The H Word

This subject has never been far from my thoughts since I started this blog, but I would preface this post by saying that I am not an expert in this area. I saw my first fox up close when out walking on the South Downs at university, and later became aware of foxes scavenging from the neighbourhood bins in south London. Like many city dwellers, at the time I was thrilled to realise that I could be living in such close proximity to wild animals.

When I moved to the borders however, it was hard to ignore the fact that there were several active local hunts who then took huge packs of noisy dogs out with them, or that the hills were chequered with burnt heather patches to encourage the grouse population. Although the fishing doesn’t trouble me, as a walker I soon realised that it would be valuable to know when, where and how to avoid the hunting and the shooting.

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Salmon fishing with a ghillie on the River Tweed

After living amongst and sharing the countryside with hunters, guns, anglers, ghillies, guides, beaters, gamekeepers, and the invisible landowners who make serious amounts of money from these pursuits, what I would now say through gritted teeth to my old city self about the H word (which I still hesitate to use), is sadly just jobs, jobs and jobs. Many rural communities in this area suffer from high unemployment, rural poverty and lacklustre tourism compared to areas like the Lake District. Hunting, shooting and fishing are therefore a mainstay of the north Northumbrian and Scottish Borders economy, which provide sustainable jobs and attract tourists who need to be housed, fed, kitted out and entertained.

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Fishing Shiel on the River Tweed

Without these jobs and income sources, far more young people would be forced to leave this part of the countryside in search of work, and the subsidiary businesses which are sustained by the hunting, shooting and fishing tourists would fail or close, which could make it an unsustainable community. Confronted with the stark reality of that fact, I am hesitant to be confrontational about it.

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Angler

Although I wouldn’t hunt or shoot personally, I gradually realised that my existence in the borders was dependent on a successful local economy. Also I was surrounded by a ready supply of fresh, traceable fish and meat from farmers whose livelihood had been compromised by the foot and mouth epidemic. It was all a far cry from the meat section of the London supermarkets. So with my city morals and the last vestiges of my vegetarianism increasingly under strain, I eventually even partook of the spoils on occasions, which probably makes me every sort of hypocrite. My objections to the H word are to do with the effects on the ecosystem of native plants and wildlife, which I am gradually learning more about.

There are already ghost villages, industrial remains and many abandoned buildings in Northumberland and the Borders to remind us that communities have come and gone since the Iron Age, so I would be sad to see this area emptied out and unable to regenerate.

Burning in the Cheviots

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

What the area really needs are sustainable jobs and tourists such as walkers, cyclists, climbers, riders and nature lovers to visit and represent other interests in environmental and outdoor debates so, if you haven’t already sampled the local countryside, please do. It doesn’t all look like the photo above.

Note: The lack of more appropriate pictures in this post is due to the fact that I normally avoid areas where hunting or shooting are taking place. I have only once got close to a pack of hunting dogs and once to a shoot, and I got clear of both as quickly as possible, without lingering to take photos.

Posted in About me, About walking, blog, environment, Northumberland walks, Scotland walks, Scottish borders walks, walking, Walks | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Environmental Escapades

Living in a town as I currently do, every walk now begins and ends with a rail or road journey which has to be considered and planned for, which is why I include a discussion of transport here. Since I began walking in the Scottish Borders at the time of the foot and mouth epidemic, I have become aware of the fragility of the environment I enjoy so much. My earliest walks involved swilling my boots in troughs of chemicals aimed at halting the spread of the disease and some paths were completely sealed off, but the farmers were keen to encourage outdoor people to continue visiting the countryside.

Through my walking I have experienced up close the effects of things like disease, invasive species, erosion, flooding and climate change, as well as confronting the realities of threatened species such as elm, ash, red squirrels and bees. As a result of this experience, I have learned to respect the places I visit and to minimise the traces of my being there. Without shouting about it, I have also tried to make this blog consistent with the development of my environmental beliefs.

