Wednesday 30 January 2008

Just out of interest

Ok, here I am preaching to the converted (I hope). An interesting fact I picked up the other day. Orange peel, sheep do not eat it, ditto banana skins. It takes on average, six months for it to decompose. Silver foil takes eighteen months to break down. Bits of clothing, textiles, can take 15 years plus. Plastic bags, at the very least, ten years. Aluminium drinks cans can last for eighty five years.
Just on a further point on the legislation issue. With the increasing pressure on the outdoors, places like the Lake District are already sufering. Now I know that many folk deliberately avoid these areas. However, most of the lakes are not far from a car park. There is a trend begining to build up, of people parking up and heading to the hills for an overnighter. Last year for example I bumped in to a group of young lads doing just that. They where going to wild camp for two nights. What really struck me wasthe gear they carried. A couple of axes, large tents, several six packs of booze, a barbeque, ie, one of those that are contained in silver foil. Now, I am not against their concept, per se, however, this surely is where education and legality comes in. These guys where obviously going to party in the great outdoors. Sadly though, they had no idea of any country code, no respect for landowners etc. To them the Lake district was a gigantic theme park. Possibly I chickened out when they starting getting defensive. Their attitude was that I was a boring old woman just wanting to stop their fun. They could not grasp the fact that people lived and worked on the hills and derived their living from the countryside.
This is something I have noticed too when encountering a variety of different youth groups. It was interesting to see how places like Sweden and Norway tackle these problems. They have open access policies that are really amazing. Ok, fine, I concede that they have a lot more space than the UK. One thing though that does stand out. Children, and that includes city kids, are taught respect for the countryside from an early age. Legalise wild camping, yes, most certainly. Also though, draw up a code of conduct, educate, make people aware. Dificult to carry out, I admit, but, surely doing something is better than doing nothing.
Just an added note. There is already a country code, also a mountain code. How hard would it be to add a few simple outlines concerning wild camping. Outoor centres could do a lot in this direction.

Monday 28 January 2008

to be legal

Just recently Darren has put in motion a petition to legalise wild camping in England and Wales. (See his blog pages, Weird Darren 1066) Basically, at present anyone camping outside of campsites in hill districts and away from civilization, is in breach of the law. Many who enjoy the freedom of camping high in the hills already have willingly, electronically signed. However, there are a few detractors; a minority who argue that it will not be benifitial. They maintain that it will increase vanalism,abuse etc. Somehow I doubt it.In Scotland I have seen mountain bothies that have suffered vandalism, indeed some have been closed due to this. There are bothies I have visited where the surrounding area is festooned with toilet paper and human excreta is a hazard. A few bothies get used by individuals and groups as fixed bases. All these things contravene the bothy code. Does that mean that ALL bothies ought to be closed because of a minority who abuse? Of course not. The hills see an increasing pressure, litter in popular regions is a problem, as is erosion. Deep, wide scars on the hillside and trails of tissues, sweet wrappers, fag ends, are an eyesore. The Lakes in summer have such an influx of visitors that on some of the tops visitors have to queue to stand on some tops. Will visitors be banned, no, of course not. The powers that be work hard to combat and tackle these problems. Often it comes down to educating people, making them more aware of their responsibilties.
The majority of us who wild camp act sensibly and with respect. personally I have wild camped on hill, moor and coast. Stealth camping on occasion. Pitching late and moving on early. Leaving no trace of my passing. Even on my last trip, on the final evening I camped close to civilization out of sheer necessity; less that a quarter of a mile from houses. However, I knew that no one had recently been on the rough track where I had pitched; no tire tracks or footprints, everything quite overgrown.
The point is that the onus of responsibilty is on everyone who takes a tent on the hill or bivis. There have been places where I have wild camped and found crushed beer cans stuffed in dry stone walls, orange and banana peel carelessly discarded. it is surprising how long it takes for banana skins and peel to bio degrade down. The high percentage of genuine hill goers act with sensitivity and respect. There is an unwritten code, take all rubbish out, if you carry it in, be prepared to carry it out. Dig a scatch hole for when you have to go; if you can, burn toilet paper, or at least, make sure it is well buried; once more, it takes a long time to degrade. Maybe I am speaking to the converted but it is a case of education, passing on our skills and knowledge to others who are starting out. The maxim of 'travel lightly and leave no trace' must be applied.
There is also a chance that this may prove benefitial to landowners, if we are prepared to act in accordance with those who manage and work the land, a mutual respect may over time develop. In Scotland where wild camping is permitted, at times of the year parts of the hill are closed for the stalking season. By complying with the locals and avoiding those areas, I have found that many stalkers and gillies are open and friendly. An added benefit is that these same people have a wealth of local knowledge which can be an advantage. Personally I have known stalkers who suggested ways through the hills that have been unmarked on the map, they know delightful little spots that are ideal for a wild camp. Also their local knowledge can be a major asset in a rescue situation.
For those who wish to appose or detract from this act being brought before parliament I would say, think carefully. The hills are there for all, people have wild camped for many years and will continue to do so illegally or legally. Yes, a small minority will abuse it. The high majority of us who do wild camp, act with great respect, we travel lightly on the land, camp discreetly and leave no trace of our passing and that is as it ought to be for all. Think on.

