Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Alec Salmond comes to Elgin and is confronted by anti wind power protesters from all over the north of Scotland

First minister Alex Salmond came to Elgin today with his cabinet for the last of his summer cabinet meetings outwith Edinburgh. At one of his previous meetings in Stranraer he was heckled and jeered over his policy to approve the building of large scale onshore wind power stations in some of the most scenic areas of Scotland and today he was met with similar strength of feeling. He was obviously still smarting from the Stranraer mauling because when a protester mentioned it outside the town hall, Mr Salmond growled 'so you were at Stranraer as well were you?'

I joined protesters from as far afield as Wick, Aberdeenshire and Inverness to confront Mr Salmond and voice our opposition to the proliferation of onshore wind turbines which are despoiling the Highland countryside at an alarming rate.

I had managed to get hold of the coffin that we used at Alan Sloman's 'Wake For The Wild' in May this year to represent the death of Scotland's wild land and this made for a great focal point for the TV and press crews that were there. We had been told that Alex's blood was boiling because we were there and we did wonder if he would sneak in the back door but he obviously felt that he had to come and talk to us. John Swinney joined him and as we thought, they both reiterated their position as far as their renewable energy policy was concerned. They disagreed with us that the policy was badly thought out and based on flawed science and all in all it was much as we expected: They did lots of talking and very little listening.

Outside the Town Hall we asked him about planning regulations, about the minimum distance from wind turbines to houses and about the flawed figures that say that wind turbines are 30% efficient when in  reality this figure includes offshore turbines which are 10% more efficient and so skew the figures for onshore turbines. Mr Swinney said that he objected to nuclear power on a point of principle and because of all of the problems associated with waste etc. He quickly changed the subject when I pointed out that we import a great deal of electricity from France who generate 80% of their electricity with nuclear power so just because we are closing down our nuclear stations doesn't mean that we don't use it.

I had intended to go into the public meeting and heckle, but Roy is absolutely full of a cold and was just about dead on his feet after driving an hour to Tomatin and then an hour back again first thing today to collect the coffin so we headed home and left the Q&A session to the other protesters. It will be interesting to hear what happens and whether he is given as rough a ride as he was in Stranraer - I hope so!

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Protest against wind power stations at Elgin town hall Tue 6th September

On Tuesday next week, Alec Salmond who is the first minister of Scotland will be visiting Elgin for one of his Summer Cabinet meetings. There are a growing number of people who are opposed to his avowed intention to despoil Scotland's precious landscape with wind turbines in an effort to meet his renewable energy targets for Scotland.

If you are available and free at 2pm on Tuesday, meet us outside the Town Hall for a protest about his plans. He needs to see that people are prepared to make their voices heard over the clamour for a fast buck by greedy landowners and developers.

Top Hats optional.....

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

The emperors new clothes.

A couple of weeks ago we had an initial meeting of locals who are concerned about plans to build up to 22 3mw wind turbines on Brown Muir which is a hill about 8 miles south of Elgin in Moray. A couple of our local councillors came along to hear what we had to say and a reporter and photographer came along from the Northern Scot which is our local weekly newspaper.

That week they did a great article about our opposition and asked readers for their opinions. The week after that they published a letter from a reader who was opposed to the proliferation of wind turbines in Scotland, and I thought that this week I would stick my ten pennorth in and submit a letter for publication.

Whenever I read letters or comment from Joe Public who is in favour of wind power, it seems to me that perhaps they are unaware of some of the facts about wind power and they have been swayed by the propaganda put out by the pro wind power lobby. Often I think they are just lazy and it's easier to support wind power than to have to give it some serious consideration and form an objective opinion. I firmly believe that everyone is entitled to their opinion but I would like people to go to the trouble of doing some investigating themselves and not just accept the governments assertion that they are doing the right thing on our behalf.

The story of the emperors new clothes always comes to mind because I think a lot of people are just standing by admiring the concept of all of this 'free' energy and saying how wonderful it is because they are either too ignorant of the facts or are too frightened to stand up and say 'stop - the pro wind power lobby are pulling the wool over our eyes' for fear of being labelled anti green, or heaven forbid pro nuclear. These days anyone who dares to mention nuclear power is treated as if he or she has suggested selling your soul to the devil. I'm not saying that nuclear is necessarily the way forward but we shouldn't pat ourselves on the back for closing all of the nuclear power stations in Scotland when we still import masses of electricity from France who use nuclear fuel to generate the vast majority of their power.

I'm impressed that there seems to be a great many more people now who are prepared to put their head above the parapet and voice concern about government policy and I'm sure that the campaigns of people like Alan Sloman have had a great deal to do with this. We need to keep up the pressure and keep the story in the news by whatever means possible and I think that it needs lots of different voices and lots of different perspectives for us to be taken seriously. It can't all be about 'Not in my back yard' - people need to realise that my back yard is their back yard and that before long, if the government have their way it will indeed be their back yard which is under threat.

Below is a copy of my letter to the Northern Scot. It remains to be seen if the publish it!

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Dear Sir,

If I thought that covering Scotland’s precious wild landscape with wind turbines would solve the problem of global warming, I would welcome them with open arms. If I thought that erecting all of these wind turbines would mean that we could end our reliance on nuclear and fossil fuels and close down all of our CO2 belching power stations then I would be happy to see them plastered all over Moray and further afield in Scotland.
I’m not convinced though. None of the information or data that I’ve seen has persuaded me that it’s worth losing one of our greatest and most valuable natural resources in the rush to build.

For every 1kw of installed wind energy capacity, it is necessary to have 0.8kw of capacity from fossil fuelled or nuclear power stations as backup for when the wind doesn’t blow. For those who point out that we don’t have any nuclear power stations in Scotland I would point out that the UK as a whole imports large amounts of electricity from France who produce the majority of its power from nuclear power stations so just because we don’t have any, doesn’t mean that we don’t use nuclear power. So, we have to keep our conventional power ticking over all the time emitting CO2 just in case we need them.

Contrary to some people’s belief the wind doesn’t blow all the time and whilst wind turbines typically turn 80% of the time, for much of that time they are producing very little electricity. In fact, the accepted figure for the overall efficiency (load factor) for any wind turbine is between 25% and 30% so a turbine with a capacity of 1 megawatt will only actually produce between a quarter and a third of that.

Tourism is a major source of income for Scotland and Moray in particular. The wind turbine developers will have us believe that the sight of industrial intrusions such as these in our landscape has no effect on tourism. Why then did Visit Scotland feel the need to airbrush the electricity pylons from their promotional photographs of Kilchurn Castle in Argyll? The Scottish government can’t have it both ways. On one hand they want to press ahead with their stated aim to produce all of Scotland’s energy from renewable sources by 2020 and on the other they are trying to promote it as pristine and unspoilt.

