Walks around Britain podcast

Earlier in the year I was approached by Andrew White of Walks around Britain along with Damian Hall (writer and ultra runner who achieved a podium position in the tough Spine Race in 2015) to discuss our very different experiences of completing the Pennine Way, a national trail which celebrates it’s 50th birthday in 2015.

I backpacked the famous national trail over 20 days during the hottest part of the year, while Damian ran the route during the coldest part of the year in only 5 days. Talking about it was a great reminder of my hike along this brilliant trail and listening to Damian about his experience was fascinating.

In the second part of the podcast we hear from organisations and people involved in repairing the erosion of the moorlands in the Peak District and the South Pennines.

Here is a link to the Walks around Britain podcast which you can subscribe to via Audioboom or iTunes.

High Cup Nick on the Pennine Way

High Cup on the Pennine Way

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A day with Terry Abraham

The chance to part with a small amount of money when Terry set up his fundraising page for his current film about Scafell Pike, was a way to demonstrate my faith in his abilities as a film maker and to pick his experienced brains about wild camping.

Camping at Wasdale

Camping at Wasdale

Terry has assembled a huge cast of characters for  “The Life of a Mountain – Scafell Pike”, from mountaineers to mountain rescue, farmers and a shepherdess. All have a connection to Scafell Pike and the narrative of the film explores these connections. Terry’s ambition was to film a year in the life of the mountain which is the highest peak in England and one of three of the highest in the UK.

I travelled to Nether Wasdale in the Lake District to spend a day with three of the National Trust Rangers responsible for maintaining the hugely popular route up to Scafell Pike. Apparently 40,000 people, including many 3 peaks challenge teams, take this route each year and the footpath is key to their success.

The National Trust Rangers being filmed at work

The National Trust Rangers being filmed at work

Terry and the Rangers filmed a day at work on the route to the summit during April. Although there were many signs of spring on the lower part of the route, the summit was still shrouded in low cloud.

Hampered in my climb by an asthma attack, I still met all sorts of people during the day, from young children to a 79 year old man, who said this was going to be his last climb. All these people made me realise what universal and enduring appeal this mountain has.

Daffodils by Wastwater

Daffodils by Wastwater

The Scafell Pike film generated a lot of interest within the outdoors community following the fundraising drive and Terry’s previous Cairngorms film with Chris Townsend in 2013 (which received a commendation at the Kendal Mountain Festival).

I feel certain that the project will bring Terry the recognition he deserves. The film premiered at Rheged in Penrith on Saturday 10th May 2014 and tickets quickly sold out for the first screening. The download / dvd are available online. An abridged version of the film was shown on the BBC4 on 14th January 2015 to record audiences.

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Gifting your old clothing and equipment

For the month of March 2015 you can give your unwanted outdoor gear a new lease of life and get 15% discount at award winning outdoor retailer Rohan.

Gift Your Gear, an award winning UK initiative is inviting you all to look around your wardrobes, attics and garages for any unwanted outdoor clothes.

WANTED - Your unwanted outdoor clothing and equipment

WANTED – Your unwanted outdoor clothing and equipment

Gift Your Gear provides outdoor clothing and equipment to organisations who encourage the next generation, to get outdoors. Young people need to get outdoors for their physical and emotional well-being. As readers of this blog are probably aware, it’s hard to enjoy your early experiences in the outdoors when you’re cold, wet and uncomfortable. 
Having the right clothing and equipment helps to ensure that outdoor experiences are safe and enjoyable.

The outdoor gear you donate will make a real difference to the UK community organisations, youth groups and charities who receive it. Gift Your Gear gratefully accepts all unwanted waterproofs, fleeces, outdoor trousers, insulated jackets, gloves, hats and boots that are gathering dust in your cupboards, attics and garages.

The big three items: Lightweight rucksack, sleeping bag and shelter

Gift Your Gear has partnered with Rohan, the award-winning outdoor and travel clothing company. Drop off your unwanted outdoor clothing at any Rohan Shop during March 2015, that’s all outdoor clothing regardless of brand including children’s clothing and in return Rohan would like to offer you 15% off a full priced purchase made the same day as a qualifying Gift Your Gear donation.

You can contact the “Gift your gear” team at the following sites:-

and you can find your nearest Rohan store via this link:-

Cross Fell summit for lunch

Cross Fell summit for lunch

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Best long distance trail results

Well, Twitter has spoken. Following a brainstorming session on Twitter and Google +, I created a poll of polls (below) in which people were invited to nominate and vote for their top 3 international long distance trails.

