Tag Archives: camping

Stove making

Playing with fire, again…

Having played around with steel tins a few days ago, and come up with my Mk II attempt at a robust, screw top, alcohol/meths stove, it was time to try out a couple of tweaks.

Using a more open gauze produced no weight saving, the very opposite resulted

Using a more open gauze produced no weight saving, the very opposite resulted

Other than using a slightly thinner section of ceramic wadding, therefore not compressed so much, I did wonder if I could lose another gram or two by using a more open wire gauze. But found that this uses a thicker gauge wire and actually came in at two and a half times the equivalent weight. So it was back to using my first choice.

Mk IV being timed

Mk IV burn being timed

My second tweak was to include a choke in the top of my stove. Mk III had a very thin 1g copper sheet disc cut and fitted beneath a wire gauze cap, while Mk IV stove had .016 aluminium sheet cut into a disc with a small square of wire gauze beneath it.  The circular cut out in the copper measures 33mm diameter and was created simply by running the point of a penknife round a bottle cap placed in the centre. The hole cut in the centre of the aluminium sheet was a very different affair. Hacked rather than cut might be a better description! Having no way to hand to create this, I simply folded the disc in half and cut a half moon approx 25mm diameter in the centre with a pair of Leatherman Raptor shears. The disc, sans centre,  weighs 2.4g.

 

Weights:

  • Mk II-    Tin, lid, ceramic wadding, wire gauze: 30.7g
  • Mk III-   Tin, lid, ceramic wadding, copper sheet choke and wire gauze: 29.3g
  • Mk IV-   Tin, lid, ceramic wadding, aluminium sheet choke, wire gauze disc below: 29g
Burn times between my Mk II and Mk III home made stoves were compared

Burn times between my Mk II and Mk III home made stoves were compared. 45ml of fuel was used in each

Burn times- all stoves brim full with fuel
Mk II No choke 22min 50sec
Mk III Copper sheet choke 27min 55sec
Mk IV Aluminium sheet choke 25min 5sec

It was a fairly cool evening at 18° with a slight breeze. In common with my last trial with a home made stove, I didn’t use any form of windshield. Next up is to get some boil times rather than burn times.

As it is, it is looking as though my Mk III is coming in as most effective in burn time and almost as light as the lightest.

The tools of the job

The tools of the job, from left to right- Mk IV, Mk III, Mk II, Mk I. Mk I was the untested disaster!

Playing with fire. the first burn

Playing with fire…

Three Points of the Compass has used stoves of various types, that have relied on a variety of fuels, over the years. In recent times I have become less fussed about all-out speed- now I simply get on with another task while water heats etc. I also don’t like noise around my campsite- my Jetboil and Primus OmniFuel are often simply too intrusive, especially on a quiet morning.

Additionally, I seek simplicity. To this end, for the last couple of years I have been enjoying my Speedster Stoves. Reasonably priced and burning  alcohol/meths, there really isn’t much to go wrong with these. Gary makes them out of small aluminium party favour tins with some wadding inside, held down by a bit of metal gauze. They are similar to the Zelph StarLyte, but I prefer the Speedster for its screw top lid, the plastic lid on the Zelph can split.

The two sizes of Speedster Stove that Three Points of the Compass has been relying on recent treks. 20ml and 30ml variants. So light that a second already primed with fuel can also be taken

The two sizes of Speedster Stove that Three Points of the Compass has been relying on for recent treks. The largest only weighs 18g. So light that a second already primed with fuel can also be taken if wished

In common with a number of other users of these stoves I have found the soft metal a little problematic over time. The threads wear and the fine dust can jam, cross threading is also a more frequently encountered issue. I wiped mine with copper grease which alleviated the problem a little but not entirely.

At the very reasonable cost, I could simply throw a problem stove away and buy a replacement, but with a hike of 1000 miles plus over three months to consider next year, I want a stove that is less likely to wear, so went looking for a steel version. I failed miserably so resolved to have a crack at making my own.