People worry that the value of their property will be adversely affected by the close proximity of a wind turbine development. Again the developers say there is no evidence for this. Why then did a district judge in Cumbria award a family substantial compensation because the vendor of a house that they bought failed to disclose a proposal for a wind turbine development nearby?

Developers point to the advantages for the local economy in as far as investment and job creation are concerned. The reality is that any advantage is very short lived. The turbines are designed and built abroad and their construction is overseen by personnel from the manufacturing company. Local jobs may be created during construction but there are no long term benefits.

Noise is often cited as an objection to the erection of wind turbines close to houses and as more and more turbines are built they will inevitably be built in closer proximity to residential developments. Advocates of large scale onshore wind power stations will say that the noise is no more than a whisper in the background but we all know that annoying noises are not just measured by loudness. Think of a dripping tap or a fly buzzing whilst you’re trying to sleep and you get the picture.

For anyone who has not yet been convinced to delve more deeply into the whys and wherefores of wind power and for anyone who thinks that building wind turbines on every skyline is Scotland is the answer to all of our problems – consider this: A Boeing 747 airliner emits more CO2 on average during a year's operation than is displaced per year by a 50-60 MW total capacity wind power station. That means that the proposal to build up to 22  3MW turbines on the skyline south of Elgin at Brown Muir may displace the same amount of CO2 as one single Boeing 747. Is it worth it?

Holland and Denmark, two of the countries who were at the forefront of developing wind power technology have now abandoned plans to site any new onshore wind power stations because of their inefficiency.

Wind power can only ever displace a minute fraction of the worlds CO2 emissions and anyone who tries to tell us otherwise is perpetrating a con on a colossal scale. The people who stand to gain are the developers and landowners who are bribed with massive subsidies from the government (which effectively means from the Scottish taxpayer). The people who stand to lose are us. This land is in our hands, in trust for our children and our children’s children and if the politicians and the fat cats have their way, our children will look back on our stewardship of the land and hang their heads in shame.

We should be concentrating on reducing our energy consumption and developing more efficient technology. Wind power undoubtedly has its place but we should be investing in all renewable technology, not putting all of our eggs in one basket with wind. We should be realistic about what we can get from wind and not be swayed by the massive subsidies on offer. To those who think a few windmills are harmless, graceful features on the landscape, all I ask is that you investigate the industry from all sides and consider where whether the benefit is worth the cost.

John Muir – a Scotsman who was the founding father of the US national parks movement said:

Keep close to Nature's heart... and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean….

If we don’t call a halt now, there won’t be anywhere left to wash our spirits clean and we’ll still be relying on fossil fuels and nuclear to keep the lights on..and our play stations playing…and our iphones phoning.

Yours Faithfully

Janet Donnelly
The Kennels
Glen of Rothes
AB38 7AQ

Monday, 15 August 2011

Pennine Way - dilemma...what to do for the last leg. One day or two?

If you are considering walking the Pennine Way, one of the decisions that you'll have to make is whether or not to walk the final leg in one day or two. When I worked out my schedule, it took me from Bellingham to Byrness and I had accommodation booked at Forest View walkers accommodation.

Due to the lack of accommodation between there and Kirk Yetholm, walkers are then faced with a final leg of around 30 miles. There is of course the option of doing it in one day and lots of people do so I'm told but that was never an option for me.

The other option is to break the journey and get collected half way by either Joyce who will take you back to Forest View for an evening meal and then bring you back to where you left off the next day ready to complete your journey...or arrange to stay at the Farmhouse at Yetholm Mill in Kirk Yetholm in which case you turn left at Clennell Street after Windy Gyle and walk down to be met by Marilyn at the bottom of the track.

I chose the second option and what a fantastic choice it was. The walk down from Clennell Street was easy and took me 51 minutes. I had called Marilyn from the ridge and told her to expect me in an hour. It was actually Roy who came to collect me and it was great to see him after three weeks apart. It's just a 10 minute drive to the B&B and a lovely room complete with en suite Jacuzzi bathroom which was very welcome after 250 miles. My boots were whisked away to the boiler room to dry out and Marilyn's husband Jon said that if he had known how muddy my waterproof trousers were, he would have washed them for me. Now that is surely above and beyond the call of duty!! A hot bath and freshen up later and Jon served us a beautiful meal with wine in their lovely dining room as I told Roy all about my walk so far.

Our room for two nights - bliss

I have to admit that I was knackered but very excited to be so near to the end and I slept like a log in a really comfy king sized bed. The next morning we had a huge breakfast to set us up for the day, then picked up the packed lunches that Marilyn had made for us (which were a cut above the usual cheese or ham sandwiches) and she then drove us back to the bottom of the track at Clennell Street where she deposited us ready for the final day. I was refreshed, excited and of course I only had my day pack which meant I was very light on my feet.

The muscles were eased off on the walk back up to the ridge which took about an hour and fifteen minutes at an easy pace and then we walked the final fantastic day together.

At 10 past 5 we were ordering our pints in the Border Arms and later that evening enjoyed a really great meal there to celebrate before spending another night at the Farmhouse.
Another huge breakfast was eaten and then it was off home.

For anyone who isn't quite sure what to do about the last leg - I can heartily recommend doing it the way I did. The luxury of the Farmhouse is just what you need after all that walking and Marilyn and Jon are so welcoming and hospitable that you really feel that you are ending on a high. The guys that I walked with for a couple of days took the other option and walked down at Coquet Valley to meet Joyce and go back to Forest View but I thought that I would feel that it was a long way to walk only to end up back where you started. It's all in your head of course because either way, the walk is much the same length but I'm happy with what I did. You can find details of the Farmhouse here; Farmhouse at Yetholm Mill and if you click on the link to walking holidays you'll find details of their Pennine Way package which is reasonably priced and worth every penny.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

A new product in the fight against the dreaded midge.

I live in the highlands of Scotland and I love the outdoors but there is something that makes life a misery from May to September every year. For those of you who have never been to visit the beautiful highlands in the summer, let me introduce you to....the midge.

They look harmless enough and if there was just one or two of them, I wouldn't have a problem but they hunt in gangs - big nasty female gangs. They are attracted to the carbon dioxide that you breathe out and once they home in on you there is no escape. It's your blood that they're after and it's difficult to get across to anyone who hasn't experienced it just how much of a problem they are. Often the first sign of them is that initial bite. Then the cloud homes in and every bit of bare flesh is under attack. They invade your ears, your nostrils, your eyes, your mouth - in fact any bit of you is fair game. They are indescribably annoying - if you open your mouth you'll breathe them in and if they bite then they itch. I've come back from putting rubbish in the wheely bin with a dozen bites on each arm and only hydrocortisone cream will bring relief.

Not my arm I hasten to add!

