Amazingly, the Outdoor Station is ten years old this year. Podcasting itself if only a little more than ten years old so the Outdoors Station was not only a pioneer but is one of the longest lasting of podcasts from any genre.
Now the Outdoors Station is ten it seems right to think about the directions it should take for the next ten years. Over the holiday period Bob and Rose have been busy thinking a out the future and have undertaken a SWOT analysis of the Outdoors Station — assessing the station’s strengths, weakness, opportunities and threats.
Rather unusually, Bob has decided to share this analysis — and the subsequent discussion — with listeners in the first podcast of 2015. There is some fascinating stuff here,some amazing facts and figures about downloads, popularity and so on. If nothing else what Bob talks about is a representative reflection on changes patterns of media production and media consumption.
For much of that 10 years Bob and I have talked about how it might be to develop the production base of the Outdoors Station. What future is there in video and how might this be financed? How can we provide our many thousands of regular listeners and viewers with a more interactive experience? Is there room for a live programme that allows you the opportunity to interact with both us and the guests in real time? And what about conventional audio programmes? What new directions are that the station can take advantage of.
We would be grateful if you could take the time to listen to this podcast and then to talk to Bob and the station about your responses, any new ideas you may have and so on.
The Outdoors Station is not a commercial venture. All of us that have been involved with it have given our time for free. Even with an audio podcast I know to my own cost the time needed to properly edit and put together even a half an hour sequence. Of course, Bob has spent many, many more hours producing content for our ever growing on-line community.
For me, what has set the Outdoors Station apart from the rest is its quality. Bob’s background in multimedia production really shows and over the last decade we’ve all benefited from his talent and experience. How do we not only preserve this station but support its development into the future by way of ensuring that it meets the new and emerging challenges of the next decade?
So, for the next three months or so Bob will be hosting an online questionnaire and feedback form and we would really welcome your views.
There’s a podcast giving you the background on the station and then a written article and the questionnaire itself.
Please take the time to have a look at this and tell us what you think.
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.
25 seconds, f11, ISO 11, 24mm, Big Stopper ND +10 stops filter, ND Grad +2 stops filter
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.
9 pm, Weds 14th Jan. Make a note in the diary. Set your video or set top box to record. This is when BBC 4 will be showing a 60 minute version of Terry Abraham’s film about Scarfed — The Life of a Mountain. I was lucky to see this at a very early stage and — in my humble opinion — it is a stunner. If you have already seen the Cairngorms in Winter film then this is not only as good but possibly even better!
I think this might be the beginning of a longer term relationship between Aunty and Terry. I hope so.
Don’t miss it.
Some of the enquiries to this website are like buses — you don’t hear of them for months or years and then a whole load come around together!
For some reason I’m getting a lot of emails about bears in the Pyrenees! I’m not sure why this subject has come to the fore again but I thought I’d write about it so that other — who may have more up-to-date information could join in!
Basically, hikers and trekkers in the Pyrenees do not need to worry about bears!
The Pyrenees have long been associated with bears but there numbers were driven to the verge of extinction during the late 19th and 20th centuries. There have been a few famous attempts to re-introduce them on the French side over recent decades but I’m not sure how successfully these have been. The French authorities try and keep the sites of re-entry secret but word seems to slip out. A few years ago, in the Vallée d’Aspe, local farmers took to the forests to track down a couple of bears and they shot what appeared to be a mother; nobody is really sure whether the offspring was mature enough to survive.
Bears may live on in the Pyrenees, especially on the Spanish side, but it is worth considering their habitat. Bears will stick to forests and thick woodland and are very unlikely to be anywhere near the open, high, spaces that walkers and trekkers use. They are likely to be very wary of humans, not least because the locals seem so determined to shoot them. Even when footpaths travel through forests its extremely unlikely that you would encounter a bear not least because the numbers are so low.
Bears may live on in the Pyrenees, especially on the Spanish side, but it is wortWhile the Pyrenees is a major mountain range much of its appeal for me is that it is quite compact — this is not the vast expanse of the Alps for example. It is relatively quick and easy to get to the summit ridge and cross over from side to side. The trails are well walked and this alone would put off the bears. The wild camp sites in the Pyrenees are many and also easy to get to. But they are on exposed and open ground.
Anyone hiking and camping in the High Pyrenees doesn’t really have to worry about bears.
Wolves were also traditionally associated with the area. Some reports suggest that Wolves are naturally finding themselves back in the area, travelling from Italy through the higher and more remote parts of the Languedoc and onto the Pyrenees. Although no Wolves have been spotted,let alone killed, their tracks have apparently turned up in the Eastern end of the range, But in all honesty, you don’t have to worry about Wolves either …
… do you?
The Observer newspaper points out that the Ramblers’ Association (ramblers.org.uk) is 80 years old this year. This is an important anniversary and one that is worth reflecting on.
It is easy — even for walkers — to ridicule the idea of the Ramblers as a collection of rather hearty and well meaning walkers of a certain age. Yet — as I’ve written before — the need for such an authoritative and effective lobby group is as important as ever.
