Paramo Ladies’ Andina Jacket Review

I’ve had a Paramo Ladies’ Velez Adventure Light Smock waterproof jacket for many years and it’s terrific. Even in the worst of heavy downpours it’s never failed and, after many winters, it still looks like new. My main, rather major, problem is that I overheat in it. The smock doesn’t have a full length zip or sleeve vents. So unless there’s ice on the ground it stays on the coat hook.

So I’ve taken the plunge and bought a Paramo Ladies’ Andina Jacket to replace the smock. The Andina is designed for walkers and backpackers with “demanding levels of activity”. It isn’t Paramo’s lightest waterproof jacket (that’s currently the Mirada) but it does have a map pocket and mesh-lined shoulders and back (for when you’re wearing a rucksack) which the Mirada doesn’t have.

Here’s Paramo’s video about the Andina…

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Colour:

I have the lavendar/cobalt version which, in my opinion, is the only decent colour it comes in. The Andina also comes in pink/purple, bright red, or er… another red. Luckily “lavender/cobalt” is just light/dark blue. Due to the nature of Paramo fabrics and the bright colour the Andina in blue is a bit ‘shell suitey’, but only a bit.

Size:

The Velez in Large is generous on me but in the Andina it fits perfectly with room for a medium weight insulation layer underneath. (I usually wear a UK size 12 or 14.)

Weight:

The Andina in L weighs 675g on my scales. (My smock weighs 615g.) So this isn’t a light jacket. However it feels robust and if I don’t have to take my jacket off then I don’t mind it weighing a bit more which brings us to…

Breathability:

Recently I hiked up and down Offa’s Dyke with a 10kg backpack in typical autumn weather, hot sun one minute and cold wind/rain the next. Everyone I met had been playing jacket-off-jacket-on all day and yet I hadn’t felt so hot I had to take off my Andina. When it got too hot I unzipped the front and generous sleeve/torso zips. When I reached the windy top, in cloud and rain, I zipped everything up.

The breathability of fabrics is something clothing manufacturers like to go on about and I do believe in the technology, to a point. There’s nothing more breathable than an open zip which is where the Andina excels compared to the Velez.

Comfort:

One of the benefits of paramo jackets is that the waterproof fabric is soft and quiet. It’s also windproof and, obviously, waterproof. Plus, in the case of the Andina especially, the jacket and hood are well designed for comfort even during activity. The Andina doesn’t hinder movement at all, is nice and long at the back, and has a well fitted hood with extra room in case you have long hair. Additionally it has practical pockets. Although the ‘valuables’ pocket is too small for my smart phone that fits in the map pocket and the 2 hand warming pockets are perfect for hands (or dog biscuits and keys). I’m so comfortable wearing this jacket that I’ve worn it pretty much every day since I got it.

Waterproofness:

I got the chance to test the Andina’s waterproofness in the Chilterns last weekend when autumn threw everything she had at us and I stayed warm and dry. Now, the caveat is that this is a brand new jacket. The DWR coating is new and still working as it should. Paramo jackets need regular washing and reproofing (like any waterproof) so only time will tell if this jacket is as waterproof as my Velez. I’ll update this post with how it performs over time.

Feature list:

  • Uniquely shaped hood to accomodate hair comfortably, fully adjustable with wired peak to protect vision.
  • Large sleeve/torso vents for rapid on-the-move cooling with minimal rain ingress.
  • Fully articulated shoulders and elbows for maximum freedom of movement.
  • Pump Liner reinforcement on shoulders and back for extra protection when load carrying or in heavy rain.
  • Reflective strip (front and back) for improved visibility.
  • Internal secure zipped pocket.
  • Internal map pocket.
  • Two hand-warming pockets, easily accessible during activity.
  • Two-way zip with internal storm flap.
  • Long sleeves for protection with cuffs that are easily pushed or rolled up.
  • Generous length with scooped tail to protect lower back.
  • Hem drawcord for easy temperature control.

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My Backpacking Gear May 2014

I’ve written this blog post because… everyone else is doing it!

Osprey Exos 46 backpack.

Backpack:

I’m currently using an Osprey Exos 46 to carry my gear. The Exos has been updated this year and I picked up this, older version, in a sale. I actually prefer it as there’s plenty of room for all my gear and the newer version has a capacity of 48 litres rather than 46 and hence is heavier. The large number of outside pockets makes grabbing things on the run nice and easy. I keep my waterproofs, the tent, a drinks bottle, snacks, cash, and first kit all on the outside of my bag so that the gear I don’t use during the day is safely tucked away in a waterproof liner in the main compartment and doesn’t get disturbed.

