First of all, as part of the protocol, I have to thank Cath (http://wellycath.wordpress.com/) for nominating my blog for this ‘process’. I read Matt’s (http://hillplodder.wordpress.com/) recent blog posting on the same topic and I’m sort of with him when it comes to ‘chain letters’ – I’d normally bin it. However, I read Cath’s questions and all sorts of synapses started firing in my brain and I’d answered most of her questions in my mind within a couple of minutes. I therefore owe her the thanks, if for no other reason than she has encouraged me to write something about the outdoors. My recent writing output has been directed to the Pennine Way guide book and a knee injury has prevented me from getting out, so activity on the blog has dried up completely… until now!
1. Favourite outdoor place?
Imagine you were Superman and (after you’ve tracked down and been round and kicked the crap out of that guy that used to beat you up in school), you’re flying down through the clouds towards the UK from space. Look at all the wonderful places to walk; from the rolling downs of the south, over the heather and peat moorlands of the north west, beyond the Lake District and southern Scotland and zoom down towards the mystic Isle of Skye. If it’s not pissing down or covered in cloud you may be able to pick out the Cuillin Mountains and a little to their south is a small bay, called Camasunary. Accessed by the most sublime path in the world, which picks its way between some of the most majestic peaks in the UK you will eventually come to this wonderfully secluded spot beside the sea.
I found this place a couple of years ago, while walking the Skye Trail. The weather was perfect, there was no-one around and even though it’s one of the most litter strewn places I’ve ever been to, it was absolutely incredible. I spent a while just sitting and enjoying the quiet and the wonderful views. The litter washes up from ships that pass the coast and it leaves a lot to be desired, but it doesn’t detract from the idyllic location. This is probably my favourite place outdoors; in fact it’s probably my favourite spot anywhere.
2. Favourite piece of technology to use whilst outdoors?
I love my Samsung Galaxy Note 2. I’ve been using a smartphone for a number of years now; starting out with an iPhone but quickly progressing to an Android device and finally settling on the 6″ HD screen of the Note2. Like all the best walking and backpacking equipment, it serves multiple purposes; GPS, Digital Map, Camera, Video Recorder and Audio Note Recorder. Once I’m settled down in the evening it’s great for Twitter, updating the blog, watching movies, listening to podcasts and audio books and it even uses the camera flash LED as a torch for finding stuff in the tent after dark. It has a replaceable battery and lives in a waterproof case, so no worries about it dying on the hills.
3. Favourite outdoor food?
I love Jelly Babies; little bullets of instant energy, shaped like small children, what could be better? They are great for a boost while you’re walking; I keep a few stuffed into the hip belt on my pack for easy access and save the rest for the evening in the tent. I also like flapjacks, which are a great multi-purpose food item; great in a trail mix, an evening snack or a cold breakfast – they last forever, don’t melt, you can squash the hell out of them and they still taste great.
4. Outdoors ambition?
My ultimate goal is to walk from Land’s End to John O’Groats, via Cape Wrath. I had it booked in my calendar for earlier this year, but circumstances beyond my control meant that I had to park the plans for the foreseeable future. I enviously read the blogs of other people who are walking or planning it; along with other ultra-long distance walkers doing routes like the UK coast path. A more attainable medium term goal is to complete the Wainwrights. I have 61 to go, but haven’t set foot inside the Lake District for nearly two years now, but I will start to pick them off again soon I hope.
5. Favourite place to stay.. wild camp, YHA or hotel/B&B?
Not sure how to read this question, so I will probably over-answer it. I love wild camping and the freedom it provides, the access to longer routes that just aren’t possible even using B&Bs and Hostels, the ability to wake up with the sun in the morning and the absolute quiet of a high, wild place. I’ve not done a great deal of wild camping, I probably manage 3 or 4 nights a year, but my favourite place so far has been my first ever wildcamp, on Horse Head Moor in the Yorkshire Dales. My favourite B&B has to be Brookfield House in Shap, which I’ve used on my three Coast to Coast crossings. The quality of the hospitality is second to none and the food is awesome. I’ve only used a couple of Hostels in the past and I’ve had some pretty awful experiences; enough to say never, ever again, unless I have absolutely no other choice.
