Tag Archives: feet

Skinners footwear

A recent delivery…

Over the years, Three Points of the Compass has struggled over what camp shoes to take. Some hikers eschew the inclusion of anything beside the boots or shoes they hike in, me, I want to change of an evening.

Synthetic trail runners in particular can really stink if wet. I want to get my feet out of my trail shoes or boots, cleaned off a bit (or a lot), dried out and rested. If I am staying at a B&B, any owner is going to take a dim view of muddy footwear going any further than the front door. If wet on the trail, you can be caked in mud and if I am on an official camp site, I don’t want to be trailing that into any w/c. Finally, many Pub landlords want walking foot wear removed at the door, as do some cafe owners.

A good pair of sandals is both comfortable and allow the feet to breathe and recover. However a pair such as these from Merrell, weigh 750g

A good pair of sandals is both comfortable and allow the feet to breathe and recover. However a pair such as these from Merrell, weigh 750g

If I am staying in a campsite or hostel where I am sharing a shower room or block, I also want footwear to reduce the chance of contracting anything nasty off the floor. Put that little lot together and a spare set of footwear it is. However just about everything I have tried is either downright ugly, heavy, or both. I loathe Crocs with a passion, but even if I could put up with their appearance, they are simply too bulky and I hate things dangling from the outside of my pack, which seems to be most hikers answer to the bulk of a pair or Crocs. Flipflops can be lightweight, but I don’t want to be wearing those for walking a mile down to the neighbouring village. I have tried wearing a pair of waterproof Sealskin socks inside wet and muddy trail runners but these begin to leak over time. However, that said, wearing a pair of Sealskinz, the heat from a dry pair of feet can help dry out a sodden pair of shoes or boots.

Three Points of the Compass was intrigued to come across a nifty design of footwear recently and decided to take a punt on a pair of Skinners. First appearing on Kickstarter, these are handmade in the Czech Republic and are made from Polypropylene, Viscose, Cotton and Lycra, they also have silver in the antibacterial yarn to reduce odour. Put simply, they are a stretchy, breathable sock with a waterproof abrasion proof polymer stuck on to the bottom and sides. There is no stiff sole and the socks/shoes roll up for carrying. They come supplied with a little cloth bag but I don’t need that as there are lighter options.

Skinners footwear- low cut, breathable, waterproof sole, comfortable, not bad at all...

Skinners footwear- low cut, breathable, waterproof sole, comfortable, not bad at all…

I ordered online, took the advice of a couple of reviewers and sized up to an XXL (I have feet size 11/11.5 UK), so the ones I ordered were supposed to fit feet size 12-13.5 UK. I should have ignored the advice and simply ordered the correct size as the XXL were way to big. The XXL I emailed Skinners to request an exchange for weighed 203g (7.2oz) for the pair. My new pair of XL fit me just fine. These weigh 183g (6.45oz) for the pair, so 91.5g per single sock. Pretty good compared to just about every other type of footwear I have taken with me for camp use. However, it remains to be seen how these will perform when used in anger. I really am not sure how I am going on to get on with what is, effectively, a toughened pair of socks.

I shall report back.

There is a fair amount of information on the box in which a pair of Skinners is purchased

There is a fair amount of information on the box in which a pair of Skinners is purchased

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…

Wide Rides in Windsor Great Park

The London Countryway

Over the winter of 2015/16 I completed the London LOOP. This is the ‘London Outer Orbital Path’ – a 150 mile signposted path that encircles our capital city. It is a mostly undemanding walk that I used to test myself while I continued to slowly recover from the Plantar fasciitis that developed in February 2015. While I am still struggling to recover, I have been able to push, slightly, the number of miles that I can complete on a daily walk.

As a winter walk, perhaps not surprisingly, I found the LOOP often very wet and muddy. On occasion, I was wading through knee high water or laboriously and with great difficulty, negotiating calf deep mud through horse paddocks and cow fields, where I struggled to keep trail runners on my feet. Much as I enjoyed getting out and some unexpected history, I found, away from the rural stretches, there was also  bit too much road walking for my liking. As I moved toward the completion of my LOOP walk in early 2016 I looked for a similar challenge, more suited to my circumstance. and was delighted to come across a post by hillplodder in January 2016. It was here that I first heard of the London Countryway– a ‘forgotten’ route.

