Tag Archives: Knowledge

Lone Peak Altras

What gear wears out on a long hike?

 The South West Coast Path is 630 miles long and a challenge in itself. When Three Points of the Compass finished this in 2018 there was still another 1400 miles of trail. Gear had to be carefully selected and be suitable for a wide range of terrain and conditions

The South West Coast Path is 630 miles long and a challenge in itself. When Three Points of the Compass finished this in 2018 there was still another 1400 miles of walking. Gear had to be carefully selected and be suitable for a wide range of terrain and conditions

Lightweight modern gear can be surprisingly tough. With care much of it will last many thousands of trail miles. My 900ml Evernew pan is titanium and flexes with ease. Yet other than being blackened and scratched, with scorched silicon covered handles, it is still in good working order and I expect it to last me many more years. It wasn’t cheap when new but has more than paid for itself. I like it and feel no need to replace it with shinier, newer cook wear.

The heel cups always seem to wear out in my trail shoes. I expected this to happen with my Lone Peaks around the 450 mile point

The heel cups always seem to wear out in my trail shoes. I expected this to happen with my Lone Peaks around the 450 mile point. When they began to fray I would line them with a piece of duct tape

Lone Peak Altras were light, breathable and comfortable. However I knew that I would be lucky to get more than 500-600 miles out of a pair

I find the toes on my trail shoes tend to come unstuck and flap around after a couple of hundred miles. Sometimes I would glue them back with a 1 gm tube of superglue from my ditty bag. Frequently I couldn’t be bothered

Lone Peak Altra trail shoes are light, breathable and comfortable. However I know that I am lucky to get more than 500-600 miles out of a pair. I had purchased four pairs prior to my 2018 hike as they aren’t the easiest to source. I expected my feet to spread and I used pairs a size larger than normal. Just as well, as they did.

The trail was often muddy, especially in the first few weeks in the Spring. Fine silt would work its way through the mesh of the trail shoes and this would build up in the thick pile of my Darn Tuff socks

The trail was often muddy, especially in the first few weeks in the Spring. Fine silt would work its way through the mesh of the trail shoes and this would build up in the thick pile of my Darn Tuff socks

Despite being washed, or at least rinsed, on a daily basis. Socks wore out. I carried tow pairs for walking and alternated them. Both pairs were replaced during the walk.

Despite being washed, or at least rinsed, on a daily basis. Socks wore out as a result of silt. I carried two pairs for walking and alternated them each day. Both pairs were replaced with new during the walk

Needless to say, footwear- socks and trail shoes get a battering. I had the option of wearing boots but have been using lightweight trail runners for years. I prepared spares in advance of my walk for Mrs Three Points of the Compass to send on to me as required. I don’t think a long hike is the time to be changing out to unfamiliar footwear and it made sense to have reserves ‘back-home’. Particularly as I would no doubt be using them on future hikes if they were not required for this trail.

It is pure miles and miles of hiking, washing gear in streams, sinks and shower trays. Sun, rain, hot and cold. Brambles, thorns, heather, gorse, barbed wire and rocks, that all combine to wear down the daily trekking clothing. Wear good quality gear from reputable manufacturers that have tested their gear over tens of thousands of miles. Clothing will wear out, of course it will, but I found that Champion 365 shorts or Montane Terra pants, Rohan merino polo shirt and synthetic ExOfficio baselayers lasted fine months of hiking. Black Mountains, Offa's Dyke, Jun 2018

It is pure miles and miles of hiking, washing gear in streams, sinks and shower trays. Sun, rain, hot and cold. Brambles, thorns, heather, gorse, barbed wire and rocks, that all combine to wear down the daily trekking clothing and other items carried. Wear good quality gear from reputable manufacturers that have tested this over tens of thousands of miles. Clothing will wear out, of course it will, but I found that Champion 365 shorts or Montane Terra pants, Rohan merino polo shirt and synthetic ExOfficio baselayers lasted fine months of hiking. Black Mountains, Offa’s Dyke, Jun 2018

It is pure miles and miles of hiking, washing gear in streams, sinks and shower trays. Sun, rain, hot and cold, brambles, thorns, heather, gorse, barbed wire and rocks, that all combine to wear down the daily trekking clothing. Wear good quality gear from reputable manufacturers that have tested their gear over tens of thousands of miles. Clothing will wear out, of course it will, but I found that Montane Terra pants, Rohan merino polo shirt and synthetic baselayers lasted the fine months

My pack of choice was the Gossamer Gear Mariposa. I found it a comfortable pack if a little ‘saggy’ if not carrying much food. There were tears and abrasions and the hip belt began slipping in the final two hundred miles. It put up with much abuse and I will be buying another exactly like it. Caithness

The curved Kylesku bridge was crossed in Sutherland. Wind was extraordinary and resulted in one particular unexpected gear failure

