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Wednesday, July 30, 2014


 The act of walking has over the years been not only a balm to the troubled soul but also an act of political defiance. The very fact that protestors the world over go on protest marches puts the act of pedestrianism in the realm of politics, not to mention events such as the Kinder Trespass which became the catalyst for the free access movement which has won us so many freedoms today. However, for the majority of us, I don't think we consider the act of walking to be anything overtly political. When I find myself tucked under the Wain Stones sheltering from a gale or dipping my feet in Angle Tarn on a hot Summer's day, I feel a million miles away from the concerns of my normal life and, usually, all the better for it.
   Mark Thomas however is not a man to shy away from expressing his views and his idea to walk the length of the Israeli West Bank barrier cannot really be seen as anything other than overtly political. The route the barrier takes is over 400 miles long, so the walk is a not insignificant undertaking, and it is an undertaking that is made considerably harder by the political situation and inevitable tensions the walkers encounter on both sides of the barrier. Thomas walks with his friend and cameraman, Phil, and an assortment of translators, fixers, guides and oddballs. He interviews Israeli settlers, Palestinian farmers, NGO workers, scrap metal dealers and those striving for peace from both sides of the divide. He is pelted with stones, rained upon, hailed upon, sunburned, tear gassed and arrested, but continues stoically on. He meets members of the Palestinian Ramblers Association and goes for a walk with the British consul general and he experiences a harsh, scarred landscape but one that is still regularly capable of taking his breath away.
   Regardless of your views on the situation, and Thomas's views are clear from the first paragraph, one of the very real things that comes out of this book is how by walking you are forced into contact with the land and the people on it. On a linear walk such as this it is impossible not to meet people, not be confronted with the reality of what we as humans do to the land and each other, and to ponder the notion that travel that is not undertaken on foot often removes us from the very essence of the place we are there to see.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Guided walking on Scafell Pike with SINCIL sports college

Walking with; Kallum, Josh, Jordan, Brad, George, Michelle and Mr Z!IMG_1207

As part of their challenge week five students and two members of staff from Sincil Sports College in Lincoln decided they would like to attempt an ascent of Scafell Pike, England’s highest mountain, and Come walk with me UK were more than happy to help them achieve this fantastic goal! The weather the day before had been horrendous and when I’d ventured on to the fells to do a bit of a reccy, visibility had been little more than five metres and the rain torrential, so it was with some trepidation I crawled out of my tent on Thursday morning to see the tops of the big peaks covered in cloud.
I met the guys at the NT campsite where they were busy dismantling their camp and after a quick kit check we set off along the banks of Longmell Gill and were soon climbing towards the now fully visible Scafell Pike, stopping for fantastic views of Wastwater, Yewbarrow, Ill Gill Head, Great Gable and Kirk Fell. After our stream crossing we carried on up the steep steps on Brown Tongue and onto the Hollow Stones. It was a popular day for walking and the same faces ebbed and flowed as we walked, admired the views and took the odd breather, but the peak continued to grow ever closer. We finally made the summit and the whole team were really proud of the effort it had taken to get to the top of England.
The descent was a bit easier and the views down to Styhead Tarn were fantastic. It was hot work and hard on the legs as we made our way back down to Wastwater, stopping for a cooling dip in the Gill en route. Although all the team would agree that it had been hard work, I think we would all agree it was well worth the effort and a true challenge! So, Congratulations to Team Sincil and I hope to see you again for another challenge soon!

Monday, July 7, 2014

First paid work as a Mountain Leader!

Walking with; More House School

   Well, it has finally paid off! This was my first gig as a professionally qualified ML. I picked up the job with Class Adventure at the last minute and headed down to Crickhowell in South Wales for a couple of days walking and working with a group of 55 kids from More House School in Surrey. I was in charge of 11 kids and assisted by one of the teachers from the school. We were based at a semi-permanent campsite in the beautiful Glanusk Estate and spent one night at a more remote camp still on the estate but with a slightly wilder feel.
   The sun shone and I led the group along the Brecon and Monmouthshire canal before cutting off the towpath and dropping down to the gorgeous River Usk. We paused by the waterfalls and watched Buzzards wheel overhead before continuing on to Llangynidir and then cutting through the countryside to our campground. The next morning we followed the Usk down to Crickhowell before crossing into Llangattock and heading back along the canal. The kids also got the chance to try their hands at climbing, abseiling and canoeing and really seemed to enjoy their time in the Welsh countryside. Whilst I might not have spent any actual time in the mountains it was good experience working with groups and getting used to the different dynamic and also being able to educate some of the kids about the fantastic countryside around Crickhowell. My next gig is on Scafell Pike, can't wait, especially if the sun keeps shining!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Changes a foot

As part of the progression from being a general "man about the hills" to being a Mountain Leader I am having a new website built and am going to integrate my blog into it. This means that the blog is likely to be off line for a few days! Hope to see you on the other side at !

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Baslow-Chatsworth House-Edensor-Hassop and Bank Wood

Walking with; Nobody

   Over the years I have acquired a fair number of different walking books describing routes for many different parts of the country. In recent times I have mostly devised my own routes and derived great pleasure from it, but once in a while I find myself thinking "Why bother inventing the wheel" and dig one of the dusty guide books out form the shelf on which they languish. The one I laid hands on this week was by Mark Reid, author of "The Inn Way" series who hit on the genius idea of producing books combining excellent walks with excellent pubs....sounds like a decent job to me! After a perusal of his "Walking weekends Peak District" I decided that I'd head over to Baslow and do his 10.5 miler taking in the Chatsworth estate and some of the Peak District's most picturesque villages.
   Leaving the village green at Nether End I crossed Bar Brook and followed a resplendent male Pheasant along the path towards the Chatsworth estate. The estate is a fine example of an English stately home, vast swathes of grassland populated by magnificent mature trees and grazing herds. The landscaping was done by "Capability" Brown and the house itself was built in the late 17th Century and is still the home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire today. Passing Queen Mary's bower, one of the oldest buildings on the estate named after Mary, Queen of Scots who was imprisoned at Chatsworth I crossed the Derwent and headed towards the hamlet of Edensor. If an American tourist were to describe a picture perfect English village they'd be hard pressed to describe something other than Edensor. It's a collection of beautiful stone built cottages clustered around a parish church and village green. The gardens are immaculate, vegetables and flowers adding colour to the picture and in the June sunshine it was the quintessence of Englishness. I reluctantly climbed out of the village passing a couple of dry stone wallers and dropped down Handley Lane towards Pilsley.
   A little further on I came to Hassop and the 17th century pub "The Eyre Arms" where a pint of "Palerider" in front of the hanging baskets seemed like too good an opportunity to miss. The path leading through Bank Woods South and North was very overgrown but I picked my way through the grass led by Red Admirals and Wrens and enjoying views of Longstone Edge before dropping down to Calver. Negotiating a herd of slightly frisky cattle I made it back to the banks of the Derwent and from there cut through St Mary's Wood before dropping through Bubnell and emerging back by the old bridge in Baslow and returning along the road from there. This was a beautiful route through the kind of English countryside long dreamed off by visitors to the UK. Beautiful villages, wild flower meadows, dry stone wallers and birds and butterflies, a decent pub and the sun even managed to shine! Good work Mark Reid.

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