Scottish Landscape Photographer of the Year — Paul Webster

It’s not unusual to see the work of Walkhighlands featured here in these pages. For over a decade Helen and Paul Webster have built up one of the most genuinely useful businesses aimed at supporting outdoor people exploring the Scottish Highlands. If you want a walking route — high, low, hard or gentle — or a place to teach for a book accommodation, Walkhighlands should be you starting place.

The Walkhighland’s website has become something of an online magazine with news and features. The site also has a major focus on photography with articles not he art supplemented by Paul Webster’s stunning photography.

When they are not in the office, Helen and Paul are out walking their routes and creating new ones.  Paul always has his camera with him and records the Highlands in all their splendour, at all times of the day and in all weathers.  Even at home I can vouch for the fact that Paul strolls around the house with huge lenses attached to his Nikons. No squirrel is safe from one of Paul’s snaps.

To call Paul’s photos snaps is a bit of an insult.

If you want to spend some time reconnecting with the Highlands (particularly those of us who live in the flatlands to the South) get on over to the site.

Walkhighland’s Paul wins Scottish Landscape Photographer of the Year

The Adventure Show: Roads Less Travelled — Not To be Missed (even south of the border)

Some of you might not have clocked the latest two episodes of ‘Roads Less Travelled, Cameron McNeish’s latest look at the quieter byways of Scotland. thanks to the iPlayer the programme is available to all of us south of the border. You find the programme in the Scottish section of the iplayer on our Smart TV or directly here

In these two programmes Cameron takes a long, circular, walks around the Cairngorms, taking in Speyside, Rannock Moor and Loch Ossian, Glen Bruar, the little appreciated Angus Glens and Glen Muick.

Some people get a but sniffy about Cameron’s stuff but I like it. OK it can be a bit cheesy and he sticks pretty much to the formula, but then the formula works! In this mini series Cameron explores the terrain on foot, by canoe and by bike. And as always he moves around in his beloved camper van and always seems to get the opportunity sing and play with his bouzouki.

The great thing about this series is that cameron shows how those who are getting a bit older can prolong their interest in the Scottish Hills, or even explore these hills for the first time.

The second episode features an interview with my friend Helen Webster who along with husband Paul founded the now legendary Walk Highlands website. It’s nice hearing Helen talking about past adventures and her passion for the scottish Highlands.

For those youngsters out there — those of you who’s knees still work — there is still lots to gaze at. Those hills loo wonderful. Hopefully it won’t be too long until I’m out there again!


So Long Phil and Thanks for All the Fish …

2018 is only a few hours old and yet we have already had our first outdoor industry fatality. Phil Sorrell has announced that his web service, Social Hiking — Share Your Adventure is to close later in the year.

Phil established social Hiking about 8 years ago. It was a reasonably well thought out and executed website. If you didn’t ever stumble across it, Social Hiking allowed you to upload GPS routes that you had walked and even more interestingly social hiking allowed walkers to upload their routes as they actually walked. Over the 8 years Social Hiking has amassed an extraordinary library of waling routes that ordinary (and extraordinary) walkers have actually walked!

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Tramplite Evolves — Catching Up with Colin Ibbotson

I’m still grounded as a result of this dreadful lurgy that is going around the West Midlands. Fortunately mine hasn’t turned into bronchitis as it has with some people; the damn thing keeps coming back. Hopefully I’ll be able to get out for a walk later this week but in the meantime it has offered me a chance to catch up with people I haven’t spoken to for a while, including Colin Ibbotson. I’m always being asked what Colin is up to.

Since finishing the Pacific Crest Trail last autumn Colin has been hard at work with his Tramplite Gear. Colin’s gear is not mainstream and is expensive but it is full performance stuff that is properly proved over thousands of miles.




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This Summer is all About the CDT!

This summer it seems that the CDT (Continental Divide Trail) is the trail to be on. Strolling around (the web) recently I realised that two of my long distance trekking mates — Keith Foskett and Colin Ibbotson — are intending to be walking the CDT this summer.

They are both writing about their trip. Colin — being a gruff, taciturn, northerner of few words — has not written much yet, just announced that is what he is doing! Keith, a more lively southerner has written a bit more. No doubt both of them will be blogging some more about their trips as well as blogging during the trips. Both of them are worth following. Keith will be blogging as he walks, proper posts every couple of weeks or so. I’m not sure what Colin will be doing but you can usually follow him on his tracking device. Colin is preparing for the trip by taking a jaunt along the new Scottish Trail which runs up the country from South to North — that’s after his made me my cuben ground sheet I hope!