The curved Kylesku bridge was crossed in Sutherland. Wind was extraordinary as I crossed the Loch a’ Chàirn Bhàin and resulted in one particular unexpected gear failure

Three Points of the Compass has been a fan of the Montane Lite-Speed wind jacket for many years of hiking. The intense winds crossing the Kylesku bridge ripped out the sticthing in the back of the neck

Three Points of the Compass has been a fan of the Montane Lite-Speed wind jacket for many years of hiking. The intense winds crossing the Kylesku bridge ripped out the stitching in the back of the neck

I carried a small selection of repair materials. The aforementioned mini tube of superglue, a carefully thought out sewing kit, patches for Thermarest sleeping mat and self adhesive tenacious tape and cuben dyneema. Everything was put to use at some point and tape was replenished twice.

A more extensive repair kit was carried than on my normal one or two weeks hikes

A more extensive repair kit was carried than on my normal one or two weeks hikes

Sewing the crotch of my trekking shorts on a zero day

Sewing the crotch of my Champion 365 training- 9 inch inseam trekking shorts on a zero day

It is a wise hiker that stays on top of repairs on a long hike. Gear has to be working in order to put in the miles

It is a wise hiker that stays on top of repairs on a long hike. Gear has to be working well in order to put in the miles

Three Points of the Compass invariably uses a BeFree water filter for purifying water. However thought it prudent to pack along a few Chlorine Dioxide tabs in case of failure or filter freezing. As it was, due to carelessness, I lost my entire hydration kit at one point- bottle, bladders and filter. Fortunate that I was able to switch to tablets with a couple of half litre bottles purchased two days later.

Filtering water on trail. My walk coincided with one of the hottest UK summers on record

Filtering water on trail. My walk coincided with one of the hottest UK summers on record

A change from filtration to chemical purification was made in Scotland. But not due to gear failure

A change from filtration to chemical purification was made in Scotland. But not due to gear failure

MSR Pocket Rocket and Torjet lighter were part of my cook kit. Both tried and trusted items

MSR Pocket Rocket2 and Torjet lighter were part of my cook kit. Both tried and trusted items. However the lighter did rust badly

I never expected to have problems with the reliable stove however found the windshield trivet kept falling off. I always had to keep an eye on this to ensure it wasn't lost

I never expected to have problems with the previously reliable MSR stove however found the windshield trivet kept falling off from half way through my hike. I always had to keep an eye on this to ensure it wasn’t lost

Possibly the only piece of gear that I had selected for my hike that properly failed was a bespoke pack liner that I had commissioned. It simply wasn't up to handling the deluges in Scotland and at Fort William I swapped out to a heavier but watertight Sea to Summit roll top liner

Possibly the only piece of gear that I had selected for my hike that properly failed was a bespoke pack liner that I had commissioned. It simply wasn’t up to handling the deluges in Scotland and at Fort William I swapped out to a heavier but watertight Sea to Summit roll top liner

One of the most exciting materials that has found its way into hiking gear in recent years is cuben fibre, more recently known as dyneema composite fabric. Very strong, very light. Also very expensive. I carry a few items made of this but was well aware of this materials biggest drawback. It doesn’t suffer abrasion well. The only cuben items I used were a few stuff sacks (a big fan of these as I like to compartmentalise) and my shelter.

cuben stuffsacks wore badly if they abraded

cuben stuffsacks wore badly if they abraded

My Z packs chest pouch was one of my favourite pieces of gear and took a lot of hammering. It leaked like a sieve by the end however purely as a result of wear to the cuben

My Z packs chest pouch was one of my favourite pieces of gear and took a lot of hammering. It leaked like a sieve by the end however purely as a result of wear to the cuben

My shelter was the Z Packs Duplex. I loved this tent. Huge interior and only weighed 637 grams. However it will never see another hike with me

My shelter was the Z Packs Duplex. I loved this tent. Huge interior and only weighed 637 grams. However it will never see another hike with me. Strath na Sealga, Scotland

Strong winds saw a guy tie out ripped off a side wall. A cuben repair patch sorted things out

Strong winds saw a guy tie out ripped off a side wall. A cuben repair patch sorted things out

I put cuben 'stitches' across some seams that appeared to be under strain but there was never any actual failure

I put cuben ‘stitches’ across some seams that appeared to be under strain but there was never any actual failure

Some points of particular strain, such as the tent door tie outs, suffered badly over the miles but never failed entirely

Some points of particular strain, such as the tent door tie outs, suffered badly over the miles but never failed entirely

Three Points of the Compass used Pacer Poles not only for trekking but also as supports for my shelter. I like their raked, moulded grips and find them comfortable to use. I am not a fan of their twist locks though and found these bound up over time and frequently couldn’t loosen them Rocky steep paths on the Cape Wrath Trail put a bend in one of them. Unable to separate the sections I was unable to fly home with them at the end of my trail and, reluctantly, I was forced to leave them at John O’Groats. Despite their faults, I have bought another pair since my return.