Constructing my own alcohol stove. The completed on on the right was Mark I and never got as far as being lit. I had attempted to simply fold the wire over but it was to stiff, Mark II had snipped edges and enable the wire to be bent well, holding the ceramic gauze down with problem

Constructing my own alcohol stove. The completed one on the right was Mark I and never got as far as being lit. I had attempted to simply fold the wire over but it was too stiff, Mark II (below) had snipped edges and enabled the rim of the wire circle to be bent, holding the ceramic gauze down without problem

I searched the supermarket shelves for a suitable screw top steel container that I could re-purpose. I found plenty of aluminium containers of various sizes but no steel tins. A few minutes on eBay called and I ordered a half-dozen 2oz screw top tins from the US. Each one of these weighs 21g empty.

Ceramic fibre off cuts were also bought online. These are body soluble, the safer version of this type of material. Also a small square of stainless steel woven mesh and that was it. I had all the makings required for a first attempt.

Stuffed with a cut disc of fibre, held in by the wire mesh, the stove will hold 60ml of meths

My Mark II attempt. Stuffed with a cut disc of ceramic fibre, held in by the wire mesh, the stove will hold 60ml of meths

Empty, my stove weighed 30.7g. When brim full of fuel, it weighs 75g. My first three burns with the stove tonight gave me between 17 minutes 15 seconds and 18 minutes 40 seconds of burn, but this was with a light breeze and without utilising my normal Caldera Cone. Air temperature was 23°.

Certainly the thread on these tin plated steel tins should be more robust and hold up longer over time. This is the balance that has to be accepted with the greater weight of this choice of material. I reckon my next attempt will utilise a little less ceramic wadding and if I use a wider weave mesh I can shave off a couple more grams.

I have to be careful though, I am encroaching on to the territory of the thousands of bods out there who love making their own stoves! Nothing wrong with that, but for me, Mark III or Mark IV should hopefully give me what I want.

Three Points of the Compass cooking earlier this year on the Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path

Three Points of the Compass making a brew earlier this year on the Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path

The Norfolk Coast Path

The Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path- Part Two

 

The Norfolk Coast Path

Sandy isolation as I walk towards The Firs at Holme Dunes National Nature Reserve

Sandy isolation as I walk towards The Firs at Holme Dunes National Nature Reserve

Paths were invariably well maintained, it was often possible to find myself having strayed offf the official path on to one of the many other alternatives, but they all went in the same direction

Paths were invariably well maintained, I often found that I had strayed off the official path on to one of the many other alternatives, but they all went in the same direction

Starting on 1st April 2017, I walked the Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path. On day four, I finished off the Peddars Way and began the Norfolk Coast Path, the flavour of the walk changed immediately and dramatically. On my walk northward from the Suffolk/Norfolk border, I had encountered very few people on the trail, as soon as I hit the coast, this changed. Not that anyone was doing, or appeared to be doing, the national trail. It was just that I was now in the midst of holidaymakers, fishermen (and fisherwomen, or is it just fisherpeople?) and the residents and workers in the small and larger towns that were lined up, like pearls on a necklace, along the coast.

There a number of map and guide options for the Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path, I took the relevant 1:50 000 O.S. maps as I already had them. I also purchased the Cicerone guide and the official trail guide. Both are excellent but I only took the Bruce Robinson guide with me

There a number of map and guide options for the Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path. Knowing I would be going ‘off trail’ on occasion, I took the relevant 1:50 000 O.S. maps (sans covers) as I already had them. I also purchased the Cicerone guide and the official trail guide. Both are excellent but I only took the Bruce Robinson guide with me

My next few days comprised 20 miles from my last campsite on the Peddars Way, the lovely Bircham Windmill, to Deepdale, then 14,5 miles to Highsand Creek,  followed by 16 miles to my only stay at a hostel on the walk, the YHA hostel at Sherringham, leaving me a simple six miles to finish my trail at Cromer pier and then to the railway station. In all, I did 98.5 miles. This was certainly taken over the ton by my little wanderings and evening sorties from my tent. But, with map miles, it sits at 98.5 miles.

