OUT THERE: A Voice from the Wild by Chris Townsend

With a foreword by Cameron McNeish. 

‘Those who decry peak bagging as mere list ticking fail to understand the commitment challenge and pleasure involved. Collecting summits means collecting experiences.’ Chris Townsend.

OUT THERE by Chris Townsend Book Jacket

OUT THERE by Chris Townsend Book Jacket

Drawing from more than forty years’ experience as an outdoorsman, and probably the world’s best known long distance walker who also writes, Chris Townsend describes the landscapes and wildlife, the walkers and climbers, and the authors who have influenced him in his latest lucid and fascinating book. Writing from his home in the heart of the Cairngorms he discusses the vital importance of wild places to our civilisation. Watch this space for a review of the book.
Critical acclaim for Chris Townsend:
‘This is what Chris’ books do. They shake you out of lethargy and install in you that love of the natural world that keeps us all going.’
Andy Howell, Outdoors Blog.
‘In the Scottish outdoor world names occasionally shine like the stars and very quickly fade into the night. Chris Townsend has remained a shining light for well over 35 years, a passionate and inspiring advocate for the wild corners of our land, an enthusiast who literally walks the walk.’
Cameron McNeish.
‘I first met Chris Townsend about thirty years ago cross country ski-ing in the Cairngorms. He is someone who practices what he preaches. Since his becoming a JMT Trustee I have much appreciated his insights and knowledge and he is a great voice for our cause.’
Peter Pearson, Chair of the John Muir Trust.
‘Chris Townsend is the all-around world champion hiking memoirist, guide, photographer, blogger, and techie.’
Ron Strickland, founder of the Pacific Northwest Trail.

Chris Townsend on a ski tour in Yellowstone National Park

Chris Townsend on a ski tour in Yellowstone National Park

About Chris Townsend
Chris Townsend writes regularly for TGO Magazine and has written 22 books on the outdoors, including the award winning The Backpacker’s Handbook; Scotland in Cicerone’s World Mountain Ranges series; Crossing Arizona; the story of an 800 mile walk along the Arizona Trail; Walking the Yukon, the story of 1000 mile walk through the Yukon Territory; The Munros and Tops, the story of his continuous round and A Year In The Life of The Cairngorms, a photographic study.  His recent publications with Sandstone Press feature two long-distance walks he undertook in the USA, Grizzly Bears and Razor Clams (2012) and Rattlesnakes and Bald Eagles (2014) which has been reviewed on this site.
http://www.christownsendoutdoors.com/
Press queries: Ruth Killick (publicity@ruthkillick.co.uk

Posted in About walking, Reviews, Scotland walks, Walks | 1 Comment

Happy New Year

With 2015 drawing to a less than satisfying close for me, I have decided to do that thing where you make resolutions to try to ensure that next year will be better! This year it has been brought home to me that unforeseen things do sometimes get in the way of wish fulfilment, and I have friends for whom it has also been a terrible year.

To all who read and follow me here and on Twitter, I wish you a very Happy New Year, and to the people who have had a lousy 2015, I really hope that 2016 will be a better year for you.

Version 2

These are my resolutions for 2016. I hope that you achieve at least some of yours too.

New Year Resolutions for 2016

New Year Resolutions for 2016

If anyone would like to offer any support or advice in helping me achieve some of these things, I would be happy to hear from you.

Happy New Year. Rose 😊

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Seasons Greetings

Happy Holidays to all my readers and followers 😊

Seasons Greetings to all 🎄

Seasons Greetings to all 🎄

Posted in Walks | 2 Comments

A year in pictures

A walking year in 12 monthly pictures.

January

Jan1

View from Plas Y Brenin, Capel Curig, Snowdonia, Wales.

February

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Cheviot Hills looking west from Torleehouse near Kirknewton, North Northumberland

March

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The College Burn near Westnewton, North Northumberland

April

April1

Daffodils by Wastwater, Southern Fells, Lake District, Cumbria.

May

May1

Prudhoe Castle moat, Prudhoe, Northumberland

June

june1

Cullercoats Bay, Tyneside Coast

July

 

July1

View up Harthope Valley near Wooler, Northumberland

August

Aug1

Heading north up the England Coast Path towards the mouth of the River Tyne in the distance.

September

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Coast path near Howick Hall, south of Craster, Northumberland

October

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View from Helm Crag, the Central Fells, Lake District, Cumbria

November

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Coniston Coppermines, Southern Fells, Lake District, Cumbria.

