Saturday, 29 August 2015

Friday, 28 August 2015

A day on the beach

Having, in a moment of a major Dawnism, signed up for next months sponsored skinny dip, my immediate concern was the fact I have not done any swimming for many years. Conferring with Mike, who is also doing the dip, we both agreed there was a need for some acclimatisation. After all, the North sea is not the warmest of places to swim.
 Thus it was we headed for the beach on a fairly sunny morning. Ross Back Sands is quite a deserted beach, even on a bank holiday Friday.
We were well prepared with blankets, a stove to make hot drinks and spare warm clothing.With the beach almost devoid of folk, Lucky was allowed to run free. He was overjoyed, racing up and down the beach, running around in circles, giving little barks of excitement. Heading up toward the far end of the beach, we set up our base in the dunes.
We had deliberately chosen to swim on the incoming tide. Unable to prolong the moment, it was down the beach and in to the water. Ankle deep, not too bad. knee deep, brrrr, chilly. A few gasps and squeaks as I inched out further. A large wave rolled in and slapped me in the face. There was no choice, go for it. A plunge into the next incoming wave. A moment of shock at the sudden coldness, a gasp, a brief,  uncoordinated  splashing and then, suddenly, it all came together and I relaxed into a steady breaststroke. A yell to Mike, who was a bit further in toward the beach. Despite the lack of my glasses I could see the big grin on his face. Out of the water, a slow shuffle type sprint up the beach? Hot drinks and a gradual warming up. the process was repeated another five times by me. Mike, after some initial hesitation, ( he is not too keen on putting his head under water) bravely went for it and in fact, he went in a few more times than me.
Well, it seems we can walk the talk. More swimming is to be done but we are going for it. So folks, if you wish to donate toward a worthy cause (MIND) just scroll down to my previous blog and click on the link.
A special thank you to those who already have donated. So far I have raised almost one hundred pounds. It would be great to double that.

Not quite Venus rising from the waves!!

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Skinny Dip

Mike (northernpies.blogspot.com) has quietly been raising cash in aid of the charity Mind. One somewhat amazing thing he has participated in has been the North East Skinny dip. The one downside was that Mike felt a tad awkward being on his own.
Initially I offered to go along to give moral support and hold his towel. However, after some serious thought and feeling it a little unfair to let Mike do all the hard stuff, I also have signed up to do the dip.
For an introvert like me, with many issues, it was a hard choice. However, I am going for it. Anyone wanting to donate a few shekels to a worthy cause may do so on the following link.

http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/dawn-outdoors.blogspot.co.uk

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Cheviot round

E mails had been shuttling back and forth for a while between Mike ( Mike Knipe) and the accordion playing minstrel JJ (John Jocys) and myself. The aim was to arrange for a few days to have a wee wander around the Cheviots.
Thus it was on the Saturday morning Mike collected me and we sped north to Berwick on Tweed. John had travelled up from the Manchester area the day before with his lovely wife Wendy and had parked their caravan in the local caravan park. The aim was to leave the cars at the caravan park with Wendy and travel on to Wooler by bus. Unfortunately, due to health problems Wendy was unable to join us.
After a few cups of tea and a good lunch served from the caravan by JJ, we strolled into Berwick and caught an afternoon bus to our destination. We where not in any particular hurry and enjoyed a leisurely stroll over to the Carey Burn. Rabbits abounded and much to his chagrin, Lucky was forbidden to chase them. We set up camp by the Carey Burn, unfortunately the midges found us. Distance wise we covered roughly an average of six and half miles.
 Sunday morning came with a lovely sunrise and the promise of a good day. Continuing up the Carey Burn, Mike, hardy chap that he is, went for a quick dip in an inviting pool. There is another side to this though, he is once more taking place in the Northumberland skinny dip in aid of charity. A worthy cause and I would urge folk to nip over to his blog and make a donation. (northernpies.blogspot.co.uk)
We continued on to Broadstruther. A once derelict shepherds cottage and recently restored by the estate which owns it. In all probability for use by shooting parties and the like. It now even has a fence around the front. Most likely to ensure the gentry folk can picnic in an area unsullied by sheep droppings?
More wandering onwards saw us stopping for  lunch at the Hawsen Burn,where we were of much curiosity to the local sheep and most trying for Lucky's patience. From there we ambled up the Harthope valley. Even though it was fairly early in the afternoon, we stopped near to Harthope Linn. This early stop was partially down to me having a 'Dawn Moment! Knowing that the valley narrowed significantly further up and spots to camp would be few, I was unsure if I could manage to push on over the border ridge and on to the College valley, as suggested?
We had covered roughly just under seven miles, 6.79.
Monday was another lovely day, how Mike managed to wangle two sunny days is a mystery? John had never been on Cheviot before and thus it was our proposed route. Progress up the valley was upwards and yet more upwards with muddy bits and much criss crossing of the stream.