Old copies of the, as far as I can see, only printed guide to the London Countryway still turn up online and are fairly easily purchased. This is A guide to the London Countryway, published by Constable and authored by the routes originator, Keith Chesterton. The guide was first published in 1978 with a second edition in 1981 (ISBN 0 09 461740 6). It is the latter that I hold.

Good enough as this is to read, too many years have passed and it is no longer a practical route. Fortunately, a resourceful guy has solved the problem. Des de Moor, a prolific walker, has devised and walked a modern equivalent. Much of it follows the original route as devised by Chesterton, however Des has ensured that his up to date route diverts where necessary to avoid hazards or obstacles that have appeared in the intervening years, or where a slight change can improve the route. Des has done a fantastic job on his route and it was a simple ten minute task to transfer his work to my O.S. sheets with a pink highlighter.

1981 edition of Keith Chesterton's A guide to the London Countryway with OS Explorer sheet 160, covering Windsor, Weybridge & Bracknell

1981 edition of Keith Chesterton’s ‘A guide to the London Countryway’ with OS Explorer sheet 160, covering Windsor, Weybridge & Bracknell

The walk passes through three Areas of Outstanding Beauty, two National Nature Reserves, two Community Forests, a Regional Park, crosses the Thames east and west of London and follows (briefly) three canals. I have passed through Windsor Great Park in the shadow of the castle and will be walking through Roman Verulamium, quite close to my childhood stomping grounds. Set further out than the London LOOP, the London Countryway is somewhere over 200 miles long. The original was 205, the recent incarnation is quoted at 215. I can add on a few miles for station links and interesting detours. Sections are limited in length to how much time I can offer a day and where convenient railway stations are situated. Much as I would like to push it out, I keep having to remind myself I am recovering from injury.

The London Countryway map as it appears in the Constable guide. My path follows a very close route

The London Countryway map as it appears in the Constable guide. My path follows a very close route

I did find time to take a week off from work in June and complete the Ridgeway. That was a 106 mile, six-day backpacking trip and slightly eased my need for, a slightly more demanding, continuous walk. I haven’t been able to tackle the London Countryway in this manner. With demands of work and having to keep my day hikes quite short.

My 14.5 miles on the Countryway today have seen me complete just over a hundred miles so I can say that I am roughly half-way to completion. At Marlow, I left the River Thames behind me as I headed north to continue my encircling of London. I thought I would offer a little flavour of the trail south of the river.

The wide River Thames at Gravesend, I will be crossing back to this point by ferry at the end of the walk

Leaving the wide River Thames at Gravesend, I will be crossing back to this point by ferry at the end of the walk

Oast Houses, once used for drying hops, are a reminder of the trades for which much of Kent was famous

Oast Houses, once used for drying hops. They are a reminder of one of the the trades for which much of Kent was famous

I started this particular challenge in March, day one saw me setting off from Gravesend in Kent. I waved goodbye to the River Thames, knowing I would see it twice more- once when I crossed it at Windsor at around the half-way point, and again at Tilbury at the end of the walk. It wasn’t long before I left built up areas and my surroundings became more rural, albeit farmland. Mostly arable and orchards. I was headed toward the North Downs, I followed this ridge westward from Kent into the Surrey hills. Leaving the ridge of raised chalk, I swung northward, beginning the long drop into the Thames Valley.

Kent Apple Orchards

Kent Apple Orchards. March 2016

Flooded bridlepath in mid March

Flooded bridlepath in mid March

Needless to say, the weather has been changeable, not only have I moved out of a late winter, into spring and then to summer, the earlier part has also been a ridiculously wet year in the UK. I have been fortunate not to have had to deal with more than occasional rain but underfoot has frequently been very wet and muddy. In just one days walking I had snow, then sleet, then hail, then bright sun, then rain and finished off with dull and overcast sky with a biting cold wind. Storm Katie also left fallen trees in her wake. Recent days have seen brilliant sun all day.

