A Gathering Of The Champions

Countryfile Live 2017

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Over the four days of the 3 – 6 August 2017 staff from the Ordnance Survey and some of the OS #GetOutside Champions assembled at the CountryFile Live show at Blenheim Palace.  Our remit was to promote the OS Consumer vision to make outdoor activity enjoyable, accessible and safe for everyone.

 

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Throughout the event we promoted OS Maps with its new 3D and Green Space features.  Spread the GetOutside message as well as sharing the GetOutside Champions stories with the public.  The event was an amazing success with a great deal of interest shown in the OS Maps package.

But this was also an opportunity to catch up with other fellow OS GetOutside Champions and exchange stories and adventures.

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Tracy Purnell, Glyn Dodwell & Jude Brosnan
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Lucy Atkins – (Blonde 1 of Two Blondes Walking) talking about OS Maps and one of her favourite areas – The Isles of Scilly.
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Karl Rushen (Mr 100 Peaks)
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The OS Crew relaxing before the start of another full-on busy day
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Sim Benson, Jude Brosnan and Scott Mcalister
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Fi Darby – (Blonde 2 of Two Blondes Walking) chatting with Mary-Ann Ochota in the Team Orange top.
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Jen Benson talking to Blonde 1
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Jason Rawles articulating with Sim Benson
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Addi & Athna (Team AA) talking to Scott Mcalister
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Mary-Ann Ochota now wearing the Team Blue top

 

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Tracy, Glyn, Scott & Jude

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Beacon Hill Round Trip

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Length: 6.75 miles

Ascent: 714 feet

Duration: 3 hours

Access: Grass, Tracks, Roads

Difficulty: Moderate

Car Park: Beacon Hill NNR (SU 598 227)

Beacon Hill is one of my favourate locations to start a walk.  From the free car park you can access so much walks, in all directions.  Several Long Distance Footpaths cross in the vicinity – South Downs Way, Monarch’s Way, The White Way & Wayfarer’s Way.

Todays route follows sections of the South Downs Way and Monarch’s Way tyravelling through the beautiful and enigamtic Meon Valley.  Passing through the villages of Exton and Warnford both with excellant pubs offering food as well as drink.  You will also pass the traditional Watercress fields and the Wheely Down Forge home of an amazing artist Blacksmith.

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Leave the car park along the easterly track and follow the ridge to the trig pillar.  From here the track heads south to intercept the road before entering the field with the torch beacon.  Just follow the signs for the South Downs Way (SDW).

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At the bottom of the hill enter the village of Exton and continue along the SDW heading towards the main road A32.  As you approach the junction the River Meon makes it first appearance

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At the road junction, carefully cross a very busy road to the footpath marked for the SDW.  An easy, wide track soon give ways to a narrow footpath running adjacent to a small stream and twisting its way through the trees and routes.  At the end of this path you will reach the Meon Valley Trail (MVT) – a 9 miles route along a dis-used railway.

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Cross the MVT and continue along the SDW for about 100 metres before following a small footpath to the left.  This path soon opens up to a broad track referred to as the Garden Hill Lane.  After about a kilometre you intercept a tarmac track waymarked as the Monarch’s Way.  Turn left and continue to follow the track into a field leading around Peake Farm, crossing a road and continuing past Lower Peake Cottage.

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Eventually the track reaches the tarmac road, Hayden Lane, where you turn left and head down hill to the village of Warneford.  Care should be taken on this narrow road as it is the main route to the popular Old Winchester Hill National Nature Reserve.  Further care is required at Warneford as you have to recross the very busy A32.

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The pavement leads south past the George and Falcon pub, a great place to stop for refreshment.  Walking past the pub for about half a kilometre brings you to a road junction on the right with a pleasant village green and one of the many watercress fields that populate this area.

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Follow the new road and the Monarch’s Way past the Hampshire Hogs cricket ground and up the hill until you come to the Wheely Down Forge on the left.  Stop for a while to admire some of the amazing metalwork and stone sculptures that festoon the yard and adjacent garden.  The Monarch’s Way continues between the forge and the garden and makes steady  progress back up to the top of Beacon Hill.

