Monday, 29 June 2009

bazza's got talent

Seems Darren's video of me highlighting the features of the Exos 46 has proven to be a bit of a winner; second in his top three of videos watched on YouTube. Next stop autumn watch?

the ridgeway re-visited part 1

The forecast for the weekend didn’t look promising; hot and humid, and thunderstorms. Never one to shirk a challenge I stuffed enough kit in a 35l rucksack and set of for Radnage late Saturday afternoon to meet up with other Backpack club members.

On a way up a detour off the M40 was made to Marlow for a supplies stop and a wander. Marlow is a pretty little Thames riverside place that appears to be a piece of displaced west London, like someone’s taken a chunk of Chiswick (Turnham Green Terrace?) and moved it up stream.

Penny and I timed our arrival at the campsite with the only downpour of the weekend. The downpour didn’t last and we found ourselves a flattish pitch near to the others.

Despite having the car I opted to leave all the car camping kit at home; I wanted to see whether I could get all the stuff needed for an ultra lightweight trip in the Berghaus 640. The short answer was just about. There was just enough space to squeeze in an evening meal but I’d have even less had I filled the platy that I’d also packed. So to answer my my own recent musings on what size rucksack I should be looking at; something with a capacity of 40 to 45l is the answer. That’s not say that the Berghaus won’t get used, in the bag was a two person shelter and groundsheet, so for bivi only or bivi/tarp summer trips it should be fine.

A pleasant evening was had in the Crown Inn where we exchanged stories about the trips we’d done, characters we’d met whilst thunder rumbled harmlessly in the distance.

Friday, 26 June 2009

accu-chek avia nano

More shiny new kit, this time a blood glucose monitoring machine, bought to replace the Acc-chek Active meter that I’ve had for about eight years that now seems to be nearing the end of it’s days. Unfortunately they have discontinued this model which is a shame as it was the only device that if the reader failed then you had the fall back of still being able to do a visual reading.

The Avia Nano has a number improvements over the Active, for one it has a backlit LED display. I’ve lost count the number of times I’ve struggled with head torch and meter trying to get a reading in a dark tent. In cold weather squeezing enough blood out of a finger is always a problem; not enough and the monitor wouldn’t work or gave a false reading. The Nano only requires a tiny amount of blood to do the test – a miniscule 0.6┬Ál, a fraction of what I’d need for the old machine. And you can add more blood within five seconds if necessary. The meter comes with a lancing device that holds a barrel of six lancets so no need to be fumbling with individual ones and the subsequent disposal of a sharp. There’s an adapter supplied that allows you to take blood samples from other areas of your hand if required. This is new to me and I’ll have to wait until the colder months to see whether the heel of my hand would give out blood more readily than chilly fingers. However given the size of the droplet of blood required using a different area of my hand might not be necessary.

As the Nano is smaller the overall weight of the components is 30g less than the Accu-chek Active. Apart it’s lack of ability to do a visual check this monitor has a number of gains over my old system, let’s hope that I don’t drop it down a mountain or dunk it in the sea.*

* Having put one in the Bay of Biscay once before I now keep all the bits and pieces in an Ortleib A6 document wallet, along with a silica gel sachet. I’ll grumble about having to carry extras ‘just in case’ but it’s wise to keep some of the test strips from the old machine in the wallet too.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

st margarets

The first street sign just after the bridge crossing the Mighty River Crane

The new surgery adjacent to the above

The drive

To the station

The surgery sign supplied by the NHS

The other surgery sign

Things are starting to drift...

Where's the punctuation gone?

Going, going, gone.

Friday, 19 June 2009

naked ladies

I wonder how many of you rushed to have a look at this post?


Detail from the fountain in York House Gardens next to the Thames in Twickenham.

craghoppers nosi shirt

I've been scouring the outdoor shops looking for a long sleeve shirt that isn't beige, khaki, taupe or green. Surprisingly there aren't many out there, whilst I wouldn't mind much sitting in a bar in Scotland or the Lakes in that kind of shirt I'd rather have something that, whilst being functional is also casual, for when I'm sitting in a tapas bar in Potes.

Now what is it about backpackers and checked shirts?

The Craghoppers Nosi shirt fits the bill; wicking 30+ SPF material with anti mosi treatment, and in a rather fetching reddish check. It has a vented shoulder panel and a baggy fit to allow cooling airflow. I guess it must be quick drying but as I've only just brought it back from the shop I won't know until it needs to go in the wash. It has a secondary collar that can be flipped out to protect the neck and tabs for keeping the shirt sleeves rolled up. Whilst checking to see how many labels there were to remove I found two press studded tabs for hanging the shirt up to dry. Not sure whether I'll keep these though.

