Ben Waddington’s ongoing walking festival, Still Walking, reconveenes later this week. This urban walking festival continues to grow all kinds of fascinating, weird and wonderful ways. The combination of a good walk and the chance to learn smoothing new and quirky seems to be a winner.
Some of the highlights of the events coming up include:
As long as the public can maintain conscientious behaviour, then they can have access to public access spaces. Various signs across Birmingham warn against loitering, which is apparently spending fifteen minutes to two hours in a public space without intention, according to officials.
Still Loitering will visit areas of Birmingham with these signs in place in order to question and challenge the notion of what it is “to loiter” in a flash mob-esque exploration. Is there such a thing as loitering? Is to enforce a “no loitering” rule criminal and unjust in a public space? Will we elicit threat, irritation or curiosity?
Sights in Motion — Pedal Powered Invisible Cinema
Birmingham Bike Foundry follow up their 2012 round up of the city’s former cycle factories with a cinema-themed trek starting from Stirchley, moving through Kings Heath, Moseley and Balsall Heath, winding through Small Heath and East Birmingham before finishing approximately 3 hours later in the centre of town. The route includes 17 former cinemas which have variously been re-made, remodelled, regenerated or ruined and the unusual route allows a great opportunity for some genuinely new discoveries. The route presents a rapid-fire presentation of the buildings, focussing on their atmospheres, and on the details not discernible in photographs, rather than a presentation of historical data, final screenings or seating plans.
And, my favourite …
Waylosing: a Guide to Getting Lost
Waylosing is a walking tour which explores what it means to lose your way. Some people have a special talent for getting lost, others have a compass-like sense of direction. Rather than viewing being lost negatively, this tour will consider it as a unique state in which places, people and objects all appear detached from their familiar matrix.
The tour will be guided by the ideas and poetics of losing one’s way while at the same time following an indeterminate route through the city. We will use a variety of techniques to take us well off the beaten path. The starting point is agreed and the end of the walk is back in the city centre but where we go between these two points will be determined by just how well we succeed getting lost.
This walk is led by performance artist Bill Aitchison who is gloriously bonkers!
There were other great session as part of this festival but they are now sold out!. So book your places quickly !!
Routebuddy’s new Coast to Coast Challenge Map utilises the company’s unique screen ‘stitching’ technology to reduce a new map and add-ons that will be useful to anyone planning a coast-to-coast walk across the Scottish Highlands.
On this occasion I thought it would be more useful to you if I produced a video review, as you really have to see it in action to appreciate what this system can do. The review is in html format and should be viewable by all up-to-daye systems including tablets.
The 1:50K base map is available at a reasonable £19.99.
In addition, Routebuddy has created a number of specific 1:25 add-ons which stitch into the base map. These range in price depending on the ground covered. They start at £4.99 for part of the Torridon hills to £25 for the Cairngorms — good value for money.
Any other Routebuddy map can stitch into the base map and this review also displays a Harvey/BMC 1:40 working with the base map.
Not only can you view stitched maps on the same screen but you can print out the stitched maps on the same sheet of paper.
As we approach winter I know that a lot of hikers begin to reappraise their kit and think about new purchases for the winter or the spring. I’ve had a lot of interest in the Exodus pack. I’ve reviewed it before — Review: Mountain Laurel Designs Exodus 2011 Backpack — but this ha the benefit of prolonged use.
I’ve also written this as an introduction to lightweight packs and their use in UK or cooler climate conditions.
From the world of books you could easily get the impression that treks and trail walking are things of great extremes, undertaken by athletes who suffer significantly for their art! But, of course, it does not have to be like that and the mere mortals amongst us can still enjoy the thrill of a trek albeit one that is measured in weeks rather than months, where camping is often on campsites or where gites or B&Bs are used frequently.
New technology and the internet has made small run publishing — or self publishing — very popular over the last few years. I have reviewed a number of self published books in these pages, books that I have very much enjoyed reading. At the bottom of each review I include an Amazon link. This link allows you the reader to quickly check out other reviews and, if you choose to order the book via this route, I can see how many have been sold. By far the most ordered book from this site using the Amazon system is a self published book. These books fill a real niche somewhere between a travelogue and a conventional guidebook; they can give us a good idea of life on a particular trail.