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Please be observant and stick to the waymarked route as it winds its way through strictly adhered private land!  (Editors note – I have never seen so many ‘Private Keep Out’ signs in such a concentrated area before).  The path terminates at the gate way into the woods just a 5 minute walk from the car park and the end of the walk.

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This is a very pleasant walk through some beautiful countryside.  If you have more time, stop to explore the village of Exton and take in the delights of the Shoe public house and its outstanding food.  Beacon Hill car park is a very convenient staring point for a multitude of walks, but be there early as its popularity means the car park fill up quickly.

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Accessible Walk – Meon Valley Trail

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Length: From 0 up to 18 miles

Duration: up to 7 hours

Access: Easily accessible for walking, wheelchair, pushchair

Difficulty: Easy

Car Park: Free car parks at Wickham & West Meon

It is always great to get outside into the countryside and enjoy a good walk.  But sometimes this is not possible for a multitude of reasons.  Maybe you are confined to a wheelchair, have very young children in pushchairs/buggies or need aids in order to walk such as walking sticks or a frame.  Either way this should not be a barrier to getting outside and going for a walk.

Across the country there are numerous old railway track walks and canal towpaths that are easily accessible to all.  The Meon Valley Trail is one such walk, consisting of a linear walk from Wickham to West Meon or vice versa.  From end to end the walk is 9 miles long which can offer up a myriad of walking possibilities.

START:
Wickham  SU 574 115
West Meon  SU 642 236

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There is no route as such because you just stick to the path.  This is  a great walk to do if you are just starting out as you can walk for 10, 20 or 30 mins then turn back.  As you get fitter or more confident than you can increase the length of the walk.  During the late spring a 30 minute walk from Wickham takes you to the most amazing Blue Bell fields deep in the woods.  For the more observant there is a wide range wildlife to be experienced.

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If you are feeling overly adventurous and fancy walking the whole way then there is a very good bus service between West Meon and Wickham, allowing you to get back to your car.  If you fancy doing the whole return journey then you will need to allow at least 6 hours plus time for rests and food.  The trail runs along side the A32 with several access points throughout the route where you can enter or exit the trail.  Most of the small villages and hamlets that you pass have pubs serving food and drink.

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Along the route are many places of interest but none more so than Droxford.  On the 2nd June 1944, Winston Churchill, members of his war cabinet, President Eisenhower and the French leader Charles de Gaulle, the Canadian President William Lyon McKenzie King and the South African leader Jan Smuts, all met on the Royal train, in the siding at Droxford. Their purpose was to hold last-minute talks about the invasion plans for D-Day.

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A word of caution though.  During the winter or very wet summer, part of the path can become very wet and muddy and may, at times, become impassable.  This particularly true of the northern end near Old Winchester Hill.  throughout the country there are many walks like this along old railway tracks and canal tow paths.  Check out your local tourist information service for walks local to you.  Just 20 minutes 3 or 4 times a week out in the fresh air can have an amazing effect on your health and life.

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Download the Meon Valley Trail Leaflet
PDF supplied by South Downs National Park

Walk For Parkinson’s – Wilton House

Back in April when I took up Parkinson’s UK invite to join them for the Walk For Parkinson’s event at Wilton House I envisaged doing the walk alone.  However, I hadn’t banked on being joined by my brother, sister-in-law, niece, her husband and their daughter, all of whom were inspired to join me because of the challenges I had set myself this year.

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I couldn’t have wished for a better day – warm and sunny with a light breeze.  The location is beautiful with classic Capability Brown designed landscape of lawns, water, bridges and follies.  About 100 participants lined up at the start of the 3 route course – 2m, 3m and 6m.

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Having family with me was a great bonus because instead of setting off at my usual 17-18 minute pace, I settled into a relaxing 22 minute pace allowing me time to chat and admire the scenery.  The 6 mile route was a good mix of footpath, grassland, chalk upland and woodland and was easily put to bed in just over 2 hours.

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The whole route was very well supervised with marshalls every 1/2 mile and each turn, eliminating any need to navigate and providing the option to pull out at any point. As always with this type of event – it wouldn’t happen without volunteers.  Walk coordination and refreshment provision was by Parkinson’s UK volunteers, marshalling provided by The Rotary Club of Wilton and first aid by St John’s Ambulance.