It’s not the lightest backpack on the market (I have the “S” back size and it weighs just over 1Kg) but it does have a solid frame and is of the build quality you’d expect from a company like Osprey. Besides 1Kg is a very reasonable weight. (You’ll notice this is a running theme with my gear: not the lightest but still, reasonably light.) Osprey don’t make a women’s specific version of the Exos but I’ve found this unisex version very comfortable. Some people criticise Osprey for adding too many features which raise the weight unnecessarily. In the Exos I quite like the gimmicks. You can get a drinks bottle out of the side pocket and stow your trekking poles without stopping.

One thing I’ve noticed to be a particularly British trait is to keep the tent on the outside of the bag. This enables pitching in the rain before opening up your rucksack and packing everything away inside the tent on a rainy morning, minimising gear getting wet and/or dropped in mud. It’s a mystery why Brits in particular would be mindful of this. I keep the tent pegs in an outside pocket, the poles in the side pocket, and the tent itself attached to the bottom of the rucksack.

There’s one waterproof liner in the main compartment, a Exped 40L Folding Ultralite Drybag, and some smaller waterproof bags in the outside pockets.

Wild Country Zephyros 1 tent.

Tent:

*** This tent had a failure! Please read blog post Terra Nova Customer Service ***

I wrote about it in my last blog post and here it is again, the Wild Country Zephyros 1. I’ve done some research and can’t find a better deal on a reasonably light solo 3-season tent. I’d like to replace mine with the updated, lighter version but for now it does the trick. My set-up weighs about 1.5Kg including pegs, poles, and bag. (The new version is approx. 300g lighter.)

I don’t bother with a groundsheet. The tent was so cheap and the floor so tough I don’t worry about putting a hole in it, I can always patch it if I do.

Top Row: Toakes Ultralite Solid Fuel Ti Cook System (stove, mug, windshield (not shown), Thermarest NeoAir Xlite Women’s Mattress. Middle Row: Sawyer Mini Water Filter, Headphones, Titanium Folding Spork, 2 x 12″ Nite Ize Gear Ties, Swiss Army Knife, Petzl e+lite Headtorch. Bottom Row: Decathlon Inflatable Pillow, Platypus 500ml Water bottle.

Stove:

Experts say that there are 3 big items you should focus on to reduce the weight you’re carrying. Firstly the backpack itself, secondly the tent, and thirdly the stove. In this third category I’m doing pretty well. My favourite stove is a titanium solid fuel stove, a titanium mug, and a titanium windshield weighing in total about 100g. (Pictured above top left.) It’s made by Toakes and sold as the “Ultralite Solid Fuel Ti Cook System” and it comes with a titanium folding spork and some little bags to keep everything in. It’s only good when I’m solo backpacking due to the size of the mug/pot but it’s a lovely little set-up.

Mountain Equipment Xero 550 down sleeping bag, occupied.

Sleeping System:

Currently I’m using a Mountain Equipment Xero 550 down sleeping bag which weighs 1.04Kg on my scales. I really could do with a lighter one for the summer. Currently it’s used as a quilt in the warmer weather or paired with an Alpkit bivi bag for sub-zero temperatures.

A Thermarest NeoAir Xlite inflatable mattress (355g) and an inflatable pillow from Decathlon which was stupidly cheap and works really well (81g) finish off my sleep system and altogether they’re extremely comfortable.

Viewranger app with OS map and route tracking running on Samsung Galaxy Note 3.

Other Bits and Pieces:

Those are the key items but obviously there are lots of other things in my backpack. I mainly use Viewranger maps on a Samsung Galaxy Note 3 as a GPS. There’s an mp3 player and headphones to help me sleep if a campsite’s noisy. A spare water carrier (either a 1L or 2L Source collapsable water container), lighter, money, toiletries, etc.