The history of the Rambler’s Association remains an important one an organisation that was formed as part of the left wing, worker’s movement, of the time. The freedoms fought for in terms of access to the hills and the countryside were part of the wider campaign for worker’s rights and human rights. Most of those who regularly walk in our open places and on our hilltops will hardly very give the Ramblers’ a second thought yet as my 2006 Outdoors Station interview with Lord Chris Smith (then President of the Ramblers’) demonstrates the Rambler’s remains an important and potent campaigning force. This is not an organisation that looks backwards on a glorious past but one that always looks forwards to new challenges — see The Next Ten Years for the Ramblers’.
Today the ramblers’ are part of an ever more effective coalition of campaigning organisations that include the John Muir Trust and the British Mountaineering Council. The John Muir Trust has moved beyond campaigning into the very creative field of promoting new forms of land ownerships and supporting new company structures; it is also, of course, making its mark in the campaigns to keep the Highlands free of wind farms. The British Mountaineering Council is another crucial organisation that over the next couple of years wants to build on its offer to those who walk in the mountains as well as those who climb in them; this is a project that I am pleased to be involved in and I will write more about it later in the year.
Everywhere we look the freedoms that the Ramblers’ and its partners campaigned for historically are under attack. The Right to Roam legislation introduced by the last Labour Government was meant to be the start of a programme of opening up access to land yet, despite being widely welcomed, the current legislation is constantly being undermined by land owners and international corporates. In its last phase he same government introduced plans to extend the rights of access around the whole of our coast, creating for the first time a proper UK coastal path. Initially, the coalition government seems to support this development but momentum has slipped to the point that many now suspect we may never see this coastal path in the forceable future. If these comments seem a little political they unashamedly so. As we enter a General Election year we should reflect carefully on attitudes to access to the countryside and the hills.
Effective Campaigning means getting across subtle and complicated messages to a wide range of organisations and institutions. It is easy for hillwalkers to rant about massive wind farm development but to win the argument for the long term campaigners need to engage with a whole range of social, economic, environmental and — yes — political concerns. Similarly, it is easy to ridicule tycoons like Donald Trump but there are many more organisations and individuals closer to home who are working to undermine the extension of access legislation.
2015 should be the year in which we think about the stewardship of the great outdoors not just in terms of land management but in terms of political vision and execution. Of the last decade campaigners such as Mark Richards have had some success in getting walkers to think about putting money back into very local economies through supporting local shops, pubs and other businesses.
If you are a walker in the UK maybe this is the year that you should commit yourself to joining, or supporting, the Ramblers’ or the British Mountaineering Council; access to the hills for both ourselves and future generations will almost certainly rest of their success.
A firm favourite with long term readers is my review of walking related Christmas gifts. There seems to have developed a tradition in our house, that Kate buys me a load of things from Bob (backpackinglight.co.uk) that I never knew I needed!
This is code for things I would never need or never use! So, what did the great hiker dressed in red bring me this year?
Well, amazingly Santa bought me things that were genuinely useful. I guess somebody eventually got around to reading this bog!
Santa bought me a new fire steel (needed) and a bottle of Dr Bronner’s soap (which is never to be passed over), But the piece de resistance was a Rugged Glasses Case. As the website says:
If you wear glasses of any kind–prescription, drugstore readers, safety, or sun, you want to protect your fragile and expensive glasses from drops and scratches. Also, chances are that every now and then, you lose track of where you put them. The Rugged Hard Shell Optics Case was deisnged to solve both of these problems. This protective case features a molded deviated foam construction, with a rugged hard-shell exterior, that provide crush protection for your glasses.
Available in two sizes (Medium, to fit regular-sized eyeglasses and sunglasses, and Large, for safety glasses and wider-framed sunglasses), this zip top-loading case is made with a durable, weather-resistant hard shell exterior that keeps glasses safe and sound. A sewn-in microfiber cleaning cloth is always at hand to keep your lenses clean, and the durable clip attaches securely to belts or straps up to 2″ wide. This means when you put your glasses in it, they are protected and ready when you need them. Problem solved.
This is genuinely wonderful as I am at the age when I need my specs close to hand at all times. But wait? What on earth is Bob up to?
One of the constant features of Bob and Andy’s Xmas day trip was the swapping of notes about getting old — you may have got a bit of a fee for this from the podcasts. Ageing is a reality of life but Bob riles against it! On this trip we fund ourselves in poor visibility and then trying to fix a route in the dark. Each time we struggled we took a grid reference on Routebuddy but then found we couldn’t read the small writing on the screen. Out came my specs. Bob then couldn’t read the map. Out came his specs. Looking back it seems odd that he didn’t have his specs case attached to his pack for easy access.
This case is indeed tough and will easily clip onto a sternum strap or other pack strap.If your like me – and don’t like actual walking wearing specs but need them for navigation and reference — these are superb.
A bargain at £17.99.
I’d like to take the opportunity to wish all my readers — yes even the grumpy and miserable ones — a happy Christmas. Hoping we meet somewhere down the trail in 2015.