2018 08 29_5990

It is doubtful that I could have completed my 2000 mile Three Points of the Compass hike without my Pacer Poles. At the end they were missing much of the paint on their shafts, one tip had been replaced mid-trail, the sections couldn’t be separated and one pole was bent like a banana. Nonetheless I was saddened to leave them behind

Duncansby Head- the end of my trail

Duncansby Head- the end of my trail. August 2018

South Downs Way

The South Downs Way in winter- water sources

Three Points of the Compass walked the South Downs Way in winter 2018. I wrote a brief blog on that walk soon after. This piece covers my water sources on that five day trip of a tad over a hundred miles. I carried clean and dirty water bladders and a water filter, also a 0.85lt. bottle for drinking from during the day.

Three Points of the Compass travelled to the start of the South Downs Way at Winchester by train. The blue cuben bag in the side pocket of my Mariposa is my hydration kit comprising 2lt Evernew bladder for clean water, 2lt HydraPak Seeker bladder for unfiltered and a Katadyn BeFree filter. I also carried an 850ml Smartwater bottle for drinking 'on the go'

Three Points of the Compass travelled to the start of the South Downs Way at Winchester by train. The blue cuben bag in the side pocket of my Mariposa is my hydration kit comprising 2lt Evernew bladder for clean water, 2lt HydraPak Seeker bladder for unfiltered and a Katadyn BeFree filter. I also carried an 850ml Smartwater bottle for drinking ‘on the go’.

I was fortunate to enjoy fairly good weather for most of the walk. It was often simply cool and bright. However, it was a late in the year walk and I also experienced occasional thick mist, driving rain and sleet on the final day and cold frosty nights. Snow blanketed the hills two days after I finished. Some of the water taps provided along the trail are turned off for the winter months and I did find a couple that were not working. Other than that, I had absolutely no problem in keeping myself well hydrated both during the day and for night halts.

I set off early morning from a Winchester hotel where I had spent the night. I had a couple of mugs of tea prior to leaving and carried one and a half litres of water from the get go. My first halt to refill was at a tap near Keepers Cottage, SU 537 288. This is immediately beside the path and was specifically installed with cyclists in mind and also has a pump etc. This is a popular trail for cyclists and some times of the year can see as many cyclists as walkers. However, at this time of year I saw few hikers and only a handful of cyclists and horse riders.

My first halt on Day One for water was near Keepers Cottage in the Temple Valley

My first halt on Day One for water was near Keepers Cottage in the Temple Valley

If I had not replenished with water at Keepers Cottage my next halt would have been at Lomer Farm where, despite this notice stating that repair would be made in Spring 2018, it still hadn't taken place

Lomer Farm. Despite this notice stating that repair would be made in Spring 2018, it still hadn’t taken place

Tap at Lomer Farm- out of use (SU 601237)

If I had not replenished with water at Keepers Cottage my next halt would have been at Lomer Farm- however the tap was out of use (SU 601237)

It is advisable to take any opportunity to replenish with at least a bottle of water if a tap is passed as some sources are not only seasonal but could be vandalised, under repair or simply no longer in commission.

My first day was a little over twenty miles so I felt I had earned yet another halt in the afternoon when I passed the fly fishing ponds at Meon Springs. The fishing lodge (SU 655 215) at Whitewool Farm is often open as the fishery offices are situated inside, alongside a tackle store and ‘help yourself’ to hot drinks facility. Snacks were also available but I didn’t need anything as I was carrying just about all the food supplies I required for the whole trail. Instead, a mug of tea (£1) was very welcome. A tap was available here if it had been simply water I was after.

Fishing Lodge at Meon Springs, Whitewool Farm

Fishing Lodge at Meon Springs, Whitewool Farm

My first nights halt was at the Sustainability Centre, Wetherdown Lodge (SU 676 190). This is a Friends of Nature Eco centre and due to my early away from Winchester in the morning, I arrived around 14.40, so not only had time to get the tent up in the lower fields, but also managed to get to the onsite Beech Cafe five minutes before it closed for a welcome pint. At this time of the year, night comes early and my evening meal of lentil curry was obviously eaten in the dark.

Day One on the South Downs Way saw me camping at the Sustainability Centre where water is readily available. Even if not staying there, a water tap is only a hundred metres off the main route

Day One on the South Downs Way saw me camping at the Sustainability Centre where water is readily available. Even if not staying there, a water tap is only a hundred metres off the main route

There is a cafe at the Queen Elizabeth Country Park however no water outside of opening times

There is a cafe at the Queen Elizabeth Country Park however no water outside of opening times

Day Two was a twenty four mile hike, so I rose early and simple breakfast and 500ml mug of tea saw me on my way while it was still dark. I had hoped for second breakfast at the Queen Elizabeth Country Park visitor centre (SU 718 185) but arrived to early and wasn’t prepared to sit around for a couple of hours waiting for it to open.

