Monthly Archives: May 2016

Re-filling with fresh water on The Ridgeway

The Ridgeway- water sources

Those who read an earlier post will have noted that I took a water filter with me on my recent six day backpacking trip along The Ridgeway. The path itself is some 87 miles but I chose to start at Avebury, adding a handful of miles to my total. That, combined with a couple of short side-trails to overnight stops, meant that I covered 106 miles in total.

Most springs and rivers occur below the level of The Ridgeway and accessing them often means descending off trail

Most springs and rivers occur below the level of The Ridgeway and accessing them often means descending off trail

The Ridgeway is not an exclusively ridge walk. For much of its distance it traverses the hills above the villages and towns situated at the spring line on lower contours. It can be quite dry on the trail yet water intake has to be maintained by the hiker throughout.

Day two, especially, was a wet day. In contrast to the strong sun, high temperatures and lack of cover of the first day. Regardless of conditions, it is important to stay well-hydrated throughout the day to lessen fatigue and maintain progress

Day two, especially, was a wet day for me on The Ridgeway. This was in contrast to the strong sun, high temperatures and lack of cover of the first day. Regardless of conditions, it is important to stay well-hydrated throughout the day to lessen fatigue and maintain progress

So, did I find a water filter of use? Simply put- no. Even without finding it necessary to leave the trail specifically to seek out water, I did not need to use a filter at all. If not abundant, I certainly found that with a little planning I could carry all the water that I required and kept well hydrated throughout. This was partly achievable because almost all of my overnight halts were at recognised sites. The only night I wild-camped, I took an extra litre with me for that night. I usually drank at least a litre of water, sometimes as much as one and a half, each night. This would  mostly be in liquid form, water, tea or my favoured OXO. Some water was used to rehydrate meals.

Most water taps are well-signposted from the path

Most water taps are well-signposted from the path

All of the water points that I located on the trail were sign-posted, were working and provided good, fresh, cold water. I started out on the walk carrying 1900ml of water with me in two 850ml Smartwater bottles. This was enough to see me through my short half day to my first halt at a farm near Ogbourne St. George. There is supposed to be a water tap available at Southend (SU198734), just prior to the village, but I failed to locate it. I camped in the horse paddock of Fox Lynch, filling up for that evening and the following day from a tap in the farm yard. If stopping for water there, do ask first as not all of the taps provide potable water.

Day two saw me set off with 1900ml. I refilled one empty bottle (850ml) at a tap on the path near farm buildings at Idstone Hill (SU263835). This day was especially wet compared to my first day. When it is raining it can be difficult to drink sufficient fluids and I was careful to keep a high intake.

Water tap at Idstone Hill

Water tap at Idstone Hill

Further along there is another tap near Hill Farm (SU338854). Again, I took the opportunity to not only drink a bottle of water (850ml) but fill up as well. This saw me through to my days end at Court Hill Centre (SU394844) south of Wantage where water is readily available to those staying, or for visitors on request.

Water tap near Ilsley Barn Farm

Water tap near Hill Farm, it would be easy to miss some of these points amidst the growing vegetation

I set off on day three, again loaded with 1900ml of water though I could have carried less as the next ‘on path’ tap is apparently near Ilsley Barn Farm. I say apparently as I walked past the tap, or signage, or whatever there was, without seeing it. Fortunately this is a fairly short stretch and my two bottles easily saw me to Streatley where there are many town facilities, including the YHA very near to trail.

Water tap near Grimsdyke Cottage

Water tap at crossing point near Grimsdyke Cottage, only shortly before reaching Nuffield

Tap in wall of Holy Trinity Church, Nuffield

Tap in wall of Holy Trinity Church, Nuffield

Tea, coffee, soft drinks , cake and biscuits, on offer inside Holy Trinity Church Nuffield. Be sure to leave a donation

Tea, coffee, soft drinks , cake and biscuits, on offer inside Holy Trinity Church Nuffield. Be sure to leave a donation

Day four, needless to say that I was well hydrated as I set off and also carrying water. A full load is not required as Nuffield is well provisioned. There is a very welcome tap (SU660871) at a Crossing Point only a little way before entering the village. However possibly the most welcome point is that at Holy Trinity Church in Nuffield (SU667873). There is a water tap in the exterior wall of the church but if you are fortunate, as I was, then you can enjoy the thoughtful provision of the local parishioners.

