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 discussions, I have realised that some women share my apprehension about wild camping. It has been a relief to hear this discussed by people with amazing achievements under their belts.

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

I backpacked the Pennine Way in 2013, 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 afterwards. On the whole this was a fairly good humoured 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.

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. Whatever assessment the other walker claims to have made of my condition was made from zipped inside her tent.

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 (from inside her tent) 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.

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, which is dedicated to my mum, 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.

My own appraisal of the day.

For what it’s worth, my own appraisal of that day is that I was affected by the sun because it was a bright & sunny day and I had been indoors all winter. I had not taken a sunhat as I thought it was too early in the year to need one, but this was the wrong decision. I had also recently abandoned my rucksack hydration system with a hose because several had leaked whilst I was camping. Instead I had put a 1.5L plastic bottle of water in the back pocket of my rucksack, which meant that I had to stop and take my rucksack off whenever I wanted a drink. During the course of that day I only did this once or twice at the most which caused me to become dehydrated.

March 2017.

I have since taken advice regarding the problems I have been having with this couple and reported them. 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

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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Happy New Year 2016

With 2015 drawing to a less than satisfying close for me, I have decided to do that thing where you make resolutions to try to ensure that next year will be better! This year it has been brought home to me that unforeseen things do sometimes get in the way of wish fulfilment, and I have friends for whom it has also been a terrible year.

To all who read and follow me here and on Twitter, I wish you a very Happy New Year, and to the people who have had a lousy 2015, I really hope that 2016 will be a better year for you.

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These are my resolutions for 2016. I hope that you achieve at least some of yours too.

New Year Resolutions for 2016
New Year Resolutions for 2016

Happy New Year. Rose 😊

Walks around Britain podcast

Earlier in the year I was approached by Andrew White of Walks around Britain along with Damian Hall (writer and ultra runner who achieved a podium position in the tough Spine Race in 2015) to discuss our very different experiences of completing the Pennine Way, a national trail which celebrates it’s 50th birthday in 2015.

I backpacked the famous national trail over 20 days during the hottest part of the year, while Damian ran the route during the coldest part of the year in only 5 days. Talking about it was a great reminder of my hike along this brilliant trail and listening to Damian about his experience was fascinating.

In the second part of the podcast we hear from organisations and people involved in repairing the erosion of the moorlands in the Peak District and the South Pennines.

Here is a link to the Walks around Britain podcast which you can subscribe to via Audioboom or iTunes.

High Cup Nick
High Cup Nick

Best long distance trail results

Well, Twitter has spoken. Following a brainstorming session on Twitter and Google +, I created a poll of polls (below) in which people were invited to nominate and vote for their top 3 international long distance trails.

As you can see from my previous post, the shortlist included trails from all over the world, including the USA, New Zealand, Scotland, France and Turkey. The capture below shows the results on the closing date, but please feel free to continue voting.

The top five long distance trails as voted for by readers
The top five long distance trails as voted for by readers

Unfortunately some of the less well known trails like the GR5 (Netherlands to the Mediterranean) and the Lycian Way in Turkey didn’t fare so well in the poll, but perhaps that was to be expected.

In the end the poll was just for fun and I hope you enjoyed taking part.

From Slackpacker to Backpacker

Because of a fall at the end of 2012, this year got off to a slow start. My convalescent winter was spent reading about other people’s adventures, which inspired me to plan some of my own. The injury knocked my confidence, and dented confidence sometimes takes longer to recover from than broken bones.

I first ventured out into the country again on a group trip to Kirkby Stephen in February. I discovered how out of condition I was when I couldn’t complete the first 15 mile walk. I did manage a shorter walk the following day.

First trip out of 2013 to Kirkby Stephen
First trip out of 2013 to Kirkby Stephen

A few weeks later in March of 2013, I planned a week of some of my favourite Northumberland walks from a base in Rothbury in order to boost my fitness and my morale. Kirkby Stephen had taught me that I needed to take things at a more comfortable pace at first. Although it was still quite wintery on the hilltops, it was really good to get out again and revisit north Northumberland.