I was carrying just under a litre of water with me and this was sufficient until a water tap opposite Manor Farm at a minor crossroads of tracks at Cocking (SU 879 166).

A number of cattle troughs are passed on the South Downs Way, mostly on Days two and three, any water from these sources requires purifying or filtering. I had no need to use these sources as there were plenty of others

A number of cattle troughs are passed on the South Downs Way, mostly on days two and three out of Winchester. Any water from these sources requires purifying or filtering. I had no need to use these sources as there were plenty of others

Some of the taps on the South Downs Way have been placed there by cycling or walking organisations, others have been sited in memory of a much loved individual. The tap at Cocking was sited in memory of 14 year old Peter Wren.

“He loved the English Countryside and walked the South Downs Way in the summer of 1978”

Any wise hiker not only tops up with water at these sources but also drinks as much as he can before moving on. I had doubts on finding another source before this day’s halt so took opportunity to carry another two litres away from here in addition to my 850ml bottle.

Tap directly beside the path at Cocking. A notice beside the tap records that the next available sources are at Amberley, 11 miles east, or Buriton Farm, 4 miles west

Tap directly beside the path at Cocking. A notice beside the tap records that the next available sources are at Amberley, 11 miles east, or Buriton Farm, 4 miles west

I wild camped at the end of Day Two and it was a cold evening and even colder night so plenty of hot drinks with my evening lentil curry followed by the usual mug of tea in the morning took just about all the water I had with me. It was a cold and bright day with deer in the frosty fields and red kites overhead. Soon after crossing the River Adur, prior to reaching the B2139, south of Amberley, there is a tap and trough (203 124) provided by the Rotary Clubs of Arundel, Steyning & Henfield, and Storrington in the hope that…

“…those who drink here will remember those elsewhere who have nowhere to drink”

Tap provided by the local Rotary Clubs soon after crossing over the River Arun at Houghton

Tap provided by the local Rotary Clubs soon after crossing over the River Arun at Houghton

I reached this tap a little after nine in the morning and this refill saw me well until another, six miles on, in Glazeby Lane, near a road crossing south of Washington (118 119). As I mentioned earlier, there are quite a few water sources on this trail and if one if unavailable for one reason or another, it is usually not too far to another. It is only if wild camping that a little care is required to ensure that enough is available for a nights halt.

Another tap directly beside the path south of Washington. Many of these are suposed to be turned off once the weather turns colder from October, but I found many were still operating at the end of November

Another water tap directly beside the path south of Washington. Many of these are supposed to be turned off in October once the weather turns colder and there is a danger of freezing, but Three Points of the Compass found many were still operating at the end of November

I didn't require it but there was also a working tap between the River Adur and the road crossing of the A283

I didn’t require it but there was also a working tap between the River Adur and the road crossing of the A283

While I had plenty of water with me and it was only a relatively short hike to my days end, I also drank a litre at the tap provided by the Society of Sussex Downsmen at Botolphs (TQ 197 093).

Day Three was a 19.5 mile trek to the YHA at Truleigh Hill. I knew that I couldn’t stay in the hostel at it was on exclusive hire however the warden had kindly agreed to my camping in a field opposite. Not only did I also have use of the campers w/c adjacent to the building, but there is also a tap outside for passing hikers (TQ 220 106).

Brewing up at Truleigh Hill

Brewing up at Truleigh Hill

It was another cold night and I was pleased to have ready access to unlimited water as I rehydrated and kept myself warm with a succession of oxo, tea and hot chocolate drinks.

Hikers tap outside entrance to the Youth Hostel at Truleigh Hill

Hikers water tap outside entrance to the Youth Hostel at Truleigh Hill

There is a small cafe, the Hikers Rest, at Saddlescombe Farm, but that was closed as I passed through. However the tap in the wall was still working

There is a small cafe, the Hikers Rest, at Saddlescombe Farm, but that was closed as I passed through. However the tap in the wall was still working

Day Four was just over twenty one miles to the South Downs YHA just three miles from Lewes. Not only did I have a dorm room booked for the night, but I knew I also had a couple of decent halts on this section. Setting off with a full water bottle, the first halt was at the tap in a wall at Saddlescombe Farm (TQ 271 114).

I had no real need to stop here as it was only another fifty minutes walk to the ‘Pilgrims Church’ at Pyecombe. With the aid of grant money, the parishioners here have provided an excellent extension to the church with not only w/c, but also tea and coffee making facilities for walkers. Just be sure to leave a donation.

