Hostelling

The Youth Hostelling Association for England and Wales, the Scottish Youth Hostelling Association for Scotland, Hostelling International NI for Northern Ireland and the many private hostels & bunkhouses springing up around Britain can be a hidden treasure.

If there are rooms available when you need them, hostelling can enable you to stay in or near places where accommodation prices are at a premium, as well as places which are only accessible on foot. In comparison to the blandness of some budget hotels, hostels embrace a cornucopia of styles and periods, from humble cottages to grand mansions.

The Sill Entrance
Entrance to The Sill YHA, Northumberland

Unfortunately there has been a recent tendency towards whole hostel letting by the YHA which has had the effect of sidelining individual and family customers like myself.

Coniston Coppermines
Coniston Coppermines YHA, Cumbria

In spite of the name, I am told that you do not have to be young to stay at a youth hostel. Apparently the remit of the YHA is aimed at people of all ages.

Windermere YHA
Windermere YHA, Cumbria

There is no such thing as a “typical” hostel which is why they can be such a pleasure to stay in.

Berwick YHA
Berwick upon Tweed YHA, Northumberland

Hiking can become an expensive hobby by the time you have spent money buying your kit, paid high season B&B prices & possibly employed a courier. I was told by many hikers that camping was the answer, and to some extent it is. Keeping open the option to camp will mean that you are never stuck for somewhere to stay.

Langdale YHA
Langdale YHA near Elterwater, Cumbria

However there will sometimes be days, even when you camp, when you need some rest and recuperation, as well as some first world facilities such as warmth, power supplies, hot showers, laundry facilities, cooking facilities, meals, a bar, wifi and even an en-suite private room. These are some of the facilities sometimes on offer when rooms are available.

Berwick
Restaurant at Berwick YHA, Northumberland
Haworth YHA
Dining room at Haworth YHA, West Yorkshire

Some routes and areas are more generously appointed with hostels and bunkhouses than others. The Pennine Way and the Lake District for example, because of their popularity, are very well provided with excellent places, but Northumberland has very few.

Butharlyp Howe YHA
Butharlyp Howe YHA at Grasmere, Cumbria

One advantage of joining one of the hosteling organisations is that you can get a discount on the cost of a room and membership of the International organisation Hostelling International.

Greenhead
Greenhead Hostel, Northumberland

In addition to YHA hostels, a huge range of independent hostels and bunkhouses can be found on the independenthostelguide website. They are sometimes easier to get in to than the YHA hostels.

Rothbury
Rothbury Bunkhouse, Northumberland
Kendal Hostel
Dining Room at Kendal Hostel, Cumbria

I was quite a late starter to hostelling, so in case you are like me, here are some pointers about what to expect when you stay at a hostel:

What to expect.

  • Rooms are sometimes only available at weekends or in high season for individuals and families because of block booking.
  • You will usually have the choice of a shared dormitory room with bunkbeds (usually but not always single sex) or a private or family room.
  • You may be expected to make your own bed up when you arrive and put your used bedding in the laundry baskets when you leave.
  • Youth hostels sometimes close during the day from about 10am until 4pm for cleaning so it is unwise to arrive during these hours.
  • You may have the choice to self cater or eat meals provided by the hostel. It is worth indicating your intention before you arrive
  • There are usually lockers available on request for your gear.
  • There is sometimes a curfew time when the doors are locked but you should be given a key or code which will enable you to get in after hours
  • Three things which are often useful in shared dormitories are a little torch for creeping in after other people have gone to bed, an extension lead as there are sometimes not enough sockets for recharging if the room is full, and ear plugs if you are easily disturbed during the night.
  • Staff are normally knowledgable about the local area and are happy to suggest facilities, walks or climbs nearby.
  • You can wash and dry clothes and boots at most hostels and they are usually willing to hold parcels for you until you arrive.
  • Wifi is available in most hostels except those in remote locations.
  • Most hostels are relaxed and friendly but the ethos is fairly DIY.
Kirkby Stephen Hostel
Kirkby Stephen Hostel lounge, Cumbria

This is an updated re-issue of a page originally published in 2013 following a couple of years of using hostels on long distance walks and some shorter trips.

