loaded with the same for a bigger overview of the surrounding terrain. I will also be carrying a simple Garmin handheld device, largely for recording my walk but it will also have my route installed. This makes for a great double fail-safe as it uses AA batteries so can be used if for some reason I can't charge the other devices. Talking of charging, the usual cry of 'what about batteries failing' is easily answered by the use of a power-bank. Mine also employs solar panels to be used as a back-up charging source. I also leave both the phone and the tablet in 'airplane' mode and use just the maps for the majority of the time thereby ensuring I get the maximum life from my batteries. This may sound like I have simply swapped the maps out for a bunch of electronics but I already carried most of these items anyway, I am now simply using them to their full potential. I also now no longer have to wrestle with a paper map flapping about in the wind! I have used this system for my last few long walks with no problems at all and while I, like many other walkers, love to pore over a paper map when planning my walks, it's now a few years since I took one on a long hike.

Friday, 29 March 2019

Learning to Walk - My Early Walking 'Career'

My first view of the Pennine Way from Mill Hill

In a couple of weeks, I resume my walk to John O'Groats from Hay-on Wye, where I finished eight months ago. In the lead up to this, I have been looking back to my early walking days and remembering how it felt taking those first steps into the 'wilds' of the British countryside.

The Canada Goose is a big bird. The ungainly shape first entered my consciousness as I drove to work and began slowing down on my approach to the thirty mile an hour speed limit sign on the outskirts of a village. I hadn’t really given it much thought as it came flying low across the fields to my left until just before the impact when I casually thought to myself, ‘that’s flying a bit low’. A split second later, I suddenly became more alert as I realised that I was in danger of increasing my ornithological knowledge of the Canada Goose by one hundred percent but by this time, it was too late. The huge bird thudded into the windscreen in front of the passenger seat with a sickening thump leaving a crystallised indentation spreading out across the glass like an ornate spiders web. I stopped the car and sat momentarily stunned before getting out to check the damage as the corpse of the dead goose stared blankly up at me from the road. I wanted to wake it up and give it a piece of my mind as I mentally processed the aggravation I now had to go through to rectify the damage. As I re-started the car and set off once again to work, I briefly wondered if I was breaking the law by driving with a half-smashed windscreen but in my irritated state, dismissed this as irrelevant and drove to the office in an agitated state of annoyance. Later in the day, as I watched the operative skilfully replacing my windscreen, I discovered we shared a common interest in walking. That’s walking as in hiking, not a scientific interest in the mechanics of perambulation but an interest in lacing up boots, donning a rucksack and some suitably silly outdoor apparel and tramping across hills and mountains in all kinds of weather. I was a relative newcomer to this often derided activity but had already had my imagination fired by the thought of following some of the country’s long-distance trails through remote countryside.
‘Have you done the Pennine Way?, asked the windscreen repair man as he skilfully slotted the new,
‘untouched by Canada goose’ glass in place.
I had to admit that not only had I not done it but I knew very little about it. At this early stage in my
walking ‘career’, the Pennine Way was one of those mythical names that existed only on the periphery
of my imagination and was only ever walked by serious outdoor types who usually wore big beards and
even bigger rucksacks with various items of proper walking gear hanging from them. I was a
novice who didn’t even have any proper walking boots or clothing and usually set off on a walk with
nothing more than plenty of cigarettes, a lighter and money to buy crisps and drinks from any shop
that I happened to be passing. I tried to hide my inexperience by listing some of the areas that I had
walked on day walks but the windscreen man seemed unimpressed.
‘You’ve got to do the Pennine Way, ‘It’s the toughest walk in the country’ he boasted.
‘What’s it like’, I asked intrigued by mental images of rugged mountains and moors spreading in every
‘Oh, it’s the best, you must do it’, he said, finishing up his work on my now resplendent, shiny new
‘Do yourself a favour, and just go for it, you won’t regret it’ he said, and off he drove leaving me with a
new windscreen and a new ambition.
As my walking career progressed, I became more experienced and even bought a pair of walking boots and other paraphernalia associated with squelching around the soggy hills of Great Britain. Being from the south of England, most of my walking was done in the lowlands, which often involved a lot of mud and climbing over stiles but I was thoroughly enjoying my new pastime as I learned how to find my way around using a map and compass. I still felt extremely self-conscious as I ambled around in my serious walking garb and would often hide my map case when other walkers passed by to discourage any awkward navigational questions that I might not know the answer to but gradually, I became more confident as I realised that not only was I quite good at finding my way around, I was often much fitter than many of the other walkers around me and suffered none of the hesitancy they displayed on tricky terrain. My first real hill-walk came when I ventured in a state of high anticipation into the 'proper' walking
country of the Peak District village of Hayfield with my wife, who was my enthusiastic walking partner.
The village is an historically significant location in the history of English hiking as it was from here in the
1930’s that a group of ramblers met for a mass-trespass onto Kinder Scout. Much of upland England in
those days was off-limits to the average person as the moors were jealously guarded by wealthy
landowners who employed gamekeepers to keep the general public off of their land. As the group
approached their objective, their progress was halted by gamekeepers and a scuffle broke out. A
number of the group’s leaders were arrested and spent time in jail for their ‘crime’ but the die was cast
and eventually, the countryside was opened up for everyone to enjoy.
Of course, on this walk, I knew nothing of this and probably wouldn’t have been interested at the time
as my mind was reeling from these new, stunning landscapes on view. I had never seen anything like it.
The south of England had nothing like this! We climbed up onto Kinder Scout from Hayfield
Reservoir with the vast bulk of the Kinder plateau lurking like a brooding beast to our right. I was like a
child in a toy-shop. As we climbed, in whichever direction I turned I had views of beautiful hills
contrasting with darker, brooding moorland which in turn was threaded with streams and waterfalls
of strange, darkly coloured water, tumbling like spilt beer down the rocky hillsides. Reaching the edge of
the Kinder Plateau, I stopped and took in the scene. Across the plateau’s centre lay a weird, barren
landscape of dark, chocolate coloured soil, riven with channels eroded by the effects of rain. Below,
green hills rolled into the distance, seemingly forever. I was hooked! There was no turning back now, I
had found what I had always wanted, something that was mine and I had to explore it and immerse
myself in it completely. As I stood on it, I now understood what the windscreen man meant when he
had enthused over the Pennine Way. I stood in silent wonder on England’s first long-distance path as it
wound its way around the edge of the vast peaty plateau and I knew that at some point in the future, I
would have to walk it in its entirety.