So what to do about the dreaded midge that imprisons you in your house or your tent and inflicts untold misery on all who love the outdoors? In the past the answer was  
  • Avon Skin so Soft spray oil - works well but not infallible
  • Deet of various strengths - which isn't that great and given that it dissolves plastic and will take the varnish off your table is not an ideal thinsg to be putting on your skin
  • Citronella in various guises - smells nice but not that effective
  • Myriad other natural and not so natural repellents - most of which I've tried and most of which I've not been impressed with.
Now a new discovery which has allowed me to spend many happy hours outdoors in the garden over the past few days without any bites at all.....SMIDGE

It comes in a little pump and unlike a lot of other products it smells quite nice. It is safe for kids, and is sweat and moisture resistant so it lasts and a little goes a long way.

I don't mind admitting that I was sceptical and Smidge isn't cheap so I didn't buy it straight away when I heard about it but eventually succumbed. And what do you know - it works and I am a very happy girl. I still make sure I'm covered up as far as possible when I go in the garden with long sleeves and trousers but I apply it to my face, neck, ears and hands and it does the trick. The midges are still about and are still a bit of a nuisance but at no point tonight did I want to rip my own skin off in an effort to discourage the little blighters.

You'll find more about SMIDGE here: 
I'll definitely be keeping a bottle of Smidge to hand in future. It will be interesting to see if it works as well when camping and if it means that we can actually enjoy a camping trip without having to spend most of it zipped up inside the tent then I'll be buying shares.

Saturday, 30 July 2011


The one constant source of comment, complaint and conversation at anywhere I stopped was feet. How many blisters, how sore, how achy, how many bits were festering.....

I have never really had much of a problem with blisters or my feet and I was determined that I wasn't going to start now so I formulated a plan:
  1. Clean socks every day which meant washing them each night as soon as I arrived at my accommodation. I took two pairs of Merino wool thick socks with me.
  2. No matter how tired I was, I took the time to wash and dry my feet carefully each night and paid special attention to keeping the nails trimmed.
  3. Gehwol extra foot cream from Bob and Rose at http://www.backpackinglight.co.uk/product200.asp?PageID=101 This is a fantastic product. Every night I took time to really massage it into my sore and aching feet. It has quite a nice smell and it's cooling and refreshing so really soothes your feet.

The tube was quite heavy to carry but it was worth every gram and every penny it cost.

I don't know if I was just lucky or if my plan worked, but I didn't get a single blister, hotspot or sore bit anywhere on my feet. Yes they ached at the end of a long day but apart from that I had no issues with them at all. If you are planning a long walk I suggest you invest some money in a tube and be thorough with your footcare every day no matter how tired you are - you won't regret it and it might make the difference between giving up and finishing.

Pennine Way musings

Now that my adventure is over, I've struggled a bit to get back into the swing of real life. It really is much simpler when all you have to think about is putting one foot in front of the other and getting from A to B under your own steam.

The gear that I took with me all performed faultlessly. My absolute favourite was without doubt the Satmap GPS.

It got charged every night and sat on my belt each and every day. It was a matter of a second to get it out and check my position - no wondering whether I was at one field boundary or the next, no trying to figure out which bit of hill or forest I was looking at, the Satmap plotted my exact track and told me exactly where I was. The fact that it has OS maps on it meant that it was a familiar format for me and I had spent several months learning to use it. The only time I missed a turn it was completely my own fault for not paying attention and being seduced by a house that was for sale at Sleightholme farm. I had paper maps and compass with me of course for back up - and I know how to use them and I'm not saying that I couldn't have done it without the Satmap - but for me it made it a whole lot easier and a lot more fun. I met lots of people along the way and some were intrigued by it and some were downright dismissive of it but for me it was brilliant and I would have no hesitation in recommending one to anyone who could afford it. I think that because I was walking alone, it just gave me that extra level of confidence that was important for my own peace of mind.

The other fantastic piece of kit was my boots. I have always been a bit suspicious of Goretex in boots and never really believed in it until now. Zamberlan have certainly got it right. Despite all the rain, bogs and ceaseless mud, my feet were always bone dry. Companions would end the day by literally pouring the water out of their boots and wringing out their socks and would express astonishment when gently encouraged to touch my toasty dry feet. It's a great magic trick and I don't know how long the Goretex will work but it has converted me for sure.

Byrness to Cocklawfoot

It was lashing rain when we arrived at Forest View and it lashed all night and into the morning. I started late because I lost a buckle off my rucksack and spent some time scouring the place before I found it on the floor of the drying room.

The first bit of the PW from Byrness to the top of the hill is a killer - 45 degrees, wet, slippery and some of it is on your hands and knees. Having said that, once you get to the top, it's a lovely walk over hill and dale. The guys caught me up and we passed each other on and off all day. They stopped often to consult their map and guide book and then waited for me to catch up to ask me what the Satmap said!!

Paul assuming his usual position with the map
All around us we could hear booms and bangs from the army manoeuvres at Byrness range and we were in no doubt as to where we were:

A brew in the first hut

The guys were going back to Forest View for the night and had arranged to meet Joyce at 5pm so she could drive them back. I had arranged to be met at Cocklawfoot by Marilyn from the Farmhouse at Kirk Yetholm Mill B&B and I said I would call her when I got to the turn off. Every time I mentioned Cocklawfoot at Forest View, Joyce would laugh and there would be a sharp intake of breath so I didn't know quite what to expect. It was actually a 2.3 mile track downhill and it took me exactly 51 minutes to walk it down to the bottom. It was quite a nice end to the day. What was even nicer was that instead of Marilyn coming to meet me, it was my darling Roy and it was so good to see him after nearly three weeks apart. We drove to Kirk Yetholm and had a fantastic meal cooked by Marilyn. Our room had a jacuzzi which was a fantastic treatment for those aching bones.

Bellingham to Byrness

I left Bellingham relatively late after waiting for the pharmacy to open. My sinuses were playing up so I wanted to get some decongestants for the final few days. The walking was lovely - through farms and over rolling hills. Bellingham was a lovely little town with a fantastic bakery. If you're there, don't miss it. I stocked up with sausage rolls and flapjacks and they made a very nice lunch a bit later on.

Exmoor ponies graze peacefully on Padon Hill

There weren't many pictures taken today due to the awfulness that characterised the rest of the day. After following the path to Whitley Pike (very nice - fine views) we descended and crossed the road and started the climb up to Padon Hill and the first bit of forest walking on the way. Well, what can I say....the path in non existent when it comes up along the forestry section. It may have been there once but it certainly isn't there any more. It's either disappeared under bog or the encroaching forest has covered it up. There are trees down over the path which results in some very undignified limboing or clambering which is not fun at all. If you decide to break out from the edge of the forest as we did, there is knee deep heather and alternate bogs and reeds. Add to all of this the clouds of flies and midges and you have just about the most miserable combination imaginable. We ended up bushwhacking across the heather and following tracks through the forest to get away from the flies. Thankfully the Satmap earned its keep as it's really easy to get lost in the forest and the OS maps don't always show all of the firebreaks and tracks. We finally made it on to a track and back onto the PW but it probably cost us about an extra hour of tiddling about. Looking at the maps later, what we should have done was to turn left and follow the road instead of crossing it to tackle Padon Hill. If you follow the road to the left, it eventually takes you onto forest track which intersects with the PW at the corner of the forest. How we wish we had known that at the time.

