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

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

Friday, March 15, 2013

Woodland - trying to be creative

Mum and I both like taking photographs, but at Christmas discussed that we were both a bit fed up with the regular old cheesy shots and decided to have a monthly(ish) challenge to get more creative.

For March our theme was 'Woodland' and so while out walking on Wednesday I tried some interesting compositions and also some special effects (nothing very clever).

Can you see what's wrong here?

This oil painting effect is achieved with the camera while snapping.

More photos from this walk are on Flickr

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Unforecast hail!

Still breaking in my new boots and also breaking in my legs after a winter lethargy.

The forecast for this Wednesday looked good and 18 miles seemed about right, so I tackled my South Derbyshire 18 walk

The forecast didn't mention hail! It's still muddy but a different mud to a week ago, less wet, more gooey. Aside from a very brief hail shower it was a fine and pleasant day and most of the paths are good.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Ashby de la Zouch to Ferrer's Centre - 10m walk

Distance: 10m
Walked: 10 March 2013
Weather: Misty, snow on ground, mud

This is a variation on my original Ashby Ivanhoe walk (5m),  adding some distance and arriving at the Ferrer's Centre at the half-way point. Coffee and loos are to be found there. It starts and finishes at the Beeches pub too, and we all know that a pint tastes so much better after a good walk.

I've added the new longer walk to UK Walks here

And photos from today's walk are here

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Sunday's walk was cold and muddy but I felt really privileged to see these sweeties with their proud mums. Very appropriate for Mothers' Day
Either a very good or very tolerant mum, keeping baby cosy on top of her fleece:

More pictures from today on Flickr

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Don't go this way...

Or 'I don't like mud, get me out of here'. Or 'Mud, glorious mud'. I've well and truly christened the new Alt-bergs

I was wishing I'd bothered to put gaiters on but when you sink to your fetlocks into liquid mud I'm not sure how helpful they are. This is the Ivanhoe Way. I hope it dries up a little before I attempt the whole route again later in the year.

But going out today has it had its rewards.

More pictures from today on Flickr

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Alt-berg - first impressions

After a long wait trying to track down exactly the right size, I'm very excited about my new Alt-bergs.

Most walking stores will spend time making sure your boots are the right size lengthways (finger down the back, standing on their little slope etc etc). But really, what is the point of all that when you get a 'one size fits all' width?

I think my grossly spread feet are the reason why I hate wearing any shoes and always get blisters on the outside of my little toes or between my toes after 25-30 miles.

Alt-berg make boots here in the UK and they make five widths! I'd now be prepared to pay much more, but they're not much more than you'd expect to pay for any of the big names.

My boots are called Fremington - a 3-season walking boot. Size 8 and a half, extra wide.

First impressions:

  • The cuff is a lovely nubuck rather than the more usual fabric (the latter always wears through before the boot has worn out). 
  • The tongue is one-piece all the way up to the top. 
  • The waterproof membrane is Sympatex, a Goretex-type breathable waterproof membrane. (I always buy boots and jackets with Goretex or similar - I like to stay dry!) 
  • The Vibram sole is stiff as a board. Much stiffer than my existing pair (though this may be partly because they're well worn). This is great news - fantastic on uneven ground such as stones or tussocks. Hopefully it'll be slower to wear too.
  • A minus point - they feel noticeably heavy! 740g each compared to my previous (very similar-looking) pair which are 600g each. 
  • They scream "quality"!! Hurray for UK manufacturing.

I was a little disappointed to find that even though I'd bought extra-wide, the sole measured exactly the same as my previous pair - maybe even a couple of mm narrower. On a visual inspection, it's obvious that there's more boot above the sole than my old pair - I assume that the soles are pretty standard and the last (the former that the boot is made on) gives the actual shape and dimensions of the space inside the boot. They don't feel as wide as I would have expected. But trying one of each boot (previous and Alt-berg) on bare feet makes it obvious that the Alt-berg fits my shape better. I can even splay my toes a little! (and that's comparing a well-worn boot with the brand new Alt-berg)

I had read that Alt-berg's sizes aren't generous, and I'd concur - I have half a size bigger than I'd normally buy. Important to try them.

The real test is to walk some distance (10 miles) because your feet really swell. At this point I would normally be feeling uncomfortable inside my regular-width boots - my toes would be feeling constricted, and this would become pain after 25 miles.

And here's the real benefit of my new boots. Even though they're not broken in yet, there was none of that. My toes were still feeling free even after a distance. The next day they're feeling fresher than they normally would. I'm hoping they'll make my longer-distance walks more enjoyable this year - I'll give updates.

(If you're thinking "why isn't she wearing proper walking trousers", I do have two pairs of those. You can tell me all about high-performance materials and wicking etc but give me demin every time. Sure it takes time to dry if it gets wet but I believe it's warmer and tougher so gives better protection against bumps, scuffs, pricks and stings. I'll live without pockets on the legs!)


I wouldn't normally have turned out in such low-vis weather. But I couldn't wait to get out and start breaking in my new boots - more of that another time.

Maybe sunny shots look better but there's an eerie atmosphere on a foggy day and I challenged myself to try and capture it.

Close-up shots have a different quality, with the light being so unusually flat and even.

I was fascinated by this new willow fence / hedge, see the catkins!

Monday, March 04, 2013

Why I've got the hump with my camelbak and will be using my old Sigg instead

I switched from this old sigg to the 2l camelbak a couple of years ago. The bladder has a number of advantages over the bottle,

  • bigger capacity (my camel: 2L, my Sigg: 1L)
  • easy to keep sipping, keeps you well hydrated without breaking your step
  • massive filling cap, easy to fill
  • 'deflates' as you drink, making space
  • generally takes little space in the rucksack because the water 'moves' to the shape of the space it has

However, I've become fed up with it and have been taking my old dented sigg out on shorter walks recently. These are the reasons:

  • tube grows mould inside it very easily, impossible to clean once this has happened
  • bite valve gets weak and drippy, leading to damp patches on clothing or the need to fasten it somewhere high
  • tainted taste to the water, even with a new tube fitted
  • high maintenance; to prevent the mould, Camelbak recommend a cleaning regime involving bleach and lots of rinsing

I'm a fan of low maintenance things. (read: I'm lazy) My Sigg has never been treated to anything other than a quick rinse and a prop upside down on the drainer. Sometimes it's been left half-full in the rucker for ages with no ill-effects.

I suffered the mouldy tube problem with the Camel, I'm happy to accept that this was my fault for not cleaning it properly, but it had only had plain water in it, so the material it's made of is obviously susceptible. After failed attempts to clean it, I bought another tube for the best part of a tenner. I've kept this one clear of the mould by cleaning and drying the thing after use, but I have to say that it still gives a taste to the water in it (the bladder itself seems clean, and is easy to clean given the big opening).

The drippy bite valve is easy to fix too, either by lodging the valve high up (eg tying it to the rucksack shoulder strap) or buying a new one.

But all of this is all a bit of a pain (and expensive). I've had the Sigg for years and no problems at all. I've not looked after it and the water tastes perfectly clean.

So I have a couple of disadvantages to get over. The Sigg has a lower capacity. Even two of these will not be enough for a long walk on a hot day. I've just invested in a 1.5L bottle giving me 2.5L altogether.

I'll have to make sure that I reach for the bottle regularly which is a bit of a nuisance.