In terms of clothes I take a lightweight Rab waterproof jacket and, if rain is forecast, waterproof trousers. In the summer months I wear a Tiley hat to keep the sun out of my eyes and the rain off my head. In the winter I’ll take a warm hat, gloves, buff, and merino thermal layers. Wet feet on a weekend in Norfolk taught me to always pack a dry pair of socks. Recently I’ve added a cheap pair of cotton shorts to the list to wear inside my tent when my walking trousers are particularly wet and muddy. I also have a Rab insulated down vest that packs down very small and is a real comfort on a chilly evening.

Well there you have it, my kit list. In total it weighs about 6Kg before I add water, food, and fuel for the stove. Definitely not ultra-lightweight but it is on the lighter end of the scale. I’m too fond of my comfort items (mp3 player, tent socks, pillow) to ever get down to ludicrously lightweight so I’m reasonably happy with my reasonably lightweight set-up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quechua Forclaz 300 Women’s Hiking Jacket Review

What Decathlon say:

Protection from the rain and wind, and keeping your body dry while MOUNTAIN HIKING. Waterproof, breathable, and ventilated, the Forclaz 300 L has all the essential properties of an authentic trekking jacket at an absolutely unbeatable price.

  • Waterproofing: 5000mm waterproof NOVADRY membrane. 100% taped seams.
  • Breathability: NOVADRY hydrophilic membrane (RET=12) limits condensation inside the garment.
  • Ventilation: Underarm ventilation zips: aid perspiration wicking.
  • Flexibility: Hood folds into the collar.
  • 2 year guarantee.

It also has the following features.

  • Two reasonably sized hand pockets with zips.
  • Inside pocket with zip.
  • Storm flap over main front zip.
  • Adjustable cuffs via velcro tabs.
  • Adjustable bottom via pull-cord.
  • Adjustable, peaked hood with draw-cord
  • Soft collar and chin protecting fabric over top of zip.
  • L size = 461g

At the time of writing, for sale for £44.99. I bought the jacket on offer for £39.99.

I bought this waterproof jacket for the warmer months to replace my Paramo Velez Adventure Light Smock which is just far too hot and heavy to carry in the Summer. After hunting around and doing some research I’d actually decided I wanted the Rab Kinetic or the Marmot Crystalline.

The Kinetic weighs 220g and the Crystalline 176g! Obviously both much lighter that the Forclaz 300 (461g). However the Kinetic (at the time of hunting) cost £128 and the Crystalline £120 and neither jacket was available to buy in the colour and size that I wanted. So, on the spur of the moment whilst passing time in Decathlon, I bought the Forclaz 300. It was on sale and looked like a bargain.

The Good Stuff:

  • Features of a modern high-end waterproof (see list above) in a cheap jacket.
  • A very flattering and comfortable jacket. Long at the back, fitted at the waist (but not too tight). Long sleeves to keep hands dry.
  • Loose sleeves that can be pushed up or cinched tight. (I can’t stand elasticated wristbands.)
  • Excellent hand pockets for hands or bits and bobs. Also a good-sized inside pocket with a zip that takes a smart phone.
  • The pit zips, sorry “underarm ventilation zips”, are excellent and easy to use one-handed.
  • The colour. My Mum thinks it’s a bit bright but I love the turquoise blue. Reminds me of the seaside.
  • The price. Quite honestly, if I lost or ripped this jacket tomorrow I wouldn’t shed a tear.
  • It’s waterproof!  Like the Quechua tents this jacket is, so far, bombproof.

The Bad Stuff:

  • The hood isn’t perfect. On my Paramo I can move my head around and the hood moves with me and the peak is excellent. On the Forclaz there’s a bit of movement and the peak isn’t ideal.
  • The weight. At 461g it’s not particularly light but then it’s still about 200g lighter than my Paramo and it packs down to about 2/3rd the size.
  • I imagine this isn’t as breathable as a more expensive jacket? I ask this as a question as it’s never something that’s been a particular problem for me since the cagoule I had back in the 80s.

In Summary: I’m really pleased with it. If I could have sourced and afforded a Rab or a Marmot jacket I would have bought one but all my extra money would be getting would be less weight and a smaller pack-size. In terms of features the Forclaz 300 is an excellent waterproof for a remarkably low price.

Aside: It took a month and a half for me to test the waterproofness of this jacket because from the moment I bought it all rain clouds were repelled from me. Including during a weeks walking on Dartmoor! For me that’s worth £40 alone 😉

Berkshire backpack – Uffington to Lambourn.