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Overall a great day, a chance to have a pleasant walk in beautiful grounds and catch-up with family.  But more importantly it was a great opportunity the raise money and raise awareness for Parkinson’s UK.

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Public Rights of Way – a simple understanding

During a recent Ramblers Roadshow I attended a workshop on Rights Of Way and access, and I reproduce here a precise of what was covered during the day.  For a more in-depth understanding of the rights and wrongs of Public Rights Of Way Read More:

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What is a Right Of Way?

A right of way is a path that anyone has the legal right to use on foot, and sometimes other modes of transport. As detailed in the official ‘definitive map’ of public rights of way.

  • Public footpaths are open only to walkers
  • Public bridleways are open to walkers, horse-riders & cyclists
  • Restricted byways are open to walkers, horse-riders, and drivers/riders of non-motorised vehicles (such as horse-drawn carriages and bicycles)
  • Byways Open to All Traffic (BOATS) are open to all classes of traffic including motor vehicles, though they may not be maintained to the same standard as ordinary roads.

Legally, a public right of way is part of the Queen’s highway & subject to the same protection in law as all other highways, including trunk roads.

What Are My Rights On A Right Of Way?

Your legal right is to “pass and repass along the way”. You may stop to rest or admire the view, or to consume refreshments, providing you stay on the path and do not cause an obstruction. You can also take with you a “natural accompaniment” which includes a pram, or pushchair.  You can take a dog with you, but it must be kept under close control.

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Signposting & Waymarking

Highway authorities have a duty to put up signposts at all junctions of footpaths, bridleways and byways with metalled roads. The signs must show whether the path is a footpath, bridleway, restricted byway or byway open to all traffic (BOAT) and may also show other information such as destination and distance.

Highway authorities also have a duty to waymark paths along the route so far as they consider it appropriate

In Britain waymarking is normally done with arrow markings on gates, stiles and posts. Natural England and the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW) recommend a standard system of colour-coded arrows – yellow for footpaths, blue for bridleways, purple for restricted byways, and red for byways open to all traffic.

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Obstruction and Other Problems

An Obstruction is anything which interferes with your right of way, such as a barbed wire fence across the path or a heap of manure dumped on it. You are permitted to remove any obstruction providing you are a bona fide traveller on the path and have not gone out for the specific purpose of moving the obstruction, and that you remove only as much as is necessary to get through. If you can easily go round the obstruction without causing any damage, then you should do so.

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Highway authorities have a duty “to prevent as far as possible the stopping up or obstruction” of paths, so report all infringements to them.

Trespass

A person who strays from a right of way, or uses it other than for passing and repassing commits trespass against the landowner.  In most cases, trespass is a civil rather than a criminal matter. A landowner may use “reasonable force” to compel a trespasser to leave, but not more than is reasonably necessary.

Criminal prosecution could only arise if you trespass and damage property.  It is a criminal offence to trespass on railway land, sometimes on military training land and on land which has been designated under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act.

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Access To Open Country

In 2005 walkers were given a new right of access to most areas of open country in England & Wales.  This allows walkers the freedom to walk over wide areas of land, without the restriction of the use of paths.  Open access land is:

  • Mountain – land over 600m (1969 ft) above sea level & other upland areas of rough, steep land with crags, scree, bare rock & associated vegetation.
  • Moor – unenclosed areas of semi-natural vegetation, including bog, rough acid grassland & calcareous grassland.
  • Heath – unenclosed areas of nutrient poor soils that support acid-loving plants such as heather, gorse, bilberry and bracken.
  • Down – semi-natural, unimproved grasslands in chalk or limestone areas
  • Common Land – land registered as common under the Commons Registration Act 1965.

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Welsh 3 Peaks – Part One

After all the training and planning it was finally time to head north-west for Snowdonia  and the start of my next adventure.  I travelled up on the Monday afternoon to the Premier Inn in Bangor making the journey in 5 hours, which was a good omen.  An early meal and in bed for 7.30pm with the alarm set for 2.30am!

Tuesday morning, 4th July 3am, and whilst the USA was waiting to celebrate its independence I was setting off from Bangor and heading up the Pass of Llanberis to the Pen-y-Pass car park and the start of the walk up Snowdon.  Arriving at the car park I was surprised to see it half full with plenty of groups prepping themselves.  The rain was falling steadily and this was not how I imagined today was going to be.