I stayed at a campsite that night- at White Mark Farm, two hundred metres or so from the path (SU697939). There is a water tap provided for walkers to the side of the entrance road to the site.

Water tap at the entrance to White Mark Farm, only a short distance from The Ridgeway

Water tap at the entrance to White Mark Farm, only a short distance from The Ridgeway

Keep an eye open for signage. This one pointed toward an unexpected source not far from Aston Rowant National Nature Reserve

Keep an eye open for signage. This one pointed toward an unexpected source not far from Aston Rowant National Nature Reserve

The following day, day five, I was not expecting to pass any water taps and knew I had a wild camp to provide for, so carried an extra litre when I set off. Needlessly as I came across an unexpected water tap at (SU727976). This tap is not shown on the Harvey route map but is mentioned in the Cicerone guide.

Again, I took the opportunity to drink a full bottles worth (850ml) before filling up again and walking on. Obviously heavily laden but very necessary.

There are many opportunities to wild camp on The Ridgeway, none are officially sanctioned and the obvious rules apply- arrive late, stay discreet, set up late, leave early, leave no trace. I stayed that night at a pleasant location with a good view over the Vale of Aylesbury. A litre of water was plenty for my needs that evening but left little for the following morning.

Water tap at near Aston Rowant. On right, near building just before the first minor road after having passed beneath the M40

Water tap at near Aston Rowant. On right, near building just before the first minor road after having passed beneath the M40

Crumbs in Wendover

Crumbs in Wendover

The following day, day six (my final day on the trail) I had an early descent from height down into the nearby market town of Wendover to partake of a thoroughly unhealthy but, oh, so welcome, Full English Breakfast (and two mugs of tea) at Crumbs Sandwich Bar. While there, I asked them to fill up water bottles for me, thereby preparing me for my final day.

Does a cafe in Wendover count as a water point? Damn right it does...

Does a cafe in Wendover count as a water point? Damn right it does…

This meant I was well provisioned for my remaining miles. I completed The Ridgeway a few minutes after two in the afternoon on day six and only had a two mile walk to Town Farm where I was camping that night. Water taps (SP949165) are situated some distance from the entrance to the site.

Dew ponds are situated at many points along The Ridgeway. Many are now restored and have butyl liners so no longer dry out as frequently as they used to. However water is intended for horses etc., is standing water and likely to be contaminated by animal faeces and is njot recomended for human consumption,even following very necessary treatment and purification

Dew ponds are situated at many points along The Ridgeway. Many are now restored and have butyl liners so no longer dry out as frequently as they used to. However water is intended for horses etc., is standing water and likely to be contaminated by animal faeces and is not recommended for human consumption,even following very necessary treatment and purification

Water on the stove for my post-hike OXO. Valuable rehydration and replacement of lost salts

Water on the stove for my post-hike OXO. Valuable rehydration and replacement of lost salts

Beyond a hot OXO at the end of each day (400ml), water for rehydrating meals and breakfast tea (400ml) with a home-mix breakfast, further liquid intake consisted of the odd pint or two in pubs at Ogbourne St. George, Streatley, Watlington and Ivinghoe Aston.

Cattle troughs are frequently encountered. Stop cocks are all automatic or closed from access. Only the water in the trough is accessible and requires treatment. Alternative sources are recommended

Cattle troughs are frequently encountered on The Ridgeway. Ballcocks are all automatic or closed from access. Only the water in the trough is accessible and definitely requires treatment. Alternative sources are recommended

Not that many public houses are actually passed on the trail itself. When they are, invariably it is at an inconvenient time and may be closed. Most easily utilised are those located not far from night stops, as here with the Carriers Arms near Watlington

Not that many public houses are actually passed on the trail itself. When they are, invariably it is at an inconvenient time and may be closed. Most easily utilised are those located not far from night stops, as here with the Carriers Arms near Watlington

The above is accurate to the month when written- May 2016. Circumstances are likely to alter over time and there is already a seasonal provision at some locations.

