Solstice Celebrations

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.

Wishing you a happy Solstice and outdoor year.

Love your lungs

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.

image
Foliage at Garry Bridge, Killiecrankie

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.

Cheviots
Cheviots on the Pennine Way

Twitter Detox

As a digital immigrant, I didn’t really know much about online safety when I started Rucksack Rose using a pseudonym in 2012. My aims were to celebrate the life of my late mother and to remind myself, after her long illness, that beauty and kindness still existed in the world. I wanted to connect with other outdoor people, particularly people who are normally excluded from outdoor debates. Naively I thought that is what the internet was for. Because of this, I didn’t know how to react or who to turn to when my sites were targeted by cyberstalkers, malware and organised trolling. For the last 5 years I have made repeated attempts to refer people to my personal site for information and news, but the main thing I have learned is that trolls can’t, or won’t, read.

After my studies in 2016, issues from the same people flared up again when I mentioned that my application had been accepted for the TGO challenge, and their sheer unpleasantness resulted in my withdrawal from the event.

This was soon followed by another outburst from a couple of people from the same group (without even knowing the circumstances) when I mentioned that I had made a call to Mountain Rescue for advice during a walk in memory of a relative.

RR Bullying 1
Blow the whistle on trolling and harassment

This group seem to have nothing better to do with themselves than to wreak emotional devastation on Twitter. After haranguing me for over two years, they eventually pressured me into disclosing private information which was really off topic on this blog.

All these experiences have changed my approach to blogging and social media, which is ironic on a blog intended to share beauty and kindness. As a result I have put Twitter on hold for the moment as I’m not sure it is the right platform for remembering people, beauty, kindness, survivors or fledgling businesses. When I try to balance out the positive contribution it is making to Rucksack Rose against the emotional damage being caused by trolls, and the lax safety responses from the company involved, the option to come off Twitter is becoming an increasingly tempting one.

Otherwise all is good, and everything else will hopefully carry on with improved productivity in a less toxic environment. Thanks again to the people who have stopped by. It means a great deal to me.

Wild Flowers
Wild Flowers near Malham

Does the world need another review of 2017?

Summary.

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.

Outdoor
rucksackrose.com

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.

RR Thanks
Thank You from Rucksack Rose

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.

Pictures.

My achievements over the last year included completing my first solo wild camp in January to Shillhope Law in Upper Coquetdale, Northumberland.

Sunrise from Shillhope Law
Sunrise from Shillhope Law, Northumberland in winter

I also completed two backpacked trails – the Berwickshire Coastal Path in March..

Sunrise near Eyemouth
Sunrise near Eyemouth on the Berwickshire Coastal Path
Eyemouth Port
Eyemouth Port, Berwickshire

… and the Speyside Way in May.

Cairngorms
Looking towards the Cairngorms from the Speyside Way near Aviemore
Fochabers
Near Fochabers on the Speyside Way

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.

Blackcraig Forest
Views from Blackcraig Forest on the Cateran Trail
Camp site
Bealach Cumhang Camp on The Rob Roy Way

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.

Tweed and Till
First live video: Confluence of the River Tweed and the River Till

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.

Garry Bridge
Voluntary work in North Perthshire: View from Garry Bridge, Linn of Tummel
Killiecrankie
Trooper’s Den at Killiecrankie
Linn of Tummel Falls
Waterfall at Linn of Tummel viewpoint

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.

2018.

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.

RR New Year 2017

Snaps from The Sill

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.

The Sill Entrance
Entrance to The Sill, Northumberland
The Sill
The Sill Main Entrance, Northumberland
The Sill front face
The front face at The Sill, Northumberland
The Sill canopy
Wooden canopy at The Sill, Northumberland
The Sill Roof
End view of The Sill with terrace, cafe and grassland roof
View from The Sill roof garden
View from The Sill grassland roof
The Sill Museum
Display space, The Sill, Northumberland

Video

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.

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🌹