As you can see from my previous post, the shortlist included trails from all over the world, including the USA, New Zealand, Scotland, France and Turkey. The capture below shows the results on the closing date, but please feel free to continue voting.

The top five long distance trails as voted for by readers

The top five long distance trails as voted for by readers

Unfortunately some of the less well known trails like the GR5 (Netherlands to the Mediterranean) and the Lycian Way in Turkey didn’t fare so well in the poll, but perhaps that was to be expected.

In the end the poll was just for fun and I hope you enjoyed taking part.

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Which long distance trail?

After a Twitter brainstorm which lasted for most of the day, and involved some great hikers and runners, I thought I would collate the answers I received into a blog post so that you can vote for your top three trails. The closing date for votes is 1st March 2014.

Sorry if your favourite trail isn’t included in the poll but I had to close the nominations at some point. The list is entirely made up of trails suggested by people on Twitter. It can only ever be a selection as there are so many great trails out there. Please feel free to vote and add your own comments or additions to the list as a comment. Thanks for taking part.

Hadrian's wall near Housesteads

Hadrian’s wall near Housesteads

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From slackpacker to backpacker in 2013

Because of a fall at the end of 2012, this year got off to a slow start. My convalescent winter was spent reading about other people’s adventures, which inspired me to plan some of my own. The injury knocked my confidence, and dented confidence sometimes takes longer to recover from than broken bones.

I first ventured out into the country again on a group trip to Kirkby Stephen in February. I discovered how out of condition I was when I couldn’t complete the first 15 mile walk. It was sad to watch everyone dashing off into the distance leaving me to meander back to base, although I did manage a shorter walk the following day.

First trip out of 2013 to Kirkby Stephen

First trip out of 2013 to Kirkby Stephen

A few weeks later in March of 2013, I planned a week of some of my favourite Northumberland walks from a base in Rothbury in order to boost my fitness and my morale. Kirkby Stephen had taught me that I needed to take things at a more comfortable pace at first. Although it was still quite wintery on the hilltops, it was really good to get out again and revisit north Northumberland.

The College Burn near Westnewton.

The College Burn near Westnewton.

As some of you will know, my big plan for 2013 was to walk the Pennine Way to raise funds for Crisis UK, so I knew I had to get back into condition. Martin Rye was kind enough to act as a mentor as this was to be my most ambitious hike to date. With advice from him and from James Boulter on my camping kit, together with many others on Twitter, I began my attempt to transform myself from a slackpacker to a self supporting backpacker and trail walker.

My Pennine Way kit

My Pennine Way kit

I made plans to do two hikes in the spring; the 65 mile St Cuthbert’s Way during the wintery April, followed by the 75 mile Cumbria Way during May. I never stop learning when I hike, and these hikes were no exception. I was able to experiment with new kit, footwear, and different kinds of accommodation. The strange weather of the 2013 spring presented challenges on both walks, with 25cm of snow in places across the Scottish borders, and hail showers on the Cumbria Way.

Woods south of Eildon Mid Hill in the snow

Woods south of Eildon Mid Hill in the snow

When the time came for me to set off on the Pennine Way in June, I was apprehensive about my achy tendons, and about camping in my new tent. I consulted a podiatrist who gave me some exercises designed to prevent tendon injury, and sought advice from people on Twitter about camping, but I was still nervous when I arrived at Edale in June.

Testing out my new tent & my down sleeping bag

Testing out my new tent & my down sleeping bag

With hindsight, I can honestly say that all the kit and exercise preparation I did, and all the advice I sought turned out to be valuable. I saw quite a few people on the Pennine Way during the summer heatwave with problems such as sunburn, heat exhaustion, heavy packs and injury, which luckily didn’t affect me during my hike.

Pennine Way route map

Pennine Way route map

I completed the hike in 20 days but allowed a couple of negative comments at the end to get under my skin, which wasn’t helpful. My advice is to avoid negative people as they will drag you down.

Some of the “areas for improvement” which emerged on the Pennine Way were my wild-camping and my mountain skills so the remainder of 2013 has been spent trying to address these issues.

I was lucky enough to team up with 4 intrepid wild-campers on Twitter (LonewalkerUK , Hillplodder,  Dean Read & PilgrimChris) for my first wild camp in the Peak District. After the Pennine Way, it was relaxing not to have a schedule to adhere to, and to have the logistics planned by somebody else.

Heading for my first night's wildcamping. Photo by @PilgrimChris

Heading for my first night’s wildcamping. Photo by @PilgrimChris

So many people have made the point that we are generally much safer in the hills than we are in most cities, so I have no excuses left to stop me getting out there to wild camp in 2014.