The Ridgeway- water filter

I took a few minutes today to sort out my water filter for my Ridgeway walk that starts in a few days time. Water points are not exactly prolific on this trail and there are conflicting reports as to the continued existence of one or two of the traditional fill-up points.

Aquaguard Micro and associated 'dirty water' bladder and hoses

Aquaguard Micro and associated ‘dirty water’ bladder and hoses

While I can easily divert into a number of hamlets etc. not too far off-trail if things get desperate, off-trail is off-trail- extra miles to be avoided if at all possible. Despite its name, the Ridgeway does not follow a ridge its whole length. I am hopeful of finding opportunity at lower levels to fill up bottles and water bladder along my way, hence my inclusion of a water filter in my gear.

Unlike many hikers, I have not moved on to either of the incarnations of the Sawyer- Mini or full size. Instead I am still relying on my Drinksafe Aquaguard Micro water filter. While I could use this as an in-line filter,  I am instead, taking it to be used as either gravity or squeeze. I have included a 1lt Platypus bladder for dirty water, a Sawyer Fastfill adapter, short hose, long hose, male and female quick disconnects and a ziplock to hold it all, this totals 239g.

In addition, I have two 850ml Smartwater bottles (33g each) in pack side pockets and a 2lt Evernew Bladder (42g). The latter specifically for camp. Not the lightest of set ups by any means, but it’ll do. I’ll report back as to how things went.

The Harvey map for the Ridgeway shows a handful of water supply points en route. Typically, these two are within a kilometre of each other!

The Harvey map for the Ridgeway shows a handful of water supply points en route. Typically, these two are within a kilometre of each other!

 

The Ridgeway- Food

Five breakfasts, three lunches, five evening meals. Also an abundance of snacks for the day plus a brew kit

Five breakfasts, three lunches, five evening meals. Also an abundance of snacks for the day plus a brew kit

I have now sorted out the food for my week on the Ridgeway. I had considered keeping it lightweight, putting a bit of trade to the local shops etc. and buying as I went along. But instead I have looked on this as an opportunity to revisit lighter weight foods and have a closer look at calorific values, hence my taking almost all of my meals with me.

Where I am staying at a hostel, I have booked an evening meal and breakfast, plus a lunch to take with me the following day. I shall also simply take a cheese and pickle sandwich with me from home for Day 1.

Bagged and ready

Bagged and ready

Food is heavy stuff. There is no getting away from it. Even with care, the weight builds up. The little lot shown here originally weighed 4790g. That sounded frighteningly excessive so the custards, salamis and just a couple of treats were removed which bought it down to 3690g. But the heavier items are mostly toward the beginning of the hike and the weight will quickly drop. The final meal to be consumed is simply some Pop-Tarts on the final morning. Though I suspect they will be slightly crumbled by then.

Adventure Food Mince Beef Hotpot, yes really, it is!

Adventure Food- Mince Beef Hotpot, yes really, it is! But 600 calories is pretty good

I haven’t used the Mountain House type meals in decades. I think it was Raven meals in the 1980s that put me off them at the time. But, seeing as I had a Cotswold discount card knocking around, I included some meals by Mountain House and Adventure Food. I bought an extra to try at home, and to be honest, having sampled today’s offerings I am glad I am not relying on these totally. But still, the calorific value to weight penalty is rather good.

Lunches are mostly a couple of tortillas per day with a pouch fish (tuna or mackerel) and a nut butter (peanut or almond). Despite very rarely partaking at home, I have included some puds in my meal plan, simply to carry on packing in both calories and ensure proper rehydration in the evenings.

