Tag Archives: Knowledge

A small selection of herbs, spices and condiments goes a long way to improving bland trail meals

Additions to a food bag- condiments

 

The term condiment comes from the Latin condimentum, meaning “spice, seasoning, sauce” and from the Latin condere, meaning “preserve, pickle, season”

Wikipedia (T. Nealon)

While on multi day hikes, Three Points of the Compass now carries food in a wide mouth food bag from Z Packs. This dedicated food bag has a wide opening to make poking around inside easier and can hold anything from pre-prepared meals, to pasta/noodles/instant mash/oats/tortillas, to pouch fish, squeezy cheese, yeast flakes, jerky etc. plus a brew kit.

I do like to ensure that I have just a few extras that may add a little flavour to my meals. For a week’s walk this has usually just comprised of salt and pepper in the little paper sachets that can be picked up in fast food outlets. But with time counting down to my Long Walk, commencing April 2018, I have decided to expand on this slightly.

Below are the handful of additions I will be carrying. The idea of carrying these may be absolute anathema to purist lightweighters, but over time, the fairly bland and repetitive nature of stock carbs can get a little boring and a handful of condiments can go a long way to relieving this. With care, such additions add negligible weight to a reasonably lightweight set-up. And a little goes a long way.

A small selection of spices and condiments that will add flavour to meals on the trail

A small selection of spices and condiments that will add flavour to meals on the trail

I could very easily get carried away with what I wished to plunder my store cupboard for, but eventually settled on just five, these are:

  • Crushed and dried chillies
  • Dried garlic flakes
  • Tellicherry freshly crushed peppercorns
  • Smoked Sea Salt
  • Mixed dried herbs

I have found in the past that the little baggies I use tend to split after repeated opening and frequently don’t like closing after a while due to the fineness of the contents clogging the grooves of the closure. I could use contact lens cases instead but not only do these not hold a great deal but they are fairly weighty considering the original negligible weight of the condiments. Storing in straws, folded back and tucked into themselves is another way, but just a tad fiddly. The various spice holders produced by GSI are well made but simply too heavy, Tic Tac containers get crushed and split, the old 35mm film canisters (remember them?) have the lid pop off when you don’t want it to. None of the various multi compartment pill containers I have seen are light enough, So instead, I purchased a small range of cheap and cheerful lightweight aluminium tins from eBay and selected what I felt was the most appropriate size, which was the smallest, 15ml size. Each empty tins weighs just four and a half grams.

In addition, I have a small bottle of Olive Oil. This is decanted into a 60ml Nalgene bottle that weighs 16g empty. Full, it weighs 74g. The five full tins collectively weigh 72g, but that weight will constantly drop.

Small aluminium screw top tins are easily available. These are fives of the many sizes on the market. 15ml- 4.5g, 25ml- 6.3g, 30ml- 7.6g, 50ml- 10.1g and 80ml- 14.3g. They can be easily dented and knocked around due to their thin metal, but still hold up well

Small aluminium screw top tins are easily available online. These are just five of the many sizes on the market- 15ml- 4.5g, 25ml- 6.3g, 30ml- 7.6g, 50ml- 10.1g and 80ml- 14.3g. They can be easily dented and knocked around due to their thin metal, but still hold up well once the lid is screwed on

I could have added dried onion, dried vegetables or dried mushrooms to the above selection but many supermarkets and smaller shops stock quite small packs of these which can be picked up in many towns on trail, unlike the more flavoursome, often uncommon, quality ingredients listed above. I am still considering on swapping out my dehydrated garlic for garlic salt, and I do wonder if I should have added celery salt or my lovely smoked paprika…

Sorting through the trip piles

Still sorting out…

Have you noticed how maps, guides, books and notes can begin to accumulate into little, and not so little, piles of ‘important planning resources’ over time.

My attempt at sorting out some of those piles has continued into a second day. Once Mrs Three Points of the Compass is happy with how much the accumulated ‘stuff’ has been reduced and sorted, I’ll try and get round to a post or two on a couple of these little adventures. One from earlier in the year, one still to come.

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

Pegging down the pegs

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

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

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

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

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

Lightweight, yet tough, peg bag from Tread Lite

Lightweight, yet tough, peg bag from Tread Lite

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

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

[152g]

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

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

 MSR Groundhog MSR Groundhog Aluminium 2 191mm Individual weight:  14.3g Total weight: 28.6g
Legible London

Sign of the month… Legible London

 

Legible London

On 27 November 2007, the first prototype of a new design of street signage went ‘live’ in the West End of London. Just about every London Borough now has a number of the distinguishable, tall, upright and informative signs. These form part of the Legible London sign network. Integrated into the transport network, there are over 1700 of the signs providing information for pedestrians, on streets, local buildings, places of interest and bus routes, and enables those exiting London Underground stations to quickly orientate themselves. Circles on the maps indicate a walking time between places, ranging from 5 to 15 minutes. Note the small directional ‘north’ arrow set in to the base of the sign.