 We almost lost Mike  when he partially disappeared down a hiker eating hole. It spat him out again and he emerged mud splattered and slightly discombobulated! Progress was slowed a little by me feeling a wee bit wobbly at times. By the time we reached Scotsman's  cairn I was glad we were able to sit down and have some lunch. A sandwich, plenty of fluids, a chocolate bar and a handful of jelly babies finally perked me up. Following the yellow brick road made up of very slabs, we soon made the cairn that denotes the Cheviot.
JJ with a happy smile, have no idea who the chap in the background is.
Our way on now was quite straightforward. Down over Scald hill and around towards Broadhope Hill but turning off on a  path that in places was a tad indistinct in places but led us back to Broadstruther. We camped not far beyond. A distance of approximately 9.05 miles.
Rain was forecast for the Tuesday and sure enough it started early morning. It was an easy walk back to Wooler. A distance of 5.15 miles. From there it was the bus back to Berwick. A pleasant few days wandering.


Friday, 14 August 2015

Trekkertent Stealth 1

A while back I had a couple of tents I was not happy with. In one case there were a few issues with design and so forth. Casting about for something simple and predominantly for use in the warmer months, I came upon Trekker Tents (trekkertent.com). What sparked my interest was the fact it was a small business and based in Scotland.


After further investigation I decided to go for the Stealth 1. It is a sloping ridge tent, high at the front and sloping to the rear. Basic size is 24" at rear or 60cm, consider using a 66cm pole at rear. Height at front is 41 inches and 59 inches wide. Basically there is enough room to sit up in, just.
The original aim of this tent was for cyclists who wanted something light and simple. Initially it comes in grey with a mesh inner with bathtub floor and the basic weight is twenty ounces. There are a few alternative options on offer, a fabric inner and also a choice of colour, I opted for a slightly heavier green 40D silnylon.
To be honest, it was the cost that really clinched it for me. At the basic price of £165, plus a little more cost added for the green fabric. Marc, who makes the tents is very helpful and can be asked to modify or add specific items.

Over the last few months the tent has been used in a variety of weather conditions. How have I found it? Pitching is straightforward. A niggle I had was having a single front pole. This was rectified by using my trekking poles in an A pole configuration, I use an A pole apex, a simple twist loop with front guy line around the ferrules of the trekking poles can suffice. This suits the tent very well and adds stability. The rear pole I use is a 66cm two section pole from 'Bear Bones Bivvy Gear'. Setting up is a matter of pegging out the two rear pegging points, slip  the pole in the grommet at the rear apex and peg out the guy line. Peg out the front two corner pegs, set up either single pole or your two trekking poles and peg out front guy line. A further peg, (I prefer two pegs) for the front porch and basically the outer tent is pitched. The inner is hooked with toggles on two loops on the fly and pegged out on the four corner guys. Some folk have an issue with issue with hooking up the rear of the inner due to the low height. However, why not hook it up when setting up the rear of the tent? For extra stability there are two pegs points mid way on the fly. They do keep the fly taut in windy conditions. There are also two extra guying points midway on each side of the fly. Something I have never put to use.
How does the tent perform? The porch area is surprisingly roomy. There is centre two way zip, thus both panels can be opened out and fastened by a simple loop and toggle system. There is room in the vestibule area to stow a rucksack. The inner tent does not offer a lot of space. There is enough though, I can fit all my bits and pieces in quite well. A tall person may struggle with head height. Obviously all the height is at the front end of the tent. Slightly restrictive but I have managed to dress and pack everything including the inner tent, with the tent battened down due to foul weather. As with all small tents, condensation can occur. Something I carry is a  very small fibre towel. Thus the inside of the fly can be dried off quickly.

 The tent comes seam sealed,  I did have to add a little more on the apex. Probably due to the fact I was using an A pole configuration. It is not supplied with poles or tent pegs. The tent can be pitched with just seven pegs, although I would recommend a minimum of nine. Normally I carry twelve which include a couple of very thin titanium wire type pegs. These are used on the trekking pole wrist straps to prevent the poles shifting.
This tent is what it is, small, compact, light and easy to pitch with a very small footprint. Over the last few months it has stood up well to a mixture of weather, including heavy rain and strong winds. If you want a static tent for campsite use this is probably not the tent for you. It is an ideal tent for the backpacker or cyclist who wants a reliable shelter at the end of a day's walking or cycling. For the ultralight folk, it can be used without the inner, offering an excellent tarp set up.
For the colder, winter months I will be using a slightly larger tent that offers that wee bit more space. The stealth has two stable mates. The Stealth 1.5 and the Stealth 2.
It is worth having a look at what Trekkertent have to offer. A word of caution though. Actual delivery times are slow. Marc has recently had a long bout of illness and is playing catchup with orders plus, I suspect, a lot of popularity for his tents.
A criticism I have heard is that the Stealth tents are copies of Saunders tents. However, ridge tents, in one form or another have been around for an awful long time. In fact they go back centuries if one wishes to be pedantic!
One final note, these are just my personal views on the tent. The tent was purchased by me and I have no association with Trekkertent.
If anyone wants a tent I still have a Nordisk Telemark one going at a very cheap price.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Salter's Road.