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Suitably kitted out, I set off along the Miners Track at 4am for the steady walk into the hills.  I assume the other parties had selected the Pyg Track as I had absolute solitude as I wound my way through the mystical lakes that line the path.  Even visualizing in my mind the flying dragon as I crossed the causeway (Visit Wales Advert!).  The rain eased on a couple of occasions but the cloud base was at about 1500 feet so all I could see was damp grey walls ascending into the pending doom.

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With visibility down to just a few feet, negotiating my way up through the boulders from Glaslyn to the summit ridge was entertaining to say the least.  Trying to work out which way the path was going only to find a dead-end and having to back-track.  I did meet one other party at the point where the Miners Track meets the Pyg Track.  They were on their way down never having reached the top because they got lost in the fog – I did offer to lead them up but they declined!

On reaching the ridge I made the final push to the summit.  The wind had picked up considerably but visibility had not improved.  Eventually the shadowy silhouette of the summit mound and trip pillar came into view.   The last time I was here was 12 months ago and the view from the summit was exactly the same – nothing!

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Timings wise I was within 5 minutes of my planned time so at least that side of the planning was on schedule. The descent was a lot easier as the cloud base had started to lift and the pathway back down to Glaslyn was clearer to see. Once back to Glaslyn progress was very swift as I made my way back the car park.

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So far I had only met one other party, and heard a couple talking near the summit, but as I started back along the shore of Llyn Llydaw I could hear the shouting and music of a school party of DofE expeditioneers coming towards me.  Now I am sure when I did the DofE I was taught respect and how to behave – obviously not these days because the ‘adult supervisors’ seemed blissfully ignorant of the racket their wards were creating!  In addition I encountered another school group poorly equipped, two family groups – out for a Sunday afternoon stroll totally ill equipped.  The only group I met with what I would regard as the correct and suitable equipment for the trip was from the National Mountain Centre at Plas y Brenin.

Following a quick change of clothes back at the car park I set off for Ty Nant at the start of Cadair Idris.  Arriving there at 11.10am I met up with my Brother and his wife for a quick chat before setting off up the Pony Path.  My estimated round-trip time for this mountain was 5 hours so my Brother went off to do some sightseeing before returning to meet me on my descent.

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The initial part of this climb is a reasonably steady pull up on to ridge.  The weather looked reasonable for the first part but large parts of the ridge and the summit were shrouded in heavy cloud!  Once up onto the ridge the path towards to summit looked in good condition, but that didn’t last long as the path degenerated to large expanses of scree.  This got more prevalent as I approached the escarpment in the upper stages of the climb.

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The final climb up to the summit was a bit of a scramble with the trig pillar not becoming visible until the very last-minute.  At this stage I would estimate the visibility to be about 20 feet!  Although this was my first ascent of this mountain I had seen plenty of photographs taken recently by friends.  So at least I was able to sit on the summit and visualize what I should have been looking at!  Timings wise I was doing OK, so it was time to get down and head for Pen y Fan.

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The scramble down from the trig pillar was fairly straight forward but for some unknown reason as I stepped/jumped the last 2 feet my left foot landed on loose scree and slipped sideways.  I managed to maintain my balance but felt an excruciating pain shoot through my left knee.  A quick assessment of the problem revealed that I had not broken or pulled anything, but I had resurrected an old injury from the early 1990’s.  In 1991 I was diagnosed with damaged cartilages in both my knees, probably caused by a mis-spent youth caving, climbing, mountaineering!  But the condition had not raised its head since then.

I was able to walk on the leg but the descent had to done with the left leg kept straight.  This slowed down the descent considerably and I knew then that I was not going to be able to complete Pen y Fan this evening.  What should have been a 5 hour round trip turned into a 6.5 hour nightmare with the descent taking 4 hours instead of the planned 2 hours.  I was very grateful to my Brother who waited for my to get off the mountain using his smart phone to track my slow but steady descent.