I spent some time at the church wandering around and looking at items of interest, there is much to see here and it makes a great rest point.

Really good facilities are available at Pyecombe Church. Open 10.00 - 18.00 in the summer, until 16.00 in the winter

Really good facilities are available at the Downland Church of the Transfiguration at Pyecombe. Open 10.00 – 18.00 in the summer, until 16.00 in the winter

There are a number of dew ponds situated on the top of the rolling South Downs. All are contaminated with animal faeces and filtering and purification is an absolute necessity

There are a number of dew ponds situated on the top of the rolling South Downs. All are contaminated with animal faeces and filtering and purification is an absolute necessity if using as a water source

Tap in wall of Housedean Farm, A27

Tap in wall of Housedean Farm, A27

Walking on, I took time to explore the slightly off trail Jack and Jill windmills but my next halt for sustenance was a late lunch once I reached the A27. The trail turns right here to pass Housedean Farm prior to crossing the road via a bridge. In the wall of the farm is a walkers tap (TQ 368 092). However, a more favourable option is to turn left instead and walk down to the truckers stop where there is often a sandwich wagon.

It is only a hundred metres or so to the busy and noisy lay-by to ‘Oscars mobile catering’, where I chomped my way through two huge bacon and egg baguettes alongside a couple of mugs of tea. Never look a gift horse in the face…

Snack wagon beside the A27 on day four

Snack wagon beside the A27 on day four. Only a hundred metres off trail

Only a kilometre away from my days halt at YHA South Downs, I had no need to avail myself of the working tap in the wall of Southease Church. The uncommon tower is one of only three round towers found in Sussex

The uncommon tower of Southease Church is one of only three round towers found in Sussex. There is a walkers water tap in the wall here

Back on trail, I crossed the road and carried on, in deteriorating weather, back up on to the Downs. This is an arid stretch, with a lot of large agricultural fields however it was only a three hour walk to my nights halt at the relatively new and quite large hostel of YHA South Downs. Only a kilometre before my days end, I took time out to explore the fascinating interior of Southease Church. I had no need to avail myself of the working tap in the wall of the church ( TQ 423 052).

Reaching the YHA around 16.30, I booked in and was shown to my shared dormitory room.

Having showered, changed into clean clothes and rested, I declined from cooking yet another lentil curry in their campers kitchen and chose instead to eat in the hostel’s Courtyard Cafe. Hydration here in the form of a few decent beers alongside my evening meal of pizza.

Opened by HM The Queen in 2013, YHA South Downs is situated in a Sussex farmhouse

Opened by HM The Queen in 2013, YHA South Downs is situated in a Sussex farmhouse

After a nights decent snoring on the part of the two other room occupants, I rose at an early hour ready for my final day on trail. I had the usual mug of tea in the campers kitchen alongside a simple breakfast as second breakfast was only a few miles away. It was just under 22 miles to my day’s end halt at YHA Eastbourne, via the walk into town and back out again, finishing at the town pier rather than the official halt at the towns western edge. I don’t think that the sad little start/finish post is a fitting end and was to happily continue past it further down the coast to the impressive Victorian Pier. Prior to that I had a day’s walk to complete however.

Second breakfast in the Singing Kettle Tearoom in Alfriston

Second breakfast in the Singing Kettle Tearoom in Alfriston

It was raining hard when I set off from YHA South Downs and a halt at the Singing Kettle Tearoom (519 031) in Alfriston three hours later proffered an opportunity to dry out on the outside while I put a pot of tea and a sausage sandwich on the inside. The proprietor filled my water bottle prior to my leaving and this did me until I pulled into the Seven Sisters visitor centre (TV 518 995) overlooking the spectacular Cuckmere River meanders.

There was little open at the Seven Sisters visitor centre, however there was a working tap outside the open public w/c

There was little open at the Seven Sisters visitor centre, however there was a working tap outside the open public w/c

Most visitor centres have a working tap somewhere outside. While many are intended to provide water for dogs, a tap is just as welcome to the thirsty hiker. It had only taken me around an hour and a half to reach here after leaving Alfriston and it was another ninety minutes jaunt along the lovely rolling Seven Sisters before I reached my final tap (TV 553 960) on the South Downs Way. This was at Birling Gap, adjacent to the Coach Park.

Easily missed, there is a tap at Birling Gap. Again, with an open w/c alongside

Easily missed, there is a tap at Birling Gap. Again, with an open w/c alongside

I was on the home stretch now and I had no need to refill my bottle for the rest of my walk as it was only another two hours walk to Eastbourne Pier. After which it was the long haul back out of town where, rather than travel home that night, I was stopping for the night at Eastbourne YHA. And that was it. 108.11 miles since I left Winchester. I had absolutely no problem in finding plenty of water or alternative drinks along its entire distance. There are a lot more options than I have shown above. There are other farms and pubs that can also provide water either directly on the trail, or close by.

