Does the world need another review of 2017?

Summary.

The answer is probably not, so I’m keeping it short. Like most years, 2017 has had it’s ups and downs for me. I have achieved many of the aims for Rucksack Rose that I set out a year ago; completely updating all my sites, introducing a way to support me and producing more regular content, which includes ‘talkie’ videos and GPX links.

Outdoor
rucksackrose.com

In April, under pressure from trolls, I wrote a bit about my childhood experiences of aggression, and the ways in which I learned to cope with them, in Fear. I can only hope that writing about this may help others who have had similar experiences.

In September I celebrated the fifth birthday of this blog and passing the 100k views mark on both my YouTube channel and my blog. I am proud to say that views currently stand at 108k+ on YouTube and 107k+ on this blog.

RR Thanks
Thank You from Rucksack Rose

In spite of these successes, responses to supporting me have been muted although I realise that competition is pretty fierce in this area. Thanks to the companies who have sent products for me to look at and try out and I hope it is onward and upwards for you in 2018.

Pictures.

My achievements over the last year included completing my first solo wild camp in January to Shillhope Law in Upper Coquetdale, Northumberland.

Sunrise from Shillhope Law
Sunrise from Shillhope Law, Northumberland in winter

I also completed two backpacked trails – the Berwickshire Coastal Path in March..

Sunrise near Eyemouth
Sunrise near Eyemouth on the Berwickshire Coastal Path
Eyemouth Port
Eyemouth Port, Berwickshire

… and the Speyside Way in May.

Cairngorms
Looking towards the Cairngorms from the Speyside Way near Aviemore
Fochabers
Near Fochabers on the Speyside Way

I did two shorter camping trips; Pitcarmick on the Cateran Trail in June, and Bealach Cumhang on the Rob Roy Way in August, both of which featured a lot of rain.

Blackcraig Forest
Views from Blackcraig Forest on the Cateran Trail
Camp site
Bealach Cumhang Camp on The Rob Roy Way

In between these trails and camping trips, I also managed some lovely day walks in North Northumberland and the Scottish Borders when I began experimenting with ‘talkie” videos. This featured some very loud wind drowning out my speech, until a friend suggested a microphone.

Tweed and Till
First live video: Confluence of the River Tweed and the River Till

For those who like to keep count, I did a total of 11 wild camps this year before Lyme disease took hold. The second half of the year was quieter, as the prolonged symptoms required two courses of antibiotics.

In order to have some off-grid time, I did some outdoor volunteer work at North Perthshire in October. During this rewarding trip, I learned a lot about the ecology, history and stewardship of the three sites where I worked, as well as meeting some great people.

Garry Bridge
Voluntary work in North Perthshire: View from Garry Bridge, Linn of Tummel
Killiecrankie
Trooper’s Den at Killiecrankie
Linn of Tummel Falls
Waterfall at Linn of Tummel viewpoint

Since then I have been focussing on writing, photography, editing, adding to and improving my GPX routes, various site improvements and spending less time on social media.

2018.

This year I have realised that my outdoor life is essentially a reflective place and a sanctuary in which to recover, recharge and renew. I therefore wish my supporters and my genuine followers and readers a happy and tranquil New Year filled only with positive people.

RR New Year 2017

Rucksack Rose at 5

On 17th September this year it was 5 years since I began to create Rucksack Rose on this blog and YouTube. For those who don’t know, Rucksack Rose was originally dedicated to my mum, and was intended to share the good and simple things in the outdoor world such as beauty and kindness.

RR5
Rucksack Rose 5th Birthday

I had great plans for this fifth year but, without going into details, bullying by a small group of trolls laid waste to some of them, which was a very sad moment for me and for this blog. Anyway, having taken advice, I am pressing on. Can I simply ask that if you don’t respect me, my content or my aims, you just unfollow. It’s really not that difficult.

Anyway, I always try to end on an up – I know you’ve all heard this stuff before, but to those who have stuck by me for all or some of the last five years for the right reasons, I would like to say a big thank you for over 101k YouTube views, 103k blog views, as well as your advice and inspiration. I genuinely appreciate all these things and I will continue to try and keep to the original intentions of the blog which are outlined in the About section.

RR Thanks
Rucksack Rose Thank You

Happy Hiking. Rose🌹

My GPX Routes

I have been gradually adding day routes onto Viewranger 👣 for some time. As long as the routes don’t seem to involve any hazards, I have made them public and free for people to download on an ad hoc basis. As I have realised how helpful good quality downloads can be, I decided to start adding GPX files for all my day routes and publishing some routes retrospectively to replace the slightly vague descriptions I had been giving on early YouTube and blog descriptions. I have also been improving and standardising the route information provided with the downloads.

