Friday, 19 November 2010

Eltham Lights Up

Last night my youngest daughter was part of the Lights Up Eltham, which is the turning on of the Christmas lights in our local high street.

This years theme was Time & Alice in Wonderland, this involves the local schools making lanterns for the parade along the high street.

Below are some pictures from the event.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Bang, pop, fizz

Last night was spent at a fireworks display with the family, this is the display's finale.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Top Ten

It seems as this blog has been chosen as one of the top ten UK Outdoor Recreation blogs over at Cision

Monday, 13 September 2010

Hang Drum


New Blogs

I have set up a couple of new blogs; both are to do with photography.

The first is On The Street which is my attempts at Street Photography.

The second site is really a place for pictures that don't fit in with either backpacking or street photography but are IMO worth showing.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Action packed First Issue

I haven't bought an issue of Trail magazine since the September 2003 issue.

I know this because I have every issue up to and included that one.

I can't fully remember why I stopped buying it; it may be because there wasn't enough to interest me or the general content seemed to be getting pretty bland and predictable.

Trail is celebrating its 30th birthday this year, so I thought I'd take a look back at issue one.

Back in the mists of time; July/August 1990 there were as far as I remember only one or two U.K based walking magazine; and that was The Great Outdoors and Country walking (the sister magazine to Trail), at that time I always found The Great Outdoors to be for the bearded, red sock brigade and only bought it on a handful of occasions. Country walking was always for the day walker and had very little to interest me.

So with the arrival of Trail Walker (that's what it was called back then) there was a new kid on the stands, it looked fresh, entertaining and fitted exactly the type on walking/backpacking I was into at that time.


When first published it was a bi-monthly magazine and I think it was like this for the first year.

Much of the issue is in black & white with only a handful of colour pictures and colour adverts.

The editor-in-chief was Keith Nelson

The first article was called Around the roof of England by Paddy Dillon; which is a 2 day youth hostel route or a 3 day backpacking one taking in Scafell Pike, Scafell, Helvellyn and Skiddaw.

Test report was on seven backpacks including Karrimor Panther 4, Mag Mor Spectre, Berghaus Pulsar, and Lowe Alpine Outback II.

The letter's page covers interesting questions like 'how to put a rucsac on', what is the best stove/fuel and it seems as meths burners are pretty thirsty beasts. My favourite letter is 'What's the ideal rucsac weight?' with the answer being the maximum recommend safe weight for a laden rucsac is 1/3 of your body weight.

A second article by Paddy covers the Pennine Way with a very detailed outline of the route and where to stay each night.

Other articles include a Pyrenean backpack, Crib-Goch Scramble, and how to make the most of scrambling.

There is also the weekender section which covers the Marsden-Edale classic, the Buttermere round, two days over Dartmoor and a two day trip around Lochnagar.

Adverts in the magazine include the OS new national trail guides, Mag Mor makers of the best British rucsacs, Bourne Sports,
HF holidays, Ron Hill and Bivvy Bug there are also 5 pages at the rear Advertising Trail Breaks.

So that's a look back at the first issue of Trail, I guess things haven't really changes that much, although the biggest thing missing form this issue is no web addresses.

Trail Walker Issue One

Sunday, 15 August 2010

TGO Photographs

I've finally gotten around to sorting out my photographs from this year's TGO Challenge.

As you may remember from a previous post; I left the SD card for my camera behind and had to take most of the photographs with my video camera.

If you click on the link below the picture, it will take you to the TGO Challenge album.

St. Cyrus beach
From My TGO Challenge

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Chameleon Wrap Slam Update

I have been wearing these shoes for the best part of a month now; mainly on day walks to the local woods and on the urban walks I have been doing.

The walks range in distance for a couple of miles up to the longest which was about 6 miles. Terrain has consisted of woodland path to normal city concrete pavements.

There has been very little rain in the South over the month; so testing the shoes in the rain has been impossible, As there is no waterproof liner, I would expect the shoes to get wet in wet condition. I would allow expect them to take a while to dry out, as they are quite a well padded shoe.

Padding detail

The wrap design on the shoes help to fit the shoes better to your feet and this with the high amount of padding does help to give the shoe a boot-like feel.

