Category Archives: Skill

How to stop a mad dog. Ogden's cigarette card

‘How to stop a mad dog’

While I don’t own a dog and never have, on many an occasion I have walked large and powerful dogs with family and friends. Sometimes the dog is on the lead, sometimes off. On every occasion the owner, with a sharp and direct call or command, has been able to halt the dog or bring it to heel. However, on hundreds of occasions I have witnessed other owners with little or no control over their charges.

So, how many times have YOU been attacked by a dog while hiking? Certainly Three Points of the Compass has had a few run ins, always when on public land or path. I don’t count those weekend walks where a myriad of dog walkers and their ‘harmless pet’ are encountered. Those times when to the shrill “he’s only playing, he just wants to get to know you” an unwanted dog proceeds to climb up your front, paws spreading liberal amounts of mud over trousers, hip belt, shirt or jacket. That is just annoying. More those occasions when no owner is around and a large and very angry hound runs full pelt toward you. What do you do then?

Cigarette card issued in the 1910's by Ogden's, branch of The Imperial Tobacco Co. (of Great Britain and Ireland) Ltd.

Cigarette card issued c1913 by Ogden’s, branch of The Imperial Tobacco Co. (of Great Britain and Ireland) Ltd.

On a couple of occasions hiking in 2018 I have had to circle, keeping myself facing some furious, slavering, sizeable beast. They didn’t bark, all they wanted to do was to rip me to shreds, it was very very apparent, teeth are bared and snarling is pronounced. I have been very fortunate in having trekking poles to hand and have kept tips to the animal, while circling, keeping myself facing the dog while trying to get further away. None of the animals have been rabid, if they were they wouldn’t suddenly decide to give up. I have had holes ripped in trousers but have not yet been bloodied. I know of some hikers who have been far less fortunate. If the fangs went in, then clubbing the damn animal is about all you can do. There is some lovely advice that you should simply stand calmly with your arms at your sides. I can assure you, if I had done that I would either not be here now or sporting some impressive scars. As to the advice to let it sniff you…

Certainly there is no point in shouting at the dog, that is going to hype it still further. Running is pointless too, any dog can run faster than you. Attempting to stop it getting too close while moving out of its territory promptly is wise. If a dog does latch on then prying the jaws open from the side with the tip of a pole may get it to release, but most dogs have immense strength in their jaws.

Around a century ago, this Ogden’s cigarette card gave sage advice to Boy Scouts and others, stating that staff, walking stick, hat or handkerchief should be held in front, as the dog paws this down this gives “opportunity of disabling him by a kick“. I can imagine the outcry if such advice were circulated widely today. There are a few other ploys that it is worth considering, or being aware of.

This doesn’t help much when some yappy little cur struggles their way below a fence or squeezes under a gate and follows you down the lane, constantly nipping at your ankles. At times like these it is inadvisable to waste time and look to try and film it for evidence, you need your wits about you. There is never an owner around and if there were, the last thing you want to be doing is heading further into the dog’s territory, possibly to meet a larger cousin. Again, time to retreat while cursing quietly, or perhaps not so quietly. While it is the animal that is attacking you, it is the owner who is at fault.

The Firefly can be ordered in different pack configurations, I ordered two Firefly and two Firefly Mini. Toothpicks can be stored in the pack when swapped with the firesteel

Firefly- a simple addition to your kit

I recently received a sweet little package through the post. I ordered the Firefly firesteel when I came across it on Kickstarter. It is one of those simple ideas that you wonder why no-one had produced before. A very small, very slim ferrocerium rod that takes the place of the toothpick in a Swiss Army Knife.

Large and small Firefly inserted into the slots provided for toothpicks on my Victorinox Spartan and Classic SD Swiss Army Knives

Large and small Firefly inserted into the slots provided for toothpicks on my Victorinox Spartan and Classic SD Swiss Army Knives

One of these fire steels is not going to last any great length of time. Instead, they work well as an emergency carry, for those times where you get caught out for some reason, wet matches, ineffective lighter etc.