 

 
Back in 2010 I heard about the Backpacker's Club and joined. It seemed obvious to combine two of my favourite activities, walking and camping. 2011 saw us making plans but we got a puppy which grounded us until he was tent trained. All the time I kept reading of backpacker's adventures in the club magazine. Daydreaming of getting outdoors with everything needed for an adventure in my rucksack.
 

This year I was determined to make it happen. Unfortunately the club didn't have any events in my neck-of-the-woods that I was free to attend. Searching for inspiration I asked on the forum. Tony Wilson and Darren Tipper suggested the Uffington to Lambourn weekend David Topley had put together in 2008. It looked perfect. Not too far between the campsites (7 miles), easy walking along the downs, and with ancient monuments on the way.

Talking about my plans on the club's Facebook page generated a fair bit of interest for exactly the same reason I'd not been able to make a club meet, not much on in the South East in June. So, from just an idea, all of a sudden my Berkshire backpack was an official club event. My first backpack and my first club meet. What had I done?! However, after emailing the local county liaisons, and Tony, and Darren, I received so much support in reply that my fears were allayed. Also using David's weekend as a basis for mine made it very easy to arrange.

In preparation, my husband, our two dogs, and I did a few training walks. Packing our Lightwave Wildtrek rucksacks with our lightest tent and everything we thought we'd need. Surprisingly it was easy to carry the load, probably because our rucksacks are so well designed. Thanks to blogpackinglight for the review that sent us in Lightwave's direction.

 
Before I knew it, it was Friday the 22nd of June and we were driving to Uffington. Rather than using the motorway we took the scenic route through Streatley and Wantage. It was a beautiful evening and a lovely drive. We arrived at Britchcombe Farm to find everyone already pitched and friendly greetings were exchanged. Geoff Gadsby had been knocked over by a car walking to the site but was okay apart from a few scrapes and a sore wrist. The car only stopped to make sure he was still moving before driving off! He'd pitched his tarptent at the bottom of the hill out of the wind. The rest of us braved the cold wind in the top field and we all enjoyed the beautiful sunset.
 
 
Britchcombe Farm's a surprisingly big site with multiple fields, portaloos, water taps, and (in most fields) campfires allowed. Up at the farm there's a washing up area and a shower and I saw a sign for teas. It was £7 per person (which I collected & handed in Friday night) and we were allowed to leave the cars Saturday night for a small donation to their favourite charity. The best bit is their proximity to the Ridgeway although the footpath to get there from the farm is pretty vertical!
 
 
Saturday morning dawned bright and clear with sunshine. Geoff Gafford arrived early to join us and we packed up and, in a number of small groups, headed South towards the Ridgeway and Uffington's White Horse. It was perfect walking weather. A cool breeze, sunshine and intermittent light showers. My husband, Nev, and I stopped at Waylands Smithy for a bite to eat after wandering around Uffington Castle and admiring the view North from the White Horse.
 
 
We took a footpath South, West of the Lambourn Downs Way path. Unfortunately the path disappeared under waist high crops and we ended up having to force our way through for a few kilometers. Exhausting hot work until we reached a small copse of trees where the path became clear again. There we stopped and brewed up some hot chocolate and attacked the jelly babies.
 
 
The way was much easier after that and we made good progress towards Lambourn, meeting friendly locals on foot and horseback on the way. Despite big black clouds and heavy rain in the distance we kept missing the showers and arrived at Farncombe Farm at 3.30pm after walking a total of 10 miles. Anne and Donald were already there enjoying afternoon tea and we pitched our tent nearby and did the same. Later on, after a much longer trek (in some cases including pub and chips), Geoff, Geoff, Grant, Frank, and John arrived too.
 
We were joined at Farncombe by a large group of DoEers. They pitched in another field and were no trouble at all. Liz and her family are terrific. They left their back door unlocked so we could use the house toilet so we wouldn't have to share with the school girls. A very welcoming site and at £4 a night a bargain too. I collected the damage from everyone and took it to SaraJane at the house, who was looking after the campsite for the weekend. Lambourn village is a bit of a trek down narrow country roads 2km away so we all settled in for the night and, as it got dark, the rain and wind arrived. Luckily the hatches were battened down. Grant was under his green handkerchief but was still there in the morning, along with a little group of black beetles who'd decided his tarp was the best place to shelter during that wild night.
 