Day Date Breakfast Lunch Evening Notes
Friday 20th May 2 x Granola bar ‘on the go’ Home made cheese sandwich / cake slice Look what we found‘ , + dried ‘bubble and squeak‘ mash / Toffee pudding with toffee sauce / mini choc bar  Camping
Saturday 21st May Home made breakfast mix Tortillas with (pouch) tuna, almond butter / Mango fruit bar Home made ‘Mac ‘n’ cheese’ / Toffee pudding with toffee sauce / mini choc bar  Camping-

Use Court Hill ‘campers kitchen’ in evening

Sunday 22nd May Court Hill- booked meal Court Hill- supplied lunch YHA provided meal  Hostel room
Monday 23rd May YHA provided meal YHA provided lunch Chilli Con Carne / couscous / Lemon cake with custard / mini choc bar  Camping
Tuesday 24th May Home made breakfast mix Tortillas with (pouch) tuna, peanut butter / cake slice Mince Beef Hotpot / pitted olives / Rice pudding with strawberries / mini choc bar  Camping
Wednesday 25th May Home made breakfast mix Tortillas with (pouch) mackerel / cake slice Chicken Curry with rice /  Lemon cake with custard / pitted olives / mini choc bar  Camping
Thursday 26th May Pop tarts Not required Not required
Spare meal- Ramen noodles, curry oxo
Brew kit
Snacks- Salami type sausage / Nuts & dried fruit, Craisins, dried pineapple / Sesame bar for each day + trail bar
Simple ingredients for a home-made Mac 'n' Cheese for backpacking

Simple ingredients for a home-made Mac ‘n’ Cheese for backpacking

I thought I would have a play around and knock up one dried meal by myself. Not at all difficult to make a simple mac ‘n’ cheese. The one I have produced is also a little healthier as it misses out all the preservatives and oddities at the end of any packet ingredient list. Rehydration is quick and not only is is pretty tasty but the 195g (incl ziplock) also delivers 760kcal.

Lio-licious supply a rather lovely Red Leicester in dehydrated form. The Nido full-fat milk powder is, simply, the best dried milk powder on the market, while Orzo pasta (looking like a large grain of rice) cooks quickly and is slightly less bulky in this form. A fistful of dried vegetables adds some flavour and vitamins while a pinch of chillies gives an underlying oomph. Simple.


Orzo pasta 120g 408kcal
Dehydrated Red Leicester cheese 40g 244kcal
Full fat milk powder 20g 102kcal
Dried mixed vegetables 10g 6kcal
Dried crushed chillies 1g 0

I like my food and am taking plenty of snacks. The M&S bars are great, I have written on the benefits of Sesame Snaps before and have included a small bar of Green and Blacks choc, in various flavours, for the evenings.

Brew kit

Brew kit

My brew kit comprises a mix of tea bags, herbal teas, drinking chocolate, milk powder ( Nido in a v. strong small zip lock with a tiny plastic measuring spoon), some condiments, a bit of sugar and an OXO cube for each day. I like a bouillon/stock cube in camp soon after setting up. Each cube has just under a gram of salt so goes some way to immediately putting that back into the system. By the way, after using the things for some forty years for the same purpose, I have only recently found out I was crumbling them all wrong! Hurrah, another piece of cross contamination done away with.

 

 

 

I may yet leave it out, but I am currently planning on including one reserve meal. This is simply a stick of ramen noodles and a curry flavour OXO cube.

Trail mix, fruits and nuts

Trail mix, fruits and nuts

Trail mix is a simple and tasty mixture of 300g of Brazil nuts, dried Blueberries and Pineapple with Pomegranate flavoured cranberries (Craisins).

 

If I remember and get round to it, I’ll try and post on how this all worked out. The one thing I am mindful of (beside the weight) is the risk of carrying food that isn’t eaten.

Sign of the Month- National Trails

“In a nutshell, it is a symbol of quality and value”

The National Trails Acorn- A standard waymark was adopted for the National Trails in England and Wales. A simple and iconic design, and very welcome when in doubt of the route.

 

With thanks for the quote from-

Sheila Talbot, Lead Advisor, National Trails, Statutory Access Team, Natural England