The seasons turn- Bluebell woods on the North Downs Way

The seasons turn- Bluebell woods on the North Downs Way, April 2016

Views from the Greensand Way, just one established trail encountered on my route

Misty view across the Weald of Kent from the Greensand Way, just one of many established trails encountered on my route

The route touches  a number of recognised and established trails in its course. So far, these have included the Wealdway, North Downs Way, Pilgrims Way, Vanguard Way and numerous short, local walks. Being a largely forgotten route, it isn’t specifically signposted at all, nor is it shown as a route on maps. I am especially pleased about this as for many miles, I am simply following Rights of Way seldom used by anyone.

Harvel village sign

Harvel village sign

Platt village sign

Platt village sign- Hops and Cobnuts

Many Rights of Way are pretty old, having originally been established to permit people to move between habitations, go to church or market. The Way goes past or through  numerous small villages or hamlets. There is usually nowhere to re-provision at these (not that I need to) as most village shops have long gone, killed off by the omnipresent town supermarket.  However there are many public houses but I have largely refrained from partaking of a beverage or two until the end of a days walk. Even then, it depends if an infrequent Sunday train service permits time.

Most larger towns are encountered at the beginning and end of each days walk as I arrive or leave by public transport. Station Road, Oxted

Most mid to large sized towns are encountered at the beginning and end of each days walk as I arrive or leave by public transport. Station Road, Oxted

Close to the Pilgrims Way, another path briefly encountered, the Countryway passes by Coldrum Long Barrow. A Neolithic burial chamber of about 2500 B.C. It still attracts the attention of more modern day folk, who have adorned the nearby trees with trinkets and letters

Close to the Pilgrims Way in North Kent the London Countryway passes by Coldrum Long Barrow. A Neolithic burial chamber of about 2500 B.C. It still attracts the attention of more modern day folk, who have adorned the nearby trees with trinkets, ribbons and letters

Tower in Betchworth Quarry and Lime Works, closed in 1930s

Abandoned tower in Betchworth Quarry and Lime Works, closed in the 1930s

Coal Tax boundary post

Coal Tax boundary post. Erected in the 1860s as a loop, between twelve and eighteen miles from London, they marked the point where taxes on coal were due to the Corporation of London. Now forming no modern day function beyond a reminder of previous law, only 210 of these posts survive

I particularly enjoy coming across snippets of history on my walks. Especially when unexpected.

Some historical aspects are perhaps a little less interesting than others. Learning that I was crossing Reigate Hill Footbridge, the oldest reinforced concrete footbridge in the country (1910), left me, I am sad to say, largely unimpressed. That said, to stand beneath Brunel’s acclaimed 1838 Maidenhead rail bridge today, clapping my hands to listen to the remarkable acoustics of the ‘Sounding Arch’ was not only fun, but bought to mind JMW Turner’s masterpiece- Rain, steam and speed which used this bridge within his composition.

Poles were essential in April on the wet, slippery fields

Poles were often advisable in April on the wet, slippery grasslands

The way ahead beckons. Leaving Ide Hill in April 2016

Gorse in flower. The way ahead beckons. Leaving Ide Hill on the London Countryway in April 2016

Halibut Man, on Totem Pole at Virginia Water. 100 feet high, the 600 year old log of Western Red Cedar was carved by Kwakiutis and erected in 1958 to mark the centenary of the establishment of British Columbia as a Crown Colony

Halibut Man, on Totem Pole at Virginia Water. 100 feet high, this 600 year old log of Western Red Cedar was carved by Kwakiutis and erected in 1958 to mark the centenary of the establishment of British Columbia as a Crown Colony

Memorial on Chobham Common, erected 1901. This marked the occasion when Queen Victoria reviewed eight hundred of her troops (including the Light Brigade) in 1853 prior to their leaving for the Crimea

Memorial on Chobham Common, erected 1901. This marked the site and occasion when Queen Victoria reviewed eight hundred of her troops (including the Light Brigade) in 1853 prior to their leaving for the Crimea

Misty mornings in May on the Surrey hills

Misty morning in May on the Surrey hills

The route passes right by Igtham Mote, 14th-century moated manor house

The route passed right by Ightham Mote, 14th-century moated manor house

Blatchford Downs. Named after Alan Blatchford, one of the founders of the Long Distance Walkers Association

Traversing Blatchford Downs. Named after Alan Blatchford, one of the founders of the Long Distance Walkers Association

The extensive grounds of Knole Park experienced in the early morning was a delight

The extensive grounds of the 1000 acre Knole Park in the early morning were a delight

While I have had to fight my way through a handful of overgrown paths, for the most part the route has been easy, with just a few moderate to steep climbs. Some parts have been positively genteel. I carry a compass, I always do, but there has never been the need to put it to use. Route finding with a map and knowing where the sun is over the shoulder has always been sufficient.