A good edge is required to raise a spark so not every tool in a Swiss Army Knife is effective. You will see me use the back edge of a saw in a Wenger Swiss Army Knife in the film below. But scissors, awl and fish scaler are effective too. The suppliers of the Firefly, Tortoise Gear, say that a can opener or file tool could also be used, however I have had less success with these. The knife can also be used but I’m not wrecking my blades attempting to do so. The back of a tool in a Swiss Army Knife can also be filed to give a good ninety degree angle for striking a steel, but likewise, I’m not butchering the tools on my knives.

There is an additional technique required when using these mini firesteels, you have to support the steel with a finger to stop it being broken. Also, strike along the thin edge rather than the wide edge, this stops it being worn away during use and no longer fitting tightly into the slot in the scales of your Swiss Army Knife.

Should you be interested, the larger 52mm Firefly weighs 1.7g , and the smaller 44mm Firefly Mini weighs a paltry 1.2g. So if you carry a Victorinox with you on trail or as an EDC, you may like to consider these. Alternatively, simply slip one into your ditty bag along with a small striker. One word of warning though, if living in the UK, watch out for those customs fees!

Three Points of the Compass walking in Co. Donegal, Ireland, 2015

Sixty days to my ‘Big Walk’

I recently did a brief post on how I was getting on with cleaning knives and multi-tools at home, while struck down with minor illness. In a response to this, one reader, Sam, asked a number of questions on how my plans are progressing in the remaining days leading up to my setting off on my Three Points of the Compass walk. Rather than have my reply buried elsewhere, I have done a dedicated response here should such things be of any interest to anyone else.

Three Points of the Compass, Brecon Beacons, 2012

Three Points of the Compass, Brecon Beacons, 2012

You’ve got three and a half months left until it’s your turn. You must be looking forward to it…

  • As I post this, I have just sixty days until I set off. Naturally, as my start day approaches, there are a mixture of emotions. I am nervous about my arthritis in feet, knees and hips and my lingering plantar fasciitis, I am exhibiting slight apprehension over my  gear choices- have I ‘packed too many fears’, I am questioning of the weather that I will encounter in the spring, worried about leaving my wife and family for so long, concerned at being absent from my work for such an extended period, doubtful that my order of three pairs of Altra Lone Peak trail shoes in size 13 will turn up in time, and yes, I am very excited at my approaching adventure.

Do you have a specific goal in mind, as in, for example, the number of days you would like to complete the walk in? Or each section of the walk?

  • It might seem to many that I have over planned for my walk, whereas in reality, I do not believe that is the case. I have attempted to develop my required skill set and experience over the years. I have a route in mind, but I have deliberately permitted myself some leeway. I have allowed four months for my walk, it may be over in far less than that if my body breaks down, but I intend to ease myself in to my hike and not set myself targets that I will worry over. What I will try and achieve is walking toward a set of staggered goals- to my first ‘point of the compass’, to Lands End, to leaving the coast, to reaching Wales, to leaving Wales and so on, and so on…

Do you plan on going all out each day, walk till you drop, see where you end up, and repeat?

  • When I was a younger and stronger hiker, I would walk as far as I could each day. In my twenties, thirty to forty mile days were not unremarkable. In my thirties and forties, this had dropped to seldom above twenty-five mile days. With dodgy knees and other issues, I cannot carry on like that. I have to rein myself in and complete shorter days. Most definitely when I set off, otherwise I will not complete this walk. I am anticipating that I will complete between fifteen and twenty miles most days. Some will be shorter than this, some will be longer.