Viewranger
My Viewranger profile

There are now over 40 free, downloadable routes on Viewranger. I am pleased to see that there has been a steady interest in downloading these routes, so I have added links to Viewranger from my blog posts and YouTube. I hope you will find them helpful if you are considering walks in this part of the world, and that they will work well in conjunction with the blog posts and videos.

Salters Road
Hartside to Salter’s Road route map on Viewranger courtesy of Ordnance Survey ©

If you or your company enjoy my routes or use them for groups and / or for profit, I would be really grateful if you would consider supporting me so that I can increase the number of routes which are available to download.

Happy Hiking. Rose🌹

Books, Maps and Digital

I have quirky preferences about books. The world of routes in particular, has become more complex than it used to be. Personally I like to have real, paper route and route reference books rather than ebooks. I also enjoy paperback long distance walk guides, which I tend to read beforehand to save weight. However, I usually read my fiction, adventure and technical books on my e book reader.

Books
Outdoor book and map shelfie

Regarding navigation, books and maps, I prefer to keep my options open and switch from one method to another as and when the need arises, having lost maps and had phone battery run out. I explore maps, route books and apps to get ideas for my walks as well as downloading and recording routes on Viewranger. I have also been known to take photos of relevant pages in route books, so I can read them on my phone as I walk. At times I have relied entirely on digital GPX routes, but personally I am finding that maps and books remain important resources for me. I now try to ensure that I have a map and a digital route back up on all walks, but I am happy with either on it’s own.

It is a strange hybrid world that outdoor users live in now, with proponents of different methods hotly debating which is best. Recent discussion has turned to the unreliability of some downloads by or for inexperienced users.

Berwickshire Coastal Path
Berwickshire Coastal Path route

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 Books

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

Route Books

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

Downloads

My go-to sites for digital downloads are:

  • LDWA website (Long Distance Walkers Association) for long distance walks in Britain (downloads only available to members)
  • Walkhighlands.co.uk for long distance walks and day walks throughout Scotland
  • Viewranger navigation site and app on which I upload and download routes.

Rose 🌹 April 2017.

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

Chesters5
Good paths heading north to Ingram

The H Words

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 in those days took huge packs of noisy dogs out with them, or that the hills were chequered with burnt heather patches (muirburn) to encourage the grouse population.

Hunt kennels
Disused Hunt kennels, Speyside

Although the fishing troubles me less, as a walker I soon realised that it would be valuable to know when, where and how to avoid the hunting and the shooting. I lived amongst hunters, guns, anglers, ghillies, guides, beaters, gamekeepers, hotel staff, holiday cottage rental owners, equipment suppliers and the invisible landowners who make serious amounts of money from these pursuits, for several years. Although I am not and have never been pro hunting or shooting, one point I would now make through gritted teeth to my old city self about the H words (which I still hesitate to use), is that they still provide much needed employment in some areas.

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Salmon fishing with a ghillie on the River Tweed

Many rural communities in this area suffer from high unemployment, rural poverty and lacklustre tourism compared to areas like the Lake District. Like it or not, hunting, shooting and fishing are therefore still a mainstay of the north Northumbrian and Scottish Borders economy, which currently 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 streams, more young people would be forced to leave this part of the countryside in search of work, and the subsidiary businesses which are presently sustained by the hunting, shooting and fishing tourists would fail or close. All this could have the effect of making it an unsustainable community which is why I have so far been hesitant to be too confrontational about it. The point I am making is simply that if people want to abolish any of these pursuits, this needs to be done in conjunction with the development of sustainable alternative employment for the people and businesses involved. Sorry to inject a bit of realism into what I realise is an emotive debate.

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Angler

Although I would never hunt or shoot personally, I gradually realised that my existence in the borders was dependent on a successful local economy. I do eat meat now, and I began to value the fact that I was surrounded by a ready supply of fresh, traceable fish and meat from farmers, although their livelihood was seriously compromised by the foot and mouth epidemic. It was all a far cry from the 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 in the eyes of some readers.

All that said, I have gradually become aware during my walking of the damage which is done to the countryside in the name of grouse shooting in particular. My personal objections are concerned with the effects on the ecosystem of native plants, wildlife and birds. There are many ghost villages, industrial remains and 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 without relying on the hunting, shooting and fishing economy.

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

In my humble opinion, the area needs sustainable jobs, and to attract different kinds of tourists such as walkers, cyclists, climbers, riders and nature lovers who will represent a different spectrum of opinion in environmental and outdoor debates. So, if you haven’t already sampled the local countryside please do so, as I hope this site has shown that it doesn’t all look like the photo above.

Note: The lack of 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 hunt complete with a pack of dogs, and once to a small shoot, and I got clear of both as quickly as possible, without lingering to take photos.

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.