Because I knew that the nature watching was going to be so good on this trail, especially the Norfolk Coast Path, I wanted to include some optics in my kit list. Eschewing my heavy binoculars, I took a 109g 8x20 monocular. I was pleased I did as it was often used

Because I knew that the nature watching was going to be so good on this trail, especially the Norfolk Coast Path, I wanted to include some optics in my kit list. Eschewing my heavy binoculars, I took a 109g 8×20 monocular. I was pleased I did as it was often used

Someone had been playing silly buggers at Brancaster and had sawn off the finger posts. My own fault, I sauntered straight on and needlessly walked a mile and a half out to the point and back

Someone had been playing silly buggers at Brancaster and had sawn off the finger posts. My own fault, I never noticed and sauntered straight on, needlessly walking a mile and a half out to the point and back

I used to visit this part of the coast, almost as a pilgrimage, in the 1980s/90s when I was a keen birdwatcher. It is amongst the very finest of places to view birds- residents, migrants, raptors across the reedbeds, fantastic. But for me, it was the visits each late autumn/early  winter to see the thousands of geese, wintering away from the harsher conditions of Siberia that will live with me forever. Even hoofing along with a pack on my back and stopping infrequently, the Norfolk Coast Path was still a nature-watching marvel.

The early fine weather had encouraged many car borne visitors but few could be bothered to walk more than a mile or two from any carpark, as a result I had much of the coastal walking to myself  for hours on end.

Brent Geese, Shelduck and waders were constant companions

Brent Geese, Shelduck and waders were frequent companions. Seals were also often spotted

Smoke House in Cley

Smokehouse in Cley

Lobster and Crab pots are set all the way along this part of the coast

Lobster and Crab pots are set all the way along this part of the coast

Much of this part of the coast continues to change from the industry of old- fishing and smoking of fish, to the new, the tourist. However the flint built buildings are, mostly, well maintained, the natives friendly and opportunity to buy provisions vastly improved on anything I had experienced over the previous few days.

Fish and Chips with Mushy Peas enjoyed at Wells-next-the-Sea

Fish and Chips with Mushy Peas enjoyed at Wells-next-the-Sea

 

 

While I carried food for most meals over the Peddars Way part of this walk, I had known beforehand that opportunities to eat locally were going to be much improved on the second half of my walk.

Whereas I carried eight meals for the inland section, I only had two for the coastal section. All other were purchased locally. Though perhaps surprisingly, I only ate fish and chips the one time, When I reached busy Wells-next-the-Sea.

 

 

Superb breakfast at the Deepdale Cafe

Breakfast at the Deepdale Cafe included award winning Arthur Howell sausages and Fruit Pig Black Pudding

My two campsites on the coast were both perfectly adequate. Deepdale was a small field and I camped next to car campers, but I had no problem with that. There are plenty of opportunities to re-provision here but I only partook of a fine breakfast in the Deepdale Cafe.

 

£10 got me a huge field to myself and hot showers in the modern toilet block

£10 got me a field to myself at High Sand campsite and hot showers in the modern toilet block

A pint, good quality burger and writing up the days notes in the Red Lion, Stiffkey

A pint, good quality burger and writing up the day’s notes in the Red Lion, Stiffkey

Camping the following night at the High Sand camp site at Stiffkey saw my tent sitting alone in a huge field. The trail passed only a hundred metres away and I was content to treat myself to good food and ale at the Red Lion Inn in the local village.

 

 

This part of the coast was once the 'gateway to England' but silting up of creeks and changes in economics has reduced its importance. Blakeney is fairly typical of many towns along the coast, struggling to retain an identity. Small fishing boats take visitors out on seal watching trips when they are now out checking their lobster and crab pots

This part of the coast was once the ‘gateway to England’ but silting up of creeks and changes in economics has reduced its importance. Blakeney is fairly typical of many towns along the coast, struggling to retain an identity. Small fishing boats take visitors out on seal watching trips when their owners are not out checking their lobster and crab pots

The distinctive windmill at Cley next the Sea can be seen for miles across the marshes. The path goes right past it and I regretted, slightly, not pausing to sketch it

The distinctive windmill at Cley next the Sea can be seen for miles across the marshes. The path goes right past it and I regretted, slightly, not pausing to sketch it. The reeds here did offer up Bearded Tit though

There were a couple of miles of board walks in all

There were a couple of miles of board walks in all

 

Coastal walking was almost always on good paths, though I should think that many would be pretty claggy after rain. Reedbeds, sea defence walls above marshland, scrubby sand dunes, pine woodlands, saltmarsh, sand and shingle shoreline- my walking was through a number of special and specialised habitats, it was never boring for it changed so much.