The XL tips the scales at 227g so no weight penalty when compared to the Berghaus Tech T that I would usually wear.

inov8 rocklite 315

My second pair of Inov8 shoes. The Terrocs are a good fit but have less of a midsole than the Rocklites which should make the latter even more comfortable to wear. The tread is more aggressive too, not that I had issues with sliding or slipping over with the Terrocs. On my postal scales they were bang on the number - 315g per shoe.

That colour should go nicely with the Exos.

I’m going to wear them around the office and indoors for a couple of days with and without superfeet insoles in just to make sure that they are as good as I hope they’ll be. And it will give me enough time to get used to a new pair of shoes before heading to Spain. Or to replace them with another pair of Terrocs!

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

osprey talon 33 or 44?

I happen to find myself on Kensington High Street late Sunday morning. Not strictly true as I’d gone up there to recce for a day sack that would be big enough to use on summer weekend trips.

The Talon 44 is a better weight carrier than the 33 because it has a wire frame (of sorts) that adds rigidity and transfers weight to the hip belt. I loaded it with 12kg of bean bags; way more than I’d carry for my intended use. This was in the lower limit of the zone where a comfortable carry phases into an uncomfortable one but it coped with the load. My base kit weight is circa 5.5kg, and with a couple of days food and water the overall weight shouldn’t be more than 9kg at most. My kit is also low bulk too so the Talon 33 might be a better option as it’s lighter (and cheaper). Only trouble is that it’s capacity at 33l it might not be big enough for the job.

The only way I’m going to find out is to bag up my kit and pop to the shop for a try out. It’s good to see that I can follow my own advice.

tent peg toilet trowel

A great idea which I came across on Andy Howell's blog. Mine is not as sublimely engineered as Colin's but it should do the trick. It tips the scales at 36g.

Monday, 15 June 2009

panasonic lumix tz4 camera

I'd become increasingly frustrated with the compact digital camera that I'd been using. The Macro focus mode was a bit wayward and picture quality varied enormously. And there was no way of adjusting for some daylight conditions that resulted in skies being bleached out.

I'd read some favourable reviews of the Lumix TZ5 however a year is a long time in the compact camera world and the TZ5, and it's slightly less appointed stable mate the TZ4, are now out of production.

I wasn't able to find a supplier who had stock of the TZ5 but I did find someone stocking the TZ4, and being a discontinued model I got it at a sizable discount. The main differences between the two being the TZ5 is a 10meg camera with a 3" screen and the TZ4 a 8meg one with a 2.5" screen.

I spent the weekend getting to grips with the camera and it is really simple to use. I need to experiment with the various metering and exposure settings to sort out the dreaded sky bleaching. But for now I'm happy with how it works.

Great colour and detail

Zoom in macro mode

Meter and exposure settings need a tweak

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Thursday, 4 June 2009

backpackers club london pub meet

Pub meet this evening at the Founders Arms, Bankside, I'll be there from 18.30 so drop me a line if you're planning on popping by. Details here.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

pembroke coast path bosterston to ... the final part

Day three – Bosterston to Angle

Not far out of Trevallen the path enters MOD firing range territory which dominates the coast between here and Freshwater West. At St Govan’s Head we made a detour to find the climb that a friend and fellow Marylebone Mountaineering Club member, Marvin, took a fall and lost his life. After a minute of silent remembrance we re-joined the coast path and headed west. Much of the path is military road and is hard going. I’d opted to wear my old faithful Salomons but they were clearly now beyond their useful life as they’d started to make my feet a misery. The wind was beginning to pick up and the open flat limestone cliff tops were an airy place to be. Groups of climbers were seen searching the cliff tops for their chosen climbs and at Huntsman’s Leap we spotted a climber replacing some tat on a climb presumable for a later attempt.

Huntsman's Leap

At Buckspool Down we found a sheltered spot and I hobbled to a halt and stopped for a rest. We had a late (second) breakfast or an early elevensies - whatever it was champion. Body and spirit suitably restored we continued on to Stack Rocks. Here the Elegug Stacks were home to nesting razorbills and just before the fence that marks the boundary of the end of the open access MOD land is the Green Bridge, a natural arch that looks like you could walk over it (if you were that way inclined and allowed).

Elegug Stacks

Here the coast path hits an all time low. From the car park the route follows road all the way through to Freshwater West. My advice to anyone who gets to this point is to get the bus! There are no redeeming features or facilities other than a public loo at Castlemartin. It's a completely dispiriting experience of approx six miles perhaps more of tramping along tarmac. The Nat Trails website glosses over this point, so beware.

