Walking the Speyside Way 

I have just returned from the 65 mile Speyside Way walk from Aviemore in the Scottish Cairngorms to Buckie on the Moray coast, accompanied by my new tent. A write up will follow soon.

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Tent Talk

As regular visitors will know, I am not in the habit of posting tent pictures for the sake of it, but I couldn’t resist a couple here. For people who like this sort of thing I have started a Camping Gallery as a memento of my trips.

As the sun is shining and I am stuck at home for a bit longer, I have been practising pitching my newly acquired preloved Mountain Laurel Designs Duomid, in a highly visible shade of yellow sinylon, and sealing my old Force Ten tent. For the Duomid, after advice from several people, I used Colin Ibbotson’s method of attaching my two z poles together with cord, and Emma’s suggestion of using velcro to then hold them together to form a support pole. The result seems to be just the job, and will encourage me to use my poles more often.

Duomid 3

Mountain Laurel Designs Sinylon Duomid and Ali Express innernet first pitch

I haven’t yet worked out how and if to attach the inner, but first impressions are that the Duomid is really palatial after my snug and much loved Force Ten (below). It also takes up a lot of space once all the guy ropes are staked out, but I guess they add to the stability of the shelter. On advice from Daron, I am making a Polycro ground sheet to go under the inner and maybe into the spacious porch as well.

I would welcome any advice from Duomid users, as I hope to be using it over the coming months.

Force Ten

Force Ten Helium Carbon 100 seam sealed

Duomid Pole

Creating a support for the Duomid from 2 x Z poles.

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Exploring the coastline

Since I returned to my blog after some time away, I have been trying to improve my videos. To do this I have planned several clusters of walks using my new car club car. A couple of months ago I did 3 walks on the North Northumbrian coast between Holy Island (Lindisfarne) and Berwick upon Tweed in the Northumberland Coast AONB. To be honest it was a disappointing trip because the weather was a mixed bag for the new videos I wanted to make, and the route recording didn’t work well for the routes I wanted to upload. However I did the walks anyway, made the videos and uploaded the routes and put it down to experience.

I have finally written them up because they remain beautiful walks, and that is the most important thing in spite of my bad luck on the day. So do take a look at my new Coastline Collections page and I hope the sun shines for you if you visit this lovely part of the Northumbrian coast.

Coastline

Coastline Collections: Clockwise from top left – Lindisfarne Castle, Holy Island North Shore, Cocklawburn Beach, Holy Island dune path.

Also in other news I have finally uploaded my first talkie. I have overcome the urge to delete everything with my voice in it and uploaded my first walk video with a commentary. I hope you enjoy the video if not the commentary.

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Happy Easter

Happy Easter to those who celebrate it. Wishing sunshine and happy holidays to all my readers. Rose 🌹

Happy Easter

Happy Easter | Buona Pasqua

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Books and Digital

I have quirky preferences about books. The world of routes in particular, has become more complex than it used to be. I like to have real, paper route and route reference books rather than ebooks for some reason that I can’t entirely explain. I also enjoy paperback long distance walk guides, which I tend to read beforehand to save weight, and then credit them in my trip reports. However, I usually read my fiction, adventure and technical books on my e book reader.

Books

Route books and maps

Regarding navigation and maps, I keep my options open and switch from one method to another. I download and record routes, and dip into both route books and apps to get ideas. I have also been known to take photos of relevant pages, so I can read them on my phone as I walk. At times I rely entirely on digital GPS routes, but personally I am finding that books remain an important resource for me. It is a strange hybrid world that outdoor users live in now, with proponents of different methods hotly debating which is best.

Berwickshire Coastal Path

Berwickshire Coastal Path route

Recent discussion has turned to the unreliability of some downloads by or for inexperienced users. In acknowledgement of the good use I have put my day route books to, even in this digital age, I thought it would be a timely moment to mention a few of the old school route and route reference books I use as well as the downloads:

Reference:

  • Townsend, Chris. ‘World Mountain Ranges – Scotland’ Cicerone. 2010
  • ‘The UK Trailwalker’s Handbook’ Eighth Edition. LDWA. 2009

Northumberland:

  • Bagshaw, Chris et al. ’50 Walks in Durham and Northumbria’ AA. 2010
  • Baker, Edward. ‘Walking the Cheviots’ Sigma. 1996. Out of print.
  • Baker, Edward. ‘Walks in the Secret Kingdom’ Sigma. 1998. Out of Print
  • Brooks & Conduit. ‘Northumberland, The Borders and Hadrian’s Wall’ Pathfinder. 2000
  • Hall, Alan. ‘Walking in Northumberland’ Cicerone. 2010
  • Hallewell, Richard. ‘Short Walks in Northumbria’ The Ramblers. Collins. 2011

Scotland:

  • Hall, Alan. ‘The Border Country – A Walker’s Guide’ Cicerone. 2010
  • Jackson, Peter. ’25 Walks. The Scottish Borders’ Mercat Press. 2009
  • Turnbull, Ronald. ‘Ben Nevis and Glencoe’ Cicerone. 2007
  • Scotways. ‘Scottish Hill Tracks’ Scottish Mountaineering Trust. 2011.