Saturday 19 January 2008


Despite the contradiction, in that I mentioned on one of Darren's blog that beef was beyond my cost; jerky can be benifitial on the hill. Thus when in Tesco a couple of days back I saw, on special offer, healthy eating steak, I grabbed some. It was fat free and thinly sliced; ideal for making jerky. The marinade was basic, teriaki a drop of soy, mixed herbs, a pinch of salt, ditto garlic salt, pepper and an interesting twist, molasses sugar. Somewhere I had read of maple syrup being used and decided to give it a try. In fact it has worked out well.There is a certain piquent taste that is quite nice. Thus now I have almost 1Lb of jerky for a a few days on the hill. One fly in the ointment, I have a trapped nerve in my neck and am in pain at the moment. Rather than keep swallowing pain killers I have made the desperate move of contacting a physio. Once again, something that really I cannot afford. However, time I see a gp and then be recommended for a nhs physio, it would involve many months of waiting. So, of to a private physio this evening. If he sorts the problem out it will be fity quid well invested

Friday 18 January 2008


Well the lakes trip never happened. To be honest it was cost. To be paying around £80 for just two or three days away was not justifiable. That money is now funelled to a forthcoming Trip to the far north.
Watching the news this evening, in regards to Gordan Brown's visit to China. It makes me feel very uncomfortable and extremely uneasy. China is the rising super power. In that there is no doubt. Here though are top western business people, world leaders and so on all ensuring they are the best of pals. Money talks and China is the monied nation. Human rights, of which China has an appalling record, is swept under the carpet.
It may be asked, what has this to do with the outdoor scene. A lot really, look at the label on the majority of your equipment and you will see it is made in China. My Golite hex is an example, my smart wool thermals is another. That causes me concern and unfortunately I am unable to see a way around it. Unless we boycot almost every supplier and return to the dark ages of hill walking, dressing in British made ventile jackets etc what can we do?

Thursday 10 January 2008

Weather watching

Originally it had been my intention to be away on Monday of this week. However, a last minute change of appointments meant it would be on the Wednesday. Travelling by public transport in winter in the lakes is a little more confined. By studying of the maps I came up with a plan. Wednesday morning was an early rise at 6am. A last minute check of the hill forecast, made me pause. The forecast for Thursday was bad, very bad. Sleet, snow, rain and worse, high winds, with the possibility of gusts hitting 80mph. There was little sense in being out in those conditions. So, back to bed. The way things look at the moment maybe tomorrow, (Friday) and return on Monday or Tuesday. If I do go tomorrow it is going to be tight. My intention is to travel in to Ravenglass and head out from there. One snag is that I cannot be there before 1500hrs. That leaves me with little daylight to cover a few miles out on to the hill and camp.