Every few miles another coastal town would be encountered, I passed through these quite quickly as there was little to hold me.

 

Remains of an Allan Williams gun turret. 199 of these were made during World War II

Remains of an Allan Williams gun turret. 199 of these were made during World War II

This part of the coast was thought to be at risk of attack and invasion during World War II. Surviving coastal defence installations survive to this day

This part of the coast was thought to be at risk of attack and invasion during World War II. Coastal defence installations survive to this day

 

The coastline stretch from Cley next the Sea to Weybourne Hope is four miles of lonely splendour. The few dog walkers at the beginning were soon left behind. Sand gave way to shingle and I found myself racing the incoming tide, only having to move up on to the punishing stone for the final quarter of a mile

The coastline stretch from Cley next the Sea to Weybourne Hope is four miles of lonely splendour. The few dog walkers at the beginning were soon left behind. Sand gave way to shingle and I found myself racing the incoming tide, only having to move up on to the punishing stone for the final quarter of a mile

For such a busy stretch of coast, I often found myself alone. Few people will walk more  than two miles from their car and it is usually just the odd birdwatcher or sea angler that would be seen any further afield, again, there seemed to be few people walking purposely, and those I saw with small backpacks were either day walkers or slackpackers.

 

Beyond Weybourne Hope the path begins to climb as cliffs take over. This penultimate day saw me completing my biggest climb of the whole trail- the highest point was still only 346 feet (105 metres) above sea level. Norfolk really is a pretty flat county

Beyond Weybourne Hope the path slowly begins to climb as cliffs take over. This penultimate day saw me completing my biggest climb of the whole trail- though the highest point was still only 346 feet (105 metres) above sea level. Norfolk really is a pretty flat county

Beach huts below Sheringham Cliffs

Beach huts below Sheringham Cliffs

My final night was in Sheringham YHA. No private rooms were available so I shared a dorm with two other guys, we battled each other in the snoring stakes that night but I am pretty sure I won.

I like to put my trade toward the YHA where I can as I think they are still doing a grand job, mostly, in a difficult modern circumstance.  However I reckon I made a mistake eating an evening meal there. There was no ‘proper’ option on the menu at all, everything was snacks, so I settled for an ‘OK’ pizza. Breakfast was little better, the only egg option was scrambled, and I hesitate to guess how long it was since they had been scrambled! I queried at the counter, the server looked at me with bafflement- “I’m French” was her reply. OK, so no eggs forthcoming then.

My £12 overnight stay at Sheringham Youth Hostel was an adequate stop for my last night on the trail

My £12 overnight stay at Sheringham Youth Hostel was an adequate stop for my last night on the trail

Signposting and marking of trail was excellent on the Norfolk Coast Path

Signposting and marking of trail was excellent on the Norfolk Coast Path. You might think how difficult can it be to simply keep the sea on your left, but the trail often diverts inland where access rights have not been obtained, or where erosion has caused the path to disappear into the sea

The Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path ends at Cromer Pier. Much of this popular resort town is Edwardian in age and flavour

The National Trail ends at Cromer Pier. Much of this popular resort town is Edwardian in age and flavour. The Norflok Coast Path is now part of the ambitious plans for an English Coast Path, still in the making

Reminders of a seafaring community can be found everywhere

Reminders of a seafaring community can be found everywhere

I was so pleased to have completed both halves of the Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path. While the walk through the interior of the county had been interesting, with a few points of interest, the coastal element was much more to my liking. Busy seaside towns nestled up against lonely saltmarsh and dune systems stretched for miles across a wide landscape.

The call of the nesting Curlew and Lapwing that I had gone to sleep to in the agricultural heartland was also encountered on the coast, to be joined with the burbling of hundreds of Brent geese and the frantic shriek of the ‘Sentinel of the Marshes’, the Redshank.

