Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Malvern Hills

Distance: 10 miles
Walked: Saturday 16 September 2013
Total miles walked this year: 230
Route: Malvern Hills

August Bank Holiday Walk

Distance: 25 miles
Walked: Saturday 26 August 2013
Total miles walked this year: 220
Route: Starting from Shobnall, follow Millennium Way along the Trent and Mersey canal and through to Yoxall. Leave the MW and take footpaths to Braken Hurst Woods, pass the airfield and head north, skirt south of Tutbury and back to start point via Anslow

I've been doing this walk every year on August Bank Holiday since 2006 and I think I've been lucky with the weather every time.

Not really edible but used to give flavour to beer, these are hops growing wild.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Review - Craghoppers 22L daysack

I've been looking for my ideal daysack for some time and I've now been using the Craghoppers Kiwi pro daysack for a few weeks and have worn it for 64 miles.

I chose it for its capacity - 22 litres is just the right size for the food, water, extra layers and other bits and pieces that you need for a day's walking. I was also looking for one with an airflow system. The smaller sack I've been using just has a plain back and the 'sweaty back' has been a real problem for me, especially in the Summer.

In short I love it. It's comfortable and practical and I'll be using it for every trip from 5-mile leg-stretches to single-day challenges such as the Ivanhoe Way.

The pockets are great and well thought-out. It has one big main compartment. I ruled out others that have more than one large compartment because I don't see the point. That divides your main space up and I think you'll fit your stuff more easily into a single compartment such as this one has. It has a useful small outer pocket which I've found very easy to access for small items. There's also a sunglasses pocket which is 'velvet'-lined. (I don't have shades - I have been using this for my phone). Plus the usual external mesh pockets.

It's very comfortable indeed. So far, 19 miles is the furthest I've walked in one go with it but the straps have been very comfortable on the shoulders. The product specification says that the waist strap isn't weight-bearing but when done up it helps the Kiwi to nestle on the back and it does take the weight off the shoulders.
The airflow system is comprised of some raised meshy padded areas. The air can then flow between them.  It's not as good as the 'mesh' type system on bigger more rigid rucksacks, but those are bigger and heavier. It's certainly better than similar and smaller sacks which don't have an air system.

Those padded shapes also help the bag to sit very comfortably on the back. When it's packed right and adjusted right it really does feel very good.

It has a pocket for a hydration bladder (eg Platypus or Camelbak) with a little hole under a flap for the tube. I've tried this and it's fine, but I prefer to use a Sigg bottle now. I found that a full Camelbak in the relevant pouch, with the rest of the space well-packed, made the back bulge out, reducing the general comfort and also reducing the effectiveness of those air channels because they were all pressing against my back.

I'm not fussed about waterproofness because I take great care not to walk when there are darker clouds forecast. But it has already dealt well with a light shower. It's pleasing to see the water beading and it seems reasonably waterproof.


  • Pockets and compartments are very well thought-out
  • shoulder straps are very comfortable
  • 'airflow' pads make the sack very comfortable on the back
  • bladder pocket and hole for tube
  • Although it's stated that the waist belt on this model isn't load-bearing, it does make the pack more comfortable and helps to support the weight.


  • I'd prefer a more rigid back for better airflow with a bladder in place, and so that a full load doesn't change how it sits on the back. But I think I'd only get that with a bigger, heavier sack.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Ivanhoe Way (over two days)

Distance: 19 miles
Walked: Saturday 10 August 2013
Total miles walked this year: 195
Route: Anticlockwise from Stanton under Bardon to Ashby

Distance: 18 miles
Walked: Sunday 11 August 2013
Total miles walked this year: 214
Route: Anticlockwise from Ashby to Stanton under Bardon

As a training walk for doing the whole lot in one go, I walked the route over two days. I'm aiming for 12 hours this year and my speed here was certainly up to it - average more than 3mph each day.

It was a little bit sad to see signs of autumn, but then again, my first blackberries of the year were delicious:
 One of the first signs of leaves turning, the black spots that appear on sycamore. Supposedly a sign of good air quality.

 Paths were still passable despite some crops being head-height
 Conkers, anyone?
 Not very filling but it's great to find wild raspberries:

 Some curious fellas:

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Mystery bird

Distance: 9 miles
Walked: Saturday 3 August 2013
Total miles walked this year: 177
Route: Ashby to Hartshorne and back

This short but pleasant walk was all I had time for today. I was treated to the sight of this bird flapping around while walking through a section of The National Forest and turning a corner he was sitting on a post. I knew he'd fly as I approached so I held the camera (iPhone was all I had with me) ready for that moment. Unfortunately not close enough for ID purposes but it was large, browns with white flashes.

Any ideas?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Butterfly day

Distance: 18 miles
Walked: Wednesday 26 June 2013
Total miles walked this year: 168
Route: South Derbyshire 18 Walk

Today was a butterfly day. In my head I walked along with them fluttering around my head and landing on my outstretched palm. In fact they seem to have a proximity detector and flutter off before you get within 50 yards. Trying to photograph them is frustrating because when they do land near you they only pause for a second before moving on.

