Revamped Reviews

As a great consumer of outdoor films and books, I began writing reviews for this site some time ago. I hope regular readers have enjoyed the selection of outdoor reviews, which include British, European, Asian and American adventures.

Since returning to my blog, I have added quite a few book and film reviews as well as introducing sections on Global adventures, Autobiographies and Guide Books to the mix. If you have suggestions on things for me to read or watch, or you would like to send me a review copy, please use the contact form on this site.

reviews

Thanks for reading and watching

Tramping around Tyneside

3 years ago, after I moved from the borders back to Newcastle, I wrote an article about rediscovering my own back yard as a walker. Because I wasn’t sure whether there would be demand for urban walks on my site, I made a YouTube playlist of my Tyne and Wear walks but didn’t create GPX files or write up the walks as I do for most of my trips. As I am again confined to walking close to home, I thought I would share these walks on ViewRanger, as well as YouTube, and maybe create a blog post about them.

Sometimes life limits the options we have open to us for outdoor pursuits, but I have not found staying at home to be the answer. I hope you will enjoy some or all of these Tyne and Wear walks. They are all accessible by public transport – one advantage of city walking.

Solstice Celebrations

The arrival of the Summer Solstice always reminds me not to take for granted my favourite season. This is a reminder of why I love late spring as it unfolds into summer and is intended as a response to Ben Dolphin’s regular vlogs in praise of winter.

Like many followers, I measure the year by the appearance of certain sights and sounds such as Primroses, wild Garlic, Bluebells, Cuckoos, Larks, dawn choruses, Hawthorn blossom, Swallows, Buttercups and so on. I sometimes wonder whether this is tied to my birthday, which often coincides with the arrival of the bluebells.

From the Primroses to the Brambles the summer creeps in and builds to a magnificent climax if we are there to witness it. I have lost the last vestiges of school taught religion as an explanation for it all now. However I remain unfailingly impressed by the show which is put on if we care to get out into the outdoors.

Wishing you a happy Solstice and outdoor year.

Southern Spotlight

The hard winter seems to have brought about a bumper spring with an abundance of wild flowers and sunny days up here. I have spent most of the first part of this fruitful year exploring and revisiting the southern part of Northumberland, including Amble, Morpeth and Rothbury.

This part of the county is less familiar to me than North Northumberland where I lived for about nine years. However it has been interesting to get to know the area more, revisit older walks and create new ones.

Morpeth

This town is accessible from Ashington, Newcastle and Sunderland. It is therefore well served by public transport and has a good selection of facilities. I wanted to create a new page for walks in and around Morpeth as there weren’t many available from the Tourist Information Office. Morpeth Mooching has resulted in a selection of short and longer walks from around the town centre.

St James the Great
St James the Great Church from Newgate Street, Morpeth
Bothal Castle
Bothal Castle

Amble

Amble is a bit further up the coast on the main bus route from Newcastle to Berwick. It has a reasonable selection of shops, cafes, and facilities, as well as a busy harbour from which there are boat trips to Coquet Island. Amble Ambles features long and short walks and a trip out to Coquet Island.

IMG_6570
Coquet Island, Northumberland seen from the boat.

Neither Morpeth or Amble was very familiar to me so I have felt like an explorer trying to create walks with only the maps and local chat to go on. I am not able to write about these areas as intimately as a local person can but I have enjoyed learning more about them.

Rothbury

Rothbury is the site of some of my earliest walks as a teenager and one of my early Rucksack Rose trips in 2012. I have a soft spot for the town which benefits from good facilities, a regular bus service and a great path network radiating from the town centre. My aims here were to add a new walk to my Rothbury Rambles page, and to improve the existing photos and videos on a better camera. It has been a pleasure to revisit these walks and I am quite pleased with how much better the page looks.

Across Coquet Valley
Rothbury across the Coquet Valley
Cartington Castle
Cartington Castle, Rothbury, Northumberland

Hopefully it won’t be long before I can get further afield to bring you more walking during this peak season.

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.

A Mosey round Morpeth

Within easy commuting distance of Newcastle, Gateshead, Sunderland and nearby Ashington is the town of Morpeth, the largest town in, and administrative capital of Northumberland.

With the aid of the Tourist Information Office and a map, I explored a selection of varied short and longer day walks around Morpeth town centre and the surrounding areas, including Cottingwood Common, Carlisle Park, Bluebell Woods, Newminster Abbey remains, Lady’s Walk, the Wansbeck Valley, Bothal and Mitford.

Take a look at Morpeth Mooching and download the routes from ViewRanger if you are interested in these walks.

If you or your company enjoy my routes, use them for groups and / or for profit, I would be grateful if you would consider becoming a supporter in order that I can upload more. More information can be found on theSupporting Me page.

Thanks. Rose 🌹🙏🏼

Love your lungs

As National No Smoking Day is coming up on 14th March, I thought I would include a post about giving up. On or about this time of year a few years ago, I finally gave up smoking using nicotine patches and healthy nibbles, after a couple of failed attempts. I am not trying to preach about the dangers of smoking, because any smoker would be hard pressed to ignore the warnings emblazoned on cigarette boxes.

If you decide to give up, focussing on a physical activity you enjoy helps to remind you how much better you feel by not smoking. I started with easy walks and built up over the course of a year or so to more challenging routes. Getting fit again was not an overnight achievement and I had to work at it gradually.

image
Foliage at Garry Bridge, Killiecrankie

If friends find it hard to accept your decision to stop, maybe it’s best to broaden your circle to include more non smokers. Since I gave up smoking I have met new friends through my hiking who have made me feel like a reasonably normal person without a cigarette in my hand. I may not be an elite athlete, but this doesn’t matter as much to me as having improved my health.

I am happy to support anyone who tries to give up, having seen the damage it can do to a member of my family. Statistically many of us are likely to have friends or family affected by lung disease, so please donate to the British Lung Foundation if you have a few pounds to spare.

Cheviots
Cheviots on the Pennine Way

My Local Litter-Pick

As walkers and outdoor people, many of us moan about litter, but the truth is that we are usually preaching to the converted. I chose to support this grass roots action to highlight how bad the problem is becoming and how we can help. Many small individual actions can make a big impact, so hopefully you will feel inspired to take a walk on your local turf. The proposed action is to complete a one hour local walk, collect plastic litter as you walk and tag KidsVPlastic or KidsAgainstPlastic with a note of how many pieces you collected at the end.

Litter Pick 2
My cache of 19 plastic items

The problem in the Tyneside country park which I chose for my walk has become really dire, so hopefully these pictures will say more than words can. I didn’t see any bins on the route which was thronging with people on this busy Sunday.

Litter Pick 3
Into the recycling bin

Thanks to Outdoor Bloggers UK and Kids V Plastics for suggesting this initiative which is aimed at raising awareness.