The CDT starts at the Mexican Border and travels North for 3,000 miles through New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana.

The PCT? So, last year 🙂

Keith Foskett is here.

Colin Ibbotson is here.

A Year in the Life of a Mountain — Stunning Preview

Most of us are still recovering from the impact that Terry Abraham’s film on the Cairngorms had on us but Terry is not a man to hang about and he is already posting promo clips of his new venture on You Tube.

 A Year in the Life of a Mountain focuses on Scarfell Pike, England’s highest summit. The film features may of those who live, work and play on the mountain.

In the Cairngorms in Winter our guide was Chris Townsend but in this new film Terry gives voice to many more participant, including some of our most fascinating mountain characters.

This promotional clip features, probably, my favourite guide book writer, Mark Richards, who has produced the Lakeside Fellranger series. It’s not just that Mark produces very good guide books — although he certainly does — I love the way Mark talks about mountains, how he sees them in his life and how he has developed his whole philosophy of the mountain. If that sounds a bit heavy then don’t panic — Mark is also a supreme communicator as you here in the promo clip.  He is a man who talks an awful lot of sense.

Here we hear Mark talking about mountains, about how much you miss if you just rocket to the top. Mountains are not just about summits, indeed in Mark’s via, you don’t have to get to the summit to understand what the mountain is all about. But don’t just take my words, go and have a listen for yourself.

Also featured in this clip is the legendary fell runner Josh Naylor who has spent a life on the hills not only as an athlete but as a hill farmer. For Josh, Scarfell pike is a unique mountain and like Mark he revels in the quiet places where those rushing to the top seldom come, places that are great for just observing the sky and the landscape as well as the exploits of day visitors (from a distance).

This film is almost certainly going to be just as good as the Cairngorms in Winter piece. And once again, Terry seems to have spent hours finding the right place for the right shot and no doubt has spent hours and hours on these hills in the most horrendous of conditions.

Go treat yourselves.

Life of a Mountain: Scarfell Pike — Preview

Cameron McNeish Wades into the Future of Outdoor Mags Debate

Cameron McNeish is one of the country’s highest profile pout door writers who has founded and edited magazine for over 25 years. Over on Walk Highlands Cameron has now added his views to the debate the I have been trying to raid here about the future of outdoor writing.

Outdoor Magazines, have they had their day?

Maybe it’s am age thing but I find that I agree with nearly all that Cameron writes. He seems to agree with those of us who think tree are two main challenges to our publications, firstly there is our changing habits in consuming news and ‘print’, and secondly, there is the challenge to provide distinct content in the age of blogging.

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Review: The Cairngorms in Winter with Chris Townsend

Watching a full length feature film these days is quite a hazardous experience; you are likely to spend 90 minutes watching a never ending car chase, loads of gushing blood and much gratuitous violence. It’s all very exhausting. However, I’ve just spent an absolutely wonderful 90 minutes watching one of the most memorable films that I’ve seen in years. It was 90 minutes of pure relaxation or chill out. This may well be the best 90 minutes that I’ve spent in years!

Want to know more?

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Meeting the Remarkable Christine

I’ve been fortunate to meet some remarkable people during my life, some of them being amongst the most remarkable people living in modern times!

These people have all been very different and have existed, and operated, in very different fields of life. They have had many different characters and attributes. And yet there has been something — some kind of indeterminable characteristic — that links them all together. I’m not sure what it is that thee people have ‘had,’ but they’ve all had it!

Last week I was lucky enough to meet the latest in this round of remarkable people when I spent a couple of hours with long distance hiker, cyclist and ‘paddler’ Christine aka German Tourist (or is it the other ways round).

It was Colin Ibbotson who introduced me to Christine’s blog; Colin had met Christine while hiking in Colorado. It is fair to say that Colin found Christine quite inspirational. Christine worked in a high powered job but when she was ‘fired’ she upped sticks and set off to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. This told her that this is what she wanted to do with her life and, today, Christine has become a permanent and professional hiker, cyclist and kayaker. Every now and then Christine returns to Germans to work to earn a little money but only so that she can head out again.

I’ve mentioned Christine here before not least in connection to her posts on the long term durability of gear. I never imagined that I would actually get to meet Christine and she seemed never to be in one place long enough. So, imagine my surprise when I received an email out of the blue saying that she would be passing through Birmingham — on a narrow boat — in a few weeks and she would like to meet up.