December

Dec1

Jesmond Dene near Newcastle upon Tyne

 

Posted in About me, About walking, Cumbria walks, Northumberland walks, Scottish borders walks, Tyneside walks, Walks | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

Exploring my own backyard

Apologies that I have recently had to compromise all my adventure plans and explore what is on my doorstep instead. This has been due to family responsibilities, dreadful public transport and lack of resources. If you are a lover of wild places then it is hard not to view this as a demotion. Following 5 long distance trails and 15 years of walking in some of Britain’s least populated hills in Northumberland and the Scottish Borders, it is easy to become a bit of a purist.

Heading inland along the banks of the Tyne towards North Shields

Heading inland along the banks of the Tyne towards North Shields

I suppose I was trying to expunge my urban roots and a long spell living in London, but some people on Twitter have reminded me that there is plenty to see and some valuable wild space in large cities if you know where to look.

The whole national park movement was intended to bring the countryside within reach of ordinary people. However, for purists there is a temptation to want the ordinary people out of the parks again, and this doesn’t sit well with me. All this has involved me in some navel gazing about my attitudes.

Newcastle Quayside from the Millennium Bridge

Newcastle Quayside from the Millennium Bridge

Inspired by some groups trying to create National City Parks in London and Glasgow, and by people like Alastair Humphreys promoting the idea of finding do-able adventures on your doorstep, I have been exploring my own back yard a bit.

North Shields Fish Quay Area

Union Quay by North Shields Fish Quay

Like many people, I thought I knew my local area so well that it had nothing to teach me. However I have gradually realised that familiarity had bred some contempt, and that necessity can indeed be the mother of invention.

Bolam Coyne in the Byker Wall development by Ralph Erskine

Grade 2 Listed Bolam Coyne in the Byker Wall development by Ralph Erskine

I will continue to bring you posts from wild places, but I need to shape my interests around the possible for the moment. For those of us who live in cities for whatever reason, we either discount this kind of walking and sit at home reading other people’s wild adventures, or we get out there.

With apologies to the purists.

Posted in About me, About walking, microadventure, nanoadventure, Tyneside walks, Urban walks, Walks | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

A Tyneside Nanoadventure

This microadventure could more aptly be described as a nanoadventure really. It involved my first, modest attempt at creating a short route, rather than following somebody elses route from a book or website. My short tick-list stipulated that it must be local, accessible by public transport and interesting, preferably involving some places I hadn’t been before.

For me a great walk should always involve a good beginning and a good finish, rather than just going from Place A to Place B. I opted for going from St Mary’s Lighthouse in Whitley Bay to North Shields Fish Quay, both notable landmarks on the north east coast which I had never been to before. The distance of my short but varied walk was roughly 5 miles, with plenty to see and do plus some decent cafes and bars – both worthwhile features to incorporate into my walk I decided.

St Mary's Lighthouse

St Mary’s Lighthouse

Traces of history and heritage are everywhere along this stretch of the coast. Tynemouth Castle is located on a rocky promontory overlooking Tynemouth Pier. Apparently the moated towers, gatehouse and keep are combined with the ruins of the Benedictine priory where early kings of Northumbria were buried.

Tynemouth Castle and priory

Tynemouth Castle and priory

Whitley Bay and Tynemouth were formerly popular resorts in the age before international travel became available to ordinary people. Now the fascinating relics of that time have been left to dissolve slowly back into the landscape. There are old paddling pools and swimming pools gradually filling with sand and mud, rotting beach huts and corroded iron railing lining the empty esplanades. Whitley Bay would almost qualify as an English ghost town.

Remains of an open air swimming pool at Tynemouth

Remains of an open air swimming pool at Tynemouth

I tried to keep away from the roadside development and to stay on the beach and the esplanades, which give a much greater insight into the history of the area. Although the esplanades themselves have faded, I noticed that rock pooling has replaced donkey rides and candy floss sellers along the coastline since I was a child.

Rockpooling on the coast near Whitley Bay

Rockpooling on the coast near Whitley Bay

I carried on past Tynemouth Castle for the first time, and around the corner into the mouth of the River Tyne. This is the main artery of the city in which I was born, but I had actually never visited the mouth of the river.

The mouth of the River Tyne from the north bank near North Shields

The mouth of the River Tyne from the north bank near North Shields

Here the atmosphere imperceptibly changes from faded seaside resort, via a short wooded section, into the modern day hustle and bustle of a busy river, with ferries plying to and fro, a lifeboat station poised for action, fish processing plants, smokehouses and dock buildings gradually increasing in density towards North Shields Fish Quay a mile or so inland.

Heading inland along the banks of the Tyne towards North Shields

Heading inland along the banks of the Tyne towards North Shields

On this short walk through an area which I have taken completely for granted because it is local, I learned a lot about the economic and social past of the area in which I grew up. I also mixed happily with the distant ghosts of childhood trips to the seaside which littered parts of this route for me.

