Saturday, August 29, 2009

Tarts, puddings and views

I went out with the intention of getting a photograph of the Monsal viaduct in the summer sunshine, which I pretty much managed to do (although I had to wait for the sun to come out), but also managed to discover a new path and turn my route more circular into the bargain!

I walked the same route that I'd used earlier in the year. Join the Monsal Trail at Bakewell (buy a tart or pudding to eat later) and walk the 4m to Monsal Head. Then turn round and go back the same way. The Trail is a dismantled railway. These are easy to walk all year round because they're often surfaced:

Just before Monsal Head, you have to leave the railway line because of a bricked-up tunnel, so you detour across a couple of fields and then along a road before you get to the exciting bit. Here's the money shot. (It looks sooo different when it's not covered in snow)

It's worth a wander down to the viaduct and across it for the views either side:

This was the biggest and nicest surprise of today. On the way back, almost on a whim I took the bridleway at sk214708 which the map showed would take me back to Bakewell. I should have seen from the contours on the map that it would offer good views - it climbs about 45 meters before dropping back down into Bakewell.

Beside giving these lovely views, it made the route slightly more circular.

(What's the word for a route which retraces its steps half way back before taking a different path? ...semi-circular...?)

The new alternative bit is in pink.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Review - Ordnance Survey 'Active' maps

About a year ago I bought my first 'Active' map - a weatherproof version of the Explorer map of my area. It costs twice as much (about £14 versus £8 for the paper version).

The paper versions are printed on good heavy paper, but after the odd rain shower, sweaty hands, being folded and re-folded, this is the result - my last paper version of Explorer 245 resembles some holes being tentatively held together by papier mache. The cardboard cover fell off a long time ago, and it's nearly split along its length.

I've seen a couple of paper versions of this map end up like this in just a few years, and so paying a bit more for a hardier version seemed like a good investment.

This is my Active map after about a year of good use. How's it holding up?

Initially, I was a little bit disappointed. I had been expecting a map printed on some hi-tech plastic paper. In fact it's the regular paper map that's been laminated. The corners are left square, and I could see those getting bent and splitting (I suppose I could have taken some nail scissors to them and rounded them off).

However, having used it for a year, I couldn't be happier with it. It's had the same harsh treatment that my paper ones have had; it's been out in the rain, in sweaty hands, it's had insects and blackberries squashed on it, it's been bent and folded in ways that it doesn't find natural. Yet it still looks new.

If it rains, I can just use it as normal without it coming to any harm - the water wipes or dries off. Dirt and other marks wipe off too.

The corners are a little dog-eared as predicted, but only the corners of the cover, which is slightly bigger and protects the rest of the map.

A map case is a good alternative. If you don't mind wearing or carrying the case, that's a good way to go. I find them a bit of an encumbrance and like the flexibility of being able to shove the map away in my pocket when I'm on familiar territory.

Bear in mind that they are being updated all the time, so a map that lasts a lifetime may be a bit counterproductive. However, it only takes one shower and a bit of handling to damage the paper version. The choice is yours!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Some of the best views in South Derbyshire are in Leicestershire

Walked: 22 August 2009
Distance: 6.1 miles
Terrain: easy, but quite a bit of road.

A good viewpoint is an important part of a good circular walk. I've driven past this particular spot quite a few times since I've lived in the Midlands and made a mental note to myself that I should check the map and see what what possibilities there are for a walk that passes by it. But I've not managed it until today.

It's not marked on the map as a viewpoint, but I think it should be. It happens to be over the border in Leicestershire. So why am I saying that it's one of the best views in South Derbyshire? Well, it's just outside the South Derbyshire town of Melbourne and it just... *feels* like South Derbyshire; rural, rolling green hills.

The spot in question is on the B587 close to Staunton Harold Hall. Yes, you have to enjoy these views from the discomfort of a fast road. But it's worth it.

