Monday, 28 August 2017

You Shall Not Pass!

I love it when someone contacts me as a result of a blog - and even better when it's someone full of useful information like Nick Thorne.  Nick is the Countryside Access Adviser for the Lake District National Parks Authority (LDNPA) and after reading my last blog he contacted me to ask more about the overgrown routes.

Now, this may sound daft, but even though I've been hiking for years, it never occurred to me to report an overgrown path - I wouldn't have known who to report it to or what happened next, but Nick has answered all that for me!

Here's what he says:

In a nutshell, the management of Rights of Way falls to the local highway authority (usually the county council or unitary authority).  Here it is Cumbria County Council.  We have an agency agreement with them, whereby all their powers and duties are delegated to us, and we look after everything inside the National Park (except for roads – sealed or unsealed).  That’s about 3,200km of footpath, bridleway, restricted byway, and byway.

Basically, we have a huge database, which has an entry for every gate, stile, signpost, and so on along each right of way.  We survey these at least every four years, and log the outcome.  We also receive reports from the public, and log all these.  From this, our five area based rangers pull up a list of everything that is reported in their patch as needing work, and will deal with it in due course.

Obviously "due course" is rarely as quickly as anyone would like it to be, but these guys have spent the past few years repairing the billions of pounds worth of damage done by Storm Desmond in December 2015.  There's a great set of FAQs here if you want more information.

As you can imagine, on many low level routes bracken is a perennial problem in some parts of the county and there is a strimming programme in place to try and combat it.  Of course storms and flooding events mean that resources have to be directed elsewhere at times, but we can all get stuck in, either with LDNPA or one of the many conservation groups working hard to keep our footpaths clear.

So, what's the best advice for dealing with overgrown paths?  Here are Nick's top 5 tips:

1.     Take a stout stick
2.     Wear trousers and a shirt (I can vouch for this as being excellent advice - also consider heavier trousers as I found the nettles still got through my light walking trousers.)
3.     Go back with your friends and neighbours with slashers and loppers
4.     Report it to your local highway authority
5.     Only use it out of the summer season

I'd also add that if you're wading through thick bracken, wear gaiters or keep your trousers tucked into your socks and do a full tick check afterwards

Not sexy, but then neither are tick bites...

Sunday, 13 August 2017

The path less travelled...

Today I learned that, despite what the motivation posters might tell me, sometimes the path less travelled is less travelled for a very good reason. Or maybe I'm just an overly optimistic hiker.

Steve was off taking fab photos for his new book and I wasn't about to let a sunny day go to waste by finishing the decorating so I slung some goodies into a rucksack, plotted a route and headed out.  It all started really rather well...

I even got serenaded by a very tuneful sheep!

Then it went a bit wrong, and this is what I mean by me being an optimistic hiker.  When I plan a route I assume a footpath is a footpath - that a nice, bright, inviting green wiggly line on a map will translate into a nice sunny footpath.  I know - mad right?  I should know better after all of these years.  To be fair I've spent so long on the high fells, where this is the case, that I'd forgotten low level walks could be quite different.

Overgrown doesn't even come close to what I encountered...

And this is where phase two of my optimism kicks in "it's tricky, but I'm sure it will be clear just around the next bend." Wrong, wrong, WRONG!

Optimism phase three goes something like "well, that's the end of that path, I'm sure the rest of the walk will be beautiful." Guess again.

Honestly, the photo above was taken from the top of a stone stile and shows my "path".  I'll leave you to pick it out for me.  I'm 5ft 10 ins and the bracken was nearly up to my head at times.

Optimism phase four is when I'm still determined to salvage some pretty views from my hellish hike to try and smugly prove that the "path less travelled" really does have nicer views.

Tom Tarn

Now I'm not saying they are bad views, I'm just saying that last week we drove, in a nice warm comfortable car, all the way to this:

I'm beginning to think that I could go off this hiking thing altogether.  Apart from the fact that there is deep and oddly sadistic joy at beating a bad route - sitting in the pub with a pint and a plate of food feeling that you've truly earned it as your arms and legs still tingle from all the nettle stings that made it through your clothing.  That could, of course, be the beer talking or, more likely, I'm now deep into optimism stage five "it wasn't that bad really".