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Leaving early by train for the start of the Pennine Way

When I created the blog, I was lucky enough to have a car which I was able to jump into at the first sign of good weather like a true weekend warrior. When resources, transport and time are available, it is easy to write prolifically and pleasurably about the things I love. However when running a car became more costly, and I began to become aware of the environmental contradictions of my outdoor pursuits, I did my utmost to make my blog work using public transport. I am proud to say that I got to and from all my long distance walks on public transport.

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Setting off for the start of the Dales Way at Ilkley

For my shorter walks and trips, I really have battled with the logistics of trains, coaches, taxis and buses, which often don’t visit the places I want to reach, or run once or twice a week at most, but I have achieved less in the way of interesting blog posts. Because large areas of my local stomping grounds are inaccessible by bus, I tried car hire for a while, but found it a bit inflexible. After much deliberation, I have finally opted to join a car club to enable me to reach the wilder places and trails I love with some degree of spontaneity.

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The end of the Berwickshire Coastal Path at Cockburnspath

I won’t be abandoning public transport (where it is feasible) any time soon, but using a car club seems the ideal way of achieving the best of both worlds; minimising my environmental footprint and exploring wild places. I hope that this will find some kindred spirits among my readers.

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Fear and the outdoors

Having completed my first solo wild camp this week, I have rather ambitiously begun a separate tab called Camps on this blog in which you can follow (or not) my attempts to conquer my fears and become experienced at wild camping. There you can read about my first group trip to the Peak District and my first solo trip to Upper Coquetdale in Northumberland.

View on my first solo wild-camping trip in Upper Coquetdale, Northumberland

View on my first solo wild-camping trip in Upper Coquetdale, Northumberland

In my young imagination darkness and the outside were always full of terrors. I was the kind of child who wanted to sleep with the light on, and that shaped my view of the outdoors and wild camping in particular. This fear hampered my walking and my long distance trails for a few years, restricting me to accommodation schedules and adding to the cost of my trips. Several things have helped me to overcome this fear.

The first is to set myself some hard and fast goal/s which would give me a reason to wild camp, and some deadlines to work towards (although one of my first goals fell through). The second has been to gradually assemble a kit in which I have confidence, and the third has been to devise a game plan in which I progress gradually from bed and breakfasts to wild camping on my long distance trails. The fourth continues to be the advice and support of some people who have been very helpful (hopefully they know who they are). The fifth is learning to beware of people who try to undermine you, under the guise of helping you, because it is your development which matters most in that situation.

Sunrise from Shillhope Law, Northumberland in winter

Sunrise from Shillhope Law, Northumberland in winter

My advice is not to put pressure on people who are afraid of any outdoor situations. Fear is natural and inevitable at certain times and in certain situations in the outdoors. The truth is that many outdoors people have had experiences which have made them afraid, and it is much more helpful to people with less experience if we can be honest with ourselves and eachother about this. After all, fear performs a necessary function, keeping our senses alert and sharpening our survival instincts.

Upper Coquetdale, Northumberland in winter

Upper Coquetdale, Northumberland in winter

As the enclosures became virtually non existent at recent campsites, and I was forced to walk in darkness several times on long distance trails, my fears began to disintegrate, and it became an easier transition into wild camping. The old spectres have hopefully now been replaced by beautiful images of the first rays of the sun hitting the tops of the hills in Upper Coquetdale on a beautiful, if chilly, January morning, making my journey worthwhile.

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Short and sweet

I have listed a selection of six of my favourite short, easy walks (under 5 miles long) in Northumberland, hand picked because they contain some lovely places. Take your pick from castles, waterfalls, grey seals, St Cuthbert’s Chapel, puffins, scheduled ancient monuments, salmon fishermen and pristine beaches on walks which are suitable for all the family. They all have easy parking and facilities such as pubs, cafes and shops nearby, details of which are included on the page. Take a look at Six Shorts in the Northumberland section.