The above was correct for the dates of my walk- 16th – 20th November 2018. As it turned out, I had no need to use my water filter, not the emergency sterilisation tablets that I carry in my ditty bag. There was good potable water readily available on every day.

There is a downloadable guide to water sources on the South Downs Way via the National Trails website. But it doesn’t appear to have been updated in some time and fails to list quite a few points. Their mapping system is useful as you can list the points of most interest to you which can include water points. An online cyclists’ guide has a similar list, equally wanting in places. However it includes some useful images.

Three Points of the Compass walked the South Downs Way in November 2018

Three Points of the Compass walked the South Downs Way in November 2018

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

‘How to stop a mad dog’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Three Points of the Compass and daughter, Hadrian's Wall, April 2014

Thirty days to my ‘Big Walk’

The picture above shows Three Points of the Compass and daughter hiking Hadrian’s Wall in 2014. Together with Mrs Three Points of the Compass we experienced a typical mixed bag of weather on that six day April walk.

An important factor for me to consider when I set off on my ‘Big Walk’ in thirty days is the weather. In Britain, at that time of the year, I can encounter just about any type of weather. I may hope for cool days with little wind, but will almost certainly be presented with cold, wet, or hot (well, very warm) conditions. Such changeable weather means that my clothing and equipment will have to be capable of handling extremes.

As I write this, much of the UK is gripped by the ‘Beast from the East’. This is simply a polar vortex spiralling in from Siberia. Much as I would dearly have liked to go hiking, I have had to work over the past few weeks. Commuting has been ‘interesting’ to put it mildly. Temperatures haven’t risen above 0°C for most of the week and have usually been a fair bit below this, especially taking wind chill in to account. I could have dug out my battered old Brashers for the commute but instead decided to see how the new Altra Lone Peak 3.5’s tackled ice and snow. I am pleased to find that the sole pattern and grip on these is as good as any other trail runners I have had in the past, possibly with the exception of my Inov8 330s. While I don’t expect to have to contend with snow in the West Country in thirty days time, I do expect to encounter slippery conditions.

Altra Lone Peak 3.5. Three Points of the Compass will be wearing these on the forthcoming trek

Altra Lone Peak 3.5. Three Points of the Compass will be wearing these on the forthcoming trek

That said, it is just as likely to be sunshine I experience in the early weeks of my hike. So despite the snow outside, I spent a few minutes this week decanting sunscreen from a larger plastic container into two smaller plastic bottles.

I frequently wear a Tilley Airflow hat when hiking, whether sunny or raining. However I do find the backs of my hands especially can catch the sun when hiking with Pacer Poles.

The 50ml bottle of 50 SPF sunscreen from Lifesystems weighed 67g when purchased. When I set off from Poole on the south coast of England on 1st April this year, I’ll be carrying one small 5g bottle containing 18g of sunscreen (total weight 23g). I also have another bottle with 24g of sunscreen ready to be posted to me as, when and if I require it. This is a pretty good sunscreen, with one application lasting up to six hours. I usually prefer Piz Buin as I find that less greasy but the one from Lifesystems offers added protection from Jellyfish stings, I am sure that will come in handy….

Prism Mitts from Montane are a fantastic option for lower temperatures. Three Points of the Compass will also be carrying one small bottle of sunscreen in is pack, hopefully neither item will be required

Prism Mitts from Montane are a fantastic choice for lower temperatures. Three Points of the Compass will also be carrying one small bottle of sunscreen in his pack, hopefully neither item will be required

I am still waiting for just a couple more items to turn up in the post. I’ll write a little on these once they materialise. In the meantime, I am still playing with maps and routes and getting to grips with OS Maps online and App. Roll on the next month…

Three Points of the Compass walked the Norfolk Coast Path in April 2017. A Tilley Airflow hat protects head and neck, however the backs of hands and forearms frequently catch the sun

Three Points of the Compass walked the Norfolk Coast Path in April 2017. Tilley Airflow hat protects head and neck, however the backs of hands and forearms frequently catch the sun

Part of the Basingstoke Canal was followed by Three Points of the Compass when he completed the London Countryway in 2016

A library for hikers- Canals

Three Points of the Compass on a winter walk on a canal towpath

Three Points of the Compass on a winter walk on a canal towpath

Canals cross the United Kingdom. Historically, these inland waterways had a relatively short working life before being usurped by the railway but are today resurrected within the leisure market. Not only are they home to modern water borne travellers, but their banks provide access for anglers, cyclists, dog walkers, hikers and the modern day magnet fishers.