The New Naturalists books make excellent reading. Especially when loaded onto an e reader if visiting an area

A library- leafing through the pages…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Books in featured image:

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

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

 

 

Journey through Britain by John Hillaby

A library for those who hike in the shadow of giants…

Journey through Britain

John Hillaby

Shouldn’t everyone have two copies of their favourite book? Perhaps an e-copy as well as the physical one kept lovingly on the bookshelf, or one to be kept pristine and the other battered, well-travelled, thumbed copy? Of course they should.

Anyone who has read the opening page of Three Points of the Compass will know where I am coming from with my choice of John Hillaby’s Journey through Britain as a book for a library for those who hike in the shadow of giants.

Journey through Britain records John Hillaby's spring walk the length of Britain from Land's End to John O'Groats. Journey through Europe was his account of his walk from the Hook of Holland to Nice via the Alps. These are the best accounts of his walks

Journey through Britain records John Hillaby’s spring walk the length of Britain from Land’s End to John O’Groats. Journey through Europe was his account of his walk from the Hook of Holland to Nice via the Alps. These are the best accounts of his walks

His Journey through Britain book, published in 1968, appeared as A Walk through Britain in the U.S. for some reason. A similar re-titling occurred with Journey through Europe. John Hillaby, 1917-1996, wrote and edited a number of books but it his ‘Journey’ volumes that resonate with Three Points of the Compass most for a number of reasons. Not only have they pushed forward my own ambition to cross my country on foot, but they also revealed to a young man the necessity of being aware of my surroundings. The author encouraged my burgeoning interest in natural history and his books were probably what first made me aware of an ecology; the joined-up’ness and inter-dependence of the natural world. And not least, I enjoy his writing. I could identify with the author’s empathy for his subjects. He is, was, unafraid to reveal his shortcomings and mistakes and looked for answers, often finding it in the history of cultural and social history, mixed up with a laudable appreciation and understanding of botany, entomology and natural history in general. Much of this obviously stemmed from his earlier career as a journalist, becoming zoological correspondent for the Manchester Guardian, later, European science writer for The New York Times and in 1953, biological correspondent for the New Scientist.

A Journey through Britain- the beginning

A Journey through Britain- the beginning

Journey to the Jade Sea– is an account of a thousand mile walk from Northern Kenya to the Jade Sea, accompanied by his retinue of camels and hired bearers.

Journey through Britain– was a ‘considered impulse’ walk the length of Britain attempting to experience the minimum of metalled roads between.

Journey through Europe– a trek through Europe elaborating on the people as much as the natural history

Journey through Love– is a difficult book, wonderful accounts of walks are included, but it is also the story of a man suffering inner turmoil and grief

Journey Home– across England from Ravenglass in Cumbria via the Lakes and Swaledale and indirectly to London

Journey to the Gods– his journey from Athens to Mount Olympus via the Pindus mountains

The 'Journey' series of books from John Hillaby can still be picked up in acceptable paperback form very cheaply

The ‘Journey’ series of books from John Hillaby can still be picked up in acceptable paperback form very cheaply

Anyone who has walked, alone, for many miles, for many days on a hike knows that any romantic image it can be cracked up to be is often far from the truth. It can be dirty, difficult and, frankly, unchanging for mile after mile. It is then that the ability to distance one self from boredom and doubt is most required. John Hillaby was estimated to have walked the equivalent distance of five times the circumference of the globe and his books, especially Journey through Britain, are each an instruction manual on how an inquisitive mind should be both encouraged and drawn upon. In his obituary in The Times on Monday 21 October 1996, a pearl from Hillaby is recorded-

“the naturalist is able to put a great deal between what he sees and that portion of his mind where boredom lurks”

We would do well to learn from this.

Two further volumes from John Hillaby, neither of which enjoyed large sales yet make good reading. within the streams was the author's first published volume and is the story of a fisherman, people of the river and a byegone age. John Hillaby's London was his publishers suggeston, that stymied the author's ambitious wishes to return to far off lands or explore new ones, but instead gave us an excellently researched and personal guide to a London experienced by few

Two further volumes from John Hillaby, neither of which enjoyed large sales yet make good reading. within the streams was the author’s first published volume and is the story of a fisherman, people of the river and a bygone age. John Hillaby’s London was his publishers suggestion, that stymied the author’s ambitious wishes to return to far off lands or explore new ones, but instead gave us an excellently researched and personal guide to a London experienced by few

In the early 1970s, mourning the loss of his second wife, Thelma ('Tilly'), John Hillaby walked the northern section of the Appalachian Trail. Here, he is shown on his final day on the trail. This walk was recounted in his book Journey through Love

In the early 1970s, mourning the loss of his second wife Thelma (‘Tilly’), John Hillaby walked the northern section of the Appalachian Trail. Here, he is shown on his final day on the trail. This walk was recounted in his book Journey through Love

 

 

Book in featured image:

Journey through Britain, John Hillaby. Constable, 1968. ISBN 0 09 455780 2, Hardback

Journey through Britain, John Hillaby. Paladin Grafton Books, 1986. ISBN 0 586 08019 8, Softback

The Cerne Giant

A library for geologists…

 

Lost Gods of Albion

Paul Newman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Book in featured image:

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

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

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