Dunlin, Sandpipers, Oystercatcher and Turnstone shuffled along the edge of the surf, only flying ahead when I got too close. It really was lovely coastal walking and I resented it when lack of Rights of Way took me on pointless and annoying diversions inland. I doubt that I shall return to this part of the country for quite some time but hope that the fragile eco-systems can withstand what appears to be growing numbers of visitors.

WORDS IN THE SAND, HERE TODAY, GONE TOMORROW

 

Few of the older signs for the Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path remain

The Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path- Part One

The Peddars Way

“Peddars Way”- said to be derived from the Latin “pedester”, meaning “on foot”

Back in 2016, I completed The Ridgeway. I quite enjoyed this ancient trackway, walking from Avebury to Ivinghoe Beacon, and resolved then to complete the Greater Ridgeway which comprises a number of ancient (and not so ancient) paths that stretch some 360+ miles from the South Coast at Lyme Regis in Dorset to the north Norfolk coast at Holme-next-the-Sea. It is mostly made up of four long distance paths- the Wessex Ridgeway, The Ridgeway, the Icknield Way and the Peddars Way. The latter is half of the Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path, a National Trail that I completed last month.

The Peddars Way has a number of sculptures, by Tom Perkins, along its length. These form part of the Songlines art project. This attempts to link current day travellers with events and people of the past. I prefrred to keep myself in the dark as to when these would be encountered and come across them unexpectedly

The Peddars Way has a number of sculptures, by Tom Perkins, along its length. These form part of the Songlines art project. This attempts to link current day travellers with events and people of the past. I prefrred to keep myself in the dark as to when these would be encountered and come across them unexpectedly. This is the third, found near Swaffham

A fine walk for a fine spring

A fine walk for a fine spring

I had considered walking the trail with Mrs Three Points of the Compass last year but reading up on the route decided that, if not actually likely to be boring, that there probably wasn’t going to be much of interest for the two of us. Nonetheless, on 1st April 2017 I set off to walk the 92 miles. Hopeful of at least a night or two wild camping, just a little preliminary research revealed that I would find water sources difficult to locate. To make it far easier, I stayed at recognised camping sites where water would not be a problem. I took my single skin Nigor WikiUp 3 SUL, the inner nest being correctly deemed unnecessary. The remainder of my gear can be seen here.

Other than my tent, which will be changed later this year, this walk was a bit of a final ‘shake-down’, seeing if my current kit list is where I want it for my Three Points of the Compass walk that starts exactly a year after I set off on the Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path.

So typical of many National Trails, the Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path has an inauspicious start. Setting off from a car park opposite Blackwater Carr on Knettishall Heath

So typical of many National Trails, the Peddars Way and Norfolk Coast Path has an inauspicious start. Setting off from a car park opposite Blackwater Carr on Knettishall Heath

Sedgeford Magazine, now a private house, was built as a powder store or armoury in about 1640

Sedgeford Magazine, now a private house, was built as a powder store or armoury in about 1640. The trail passes right past it

Instead of being a boring route, I found much of interest. Both halves of the National Trail were a bit of a homecoming for me. I spent some time as a teenager, when I was an Army Cadet, traipsing through dripping foliage in the Military Training Areas of the Brecklands of north Suffolk and South Norfolk. The heavy, rubberised poncho I wore then proved to be excellent protection from the heavy rain all those years ago. The ponchos eventually gave way to lighter silicone coverings that were equally as effective  when strung as tarps for night halts. No rain was experienced on this last trip, unsurprising in one of the driest parts of the country.

The great majority of the 46 miles of the Peddars Way is in Norfolk but the path starts just a few hundred metres into neighbouring Suffolk. Here is Three Points of the Compass crossing the Little Ouse River which marks the county boundary

The great majority of the 46 miles of the Peddars Way is in Norfolk but the path starts just a few hundred metres into neighbouring Suffolk. Here, Three Points of the Compass crosses the Little Ouse River which marks the county boundary

A page from my trail journal

Part of a page from my trail journal

Catching a series of trains from home to Thetford, a £19 taxi ride took me to the start of my walk. It wasn’t long before I was in to acid grasslands, chalk grasslands, heathers and pine woodlands. The first couple of days also saw me passing more pig farms than I had ever seen before. Overhead, Buzzards were frequently seen but sadly no sight of the Stone Curlews for which I used to visit this area to see a couple of decades ago.