Wrap detail

I found the sole to be quite stiff; just like a boot's sole; which along with the rather chunky vibram sole did give good protection on hard surfaces; although on the longer walks I did find that the stiffness and lack of flexibility did seem to make my feet ache more that normal for the distance.

In my initial report I did say that I thought the shoes where on the heavy side, after wearing them for a time, I still think this. They are heavy enough to know you are wearing them, especially when going up hills or climbing stairs.

Although the shoes are comfortable and give good foot support; I don't think they would be my 'go to' shoes for walking mainly because of the weight and the stiff sole, I have gotten so use to a light shoe and flexible sole.

I see the Merrell Chameleon Wrap Slam trainers as possibly a good shoe for somebody who wants to move away from a full boot but isn't sure that the super lightweight shoes are for them; obviously something like a Sealskin or Goretex liner would be needed, as I can't see these being quick drying.

Thanks to Adam and Fitness Footwear for the chance to test & review the shoes.

More days out

Deer, Greenwich Park

Greenwich Naval College

Greenwich Park Panorama

Canary Wharf

From Days out

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Salad Days

Yesterday was spent going around the Natural History and Science Museum in London.

I haven't been to either of these Museums since around 1976/77; back then I spent quite a lot of time there, for reasons I won't go into.

There was plenty of feelings of deja vu, seeing some of the same exhibits from back then, like the dinosaurs and the Apollo 11 moon lander (obviously a reproduction).

Things have changed though; back then the most interesting electronic 'gadget' in the Science Museum was the T.V that had Ceefax on it. Nowadays its all touchscreen interactive computers.

One thing the Science Museum always had were either really old things like Stephenson Rocket, or Beam engines or items that Joe Public would never own like a Cray computer or Space craft.

But yesterday I saw a Chopper Bike, NES Console and an original Game Boy machine; these are not old (well that old to be a Museum!!) these are part of my childhood and early twenties.

Going to Museums can sure make one feel old.

Major Tom

From Days out

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Sea to Summit X-Series

Occasionally I get asked if I would like to test and review equipment, other times I will see something that interests me and I will contact the supplier/manufacturer to see if it would be possible to have an item to test/review.

Burton McCall were nice enough to send me a set of the Sea to Summit X-Series Mug, Bowl and Plate.

For years I always carried two cook pots; one of meals and the other a small one for doing 'brews'. The main reason for this was that when using homemade dehydrated meals, they needed to soak for an hour or so, and this ment that one pot was not usable in this time.

I did for a time use just one pot and a plastic bowl but it would not always fit into pockets easily and occasionally pressing to hard on the pack would crack the bowl.

I did also for a time try the Orikaso set of mugs and bowls but never got on with these.

So after seeing a x-bowl on this year's TGO Challenge I though this maybe the ideal solution for the way I cook.

The best way to do this review is do the items individually; So I will start with the X-Mug.


Weight: 52 g
Size: 20mm x 110mm (when flat) 85mm x 110mm (when open)

The X-mug is made from food grade silicone material, this means that it won't taint any liquid that is placed into it.

The mug has a nylon rim to help give rigidity to the mug. The mug is calibrated on the inside in ml and cups, so can be used as a measuring cup. The measurements show from 100 ml to 480 ml.

It will hold 480 ml (2 cups) of liquid but this will take it to the top of the mug; Personally I only fill it to about the 350 ml (1 1/3 cups) this is because where you pick the mug up normally i.e by the sides the mug squishes sightly and can cause the liquid to overflow. The mug can be picked up by the rim but you need to have fairly big hands to do this.

Comparing the x-mug to my old mug; the x-mug will hold sightly more liquid but does weigh a few grams more. But it is much easier to pack away inside a pack or even in a trouser pocket.

Old & New

I do have one niggle and one concern with the x-mug; the niggle is that although the mug will take quite high temperatures, it doesn't seem to hold the heat particularly well. I wouldn't expect it to hold heat like a insulated mug but I found that the heat disperses quite quickly; even quicker that the old plastic mug I normally use. Now I don't know the reason for this; it could be the the walls of the x-mug are quite thin or it could be that silicone don't retain heat particularly well.