Or have you planned it methodically like Andrew Martin; he booked accommodation a year in advance for every single day of his 30 day LEJOG walk

  • In my head, I have a regime of a majority of wild camps, interspersed with occasional official camp sites where I can shower. I plan on the occasional bit of luxury, perhaps a B&B or cheap hotel or hostel. I am hopeful that these can more or less coincide with a day off from hiking roughly once a week. Nothing at all is booked beyond friends of mine in Somerset expecting me to pitch up on their lawn for a night or two at some point.

Do ask if you have any more questions that you would like answered.

Three Points of the Compass on West Highland Way, 2013

Three Points of the Compass on West Highland Way, 2013

Three Points of the Compass is taking a variety of pegs on his Long Walk across the UK

Pegging down the pegs

Having purchased a new tent this summer, I thought I would look a little more thoroughly at the range of pegs/stakes that I will be taking with me on my Long Walk in 2018. I have chatted before about the various pegs I have used over the years, and this has helped inform my ‘final’ choice.

As anyone who has read much from my Three Points of the Compass site will know, in 2018, it is my intention to set off from the Lizard in Cornwall, to follow the coastline, through Lands End, to Minehead (via the most southerly compass point of mainland Britain). Strike across country to Bristol, cross into Wales and then head north to and into Scotland via Lakeland. Keeping northward (with a diversion off to the most westerly compass point), I plan on visiting the most northerly point before swinging round to John O’Groats. As you might imagine, the terrain and underlying soil types are going to vary incredibly across this walk, far more so than any other hike I have ever undertaken to date.

It is so that I am prepared for whatever I am pegging down into, that my peg bag is going to show a little more variety than normal, in addition to being a little heavier that I might perhaps wish. Despite having a fairly wide variety of pegs for various ground conditions, I have chosen carefully, and concentrated on good quality products that have kept the weight as low as possible. Total weight, including peg bag, is 152g.

I anticipate good loamy soils, springy turf, grit, rocks, sand, roots, hard compacted earth, strong winds and waterlogged ground. It is obvious that no one type of peg is going to handle all of these, hence my choice. My tent is the Z Pack Duplex. I am not taking a free-standing option, my tent is erected with a peg at each corner plus one for each side that holds the doors out. Finally, a little more internal room can be gained by pegging out the sloping walls. So, six pegs as a minimum, eight pegs ideally. In addition to the eight, I want something for when the ground is soft and pegs just want to pull through the mud etc. Also, a couple of strong spears to pound into solid ground, where taking a rock to the head of any other peg I am carrying is going to shatter it or turn it into a banana. Not much to ask for is it! Additionally, there has recently appeared a new kid on the block- these are stupid light pegs and made of a traditionally fragile material. But I am including four short plastic pegs for additional support, replacement of lost pegs, or when I am stringing up a drying line or similar.

At a pinch, I also have my ti shepherds hooks that work with my cooking set-up as pot supports, these could instead be used to wiggle through a gritty, rocky ground, finding their way through tiny crevices. So while the two ti hooks are really part of my kitchen gear, I include them here. I also have my toilet trowel that can be used as a peg, or bags could also be filled and buried as snow anchors if things get desperate.

Lightweight, yet tough, peg bag from Tread Lite

Lightweight, yet tough, peg bag from Tread Lite

I have previously used a really lightweight peg bag from Tread Lite that weighed just a single gram but I found it too fragile, so I have gone for a more robust bag from the same manufacturer. This is made of Icarex with a tougher Dyneema X Grid base where wear is greatest. Yet the peg bag still weighs less than 5 grams.