After regaining the PW it was just a case of following the forest tracks out of Kielder Forest all the way to Byrness and Forest View.

Friday, 22 July 2011

The latest wind power station proposal - for the hill opposite my house!

Whilst I was away, a letter arrived outlining the proposal to build up to twenty two 126 metre high wind turbines on the hill directly opposite my house. Those of you who have read my blog before will know of my opposition to the numerous wind power stations which are popping up all over the highlands and desecrating our landscape so this is definitely not a case of 'not in my back yard'. The truth is that I don't want it in anyones back yard.

This is the view from my living room window with Brown Muir directly opposite

The scheme is apparently at the outline stages and so the website for the project is pretty pathetic in that it provides very little information on which to base an opinion. See it here: http://www.brownmuirwindfarm.com/. It does say that the company wants our opinion in order to involve the local community so they will be given the benefit of my thoughts in no uncertain terms. The neighbours think pretty much the same as us so we have the nucleus of a campaign forming. Watch this space!!

Home at last

I am now home after my adventure and I have to say that I enjoyed (almost) every minute of it. It feels slightly surreal having done it all and once I've got unpacked and sorted out I'll write about the final few days and muse about the whole fabulous experience.

My initial feeling is that it has been one of the best experiences of my life but there's no place like home and your own bed and your creature comforts.

The people that I met along the way and the courtesy, generosity and respect with which I was greeted at every turn really confirmed for me what a wonderful country we live in and what fantastic and sometimes slightly eccentric people inhabit it.

Signing the book at The Border Arms - slightly squiffy after several G&T's

More later

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Made it

I've been too tired to blog these past few nights but suffice to say that I made it at 5.10 today.
Janet Donnelly
Sent on the move

Sorry that was a pretty pathetic post wasn't it....I strolled down the road towards the village green in Kirk Yetholm and plonked myself on a bench at the Border Arms just after 5pm after one of the best days walking I've ever had. The weather co-operated, my darling Roy was with me and I just had a daypack on. The views were breathtaking and the walking just challenging enough to make me feel like I had accomplished something on the last day. Did I 'pop' up to the top of The Cheviot? No I didn't....Did I take the high or the low level route at the end? I took the low level route and enjoyed every minute.

Whilst at Clove Lodge I started to flick through Wainwrights Pennine Way companion written in 1968 and in it he said words to this effect (I'm paraphrasing here)

When you get to Kirk Yetholm, nobody will be there to greet you, there won't be a fanfare or a tape to break at the finishing line and in reality, life will go on for everybody else much as it did before. Nobody will care that you've just walked 268 miles in the pouring rain/scorching sunshine/knee deep bogs but don't worry about it. The achievement is yours and yours alone and nobody can take it away from you. Have a pint, enjoy it and pat yourself on the back.

Well I did all three and Wainwright got it exactly right - I don't mind admitting that I shed a few tears at what I'd achieved and at why I decided to do it in the first place - I hope that Jane would have been proud of me.

Jane, my dad and me - October 2009

Monday, 18 July 2011

Goodbye Hadrians Wall, hello mud and bog

I got an early start today and was on the PW by 0815. There was a bit more up and down on the wall before turning north and heading for the trees and the bogs. The guys joined me today for a lot of the time and they were welcome company.
The weather was showery and the jacket was on and off a lot. Pretty early on I managed to go ankle deep in thick mud which stuck like glue and made my left foot feel pounds heavier than the right. The ground was so soft that it sucked you in and made the going very slow and there were several groups of DoE teenagers on the way whose backpacks looked bigger than they were!

There was a sign on a fence saying 'tea pop 1 mile' and I had visions of a tea room with earl grey and cream teas. What I found was a farm shed with a kettle plugged into a really long extension lead, an outside water tap, a fridge full of cans of pop, a box of home made scones and an honesty box.

Mark enjoying the delights of the 'tea shop' at Horneystead farm

It was brilliant and very welcome - if a little lacking in creature comforts like any sort of hygiene but I would advise anyone who is passing to call in to the tea shed at Horneysteads Farm and make themselves a brew.
The rest of the day was spent trudging on indistinct paths through knee deep bogs until we arrived in Bellingham at about 1715 for an enormous bed and a hot bath at the Cheviot Hotel. I managed to hose the mud off my boots at the back of the hotel and fall into bed exhausted.
Janet Donnelly
Sent on the move

Sunday, 17 July 2011

A lot of uppy and downy on Hadrians wall

Yesterdays rain continued through the night but the sun was trying to peek through when I left Greenhead. The ground was waterlogged but it was nice to know that I only had 8 miles to go. Hadrians wall goes up and down ..... a lot which makes for slow going but it was pleasant enough with great views. I stopped for lunch along the way and my walking companions from yesterday caught me up. Paul, Bruce, Mark and Rob meet up for a weeks walking every year and this year is their fifth and final chunk of the PW. Yesterday we walked together on and off and today we did the same. They are good company and we are all happy to walk at our own pace so there's no feeling that you have to wait for anyone or walk at an awkward pace. Soon after I met in with them today it started raining yet again and we got just as wet as yesterday. After much more up and down on the wall we arrived at Once Brewed and dripped in the pub until the YHA opened. The forecast tomorrow is better. Let's hope so!
Janet Donnelly
Sent on the move

Once Brewed YHA was quite modern and once again, after some sweet talking I managed to get a room to myself but it was freezing.

The drying room was not particularly warm and there was a definite lack of hangers so it was a bit of a bunfight to get all of your stuff hanging up to dry. I managed just about and thought that it was about time that my fluffy piglet which had been given to me by my good friend Emma as a mascot, got hung up to dry:

Piglet on his perch on the drying room
That evening we returned to the pub at Twice Brewed for a feed and some beer!

Mark, Paul, Bruce and Rob showing me how to drink beer at Twice Brewed

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Alston to Greenhead

Today it rained. Sometimes it drizzled, sometimes it lashed, other times it was merely torrential but for every single minute of the day it rained. Rab drilium jacket - excellent. Zamberlan goretex boots - excellent. Greenhead hotel beer, accommadation and food - all excellent. All in all an excellent day if you can call 16.5 miles in the pissing rain excellent. More about my walking companions later :-)

I knew when I arrived at The Greenhead Hotel that they would be putting me in a nearby B&B because they were full but what I actually got was a whole flat to myself with a sitting room, two bedrooms and a bathroom - very nice!