Easy and pleasant, if unremarkable walking with few 'ups and downs'

Easy and pleasant, if unremarkable, walking through mostly agricultural land with few ‘ups and downs’

I passed few people on the Peddars Way, frequently the only people I would see for hours would be farm workers in the fields

I passed few people on the Peddars Way, frequently the only people I would see for hours would be farm workers in the fields, or just the very occasional dog walker if near habitation

Little Cressingham combined water and wind mill as it once was

Little Cressingham combined water and wind mill as it once was

Where a walk of a mile or so would take me to something of interest, I would occasionally turn off the well marked path. The unique water and windmill at Little Cressingham is just the sort of little gem that adds so much to a walk such as this. I passed a number of windmills in Norfolk, few, if any, now filling their original purpose.

On just a few occasions I reined in my forward motion and paused for a few minutes to indulge in a brief sketch. Again, I am narrowing down my lightweight art kit that will accompany me on my Big Walk in 2018 and wanted to see how my small selection of materials is performing.

Just a brief diversion took me to the unique combined water and wind mill at Little Cressingham. Built in 1821, two stones at the base were turned by the waterwheel, while two further sets of stones were turned at the top by the sails. The sails were dispensed with in 1916 but the mill continued to work under oil or water power until 1952. The small white building to the left housed another waterwheel that pumped water up to Clermont Hall a mile distant.

Just a brief diversion took me to the unique combined water and wind mill at Little Cressingham. Built in 1821, two stones at the base were turned by the waterwheel, while two further sets of stones were turned at the top by the sails. The sails were dispensed with in 1916 but the mill continued to work under oil or water power until 1952. The small white building to the left housed another waterwheel that pumped water up to Clermont Hall a mile distant

The Dog and Partridge at Stonebridge

Landlady Karen welcomes the trail weary, dirty and sweaty walker in to The Dog and Partridge at Stonebridge

Ostrich Ale at the Green King Ostrich public house in Castle Acre

Re-hydrating with Ostrich Ale at the Green King Ostrich public house in Castle Acre

Other than halting to poke around ruined churches and the like, I happily stepped in to just a handful of pubs. Entering Stonebridge, I followed a road for no more than a couple of hundred metres, but walking past the door of the Dog and Partridge close to the end of a days walking was enough to tempt me in for a couple of excellent pints of Woodfordes Bure Gold. After all, it is almost a duty to put a little trade the way of the local businesses, isn’t it?

It was near Stonebridge that I was almost flattened by a group of off-road motorcyclists. Leaping to the side of the path to avoid being hit (and no, it wasn’t a By-way) I lived to walk another day.

 

“You’ve got to call it Swaaaaffam these days…”    Tony Garrod

Lunch stop at St. Andrew's Church, the south west tower fell in 1781 and lies in ruins, but the church is still in use

Lunch stop at St. Andrew’s Church, the south west tower fell in 1781 and lies in ruins, but the church is still in use

Tony Garrod of the Milestone Society was pleased to stop for a chat. Busy cutting back the vegetation around a freshly painted Mile Post dating from c1905, he belied his 82 years and told me of his 'patch' of Mile Posts on the Swaffham-Fakenham road

Tony Garrod of the Milestone Society was pleased to stop for a chat. Busy cutting back the vegetation and planting Hollyhocks and Sunflowers around a freshly painted Mile Post dating from c1905, he belied his 82 years and told me of his ‘patch’ of Mile Posts on the Swaffham-Fakenham road

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Leaving North Pickenham, the old Roman Road soon follows a lovely wide and grassy path known as Procession Lane. A name thought to derive from the ceremony of beating the bounds. I passed between the brick remnants, dating from 1875, of the former Swaffham - Thetford railway line

Leaving North Pickenham, the old Roman Road soon follows a lovely wide and grassy path known as Procession Lane. A name thought to derive from the ceremony of beating the bounds. I passed between the brick remnants, dating from 1875, of the former Swaffham – Thetford railway line

The path crosses right through, and close to, much of interest, even if there is often very little remaining to actually be seen on the ground now. I was thankful that I took my trail guide as I walked along the quiet and lonely Procession Lane. I would never have known that to my left was where B24 Liberators of the 492nd Bomb Group had set off for their 64 missions in just 3 months in 1944. It was here that the Thor ballistic missiles had been sited in 1959, setting off vehement anti-nuclear demos. Nothing remains of that to be seen. Little remained too, of the former Swaffham – Thetford railway that crossed both former airfield site and my path.