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So what of the challenge to climb the Welsh Three Peaks.  Well the way I see it is that I did not stop because I didn’t want to carry on.  I was forced to stop because of an unforeseen injury.  From the outset I made it clear that the time criteria was not issue, I knew that I was never going to complete this in record time.  My age and underlying health issues have to dictate the pace at which I progress but that does not mean I am a quitter. I will return to Pen y Fan on the 6 August and complete what I set out to do.  As far as the charity fundraising is concerned I have decided to invoke clause 25 para b. sub para iv. of the Charities Act 2005; which states that

‘failure to complete a set challenge is not deemed as failure to have attempted to complete the said challenge, and that this should have no impact on the status of sponsorship’ 

therefore the monies raised so far stands.

So what next? – my next scheduled event is the Walk For Parkinson’s – Wilton House on the 16 July.  I will take the time between now and then to rest and maybe give the knee some light exercise.  All being well after that it is full steam ahead for the Yorkshire Three Peaks in September.

Make Your Own Walking Snacks

Cranberry and Almond Trail Mix -Photographed on Hasselblad H3D-39mb Camera
Whenever I am walking I do not like to eat a lot of food.  If I stop at the summit of a hill I will only rest long enough to take some photos, have a drink of water and maybe grab something quick and easy to eat.  A protracted rest for ‘lunch’ allows my body and legs to cool down too much and its harder to get going again after the break. 

Ideally I would rather have something nutritional to ‘graze’ on as I walk and the ideal for this is nuts and dried fruit.  Keeping your blood sugar levels at a constant level whilst walking will give you more energy and make your performance more efficient. The dried fruits play a key role in keeping you rejuvenated all day.

There are numerous commercially available products but by making your own mix you can control how tasty and healthy mixture is.   The ingredients are entirely up to you and your own tastes, but this will give you an idea what could and should be included.

Nuts contain fibre that holds back hunger, and fats to keep the body healthy. To reduce sugar and salt intake you should use unsalted roasted nuts. Omega 3 fats are good for your health and they are available from Walnuts. Whilst important energy giving Vitamin E and Iron are available in almonds.

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Dried fruits add taste, flavour and are an important source of vitamins. Dried apricots are rich in iron and add sweetness and texture to the snack. Fruits that contain antioxidants and calcium include cherries, strawberries and raisins.

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Seeds such as full grain cereals like rice, quinoa, millet and oats can be included.  However, choose seeds that have less than 8 grams of sugar and more than 5 grams of fibre per 100 grams. Do not include the flakes because they will make the mixture messy. Pumpkin and sesame seeds provide minerals and vitamins vital for energy production. A handful of seeds will be enough for the mix.

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There is no definitive quantity for each ingredient, use as much, or little, of each as you wish and adjust to suit your own personal taste.  Make sure that all the ingredients are thoroughly mixed by hand to ensure even distribution.  Then portion off into snack sized resealable bags.

A handful of the mix is enough to satisfy your craving for food and provide you with adequate energy to continue walking. Nuts prevent you from getting regular cravings for food and they are the ultimate solution to keep your tummy full.

To err is human

There are some days when things will go wrong, no matter how well you have planned and prepared.  However, there are somethings that should never go wrong, yet occasionally through monetary lapses of reason mistakes happen.  On the very rare occasion they can have dire consequences.  However, in the vast majority of cases these mistakes are just that – mistakes, and we learn from them.  This is the tale of just one of those mistakes and what can be learnt from it.

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It happened on the 7th March 2016, I had planned to climb two summits in the western Brecon Beacons called Fan Gyhirych and Fan Nedd.  There had been a reasonable amount of snow fall in the area over the previous few days and when I arrived at the parking point I noted that the summits of both hills was shrouded in low cloud.

It took about an 1 hour 45 minutes to walk to the first top of the day Fan Gyhirych.  The going was good with patchy snow and reasonable temperatures for the time of year.  However, as I started the final pull up to the summit the amount of ground snow increased and as I entered cloud I went into ‘white-out’ conditions.  Continuing on a compass heading the visibility improved slightly and the trig pillar came into view straight ahead of me.

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Approaching the summit

I spent about 30 minutes at the summit carrying out my amateur radio operations before readying myself for the walk to Fan Nedd. With rucksack packed I headed off away from the trig pillar in near zero visibility when I am suddenly stopped in my tracks by a dark shadow on the ground in front of me. The shadow was about 5 metres ahead of me and stretched out to either side into the mirk.  I froze, suddenly realising what I had done.