My room in the flat at The Greenhead Hotel

The Greenhead Hotel
Like many PW walkers I took the easy route along the old railway trackbed from Alston to make easy and swift progress and rejoined the PW later on that morning. It was definitely the right move after 20 miles the day before. The thunder and lightning were a bit scary since I was on top of the moor at the time but just added to the drama of the day and the landscape. The Pennine Way has an endearing way of going exactly where it wants and at one point it literally went through a guys garden between his house and his garage. There isn't a sign to tell you this but I was lucky enough to meet the owner at the bottom of his drive and he pointed me in the right direction. It felt a bit strange but sure enough there was a ladder stile out of his garden on to the moor behind!
Janet Donnelly
Sent on the move

Dufton to Alston over Cross Fell

Dufton YHA was a delight and the food at the Stag Inn was great but after sleeping like a proverbial log I got an early start as I knew it was going to be a long day. This was the day I'd looked forward to and dreaded in equal measures - the longest and the highest on the 'way'. There was a lot of low cloud and as I climbed it came and went so that I caught occasional glimpses of the tops. The climb up was a hard slog but when I reached the summit of Knock Old Man I realised that I had gained the majority of the days elevation and after that it was just a case of dipping down a bit and them back up again.

The radar domes on Great Dun Fell appearing out of the mist

I reached the summit of Cross Fell (which was cloud free by then) at 1315 - 5 hours after leaving Dufton.

The cloud free summit of cross fell

Coming down off Cross Fell was easy enough because I had good visibility but I can easily see why some people could get lost if the mist was down. The way down is mostly on tracks and I passed Greg's Hut which would be a very welcome site in bad weather.

Greg's Hut

5 hours after that I arrived at Alston YHA which is superbly situated right on the PW as you approach the village. I have never been so glad to see a YHA. The 2 or 3 miles coming down into Garrigill along a gravelly farm track are hell and then you've got another 5 miles to go to Alston!

A very welcome bench as you enter Garrigill!

The final 5 miles seem to be just one stile after another - as if you need that after 15  miles! Anyway I made it in one bit and lived to tell the tale.
Janet Donnelly
Sent on the move

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Clove Lodge to Langdon Beck YHA

Leaving Clove Lodge this morning was quite a wrench. It really is a very special place and when I get home I'll be able to write more about it.
The days walk was pleasant for the most part - especially the first half as far as Middleton in Teesdale. I had hoped to get some wax for my boots (which are looking very sorry for themselves) but it was half day closing so I was out of luck. After that the PW followed the River Tees as far as Langdon Beck. The sun was shining and the going was easy if a little hard underfoot. I passed low and high force waterfalls which were quite impressive and trudged onwards.

Waterfalls on the river Tees

For the first time in days my feet were sore and tired but I put it down to the hard compacted footpath along the river. I was really glad to see the YHA come into view and what a lovely hostel it was - small and friendly and very modern.

Langdon Beck YHA

There were 2 fishermen staying who were good fun. For a while I thought I would have a room to myself but another lady arrived late on. She snored like a foghorn so I didn't sleep a wink and I swear that at one point I nearly put a pillow over her face to shut her up. This morning came all too soon - hot and sunny and not a cloud in the sky so it was on with the pack and off back to the river. Clambering on my hands and knees up Cauldron Snout was great fun

Cauldron Snout

and then a long cross country moorland stretch to High Cup Nick which was breathtaking.

It's difficult to do justice to High Cup Nick in a photo

Then a path which was a little too close to the edge of the cliff for my taste and a descent into the pretty little village of Dufton and another night at the YHA. The tea room on the green was open when I arrived so I made the most of it with a lovely cuppa and a huge cupcake to reward myself. I also bought some delicious fruitcake for the following days toil over Cross Fell. Thankfully a single room at the YHA for me and a good rest before Cross Fell tomorrow and a 20 mile stroll.

I ate that night at The Stag's Head on the village green and was very impressed. The food was great as was the beer.
Janet Donnelly
Sent on the move

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

A tale of two contrasting days

Yesterday was a glorious day, marred only by the service at breakfast at Hawes youth hostel. It was cool and overcast when I left and started the long ascent of Great Shunner Fell. What a wonderful walk it was - I enjoyed every minute. It was exactly what I needed to get me back on track after a day off. The sun came out and I had lunch at the excellently situated cross shaped shelter at the top. The descent into Thwaite was steady and I took advantage of a conveniently sited bench in the centre of the village to have a wee sit down and think to myself what a lucky girl I am. The tea shop beckoned but I resisted and set off up the hill for Keld. The going was slow on the rocky path around the hill but it was a lovely walk - all the time looking down on the river to my right.

Looking back towards Thwaite from the PW

The pretty village of Keld eventually came into view and I arrived at Keld Lodge at around half past three. Beer was drunk in the sunshine before I got round to checking in and later on lots of coast to coast walkers arrived. Keld lodge was very comfy and there was a great sense of camararderie because we were all there for the same reason. It's the only place I've ever been where conversation over breakfast about how many of your toenails have fallen of and which bits of your feet are festering most is not only acceptable, it's obligatory! I loved Keld Lodge and was sorry to say goodbye to it this morning.

Today was a different story.

The famous Tan Hill Inn - too early in the day to stop though!

Wet, boggy, unexciting uninspiring terrain and I missed a turning which added 2 miles to my day.

Bowes Moor is the bit after Tan Hill and it's a bit of an endurance test. There is no path to speak of because it's so wet and boggy. What you end up doing is vaguely aiming between two white posts and picking your way through. The bogs are knee deep and a careless step could mean getting seriously stuck. It was no fun at all and I (like Wainwright who called the bogs glutinous) was glad to see the back of them. The saving grace for today has been arriving at Clove Lodge. If you are doing the PW then Clove Lodge has to be one of the highlights. Don't miss it! Caroline is a wonderful hostess and to be faced with a pot of tea and a plate of cakes and biscuits on arrival was just what I needed. My room was fantastic with a big deep bath that I made the most of then it was down for drinks and dinner. There were three Dutch walkers staying as well as a father and son who I hade been passing on and off since Hawes and we all sat around one big round table. The meal and the chat was lovely - very civilised at the end of a not so civilised day. Even if you don't want B&B, there is a camping barn and space for tents so everyone is welcome whatever their budget.
It's time for bed now - an easy (hopefully) 14 miles tomorrow.
Janet Donnelly
Sent on the move

