Sunday, 4 May 2014

Walkers Wisdom

There are plenty of excellent sites telling all about the important things you need to be aware of when hiking in the hills (none better than the Mountain Rescue pages) but what about all the important nuggets of information they don't tell you on there?  Things like...

But it's so close...

  • Don't start your walk down hill.  Yes there's a pretty view and the car park might be cheap, but at the end of a long hike you'll be cursing that last mile uphill back to the car.
  • Always have a plan B.  I don't care how much plan A looks like a good idea, plan B is always needed in case the weather closes in, the path is closed, the path obstinately refuses to be found, the pub you just passed looks rather nice or you bought the wrong map.  Not saying any of that has ever happened to me, just mentioning it, that's all.
  • You do not speak cow.  Or sheep.  That will not, however, prevent you from mooing and baaaing at them as you pass by.  Expect blank non comprehending looks - especially from the serious hikers you didn't hear approaching from behind.
  • It is further than you think.  Honestly - trust me on this one.  When you're stood on top of a fell on a bright sunny day looking at all those other summits so close you could almost touch them turn to the person nearest to you and ask them to give you a sound slap.  Believe me it will hurt a lot less than your legs after you've hiked off more than you can chew.
  • Sound carries along valleys.  Specifically arguing about the route carries along any valley you happen to be in at the time, allowing other walkers to hear that you "...should have turned left at the bloody fork a mile back, not right."
Never travel without Soreen! (Penicillin optional)
  • Sarnies and crisps do not travel well - what you need are good robust pies and maltloaf.  I'll come clean, several months ago Soreen kindly sent me a box of goodies so I could write about them but please don't think this has swayed me in anyway.  A quick flick through my blogs will prove I have been a dyed in the wool Soreen fan for many moons .  Seriously we never hike without them - they are indestructible, taste fab and are full of useful calories.
  • Avoid bulky bracelets and watches - when it comes to any kind of scrambling - which all of the best hikes should contain - watch winders and big bangles have a nasty habit of embedding themselves into the back of your hands.
  • When in need of a pee, take your rucksack with you.  If you leave it on the path and venture into the bushes, the first thing the next passing hiker will do is see the rucksack and look around to see if the person it belongs to is nearby...
  • It might be full of gorgeous gooey well deserved calories, but chocolate melts meaning on hot sunny days you'll be drinking your Snickers bar not eating it.  (Some might say another good reason to pack a Soreen...)
  • And while I'm on the subject of Snickers - on winter hikes the toffee will set to the consistency of concrete.  When they tell you to take an ice axe on winter hikes it isn't just for safety - you may need it to help prepare lunch.
  • Tell people where you're going in a "this is an important aspect of mountain safety" manner rather than a "I'm climbing lake district fells while you're stuck in an office" manner.  The latter may be more fun but it won't make you popular.
"I'm climbing Ill Bell today - if I'm not home by 8pm call MR" Correct
"Ha, ha I'm climbing Ill Bell today while you're stuck in the office" Incorrect
  • Finally, have fun - if you walk 20 miles then well done you, if you walk 1 mile, equally well done.  Just get out there, take a few deep breaths and remember why it's good to be alive!

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Hanging by a thread...

Another place we'd vowed to return to was Kielder - following our spectacular introduction to the area courtesy of the Calvert Trust we'd promised to return early in 2014 before the midges took up residence.  It's nothing personal, I'm just allergic to them and do a great impression of a puffer fish if I get too many bites.

On day 1 it peed down so all we managed was a hike and a bouncy boat ride.  On day 2 a dose of insomnia was put to good use when I decided to nip down to the lake shore to watch the sunrise over the lake and commune with the red squirrels.

Daybreak over Kielder
After a bacon roll to bring me back to my senses it was back to re-visit the Calvert Trust to try our hands at the bits of the climbing wall which had previously defeated us and to tackle the Velcro Olympics which we'd missed on our first visit.

Steve made it look easy.
I think the climbing wall was meant to be the main event, but personally I was counting down the seconds until I could have a go on the giant inflatable Velcro Olympics.  And don't try telling me it's just for kids - 8 Velcro suits and only 2 of them in kids sizes?  I rest my case.  Mind you while the kids raced through 10 or more times we were knackered after 4 attempts - the moral of the story clearly being that a diet of coco pops, Nutella and ice cream is what's needed next time I'm out on the fells.

Winner got the camera, loser got their photo taken...
On day 3 we took to our bikes for a lap of the lake.  27 miles all told but with plenty of excuses to stop along the way.  The assorted art installations impressed and bemused us in equal measure but most are practical as well as pretty which means there's always somewhere to have your flask of tea and your sarnies.

Belvedere ("Good View" in Italian)
The Janus Chairs were our clear favourite - can't think why...

View from the Janus Chairs
After a soggy start we had excellent weather which is perhaps as well as it's an energy sapping ride for hobby cyclists like us.  Having spent the day enjoying such a wonderful free spectacle we thought it only right and fair to donate some of tourist pounds to the support the local breweries - a vital part of the nation's economy...