  Peg/stake Material number Length Individual weight Total weight
 Carbon and Aluminium 'Full Metal Jacket' nail from Easton Easton nail Aluminium/Carbon 8 153mm 6.2g 49.6g
 Clamcleats Titanium Spear Clamcleats spear Titanium 2 200mm 17.9g 35.8g
 Clamcleats Tornado Clamcleats Tornado Titanium 2 183mm 18.1g 36.2g
 Swiss Piranha Swiss Piranha RT90 Plastic 4 90mm 3.2g 12.8g
 Titanium hook from Cascade Designs Cascade Designs Ti-hooks (potentially repurposed from stove) Titanium 2 160mm 6.3g 12.6g
Tread Lite peg bag Icarex/Dyneema X Grid 1 270mm 4.7g 4.7g
151.7g

[152g]

  • The Full Metal Jackets from Easton have either been shamelessly cloned by other manufacturers, or Easton are now producing them for a few of the smaller (and not so small) retailers under other names. They are an excellent and truly lightweight peg. Incredibly strong, they still have to be put in and removed with respect.
  • The titanium pins I have included can take quite a bit of punishment and can easily be pounded in with a rock. You will find thinner variants of these pins on sale but these are the 5mm thick titanium Spears that have been hammered  through four inches of wood by YouTubers on a frequent basis.
  • In soft ground, the thinner profile pegs shown above can be pulled out either with ease, or will struggle to hold. I wish I could justify a whole set of eight wide profile V pegs but instead, have included two Tornado pegs that can be used where it matters most, perhaps on the windward side of a tent.
  • Swiss Piranha RT90 pegs are short, made of a supposedly ‘unbreakable’ plastic and, in good ground, hold pretty well. At just 3.2g each, I felt I could include four of these as back up.
  • The titanium hooks that can provide pot support in my Sidewinder stove from Cascade Designs, can also be put into service as tent pegs. These thin pegs are good on gritty, rocky pitches, finding purchase where thicker pegs can prove impossible to penetrate the ground.

I am pretty sure that the above is going to be my final peg selection but do want to try this out for a few nights before committing to it. I am walking the Icknield Way Path over the course of a week in October and will be taking this set of pegs with me. I shall also be packing along two additional pegs, just to see if I am tempted to use them, or if they are required. These will be two of the excellent MSR Groundhogs. These are a tried and tested classic aluminium vaned peg.

 MSR Groundhog MSR Groundhog Aluminium 2 191mm Individual weight:  14.3g Total weight: 28.6g
The New Naturalists books make excellent reading. Especially when loaded onto an e reader if visiting an area

A library- leafing through the pages…

Three Points of the Compass encourages anyone who hikes or ventures into the countryside to not only look around and take notice of the surroundings, but to seek answers to questions. Buy a book, a Field Guide, try and remember a new name each trip out, each season, every year

Three Points of the Compass encourages anyone who hikes or ventures into the countryside to not only look around and take notice of the surroundings, but to seek answers to questions. Buy a book, a history, Field Guide, reference work, try and remember a new name and identification each trip out, each season, every year

Over the past few weeks Three Points of the Compass has been pulling a few books off his shelves to share with you. Every single one has given me pleasure, been of interest, has answered questions, acted as occasional expert reference or frustrated me in my ignorance.

I have featured 178 books with another 83 complimentary volumes also illustrated and touched upon. All have been purchased by me or have been gifts from family or friends. In a lot of cases there have been subsequent and possibly glossier editions, some I have purchased, others I have not. Usually it is the edition that has resonated with me most that I have shown on these pages.

Books can be expensive. However if something is of even passing interest, there is usually a cheap little volume available from someone who knows their subject, available and knows how to put it across. The online sites such as eBay and Amazon can turn up well priced second hand books at reasonable prices

Books can be expensive. However if something is of even passing interest, there is usually a cheap little volume available from someone who knows their subject and knows how to put it across. None of the small books above cost me more than a couple of quid and all of them answered a question. Online sites such as eBay and Amazon can turn up well priced second hand books in good readable condition. But do your research first, there is a lot of dross out there

I love books, much to the frustration of Mrs Three Points of the Compass (who happily neglects to mention her own fine collection of fiction). E-versions are often available and I have no problem with that. Like many others, I like the solid feel of a book, find flicking through the pages not only an ascetic pleasure but usually more convenient. However I well recognise the value of actually having a book with you instead of at home on the shelves. That is why I have also shown five e-books in these blogs. Books that, with others not shown here, have accompanied me on my walks and travels at no more than the weight of the e-reader itself.