The Green Bridge

After 3 miles of stomping along we arrived at Castlemartin and found a bus stop, we had about twenty minutes for the next bus through to Angle. Not wishing to spend the next hour pounding along a fairly busy B road we pulled up and decided to catch the bus. Once on the bus the idea of jumping off at Freshwater West was forgotten about and we stayed on until reaching Angle.

This cheeky short cut meant that we got to our destination ahead of time so we hunted out some supplies, got the low down on Newcastle’s relegation and headed off to the pub to enjoy a late lunch/early supper. With the tent pitched Cheryl and Rick, Penny's friends from Tenby, arrived and whisked her off without a complaint back to the pub whilst I lounged and dozed on my NeoAir.

The south Pembrokeshire coast path between Saundersfoot and Stack Rocks was well worth the trip. There's a good bus service that links to rail services at Tenby and Pembroke so it's possible to do this section without a car.

For now I've had my fill of coastal walking. I've got the trip to the Picos in July and the last bit of the North Downs Way that still needs to be completed. So now for something completely different...

in the loop

Friend and ex-colleague, Darren, has started a blog In The Loop. He'll be blogging about his time walking the London Loop. This circuit of the Metropolis is like the M25 to the Capital Ring's A406. Read about it here.

Monday, 1 June 2009

pembrok coast path - manorbier to ... part two

Day two - Manorbier to Bosterston

The geology had changed during the course of yesterdays walk; the polished limestone protuberances that made the first half the day tough going for the feet gave way to much softer red sandstone and the cliffs changed accordingly; striking vertical strata were to dominate until we reached the limestone that re-emerges at St Govan's Head.

Making good time we followed the coast path dropping gently down into Freshwater East, the sun had been shinning strongly all morning so the chance to grab some shade and a cold drink was welcomed. Climbing out of the resort (and rightly so; I don’t think I saw one building that wasn’t a holiday let) we stopped for lunch on Trewent Point. The prevailing weather revealed in the wind shaped trees.

The path was more overgrown along this section and wound slowly up and down the gentle contour of the coastline until we arrived at Stackpole Quay where we stopped for tea and ice cream. I remembered this place from my first visit to Pembroke six years ago when I stayed at St Petrox. a tiny settlement in land from Bosterston. From the quay we crossed Barafundle Bay and looped around Stackpole head to reach Broad Haven. Here I left my rucksack with Penny and jogged along the side of Bosterston Ponds to the village on a mission to seek out wine, milk and postcard. The service in St Govan’s Inn was how I remembered it; one person serving one hundred customers. I abandoned the jogging for a more careful stroll on the return journey with my precious cargo of rose wine and postcard. Back at the mouth of the ponds I re-joined Penny, stowed the wine, shouldered my pack and we picked our way across the dunes to Trevallen and what was to be the cheapest nights camping of the trip.

pembroke coast path – Saundersfoot to … part one

Penny spent a lot of her early childhood camping over the summer at Trevayn Farm on Monkstone Point and was keen to share the beaches and coast line that she’d spent so much time building sand castles and walking on. I’d only ever been to Pembroke twice in my life, and both these time was within the last six years, so a plan was hatched

We were going to head to Saundersfoot and walk along the south Pembrokeshire coast and see how far we got.

Day one - Saundersfoot to Manorbier

Compared to the section of the South West Coast Path we walked over Easter this was by far a less strenuous affair. And unlike the Devon coast this is more remote with smaller settlements with, in most cases, no or little facilities. Disaster struck as we stopped in Tenby to use the loos, the fly on my TNF meridian zip off trousers failed. Penny made a swift, albeit temporary, repair that lasted until we got to camp. A couple of safety pins did the trick for the rest of the trip.

We followed a well defined path over undulating cliff top covered in an abundance of wild flowers into Manorbier. The resort, which is really the wrong word because there’s no pier or parade of slot machine shops or burger and ice cream vans, is dominated by the castle on one side and the church on the other. We stopped at the pub for a pint of orange and soda, and that classic post walking/climbing combo of salted peanuts and crisps. At the local store we picked up some necessary supplies (milk and wine) and directions to the nearest campsite.

It’s inevitable that coast path walking will mean staying on commercial sites. The plus side is that they’ll have showers and washing up facilities, perhaps a shop with basic items on sale (not a given; grab what you can before you get there). The downside is that you’ll end up camping on the bit where it’s too rough and sloping to make it suitable for caravans next to a extended family intent on drinking a small lake of lager whilst doing an aurally half decent impersonation of a fairground on a Saturday night. And pay full whack for the privilege because they don’t give concessions to minimal carbon footprint makers like backpackers. Earplugs, a good days walk, and half a bottle of wine when combined are a suitable antidote to the above.