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.
If friends find it hard to accept your decision to stop, maybe it’s best to broaden your circle to include more non smokers. Try not to worry, as I did, about making smokers ‘feel guilty’ as that is for them to weigh up in the end. 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 restored 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.
The answer is probably not, so I’m keeping it short and including lots of pictures. 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.
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.
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.
My achievements over the last year included completing my first solo wild camp in January to Shillhope Law in Upper Coquetdale, Northumberland.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 genuine followers and readers a Happy New Year filled only with tranquility and positive people.
If, like me, you are a last minute seasonal shopper, these are 25 gift suggestions under £25, for walkers of all abilities – from first timers to experienced hikers. They are all items which are in regular use in my kit.
Buff – A versatile item available in a wide range of colours and designs to suit the person you are buying for
Head Torch – Very useful to have in your rucksack during winter walks when the days are short so you don’t get caught out
Gloves – Available in a huge range of colours, styles and fabrics
Mini Tripod – Popular items available for smartphones for those outdoor selfies
Drink Bottle – Possibly the most important item of kit. Available in plastic and metal
Flask – For that timely brew on the hills
Maps – One or two local maps could encourage a novice walker out on a walk
Waterproof Phone Case – Another increasingly popular item to protect your phone from getting wet
Lapel Microphone Clip – The perfect present for anyone wanting to vlog about their walks using their phone. Stops you being drowned out by wind
Beanie – Economical, versatile and easy to shove in your pack or your pocket when not in use
Compass – Another ideal gift for a newbie walker. Worth getting a decent one on a lanyard to attach it to a pack or jacket
Pen-knife – A good quality pen knife is a permanent part of many kit lists. Obviously it must conform to knife laws wherever you are.
Hand Warmers – Nice to keep hands warm at this time of year and available in a wide range of prices
Cheap Poles – My first set of trekking poles were pretty cheap and lasted for ages
Dry Bags – Always useful and available singly or in sets
Socks – A good outdoor shop should stock a good range of these for different times of year. Available in different sizes, colours and designs to suit the person you are buying for.
Outdoor Wallet – A useful gift available in synthetic or cuben to replace a bulky purse or wallet on outdoor trips
Head Net – An essential item in some parts of the country at certain times of year. Light and compact enough to stay in your rucksack during the summer months.
Gaiters – Excellent for wet and boggy terrain
Walking Guide Book – A good book of routes is a great present. The best ones have OS maps, are pocket sized and resilient.
Guided Walk – In this age of things, experiential gifts are a growth market. A good experience could be to take someone on a guided trip or walk.
Lunch Box – Along with the drinks bottle and flask already mentioned, a good, robust lunch box is always nice to have and can last for years.
Attachable Accessories – You can get great drink bottles holders and cases in cuben and gridstop fabric which attach to rucksack shoulder straps and hip belts for extra space.
Anemometer – There are a range of hand held anemometers available for measuring temperatures and wind speeds during a walk
Gift Card –Available for high street stuff, digital maps and routes on most route apps
The dark evenings are great for watching films, whether it’s from the comfort of your sofa or tucked up inside your tent on a hill. These are ten great new and classic outdoor films for some wild watching.
Wild Watching: 10 Recommended Outdoor Films (In alphabetical order).
127 Hours. Directed by Danny Boyle (2010).
Everest. Directed by Baltasar Kormákur (2015).
Force Majeure. Directed by Ruben Östlund (2014).
Into the Wild. Directed by Sean Penn (2007).
Koyaanisqatsi. Directed by Godfrey Reggio. Music by Philip Glass (1982).
The River Wild. Directed by Curtis Hanson (1994).
The Way. Directed by Emilio Estevez (2010).
Touching the Void. Directed by Kevin MacDonald (2003).
Walking Out. Directed by Andrew and Alex Smith (2018).
Wild. Directed by Jean Marc Vallee (2014).
You can find reviews of all these films arranged geographically in my Reviews section.
After a very busy summer at this new centre, I decided to sit it out until things calmed down a bit before taking some pictures. These are a few snaps taken during a quiet term-time November weekday at The Sill Centre and YHA on Hadrian’s Wall. It is within easy reach of Housesteads Roman Fort, Vindolanda and the Roman Army Museum, as well as some of the most iconic parts of the wall.
If you are thinking of visiting the centre or staying at the YHA, you can find some suggested day walks with GPX at Roman Roaming, and an account of the whole national trail at Hadrian’s Wall Path.
With the recent opening of The Sill on Hadrian’s Wall, complete with its shiny new Youth Hostel, I decided to put together a collection of day hikes which incorporate some of the excellent Roman sites, such as Housesteads, Vindolanda, Chesters and the Roman Army Museum, along the Northumbrian section of the wall.
So, if you enjoy history, archaeology, ancient walls, forts, turrets, milecastles and temples, but don’t have the time to do the complete National Trail, Roman Roaming offers three moderate hikes between 5 and 10 miles long. Together they offer a great introduction to this famous World Heritage Site. The page includes maps, photos, videos and GPX downloads.
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.
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.
I don’t often feel moved to comment on the stewardship of the places I visit, but as I have spent over 15 years walking in this area, I feel entitled to make some comments about Northumberland National Park.
As I still regard myself as a guest in the countryside, I have always tried to be respectful and leave no trace. However I am sometimes confronted by enormous traces left by other parties which leave me feeling that my efforts are a bit one sided. Walkers in Northumberland presently need to work around the management of vast Forestry Commission plantations, a huge man made reservoir which occupies an entire valley, privately owned hunting, shooting and fishing estates, and live firing on the military ranges at Otterburn which occupy 23% of the National Park. Some of these activities leave me wondering about their long term effects on the delicate terrain of the Northumbrian and border uplands.
Large parts of the Cheviot Hills have been completely given over to the sport of grouse shooting. The management of these enormous private estates involves feeding and protecting the grouse, creating an environment in which they will breed, eliminating predators such as the Hen Harrier, and muirburn (burning heather) to create new growth for the young grouse to feed on. These practices are damaging the whole ecosystem of the upland areas in many areas, leading to flooding in the valleys, the extinction of certain species and the creation of an unsightly landscape which deters the outdoor community from coming to the Cheviot Hills.
After reading about the movement which lead to the creation of national parks and the opening up of private land for working people to use after the war, I can’t help feeling that Northumberland was somehow left out of this movement. With no burning and grazing, these hills would slowly be overgrown by shrubs like gorse and fast growing trees such as birch. Looking at the present landscape, I find it hard to even imagine what that alternative landscape might look like.
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 National Parks are aware 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 sometimes seems to be more focussed on supporting local businesses than with investing in the landscape.
Some of the more popular trails around The Cheviot and Simonside, without proper maintenance, have become huge sunken scars. I have tried to point my camera away from some of this, but now I wish I hadn’t, because some footpaths are in a bad state and need urgent maintenance work. 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 attractive area.