More pictures from today's walk are here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/shieladixon/sets/72157634783935331/

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Signs of Summer

Distance: 7 miles
Walked: Wednesday 26 June 2013
Total miles walked this year: 150
Route: Blackfordby Spire Walk

It felt so good to see so many indications that Summer's just about here. The hedgerows were full of elder flowers...

...and wild (dog) roses. These are usually white/pale pink, sometimes just white and occasionally (as here) a very intense pink.

What are your favourite signs of Summer?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Ticknall Circular Walk

Distance: 6 miles
Walked: Wednesday 19 June 2013
Total miles walked this year: 143

My Ticknall Circular Walk on a gorgeous day.

Lathkill Dale May 2013

Distance: 11 miles
Walked: Monday 26 May 2013
Total miles walked this year: 137

Another quick post to keep the running total. Lathkill Dale in the Peak District.

More photos from today here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/shieladixon/sets/72157633720133276/

Brecon Beacons / Offa's Dyke

Distance: 16 miles
Walked: Monday 29 April 2013
Total miles walked this year: 126

Just a quick post to keep the running total above. A walk in the Beacons national park including a part of the Offa's Dyke national trail.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Penny toll on this path for one day of the year

You have to love our ancient laws.

This is Lathkill Dale. More photos from today's walk to follow. I first snapped this sign in 2008. It caught my eye because it looked dilapidated and the penny toll (perhaps one old penny, 1d) on one day of the year is amusing.

Since then, the sign has been replaced with a much more modern sign and the toll updated a bit to 20p

That doesn't seem to have gone down so well because it was quite quickly replaced with a more sympathetic sign, and with the original wording. The toll now seems to have gone back to a more reasonable 1p.

The law that makes this sign and the toll necessary (I wonder whether it's actually collected? I've not yet visited on a Maundy Thursday) is that this path is a concessionary path. It's not a public right of way, but the public are allowed to walk this dale. In time it would be possible for someone to put in a claim for this path to be made a public right of way on the grounds that it's been open to the public for a continuous period of time. Closing or imposing a toll on a nominated day of the year avoids this.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Would you Adam and Eve it?

What a fantastic picture in the most recent Trail magazine. I've taken pictures of people making the jump but I haven't even dared to climb onto one of the stones.

It's fascinating to read that (officially)  not a single person has even been injured making the jump (mountain rescue records going back to the sixties). But even so, I'm sure I'll still bottle out of doing it next time I'm up there.

Monday, April 01, 2013

Met a handsome fellow while out walking today

Distance: 18 miles
Walked: Monday 1 April 2013
Total miles walked this year: 110

I met a real good-looking chap while out walking today. Just in a field. I think he'd heard a female the other side of the hedge which was causing him to display, but I kidded myself it was for me.

In other news, and for future reference, there are still snowdrifts around, and not melting today as it was  still very cold. This is April, but the daffodils are really struggling and I've seen hardly any blackthorn flowers.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

The trouble with the weather forecast....

... is that it's always wrong. A sweeping statement but here's some evidence.

I'm an unashamed fair weather walker and so plan my walking according to the weather forecast. But here's why I've been frustrated recently.

These are screenshots from the Met Office's own app - the official body in the UK for gathering data and forecasting the weather. They provide that information to everyone else who gives you the UK weather. They have a computer the size of a football pitch.

There's only the odd case of the previous day's forecast matching the next day's actual weather. Now I'm only really interested in the rain, but check out the temperature forecast for Sat 23 March when it was 5 days away. Predicted 8 degrees. The next day the same day's temp was predicted 1 degree, the next day 0 degrees and when it was one day away it was predicted -1. Good work folks!

To be fair, it's been an unstable period of weather, but really, if they can only predict the weather when it's more stable, at those times so can I by looking out of the window.

Yes, I'm English and proud, and love talking about the weather! Perhaps this is why we love talking about it....

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Weavers' Way - diversions / Broadland flood alleviation scheme

A programme of flood defence work along Broadland rivers is responsible for some path closures. It seems fairly long-term as they've gone to the trouble of printing this message on the OS map! I've also now seen a message on Norfolk County Council's website.
But when I started walking the second half of the Weavers' Way I'd not seen any of these messages and this first notice just outside Yarmouth was a heart-sinking moment. The poster says "Not possible to provide a diversion" and suggests catching the train from Yarmouth to the Berney Arms.
Happily for me, This particular diversion starts after Easter weekend 2013, one week after my walk. There's no word on how long this closure will be in effect, so be prepared to catch the train or avoid this section completely, starting or finishing at Halvergate. Alternatively, you could investigate the path marked on the map as 'Paddys Loke' which looks like a good diversion, although you would have to cross the A47 and two railway lines (which is I guess why the council haven't suggested it).
The next diversion was in effect when I walked, between Acle Bridge and Oby. It's a long diversion, perhaps adding a couple of miles, but it is very easy to follow. Again no word on timing, but it looks pretty long-term as miles of wire and fence-posts have been put in along the diversion to keep you on track.
The last closure incident (nearly the last straw for me - these notices were becoming very frustrating!) is just past (or just before depending on which direction you're walking) Old Potter Heigham Bridge. This time there were no cordons or barriers, so I carried on without any problems. I guess from the rusty staples that this notice is old and the work has finished. (Please take the sign down NCC!!)