I had made a classic school boy error and left the featureless summit on what I assumed to be the correct heading and was heading straight towards the steep descent on the north face of the summit!!  I was 180 degrees out.

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The North Face of Fan Gyhirych

A quick backtrack to the trig pillar and after reference to the map I set my compass to the pre-planned escape heading and went to head off along the bearing.  I had only gone a few steps when I stopped and immediately headed back the safety of the trig-pillar.  There was something wrong with the compass – the bearing was wrong!  Taking out my GPS I set off again but exactly the same thing happened again.  Back at the trig pillar I couldn’t believe that both my compass and GPS were both out and by exactly the same amount!

This was the point where my RAF Aircrew training kicked in and I had to force myself to accept what the compass and GPS were telling me and slowly follow the bearing.  After what seemed like an eternity I dropped below the cloud base to find myself on the correct footpath off of the summit.

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complete lack of definition

So what had happened to my compass and GPS to both initially have an identical error.  Well nothing – the error was in my brain.  I had experienced spatial disorientation in the featureless landscape, something I had been trained for and experienced many times in the RAF.  When you loose all visual references it is possible for the brain to think it knows exactly where you are regardless of what your instruments (compass) says.  Your brain will assume that the compass is wrong, even if you add more evidence to the contrary the brain will still over-rule logic.

So what can we take from this experience?  Well in the first instant, in poor visibility always work with your map and compass – never assume.  Secondly, with regard to disorientation that is a more difficult one to address.  You have to try hard to convince yourself that your compass is not wrong especially if you have a second device such as a GPS or spare compass confirming the information.  You have to be strong and believe that they can’t all be wrong – something else has to be wrong – you!

If you have never experienced disorientation before the feeling can be over-powering and can render you incapable of logical decision making.  In the worst scenario all you can do is sit tight and wait for the conditions to improve and bring back that visual reference.

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How I Became Inspired

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As I sit here writing this I have just 50 days before I take on the Welsh Three Peaks Challenge (W3P).  Now this is only 17 miles of walking and 5000 feet of climbing spread over three mountains with approximately 4 hours of driving between each.  It does not sound like much but the last time I took on anything nearing this was 25 years ago.  Since then my arthritis and weight has increased and my fitness levels had fallen following my stroke.

Despite all of that I had been working hard to get back to the levels of fitness I enjoyed 3 years ago.  Walking virtually every weekend trying my best to get close to 20 miles per weekend, plus weight and stepper training to build the stamina in my legs.  My training schedule is going well and I am on target to be up to fitting fitness by the beginning of July when the W3P happens.

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Yet I have a huge dark cloud hanging over me – I am constantly doubting my ability to undertake all that I have set myself up for this year.  It is not just the Welsh Three Peaks but the Yorkshire Three Peaks and the Alternate Three Peak challenges, it is also the pressure to get the £2500 I have said I will raise for Parkinson’s UK.  There are times when I feel that I will never complete any of the challenges let alone all of them.

That was until Saturday 13th May 2017 (yesterday) 

I was attending a workshop on Public Rights of Way, and unbeknown to me the guest speaker was Everest summiteer – Bonita Norris.  This woman had summited Everest when she was just 22 years old, only 2 years after taking up hill-walking and climbing.

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Bonita Norris – Summit Everest

What Bonita achieved was amazing but this was nothing compared to the demons and mental challenges she had to over come to reach the top of the world.  Throughout her presentation it became very clear that she was physically and technically capable of taking on Everest.  It was however, her mind that was holding her back – constantly putting doubt in the way and the greatest mind control of them all FEAR.

It was her mentors and expedition leaders, Kenton Cool and Robert Casserley who helped her overcome her fear and doubts and prevent her from turning back.  Her mantra was ‘just take one step’ – don’t look at the whole mountain just that one step ahead of you, then the  next and so on.

Her talk was one of the most inspirational lectures I had attended, even beating lectures by the great Everest summiteers of the 1970’s Sir Chris Bonnington, Doug Scott and Dougal Haston.  It made me realise that the only thing getting in my way was ME.

