Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Two Falls and a Submission

A wrestling analogy seems appropriate to describe how many of us have battled our way through 2016 - but for us "two falls and a submission" is particularly apt.  As a kid I remember watching Dickie Davies on World of Sport on Saturday afternoons at my grandparents, with Big Daddy and Giant Haystacks going several rounds with each other. They'd take it in turns to leap off the ropes in what I am sure were carefully choreographed manoevers, to pin each other to the floor -banging out the count with their hands.  2016 has been a lot like, but without all the rehearsals and giant spandex wrestling suits.

The two falls were mine - in May I knocked myself senseless when I tripped running through Bowness for a ferry.  The docs told me it would take 12 - 18 months to recover, but I persevered and was making good progress, so celebrated by hurling myself off a footpath along the Eden Valley in October - a smaller concussion this time, but with 3 staples added to the mix.

Steve, on the other hand, is resisting being beaten into submission by a persistent, but as yet un-diagnosed, knee condition, which has resulted in him being on crutches since late August.  Not that this has stopped him completing all the photography for two books, planning the pics for a third and hiking up Loughrigg on a frozen November morning.  Or break-dancing on Grange prom...

You may think that grounding the two people behind a hiking a travel blog would slow things down somewhat, but it's going to take more than that to stop us - plus we still managed to do a whole bunch of cool stuff in 2016.  We've both chosen out top 5 stand out moments of the year to revisit and inspire us to keep battling on - you know, just in case 2017 is getting any ideas or anything...

Beth's Top 5 for 2016

1.  High Cup Nick

We'd been meaning to do this walk for a couple of years but I finally got around to it in September and it easily went straight into my top 10 fabulous walks list.  Mainly because it's a cracking hike, but also because my background is in geology and the rocks are superb.  Of course it didn't hurt that I also discovered some of the finest sloes in Cumbria on the walk which  were swiftly turned into several litres of sloe gin to keep us warm during the long cold winter months.  Where is this amazing crop?  It''s...sorry - could you repeat the question?

2.  Cream tea on Harter Fell

We had SUCH a lot of fun with this one!  I absolutely love Harter Fell and the views along Haweswater so the idea of having a full cream tea on the top of a fell really appealed.  It's not something I'd try on a trickier fell in unpredictable weather but it was a perfect spring day and we had a ball.  We got a few odd/ envious looks, but I wasn't sharing my clotted cream with anyone!

3.  Craigievar Castle

This was love at first sight. No - this was love before first sight.  I'd seen the photos in the National Trust for Scotland booklet and knew I had to see it for real.  It's not easy to get to, even if you happen to be lurking around the Aberdeen area, but it's well worth the effort.  The only access to the inside is by guided tour, but this was utterly fascinating and the views of the castle, and from the castle, were absolutely breathtaking.

4.  Cheltenham Literary Festival

I'm addicted to both the outdoors and reading so a book festival with an outdoors theme was always going to be a winner.  I saw some great speakers but none of them more "outdoors" than Major Tom himself, Commander Chris Hadfield.  The way he speaks about seeing the planet from space and the need to care for it is truly inspirational and I was absolutely honoured to have the chance to meet him afterwards.  He also inspired my favourite blog of the year, all about why we need to send poets into space...

5.  Bum Cloud over Walney Island

Yes it's silly, but memories should make you smile - and this photo always does that.  We spent the first 6 months of the year producing a series of walks for Cumbria Wildlife Trust and, on this particular day, had had a wonderful time exploring Walney Island.  This photo was taken towards the end of the day when a giant bum shaped cloud appeared perfectly reflected in a small lake, causing us both to dissolve into a fit of giggles.  As the title of the Good Life Christmas Special says (essential viewing this time of year) "Silly, but it's fun"

Steve's Top 5 for 2016

1.  Wetherlam in the snow

One of the best things about being 6ft 4ins is that I don't sink quite as deep into the snow as Beth does - plus she generally tries to tear off ahead so she makes a useful depth gauge. This was a long and challenging walk and the snow was pretty deep in places, but Wetherlam isn't too tricky a fell and we both got home in one piece - Beth's bum was colder than mine though...

2. Zipworld Caverns Blaenau Ffestiniog

We'd done plenty of zipwires and high ropes courses in the past but nothing had quite prepared us for this - clambering around in a cavern deep underground.  Although we knew everything *must* be pretty tightly screwed into the walls, when you're dangling 100ft or so above the cave floor you do feel the need to double check.  Of course, I wasn't scared at all and didn't scream like a girl at any point.  Not even once. Honest...

3.  Snowdon

Technically this was my second time on the top of Snowdon but, as my first ascent was at the age of 4 months in a pram on the train, I'm not going to count it.  This time I went up on foot via the Rhyd Ddu route and despite it being early May, it was another snowy extravaganza.  Along the summit ridge the paths were solid ice, but that didn't stop several hundred other people also attempting the route.  Has to be the busiest summit we've ever been on, but a really interesting mountain.

4.  Kendal Mountain Festival - Ullswater Screening

Throughout the year there are Kendal Mountain Festival events and this summer we spent a lovely afternoon and evening on the banks of Ullswater watching a series of excellent films.  The whole evening was very civilised with picnic hampers and Prosecco as far as the eye could see.  As well as the great films we were also introduced to the songs that became the soundtack to the rest of the year, especially during our extended tour of Scotland - Christine & the Queens and First Aid Kit.  Just humming a few bars and I'm back there again now...