With acknowledgements to Alastair Humphreys; creator of the micro adventure.

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Heather burning and erosion

It is not often that I feel moved to comment on the stewardship and maintenance of the places I visit, but as I have spent over 15 years walking in Northumberland, I can’t resist making some comments about areas of Northumberland National Park. I have always tried to live and let live, but I am sometimes confronted by hillsides scarred by heather burning and gouged by erosion, which leave me wondering about their long term effects on the delicate peatland terrain and beauty of the Northumbrian uplands.

View of heather burning from the Cheviot

View of heather burning from the Cheviot

Heather burning

Large parts of the Cheviot Hills have been completely given over to the lucrative sport of shooting game birds. The management of these enormous estates is a year round job involving feeding and protecting the birds, creating an environment in which they will breed, “managing” predators such as the Hen Harrier, and burning heather to create new growth for the grouse to eat. The extent of this burning practice seems to be increasing and this is damaging the ecosystem of the hills, possibly causing flooding in the valleys, and creating an unsightly landscape which deters many of the outdoors community from coming to the Cheviots. As a walker I have to beware of both the shooting season and the live firing in the military training range when I plan my walks.

Aerial view of heather burning in the Cheviot Hills

Aerial view of heather burning in the Cheviot Hills. Google maps ©

After reading about the post war movement which lead to the creation of national parks and the opening up of private land for working people to use, I can’t help feeling that Northumberland was left out of this movement, and is still more of a playground for the few. With no burning and no grazing, these hills would slowly be overgrown by shrubs like gorse and fast growing trees such as birch, and the heather moors would be gone forever. Looking at the present landscape, I find it hard to even imagine what that alternative landscape might look like.

Path erosion between Scald Hill and the Cheviot

Path erosion between Scald Hill and the Cheviot

Erosion

In other national parks, much time and money is devoted to path and landscape maintenance by organisations such as Fix the Fells in the Lake District National Park, and Moors for the Future in the Peak District. This is done precisely because the parks know that the revenue created by these popular areas is an enormous asset to the region as a whole. As one of the less populated parks, Northumberland seem much more focussed on supporting local businesses than with investing in the landscape which makes it feel more like a business park. I realise this may be a controversial viewpoint.

Path damage and erosion on The Cheviot

Path damage and erosion on The Cheviot

Some of the more popular trails around The Cheviot and Simonside are like walking along huge sunken scars. I have tried to point my camera away from some of this, but now I almost wish I hadn’t, because I think some paths are in a terrible state and need rescuing. If the decision not to invest more in protecting the landscape is a purely economic one, then perhaps the benefits of attracting walkers, runners and cyclists needs to be properly costed out in this potentially beautiful area.

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Making hay while the sun shines

A sudden fear that the year was passing me by without my getting out and enjoying it has brought about a bit of a flurry of short walks and trips. All the well worn sayings about when to make hay sprang to mind, so today I jumped on the metro to the coast to do a local-ish walk from Cullercoats to Tynemouth, so here are some sunny days captured to hoard for those dark days of winter.

Cullercoats, Tyneside

Cullercoats, Tyneside

Looking south from Tynemouth beach

Looking south from Tynemouth beach

Tynemouth Beach

Tynemouth Beach

Looking north towards Tynemouth Castle

Looking north towards Tynemouth Castle.

This short linear 2.5 mile / 4 km walk was from Cullercoats lifeboat station on the North East coast past Tynemouth Castle to Front Street at Tynemouth near the mouth of the River Tyne and the port of North Shields. The beginning and end of the walk were near to stations on the Newcastle metro system. It was awash with plenty of cafes and restaurants along the route for refreshments, and the weekend market at Tynemouth station was in full flow. A flag system even indicated that swimming was permitted there today which is not a very common occurrence.

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Edinburgh Microadventure

Sometimes in life we have to make the most of where we are, and the time and the resources available to us, and these dictate our adventures more than our daydreams and long term plans. So a couple of days in Edinburgh is to me the equivalent of an expedition to the Matterhorn in terms of the escapism it affords at the moment. As I spent a good while living in London, I have learned to appreciate urban walking and green spaces, and how much they can add to the quality of life in a large city.

View back towards Arthur's Seat

View back towards Arthur’s Seat

A recent trip to Edinburgh became a microadventure as I decided on the train to finally climb up the crags to Arthur’s Seat, and experience this familiar city from a new angle.

View from Salisbury Crags

View from Salisbury Crags

The views across Edinburgh and out onto the Firth of Forth just get better and better as you go, so don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.

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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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