I've devised a circular route which includes this spot, and I've thoroughly enjoyed walking it today. It's been a beautifully clear and sunny day and there are several other delicious moments on this route.

There are a couple of convenient car parks en route (the Severn Trent one just past Dimminsdale and the craft centre) but I chose to start at the round car park below Staunton Harold Reservoir. It's off the circular route by about half a mile, and so adds a bit on to the total distance, but it's worthwhile because of the wonderful views from that car park (which *is* marked as a viewpoint on the map).

I've snapped this next view so many times before, so I've tried to find a couple of different angles. It's where the road passes Dimminsdale and crosses the bottom of the reservoir:

This walk follows the Ivanhoe Way for a little bit. When it parts company with the long-distance route, it crosses a couple more fields before emerging onto that B587. This is the spot I've been going on about. The next few photos are taken from there, pointing in various directions. It's the highest spot around, and there's a good long view in almost all directions. Unfortunately, you're on a fast road, and enjoying these views by peering over hedgerows, but hey. Footpaths are few and far between here, but it's worth walking along the road north-west as far as a sharp bend in the road for another vantage point to take in more of these long views.

Unfortunately, it's then about a kilometer along this road before we pick up the driveway / track towards Stanton Harold Hall and the Ferrers Craft Centre. It's a very pleasant walk.

The Ferrers Centre is one of the best craft centres around and I recommend the tea shop for refreshments. It's in the grounds of Stanton Harold Hall, which has its own church and lake; a real beauty spot.

After passing through the craft centre, it's a short and pleasant walk through Dimminsdale nature reserve before emerging on the road at the bottom of the reservoir, and retracing steps back along the road to the round car park.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Asolo Flame walking boots - interim report

This was going to be an interim report, but now that I've given them a good look over, I think I'll be digging deep in my pockets to replace them sooner than I'd expected.

I bought these boots over a year ago, they are more substantial, stiffer and taller than their predecessors. My last ones had almost done 700 miles before seeing the inside of my wheelie bin - at a quick tot up, these ones have done 550, but they've not quite reached that stage yet.

they've started to crack in the usual place, over the ball of the foot. One looks as if the stitching is going to give way very soon, which is the point that they retire. I'm prepared to accept that this kind of crumbling is due to poor maintenance. I'm not very good at cleaning and treating them after each walk.

I was most surprised when I turned them over. The tread is almost down in the middle of the foot and is completely down in places on the heel.

I've been making a conscious effort to put my foot down flat when I walk, because the last pair made it obvious that I'd been supinating (walking on the outside of my feet.) I'm pleased to see that while these are still worn down a little bit more on the outside, it's nowhere near as bad this time.

They've been very comfortable. I picked the male version because they fit my wide feet better and because the colour is a bit more subdued than the female version. As I noted before, the soles are very stiff and the uppers breathe very well. I like the big toe box, which takes a lot more punishment than soft material would. I like the lace eyes - the ones over the foot allow the laces to slip and distribute themselves evenly and the lockable ones at the instep do their job well.

Trail magazine have given them very good reviews, the only thing that they've really been able to say against them is that the tread isn't deep enough. I've never found grip a problem (except for damp tree roots, which no boot would grip!). However, at this stage in their life, I can see that a deeper original tread would have given them a little bit more life.

You can't see the biggest problem. I hate having wet feet and so I swear by GoreTex. When new, it's fantastic - completely waterproof and breathable. However, these and my two previous pairs of GoreTex boots began letting in water well before I would have considered the boots worn out.

The worst enemy of a warm, dry foot is wet long grass or crop fields. It's not unusual to walk through wet grass even when it's not raining. Most mornings, the grass is wet from dew, and very wet if it's rained overnight. As your boots swish through the grass, they collect all the water the grass contains - and that's a lot. Over the last few walks, including the long-distance Offa's Dyke path, my heart has sunk at the sight of a grassy field, because I know that after just a few steps, I'll feel that familiar cool feeling and be slopping in my boots fairly soon.