Unsurprisingly, many deer were encountered in Knole Park

Unsurprisingly encounter in Knole Park- Kent’s last medieval deer park

After the ricjh, loamy soils of Kent, the sandy heaths of Surrey were a surprising change

After the rich, loamy soils of Kent, the sandy heaths of Surrey made for a change in terrain. Chatley Heath, June 2016

Primrose

Primrose (Primula vulgaris)

Southern marsh-orchid (Dactylorhiza praetermissa)

Southern marsh-orchid (Dactylorhiza praetermissa)

The wildlife encountered on the London Countryway has been varied and both expected and surprising. Annoying mozzies have (as yet) been absent. Mammals have been the typical- rabbits, hare, foxes, badgers, deer. More exciting birds have been the raptors- Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Red Kite. Flora has become more varied as the year has turned. There has been both the common and the, in my continued ignorance, unfamiliar, many flowers remain, sadly, un-named but still enjoyed.

A poorly named hill

A poorly named hill

 

Woodlands have changed from bare trees in the earlier part of the year to the verdant green of Broadland woods with their English Oak, Beech and Chestnut. There have been Lowland Mixed deciduous woodlands and even the odd non-native Pine Woods have not been too intrusive. Needless to say, this close to London, there have been numerous stretches of wood-pasture and Parkland.

Odonata (dragonflies and damselflies) have included walking through hundreds of Azure Damselfly (Coenagrion puella) on the Basingstoke Canal and quiet minutes watching the impressive Emperor Dragonfly (Anax imperator) seeing off any intruder over its habitat on Chobham Common. Domesticated livestock has included new born lambs. ‘Belties’ (Belted Galloways) and Heavy Horses are always a pleasure to see. Walking mainly on Sundays, I have seen enough breeds of dog being taken for ‘walkies’ to last me a lifetime.

Pine woodlands between West Byfleet and Sunningdale. June 2016

Pine woodlands between West Byfleet and Sunningdale. June 2016

Despite being a walk through the countryside, national politics were still encountered. In the build-up to the national referendum on membership of the European Union, the Leave faction was only to evident

Despite being a walk through the countryside, national politics were still encountered. In the build-up to the 2016 national referendum on membership of the European Union, the Leave faction was only to evident

Two canals have been briefly followed so far, the Wey Navigation and the Basingstoke Canal (above). I particularly enjoyed this as I briefly worked on its restoration in the 1970s

Two canals have been briefly followed so far, the Wey Navigation and the Basingstoke Canal (above). I particularly enjoyed the latter as I briefly worked on its restoration in the 1970s

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The wealthy heartland of Berkshire. Polo match at the 240 acre private equestrian centre, Coworth Park, Ascot

The wealthy heartland of the former county of Berkshire. Polo match at the 240 acre private equestrian centre, Coworth Park, Ascot

Some of the areas I walked through on the London LOOP were, to put it mildly, a tad ‘dodgy’. As yet, the Countryway has been far more preferable. While my current stretch to the west of London contains land and properties probably amongst the most expensive in the country, other parts have been more typical of the, admittedly affluent, South-East of England.

the-copper-horse-george-iii-as-heroic-roman-emperor-on-horseback-depicted-by-richard-westmacot-in-1830

The ‘Copper Horse’. This huge statue (actually made of Bronze) by Richard Westmacot shows George III as heroic Roman Emperor on Horseback. When the sixteen workmen finished building it in 1831, they had a sit-down lunch inside it

Setting off on the 'Long Walk', a three mile path leading to Windsor Castle

Three Points of the Compass setting off on the ‘Long Walk’, a 2.64 mile straight path leading to Windsor Castle, and my second sight of the River Thames. July 2016

Overnight expedition for group of Duke of Edinburghers

Overnight expedition for group of Duke of Edinburghers

I am enjoying my days on the London Countryway. It has been exactly what I wanted- mainly fairly easy going where I can continue my recovery from Plantar fasciitis, but not too easy. Interesting bits of history thrown in, areas through which I have never walked, manageable by public transport and therefore ‘do-able’ on my available Sundays.