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Ready to get going again

Well, I'm in Hawes waiting for the youth hostel to open at 5. It's been a lovely weekend with my family but I'm itching to get back to my walk now. Hawes is a lovely little town with lots of cheese related activities but oh so busy on a sunny July weekend!
And now to the story of the three Janets. There's me of course....there's the lovely lady pharmacist in Gargrave (called Janet) who donated £5 when she found out why I was walking and finally there's Janet who runs the Old Joinery b&b at Garsdale. She was so generous and welcoming that I was bowled over. She gave me a lift to and from the pub, let my nephew and his family camp in her field and treated me like an old friend. I can't thank her enough for everything she did for me. There are some wonderful people in the world and she's one of them.
Janet Donnelly
Sent on the move

Friday, 8 July 2011

Day 5 and a planned detour

Tonight I find myself in a fantastic b&b at Garsdale which is nowhere near the pennine way. The reason I'm here is that there is not a bed to be had for love nor money tomorrow night in Horton in Ribblesdale so I've had to miss it out along with Malham. Today I walked 11 miles from Cowling to Gargrave and then got on the train to Garsdale which is 7 miles from Hawes. Tomorrow I'll have a day off and walk to Hawes on Sunday.
I know that this means that I won't have walked the whole Pennine way but I had no choice. I even thought about posting my camping gear ahead to Horton so I could camp one night but wouldn't have been able to post it home on the Sunday because the PO will be closed.
So I'm coming clean now - yes I've missed a bit out and it was the bit I was most looking forward to :-. It's turned out well though, today was the day of the three Janets - more about us all tomorrow.
Janet Donnelly
Sent on the move

Poppy bedroom at The Old Joinery B&B Garsdale
Janet at the Old Joinery B&B couldn't have been more welcoming, she met me off the train and took me back to her place where a clotted cream tea was waiting for me. Janet has that real eye for detail that makes all the difference at a B&B like having fresh milk for in a little fridge in your room for yout tea instead of those vile UHT pots of milk. Later on she drove me up to The Moorcock Inn for an evening meal and stayed for a drink with me. The Moorcock was fantastic - great beer and great food with a warm welcome. I would have no hesitation in recommending The Old Joinery or The Moorcock to anyone who was in the area.

Thinking about my enforced diversion, I've realised that I have actually walked much of the bit that I've missed out. About 20 years ago I spent a lot of time walking in the dales and walked from Horton over Pen Y Ghent and from Horton to Malham so I've not really missed out too much. I've decided though that next spring, Roy and I will go back to Gargrave and walked the missed out miles up to Hawes just for my own conscience sake.

Day 4 - Hebden Bridge to Cowling

It was hard to get into any kind of rhythm yesterday with a lot of ups and downs and stops to put on and take off my jacket. I slept like a log and then got a lift back to the pennine way from the centre of hebden bridge from the owner of the b&b. That saved me a 1.5 mile walk along the canal towpath and was very welcome:-). The initial pull up the hill was hard work but once on the moors the scenery opened out on rolling moors and the going was easier. The weather was showery and very changeable but not unpleasant. I stopped & had lunch at Top Withins in the sunshine and discovered that I had lost my sunspecs on the way - bah! The rest of the day was spent passing and repassing another solo lady walker who was faster than me but I didn't see her after she stopped with a blister. There was a long downhill walk to the road at Cowling and the Winterburn Barn b&b. Olwyn relieved me of my soggy boots and kindly put them in front of the Aga for me. There was a massive thunderstorm just after I arrived and I was very glad I wasn't out in it. A long hot bath beckoned and I was so tired that I didn't even go out for something to eat - just munched on some stuff I had in my pack. The route finding had been a challenge at times but the guide book had warned about it so I was prepared. The Satmap GPS has been brilliant so far - I'm so glad I brought it :-)
Janet Donnelly
Sent on the move

Thursday, 7 July 2011

End of a long day 3

After the first of many many full English breakfasts I set off on my first real day of walking on my own. Well the weather threw everything at me today. Lashing horizontal rain, cold wind, mist and sunshine as well. I put all my waterproofs on about 15 minutes after starting out and they stayed on most of the day. The mist came down and visibilty was pretty poor but I'm sure that the views over Blackstone Edge would have been nice if I could see them!

There were some interesting wee things along the way like this ancient marker stone

The walking was easy - mostly level with rolling pennine views. First view of pennine wind turbines and although they blend better with the more industrialised landscape down here I still loathe them. I discovered today that weird Pennine phenomenon called Stoodley Pike. You can see if for miles and miles on the horizon but no matter how far you walk, it never gets any closer or any bigger.

A rather phallic Stoodley Pike when at last I got close to it

When you do actually get there it's a bit of a let down - covered in graffiti and a bit sad but it marks the home stretch towards Hebden Bridge.

I arrive in Hebden Bridge in sunshine having walked through a torrential downpour and trudged the 1.5 miles into town along the canal towpath. It was a lovely walk but I just wanted to get to the B&B so probably wasn't in a place where I could appreciate it. I'd forgotten how nice Hebden Bridge was since I'd been there a lot in my teens and early twenties. The B&B I stayed at was Kersal House in the centre of town and I was made very welcome. The room had a little balcony on which I enjoyed a cold beer courtesy of Maggie - the owner and then after fish and chips in town I crashed out fast asleep. It was such a comfy bed and I was so tired......

There were a a few new aches and niggles today but a longish day to Cowling tomorrow so off to sleep as I'm knackered. Can't say I'm looking forward to tomorrow as the forecast is crap weather:-(  but heigh ho
Janet Donnelly
Sent on the move

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Day 2 - a great days walking

Today started out warm and breezy - in fact near perfect weather for walking. My nephew Pete walked with me today and we chatted as we walked (dawdled) but as it was only 12 miles I wasn't in any hurry.

Looking back towards Crowden - Day 2

The trail was quiet and the walking was glorious - much more like I was expecting. The sunshine didn't last though and we put on jackets at soldiers lump. We had lunch just before we crossed the main road and them headed down past the reservoirs.

Pete at our rather soggy lunch stop

The sun alternated with showers for the rest of the day and the going was easy and level except for one sharp descent and ascent to cross a stream. Before we knew it we had reached the main road and a rendezvous with Pete's wife Nic and their 2 kids Thomas and Sam. Then to a lovely b&b called Wellcroft House and a hot shower and a cuppa. All in all a brilliant day. From tomorrow I'll be on my own but it looks like a nice 16 miles to Hebden Bridge.
Janet Donnelly
Sent on the move

Monday, 4 July 2011

First day

Just having coffee at edale yha. Overcast this morning after yesterdays scorcher which suits me fine. Off 2 meet my brother in law in
Edale then onward and upward.

