Outdoor Conservation

I have just completed my first working holiday as a conservation volunteer for the National Trust for Scotland’s Thistle Camps in North Perthshire. If you’re interested in conservation and the outdoors, this is a great opportunity to give something back, and make a difference to Scotland’s unique natural heritage.

image
Foliage at Garry Bridge, Killiecrankie (un-edited)

The working holidays are residential projects, based at National Trust for Scotland properties, which help the NTS to conserve and manage the historic locations under its care. Volunteers have the opportunity to live and work in some of Scotland’s remote and remarkable places for the duration of the camp.

The Thistle Camps website states that no prior experience is required for most of their camps as work is explained and techniques are demonstrated. Camps are graded according to their remoteness and the level of fitness required to do the work. Each camp is made up of eight to twelve volunteers of various ages and backgrounds, who contribute half the cost of the transport, food and accommodation for the trip. Volunteers share accommodation, as well as the communal tasks of cooking and cleaning, with the rest of the group.

Convalloch
Convalloch Lodge, Ballinluig

My work in the North Perthshire woodlands was divided between The Hermitage at Dunkeld, Pass of Killiecrankie and the adjacent Linn of Tummel site, just as the leaves were turning in the second half of October. Supervised by the NTS Rangers, the work included clearing leaves from the paths and public areas, path edging, fencing, removing non native species, chopping non native wood for the charcoal kiln, helping to prepare Ossian Hall for a wedding, and burning brash from storm damaged areas. Some of the many bonuses include gaining a more intimate knowledge of the sites, and having the opportunity to ask the Rangers questions about their history and stewardship.

These are some pictures of the historic and beautiful locations in which I worked, in one of my favourite parts of mainland Scotland.

Killiecrankie – (Site of the Battle of Killiecrankie on 27th July 1689).

Charcoal Kiln
Making charcoal at Killiecrankie
Killiecrankie
Trooper’s Den at Killiecrankie
Killiecrankie Vistor Centre
View from Killiecrankie Visitor Centre

Linn of Tummel

Garry Bridge
View from Garry Bridge, Linn of Tummel
Linn of Tummel 1
Upper path, Linn of Tummel
Linn of Tummel 2
Woodland, Linn of Tummel
Linn of Tummel Falls
Waterfall at Linn of Tummel viewpoint

The Hermitage, Dunkeld.

Hermitage
Woodland at The Hermitage, Dunkeld
Black Linn Falls
Black Linn Falls at The Hermitage by Ossian Hall
image
Funghi on a tree at The Hermitage
The Hermitage 4
The River Braan at The Hermitage

I hope that these pictures show what a beautiful and unique area this is, and give some indication of how much there is to see at these three National Trust for Scotland sites.

Day off

Bruar Falls
Lower Falls of Bruar, Pitlochry

Many thanks to the NTS Rangers, the Thistle Camp leader and co-leaders, and my fellow volunteers for an endlessly fun, fascinating and informative week. I paid the listed price towards my upkeep on this camp.

3 Roman Romps

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.

Hadrian's Wall
Hadrian’s Wall sites in Northumberland

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.

Housesteads
Housesteads Roman Fort

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🌹

A Couple of Camps

I have been catching up with my writing up of two recent short backpacking trips in Scotland, which were designed to enable me to get some experience of wild camping with my newish Duomid shelter. Up to now my focus has mainly been on the hiking rather than the camping, which is why I was drawn to use existing long distance trails on both these trips.

My first four long distance trails utilised a variety of B&Bs, hostels and bunkhouses where all my needs were catered for, but the costs of these trips mounted up. Because of this I finally bought a tent for the Pennine Way in 2013 and began to use some small campsites and gardens. This experience kickstarted my journey towards wild camping.

Kit
Backpacking kit unpacked

The first trip in June was to Perthshire on part of the Cateran Trail, hiking from Blairgowrie to Kirkmichael and camping at Pitcarmick in Strathardle.

Lornty Burn
Farmland near Lornty Burn
Pitcarmick Camp
View from my tent at Pitcarmick

The second trip in August was to Stirlingshire and the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park on part of the Rob Roy Way, hiking from Drymen to Strathyre and camping at Bealach Cumhang near the Menteith Hills. For those who don’t speak Gaelic, bealach apparently means col.