6. Piece of music, book or film that you associate with getting out?
I will turn this question on its head and tell you what music I often end up with in my head during a walk. A haunting balad from The Pogues called “Young Ned of the Hill” is something that I keep coming back to. The opening few lines are very evocative of the sort of walking I do;
“Have you ever walked the lonesome hills, And heard the curlews cry, Or seen the raven black as night, Upon a windswept sky, To walk the purple heather, And hear the westwind cry”.
I spend a lot of my time in the Yorkshire Dales and many of the hills I love are covered in heather, habitat to curlew, raven and plover and as often as not I see no-one on these hills. You can listen below, while you read the rest of my answers.
7. Best comedy moment in the outdoors?
This was the toughest of all the questions Cath posed. Possibly because I tend to walk alone, I don’t really have any comedy moments on the hills. I’ve seen some funny characters though, one memorable one was the guy walking Hadrian’s Wall path and instead of a rucksack he had a plastic carrier bag and one of those draw top gym bags that we used to put our pumps (plimsoles) in when I went to junior school. He was on day six of his walk and I can only assume he was using a baggage courier as I find it hard to believe he had all his gear in an Iceland bag and a Man U pump bag. As an added bonus he’d lost his reading glasses in Carlisle and was following the white acorns on the finger posts as he couldn’t see his maps anymore!
8. Who has inspired you to get out and enjoy the outdoors?
The person that most inspired me to get out was me. My back-story is well documented on my website, but at 40 years old I’d never walked up a proper hill and at that time I couldn’t have done so had my life depended on it! I motivated myself to do something about the sedentary lifestyle I was living and I did that through walking – within 12 months I was significantly lighter and fitter and walking up Coniston Old Man to bag my first Wainwright. The best inspiration comes from within yourself; without self-belief and personal motivation you can’t hope to succeed in anything you do. I read what other people write and produce; both professional outdoors writers and personal blogs, and some of that inspires me to look for new walks and new experiences, but the drive to get out there comes from within.
9. Favourite beverage after a hard day spent outside?
After a long walk, especially if I’m camping at the end of it, the first drink I want is a cup of tea. If I’m lucky enough to be finishing the walk at my car I’ll probably have stashed some cans into my little cooler, so I can enjoy an ice cold Diet Coke on the way home. As someone who mostly walks alone I never really got into the habit of the post walk pub; so as much as I enjoy a decent pint of ale it’s not my usual drink after a walk. That said, if I’m walking a long distance path and I finish in a village, the first thing I look for is a pint of Theakston’s Old Peculier.
10. Being outdoors.. how does it make you feel?
Mostly it makes me feel tired. It’s a good feeling though, especially if I’ve been out early enough to get a good walk in and then get home in time to watch the football on Soccer Saturday. I tend to sit there with a feeling of self-satisfied smugness, calves aching gently, knowing I’ve walked further in a morning than most people walk in a week.
11. Where will your next adventure take you?
Possibly to the surgeon, as I’m carrying a quite serious knee injury at the moment. In my downtime however, I’ve been planning lots of walks for the late summer when I hope to be fit enough to get out again. Top of my list is a 3 or 4 day trip to the far southern Lake District, exploring the fells around Black Combe; none of which are Wainwrights, but it’s an area I’ve been promising myself I will visit and explore for some time. Even without any Waiwnrights there are plenty of other recognised fells in the area and it’s always great to tick off some new hills.
1. If you were restricted to only walking on one hill/mountain, which one would it be and why?
2. Favourite piece of technology to use when outdoors?
3. What was your most memorable walk?
4. What’s your favourite piece of outdoor equipment?
5. What was your funniest and/or scariest moment in the outdoors?
6. If you could create one binding piece of UK legislation, relating to the outdoors, what would it be?
7. What’s your outdoor ambition?
8. If you could choose anyone (from the past or the present), who would you most like to take on a walk in the great outdoors?
9. What piece of music, book or film do you associate with getting out?
10. What outdoor related achievement are you most proud of?
11. Where will your next adventure take you?
http://www.hillbagging.com/ – @HillBagging
http://ramblingman.org.uk/ – @RamblingManUK
http://www.comewalkwithmeuk.co.uk/ – @CWWMUK
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