I had planned to try and fit two more short trails in to the end of the year, but responsibilities at home have put these on hold. I did manage half of the Northumberland coast path which I hope to finish at some stage.

The Northumberland Coast Path near Alnmouth.

The Northumberland Coast Path near Alnmouth.

I can’t write about this year without mentioning some of the people in it, as well as the hikes. As my ambitions to do longer trails have grown, I have realised that the best people to turn to for advice are people who have done them. It was therefore a huge pleasure to meet Sarah and Alasdair Fowler, Colin Ibbotson (Tramplite) and Chris Townsend and to chat about many aspects of their experience on some of the worlds great trails.

In October I was invited to the Lake District by the National Trust to meet Tanya Oliver (@Heelwalker1) of Fix the Fells  to see some of the vital path maintenance they do to tackle problems caused by erosion and poor drainage on the upland fell paths.

Tanya Oliver a.k.a. @Heelwalker1 surveys her new workplace

Tanya Oliver a.k.a. @Heelwalker1 surveys her new workplace

This fascinating day with Tanya also kickstarted my Wainwright bagging again in the Central Fells.

All these events have meant that the line which had existed in my brain between myself and mountaineers has started to become a bit blurred and meaningless. In November I therefore took myself to the Kendal Mountain Festival to test the assumption that I am somehow different from a mountaineer. Over the weekend I met some friendly people, enjoyed some good craic, and saw some great talks and films, so I look forward to returning next year.

Kenton Cool talk about his circuit of Everest, Lhotse and Nuptse

Kenton Cool talk about his circuit of Everest, Lhotse and Nuptse

Watching all these films about mountains in the snow finally persuaded me that I need to improve my winter skills if I am going to complete any longer global trails. Thus the year ended with me playing with my first ice axe and crampons at a Winter Skills lecture and booking myself onto a course.

At the end of 2013, many of the assumptions I had about hiking have disappeared and I find myself wanting to improve my mountain skills in the coming year. Thanks for reading and I hope all your plans for next year come to fruition. I look forward to reading about them. All I can say about 2013 really is who knew!

My rucksack which travelled with me from Edale to Kirk Yetholm here on top of Cross Fell

My rucksack which travelled with me from Edale to Kirk Yetholm here on top of Cross Fell

Posted in About walking, Charity walks, Cumbria walks, Distance walks, Northumberland walks, Peak District, Pennine Way, Scottish borders walks, Walks, Yorkshire walks | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

The end of a vintage year

I have just been making a compilation video of all my hiking and outdoors activities in 2013. It has been an adventurous year with three solo trails and a return to the Lakeland fells. Although my hiking has been confined to this country, I have experienced everything from deep snow in April to intense heat three months later, which has presented some challenges. I have also met and listened to some inspiring people, with fascinating tales to tell, so lots to learn and write up in my review of the year, coming soon.

Milecastle 39, Hadrian's Wall

Milecastle 39, Hadrian’s Wall


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Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween to all

Spooky woods near Wooler Common in Northumberland.

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Solo Wainwrights

I am pleased to say that my visit to meet Tanya Oliver and find out more about the Fix the Fells team, kick-started my Wainwright bagging again after a fall last year put things on hold.

It was a pleasure to complete my first short solo hike of what my book calls the Greenburn round This route starts at Grasmere and includes Helm Crag, Gibson Knott, Calf Crag and Steel Fell in the Central Fells. Armed with my trekking poles (still an experiment), a fulsome packed lunch from Grasmere YH and my new Harvey mountain map of the Lakes, there was nothing for it but to strike out on a trip which I hope will be the first of many. As I continued along the route, I could feel my confidence and enjoyment in the fells returning, and that was a feeling worth sharing.

Helm Crag in Wainwright's Central Fells

Helm Crag in Wainwright’s Central Fells

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The Scale of Things


A great introduction to maps from author and walking guide Graham Uney at Wild Wales Walks:

Originally posted on Wild UK:

Learning how to use a map and compass should be seen as an essential skill for anyone venturing out into the countryside. I’ve heard so many people say things like ‘I always go with someone who knows where they’re going’, or ‘I leave all that map and compass stuff to my friend/husband/wife’, or even ‘I only go walking to places I’ve been before’ that it can start to feel like the whole walking fraternity is perhaps just following in the footsteps of one person who just happens to have been there before.


There are so many arguments against these comments, including that there’s no adventure or sense of achievement in only going somewhere you’ve been before, or going with someone else who has. For me the most important message I try to get across to outdoor folk is the fact that if the ‘nominated navigator’ in your group should have…

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