Cumbria:

  • Goodier, Steve. ‘The Low Fells. Top 10 Walks’. Northern Eye. 2012
  • Marshall, Stuart. ‘Walking the Wainwrights’. Sigma. 2013

If you would like to recommend any new or interesting route books, apps or maps, please let me know.

Rose 🌹 April 2017.

Chesters5

Good paths heading north to Ingram

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The Farne Islands revisited

This is the time of year that I start to get restless for a trip offshore to see the seabirds and the grey seals. A quick glance at the weather and the bus timetable, with the added bonus of online booking, and I was off on the incredibly long bus journey up the coast to the fabulous Farnes. At this time of year there is thankfully much to see from the bus with the sun shining, the trees greening up, the daffodils at their best, and the colours gradually returning to the sea and the skies.

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St Cuthbert II, Seahouses Harbour. Billy Shiels Boat Trips

The Farne Islands are a group of islands off the coast of Northumberland. There are between 15 and 20 islands depending on the tide. They are scattered between 1½ – 5 miles (2.5–7.5 km) from the mainland and divided into the Inner and the Outer islands. Among the birds and animals I saw on this trip were Puffins, Grey Seals, Kittiwakes, Guillemots and Shags but it varies at different times of year. The onboard commentary and the NT Ranger’s talk provide plenty of specialised information on what birds are there and the history of the islands.

Farne Islands

The Farne Islands accessible from Seahouses

Seahouses, where the boats depart from, is densely populated with fish and chip shops and so my choice of lunch was straightforward. My ticket included a cruise of the islands from Seahouses with a landing on Inner Farne bird reserve for an hour. As well as raising my spirits after northern winters, I used the  opportunity of another trip to re-record a video of the trip which incorporates the best short walk in north eastern England.

Inner Farne Circular

Inner Farne Circular walk route

Having realised that I needed to improve on my videos, which began life as more of a diary for me, I have been working hard to utilise the tools at my disposal to better effect. I hope you will enjoy the results and consider subscribing to my YouTube Channel Rucksack Rose

With thanks to the crew of the St Cuthbert II from Billy Shiels Boat Trips (Other cruises are available) and the National Trust Rangers on Inner Farne for a great day out and a reminder that there is more to the Farne Islands than puffins.

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My first wild camped trail

I realise that circumstances have meant that it has taken me a while to get round to wild camping my first trail. As I have attempted to explain in my camping section, it has been a gradual journey from bed and breakfasts on Hadrian’s Wall to tea in a tent on the Berwickshire Coastal Path.

I don’t often hear this dramatic trail come up in conversation on social media or blogs, perhaps because people who backpack in Scotland are understandably drawn to the magnetic Munros, the famous national parks or the beautiful highlands and islands, ignoring the beauty of parts of the east coast.

Berwickshire Coastal Path

Berwickshire Coastal Path; My first wild camping trail

When I moved to the borders, I was struck by the beauty of the east coast between Holy Island in Northumberland and St Abb’s Head in Berwickshire, so I am often tempted to return there to walk. On a recent trip to Edinburgh, I was gazing out of the window, as the train runs so close to the coast between Berwick and Burnmouth that it almost knocks walkers into the sea. I noticed a couple of backpackers across the field walking along the coast path, who stopped and waved at us on the train. I got an overwhelming urge to be there waving, instead of on the train on my business errand, and so a week later I was.

Berwickshire has some of the highest, longest and most dramatic cliffs on the British coast, which make walking this path a challenging and dramatic experience which is ideal for wild camping. I’m sure I made some rookie wild camping errors, but I really enjoyed the challenge. I hope you will take a look at my trip report.

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Caves, carvings and crags

As well as the geographical posts which focus on a particular area or valley, I have been gradually creating themed walk collections from my Northumberland routes which I can add to as and when. Sometimes it is interesting to focus on one aspect or feature of an area, which can then be done as a group. So far there are walk collections in the Northumberland section featuring the coast, castles, waterfalls and short walks.

I’ve always had a soft spot for a sacred site or a cave, so my latest collection Rock Routes features some of my personal favourite geological, historical and archaeological places in Northumberland with links to GPS files.

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Clockwise: Roughting Linn Rock Art, St Cuthbert’s Cave, McCartney’s Cave, Simonside Hills

As well as videos, I am gradually enriching my blog by adding more maps, data sheets and GPS links to all my posts. I hope you will enjoy these moderate walks which are all lovely in different ways.