The gem of the Peddars Way is probably the remains of the Cluniac Priory at Castle Acre. I chose not to join the hordes of people, instead, walking the circumference

The gem of the Peddars Way is probably the remains of the Cluniac Priory at Castle Acre. I chose not to join the hordes of people there, instead, walking the circumference

Cooking up an Almond Jalfrezi from Tentmeals on my second night on the Peddars Way

Cooking up an Almond Jalfrezi from Tentmeals on my second night on the Peddars Way

Each of my camp sites was more than adequate. Day one saw me 8.5 miles to Puddledock Farm, day two took me 11 miles to Brick Kiln Farm and the final overnight halt on the Peddars Way was at the lovely Bircham Windmill after a 22.5 mile yomp.

The first time I have ever camped in the shadow of a windmill. Campers get free entry to look around Bircham Windmill, but sadly, I arrived after it had shut and left before it opened

The first time I have ever camped in the shadow of a windmill. Campers get free entry to look around Bircham Windmill, but sadly, I arrived after it had shut and left before it opened

Quiet leafy lanes. This was the least used of National Trails I have ever seen

Quiet leafy lanes. This was the least used of National Trails I have ever seen

Littleport Cottages, reached just prior to crossing the B1454 Sedgeford - Docking road, are typical of the little hamlets passed through or close by. No shops, no Post Office, this is the reason I took the majority of my meals with me- there are few opportunities to buy anything en route

Littleport Cottages, reached just prior to crossing the B1454 Sedgeford – Docking road, are typical of the little hamlets passed through or close by. No shops, no Post Office, this is the reason I took the majority of my meals with me- there are few opportunities to buy anything en-route

Every now and then on my three-ish days on the Peddars Way, there was a reminder of the thousands of people- soldiers, traders, pilgrims and the itinerant, that had used this route in the past. Fields are dotted with marl pits, there is the occasional tumuli from the Bronze Age, but I had to look hard for the traces of Roman Forts. I suppose the finest record of their passing is the trail itself.

Close to the Anmer-Houghton road, the Peddars Way passes a number of tumuli dating from around 1300 - 1500BC. This is one of Norfolk's most important Bronze Age sites and of national importance

Close to the Anmer-Houghton road, the Peddars Way passes a number of tumuli dating from around 1300 – 1500BC. This is one of Norfolk’s most important Bronze Age sites and of national importance

While there was a great deal of easy going trackway, I had to contend with quite few miles of road walking. This had already begun to cause me problems with my feet, but I will write about that issue another day.

Crossing the River Nar on the Peddars Way. The trail is well marked but I was still pleased to have both map and trail guide with me

Three Points of the Compass crossing the River Nar on the Peddars Way. The trail is well marked but I was still pleased to have both map and trail guide with me

Is the Peddars Way worth doing? Absolutely. However I would add that it is essential to also complete the Norfolk Coast Path in order to gain the contrast. My next post will cover that section of the trail.

Walking the Peddars Way

Another piece in the Greater Ridgeway jigsaw completed…

A new purchase- The Gossamer Gear Mariposa

As a change from my normal office bound life, work this week took Three Points of the Compass on a small road trip. From Kent up to Norfolk, up and across to Manchester and Southport, then down to Malvern, back to Essex and off home to Kent. ‘Ah ha‘ I thought, ‘I know a business in Malvern I want to visit‘.