6 short walks in Northumberland

6 short walks in Northumberland

 

Posted in About walking, microadventure, nanoadventure, Northumberland walks, Scottish borders walks, Walks | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Happy New Year for 2017

Wishing you all happiness and fulfilment in 2017. Rose 🌹

Walking Year

Although it hasn’t been a very busy year the outdoors has been in my thoughts and plans for the coming year. Rose 🌹

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Seasonal Greetings

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A year in nature

Thanks for visiting and for continuing to read 🌹

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TGO Challenge 2017

With huge regret, I have withdrawn from the TGO Challenge 2017, partly because of family responsibilities, and partly because of the unpleasantness of a very small, unrepresentative group of people who seem to thrive on circulating false, three year old gossip. I am now working on other plans for the coming year.

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Scotland. TGO Challenge 2017

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Blow the whistle on bullying

Blow the whistle on bullying

Blow the whistle on bullying in the outdoors

I have always strived to be an ambassador for the outdoors as it, and the people in it, have been saviours to me during difficult times. However it can sometimes be an aggressive place where people can become quite unpleasant and vindictive. If you find yourself on the receiving end of this kind of bullying, don’t suffer in silence. Blow the whistle, because you will generally find that other people are aware of who the bullies are, even if they don’t openly say so.

In the end I don’t think the majority of people involved in the outdoors want it to be diminished by the bullies, so tell the truth and, if possible, don’t allow them to undermine you. It is not an occupational hazard, it is a problem to be confronted.

Blow the whistle to send a message to the bullies that we know who they are.

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Wild camping and me

Many of the endurance athletes I respect have managed to cover long distances by camping in farms and gardens or using bothies, rescue huts, hostels and bunkhouses. In spite of this, wild camping seems to have become a by-word for outdoor proficiency. Listening to the Tough Girl Podcast, I have realised that some other women share my apprehension about wild camping. It has been such a relief to hear this discussed by people with really amazing achievements under their belts.

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Campsite Pics. Clockwise: My garden, Wasdale, Edale and Knarsdale

To rewind a bit, I backpacked the Pennine Way, staying in some very small campsites, on farms and in gardens, and my first wild camp was with a group of Twitter friends in the Peak District, shortly after I had finished this hike. On the whole this was a fairly good humoured and enjoyable introduction to wild camping. I learned a lot by simply watching what was going on around me and left feeling encouraged.

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About 6 months later I was pleased to be invited out for a second wild camp by someone else on Twitter. This trip didn’t go so well.

After a winter which was largely spent indoors supporting my father, I was a bit out of condition, but I didn’t regard it as a competition. I joined another walker (and her partner briefly) at their motorhome at Jedburgh for a bright and sunny day of walking on the St Cuthbert’s Way, which I had walked once before using hostels and B&Bs. I was feeling happy and carefree, but unfortunately by the time we pitched our tents, the invisible enemies of dehydration and heat exhaustion were causing me to feel very unwell. I had a throbbing headache, my head was spinning, I felt sick and a bit delirious. Most rescue people advise that if you don’t feel well you should turn back, and that is what I did. In retrospect I think this was the right decision.

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St Cuthbert’s Way

I packed up and left the other walker, who had refused to make a call out or come with me, but by the time I reached the road in the dark, I was feeling too sick to walk. I finally decided to call the hotel we had passed earlier in the day. The owner heroically came out in his car to pluck me up from the side of the road in the dark and take me back to the hotel where I was given tea and a much needed room for the night.

St Cuthbert's Way

St Cuthbert’s Way II

I mentioned some of this in a Trip Advisor review of the hotel made at the time in early 2014, and I have not seen either of the people involved since that time. A month or so later I discovered that I had been blocked by the walker on Twitter, so I emailed her again to apologise and reiterate that I had had too much sun.

I may be useless at some things, but I can recognise the symptoms of heat exhaustion and dehydration, having suffered from both before. The other walker was criticised by the people at the hotel at the time for not coming with me. Her decision left me quite hurt but, because she had offered to take me out, I spared her blushes by not discussing what had happened on social media for over two years. Sadly I now realise that saying nothing has given this couple the opportunity to claim that they know me far better than they do and to spread malicious untruths about me within the outdoor community while I was doing my M.A. This caused me to withdraw from the TGO Challenge 2017.