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The H Word

This subject has never been far from my thoughts since I started this blog, but I would preface this post by saying that I am not an expert in this area. I saw my first fox up close when out walking on the South Downs at university, and later became aware of foxes scavenging from the neighbourhood bins in south London. Like many city dwellers, at the time I was thrilled to realise that I could be living in such close proximity to wild animals.

When I moved to the borders however, it was hard to ignore the fact that there were several active local hunts who then took huge packs of noisy dogs out with them, or that the hills were chequered with burnt heather patches to encourage the grouse population. Although the fishing doesn’t trouble me, as a walker I soon realised that it would be valuable to know when, where and how to avoid the hunting and the shooting.

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Salmon fishing with a ghillie on the River Tweed

After living amongst and sharing the countryside with hunters, guns, anglers, ghillies, guides, beaters, gamekeepers, and the invisible landowners who make serious amounts of money from these pursuits, what I would now say through gritted teeth to my old city self about the H word (which I still hesitate to use), is sadly just jobs, jobs and jobs. Many rural communities in this area suffer from high unemployment, rural poverty and lacklustre tourism compared to areas like the Lake District. Hunting, shooting and fishing are therefore a mainstay of the north Northumbrian and Scottish Borders economy, which provide sustainable jobs and attract tourists who need to be housed, fed, kitted out and entertained.

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Fishing Shiel on the River Tweed

Without these jobs and income sources, far more young people would be forced to leave this part of the countryside in search of work, and the subsidiary businesses which are sustained by the hunting, shooting and fishing tourists would fail or close, which could make it an unsustainable community. Confronted with the stark reality of that fact, I am hesitant to be confrontational about it.

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Angler

Although I wouldn’t hunt or shoot personally, I gradually realised that my existence in the borders was dependent on a successful local economy. Also I was surrounded by a ready supply of fresh, traceable fish and meat from farmers whose livelihood had been compromised by the foot and mouth epidemic. It was all a far cry from the meat section of the London supermarkets. So with my city morals and the last vestiges of my vegetarianism increasingly under strain, I eventually even partook of the spoils on occasions, which probably makes me every sort of hypocrite. My objections to the H word are to do with the effects on the ecosystem of native plants and wildlife, which I am gradually learning more about.

There are already ghost villages, industrial remains and many abandoned buildings in Northumberland and the Borders to remind us that communities have come and gone since the Iron Age, so I would be sad to see this area emptied out and unable to regenerate.

Burning in the Cheviots

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

What the area really needs are sustainable jobs and tourists such as walkers, cyclists, climbers, riders and nature lovers to visit and represent other interests in environmental and outdoor debates so, if you haven’t already sampled the local countryside, please do. It doesn’t all look like the photo above.

Note: The lack of more appropriate pictures in this post is due to the fact that I normally avoid areas where hunting or shooting are taking place. I have only once got close to a pack of hunting dogs and once to a shoot, and I got clear of both as quickly as possible, without lingering to take photos.

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Environmental Escapades

Living in a town as I currently do, every walk now begins and ends with a rail or road journey which has to be considered and planned for, which is why I include a discussion of transport here. Since I began walking in the Scottish Borders at the time of the foot and mouth epidemic, I have become aware of the fragility of the environment I enjoy so much. My earliest walks involved swilling my boots in troughs of chemicals aimed at halting the spread of the disease and some paths were completely sealed off, but the farmers were keen to encourage outdoor people to continue visiting the countryside.

Through my walking I have experienced up close the effects of things like disease, invasive species, erosion, flooding and climate change, as well as confronting the realities of threatened species such as elm, ash, red squirrels and bees. As a result of this experience, I have learned to respect the places I visit and to minimise the traces of my being there. Without shouting about it, I have also tried to make this blog consistent with the development of my environmental beliefs.

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Leaving early by train for the start of the Pennine Way

When I created the blog, I was lucky enough to have a car which I was able to jump into at the first sign of good weather like a true weekend warrior. When resources, transport and time are available, it is easy to write prolifically and pleasurably about the things I love. However when running a car became more costly, and I began to become aware of the environmental contradictions of my outdoor pursuits, I did my utmost to make my blog work using public transport. I am proud to say that I got to and from all my long distance walks on public transport.

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Setting off for the start of the Dales Way at Ilkley

For my shorter walks and trips, I really have battled with the logistics of trains, coaches, taxis and buses, which often don’t visit the places I want to reach, or run once or twice a week at most, but I have achieved less in the way of interesting blog posts. Because large areas of my local stomping grounds are inaccessible by bus, I tried car hire for a while, but found it a bit inflexible. After much deliberation, I have finally opted to join a car club to enable me to reach the wilder places and trails I love with some degree of spontaneity.

Bus stop

The end of the Berwickshire Coastal Path at Cockburnspath

I won’t be abandoning public transport (where it is feasible) any time soon, but using a car club seems the ideal way of achieving the best of both worlds; minimising my environmental footprint and exploring wild places. I hope that this will find some kindred spirits among my readers.

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