The concern is how resistant the silicone is to puncture; I like to have my brew kit close to hand which means I carry it in the outside pockets of my pack. Packs can sometimes get snagged on items like gates, stiles and the odd bit of barbed wire and this could puncture the x-mug; I know this may never happen but I think about these things.

Pros: light and compact, holds a good amount of liquid

Cons: Doesn't seen to keep liquid hot for very long, possibly easy to puncture


Weight: 86 g
Size: 15 mm x 150 mm (flat) 60 mm x 150 (when open)

The X-bowl is made for the same materials as the X-mug the only difference being that there is no nylon rim; the nylon this time is in the base of the bowl.

The base of the bowl can be used as a cutting board, if you are someone who like to cook and prep fresh food out of the trail.

Again the bowl is calibrated to use for measuring, and shows from 100 to 500 ml.

The bowl can hold a maximum of 650 ml; and you can use virtually all of this, as this time as you are more likely to hold the bowl in the palm of your hand.

I used the bowl for a breakfast (Oat So Simple) and a homemade dehydrated meal and neither of these meals came above the 400 ml mark.

X-Bowl & Breakfast

But once again I found the the meals seems to get cooler quicker than in either a traditional bowl or my Vargo ti-lite mug.

Pros: light and compact, small pack size

Cons: Doesn't seen to keep food hot for very long


Weight: 152 g
Size: 15 mm x 220 mm (Flat) 38 mm x 220 (open)

Again the X-plate is made from the same silicone and nylon, as the other two items. Because of it's bigger size, you get a much bigger cutting board and the plate will hold 1170 ml.

Now I have to admit the I can't really find a way of fitting this plate into my backpacking set-up. It has nothing to do with the weight or the size but more to what I would use it for.

Most of my meals on trips are 'heat and eat' so the X-bowl would serve this purpose 99.9% of the time.

I could see the plate being used on 'Glamping' trips with the family; when having 'proper' meals in a tent.

Pros: light and compact, good if you like a large plate

Cons: doesn't really fit in with my type of backpacking

Overall I see the mug & bowl to be a good addition to my backpacking kitchen.

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Sunday, 18 July 2010

Local Nature Reserve

Popped along to our local nature reserve today; which is about 10 minutes from home.

The reserve has been created within Sutcliffe Park, the river used to run under the road and covered culvert through the park. This was remodelled several years ago to reintroduce a flood area to protect areas further down stream. Also this created a marshy area for wildlife to return. It is now an oasis in the middle of two major roads.

View Larger Map

There are suppose to be dragonflies, damselflies, herons, little egrets, kingfishers and reed warblers there but I only saw a heron today along with the usual suspects of ducks, coots and moorhens.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

(Karma) Chameleon Wrap Slam

At the end of last year Stef from BG! put my name forward to Fitness Footwear to test and review some TNF Hedgehog walking shoes; At the time I had just bought a pair of these shoes, so declined the offer.

Adam Smith from Fitness Footwear has been back in touch with some new shoes to test and review and this time I have taken up the offer.

This month's offer was on Merrell Trainers. I had the choice of a few different shoes and opted for the Merrell Chameleon Wrap Slam (yeah I think the name is a bit of a mouthful too).

Chameleon Wrap Slam

Sole Detail

I asked Adam to send me a size 12; I usually take a 11 or 11.5 but when ordering shoes unseen I tend to go a half size bigger. Adam actully sent me a size 12.5 which was lucky as I think the 12 would of been a bit tight.

Initial thoughts on the shoes are that, they are fairly comfortable: I've only tried them on two short walks so far. They are a lot heavier than I would expect from a shoe made with neoprene but I think this is partly to do with the rubber rand and the rather chunky Vibram sole.

The weight is around 548g per shoe, this is in comparison to Inov8 Terrocs=408g, TNF Hedgehog=478g, and New Balance S70=419g

A selection of hiking shoes
New Balance S70, TNF Hedgehogs, Inov8 Terrocs, Merrell Chameleon Wrap Slam

I'll be wearing the Merrell's as my main shoes for the next couple of months and with have a fullier report then.

Fitness Footwear has a selection of Merrells on sale at present.

