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.
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.
View of Rothbury from cairn
Arriving back into Morpeth over the Chantry footbridge
Puffin Cruises Boat, Amble Harbour
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.
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 Church from Newgate Street, Morpeth
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.
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 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.
Rothbury across the Coquet Valley
Cartington Castle, Rothbury, Northumberland
Hopefully it won’t be long before I can get further afield to bring you more walking from this season.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
Steps on St Cuthbert’s Way
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?
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.
Dales Way I
Pennine Way I
Cumbria Way I
Pennine Way III
Dales Way II
With thanks to the Ramblers for the experience, opportunities and training.
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.
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’
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.
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
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:
Practicing with my preloved Duomid for the Speyside Way
Sunrise on the Speyside Way
Camping on the Speyside Way
Trail Angels on Hadrian’s Wall
Setting of for the Dales Way
Tired feet on the Pennine Way
Final meal at the end of Hadrian’s Wall
Trail magic on Hadrian’s Wall
The end of Hadrian’s Wall
Boot Garden at the end of the Pennine Way
Sunrise on the Berwickshire Coastal Path
Signal from the end of the Pennine Way
…..which is when I realised that I could fill a book.
As you may know, Northumberland is my main stomping ground, and I have managed to accumulate a large number of posts, trips and routes in this area (listed under the Northumberland tab).
This post is written a bit retrospectively to help signpost readers of my blog to what they can find here, and to fill the gaps in my own admin and post tagging when I began writing Rucksack Rose.
For those just joining me, there are routes arranged geographically by towns and places including Amble, Bamburgh, Morpeth, Rothbury, Wooler, Breamish Valley and the Farne Islands.
Steppy Stones from Lady’s Walk, Morpeth
View of Bamburgh Castle
View north over the Old Bridge at Berwick upon Tweed
House by Sandgate on Berwick Walls
Good tracks looking towards Ingram Village, Northumberland
Inner Farne, Northumberland
There are also routes arranged thematically by their common features such as Roman remains, caves and rock art, waterfalls, castles, coastal and short walks.
Hadrian’s Wall Arch
Hen Hole Waterfall, College Valley, Northumberland
Rescue platform on the pilgrims route to Holy Island
Holy Island North Shore
Linhope Spout waterfall
I hope you enjoy my blog and all the featured routes. ICYMI GPX files are now available for most of my routes, including all my Northumberland routes, from my ViewRanger profile.
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 the Supporting Me page.
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.
East Coast mainline viaduct
Rickety bridge at Bothal
Steppy Stones from Lady’s Walk, Morpeth
Arriving back into Morpeth over the Chantry footbridge
River Wansbeck in Morpeth
Lowford Bridge over the Wansbeck, Morpeth
St James the Great Church from Newgate Street, Morpeth
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.
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. 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.
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.
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 supporters and my genuine followers and readers a happy and tranquil New Year filled only with positive people.