Signs of failure, decay and lack of use can still be found in and alongside many canals today. The rotting carcass of a wooden boat was passed by Three Points of the Compass when walking the London Loop in 2016

Signs of failure, decay and lack of use can still be found in and alongside many canals today. The rotting carcass of a wooden boat was passed by Three Points of the Compass when walking the London Loop in 2016

Three Points of the Compass has walked hundreds of miles along canals enjoying their banks and wildlife, a good few miles of canal are included on the route of my Long Walk. There are a small number of books within my modest library that provide more than a modicum of information on their history and add a smattering of interest to any walk along a canal.

Narrow Boat by Tom Rolt

‘Narrow Boat’ by Tom Rolt. A classic volume

Narrow Boat by L.T.C. Rolt is credited with kick-starting the interest in English canals. The author recorded his work converting a dilapidated wooden narrow boat Cressy in to a liveable abode on which he and his new bride set forth on a four month trip, taking in a variety of canals, pubs and encountering a mixed bag of characters. It was a strange and changing world, at the outbreak of World War II, when the future of the canal system seemed rooted in decrepitude. Yet publication of this book in 1944 led directly to the formation of the Inland Waterways Association when it was founded by Tom Rolt and Robert Aickman in 1946. From this the restoration and use of canals for leisure eventually became assured. My faded volume was published in 1946 and later editions are easy to find. It is an older style of book and I enjoyed it immensely. If published today as a new product it would probably excite little interest and it can be difficult to appreciate today just what sort of impact it had at the time.

The Grand Union Canal is a popular for leisure use and some of it was followed by Three Points of the Compass on the London Loop in 2016

The Grand Union Canal is popular for leisure use and some of it was followed by Three Points of the Compass on the London Loop in 2016

A later account of a similar length of journey by narrow boat across the English Canal system, taken in 2001, was written by travel writer and TV Presenter Paul Gogarty. As befitting his background, The Water Road is a well written and informative volume that understands, with the hindsight that the intervening decades have provided, what the reader wants. Part history, part ‘narrowboat odyssey’, part observational anecdote.

The Water Road is Paul Gogarty's account of a 900 mile, four month journey across the canals of inland England aboard his 50 foot narrowboat Caroline

‘The Water Road’ is Paul Gogarty’s account of a 900 mile, four month journey across the canals of inland England aboard his 50 foot narrowboat Caroline

It seems to have been no less a strange and awful time when Paul Gogarty’s journey was undertaken- the UK was undergoing a B.S.E. epidemic from which many communities never recovered, Salmonella was in the news and as the trip drew to a close- “I would return home just in time to watch the Twin Towers crumble. The apocalypse was alive and kicking”.

Having completed the West Highland Way in 2013. Three Points of the Compass stayed in Fort William and explored Neptune's Staircase on the Caledonian Canal the following day. This is the longest staircase lock in Great Britain, comprising of a flight of eight locks. The canal was built by Thomas Telford between 1803 and 1822

Having completed the West Highland Way in 2013, Three Points of the Compass stayed in Fort William and explored Neptune’s Staircase on the Caledonian Canal the following day. This is the longest staircase lock in Great Britain, comprising of a flight of eight locks. The canal was built by Thomas Telford between 1803 and 1822

Three Points of the Compass has included a good few miles of canal walking on the Long Walk commencing 1st April 2018. Tow paths can be useful for crossing the country quickly on often good paths. Though these can also be overgrown, muddy and, frankly, boring at times. Also it can be difficult to find wild camping spots along their length in places. But still, I am quite looking forward to some parts of my forthcoming walk that incorporate canals. Most canals have a book or two (or more!) dedicated to their history. There is one in particular that I was keen to add to my book shelf in order to learn a little more.

The amazing Falkirk Wheel aqueduct is featured amongst the images on the cover of Hamish Brown's book- Exploring the Edinburgh to Glasgow Canals

The amazing Falkirk Wheel aqueduct is featured amongst the images on the cover of Hamish Brown’s book- ‘Exploring the Edinburgh to Glasgow Canals’

Following the Lee Navigation in 2016

Following the Lee Navigation in 2016

Exploring the Edinburgh to Glasgow Canals is somewhat different to the aforementioned two books, it is not only a history of the canals (though missing out of more recent developments) but also tells of the towns and industry that were served by the canals in their working life. I am also encouraged by the fact that the author, Hamish Brown, is an accomplished walker and outdoors writer. This then, is not just for the boat dweller, but for those who amble the lengths of canals but want to know more on what they pass.

For a few years, I was fortunate enough to work with/for the author of another little volume that sits on my bookshelf that provides a fascinating and accessible concise introduction to one of the most noticeable facets of the canals; namely, the boats and craft used for trade, industry and upkeep. Tony Conder has illustrated the modestly priced Shire volume Canal Narrowboats and Barges with dozens of photographs from his personal collection. These and his text provide a wealth of information on boat construction, propulsion, their cargo but little of the people that lived and worked their lives on the canals. For that type of information it is best to visit one of the waterway museums listed in the book. The author was curator of the British Waterways Collection for twenty five years and opened the National Waterways Museum at Gloucester in 1988.