On my way at last

18.5 miles later...Jacobs ladder should be renamed Jacobs torture, kinder downfall should be renamed kinder dribble and Bleaklow should just keep on being called Bleaklow cos I can't imagine a name that describes it better - bleak. Incredibly hot and humid today. I sweated buckets and despite drinking 3 ltrs water - never peed once:-( easier day 2morrow, walking with my nephew. Time 4 bed xx
Janet Donnelly
Sent on the move

30th July 2011 Looking back now on that first day, everyone was right - the first day was indeed the worst. I'm not sure if it was a purely physical thing or whether it was more of a mental one. I was dying to get on my way and it was brilliant to have my brother in law Dave along for company but the heat and humidity just about did for me. I've never been good in the heat and usually do my best to stay out of the sun at all costs. No avoiding it the first day though and it was just a case of stopping often to drink and just going at my own pace. The views from the top of Kinder were fantastic and there was a steady stream of other walkers going in both directions. I was very glad to reach Crowden at the end of the day and get an ice lolly from the shop at the campsite. It felt good to get that first day out of the way, I'm sure I would have enjoyed it more if it had just been a one off walk but I couldn't get away from the feeling that it was just day one of many more. I hadn't yet got into a rhythm or a routine and I still felt the nervousness of embarking on a big adventure but on the whole it WAS a good day.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Deciding what to take!

I'm in the process of sorting out exactly what to take with me on Sunday and as I thought, it's a case of putting it all in a big pile and then taking at least a third of it away. It's exciting to actually be getting to this stage. The kitchen sink syndrome is still there though and I'm sure that I will still ditch stuff along the way. The weather is looking positive so it's all systems go.

Today there was an article in my local paper about my walk. I was expecting a picture and a wee write up and what I got was so much better. It told the whole story of why I'm walking and the tears rolled down my face when I read it. I'm really grateful to Craig Christie at the Northern Scot for his time and effort.

Oh well - time to go and shove all my stuff in my pack and see if I can lift it


Monday, 27 June 2011

Less than a week to go now and a rant about midges

I feel a bit like I'm in limbo this week. I've spent so long doing the planning and the training for my walk that now it's almost here I feel a bit lost. I just want to get going and get on with it. I'm still slightly terrified but I've always been one to face nerves head on and get whatever it was that was making me nervous over and done with.

The maps are bought - thanks Al!
The gear has all been tested and retested.
The accommodation is all booked and the flight to Manchester arranged.
Transport home is sorted too so ther's nothing else to do.

I've had a manic couple of weeks getting up to date with ceremonies and tying up all of the loose ends so that I'm not behind when I get back so now I'm at a loose end myself.

The weather here has been atrocious - very wet, very warm and very midge infested. In fact if you look up the definition of 'midge infested' in the dictionary it has my address right there. People don't think you get midges away from the west coast of Scotland but I challenge them to come here tonight and sit on my deck.

I hate them with a vengeance - napalm is too good for them!!!! Yes I know they're part of the ecosystem and getting rid of them would have a knock on effect on other species but at this point in time I'd happily trade cute puppies and fluffy kittens for midges...or were these not the species in question? Make me an offer - I can't, off the top of my head think of any species that I'd not happily lose in exchange for exterminating midges.

Millions of the little biting blighters in your ears, your nose and your eyes. Avon skin so soft slows them down a bit but you need industrial quantities to make a difference here. Guess why I'm doing the Pennine Way and not the West Highland Way? Right first time - no Scottish midges!

Midge rant over, night night

Friday, 20 May 2011

Pennine Way maps - advice please!

I've been putting a lot of thought lately into route finding and navigation along the way and what to take with me so I don't get lost. I am in several minds about this and would appreciate input from anyone who has done the Pennine Way.

I'm an old fashioned girl and I have a strong emotional attachment to OS maps of all scales. I feel at home with them, they feel like familiar old friends and the thought of setting out on a walk without one makes me go all wobbly at the knees. My navigation skills with a map and compass are pretty good so I've no worries about that. When I was looking at new GPS technology last year I opted for the undoubtedly expensive Satmap Active 10 because it uses OS mapping on varying scales.

Basically it comes with a 1:250,000 map of the UK and you buy SD cards separately loaded with 1:25,000 or 1:50,000 maps of the areas that you specifically want and use often. These mapcards aren't cheap but Satmap often have special offers so if you keep an eye on your email you can pick them up more cheaply.

It's taken me a long while to get to grips with the Satmap but I've persevered and I'm getting there. I've got the Pennine Way mapcard which has the whole route on it at 1:25000 and 1:50000. Of course I appreciate that a GPS needs power and I've got the rechargeable kit for it and because I'm staying at a B&B or YHA each night, I should be able to keep it charged up. I know that I can't rely exclusively on technology though.

I also have both the Cicerone guide to the Pennine Way and the National Trails North and South Pennine way books, all of which have strip maps and route details in them. I hope that all of this, along with the Pennine Way signposts will keep me on track.

The question for me is 'is this going to be enough?' I can't help feeling uneasy at the thought of going out onto the hills without a paper OS map (I'll have a compass with me) in my pocket. It just won't feel right to me. That is balanced with the thought of having to buy all 9 of them (£14 a time) and carry them - although I can post them back and forth along the route.

Do any of you who have experience of routefinding on the Pennine Way have an opinion on this?
  • What is the signposting on the route like?
  • Are the strip maps in the books good enough if the GPS packs up (as sods law dictates it will!)
  • I'll be walking in July so there will be plenty of daylight but I'm well aware that some of the route is at high level and subject to the usual mist and fog which could make routefinding a challenge.
I'm not going to compromise on safety but neither do I want to spend £150 if I don't really need to. Dilemma!

Do I need to carry the OS maps or will the GPS and the strip maps be enough coupled with the signposts?

Any advice would be gratefully received.Thanks in advance!

Monday, 9 May 2011

Alan Sloman's 'Wake for the Wild'

On Tuesday 17th May I will be joining Alan Sloman and what we hope will be lots of like minded people who will walk up to the site of the proposed wind 'power station' on Dunmaglass estate. We will carry a coffin with us to represent the death of the wild land in Scotland which is being desecrated in the name of sustainable energy.

I have written before on what I regard as the rape of the land by those who stand to gain financially and politically from the proliferation of large scale onshore wind power stations and on Tuesday I will get off my arse and stand up to be counted as one who mourns the loss of a valuable Scottish asset.

Wild places feed us and renew us and we glory in the splendid isolation that they provide to us.

John Muir said:

'In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks'

John Muir died knowing that he had failed to stop the Californian powers that be flooding Hetch Hetchy valley to provide water for the coastal cities. Today there is a growing campaign to reverse that decision. It comes under the category 'what the hell were we thinking'..... What would he say if he could see what we are doing to his precious homeland?

If any of you are free - please join us on Tuesday. The walk will be divided into two parts and those who are less able can leave us early on and we will continue on up the hill.
Contact me or Alan Sloman for information and timings etc. 