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The author with Bonita Norris

I now know that come the 4 July when I leave Pen y Pass car park I will have the three elements that I need to succeed:

  • Drive – the compelling wish to succeed and raise money for Parkinson’s UK
  • Fitness – the ability to be able to walk the distance and climb the height
  • Inspiration – to know that all I need to do is take ONE STEP AT A TIME.

All I need to do now is raise the money – so if you wish to help please go to https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/triple-three-peaks

or

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Canal Walks

By pure chance I met my guest blogger John on Twitter one evening when Julia Bradbury had responded to a Tweet of his.  He had been tweeting about a series of canal walks that he, his wife and their two friends  had undertaken.  I was taken by John’s enthusiasm and invited to him to write an article for the blog.  I am glad to say he accepted the offer and so here is…….

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Their Big Adventure

The Idea

As tends to happen during an evening with friends and a lovely dinner, the discussion turns to holidays and what we should do together this year.  It was during such a discussion with our old friends, Mike & Eva, that an idea started to come to us.  We are all in our Seventies but regard ourselves as reasonably fit and enjoying walking.

In the past we had all walked in the Lake District but found the hills a real challenge, constantly watching where you put your feet rather than looking up at the views.  We wanted something more level where we could enjoy the scenery, also taking into consideration the time of year we were going and the weather, we all agreed that we would enjoy a canal walk.

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The planning

My wife Mary & I live just a twenty-minute walk from the Trent & Mersey canal so my research sort of led me to the Cheshire Ring.  I had managed to purchase an excellent map/booklet about it.

We decided that we could leave Mike’s car at Bollington on the Macclesfield canal then walk down it in until it joined the Trent & Mersey Canal.  From here we would head up to Runcorn where we could collect my, pre-positioned car and then drop our friends off at their car back in Bollington.  This was scheduled for three days and two nights with the brave decision not to pre book any accommodation.

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Mary & I went to Bollington sussed out a car park and walked a section of the canal.  Worryingly we found tow path a bit muddy, but the walk was some weeks away, so had time to dry out.  Over the next few weeks did two other sections of the walk just to test it out.

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The Walk

Well the big day dawned and after our friends had dropped their dog off at the Kennels, we arrived in Bollington and parked the car not where we planned but in a quiet side street.  We were on the Tow path by 11am and set off in good spirits blessed with good weather.  We thought we would come across more Canal side pubs than we did but thankfully the pensioner standby of flask and butties gave us sufficient sustenance for the afternoon.  Around 5pm we were approaching Congelton & good old Booking.com came up with a Hotel that had spare rooms. Got to say the last mile or so walking through the town was more than a bit tiring but we made it to the Lion & Swan.

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After a great nights stay and freshly cooked breakfast we made it back to the Tow path at the other end of town.  The weather was just about holding up & we strode out hoping to make it to Middlewhich (this proved to be too ambitious) but the walk was very good with lovely scenery.  Eventually we came across the Malkins Bank golf centre (me & Mike are both golfers).  They have some Glamping Pods and we did enquire about staying but unfortunately no evening catering was available.  However, they were very helpful and provided us with Taxi numbers as the nearest hotel with vacancies was the Chimney House Hotel some two miles away.  Again a pleasant evening with much wine was spent although the meals and breakfast at the Lion & Swan was much superior.

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We realised that our last day of walking would not get us to Runcorn so the target of Northwich was set with a Taxi ride home after that. Arriving back at the Canal we set off for our final days walking.  Initially we enjoyed some nice scenery but eventually ended up walking along the Tow path adjacent to a very busy road and some quite industrial areas.  After some 7 miles we came across the Kings Lock canal side pub which was like an oasis to us. Having enjoyed a very nice pub lunch and a few drinks it was a unanimous decision to terminate the walk at this point.  As luck would have it a very generous local agreed to drop us off at Bollington to collect my friend’s car.

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Conclusions

  • Don’t set your targets too high.
  • You can have a great time with relative easy walking.
  • We will certainly do another similar walk but be armed with Taxi phone numbers to make the journeys to nice Hotels after the walking for the day is done.

John Pennington

John is a retired H.G.V. workshop manager and a former Motorcycle Dealer.  In his day he was a sidecar passenger and amongst his claims to fame are that he took part in the 1968 and 1970 Isle of Man T.T race.  In his retirement John passes his days playing golf and doing diy for the family.  He can be found on twitter @diygolfer

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