Sunday, 18 March 2018

Great English Walk - Day 1

The day started with some flurries of snow and it was quite chilly. Amanda returned home and I walked with friends Robin and Faith until lunchtime. Chepstow being in Wales (just), crossing the bridge over the Wye took us back into England. For a very short distance out of Chepstow the route coincided with the Offa's Dyke Path and then on and off with the Gloucestershire Way. We lunched in Robin and Faith's car and I then continued walking alone with the exciting prospect of a really long walk ahead of me.

Out of Aylburton, I heard the faint chuffing sound of a steam engine, which I assumed was the Dean Forest Railway. The route took me into Old Park Wood, part of the Lydney Estate. I caught sight of a few deer which were startled by my presence.

Not aiming to do a really long day, I found a nice pitch at the northern edge of Old Park Wood.

Sent from my iPhone

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Great English Walk - just over a week to the start

Not a lot to say. I've done a trial packing of the backpack I intend to use. It all seems to fit in and the weight is about 16lb minus food and fuel which isn't bad for a walk which could include wintery conditions.

I've printed out my Ordnance Survey maps of the route (scale 1:50,000) on to 57 sheets. The route has been highlighted with a fluorescent marker pen, making it much easier to see at a glance where I am on the route. I've also marked the route with a cross every ten miles (with a mileage number) so I can keep track of my progress. I aim to cover the best part of twenty miles a day. I'll take the sheets covering my route from Chepstow to Hathersage together with the route guide book Part 1. My wife is meeting me in Hathersage when I'll take a couple of days off. She'll hopefully remember to bring the remaining maps and guide book Part 2.

A number of very generous people have already made donations online to my Just Giving page. Thank you to everyone.

Saturday, 10 February 2018

A night out

I'm putting on my first ever Backpackers Club weekend later this month. On the Saturday, I have a full day's walk in mind to take us from the Friday night's pitch to somewhere else on Saturday night. I haven't walked the whole route for several years so I decided to do it now to refresh my memory and to make sure there are no problems, obstacles, etc. The weather was clear but with rain forecast at night. There were patches of really bad gloopy mud and trekking poles really came in useful. I'd planned to wild camp in a wood I know. It was OK but sloping slightly which meant that I slipped from time to time during the night. There was rain and much wind but I was well protected from these. In the evening there were some rowdy pheasants and some time in the night I was woken by a very loud muntjac barking close by.

SilTarp 1
I'd been practising knot tying during the week (I tend to forget them easily) so I took a small tarp with separate guylines. The tarp is an Integral Designs SilTarp 1 (now marketed by Rab under their name). It is definitely a solo tarp and, whilst it was OK for my one night out, using a bivy bag as well (an Alpkit Hunka), I wouldn't have liked it in a less sheltered spot and I prefer more coverage for general use. If I'd been out in the open with wind and rain, I'd have wanted to pitch it close to the ground and it would have been a very tight squeeze. So, for the Great English Walk coming up next month, this will not be my choice of shelter. Instead, I shall take my Golite Cave 1, larger and giving greater coverage and weather protection and a bivy bag won't be necessary. There is, in fact, a net weight saving. The Golite Cave weighs 454g whereas the SilTarp and bivy bag together weigh 700g.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Great English Walk - planning

In the past, when undertaking long walks (a prime example being my LEJOG in 2009), I have planned my route and identified usually a campsite at the end of each day so that I've generally known where I will be each night. This time I shall not be doing that. In fact, I haven't even looked at campsite locations. I shall aim to camp every night (unless something else presents itself such as a bit of trail magic). Instead, I intend to camp wherever the fancy takes me and when I find a suitable spot, obviously well out of sight. All I need to do each day is to make sure that my 2 litre water belt is filled somewhere along the way.

What I have also tended to do on past trips is to post (or have posted) food resupply parcels a week at a time. Food would be the main items but also batteries, loo roll, wet wipes and maybe a razor. This time I shan't do that. Not only does it make my pack much heavier for the first couple of days after resupplying (and slow me down as a result) but, having explored my route, I shall be passing through villages with a shop where I can resupply two or three days at a time (sometimes less). The further north I go, the fewer shops there are but I shall get by.

Monday, 11 December 2017

Great English Walk - introduction

This is the plan for 2018. Starting on 17 March, I intend to walk the Great English Walk. It starts in Chepstow and ends in Berwick-upon-Tweed, a total of 583 miles. It should take around five weeks. It isn't well known although there is a published guide to it, in two parts. The first book will take me to Hathersage in the Peak District and the second one from Hathersage to Berwick. I intend to camp every night unless an obvious alternative presents itself.

Why am I doing it? Well, it is a walk I like the look of and the distance is something of a challenge. Also, I want to raise money for a charity that is now close to my heart and, also, my one remaining kidney. The charity is Ucare Urology Cancer Research and Education. As some of you may know, I had a kidney removed in January 2017 at the Churchill Hospital, Oxford. It had rather a large tumour around it. I feel fine now. Ucare was set up ten years ago. Its aims are:

  • To support research into the causes, prevention and treatment of urological cancers and related conditions.
  • To promote the development of new technologies that will help to improve the diagnosis and treatment of urological cancers and related conditions.
  • To provide equipment and facilities for research, and for the treatment of cancer patients.
  • To provide information and education about urological cancers.

Here is a link to Ucare's video.

I have set up a Just Giving page so I hope some of you will support me. I shall aim to blog daily here, subject to phone signal.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Backpackers Dartmoor midweek Day 3 - 6 October

I had a visitor to my tent last night. I heard a rustling and on turning over saw, in the gloom, my foodbag disappearing under the flysheet. A bloody fox. I shone a light outside but couldn't see anything. When I woke, I ascertained there is a Londis store in the village so made a mental list of food items to buy. However, when I emerged from the tent, I found my bag about twenty feet away, a tear on the side and my three remaining M&S chocolate chip shortbreads gone but everything else was untouched.

We started the day with a visit to Fox Tor Café just down the road. I had an excellent black coffee.

The weather forecast was good and we had a warm and sunny day. We took the bridleway east from Princetown to cross the bridge over the River Swincombe, then right alongside the river for a short distance before cutting across country towards Ter Hill. Much of it, maybe 1.5 miles was over rough clumped grass which didn't make for easy walking.  We all complained and Howard said maybe the next Dartmoor meet would be on better paths. Still, at least it wasn't raining and we passed by one of the two ancient crosses marked on the map just to the north of Ter Hill.

Near Princetown
Once we reached the Sand Way path, things improved and as we approached Michelcombe, where we are camped, the descent on the wide grassy path was a treat with amazing views beyond the eastern edge of Dartmoor.

The descent to Michelcombe
We have spent the evening in the Tradesman's Arms in Scoriton.