Kielder Water
Kielder Water near Leaplish


Being hell bent on grabbing any crazy new experience going I applied to be in the opening/ closing ceremony of the Commonwealth Games which is how I found myself at an audition in Glasgow surrounded by folks in leg warmers reminding me what it must have been like to be backstage at Fame.

Howgills from the train window
We took the train up which allowed us to enjoy the views and truly establish our tourist credentials early on as we took assorted photos through the train windows.  But when the Howgills look like that, why wouldn't you?

The Clyde at night...(well, dusk!)
Glasgow really surprised us both, in a good way.  The walk along the Clyde to the B&B whilst not picturesque in a Lake District way had plenty to offer in terms of history and architecture.  We planned to pop into the "museum" marked on the map for a coffee but were so blown away when we got to it that we spent the rest of that afternoon and all of the following morning there.

A very happy ship.  :-)
The Riverside Museum is amazing, entertaining, innovative and FREE - even the boat was smiling.  We are very keen to head back and see more of the city, which is fortunate as I was lucky enough to get selected to be in the closing ceremony so we'll be back plenty over the next couple of months.  (Don't expect me to spill any secrets though, my lips are sealed until after the event!)  But you CAN read about my adventures through rehearsals here.

Knights in shining armour

Our long journey home from Cornwall was paused in Devon for a few days where we took time out to visit 2 magnificent National Trust properties.  Knightshayes is definitely one of the best we have ever been to - I normally have a pretty short attention span in country gardens but not here, they are spectacular and we particularly enjoyed the guided tour of the walled garden and the vast expanses of rhubarb.

My lawn looks like this...sort of...

Interesting sculptures growing from the ground.
I'd like to say the final day of our tour was spent being equally cultured at Dunster Castle - but that's only half true. Fuelled by goodies from the amazing "Baked to Perfection" shop in Dulverton we headed from Dunster to Minehead and mindlessly blew the last of our tourist pennies in the slot machines along the seafront.  We only ever partake of the 2p machines meaning £5 kept us amused for most of the afternoon and produced 3 highly valuable prizes from the machines.

Dunster Castle.  Well not all of it obviously...

So, a busy month that has seen us dancing, surfing, climbing, cycling, hiking, zipwiring, delving into history, drinking beer, eating cream teas and generally making the most of all the fantastic stuff we can visit without the need of airport queues, visas or injections. Oh, and if you're worried that I missed out Cumbria then here's proof that we even squeezed in a fantastic hike and ridge route in between our other adventures. (In fact the only thing I haven't done is keep the blog up to date - sorry about that)

I don't have a deep hankering to travel the world but I do have a very deep longing to see more of the British Isles - in fact I'm thinking of getting a T shirt designed - Proud to be a Bloody Tourist!  Who's with me?  :-)

Surf far, surf good...

Work took me down to Exeter and an over developed sense of adventure took us on to Sennen Cove.  It's an awfully long drive from Cumbria but the weather was stunning with the twinkling blue skies and stunning sandy beaches evoking idyllic childhood memories of old family holidays.

Steve on approach to Sennen Cove
Having gotten used to the tidal extremes of Morecambe Bay it seemed odd that the tide didn't really seem to go out here but that just meant I didn't have to walk too far for a paddle.  Well, when I say paddle I mean "roll up your jeans, we can paddle around those rocks without having to go back to the cliff path honest - oh well never mind I'm sure they'll dry soon"

Views from the cliff path to Lands End
Fuelled by an unseemly number of pasties and cream teas we headed for Lands End - the views are spectacular but the cliffs are suffering from a combined attack from tourist and mother nature (here's a pic from last winter's storms in case you missed them...) but they're made of tough stuff so I'm sure they'll survive!

Tough cliffs
If you're hiking in Cornwall be prepared for a challenge if you head inland.  The coastal path is magnificent but the interior paths are blocked, overgrown and largely unsignposted.  We gave up trying to find the paths halfway through our planned walk from Sennen to the Minack Theatre and stuck to the roads instead but regardless of the challenges the views were worth it.  Rowena Cade was a driven, and clearly very fit, woman who planned, built and financed the theatre during the course of her lifetime - my only regret is that I've never seen a show there.  One day...

Minack Theatre
Our last mission in Cornwall was to get up close & personal with the waves so we booked a session with Sennen Surfing Centre - they had their work cut out for them as I have a lousy sense of balance, even when there's no gin involved - but we had a fantastic time and I hummed the Hawaii Five-O theme tune throughout.  If you're ever down there look them up and give it a go - you'll definitely get your money's worth!

Da da da da daaa da, da da da da daaa....

Plundering the tourist leaflets at the campsite Steve decided that the most sensible thing to do en route to our next stop was to whiz along England's longest zipwire which flies high above the Eden Project - one of those "it seemed like a great idea at the time" moments.

The faces of fear...
It wasn't nearly as fast or scary as we expected but that could be because we're used to being strapped into tight harnesses - as a result of our visits to the Calvert Trust I hasten to add...  It was a great experience though and definitely worth a whiz if you're visiting the Eden Project.