Loch Venacher
Ominous skies at Loch Venacher
Camp site
Bealach Cumhang

On the whole, I think my ability to chose reasonable places to pitch is improving a little bit, and I have begun to establish a camp routine which works for me, although heavy rain on both hikes affected my decisions, and I could still do with shaving some weight off my pack.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the write ups of Pitcarmick and Bealach Cumhang in my new Camps section.

Pocket kit
Pocket kit

Dear Northumberland National Park

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.

View of heather burning from the Cheviot
View of heather burning from the Cheviot

Heather burning

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.

Aerial view of heather burning in the Cheviot Hills
Aerial view of heather burning in the Cheviot Hills. Google maps ©

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.

Path erosion between Scald Hill and the Cheviot
Path erosion between Scald Hill and the Cheviot

Erosion

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.

Path damage and erosion on The Cheviot
Path damage and erosion on The Cheviot

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.

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🌹

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 too churned up and muddy to complete at anything other than a very slow pace. 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.

Using Mountain Rescue

In May I walked the Speyside Way as a way to remember someone who sadly passed away this year. During the walk I made a call to rescue services for navigational advice as there was a route discrepancy between my map and the signage. It was getting late and I was stuck in a seemingly endless rocky barbed wire corridor which wasn’t indicated on my map, and wasn’t wide enough to pitch my tent in. My tired reasoning was simply that a call for advice now might prevent a call for help later. Unfortunately the people I spoke to were unable to answer my query on that occasion. When I mentioned this dilemma on Twitter after my return, a few people, who are not representative of my readership, were critical of my decision to make a call, so this is just a quick response to them.

In the 20 years since I began hiking, I have once requested a call out from Mountain Rescue following an attack of vertigo, and have sought advice (usually regarding route diversions) two or possibly three times on solo long distance walks. On each of these occasions I made a donation to the relevant team.

Speyside Way
Speyside Way Map courtesy of LDWA and Ordnance Survey ©

I would just like to quote a DM I received from a professional rescue person (who shall remain anonymous) regarding my call for advice:

“I think if your call prevented you from getting into danger then it was worthwhile. The Mountain Rescue teams would rather you didn’t get hurt and so would I…I’ve met lots of people who should have done what you did”

I would also like to point out that, as I have a relative who was involved in mountain rescue, I realise how valuable their service is to the outdoor community. My relative sustained a permanent injury whilst carrying out a rescue with his team, so I am fully aware of the risks teams face while providing this service. I am also aware of my personal responsibilities to use their resources sparingly, to donate as and when I can, and to provide the best outdoor advice I can on this site.

Pennine Way
Pennine Way route map courtesy of LDWA and Ordnance Survey ©

Thanks. Rose🌹

Tent Talk

As regular visitors will know, I am not in the habit of posting tent pictures for the sake of it, but I couldn’t resist a couple here. For people who like this sort of thing I have started a Camping Gallery as a memento of my trips.

As the sun is shining and I am stuck at home, I have been practising pitching my preloved Mountain Laurel Designs Duomid, in a non stealth shade of yellow sinylon, and sealing my old Force Ten tent. For the Duomid, after advice from several people, I used Colin’s method of attaching my two z poles together with cord, and Emma’s suggestion of using velcro to hold them together to form a support pole. The result works really well, and encourages me to use my poles more often.

Duomid 3
Mountain Laurel Designs Sinylon Duomid and 3F UL inner first pitch
Duomid II
Getting to grips with pitching and ground sheet

I have worked out how to attach the inner to the tent using the back three pegs and the result feels really palatial after my snug Force Ten (below). It takes up a lot of space once all the guy ropes are staked out, but I guess they add to the stability of the shelter. On advice from Daron, I made a Polycro (Double glazing film) ground sheet to go under the inner and into the porch. (See above).

I welcome any advice from other Duomid users, as I hope to continue using it over the coming months. For anyone who is interested, there is a good pitching video for the Duomid on Stick’s Blog YouTube channel.

Force Ten
Force Ten Helium Carbon 100 seam sealed
Duomid Pole
Creating a support for the Duomid from two Z poles.

With thanks to Colin, Emma, Daron, Stick and Matt.