Also, just for a change, I decided to make it a charitable exercise and in the diamond year of the Duke of Edinburgh Award, raise some money. This is a fantastic organisation that gives millions of 14 to 24 year olds opportunity to push themselves and realise success. I never undertook it as a youngster but my daughter did when she was at school. While I think the DofE’s required kit list for the expedition part of the award is outdated and more than a little wanting, the award’s ethos is good.

Entitled Confronting the Countryway, there is a record of how I am getting on, with some additional photos, on my Just Giving page. I’ll do an update on the second half of my walk when I finish it.

The Ridgeway- planning my week

As part of my recovery from Plantar fasciitis I have decided to walk the Ridgeway, west to east, from Wiltshire into Oxfordshire, over one week in May. The trail has been called the oldest road in Britain, or even Europe for that matter, but that is probably pushing it a little. Certainly it is a route travelled by Neolithic and Bronze Age people who in addition to trade, also took their time to build monuments and bury their dead. Ancient ditches, earth embankments, Iron Age forts litter the way across the North Wessex Downs and Chiltern Hills. I am very much looking forward to my week.

I have been struggling in my recovery from injury. Plantar fasciitis and associated arthritis having severely reduced my capability over the past fourteen months. I have doubts that I will ever again reach my twenty and twenty five mile days I was knocking out only a couple of years ago. Once I had been properly diagnosed and bespoke orthotics created. I began a series of exercises and stretches, combined with some long term lifestyle changes. I then undertook the (full) 153 mile North Downs Way and 150 mile London LOOP as a series of day walks as part of my recovery, only having some thirty miles of the former still to complete. I have steadily increased my daily distance from six to eight to ten, then twelve miles. More recently there have been a couple of fourteen and sixteen mile days, with not TOO much pain. It is now time to see what I can manage over a week, hence the Ridgeway.

The Ridgeway stretches 87 miles (139km) to Ivinghoe Beacon , but for some reason it starts in a car park at Overton Hill, which makes no sense at all. So I will start a little further back, at Avebury, thereby adding another couple of miles to the total. Easily worth it to include and explore the huge stone circle, ditches and embankments that encircle the village.

So, planning is under way. There is a degree of information online, including the National Trails website. Though to be honest, I haven’t found much of interest or real help. The handful of publications I purchased, shown above, are more than enough to enable a bit of planning for my six day walk. I will be camping the whole way, other than one night in the YHA Hostel at Streatley. Beyond that, I need to sort out the gear I am taking, meals etc. I will follow this post up with a couple more over the next few weeks as these decisions get firmed up.

 

Precision point tweezers

Uncle Bill’s Sliver Gripper tweezers

 

I was looking recently at the various First Aid Kits that accompany me on various treks, be they day walks or longer. One item that I always like to ensure is included in a kit is a pair of tweezers. It is difficult to make do with anything else when attempting to extract thorns, splinters, grit within a cut, pick loose pieces of skin from torn blisters etc. A sterilized needle may be used on occasion but is never going to be as useful as a pair of tweezers. There are various hacks- smoothing a piece of duct tape over a splinter may ease it from the skin, but for some purposes, a pair of thin nosed or precision tweezers is what is required- for careful removal of ticks for example.

Tweezers come in a variety of sizes and even materials. The heads can be blunt and wide, or thin nosed and pointed. They can be quite large scissor operated for precision and strength, or a tiny pair slipped into the end of a Victorinox multi-knife. Stainless steel is an excellent material for medical purposes, doesn’t stain, doesn’t rust, strong. This is what most pairs of tweezer knocking around my house were made of, but I was also intrigued to see if there were any alternatives.