Hikerspace

This post is intended to be an occasional feature showcasing some of the websites which I have enjoyed recently. I would welcome your suggestions about good sites using the #hikerspace hashtag or the comments section for this post. (Comments are moderately moderated).

Trail Angels
Trail Angels on Hadrian’s Wall

Chris Townsend Outdoors Blog by a very experienced backpacker with an impressive outdoor CV. Unparalleled knowledge of gear and environmental issues.

Grough Magazine An independently owned site featuring news and features about the outdoors and outdoor activities.

Hiking in Finland  A European backpacking blog in English written by the multi skilled Hendrick Morkel

Homemade Wanderlust  Blog and Vlog following trailhiker Dixie’s interesting and involving attempt to hike the Appalachian Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail and the Continental Divide Trail and become a hiking triple crowner.

John Muir Trust Founded in 1983 with the aim of conserving and protecting wild places for the benefit of present and future generations

Northumberland National Park This site is growing into a well researched and  interesting website about the area. They are quite responsive to comments and criticisms from users.

The Outdoors Station Podcast A professionally produced podcast covering many aspects of the outdoors from the Cartwrights at Backpacking Light UK

Scotland Outdoors Podcast A wide ranging, well informed and entertaining podcast about outdoor life in Scotland.

Tramplite Ultralight long distance hiker who designs and makes his own line of hiking equipment when he isn’t hiking trails around the world

Walk Highlands All aspects of walking in Scotland are covered in this engaging blog which has a good mix of trail data, downloads and long form posts. It is supported by accommodation providers who want to appeal to the outdoor market.

Rucksack Rose

Rucksack Readers; Coast to Coast Guide Review

Rucksack Readers: Coast to Coast, St Bees to Robin Hood’s Bay (2018).

This new edition of the Coast to Coast walk guide is produced in line with the range of Rucksack Reader editions from this Edinburgh publisher.

C2C Guide
Rucksack Reader Cover: Coast to Coast

This Coast to Coast Guide is printed on weatherproof, biodegradeable paper and the spiral bindings enables the user to open it out flat. It is published in high spec full colour with photographs by Karen Frenkel. It also contains introductory sections to aid planning and preparation, well researched background information and a thorough final section of further information and references.

The walk is divided into 16 daily stages with concise directions, route options, altitude profiles and 1:55,000 colour maps by Lovell Johns. At 220mm x 150mm and 295g, the guide should fit in most garment or rucksack pockets, although it is slightly on the tall side for me. There is the option to download the Daily Stages section of the guide as a pdf which could be used during the walk as an alternative to carrying the book.  There is also some additional content and a downloadable GPX file available from their website.

On the whole the book has been thoughtfully produced, addressing some of the physical problems many walkers will have experienced with walking guides (rain damage and spine deterioration). I also appreciate the thoughtful extras such as the downloadable pdf guide and GPX file which allow the walker to get everything they require in a one stop shop.

Many walking books are self consciously low spec on the reasonable assumption that they will take a bit of rough handling during a walk. It is therefore quite nice to find a guide that subverts the trend by proving that quality doesn’t have to be sacrificed to durability.

This was a free review copy available on request from the publisher.

Creating a walk

Having created a long distance route from a map for a challenge event, I was reminded that following pre-existing routes with signs, guides, waymarks, apps and other hikers for company is reassuring and even soporific at times. However as you may know, once you can absorb the information contained in a  map, it becomes easier to create a route of your own. If you have ever looked at Foul Weather Alternatives or taken a short cut, then you have created your own walk.

OS Maps
OS Maps

My background has involved following a lot of other people’s routes, and a helpful spell of route checking for the Ramblers. Their training covered areas such as safety, legality, accessibility, topography, themes and focal points on routes. There are then two stages involved in the process of creating a route. One involves looking at the route on your map and in satellite view (which can reveal inaccuracies in the map), and the other is to reccy the route on foot with all these issues in mind.