I don’t tend to gossip and I didn’t know how to respond to any of this unpleasantness after my course, but I began writing this blog for pleasure, and this is still being marred by the reactions of this couple over three years later. So reader beware of apparently kind offers from strangers on Twitter which can turn toxic.

[I have since taken advice regarding this and reported it. When I tried to post a link to this post on the walker’s partner’s blog, it was deleted and I was threatened with legal action for slander and libel. The advice I have been given is that something cannot be libellous or slanderous if it is true which it is, and so].

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Camping in Wasdale

Anyway, to return to the much more interesting present, and to answer some questions, the main reasons that I haven’t wild camped again until recently are:

  • I have been completing an M.A. for the last year
  • I have been trying to support my father
  • I have no car
  • I am an assault survivor which still makes me afraid of some situations.
  • I was really put off wild camping after the trip I have just described

I have mentioned some or all of these issues to some Twitter friends, but I’d rather not be feeling pressured into announcing them on here. I would prefer not to be defined by things that have happened to me in the past, so forgive me if, having explained this, I now focus on my outdoor activities, hoping that I can now do this in a less censorious and more supportive atmosphere. Apologies to my readers for having to use my blog to counter gossip rather than just write about the outdoors which is all I really want to do on here.

Thanks very much to the people who have stopped by since I first published this post in December of 2016. It really does mean a huge amount to me.

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Feedback

Just a quick feedback post on re-launching my blog after a year away and the various plans outlined recently in my Sprucing things up post.

  • Creating fresh content

Creating fresh content also forces you to confront content which is frankly not fresh. I have therefore deleted the Reviews tab as an old review is about as relevant for gear buyers as an old newspaper is for news. I will still write reviews but I will write them as posts which disappear into the archives after a while. With some regret I have also done away with a couple of geographical sections on my blog to focus on areas which I know more about. This is not an indication that I love them any less than I did, but an acknowledgement that there are very good blogs out there which cover these areas. Regarding producing new content there are more walks in the pipeline

  • Refreshing all the content and some of the pictures on my blog

I have been gradually working through all my blog posts editing both the text and pictures in the interests of accuracy and appearance. I hope this will bring about an overall improvement in the relevance and interest of the content.

  • Giving more opportunities for feedback

I am generally happy to get constructive feedback or suggestions which will be beneficial to my readers. I normally respond promptly to comments and messages when I’m at home. Your comments have always helped shape my future plans and decisions

  • Improving my existing and forthcoming videos.

This is a big project as I have over 80 videos on YouTube, but I am enhancing the thumbnails, descriptions, tags and in some cases re-uploading the poorer quality videos. I have also started using a better camera and improved software which can only be an improvement. (Cont)

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Clockwise: Malham Cove, Hadrian’s Wall, High Force, Helm Crag

  • Introducing ways to allow people to give financial support or advertise if they want

See the Supporting Me and Outdoor Links pages if you are interested.

  • Re-establishing contacts and catching up on Twitter

I am always pleased to get new followers, but also to manage to keep in touch with the older followers who I still value. My timeline is busy so it is a case of finding ways to focus in on the activities which I think people follow me for. As well as my own stuff, I try to share some of the brilliant content and achievements which people share with me on Twitter.

  • Re-evaluating YouTube, Google+, Instagram and Audioboom profiles

After consulting followers, the consensus seemed to be that I should deactivate AudioBoom and Google + which I have now done. As a result I am now a leaner machine on this blog, Twitter, Youtube, Instagram and Viewranger.

  • Seeking adventure collaborators and walking companions

I have created a free, reciprocal outdoors links page and am seeking collaborators and walking and camping companions for trips and trails. Support and collaboration are not just about money, although it does help.

🌹

Wildflowers and plants.

Wildflowers and plants.

Thanks for reading, viewing and following. Rose

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