Though I well remember that sickening feeling when I leant back on my backpack at a rest stop on the fells once, and heard a loud crack from within the pack’s depths. Sure enough, when the Kindle was pulled from the pack later, a series of cracks crazed the face. I now use my android phone instead and the replacement, and now apparently obsolete, Kindle ‘Classic’ escorts me on family holidays.

New Naturalists have been published since 1945 covering a wide range of British Natural History subjects. There have been cheaper editions published of many of these, eschewing the lovely dust jackets artwork and replacing any original colour plates with black and white

New Naturalists have been published since 1945 covering a wide range of British Natural History subjects. There have been cheaper editions (three shown on the lower row here) published of many of these, eschewing the lovely dust jackets artwork (above) and replacing any original colour plates with black and white

So, to finish- buy books. Read them, learn from them. Fill your shelves with them. A good guide can only make your time in the wild more enjoyable and fulfilling. A little knowledge fills the voids and with luck, will make you ask further questions, that all need answering. Now where’s that book…

... and along with a book comes the associated paraphernalia. Who can read any book about bats without wanting a bat detector too!

… and along with a book comes the associated paraphernalia. Who can read any book about bats without wanting a bat detector too!

Books in featured image:

Brecon Beacons, Jonathan Mullard. William Collins, 2014. Source ISBN 978 0007 3677 02, Ebook edition- ISBN 978 0007 5312 57

Yorkshire Dales, John Lee. William Collins, 2015, Source ISBN 978 0007503698, Ebook edition- ISBN 978 0007 5037 11

 

 

The Cerne Giant

A library for geologists…

 

Lost Gods of Albion

Paul Newman

Yes, you are correct, that is a picture of a man that seems to be very pleased to see you. And he has been that way for a very long time, since 1694 at least.

Some may wonder why I include a book on chalk hill figures in a blog about books on geology, but it is due to that very geology, and man’s interaction with it, that such wonderful artefacts exist. People have identified a hill, an aspect, its underlying soil and used these to tell a story, to advertise a fact or possibly just to show off.

Regimental Badges at Fovant, Wiltshire. Cut into the grass by soldiers stationed in the district during the 1914-18 war. In 1951 the badge of the Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry was added

Regimental Badges at Fovant, Wiltshire. Cut into the grass by soldiers stationed in the district during the 1914-18 war. In 1951 the badge of the Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry was added

Almost exclusively peculiar to England, the majority of chalk hill figures are of horses with some lovely exceptions, which include crosses, the 180 feet (55m) high Cerne Giant shown on the cover of the book above and even a Panda.

Lost Gods of Albion only looks a few of the hill figures to be found and virtually ignores anything modern, preferring to concentrate on any perceived spirituality associated with some chalk hill figures. It does make interesting reading though.

The 231 feet (70m) Long Man of Wilmington, Sussex was passed by Three Points of the Compass on the Wealdway. Still just visible in the light snow

The 231 feet (70m) Long Man of Wilmington, East Sussex was passed by Three Points of the Compass on the Wealdway. Still just visible in the light snow on the hill, the hill figure is designed so as to appear proportional when viewed from below . It dates from the 16th or 17th century.

This little book from Kate Bergamar is an early Shire Publication from 1972. I don't think I bought it as a niper, it was much more likely to have been one of my parents. It went some way to explaining the hill figures we would see from the car on holidays. A number of errors are present in its text though

This little book from Kate Bergamar is an early Shire Publication from 1972. I don’t think I bought it as a nipper, it was much more likely to have been one of my parents. It went some way to explaining the hill figures we would see from the car on holidays. A number of errors are present in the text though

Reaching Ivinghoe Beacon on my final day on the Ridgeway, over my right shoulder could be seen the huge figure of the Whipsnade White Lion

Reaching Ivinghoe Beacon on my final day on the Ridgeway, over my right shoulder could be seen the huge figure of the Whipsnade White Lion. It measures 483 feet (147m) across

I defy anyone, when striding across the chalk hills of England, if presented with one of the fifty plus chalk hill figures to be found, to not stand and give it more than a casual glance. And while you do admire it, consider that you are seeing the product of show-offs, an earlier people that had something to say and they stood on their hill and cut the turf to do so, using the very geology of their land to shout their message across to you.