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College Burn near Westnewton

As some of you will know, my big plan for 2013 was to walk the Pennine Way to raise funds for Crisis UK, so I knew I had to get back into condition. With advice from some people about my camping kit, I began my attempt to transform myself from a slackpacker to a self supporting backpacker.

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Backpacking kit for the Pennine Way

I made plans to do two hikes in the spring; the 65 mile St Cuthbert’s Way during the wintery April, followed by the 75 mile Cumbria Way during May. I never stop learning when I hike, and these hikes were no exception. I was able to experiment with new kit, footwear, and different kinds of accommodation. The strange weather of the 2013 spring presented challenges on both walks, with 25cm of snow in places across the Scottish borders, and hail showers on the Cumbria Way.

Eildons
Snow on the Eildons

When the time came for me to set off on the Pennine Way in June, I was apprehensive about my achy tendons, and about camping in my new tent. I had consulted a podiatrist who gave me some exercises designed to prevent tendon injury, and sought some advice about camping, but I was still nervous when I arrived at Edale in June.

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Pennine Way practice in the garden

With hindsight, I can honestly say that all the kit and exercise preparation I did, and all the advice I sought turned out to be valuable. I saw quite a few people on the Pennine Way during the summer heatwave with problems such as sunburn, heat exhaustion, heavy packs and injury, which luckily didn’t affect me during my hike.

Pennine Way route map
Pennine Way route map

I completed the hike in 20 days but allowed a few negative comments at the end to get under my skin, which wasn’t helpful. My advice is to avoid negative people as they will drag you down. Some of the “areas for improvement” which emerged on the Pennine Way were my wild-camping and my mountain skills so the remainder of 2013 has been spent trying to address these issues.

I was lucky enough to team up with 4 other wild-campers on Twitter for my first wild camp in the Peak District. After the Pennine Way, it was relaxing not to have a schedule to adhere to, and to have the logistics planned by somebody else. Many people have made the point that we are generally much safer in the hills than we are in most cities, so I have no excuses left to stop me getting out there to wild camp in 2014.

I had planned to try and fit two more short trails in to the end of the year, but responsibilities at home have put these on hold. I did manage half of the Northumberland coast path which I hope to finish at some stage.

Alnmouth
Alnmouth

I can’t write about this year without mentioning some of the people in it, as well as the hikes. As my ambitions to do longer trails have grown, I have realised that the best people to turn to for advice are people who have done them. It was therefore a huge pleasure to meet trail walkers Sarah, Alasdair, Colin and Chris and to chat about many aspects of their experience on some of the worlds great trails. In October I was invited to the Lake District by the National Trust to meet Tanya Oliver of Fix the Fells to see some of the vital path maintenance they do to tackle problems caused by erosion and poor drainage on the upland fell paths. This fascinating day with Tanya also kickstarted my Wainwright bagging again in the Central Fells.

Tanya Oliver
Tanya Oliver surveys her workplace

All these experiences have meant that the line between myself and mountaineers has started to become a bit blurred and meaningless. In November I therefore took myself to the Kendal Mountain Festival to meet some more mountaineers. Over the weekend I met some friendly people, enjoyed some good craic, and saw some great talks and films, so I look forward to returning in the future. Watching films about mountains in the snow finally persuaded me that I need to improve my winter skills if I am going to complete any longer trails. Thus the year ended with me playing with my first ice axe and crampons at a Winter Skills lecture and booking myself onto a course.

At the end of 2013, many of the assumptions I had about hiking have disappeared, and I find myself wanting to improve my mountain skills in the coming year. Thanks for reading and I hope all your plans for next year come to fruition. All I can say about 2013 really is who knew!

Cross Fell
Summit of Cross Fell