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Monday, 12 July 2010

Power to the people

There have been a couple of posts on charging mobile phones, mp3 players and possibly other equipment while out on a trip.

In the past I have always used a mp3 player that would take AA/AAA batteries and just carry a spare, this usually worked quite well; as for mobile phones, well I never really worried about it because they would be switched off most of the time as they were only a phone.

Nowadays mp3 players have internal batteries that have to be charged through a USB port on the computer and mobile phones are more than just a phone.

There seems to be quite a few different types of chargers out there; from one's that can be picked up in a pound shop to in excess of £30

For my TGOC trip I had picked up one from the pound shop; as I wasn't sure how good these things were and didn't want to pay a lot for something that may not work.

The picture above is of the £1 one; which is very basic, it takes 4 AAA batteries and comes with one lead the connects to the unit and has a female USB on the other end.

Using standard Energizer batteries the unit gave me enough charge to re-charge the mp3 two to three times off one set of batteries.

For the phone is was pretty useless as it only even seemed to add one bar into the phone and I also believed the it was draining the phone but have no proof of that.

Since being back I've looked into them a bit more and if you have an iphone there seems to be plenty of choices, other phones are a bit limited because of the adaptors you need for them. Yes you could use the USB lead that connects to the computer but this means bring along a lead that is at least 3 feet in length.

One company that does seem to make a charger with a variety of adaptors is Powertraveller; they do a whole range of charger but I went for the PowerChimp mainly because is was still fairly cheap and had the tip adaptor I need for my phone.

The PowerChimp comes with 9 tips, a lead to connect the unit to your equipment, a re-trackable USB to unit cable, 2 1800 mAh AA batteries and something I found quite clever; 2 plastic sleeves so you can use AAA batteries in the AA unit. It also has a LED light build into it and also has an on/off button.

Although the unit comes with re-chargeable batteries; normal batteries can be used in it.

The unit takes about 5 hours to fully charge its batteries; and again charging the mp3 player I can get a about 3 full charges.

The website quotes the following about the charger:-

There are two rechargeable AA 1800mAh batteries in the powerchimp, but the voltage is 1.2v. Mobile phones require 4.5 ~ 5.5 v, so the powerchimp needs to convert from 1.2v to 5.5v. The battery capacity is almost divided by 5, 2 x 1800mAh NI-MH batteries are equal to 1x 1000mAh Li-ion battery, powerchimp is a typical emergency charger and therefore will give you up to one full charge of your mobile phone

To test this out I allowed my phone to go completely flat and has a full 5 hour charge in the PowerChimp. The PowerChimp did recharge the phone but not to a full charge; 3 bars did appear but even in standby the phone dropped to 2 bars with in an hour.

Another test was done but this time using Energizer Lithium batteries, again the phone charged to 3 bars but this time it stayed at 3 bars for a day but as usual started to drop as I used the phone.

The unit with the AA rechargeable batteries weights in at about 50 grams and a bit less with Lithium batteries.

The on/off button is recessed on the unit so makes the chances of being switched on by accident less, but I also reverse one of the batteries when not in use, just in case.

The first press of the button will start the charging procedure and this is accompanied by a flashing green light to tell you that that the charging is working. A flashing red light tell you that the batteries are nearly exhausted.

The second press of the button switches on the LED light and a third press will switch the unit off again.

The overall size of the unit in roughly 9x4x3 cm and it come with a small pouch case to store a couple of adaptors and the unit in.

As yet I haven't tried it with Alkaline batteries but would imagine that I will get something between the rechargeables and the Lithiums in performance.

Overall I think the unit works well for mp3 players, and is a good emergency back up for the phone.

Tuesday, 22 June 2010


SoFoBoMo stands for Solo Photograph Book Month.

SoFoBoMo is a group event where a bunch of photographers all make solo photo books start to finish in 31 days.

This year the project runs from 1st June to 31th July; this is a fuzzy month which allows the photogrpher to start at any time within these date but still have a month to complete the project.

I signed up for last year's event but never get around to doing it.

This year Darren decided to have a go as well, so I thought I`d keep him company.