 
Sunday morning, just in time for breakfast, the weather cleared up and we all headed off together, taking the most direct route back to Uffington. Once again it was a clear day with great visibility, windy with dramatic dark clouds on the horizon that we never caught up to. We walked along the gallops on the Lambourn Valley Way. Stopping for a snack in a lovely grassy spot where Don found the perfect sitting stone. Eventually we strung out as everyone walked at their own pace enjoying the fresh air and long views.
 
By lunchtime we were back at Britchcombe Farm picking up the cars and saying our goodbyes. It was such an enjoyable weekend I immediately decided to do it again as soon as possible. I can't thank the attendees enough and the other club members who offered advice and support for my first meet. Extra thanks go to Donald Betts who picked up Anne Ling at short notice when her lift fell through. It wouldn't have been the same without her. Backpackers are an easy-going and independent lot so it's very simple to arrange a meet. Low maintenance! I urge anyone whose thinking of having a go to do it, especially if you're in the South of England 😉
 
 
More photos here.
 

 

Surprising Kit! Merrell Siren Sport Trainers

Yesterday I cleaned my walking trainers. This is a rare event but after a 7 mile bimble along the Ridgeway with @krider2010 my shoes were 2 heavy bricks of brown mud. These are shoes that get worn for dog walks, supermarket trips, pub outings, and long treks. They’re unappreciated, used, and abused daily.

Hence when they came out of the washing-up bowl looking remarkably healthy I was surprised enough to blog about them.

They’re are a pair of Merrell Siren Sport GTX (Gore Tex) bought in late 2010. Actually they’re replacements for the originals I bought in early 2010.

My first pair of Siren Sports cracked on the edge where my toes flex and did so well within a year. This crack led to water seeping in otherwise I wouldn’t have noticed as they were extremely comfortable. In fact, when brand new, I rather stupidly wore them for a long walk in the Brecon Beacons and amazingly suffered not a single blister.

Luckily I’d kept the receipt for this original pair and Cotswold Outdoor were more than happy to swap them. At the time they didn’t have anything else that fitted so I ended up with another pair of Sirens despite my concern that these too would fail within a year. However they’ve survived so I can only assume the originals had a fault or Merrell redesigned the shoe in 2010.

Looking at my current, now clean, pair I can see hairline cracks at the sides where my toes flex and the sole has worn down on one heel. The lining is still remarkably waterproof. The Ridgeway was covered with giant brown puddles (in a drought, in June) and it was only when water flooded over the top of my foot that I got a soggy sock. (At the time our tiny Jack Russell Chihuahua was practically swimming so I wasn’t surprised.)

 

Hopefully they’ll be around for a while yet but, when they eventually go to shoe heaven, I’ll be buying another pair. Merrell are still selling them and I’ve included some marketing bumpf below.

“A Siren that sounds the alarm when the weather comes up bad, and keeps pace with the worst it can throw out. Mesh upper backed by GORE-TEX® membrane has the highest level of breathability while being completely waterproof without any unwanted bulk-up. Narrow gauge webbing and synthetic leather strapping provide support while anchoring speed lacing. Underneath it’s all about cushioning and alignment, with proprietary Merrell® Air Cushion matched to QForm® stride-centering.

UPPER/LINING
• Strobel construction offers flexibility and comfort
• Synthetic leather and mesh upper
• Bellows tongue keeps debris out
• GORE-TEX® Extended Comfort Footwear lining keeps feet dry and comfortable
• Lining treated with Aegis® Antimicrobial solution maintains foot comfort
• Ortholite® Anatomical Footbed

MIDSOLE/OUTSOLE
• Molded nylon arch shank
• QForm® Comfort midsole provides women’s specific stride-sequenced cushioning
• Merrell Air Cushion in the heel absorbs shock and adds stability
• 5 mm Sole lug depth
• Vibram® Siren Song Sole/TC5+ Rubber

UK Women’s Sizes: 4-8 full sizes only
EUROPE Women’s Sizes: 36-42
Weight: 11.5oz (326g)”

http://www.merrell.com/UK/en-GB/Product.mvc.aspx/15393W/43928/Womens/Siren-Sport-GORE-TEX

(I have size 6, narrow feet, with a prominent arch. I find Merrell shoes to be very comfortable and, for example, Keen shoes to be way to wide for me. Getting shoes that fit properly is as much dependent on whether the manufacturer’s styles suit your shape of foot as anything else. In other words, your milage may vary and, if you can, try on shoes in a good outdoor store with a personal fitter. My pair weigh 720g in comparison to the 326g quoted by Merrell but they are an older design and a size 6 rather than a size 4…)

Team Dogface News Update

Over the last few months Team Dogface have enjoyed some fantastic training walks together in some fab weather. If you follow my twitter account you’ll have seen some stats and pics (@sahfenn).