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Testing out the gear in Coigach

I haven't had much time to post just lately due to work and holiday commitments, but I'm back now with renewed enthusiasm. The last I wrote, I was looking at a new pack and dithering over what to get. Well thanks to all of you wonderful people out there I decided on a Golite Quest and I haven't been disappointed. Last week we were away to celebrate my birthday in Coigach just north of Ullapool and depsite the fact that we arrived in a blizzard, we got lots of walking in and the Quest got a good shakedown from me.

As I'm trying to build up realistic miles in preparation for the Pennine Way, I loaded up the Quest each day with way more stuff than I needed for a day hike and set out. The cottage where we stay when we are up there is right at the foot of Ben More Coigach and it's just a matter of slipping out of the front door and you're on the hill - no long walks in, no trekking from the car park and then having to drive miles home at the end of the day.

173 Culnacraig - no TV, no mobile, no central heating = bliss!
Once the snow had stopped, we had a walk along the Posties path from Achiltibuie to Strathcanaird - it was a path we'd read about but never had a chance to try out. It's called the Posties path because in days of yore, it was the route that the postman had to take to get mail in and and out of Coigach. For those of you not familiar with the area, Coigach is north of Ullapool and just a hop, skip and a jump as the crow flies. The road trip takes up to an hour though because of the geography (if you've ever climbed Stac Pollaidh you're in the right area) and only became possible in the sixties with the advent of a tarmac'ed road. The valiant postie used to walk the eight miles from Strathcanaird along the coast and it was called 'taking the rock' as the rocky slopes of Ben More Coigach cut off the peninsula.

The path nowadays has been improved but not a lot! It's wet, boggy, rough, steep and non existent in places. It's not for the fainthearted or those with a fear of heights (like me). In several places a slip would have you crashing into the sea below and because it's a coastal path, it follows all of the inlets along the way. This can be a bit tedious and all in all it's slow going but great fun when you remember that the postie used to do it daily and without the benefit of Goretex - he's da man!

Geodha Mor on the Posties path.
The day after dawned with glorious sunshine and so we decided to go up Ben More Coigach - after all it was staring at us from the bathroom window. It always looks massive and I suppose that it's because it rises directly from the sea. It's only 2438feet so not even a Munro. We packed up and set off after breakfast. When we reached the plateau beneath the mountain, we spied several sets of people on the summit and never being very keen on sharing mountains, we opted to go up Sgurr an Fhidleir instead. That's the one that sticks out like a nose opposite Stac Pollaidh.

Fiddler's nose in the snow - not my picture....

It was a long slog up picking our way through the patches of snow and it was really hot but what a view when you get to the top. You can't really see what you're in for until you nearly step over the edge - it comes up really suddenly but wow is it worth the slog.

Looking back from whence we came

The Fiddlers nose is about 100feet lower than Ben more Coigach - so not that much lower and some books list it as a subsidiary summit. I am not brilliant with heights, so I contented myself with taking a peek over the edge.

Straight down....

We had lunch at the summit cairn and set off down to a well earned drink at the end of the day. My Satmap GPS told me that we had done 2403 feet of ascent in 2 1/2 miles so pretty good going for me practicing with a loaded pack. It was a fantastic day - one of those that sticks in your mind.The perfect combination of weather, gear, company and scenery.

Me with Ben More Coigach in the background
The Quest was definitely a good buy, and I'm beginning to get to grips with the Satmap - more about that in another blog entry so I'm a happy bunny.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Time to spend some money - justifiable shopping (the best kind)

I'm starting to realise that it's really time to start really loading up my pack when I'm out on my walks and so I've started to make lists of stuff that needs to go with me.

I'm an awful one for taking stuff just in case but I know that won't be an option in July so if I start now, I can reduce and remove stuff as I go along over the next few months. When I last did any serious long distance hiking in 2003 it was in the states and the stuff that I took with me was totally different to tackling a long walk in the Pennines. One of the essentials for the John Muir trail was a bear can in which you store all of your food and anything that is even remotely smelly so that mr (or mrs) bear doesn't feast on your freeze dried and leave you hungry and traumatised.

Bear can in the flesh

A bear can is a bit of a pain in the arse - in fact it's a lot of a pain in the arse to be honest but a necessary evil in Yosemite and beyond. They are relatively heavy and bulky with it. The yosemite bears are smarter than the average and the merest whiff of a strawberry lip balm will have them salivating. There are advantages to a bear can though - it makes a perfect seat when you are out on the trail and you always know where all of your food and smellies are. And the best advantage of all - you know that whatever happens you will get breakfast tomorrow.

Anyway - I digress...no need for a bear can on the pennine way unless there's something I don't know so my approach to packing etc will be radically different. As I said in an earlier post I wore out my last Golite pack probably from overloading it and since then I've been using a Golite Jam2. Last weekend I had it on and after not very far it felt really uncomfortable and that was with not a lot of weight in it. The thing that has changed since the John Muir trail days is me. I'm eight years older and my back has eight more years wear and tear on the old injury so whereas I could get away with minimal padding on hipbelt etc in the past, I may have to accept that I can't anymore.

It might be that I just need to tweak the way I pack it and persevere but I've started to consider a new pack with a bit more padding to it. Add to this the fact that my own natural padding is getting thinner and thinner (woohoo) and it looks like some money will need to be spent. The one that I'm leaning towards is the OMM Villain 45+10 from Backpacking Light. I had a look at it in the flesh so to speak at Tiso's last weekend and I was impressed.

OMM Villain 45 + 10

One of the things I miss on the JAM2 is a lid and some exterior pockets. Now I know that the litehikers amongst you out there will be experiencing palpitations just now because of the extra weight that these things add but all I know is that it makes my walking experience more pleasurable to have them. I like having things to hand like my lip salve, tissues, phone and camera and a couple of bars of something to munch on as I go along. These things are especially important if I'm walking on my own - Roy will attest to how annoying I can be when I am continually asking him to get stuff out of my pack for me. He likens my pack to just a bigger version of my handbag and he refuses point blank to go in there for anything!

My favourite feature of the OMM Villain is the side zip for access to the contents of the pack - oh joy to be able to get to that item that you never thought you'd need during the day but suddenly do....
Backpacking Light have the OMM Villain for just under £100 and having shopped around that is the best price out of all the retailers online and off it so I'll probably go for it.

Next decision is waterproof jacket.....not looking forward to that decision :-))) Have got a Berghaus Paclite with a small rip in it, a cheap and cheerful £20 jobbie that packs down to nothing, and a Sprayway jacket that is quite bulky. I'm drawn to Paramo but last time I tried one on I looked like a sack of spuds tied round the middle. I know that the Pennine Way isn't a fashion show but a girl has to have some self respect. I know Paramo will probably be too warm for the summer but I'm open to all ideas - preferably ones that don't require a mortgage to finance them. The other thing is that I've never really been convinced about Goretex etc and so the idea of a different approach really appeals.