So, on a lovely late spring morning I set off to take tea with Christine and her friend John on John’s narrowboat moored somewhere in the centre of Birmingham. John himself is something of an explorer. Christine and John met while John was cycling around the world — not on a long ride but actually around the world. John has finished his trip now but is not one to settle down conventionally in one place. He bought his boat and now exists in a permanent — if sedate  — state of movement on the water. When I met them John and Christine were gradually making their way towards Chester.

I had gone with high hopes of recording a podcast interview with Christine but within just a few minutes I realised that this was an impossible emission — she just has too much to say and that’s someone who doesn’t ever seem to stop talking! Maybe next time we encounter each other I will know how to start an interview!

To catch a glimpse of the world through the eyes of someone who is permanently on the move is a fascinating experience. For me — and I guess most of most readers — the PCT trail (which takes most of a year) is a big enough challenge. But Christine sees trails like the PCT as part of one longer expedition. She talks of both the mental and physical challenges inherent in stringing together a number of similar expeditions into one. The cycling and the Kayaking came in after Christine realised just how demanding a long walking hike is on the body. These days she rotates her experiences to allow her to recuperate and to enjoy the variety and differences of each discipline.

Christine is very much a German women. She is warm and funny — yes all of the Germans I have met have been both of those things. She is also frighteningly organised and a self declared control freak and I suppose we shouldn’t be surprised by that. A few days after we met she was due to rendezvous with Mick and Gayle. What were they like? Christine was keen to meet not only fellow long distance walkers but fellow bloggers. Immediately I could sense a little issue, you see Gayle is also a superb organiser (and whisper it carefully, probably something of a control freak). You’ll love Mick I found myself saying. And Gayle too, just don’t try and out organise her …

There was a little issue of where John and Christine would meet up with Gayle and Mick. I could sense Christine straining to get to grips with the meeting location, map grid references and ETA times. Don’t worry I found myself saying, just do what Gayle says and she’ll find you. I imaged Christine thinking that maybe she had met her match! I wish I had been a fly on the wall.

Christine’s past trips are legion. Not only has she hiked most of the most dramatic treks around but she provides herself with relaxing variety by kayaking down the full length of the Mississippi! After the UK Canals Christine is setting off to explore Denmark on bike and then in the autumn to continue with her first love hiking, somewhere in southern Europe where the weather is good.

Christine seems to have an almost limitless reserve of good cheer and I guess you need that when you are always on the move. For Christine her explorations are not an escape but I suspect also an opportunity to meet many more people as well as experiencing many more places. I’ve always been influenced by the philosophy of writer and traveller Bruce Chatwin who felt landscapes only really came alive through the people that inhabited them; I suspect Christine would agree with those sentiments. She is one of those rare people who — after just 15 minutes of conversation — gives you the impression that you have known her for years.

It was a bit humbling to talk to Christine about my own meagre plans. This year will involve a lot of short trips until the autumn when we hope to take off on some trail or another. I mentioned our options. Christine took stock and then put me right, giving me a whole series of other options that would be easy to plan and encounter.

In the couple of hours with me we talked about so many things that I’ve clean forgot most of the stories which is a bit of a problem here. But I do like Christine’s views on hiking in the UK and Scotland — this is not a place to hike on a budget! True!

While being arm and funny people the Germans always seem to me have very certain — sometimes idiosyncratic ideas. With Christine it was Scotland. She is not a fan of hiking in Scotland. Why hike in Scotland when you can walk the Pennine Way? It’s far nicer.

I walked the Pennine Way in my youth. My only memories of it are of rain and bog. We only kept going because there was a free pint at the end of it (mind you it might have been a free half — can’t quite remember).

Anyhow, I’m not sure I have done Christine justice. But go treat yourself. Find a free hour, open a nice bottle of wine and loose yourself in Christine’s blog. Remarkable stuff. And a remarkable woman!

Christine’s Big Trip Blog

Paddy Dillon on Your Tube — Cicerone’s New Channel

Thanks to a Cicerone mailshot to bring to my attention their new Youtube Chanel — at least it is new to me!

The highlight of the offerings is an interview with Paddy Dillon on Iceland.

Paddy seems to have been interviewed in a back garden or park area. He seems to have turned up in full backpacking gear, including pack. My first reactions were, ridiculous! And then I remembered that this is Paddy we are talking about. He probably dresses like that to pop ’round to the corner shop!

Is it my imagination but Paddy seems thinner than ever. The man is wasting away!