Maps
Harvey Maps

What should a good route involve?

The legality of a route is essential if you are offering it for other people to follow. It is therefore good to familiarise yourself with the symbols which denote what type of track it is; right of way, bridle way etc and any rules and exemptions which apply.

Camping Signs
Route signage

Safety is a crucial issue so it is important to be aware of any potential hazards such as river’s in spate, slippery rocks, eroded tracks or obstructions such as fallen trees. You should then try to incorporate these into your route data. 

tree trunk
Fallen tree

In case of access issues and the use of wheeled vehicles, it is helpful to mention any steps or stiles on the route and a note on the condition of the tracks i.e whether they are full of potholes or overgrown.

Boardwalk
Boardwalk

Focal Points

The received wisdom when I trained was that a good walk should involve a focal point/s. This could be a view, or historic, natural, sacred, architectural or topographic features in the case of a day hike. In the case of a distance hike there is the opportunity to introduce a theme or feature such as the Pennines (Pennine Way), historic landmarks (Hadrian’s Wall), Abbeys (Borders Abbeys Way) or geographical features such as a river (Speyside Way). A walk could also follow a person’s life (John Muir Trail) or encompass a pilgrimage route (Camino di Santiago).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
Steps on St Cuthbert’s Way

Questions

When working from the map, the following questions could be considered when creating a day hike:

Are the start and finish accessible?

Is the walk is do-able?

What are the gradients like?

Has it got a gradual start?

Does it have variety?

Does it include suitable rest places and shelter?

Are there any avoidable eyesores?

For a distance hike you could add these questions to your list:

How far apart are the resupply points?

Where are the water supplies?

Is there a variety of accommodation?

Is it possible to backpack the route?

Are refreshments available?

Summary

This is just a sketch of some of the issues and questions to bear in mind when walking somebody else’s route or creating your own. It can be interesting to evaluate the decisions which have been made for you on pre-existing routes, and to try and improve on them on your own walk. This can become the first step towards creating your own.

With thanks to the Ramblers for the experience, opportunities and training.

ViewRanger Top Publisher Award 2018

I have been digging my old trumpet out from the top of the cupboard and dusting it off to receive this very exciting ViewRanger award, alongside 9 other distinguished recipients.

image002

Craig Wareham, Co-Founder and CEO at ViewRanger, describes the annual award as follows:

‘The Top Publisher Award recognises people, organizations and publishers creating interesting, engaging, and high quality trail guide content. Each year, just ten outdoor organizations and authors receive our top award for contributing outstanding digital content, including route descriptions, turn-by-turn directions and photos to share with the growing ViewRanger outdoor community’

Press Release Image
All 10 of the 2018 Top Publisher Award Winners

By way of acknowledgement, ViewRanger has dragged my blog out of the dusty filing cabinets and card indexes where it was created, and into the digital present. The ViewRanger App provided me with exactly the tools I needed to make my routes accessible to a wider audience and to communicate directly with users.

Thanks to my followers and all at ViewRanger for making it happen for all my Rucksack Rose sites.

rravatarsa4
Rucksack Rose – Avatars

Trail Magic

……or why you should walk a long distance trail.

I thought I would write a post regarding my love of walking Trails (listed under the Trails tab) to try and inspire you to walk a trail. After some cogitation I came up with the following factors which have inspired me:

  • You gain a sense of progress which is rare in real life
  • The world is a beautiful place
  • The kindness of strangers who want you to succeed
  • The unique perspective it provides on the places you walk through
  • What trail hiker Dixie has called the tramily or community of other hikers
  • The perspective it gives you on life’s problems
  • Nature, nature and nature
  • The sense of freedom and independence it can give you

RR Trails
Some snaps from my long distance walks

But somehow this still didn’t convey my love of walking long distance paths. So, wondering how I could convince anybody to give it a go, I thought I’d try using pictures:

…..which is when I realised that I could fill a book.