5.  High jinks in a Hilux

I really didn't expect this to be quite as much fun as it was.  I also planned to share more of the driving with Beth but that didn't really happen either.  When Vantage Motors asked us if we'd like to play with it for the weekend I'm not sure they expected it to come back with quite as many miles on the clock as it did - we even managed another cream tea, this time in the back of the Hilux on Walna Scar car park.  It persuaded  us to trade our battered old Freelander in for a rather nice (used) Toyota Rav 4 which will no doubt be popping up in blogs throughout 2017...

We're both now hoping that 2017 will turn out to be a little less painful than 2016 but, whatever happens, we'll still be out there finding fun things to do.

We sincerely hope you all have a very Merry Christmas full of family fun an adventurous New Year full of exciting new challenges!

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Thermoballs are GO!

Northface Thermoballs Insulated Jacket

As a regular hiker but someone that feels the wind chill I need a jacket to cover all environments and this has sometimes resulted in me looking like a 6ft 4 version of the Michelin Man. Not so with the Northface Thermoball insulated hoodie which, with a waterproof shell, makes a perfect combo to combat those nasty heavy rain and strong wind combos.

I was after a jacket that was light yet thermal and suitable for #EverydayLifeOutdoors from shopping in the high street to walking the fells, mountain biking or sitting still while taking landscape photography – oh and even canoeing on the lakes when I’ve finally decided on the right canoe.  (or keeping the wife warm when she wants the heating turned up at home – yes, I’m that mean!)

The next decision was whether to go for a down or synthetic jacket. Traditional goose down is very warm though not so good at maintaining warmth when wet. Synthetic down, the scientists tell us, is just as warm as goose down but is also water resistant meaning when the down gets wet it is able to dry quicker without clumping and so maintains your body warmth better.

Thin thermal layers are important and really do work. Having many thinner layers traps more air than a couple of thick layers, but make sure each layer is breathable (or wicks). Trapped in perspiration will only become cold and make you even colder. But hey, you already knew that didn’t you?

For all those times I’m out on the fells taking photos and waiting for the right light, only to get rained on, I decided to try a synthetic down jacket. The latest tech in synthetic down is Primaloft Thermoball. It’s really light and packs down to a very small size, ideal when I’m already weighed down by lots of camera equipment, and doubly important  as I’m on crutches at the moment.

So far I’m loving it, I’ve been able to reduce the bulkiness while still keeping toasty warm, plus I don’t have to worry about the rain quite so much.  All of which means that those long sitting still moments, waiting to capture that perfect shot, are a lot more comfortable.

Techno stuff:

15D nylon ripstop with ThermoBall™ insulation
Attached fully adjustable hood
Exposed molded tooth, center front zip
Hem cinch cord
Internal elastic cuff
Secure-zip, covered hand pockets

Water Resistant: Yes
Windproof: Yes
Insulating: Yes
Hooded: Yes
Stuffable / Packable: Yes
Keeping the wife warm: Yes

600 Fill Goose Down - provides warmth equal to 600 Fill Goose Down
Packs up into it's own pocket for easy storage
Stays warm, even when wet

*apologies for the dodgy selfies!

Monday, 5 December 2016

5 Wonderful Winter Walks in Cumbria

Tis the season to go on cold wintery hikes then get warm again in snug cozy pubs and tea rooms.  Here are 5 of our favourite wintery walks, all offering spectacular views and many of them with good food at the end.

1.  Arnside Knott

Arnside is tucked away right in the south of the county but Arnside Knott offers some of the best views of the fells.  There are plenty of routes up either from Arnside village or from the campsites in Silverdale - you can also drive half way up if you're not feeling too energetic.  From the top you can enjoy glorious panoramic views of the Kent Estuary, Morecambe Bay and the snowy Lake District fells away in the distance.  Once you're done there are a number of excellent pubs in the village or the superb village chippy - honestly, what more do you want from a walk?


2. Wetherlam

Granted this one is more of a hike, but there are some sensible paths up here in snowy weather though do please always ensure you're properly kitted out before you head up there in winter.  The thing with snow is that the paths vanish and the snow drifts so you have to rely more on your wits and map reading skills.  That said it's fantastic fun if somewhat exhausting to wade through the snow - plus a snow slope seems to bring out the inner child in most of us.

3. Grasmere & Loughrigg

OK, back to something more gentle, but with the option to be more ambitious if the mood takes you.  From Grasmere village there's a lovely route around the lake, though some of it does run along a pavement beside the road.  Once you're on the far side you can either follow the lakeside path back around to the village or venture up the paths onto Loughrigg.  The paths up onto Loughrigg Terrace are well trodden and easy to follow and the views are definitely worth the effort.

4.  Smardale Gill

I know this is an old favourite of ours and, if you're a regular reader of the blog you're probably tutting at me mentioning it again, but it is a perfect winter walk - lots of broad level paths and stunning views.  If you walk in from Newbiggin-on-Lune it adds a bit more to the hike but means there's a lovely pub waiting for you when you're finished.  There's tons of history there too - but if you want to know more about that you'll need to buy our book.  (Shameless plug, I know!)

5.  Duddon Valley

Oh I am going to be in BIG trouble with some folks for mentioning this one - it's one of the best kept secrets in Cumbria and is a SUPERB place for a hike any time of year, but, for me, the colours in the winter make it just perfect.  You can reach it from just south of Torver and it's a valley full of secrets.  My only complaint is that the excellent pub en route is just a bit too cosy making it hard work to tear ourselves away for the second half of the hike.  Don't say I didn't warn you.

Once you're done with all the walking, what better than to curl up with a good book - or 3!  Click on the photo below to find out more about our books & how to order them.

Click HERE to learn more