Every Day Above a New Horizon is another successful self published book which centres around a walk on the Stephenson Trail in France. A few weeks ago I reviewed Max Landsberg’s A Call of the Mountains a book which described the project of a Munro bagger; Max’s book while having a strong narrative also gave many hints and tips that will be useful to those beginning to Munro bag. In this book John Davison does much the same thing for trail walking combining a strong narrative with quite a lot of useful information about wild camping, treating water and so on.
Like John I have had the Stephenson Trail on my list of to do walks for years. The Trail has been developed to commemorate the walk undertaken by Robert Louis Stephenson from the Massif Central to the South of the Cevennes just above the Mediterranean. Stephenson wrote a short book about his trip. Travels in the Cevennes with a Donkey is often considered to be the first modern travel book.
My problem with this trail is that I never seem to be able to find the time to slip this walk into my annual schedule. I have the route planned almost completely but there it sits until, well, one day …
I was pleased to read that John has had the same experience. He too harboured the dream of walking this trail for many years. He even carried around some text from Stephenson as a poster which sat on his office wall. It sat on a number of different walls over the years before he found the time and space to walk the trail.
So, Every Day Above a New Horizon, not only focus on this walk but on those trail expeditions that led up to it. In building up to the Stephenson Trail John walked and backpacked in Derbyshire, Wiltshire and in the Highlands. He then graduated to longer trails including the West highland Way, the Great Glen Way and the East Highland Way before moving on to tackle the big one.
The really great thing about this book is that John writes well. He has a sparse and simple style and is successful in avoiding the flowery language we get from many inexperienced writers. He has a nice gentle sense of humour and a keen eye for important detail. Anyone who has regularly trailed walked will recognise many of the experiences and characters that are encountered along way. There’s the gear bore who carries massive weights and dominates every meeting at a campsite. There are walking companions who value the pubs along the route more keenly than they do the landscape and who sometimes hail down a taxi and thumb a life to get from one place to the other. There are hotels and B&Bs who, faced with a smelly and muddy trekker, suddenly decide that they are full. And there are honest pieces about the horrible nature of the early stages of the West Highland Way which is often more reminiscent of a rubbish dump than of a national trail. I agree with John’s observation that the decision to ban camping in the Loch Lomond area has been a disaster as it simply encourages improvised bivouacs which leave behind tons of debris.
The Stephenson Trail takes up the second half of a book. For me, this gives a pretty open and honest account of a first time excursion on a French Trail, including that rather touchy issue of the French and their dogs!
The Stephenson Trail is not a particularly difficult trail in itself although some of the days are long. However, John makes it clear that UK walkers need to respect the upland areas many of which are higher than any territory in the UK and which can (often) be subject to pretty dreadful weather conditions. Although this is a trail that can be broken with very comfortable evenings in lovely villages it is one which needs to be prepared for properly.
I enjoyed reading this book. It had the right air of authenticity to it. As I’ve already mentioned John writes well and this is an easy book to digest; I read it in two sessions over a Sunday afternoon and earl evening.
If you are thinking of tackling one of these trails for the first time I think you would find this book useful. If you have a lot of experience of trail walking then there is also a lot to enjoy.
I think this is only available in paper cover at the moment, but it is easily bought through Amazon.
During the Challenge John Jocys (JJ) asked me about a photo he had seen here last year. Where was it taken he asked?
Well, it wasn’t in Shropshire, or in the West Country or Mid or North Wales.
Nope, this was taken on the Thames footpath somewhere between Kew and Richmond. I did use a tripod though!
A month or so ago long distance backpacker Keith Foskett initiated me into some strange, but fascinating, blog chain exercise. Basically, I have received a series of eleven questions (like a mini interview) from Keith. I have to respond to these and then refer and completely new and original set of questions to eleven bloggers of my choice.
You can see how Keith made his own response here.
Anyhow, Keith I’m sorry for the delay but there’s only so much time in the day! Anyhow, here goes!
Here are my answers. I’ll post my questions and eleven new respondents later on.
A Bushbuddy Stove in the Pyrenees
I’m having a flood of enquiries about wood burning stoves at the moment, particularly from those who are heading off to warmer climes. I thought it would be more useful to create a blogpost — this represents my current thinking on the subject!