Is it inevitable that GoreTex breaks down after a year or a few hundred miles? is it because I'm not looking after the uppers properly? Is there a boot that remains waterproof for longer? Answers on a postcard please! Or even better - use the comment link below. And if you're from Asolo, I'd love to hear your comments.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Two circular walks around Rutland Water

Rutland is a well-kept secret and a real gem. Today I went to Rutland Water to find something that turns out to be quite elusive - a good view of the whole reservoir.

There's a walk around the large reservoir (the largest in the country), but you're obviously close to the water's edge and you can't really see it all at once. I still haven't found the view I was looking for, but in the process I have devised two good circular walks in a beautiful area.

First of all, something very funny I discovered today. Type 'Rutland Water' into Multimap and this is what you get....

Multimap / Streetmap / GetAMap are good, but you can't beat seeing a large area spread out in front of you in great detail, which is what you get with an OS Explorer map (Explorer 234 in this case).

I could see that there are several high points around the reservoir which are on rights of way. Armed with this information, I set off to explore...

Walk: Hambleton Circular Walk
Distance: 5.5 miles
Walked: 9 Aug 2009
Terrain: a gentle climb to 165m
Start point: Egleton Bird Watching Centre, SK878072

The Bird Watching Centre is a convenient place to start. It has a car park which seems to be free, and public conveniences. Head back along the track due west, picking up the Rutland Round. cross (carefully) the A6003 and a railway line. Then comes most of the climbing.

There's a bit of a peak, with tantalising glimpses of the water.

The countryside in Rutland is just delightful. The path keeps climbing, giving hope of a better view.

At Brooke Road, the Rutland Round heads back along the road towards Oakham, but here's a secret. Cross the road and pick up an ordinary public right of way, walk alongside Gorse Field Wood and towards the Mobile Phone mast and Hill Top Farm (clues that this might be a good viewpoint!) Before getting to the mast, at SK845077 (ish) is the best view I found today. Here you can see the two 'arms' of the reservoir and the bump on the horizon in the middle of this photo is Hambleton Peninsula.

I then used Braunston Road to get back to Oakham (Britain in Bloom winner), it's pretty as roads go, with good verges on each side.

Heading south out of Oakham, past the Museum and back with the Rutland Round, we leave the B641 at SK864082 cross a couple of fields, the A6003 again and a couple more fields (all well waymarked) before arriving back in Egleton, which really is a pretty village.

More about this Rutland Water circular walk

Walk: Exton Circular Walk
Distance: 6.5 miles
Walked: 9 Aug 2009
Terrain: fairly flat
Start point: Exton (just south of), SK928107

At this start point is a handy lay-by. Waymarkers clearly mark the first part of this route 'Viking Way', a long-distance path running from North Lincolnshire to Oakham (close to here). This part of the Way really is beautiful, and so I'll find out more about the rest of this path.

The path eventually arrives at the water close to the Harbour Cafe (which does a great bacon and brie baguette!) You can see the dam from the cafe patio, and following the reservoir's circular route clockwise (keeping the water to your right) brings you to the dam.

This is the dam, which on an 'out of season' day is a lovely walk.

Instead, I left the reservoir at the start of the dam and headed for Empingham. The Rutland Round crosses fields to Empingham, but today I took a more direct route along a track and then on the A606 for a short way (see map below). At SK947087 I bypassed the town by taking a public right of way across a field (and a cricket pitch!) There was another nice glimpse of water before leaving the Exton Road. (SK948091)

Again I found the footpaths well waymarked and really beautiful.

At the trout hatchery, I followed the road west for about half a mile. It's possible to follow this quiet road back to Exton, but I took the right of way which runs parallel to it (past Cuckoo Farm) which turned out to be a wonderful finish to the day.

The fingerpost in the middle of the photo is pointing back to the footpath that I've just emerged from.

More about this Rutland Water circular walk