Just about the worst place to see a chalk-hill figure is standing next to it. Three Points of the Compass passed the top of Uffington Horse, cut into White Horse Hill, on the Ridgeway in 2016

Just about the worst place to see a chalk-hill figure is standing next to it, even when it measures 360 feet (110m) nose to tail. Three Points of the Compass passed the top of Uffington Horse, cut into White Horse Hill, on the Ridgeway in 2016. However you can see how those who constructed it, over 3000 years ago, looked out at their vista and said- ‘this is the place’

Another two books to consider are White Horses and other Hill Figures by Morris Marples, or Ancient British Hill Figures by Rodney Castleden

Another two books to consider are the 1991 second edition reprint of the definitive White Horses and other Hill Figures by Morris Marples, or Ancient British Hill Figures by Rodney Castleden, published in 2000, which concentrates on the older chalk figures

Book in featured image:

Lost Gods of Albion, the chalk-hill figures of Britain, Paul Newman. Robert Hale, 1997. ISBN 0 7509 1563 3

If you want to look for a cheaper option than Lost Gods of Albion, then Gods and Graven Images was simply an earlier (1987) version of the book by the same author

If you want to look for a cheaper option than Lost Gods of Albion, then Gods and Graven Images was simply an earlier (1987) version of the book by the same author

The Handbook of British Mammals. Corbet and Southern

A library for naturalists…

The Handbook of British Mammals

Corbet and Southern

This volume is probably more a historical document today but use it alongside any modern Field Guide and it works wonderfully. Just don’t go looking for Coypu in East Anglia today, they were probably eradicated by the early 1990s.

Part of the seven and a half pages that covers the Harvest Mouse in Great Britain

Part of the seven and a half pages that covers the Harvest Mouse in Great Britain in The Handbook of British Mammals

As usual, Collins publish excellent Field Guides to Mammals. Such a volume works brilliantly alongside a good reference work such that by Corbet and Southern

As usual, Collins publish excellent Field Guides to Mammals. Such a volume works brilliantly alongside a good reference work such that by Corbet and Southern

I suppose at some point I ought to purchase the most up to date version of a handbook to British Mammals, however much of the salient historical and biological data in my volume is still correct and I supplement this with species specific detail in other volumes on my bookshelves. Perhaps the most relevant aspect is that not only am I a naturalist, but I am a reader of books too. Corbet and Southern’s volume has prose as well as fact.

Good information is included on the Classification of Mammals and I am especially pleased that detail on extinct species is included, such as Brown Bear and Wolf. Hopefully in my time the latter species may be reintroduced to Scotland.

Line drawings of dentition and skulls are included and the systematic accounts, each written by an authority, are broken down in to Description, Measurements, Distribution, Habitat, Behaviour, Food, Breeding, Predators and Mortality, and Relations with Man.

A very good, reasonably priced series of books was published by Whittet Books. nUpdated and new editions are avaialbe. Written by ackoledged expert sin their field, these are very accessible and in no way daunting, but still give good information on species

A very good, reasonably priced series of books was published by Whittet Books. Updated and new editions are available. Written by acknowledged experts in their field, these are very accessible and in no way daunting, but still give good information on species. Some authors of these volumes also wrote the species accounts in The Handbook of British Mammals

Book in featured image:

The Handbook of British Mammals, G B Corbet and H N Southern. Blackwell Scientific Publications, second edition 1977. ISBN 0 632 09080 4