There’s no mystery as to why wood is a great option when you can rely on the climate. Fuel is plentiful and free. There’s no messing around with pot cosies you just keep cooking as you don’t need to worry about fuel. And I find the burner can add to you daily routine. The photo above was taken at a lunch stop but I find that a search for wood after a pitch for the evening is a nice way of winding (and warming) down. So (with one qualification listed below) I always use wood as my primary fuel when I have the choice during the summer.
The photo shows a Bushbuddy Ultra stove which was my first wood burning stove. Although this a greta stove with a brilliant design I think there are now other, more versatile, options available.
It’s time to take a look at the main stove that I have been using this summer, the diminutive Starlyte alcohol stove from Zelph Stoveworks. that is the stove on the left and on the right the same stove is fitted with a green cover and is compared against a standard titanium mug.
I first came across the Starlyte on this years TGO Challenge as Colin Ibbotson and Rob Slade were both using them; I am being horribly lax at following the ultralight websites at the moment).
The Starlyte is as light as a feather (not even worth weighing) and has two interesting features in the above configuration. Firstly, the stove is filled with an absorbent material. Charge the stove up with alcohol and the material soaks it up and means that the fuel cannot be spilt. Secondly, the green cap you see in the pictures allows you to store unspent alcohol in the stove without evaporation. A flame is easily blown out. The internal material preserves the fuel and the cap allows you to store it easily without worry.
The Starlyte is available in three versions, a standard, a modified stove designed for systems like the Caldera Cone and a slow burn or simmer burner. The simmer stove allows you to cook very slowly and avoids the need to use a pot cozy, but then you don’t have a fast, explosive, flame. My version is the modified version to be used in a Caldera Cone.
So, how does the stove work in the field?
Well, very well is the answer. The internal material does indeed hold field well. It is easy to extinguish the flame with a simply puff of breath. And the stove top means that you can keep the stove (and fuel) in a pocket so that the fuel is always warm when you come to use it!
The flame is a simple affair that rises from the central core of the stove (there are no clever burners). The stove is not as fast or as powerful as say the Evernew titanium stove but it works quickly enough and is a damn sight cheaper! For use in the waker months any additional boil time is not really noticeable. Although the stove is tiny it has a capacity of around 400 millilitres (1.25 ounces) which usually gives me two goo boils. I find I can stop, laid up the stove, boil fuel for a drink extinguish the flame and re-light to warm through an evening meal. Although not tested scientifically, the feels like it is a field efficient stove.
The system is so light and works so well that Starlyte suggest that — on weekenders — you might simply take two of these pre loaded with fuel and wouldn’t need to carry a separate fuel bottle. They are probably right. And this is such a cheap stove that such a set up would still be very cheap.
i have only found one downside to the Startlyte and that is that it is a little difficult to light a fire steel, which is my preferred way to light my stoves. This might be because the stove itself is so light and flimsy that I am careful in applying any force to the top. However, I seem to be getting the knack as I use it more.
The stove — including international shipping — will only set you back £13 ($23) which I believe represents a real bargain. I wonder how robust the stove us and how long it will last in the field, but at these prices really this isn’t a worry!
The Starlyte comes in a small package — I nearly missed mine in the protective newspaper inside. it also comes with two very useful fuel measures. If you have used the caldera system you will be familiar with these. The Starlyte version seems a little larger and tougher to me and it is nice to have a spare.
For me this the ideal summer, backpacking stove. It works perfectly siting inside a Honey Stove or a Caldera Cone. I think in the winter — when you may want a quicker boil and more power — or when I am cooking for two, I will stick with the Evernew titanium stove which can really belt out some real heat. Otherwise there is nothing not to like about this stove. caldera think so as well and now offer this is an optional replacement to their own stove when you order from their website.
I really do recommend this to lightweight backpackers.
Sitting in the Honey stove
This morning I was organising and speaking at a political meeting – another space, another place!
At the end of the meeting a group of people came up to say hello, exchange email addresses and so on, all of which is quite unusual. The meeting was a kind of red/green meeting looking at a local economic future that didn't rely automatically on conventional notions of economic growth.
I came to the last peronson in the line, after which I could go home.
“I need some advice. Can you tell how to pitch a Trailstar correctly, I just can't get mine right”.
I was almost speechless, but of course, I rallied quickly!