Sunday, 15 February 2009

arun canal and river - wisborough green

A quick explore of the area around Wisborough Green, following for the most part the Arun river and canal. The canal was built to link London with the south coast but was never commercially viable so fell into disuse, some of the navigation has clogged and vanished over time.

River Arun

After the snow and rain much of the water meadow that the Wey South Path crosses was waterlogged. With my Seal Skinz in a different part of the country I was destined to get wet feet. Not a problem the sun was shining and as long as I kept moving my feet would stay warm.

Highland cattle on the higher ground

We arrived at Lording's Lock where picnic tables had been placed - an ideal spot to stop and put a brew on. Lunch was a chicken ramen dish; simply a chicken stock cube, brown rice noodles and some dried veg. Some tweaking of the seasoning is required but a useful addition to the lunchtime meal repertoire has been found.

Recently layered hedge

A mile or so later we bade farewell to the canal and headed north back to Wisborough Green.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

layering system update

My post about the clothes that I was planning to wear/take for my romp through the snow attracted some comment, so I thought that I'd feedback on how my system worked.

I've used the twin base layer approach before in deepest winter and it works surprisingly well better I think than using a single heavier weight layer. The TNF Flight T shirt weighs a miniscule 90g and has a tiny pack size. I was able to walk most of the weekend in this combination as there was some glorious sunshine and hardly any wind.

Kitted out

On Sunday morning when there was plenty of cloud cover and a bit of a breeze the TNF Apex shirt came into it's own. It kept off the wind chill and kept in the warmth and when the going got a bit too warm I was able to vent the front without too much difficulty.

The micro fleece was the only item that I didn't wear. My original intention was to use it as an extra layer when walking and as nightwear. However I ended up using it to prevent my water bottle and gas canister from freezing over night.

Hat and gloves went in rotation. The mountain cap was ideal for the cooler parts of the day but I could have done with a power stretch beanie that would have helped prevent my head from chilling at times but this wasn't a major issue. Apart from first thing in the morning or overnight I could have gotten by with just a beanie.

A pair of Extremities windy lite gloves did the trick for most of the trip, with a pair of TNF gauntlet type gloves (a bit of overkill to be honest) being used on Sunday until the sun put in an appearance.

I rarely use thermal leggings but in this case they were welcome. Even when working hard the leggings were always on the right side of comfortable even in the sun. The Red Point jacket was popped on and off at rest stops and kept on in the evenings as you'd expect.

Some useful experienced gained from my selection especially regarding headwear and I'll continue to use the double base layer on chillier days.

Monday, 9 February 2009

three shires way - grendon to yelden

A fresh dumping of snow on Thursday meant conditions were going to be 'challenging.' Thankfully this didn't apply to the north circular and M1 so a trouble free journey was had to our starting point.

A quick recce of the grounds of Grendon Hall failed to turn up any campers, and a flicker of 'perhaps it's been cancelled' entered my mind. The doubt soon disappeared when I put my head around the door of the Half Moon opposite and spotted Frank and a tiny group of others enjoying a beer in front of the fire. Their tents were way back around the rear of the hall apparently. After a swift drink it was back over the road to kick a hole in the snow large enough to pitch the tent.

Saturday morning clear and bright, and the conversations around the tents were on the night time temperature and revision of the proposed route as the going wasn't going to be easy.

Towards Wollaston

We zigzagged fields of snow following the tracks of those few that had going before us heading NE toward to Wollaston, then on to Irchester where a raid was made on the chippy and CO-OP. From there it was SE to Wyminton where the New Inn offered more refreshments, before we dropped further south to pick up the Three Shires Way, which we then followed to Yelden.

West Wood, Three Shires Way

Saturday night's pitch was in the beer garden of the Chequers. There is probably an equation that succinctly sums up the results of having a number of backpackers camped in close proximity to pub but suffice to state my memory is a bit fussy over events of the night. I can however state that it was colder than the previous night, one of my tent pole joints shattered, my boots froze and the pub toilets that were meant to be left open for our use were locked.

The beer garden

The return leg was, for Penny, Ant and I, a retracing of steps along the Three Shires Way to Santa Pod raceway and following field edge footpaths to Podington were lunch was had in a garden centre. And where the three of us caught up with the rest of the group.

Rabbit prints on pristine snow

The Three Shires Way between Santa Pod and the A6 is along the infamous Forty Feet Lane; a horribly rutted usually muddy piece of bridleway, the condition of which was made much worse by ice covered puddles hidden under layers of snow. The use of poles on this stretch was invaluable but they still didn't prevent feet sliding into the murky depths of freezing water. From Podington we headed west as a group to Wollaston and then back to Grendon.