According to the contractor's website, we're now half-way through a 20-year scheme. The point is to improve access as well as to reduce the flood risk, so we can look forward to great paths, but also some inconvenience for quite a while to come.

Note that this work affects the section of Weavers' Way between Potter Heigham and Great Yarmouth. The first half of the long-distance path is I believe unaffected.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Navigation down!

I met more than my fair share of unexpected problems while walking half of the Weavers' Way last Sunday

This is what's left of my Explorer OL40 and the story of how I nearly had to manage without both map and phone.

I will take any opportunity to tell anyone why it's a daft idea to rely on an electronic device for navigation. Relying on the wayposts and fingerposts is also a great way to get lost. Even on a well-maintained route like the Weavers Way, there are spots with a choice of direction and no disc to be found. Written instructions and sketch maps are also just as dodgy, one wrong turn and you're lost.

The best way is surely to avail yourself of all of these useful tools - but consider the map the primary means.

My complete faith in the map has been shaken a little by Sunday's misadventures. In many years I've not thought that it could let me down.

On the marshes I was feeling every knot of the very strong wind which met no obstacle on the flat marshland. I can't remember how, but it managed to snatch the map from my grasp.

The Explorer immediately opened up like a giant sail and sped off at a rate I couldn't hope to follow. Fortunately it took a dive into a ditch full of water, but slightly out of reach and submerging itself. I had a second to consider whether it was better to spend the rest of the day with a map but with a wet leg and foot. Happily I managed to fish out the soggy mess with a stick.

The wind did serve to blow dry the map, while at the same time snatching off bits of vigorously-flapping papier mache.

It speaks of the quality of the paper and printing that the map was usable for the rest of the day and still is, aside from a couple of holes and missing corners.

Had I lost it, I would have been reduced to relying on the waymarking because of a cock-up on the phone charging front.

Only twenty years ago we would all have been without the mobile phones that we now take so much for granted. I think the loss of this lifeline was more of a problem to me than the loss of the map would have been.

So.. lessons learned...

I'll consider a map holder. It's a bit of a nuisance to re-fold the map when crossing a fold and you do look like an idiot but it keeps the map dry and securely fastened to the walker.

I won't forget the charging lead again (lessons learned the hard way are easiest remembered).

More pictures from this walk are on Flickr

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Weavers' Way part two: windmills and big skies

Distance: 31 miles
Walked: Sunday 24 March 2013
Total miles walked this year: 92

I was sad to wash the Norfolk muck from my boots yesterday. I was born and raised in Norfolk, lived there for thirty-odd years but now that I've been away for some years it feels more like home than ever.

I've seen pictures of Broadland's flat horizon and I've holidayed on the Broads, but on Sunday when I walked the second half of Weavers' Way (I walked the first half around this time last year) I saw countryside that was new to me. The windmills, half a dozen in view at one time. The reeds. The easterly wind blowing in from the sea with nothing to stop it. And the huge sky which simply couldn't be any bigger.

Weavers' Way is sixty miles and can be broken down into up to seven sections. For a good all-day walk and it breaks down perfectly into two equal sections at Stalham, which happily has a fantastic chip shop.

I walked the first half; Cromer to Stalham and for convenience of transport I then walked the second section in reverse; Great Yarmouth to Stalham.

I'll be writing about some misadventures separately, and adding details of the second half of this long-distance path to my site at uk-walks.info.

More pictures from today's Weavers' Way walk at Flickr

Friday, March 22, 2013

Rutland Water out of season

Distance: 21 miles
Walked: Thursday 21 March 2013
Total miles walked this year: 61

Not the finest day, but the finest this week. And it was very good to be back at the reservoir for the first time this year.

I've logged the distance as 21 miles. My website gives the official distance according to Anglian Water of 26, but I've measured this three different ways and believe it to be more like 21 including the peninsula.

There are a number of advantages to walking the route out of season. One is that it's so quiet. I saw very few other walkers and cyclists. They're abundant as soon as the holiday season starts. Another is that it's more comfortable walking in the cooler weather.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Blackfordby Spire

Distance: 7m
Walked: Sunday 17 March 2013
Distance walked this year so far: 40m

I'm getting a bit fed up with slopping around in mud, you can see from this picture that there's water just standing on this field and the footpath. More of a paddle than a walk. But some blue sky and nice views.

I  had noticed that an older sign marking 'The Heart of The National Forest' had disappeared, and today there's a shiny new one. It'll look great when all's out in leaf.

Details of this route are here

Monday, March 18, 2013

South Derbyshire 18m circular walk

Distance: 18m
Walked: Wed 13 March 2013
Distance walked this year so far: 33m

Some sunnier pictures from last Wednesday's walk (the hail was short-lived).

This walk starts and ends near my home, walks alongside Foremark Reservoir, goes through Ticknall, by Calke Abbey and the Ferrer's Centre craft centre.

More pictures from today's walk on Flickr

The route is here