I was hoping to use the TGO Challenge as my entry but it was outside the dates, so another idea would have to be found, and this was a problem as I didn't have to many free weekend in the time period to get out and take something.

Luckily something was brought to my attention late last week, and a plan was formed to get a set of photographs for the project.

So Saturday morning saw me in Central London at 07.30 am and at the start of a 12 hour run around London, taking in most of the well known landmarks, Leicester Square, St James Park, Hyde Park, Barker Street, Marble Arch, Green Park, The City of London, St Paul's cathedral, London's South bank and finally Greenwich.

All of this was to get the photographs for my SoFoBoMo book Elephant's in London

It was fun doing this in such a short timescale and I really enjoyed visiting some of my old childhood haunts.

Saturday, 12 June 2010


I just like to say a big thanks to all the people who have commented on the video's; here and on Twitter.

I'm glad people enjoyed them and hope it gave the flavour of my TGO crossing.

After the disasters with both the stills camera and the phone; this was the best way to capture the crossing and my thoughts at the time.

I also found is to be a much easier medium to work with than writing up the trip each night; although editing the clips together was harder work than writing :-).

Friday, 11 June 2010

TGO Challenge 2010 Day Eleven/Twelve

In which our Hero starts to think about the end, has a gentle walk by the river, has a problem, bounces along a bridge, a mini disaster is averted, arrives at St Cyrus, has a final moan and plays out the final act.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

TGO Challenge Day Ten Video

In which our Hero makes a dash for a bed, walks along Loch Lee, gets attacked!, meets the Mason's and finally sleeping in a bed.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

TGO Challenge 2010 Day Nine Video

In which our Hero finally leaves Braemar, sees a special bothy, meets Carl, plays hide & seek with a bothy, and camps at the stable.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

TGO challenge 2010 Day Seven/Eight Video

In which our Hero muses about wild horses, challengers, crosses a wobbly bridge, has his peace disturbed, finds a snake and visits Mar Lodge

Monday, 7 June 2010

TGO Challenge 2010 Day Five/Six Video

In which our Hero is unsure of what to do, meets Merv again, visits the local history, arrives in Glen Feshie and finds a wondrous seat.


Sunday, 6 June 2010

Best seat in the house

TGO Challenge Day 2010Three/Four Video

In which our Hero walking with the pylons, gets on the wrong side of a bridge, takes a tour, gets upset with walking and finally gets to camp.


Saturday, 5 June 2010

TGO Challenge 2010 Day Two Video

In which our Hero battles with the rain, gets lost! and meets Bill & Merv.

Friday, 4 June 2010

TGO Challenge 2010 Day One Video

As most know I like to video most of my walking trips; and the TGO was no different.

I have edited around 600 video clips and this has ended up with about 80 minutes of video.

The idea of videoing trips has always be as a record mainly for myself.

The video's also give a good representation of how I was feeling and my thoughts at points through the day.

More Pictures

Broken Bridge (Glen Feshie)

Bridge across Allt Darraire


Long Man

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Some Pictures

Loch Duich


Loch Affric


Ruthven Barracks

Glen Feshie Camp

Saturday, 29 May 2010

*@^! It!

I`m back home after finishing at St Cyrus at 11.00 am on Wednesday.

At present I am trying to get my phone sorted out as between Virgin and Orange they have really ballsed it up.

The computer is chugging away processing the 600 or so video clips I have taken.

One little mistake (apart from the phone) was I forget to put a SD card in my still camera and carried it across Scotland unable to take any pictures with it! DOH!!! Luckily the video camera can take stills as well; so I got some pictures.

I not sure how I'm going to proceed with blogging about the trip, as I have some mixed feelings about it. I'll take the rest of the weekend to decide what to do.

While that is ongoing here is a clip from day three.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

TGO Day 2 Tales from the riverbank

We had rain again during the night also strong winds. I was away by 8.30 once I could pack between showers. Again the track was good but this time I was on my own, I reached the Cougie turn off about 10.30 and followed the map, which ment crossing a stream; the terrocs at great for this, wet feet yes but they do dry quickly.

At this point things started to a bit wrong; I was struggling to find the second path East. After an hour of faffing about I decided to go back to the start and take the longer but easier track around.