The Salter's Road is an ancient trade route. It actually dates way back in the mists of time. However in medieval times, salt was carried by pack horse from salt pans in England to Scotland. Often smuggled to avoid paying taxes. Whisky smugglers, Border Reivers, drovers and many others also used the trackway
My intention was to walk from Thropton the nearest point I could get to on the bus on the Thursday and head across country and on minor roads to Alnham. According to the map this was where the Salter's Road began.  Arriving at the village by midday, a quick bit of lunch was had, aware there was a fair mileage to cover I was a tad anxious to get underway. The footpath I wanted leading out of Thropton looked good. It was a false illusion though. Coming across an adjoining track the path up and vanished. On the map I could see where it ought to go and indeed there was a faint semblance of something leading through  dense, shoulder high grass and thistles. My suspicion was that this was more of an animal trail than human. This was further enhanced when I put up a Roe buck just in front of me. He was not a happy chappy, bounding down the slope to clearer ground, he spun round, stopped, throwing a wee wobbly, stamping his feet and snorting in indignation. Worse, I did not have the camera to hand. In sheer frustration I finally cut up the side of a field and on to the road. All the way across to Alnham constant map reading was required on vague bridleways and illusive footpaths. Mind, I had been warned that some Northumberland footpaths could be rubbish.


Alnham has a tower marked on the map. It is now someone's stately pile, surrounded by walls and trees.
Salter's road is marked as a restricted byway. The climb out of the village was enough to cause wobbly knees. Worse though was the dense vegetation. There is a path, of sorts, but oh my, a machete would have been useful in places. The swarms of flies heightened the sense of frustration. However, once up on to open moorland things eased up. Grazing cattle saw me pushing on to White Gate, ( actually a nondescript wooden one!) Once clear of the cattle I immediately looked about for a spot to camp, settling for an open spot with a stiff breeze to keep the winged beasties away. It had been a long afternoon with  a tad over eleven miles covered.

The weather people had warned of unseasonably low night time temperatures with the possibility of grass frost. They seemed to have got it right, it had been bitterly cold overnight and it had rained heavily too.The morning was still wet, mostly damp, drizzly stuff. Fortunately I was only in waterproofs for an hour or so. Across the moor I could see a shepherd on his quad driving sheep. From where I was I could see a small group of sheep hiding in a dip that had been missed. Trying to get his attention proved difficult. With some quick thinking, I whipped out my whistle and gave it a blast. It caught the dogs attention and in turn the shepherd's. Sheep sorted he came across for a wee natter.
Salters Road.
Dropping down to Ewartly Shank, The way on is on a hard surfaced track. A steep drop and then a long drag uphill by Little Dodd and down once more to Low Bleakhope and the upper Breamish valley. A couple of short, sharp showers came scudding through as I headed up the valley past Upper Bleakhope. (The house was empty).
Looking across to Little Dodd.

The Breamish valley is lovely, climbing up out of it was not so easy going though. A heavy shower saw me scrambling back in to waterproofs once again.

To be honest I was not moving that well. A lot of excuses could be offered, medical issues, age, laziness, whatever? With heavy showers becoming more frequent and the fact that if I pushed on it would mean heading through forestry. Thus it was somewhere by Rushy Sike I stopped. An extremely heavy downpour was the clincher really. A half day of walking with six and a half miles covered.
It was another cold night with heavy showers. By the time I set off it was just damp and mizzly. Hardly enough to warrant waterproofs so I opted for a spot of dampness.

Salters road is waymarked in places. Often popping up in unexpected spots, not always on the junctions of paths and tracks but further on. Thus it was an eye had always to be kept on navigation. This was more so once entering the forestry area where several tracks led off in varying directions. Originally I had been considering a loop down to Uswayford and around. Mulling things over though I was now more in favour of continuing directly on to the border ridge. The clincher was when I saw the turn off path. Well, it was marked as a path, on the ground it appeared more as a tangled mess through dense trees.



There was a lovely moment when, coming up through the forestry it all opened up and ahead was wide open moorland. There followed an easy ascent on to the border ridge itself. Windy Gyle was off to my left but I had no inclination to head off that way.

Instead I followed the ridge line along and eventually up and around to Cairn Hill (Scotsman' Cairn). It was then a descent down to the Harthope valley and camping fairly high. A distance of roughly just over nine miles.
A lovely camping spot, Harthope valley.
More rain overnight and once more a damp start to the morning. It was a fairly straight forward day heading down the valley and around to Wooler. My destination for the night was Highburn House camp site. It is a large caravan park for both statics and tourers but tents are well catered for. A large field area set aside specifically for tents. Rabbits abound all over the place. ( Mike please do not let Lucky read this!) Also squadrons of ducks patrol the area. Mainly staying in the caravan areas. Surprisingly my mileage for the day came out at just under ten miles.
This trip was a day shorter than intended but I am satisfied with it. Not a great number of miles but enough. On the way around I have seen herons, buzzards kestrels and according to the shepherd chappy, a hen harrier, wrens and various other bird life. Also have seen stoats, shrews and deer.
A few more photos.








 An a'patchy tent at campsite??