Happy Trails 🏕⛰🏕👣💚 🌹

 

Twitter Detox

As a digital immigrant, I didn’t really know much about online safety when I started Rucksack Rose using a pseudonym in 2012. My aims were to celebrate the life of my late mother and to remind myself, after her long illness, that beauty and kindness still existed in the world. I wanted to connect with other outdoor people, particularly people who are normally excluded from outdoor debates. Naively I thought that is what the internet was for. Because of this, I didn’t know how to react or who to turn to when my sites were targeted by cyberstalkers, malware and organised trolling. For the last 5 years I have made repeated attempts to refer people to my personal site for information and news, but the main thing I have learned is that trolls can’t, or won’t, read.

After my studies in 2016, issues from the same people flared up again when I mentioned that my application had been accepted for the TGO challenge, and their sheer unpleasantness resulted in my withdrawal from the event. This was soon followed by another outburst from a couple of people from the same group (without even knowing the circumstances) when I mentioned that I had made a call to Mountain Rescue for advice during a walk in memory of a relative.

RR Bullying 1
Blow the whistle on trolling and harassment

This group seem to have nothing better to do with themselves than to wreak emotional devastation on Twitter. After haranguing me for over two years, they eventually pressured me into disclosing private information which was really off topic on this blog.

All these experiences have changed my approach to blogging and social media, which is ironic on a blog intended to share beauty and kindness. As a result I have put Twitter on hold for the moment as I’m not sure it is the right platform for remembering people, beauty, kindness, survivors or fledgling businesses. When I try to balance out the positive contribution it is making to Rucksack Rose against the emotional damage being caused by trolls, and the lax safety responses from the company involved, the option to come off Twitter is becoming an increasingly tempting one.

Otherwise all is good, and everything else will hopefully carry on with improved productivity in a less toxic environment. Thanks again to the people who have stopped by. It means a great deal to me.

Wild Flowers
Wild Flowers near Malham

A crack at the Cateran Trail

I chose the Cateran Trail, which is divided between Perthshire & Angus, for my next hike, partly because it looks to be a fine route, but also because this area was my introduction to central Scotland some years ago.

The Cateran Trail is a 65 mile / 104km circular route which includes Strathardle as well as parts of Glen Shee and Glen Isla. The route is named after the bands of cattle thieves known as Caterans who previously brought terror to these glens.

Cateran Trail
Cateran Trail, Perthshire and Angus courtesy of Walkhighlands and Ordnance Survey ©

The Strathardle section I completed between Blairgowrie and Kirkmichael contains all the different types of terrain which this area is known for; various types of woodland, untamed heather moorland, rolling farmland pastures, and many burns feeding into the Ericht and Ardle rivers.

Unfortunately for me, a recent event on the trail had left it a bit muddy. If I had worn my boots and taken my gaiters, it would have improved things, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. Anyway here are a few photos of the varied section between Blairgowrie and Kirkmichael, which included a camp at Pitcarmick, to give you an idea of the route.

River Ericht
River Ericht near Blairgowrie

Lornty Burn
Farmland near Lornty Burn

Blackcraig Forest
Views across Strathardle from Blackcraig Forest

Dalnabreck
Near Easter Dalnabreck

Dalnabreck
Near Dalnabreck

Pitcarmick Burn
Pitcarmick Burn

These pictures give some indication of how lovely the trail is, but avoid the mud underfoot. At this point it began to rain heavily, so I pitched the tent quite early to dry out.

Pitcarmick Camp
Dreich view from my tent at Pitcarmick

Drying out
Drying out in the Duomid

I continued my hike the following morning down the lovely, verdant country lanes into Kirkmichael for a much needed hot breakfast. There I decided to return to this trail when it has had the chance to recover, and I can focus more on the lovely countryside and less on where I am putting my feet.

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
High Cup Nick