Thursday, 28 March 2019

Why I Chose La Sportiva Ultra Raptors over Altra Lone Peak 4's

In a little under three weeks, I resume my hike from Land's End to John O'Groats and I have been considering changing my regular shoes for a different brand. In this video, I give my thoughts on both shoes.

Thursday, 7 March 2019

Hiking in Tenerife video - Montaña Colorada

As I start the countdown to the resumption of my LEJOG walk next month, I have been out hiking in the hills of my home island of Tenerife to keep my fitness levels up in preparation for the hike. This recent walk started just below the 7,000ft asl mark from the Las Lajas recreation and camping area, on the road to the Teide National Park. The route initially followed a marked trail to the town of Adeje as it headed for Montaña Colorada. The next landmark on the route was the ruins of the Casa de Teresme, where I paused for a break as the cloud slowly began building up. I then crossed a number of barrancos (ravines) and in the first of these, I passed the Galeria El Rosario (water mine) before climbing steeply out and heading towards Alto de Chimoche. After crossing the Barranco del Agua and Barranco del Rey, I descended via Guayero to Ifonche before finishing in the town of Arona. The whole walk was 13.5 miles/21.7 kilometres and took 7.25 hours, passing through some quiet, spectacular countryside, although some of the far reaching views to the coast were spoilt by the haze.

Saturday, 16 February 2019

The Pennine Way 2015 Slideshow

When I walked the Pennine Way in 2015, I never really took much video footage except on the day from Middleton in Teesdale to Dufton. I recently made a video using this footage that can be found here

I did however take many photographs throughout the entire hike and this slideshow is a selection of some of the best shots.

Saturday, 2 February 2019

Tenerife - A Walker's Paradise

Tenerife?, 'Why would you want to live there' asked my inquisitor incredulously. I smiled inwardly as I thought of the myriad reasons for living in my adopted island and replied simply, 'because the walking is fantastic'.  'Really, but I love green hills and forests' continued the female walker who was now warming to her subject, 'and the seasons', she added. 'So do I' I replied, 'I get all of those things and much more as well as a brilliant climate to enjoy it all in'. My inquisitor looked unsure and moved off to find another walker to quiz who wore sensible leather walking boots and lived somewhere, well, more 'normal'. 

This encounter actually took place while walking the Coast to Coast walk in the UK with my wife in 2017 but this type of reaction is not untypical when talking with many walkers who have swallowed the common misconception that Tenerife and the other Canary Islands are simply a place to go when you want some winter sun or to lie by a pool or beach all day. 

This idea is largely a British one however, the Germans and Scanadinavians have been hiking in the Canaries for decades but it has taken the British a lot longer to catch on. Tenerife is the largest of the islands, which are Spanish and therefore part of the EU. I first arrived here on a typical sun and sangria holiday in the mid-nineties and was instantly fascinated by the weird and wonderful landscapes. 

My first sight of the Las Cañadas National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, home to Mt. Teide, Spain's highest mountain and the third largest volcano on the planet, was nothing short of a revelation. My eyes popped as I tried to drink in the awesome otherwordliness of the place. 'I'm coming back next year to climb that', I said to my wife, and climb it I did. On a windy day, I climbed steeply through the harsh, volcanic terrain, puffing and blowing my way to the top in the ever thinning air as the sulphurous fumes assailed my nostrils. Eventually, I sat alone on the summit, like the king of the world, looking far, far below to the coast and into the twisted, contorted caldera that housed Spain's highest peak and decided I wanted to live in this awesome place. 

Since then, and having lived on the island for eleven years, I have explored all over the island and come to love the kaleidoscopic variety of terrain on offer to the walker. I doubt there can be anywhere else on the planet where so much is packed into such a small place. From the aforementioned Teide, the Las Cañadas National Park, at 17 kilometres in diameter, is one of the worlds largest calderas and is an awesome high altitude volcanic desert surrounded my stark, jagged mountains, the remains of a much larger volcano that collapsed leaving behind the giant caldera.

The rest of the island is a smorgasbord of walking terrains, from ancient laurel cloud forests of the beautiful Anaga and Teno ranges, to the Corona Forestal pine forests, dry semi-desert terrains, volcanic coastline, awesome ravines and pretty villages.  If you are familiar with the various micro-climates on the island, it is also possible most of the time, to select the weather you would like to walk in. Because of this, I hardly ever walk in heavy rain. 

I have encountered similar opinions to my inquisitor's many times, often accompanied by a 'sniffy', 'it's just Blackpool with sun, isn't it', type comment. Often, when I explain that there is nowhere in Tenerife as gauche as Blackpool and that it only takes minutes to escape the resorts and get into the real island, the reaction is usually a negative one. Once misconceptions are entrenched, it's difficult to change people minds. I've learnt to take this with a pinch of salt however. After all, a foreign visitor to the UK, having only visited Blackpool would go home with a similar opinion unaware that the Lake District lay just a few miles inland. It's just a shame that so many visitors to this fantastic island never venture beyond the confines of their 'Blackpool with sun' misconceptions.