I had been looking at replacing a perfectly functional pair of tweezers with something equally as practical yet a little smaller and lighter if possible. I didn’t want to be too financially extravagant about this, it is only a pair of tweezers I was looking at. However I found that there wasn’t much choice out there. I found a number of surgical tweezers that looked the ticket but their cost frightened me off. The lightest pair of titanium thin-nosed tweezers I could find weighed just 10g. Perfectly acceptable, a pair of these has accompanied me on many trips in my First Aid Kit- but the search continued…

Stainless steel Sliver Gripper tweezers and key chain holder

Stainless steel Uncle Bill’s Sliver Gripper tweezers and key chain holder

Uncle Bill’s Sliver Gripper tweezers

When I came across Uncle Bill’s Sliver Gripper tweezers I realised that my search was mostly over. These tweezers are small, of pretty good build quality and lightweight. You can get them in a couple of guises, each coming with the small incorporated key chain holder that does so much to prevent them poking a hole in anything whilst in transit. The original precision point design was produced by their inventor Bill Jones (if ever anyone could claim to have invented a product that had been in use for thousands of years already) in small numbers until development and manufacture was taken over by the West Hartford firm that took them to the next level. The firm takes its name from the owner- Elwyn Harp and his wife, Elsie Martha, hence El. Mar Inc., who still make them

These tweezers are quite tiny in the hand

These tweezers are quite tiny in the hand

The tweezers are made from a single piece of metal which is bent, providing the springiness that keeps the points apart. The small size and width mean that a precision grip is usually easily obtained. So simple and effective is the design that the U.S. military purchased them in very large numbers. These carry the National Stock Number (NSN) 3740-01-474-7377. Being described on  stock as ‘spring tempered stainless steel tick tweezers’. It is the tick removal aspect that El. Mar have focused on to an extent to boost sales numbers to the general public in recent years. Many years ago these tweezers underwent a degree more of finishing than they do now. The famed ‘precision points’ were achieved by bevelling the point, however they are now simply stamped out and finished on a machine belt that, while it removes most of the rough edges, does little to impart improved accuracy of use. That can be rectified post-purchase though. Many might argue that having purchased a product, it should not then be necessary to make any alteration to rectify or improve performance.

There is very little chance of the tweezers coming separated from the clip holder on their own account

There is very little chance of the tweezers coming separated from the included key chain holder on their own account. This is extremely useful in preventing them from poking holes while in transit

Each pair of tweezers comes with a little holder in to which the tweezers are inserted, they then open and are securely gripped until squeezed together to release them. It would be easy to leave the little holder at home but it is such a lightweight and functional offering that its inclusion is a sensible choice. If taken, it can then be hung from a key fob, round the neck on cord/dog tags, looped on to a mini carabiner or simply slung inside a ditty bag.

One of the prime purposes for a pair of tweezers on the trail is removing ticks. Some, but not all, ticks carry Lyme disease. Instances of this are increasing, both in North America and Europe. Once picked up from vegetation lining the trail and latched on to a hikers skin, if not removed carefully with an appropriate tool, a tick can be stressed or squeezed. Thereby disgorging its stomach contents, which may include Lyme, into its host, us. I usually carry a 2.2g pair of O’Tom Tick Twister dedicated tick removers when ticks are in season but a pair of tweezers will do the job almost as well.

 

“I have never had a pair of tweezers in my life that was worth a damn. Now I do and I appreciate it very much.”

General Norman Schwarzkopf, commander of the allied forces during Desert Storm, writing of the Sliver Gripper tweezers, 26 September, 1990

 

Anodised version of Sliver Gripper tweezers

Black anodised version of Sliver Gripper tweezers

The perfect product to prevent the enemy seeing you removing splinters...

The perfect product to prevent the enemy seeing you removing splinters…

For the tactical minded amongst us, OK, amongst you, there is a version that may excite curiosity. This is the ‘military’ version; a black anodised Sliver Gripper tweezer. Anodising is a process where the metal is coated with a protective (in this case, black) oxide layer by electrolytic action. The black tweezers do look good, having an almost gunmetal finish.

Be warned though, while using the black tweezers should prevent reflected light revealing your position to the enemy (plenty of them on the trail) these black tweezer points will not help you in seeing fine splinters etc. The very opposite in fact. They are also more susceptible to being lost if dropped so perhaps are not the best choice for the trail.