Unfortunately, in the last week, it’s been confirmed that I won’t be doing the 40km Just Walk event with Team Dogface’s other members in May.

We picked up a new family member Easter weekend. An 8 week old puppy! Originally we believed that we could pick him up after Just Walk but sadly the way things turned out that wasn’t possible.

Puppies going into a new home obviously need to spend quality time with their new family to bond. Leaving Mum and litter mates is a big experience and needs to be handled gently. They need a comforting yet firm hand, a steady routine with the same faces. They’ve got no bladder control so need to be taken out for wee breaks frequently. Until he’s had his second set of vaccinations at 10 weeks he can’t go out in public and if we stop watching him for one minute he chews on the furniture, the carpet, my feet…


Puppyface can be left alone for short periods but, as the walk requires a sleep-over near Goodwood Friday and Saturday nights, one of us needs to stay at home to care for him.

I’m disappointed, especially after training for this. It’s a mental challenge to drop out without feeling like a drop-out. I’ll be there in spirit of course. I’m still part of Team Dogface (I have the t-shirt after all) and will be providing lots of e-moral support over the weekend to Nev, Janine, and Paul from afar. I hope they have an absolutely fantastic walk. I’m exceptionally proud of our team.

“May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.”

Additionally I’m forming a plan to walk the route later in the year with our two dogs once pup’s old enough. They won’t be able to do it all in one go as Dogface has a weak kneecap and Puppyface will be too young for a long trek but it would be meaningful to me to walk in Nev, Jay, and Paul’s footprints across the South Downs with two furry members of Team Dogface even if that means splitting it over a few days.

A good start in life helps a puppy grow up to be a happy and lovable dog. Sadly not every 4-legged friend gets a good puppyhood and this is why we’re raising funds for the Dogs Trust. If you haven’t already, please consider helping us reach our target…

http://bit.ly/teamdogface.

Stay tuned for reports and pics from this year’s Team Dogface Just Walk 40km event as I’ll be posting them here and via Twitter as usual and please join me in wishing Nev (@nevillefenn), Janine (@theramblingduck), and Paul (@loop_pool) happy walkies.

Go Team Dogface!

Walking: The (not so) New Forest

The Knightwood Oak. Photo by Neville Fenn.

Our recent camping holiday in the New Forest wasn’t all lounging around eating and drinking. We also went pottering around the woods a bit. September is a very beautiful time of the year to visit. The trees are in their full end of Summer glory and everything is green and vivid.

We completed a couple of planned walks along with lots of unplanned wanderings. The first was a short walk based on a leaflet available for £1.50 (available from the New Forest Centre in Lyndhurst). No. 2 Knightwood Oak. 2 miles long and an estimated duration of 1hr 20 mins.

The walk starts near the over 500 year old ‘Knightwood Oak’ which is reputed to have been visited by Henry VIII when he hunted in the forest. It’s big. I mean really big. I mean so big that you look up and realise the branches at the top are the size of trees. Dogface was unimpressed. He scratched, he weed, he wanted to keep moving.

Next up is the New Forest reptile centre. Nev saw a frog, I saw nothing. It’s…um…a good place to stop for a slurp of water and a snack bar and use the facilities…and it’s free!

The woods after the reptile centre were particularly beautiful. Great conifers towering into the sky. Hard to look at the tops let alone get a photo.

All in all it was a pleasant, well written short walk.

Our next planned outing was a walk from Hollands Wood campsite to Lyndhurst and back. A round trip of 7 miles according to the GPS. The woods North of the campsite are absolutely gorgeous. In particular a hillock called King’s Hat, which is one of our favourite places in the forest. The paths are wide and clear and the going is relatively easy. We find a GPS an absolutely requirement though. There are no landmarks in the forest and one path looks much like another. Unlike walking on a moor or a hillside it’s very easy to get turned around and completely lost. A map and a compass just doesn’t cut it. Quite often the paths on the OS map don’t match up with reality as over time the footpaths move around fallen trees but the GPS tells you exactly where you are.