Backpacking Light offices at Hanley Swan, in the Malvern Hills district

Backpacking Light offices at Hanley Swan, in the Malvern Hills district

I have been considering my next upgrade of pack for some time now. My current ‘pack du jour’; the Osprey Exos 48, excellent as it is, hasn’t quite been cutting it for me on longer treks when carrying full backpacking gear. In amongst a small short-list of possible replacements, I was undecided between one of the ULA packs and the Gossamer Gear Mariposa. I have seen the ULA Circuit and Ohm before but had mostly only seen the Robic 2015 incarnation of the Mariposa on the excellent review by Bob Cartwright on the Outdoors Station.

Bob’s review had almost settled it for me but I am reluctant to make a large and expensive gear purchase before having had a good rummage round and feel first. This is difficult to manage with products from USA based cottage industry. Dropping an email to Backpacking Light, a prompt reply immediately invited me to their offices and store rooms at Hanley Swan to try on a pack or two for size. Having finished my business on the Friday I popped in to their offices and was immediately made welcome by  proprietors Bob and Rose and offered a cup of tea.

Trying a Gossamer Gear Mariposa pack for size and fit at Backpacking Lights offices

Three Points of the Compass tries a Gossamer Gear Mariposa pack for size and fit at Backpacking Light offices

Bob sized me up for a Mariposa pack, loaded weights and I was encouraged to go for a wander round the grounds to get the feel of it.

The pack is an excellent product. As I suspected, the configuration of pockets and overall dimensions suit my requirements admirably. Once I have made my future change from my current single skin Nigor Wikiup shelter to the one I have in mind (watch this space), this will slide into the long wand pocket on one side. This pocket stretches the height of the pack and is one of the features that drew me to this particular pack. The Large size pack fits my frame well but the bigger question for me was which of the detachable hip belts would prove most suited.

Having determined that the Large size hip belt was best, I was chatting to Bob and mentioned my dislike of the hip pockets on the Osprey being too far round to the side. ‘Hold on‘ he says, and disappears for a minute to re-emerge with one of the earlier Large size belts made by Gossamer Gear. The latest belts have decreased the extent to which the padded section extends round the front, pushing the hip pockets further round to the side. However the earlier pattern of belt has just the same thickness of padding over the hips but the padding extends about an inch further forward, in turn putting the hip pockets in a much more usable position.

Gossamer Gear Mariposa with fitted hip belt

Gossamer Gear Mariposa with fitted hip belt

One addition to the latest incarnation of the Mariposa is the return of the inbuilt whistle on the chest sternum buckle. Three Points of the Compass has looked at the effectiveness of whistles recently, the results of that test mean this sternum whistle will remain a back-up to my primary whistle. The internal hydration sleeve is also unlikely to be used for its primary purpose but I like to slip either ‘next up’ maps and documents in to these sleeves, or a sit mat.

The addition of a sit mat to anyone’s gear list is a desirable I reckon. Not only are they a real bonus to be pulled out at sit down rest stops at wet, cold or muddy points, but as a place for kneeling in the tent they are much appreciated. A Thermarest Z seat weighs 59g but the Mariposa comes with a 30g ‘SitLight‘ pad slotted into the back, so a handful of grams saved there.

Gossamer Gear Mariposa with fitted SitLight pad

Gossamer Gear Mariposa with fitted SitLight foam pad

Minus food and drink, my base weight these days usually comes in at sub-10kg, well within the load capacity of this pack. As to the weight of the pack itself, needless to say, Gossamer Gear’s listing of weights is slightly dubious- despite their website stating an ‘average’ weight of 986g for large pack, belt, frame, lid and pad, mine totalled 1026g on an accurate set of digital scales. I am not complaining, this still comes in a handful of grams less than my Osprey Exos 48 in large which weighs 1150g. However the Mariposa has an increased capacity (around 60lt.) and is better configured. This may mean that I am unable to meet the desired, if ambitious, 3-4-3 target, but that is only a guide, not a firm rule, we shall see.

I am keen to get out and try the pack out in anger. I am convinced it will offer the performance I am after. If so, this will be the pack that accompanies me on my Long Walk.

Having made my purchase I hung around for a while chatting all-things gear, walks done and to be done and the merits of various stoves. Both Bob and Rose gave generously of their time, it is very much the personal touch with their customers that sets R&R Enterprises apart from your more average retailer. For this customer, it makes a refreshing change.

 

 

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!