As I was backtracking I bumped into two challengers and explained my problem; This seems I didn't need to cross the stream as the path stays to one side, bloody OS maps.

Anyway we made it Cougie by 2.15 and had lunch there.

I explained to the owners I wouldn't be staying and they were fine with it.

I carried on into Sunday's route and started climbing up the pass to Fort Augustus. For all thee snow they have had up here the pass is pretty dry, I was finding it hard to find any decent water.

I finally bumped into kate & Tim Wood camped next to a stream; so I've set up camp too GR292207.

It's now 20.15 15 May

TGO Day 1 I feel fine

Fairly good day's walking although it was a day of sunshine and showers so waterproofs on and off.

The walk up Glen lichd saw nice but the climb up to Fionngleann was a killer even though I know it was there.

Most of the day was spent leapfrogging two or three groups.

Camban bothy was a welcome sight as by then I was feeling quite tired but after a good rest and food I felt better.

Again following the crowd to Alltbeithe YH. From here I had to path to myself as most were staying at the YH.

I pushed on to Athnamulloch as the vetter told me that there were some flat pitches here; that's not strickly true as there is a lot of tussocks about but have found a pitch and am just waiting for dinner to cook.

The sun is now shining again and things look pretty good; only probrlem is tomorrow, I can't decide to go to Cougie as planned or push on into Sunday route and make the walk into Fort Augustus easier.

The walking today was better than expected.

It now 19:32 14 May; I'll post as soon as there is network.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Ready, Set....

After the panic from earlier in the week; everything is now packed and waiting for tomorrow.

Pack weight is around 11.5kg

I'm going to try and blog while on the trip but this is dependent on a phone signal, and so far tonight I haven't been able to send any updates, as Orange are having problems with their network.

As the posts will be via email they may end up being out of order, but hopefully they will make some kind of sense.

I will also be making use of Twitter; this will just be short updates but maybe easier than full posts every day.

So if anyone is interested in following along that way; just click the Twitter icon on the right and sign up.

So that's it for now; hopefully the next post will be from Scotland.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

It's Official...

I have hit PANIC! mode.

Yesterday was spent on shopping trips to get last minute bits and pieces; gas, food, watch.

Yep; I don't own a watch. And although this trip isn't about timekeeping I do need to make sure I'm at certain places to make the right connections. See PANIC!

Yesterday I also realised that for some reason I can't fit everything in the GoLite Pinnacle, O.K. that's not strictly true; everything in the picture below fits into the pack, this is everything I am taking, minus food. But that's the problem, with all that lot in the pack there is no room for my maximum of 4 days worth of food. PANIC!

Now I say all that lot but it isn't that much; honest. The only piece I don't normally carry is the synthetic jacket, but I think I'm going to need this.

I've swapped the GoLite out for my Six Moon Designs pack, which has given me more room, in fact probably enough to get 4 days food in.

The weight is only around 11 kg but it seems as I'm having problem with bulky items.

Monday, 3 May 2010

TGO Challenge 6 to the End

This started out with the idea of previewing the days of my TGO Challenge but lack of time on my part; means I'm going to post the remaining days as one post.

Day Six; sees me going to a place I've wanted to visit for a while, Ruthen Barracks. Then head East to get into Glen Feshie and another wild camp somewhere in the upper part of the Glen.

Day Seven; continues in Glen Feshie, and along the Geldie Burn, the last time I was here I had to crossing the Geldie but this time, I'm on the right side.

Continuing East I'll be aiming for White Bridge and possibly another wild camp before Braemar.

Day eight should be the shortest of the whole trip, with a short hop into Braemar; for a day's rest the following day.

Day nine looks to be a long and interesting day. Long as it looks to be about 30km and interesting because the bothy I am hoping to be staying at that night has a reputation, as not being that easy to find.

Day ten is over Murkle Cairn into Glen Lee, Loch Lee and on to Tarfside.

Day eleven will be spent walking along the River North Esk into Edzell first of all; and as I now know it's little secret, it shouldn't be to long getting to the campsite at North Water Bridge.

The final day follows the lanes and roads into St Cyrus and then a bus to finish control at Montrose.