A challenging but enjoyable weekend of winter backpacking, with a winter wonderland back drop.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

layering system

As oft been quoted 'We don't have climate; we have weather.' And over the last few weeks we have experienced some. So with this in mind I thought long and hard about what kit that I might need to be comfortable in when out and about over the coming weekend.

The principle of a layering system is that several layers of clothes fulfil a number of functions; transmit moisture, keep you warm, keep the wind and rain out. And as you have a number of layers you have the flexibility to add or take away one or more to meet the demands of the conditions.

I usually use the five layer system that Chris Townsend has outlined previously; base layer, mid layer, windproof layer, insulation layer and waterproof layer. Depending on the items that make up these layers this system would suffice for most situations. However being cautious and wanting to be comfortable I've decided on some tweaks.

Base layer

Under the usual Berghaus long sleeve top I'll be wearing a North Face Flight T shirt. The T shirt is a good fit so will trap air next to the skin around my body's core without hindering moisture transference. 

Mid layer

I'll wear a Mountain Hardware micro fleece as my mid layer.

Windproof layer

Over the mid layer I will wear a North Face Apex top. The Apex top is a soft shell garment that is wind and water resistant and replaces the windshirt that I would normally pack. I's more breathable and warmer to wear than a thin pertex top, although bulkier and heavier, it's something that's comfortable to wear over a range of conditions. In effect it's a secondary mid layer with added weather resistance.

Insulation layer

I'll be using a primaloft jacket, a North Face Red Point, as a synthetic filled top copes better with damp conditions than a down filled one. The shell material is more robust than the shell material of my other top and is more weather resistant, and has full length zip for more flexible venting. If the weather is particularly harsh I can wear this whilst walking otherwise it will go on at rest or lunch stops, or at the end of the day when at camp.

Rainproof layer

A Marmot Precip jacket and a pair of Golite reed pants complete the layers.

Hats, gloves and gaiters

I've a selection of hats and gloves that I will have to make a decision on before the off. I'll most likely pack a pair of paclite over mitts and windproof gloves, and a Lowe Alpine Mountain Cap (probably the best bit of cold weather gear ever!) Add to these a pair of cheap Outdoor Designs short gaiters and that's me covered.

Monday, 2 February 2009

snow wonder

It's not often that you cant get into work due to the weather, so I spent the day pottering around doing chores before venturing out to take some pictures of the winter landscape.

Ranelagh Drive, under snow and not the
Thames high tide for a change.

Looking north along the Thames
from Richmond Lock.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

fleet pond and holmbury hill

Picked up Ben on Saturday morning and headed off down the M3 to meet Darren and his pack of hounds, on his usual stamping ground of Fleet Pond.

This is an important piece of open space that the area sorely needs. Bounded by busy main roads and a high speed rail line, along with the proximity of an airport it's difficult to find peace here but wander off the much trodden tracks and involve yourself in the resilience of nature and you will be rewarded. Just don't touch anything that looks like a UXB.

A circuit of the pond was made with me carrying Ben on my shoulders part the way back to the car - he'd played an hours football before I'd picked him up so this was allowed. Part way around we stopped at the beach for a brew.

Ben with Strider on the beach.

Eschewing my Bush Buddy for an AGG Pepsi can stove I wanted to reacquaint myself with this type of burner as I am considering taking one to Spain in the summer. This stove works better with wider pans as it has side jets, so I need to pick Darren's brains for a suitable spirit burner that will work with the pots I use in conjunction with my much favoured Bush Buddy.


The weather was billed to deteriorate throughout Sunday and before we headed off to Holmbury St Mary we already had a flurry of snow. Not daunted by this but encouraged by it I was keen to get Ben, Harry and Penny out as soon as I could. From the village green in Holmbury St Mary we headed up a broad bridle way dodging groups of mountain bikers who were making the most of the crunchy mud.

Holmbury Hill fort.

At a crossroads of paths and horse tracks we picked up the Greensands Way and followed this up to the trig and information point at the top of the hill. Cold sharp north easterly winds buffeted us as we took shelter and drank coffee and ate chocolate to fortify our return journey - the sky had grown dark and a shadow that spelt snow was heading our way. No sooner than we had left the hill the air was full of flakes; not large fluffy flakes but fine pin meal, some times star shaped, snow was falling.

Fleeing flurries

Back at the car it was time to head home, the snow had stopped falling and the sky gave no indication of what was to come.