 

 

Of course I was not only engaged on a search for a decent pair of tweezers to take on the trail, I was also after saving a few grams where I could. So I was pleased to find that a ‘Grade 1’ titanium version of the Sliver Gripper tweezers has also been made.

Titanium Sliver Gripper tweezers. Made in the U.S.A.

Titanium Sliver Gripper tweezers. Made in the U.S.A.

Titanium, a word that immediately draws the attention of anyone looking to reduce the weight carried on their back. But this material comes at a cost though, and it is for the individual to decide if the doubled cost of a pair of tweezers is worth such minimal weight saving, I suspect the answer is no. Usually the only way that increased cost can be justified is if the weight saving is large, an item was being replaced anyway, or if the titanium product offers any improvement in function as a result of its material. Both stainless steel and titanium are suitable for using on skin and will not cause adverse reaction, neither metal rusts. So I was interested to see how the titanium version of the Sliver Gripper tweezers held up against the normal product.

Titanium Sliver Gripper tweezers and clip holder

Titanium Sliver Gripper tweezers and clip holder

Careful filing of the points of the titanium Sliver Gripper tweezers corrected the poor manufacturing finish and bought the points together

Careful filing of the points of the titanium Sliver Gripper tweezers corrected the poor manufacturing finish and bought the points together

I was frustrated to find that the quality of finishing, or quality assessment, was a little disappointing.  Out of the packet the points do not quite line up and precision of use is lacking as a result. So not quite meeting the description on the packaging- “Accurately ground precision manufactured points”. However this was easily and quickly rectified with careful filing. Though this is not something one would expect to have to do with a brand new purchase.

 

A few minutes with a fine file adding chamfered edges improves the precision points of these tweezers immensely

A few minutes with a fine file adding chamfered edges improves the precision points of these tweezers immensely

The non-magnetic titanium Sliver Grippers lack the degree of finishing that the steel versions exhibit. Edges feel rough to the touch and benefit from a slight filing in the hand. I am unsure why a thicker gauge of metal has been used too, surely strength would not have been compromised by using a similar gauge to the original steel tweezers. The ‘springiness’ in operation feels different too, though I  don’t think this affects performance.

A small pair of Titanium Sliver Gripper tweezers are included in this kit. With holder, these weigh 4g (or 2.8g for those who wish to leave the holder at home)

Small and lightweight titanium Sliver Gripper tweezers. With key chain holder, these weigh 4g and are very functional

The remarkably light weights for any of the three variants looked at mean that any of the three would be suitable for a lightweight backpacking kit. As mentioned above, it makes sense to include the small and functional key chain holder with whichever is taken as it will certainly prevent them poking a hole from within expensive packs and dry bags.

Type Weight of tweezer Weight of clip holder Total weight
Stainless steel 3.7g 2g 5.7g
Black anodised steel 3.7g 1.9g 5.6g
Titanium 2.8g 1.2g 4g

Of course I can now be really anal. Having purchased the three, I could, if I wished, take the stainless steel version, with its superior gripping tip (on account of the serrations) with the titanium clip, thereby saving a grand total of 0.8g …

… nope, I don’t think so either!

Top: Stainless steel tweezers, centre: Black anodised, bottom: Titanium

Top: Stainless steel tweezers, centre: Black anodised, bottom: Titanium

Serrations on stainless steel tweezers

Serrations on stainless steel tweezers

All of the three types of tweezer measure 47mm in length and are 9.5mm wide. The gauge of sheet metal differs however, being 0.6mm for the steel versions and 0.8mm for the titanium.

No serrations on titanium tweezers

No serrations on titanium tweezers

 

Some improvement to grip is also provided by slight serrations being added to the inner 6mm of the tip. However these are only present on the steel versions, not the titanium for some reason. This is a surprising omission as their inclusion would improve the titanium tweezers immensely.

Black anodised tweezers also have faint serrations

Black anodised tweezers also have faint serrations

The little key chain holders for the tweezers are all of the same type of metal as the tweezers that they contain. 28mm long and 9.5mm wide. Much of their strength in gripping comes from the broad head of the tweezer, tapering toward the tip. This is cut to an angle of 40° which may prove troublesome for getting into tight spots but is probably the sweet spot between strength and impracticality.