The thing is, it can't put me off hiking as during the first two weeks of September I shall be embarking on a epic hike across the county with my good friend Karen.  The details are a closely guarded secret at the moment but watch this space and I guarantee you won't be disappointed.  Of course, after reading this, Karen may not trust me with any of the route planning... 😅

Saturday, 5 August 2017

50 Favourite UK Views

I have recently celebrated my 50th birthday (eek!) so I thought I'd celebrate with my personal 50 favourite views in the UK - we're lucky enough to have our (t)rusty motorhome Delores (15 years old this year!) and have made the most of her touring all over mainland UK.

This blog is also prompted by that fact that I've spoken with a few people over the past couple of months who have said things along the lines of "we've explored lots of places in the world but have never explored Britain/ never been to Scotland/ not really done the staycation thing" so, if that's you, here's what you're missing out on.

1. Windermere - because I just love the colours in this picture.

2. Durness - The first of many Scottish photos - just look at the stunning beaches

3. Bamburgh Castle - we love a good castle and they don't come much better than this.

4. Craigievar Castle - although this one is pretty darned gorgeous too!

5. Knightshayes - t'other end of the country and utterly stunning!

6. Lands End - well, while we're down there...

7. Monsal Head (Derbyshire) - we spend a lot of time on the coast but not so much inland. Need to fix that.

8. Hampden Stadium Glasgow - an odd one I know but I was in the closing ceremony for the Commonwealth Games in 2014 and it was an incredible experience - this is the view from the pitch with all the athletes.

9.  Arundel Castle - yes I know it's another castle, but it's very pretty!

10. Blackpool Illuminations - because I LOVE them!


11. Sun setting behind Arran - glass of wine just out of shot...

12. Brecon Beacons - yes it may rain here, but it wouldn't be gloriously green if it didn't!

13. The view from Ingleborough - when we first moved here I decided I wanted to hike "that big flat topped mountain over there".  😀

14. Royal Pavilion, Brighton - because it is mad and magnificent all at the same time

15. Kielder Water - great cycling, great art, great views

16. Skara Brae - Orkney is a spectacular island and these remains are better preserved than I am!

17. Gigha - a different Scottish Island but more stunning beaches - and we went swimming!

18. Farne Islands - love the colours of the sea

19. Blea Tarn on a beautiful evening

20. Whitley Bay - turns out I was pronouncing it all wrong!

21. Cadair Idris - Snowdon is awesome, Cadair is awesome and quieter...

22. Fleet Pond, Hampshire - we used to live near here

23. Mull of Galloway Lighthouse - this whole area is utterly stunning

24. Manchester Town Hall - such a beautiful building

25. The statue in St Pancras - always loved this statue, and the station roof (odd I know!)

26. Bittern at Leighton Moss - took us years to spot it!

27. Rainbows - we wouldn't have them without rain!

28. Abbeystead Reservoir - how pretty is this?

29. Malham Cove - keeps my inner geologist very happy.

30. The Eden Project - beautiful outside and inside

31. Grasmere  - is there anything more perfect than Cumbria on a crisp autumn morning?

32. Ben Nevis - was cloudy when we went up & clear the day after. Sod's Law.

33. New England Bay - one of my favourite places in the world (apart from Cumbria!)

34. Minack Theatre - amazing place and fascinating history

35. Crinkle Crags & Bow Fell - one of the prettiest views there is

36. Seaton Lighthouse - did you know there's a gin distillery nearby too?  Hic.

37. Grey Mare's Tail waterfall - especially beautiful when the heather is out.

38. Whitby  - Steve took this & I love the odd perspective the miniature old boat gives.

39. Rockcliffe and the spectacular shell beach

40. Ice-bow on Kirkstone Pass - such a lucky spot!

41. Sycamore Gap - still remember it from Robin Hood.

42. Snowdon - well, a bit of it anyway, we were stood on the rest!

43. Corbridge Roman Town - my favourite kind of town centre - ancient and empty.

44. Falkirk Wheel - beautiful and practical, what more could you ask?

45. Rochester Castle - I was visiting a friend nearby and this was a lovely surprise

46. River Cam  - an oasis of calm just moments from the busy streets


47. King John's Castle Odiham - a properly hidden little gem

48. Sprinkling Tarn - love snowy winter hikes!

49. Crinan Canal - so pretty & so interesting.

50. Patterdale - this was from the start of an amazing walk. Stunning views, beautiful memories.