Canal Narrowboats and Barges by Tony Conder is an excellent and affordable introduction to the craft that plied the inland waterways

‘Canal Narrowboats and Barges’ by Tony Conder is an excellent and affordable introduction to the craft that plied the inland waterways

Narrow Boat, L.T.C. Rolt. Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1946

The Water Road, Paul Gogarty, Robson Books, 2002. ISBN 1 86105 515 3

Exploring the Edinburgh to Glasgow Canals, Hamish Brown. Mercat Press, first published 1997, revised edition 2006. ISBN 978 1 84183 096 4

Canal Narrowboats and Barges, Tony Conder. Shire Publications Ltd. 2004. ISBN 0 7478 0587 3

Three Points of the Compass has not only walked the tow path of many a canal, but has also enjoyed many a mile by boat. Here he navigates a lock, with hat aloft, on the Cheshire Ring in 2015

Three Points of the Compass has not only walked the tow path of many a canal, but has also, with his family, enjoyed travelling hundreds of canal miles by boat. Here he navigates a lock, briefly with hat held aloft, on the Cheshire Ring in 2015

Needless packaging

A few grams here, a few grams there… packaging

This is a wheeze for those who cut tooth brushes in half to save a few grams. What I have done here is pull a few medicines from my First Aid kit with a view to cutting their weight.

Three Points of the Compass carries a veritable arsenal of tablets and due to the fact that many tablets in the UK come in blister packs, it was time to remove some of that bulky packaging that is simply adding needless weight to the pack.

Take a look at that packaging above- Before I removed the tablets from the blister packs, it totalled 21.4g. That rubbish in the top picture formed 17.6g of that total. Once decanted in to little baggies, together with small slips of paper detailing the contents and any relevant dosage recommendations, my tablets came to just 3.8g. A worthwhile exercise in reduction.

Repackaged medications, a respectable saving in both weight and bulk easily made

Repackaged medications, a respectable saving in both weight and bulk easily made

So what medicines am I carrying on my Big Walk? Loratadine and Chlorphenamine maleate (first and second generation anti-allergy), Aspirin and Ibuprofen (painkillers), Loperamide (anti-diarrhoeal) and short courses of Doxycycline and Flucloxacillin (broad and narrow spectrum antibiotics/penicillin).

Similar reductions can be made throughout your gear if you take a careful look. I recall reading of one chap a few years back recording a fifty gram reduction from the simple expedient of cutting out the care and material labels from every item of clothing he took. I haven’t gone that far… yet. And no, I don’t cut the handle off my toothbrush.

 

Preparing

Fifty days to my ‘Big Walk’

“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success”

Alexander Graham Bell

The off grows ever nearer, half a hundred days away. So what am I up to?

I am still planning, my route underwent a bit of a change as I have now decided that it is best to complete the Offa’s Dyke Path and from there cross over to the Peak District, rather than my original intention of only completing half of the Path and leaving at Knighton. This meant that not only did a handful of new maps have to purchased, but a bit of reading around my new route was required. I am now following part of The Great English Walk from Tarporley to Youlgreave. This looks an interesting section in a ‘difficult’ part of the country to cross.

So along with maps and books arriving in the post, I was delighted to finally receive my footwear of choice. Cutting it finer than I would want, but I can now begin adapting the insoles to take my orthotics. The latter became necessary when I found myself suffering from Plantar fasciitis in 2015, a problem that still lingers with the occasional twinge. I am going to have to ensure I keep up with my stretching exercises when on trail. I have also been receiving small items ordered, some paint for my art kit, a new compass to replace the one that I have been using for years, but has an air bubble that appears at certain temperatures.

New Silva Expedition 4 compass. Some of the terrain being crossed on my Three Points of the Compass walk will require good navigation, this is an excellent tool for the job

New Silva Expedition 4 compass. Some of the terrain being crossed on my Three Points of the Compass walk will require precise navigation, a good map and compass are essential tools for the job

I would like to have booked my train to the start, but am unable to. While I have ‘agreement in principle’ from my work place that I can take my extended break, this has yet to manifest itself in an official ‘yes’ from HR. As soon as it does, then the train gets booked.

Beside adding weight to my pack as small items of gear are purchased, I am also working on the easiest way to take less on the trail, i.e. losing a little weight. So my diet has also been addressed. Three Points of the Compass is, ahem, a big lad, so I am making a point of addressing this before the miles on trail take yet more pounds off.

I’ve also being checking that my cook system is as I want it and renewing some older items in the First Aid Kit. Beyond that, a visit to the dentist and booking my car in for its annual service and MOT before I leave. There are still quite a few preparations to be made, I’ll keep you informed.