Uncle Bill’s Sliver Gripper tweezers are easily found on-line and come with a lifetime guarantee. I purchased my three from two different suppliers, and costs are reasonable, even when purchased in the UK. They can also be bought in dual packages, or in small plastic tubes. Though I see no need to prefer those last over loose ones unless a pair was going to be kept in a tool box and there was a wish to keep them clean and separate from all the crud around them.

The much advertised 'precision manufactured points' are dissapointing

Fresh out of the packaging the much advertised ‘precision manufactured points’ are mostly disappointing, being quite thick and lacking any chamfer

These tweezers, whichever type you go for, are not perfect. The tips could be narrower and chamfered and the titanium ones are quite rough out of the packaging. However, as a lightweight pair of tweezers, they are mostly ideal for picking out thorns, splinters, bee stings, gravel from road rash, peeling back loose and torn skin, even plucking eyebrows! Particularly if a few minutes are taken post-purchase to file off the rough edges and improve the point. They are then a worthwhile inclusion to even the most lightweight of backpacking gear lists. However their most important attribute must be their suitability for dealing with that most menacing and increasing of trail threats, the Tick.

Tiger, tiger burning bright

 

Tiger, tiger burning bright

in the forests of the night

   What immortal hand or eye

            Dare frame thy fearful symmetry

                                       The Tiger, William Blake

 

Tiger Balm

Tiger Balm, red ointment

19g jar of Tiger Balm Red ointment

We all get the occasional aches and pains. I used to run miles across country, rock climb, abseil, play footie and rugby very occasionally, even a (very) brief bash at boxing (though the training was far tougher). All that was years and years ago. Bruises and muscle strain were part and parcel of the activity and usually shaken off with the disdain and quick healing of a youthful body aided by copious amounts of alcohol, no more…

It seems all I have to do these days is get out of bed too quick, or stretch the wrong way after a long train journey and it hurts. I make as many groans and sighs sitting down as I do standing up. OK, all a tad over-egged, but you get the picture.

Certainly a long days trek with a pack can have the muscles and joints crying out for rest and relief. Plenty of rehydration, a good meal (plenty of protein), stretching and gentle massage, a good nights kip, all go some way to alleviating the pain.

Recently I have been using a balm to give some relief from minor muscular aches and pain. It currently comes in two formulations, both of which are non-prescription. Tiger Balm Red for muscular aches and pain and Tiger Balm White for the relief of tension headaches. I have used the Red which is a reddish-brown, oily ointment. Apparently ‘inspired by centuries of Chinese wisdom’ it is made from 11% camphor, 10% levomenthol, 7% cajuput oil, 5% clove oil, also cinnamon oil, dementholised mint oil, yellow soft paraffin and hard paraffin. One glance at those ingredients and you see why it smells like it does. It is not an unpleasant smell, but the cinnamon and cloves are very noticeable. It may go some way to disguise that long term ‘hiker funk’ as well. It gives a warming effect that aids in massage, it is also advertised as giving relief from bites (especially from mosquitoes apparently) and stings though I have never used it for such. There are the usual health and warning caveats, such as not to be ingested, not for use on broken skin, not for use on children under two years of age etc.

There are hikers that massage Tiger Balm into their feet at the end of the day but I prefer Gehwol Refreshing Cream for that, but, redundancy and all that…

5g of Tiger Balm in 5g sample pot, total weight: 10g. A worthy addition to a first aid kit or ditty bag.

5g of Tiger Balm in 5g sample pot, total weight: 10g. A good addition to a first aid kit or ditty bag.

A little goes a long way. Boots pharmacy sell the little glass jar containing 19g of the balm for £4.39 (£3.95 in May ’15). It only requires a small finger tip smear to rub on whatever part of the body is aching most, so I decant a small quantity into one of the small sample pots I have blagged, gratis, from the Body Shop.

It is worth noting that a small smear of this on a piece of cotton wool, or similar, is also brilliant as a fire starter; taking a spark from a fire-steel with ease and extending the burn time of cotton wool extensively.