We saw a few ponies in the forest but always managed to keep our distance with Dogface. Didn’t see any pigs which are apparently let out this time of year to eat the acorns. Good thing too as I think a pig encounter may have put Dogface off nature for life.

(Photo by Neville Fenn.)

When we reached Lyndhurst we collapsed on a bench outside the pub next to the Maserati and Ferrari garages and enjoyed a coke and a half pint respectively. Then did some shopping and then walked round the corner to The Crown Stirrup pub, open all day for food! We are big fans of this pub. The staff are friendly, dogs are welcome, they have great local beers, and the food is AMAZING. See exhibit A below…

When I say dog friendly I mean the barmaid came out with a dog bowl of water for Dogface and some biscuits when we arrived having, obviously, been walking. The other great thing about the Crown Stirrup is that they have a back gate out of their garden straight into the forest and the paths back to the campsite so you can walk off lunch heading back to the tent!

Okay, so the walking was also punctuated with some eating and drinking too. Good times 🙂

Walking around Avebury

Last Sunday we decided to do one of the walks from the August issue of Country Walking magazine. A 8.5 mile walk around Avebury in Wiltshire. We got up at 6am and flew down the motorway, arriving there in an hour after what was a breeze of a journey. Motorways are lovely when they’re empty.

We parked at The Red Lion pub in Avebury. It’s a Pay-and-Display car park these days. £5 for all day parking redeemable if you eat at the pub. We assumed we’d be having lunch there and so didn’t give it too much thought. Used the public toilets before we started and they were filled with rubbish. Also noticed a planning permission sign on them saying they were going to be demolished to make way for a cafe. Whole area seemed a bit run down and scruffy.

Anyway, once we started walking everything changed. Perfect weather for it! Cloudy and warm, with a cool breeze and the occasional spot of rain to stop us from overheating. We kept being overtaken by runners and cyclists up the long climb from the village. They’re just show-offs of course and we WERE stopping to take lots of photos.

Dogface was happily running around on the long chalk Wessex Ridgeway path. Although there’s a farm at the start of the path and cows around, the fences are sound and the path is wide. So it gave him a chance to be off the lead and get the bounce out of his system before reaching Overton Down.

Lots of sheep after we crossed the Ridgeway. So Dogface was on the lead and we were mindful of where we trod. Beautiful views across the downs and lots of photos were taken. We chatted about our Ridgeway walk planned for next year and sun and wind directions, considering the best direction to walk it.

At ‘beech circle’ (on the OS Explorer 157) we turned North off the main path. This was the point where our Satmap Active 10 Plus GPS died. The screen faded, faded, faded, and then turned to black. Oh dear. This is what happened to our last GPS that died with the damming coincidence that I was holding both when they gave up the ghost! Luckily we’re belt and braces walkers so we had a map and a compass and my iPhone (includes GPS and maps when there’s a tiny bit of signal). With all three and Dogface finding the paths and avoiding the ant hills we trudged up the hill to Totterdown Wood. Great views from the top and a stop for water and humbugs.

Aside – When we returned home Nev examined the Satmap charger. The plug part hadn’t been pushed far enough onto the charger (til it clicked) and so the connectors weren’t touching. This leads us to believe that while we thought we were charging the GPS we were doing absolutely nothing at all and all that happened was that the battery died. Currently testing this theory by using it around home. Also made a note to always carry spare batteries no matter how short the walk.

Rest of the walk was pretty uneventful except for one diversion where we walked up to a farmer’s front door. Kind lady came out and pointed us in the right direction while her dogs shouted at us furiously. We’d totally missed the sign on the gate that said, ‘not a right of way’ and gone left rather than straight on through the sheep field. The sheep glared at Dogface until his tail went between his legs and he looked very unhappy. Sheep worrying the dog.

It’s hard walking on the Ridgeway as it’s worn into channels and ruts. All three of us are out of shape and so we were glad to turn back towards Avebury, looking forward to some lunch.

The Avebury neolithic monuments (the stone circle, Silbury Hill, and West Kennet Long Barrow) all looked immaculately cared for. Although we didn’t hang around after lunch to visit them all I do very much want to go back there again and spend some time looking around. These sights never grow old for me even though they are over 5,000 years old.

Had a fantastic day out.

p.s. A brief note on the two pubs near Avebury. The ground outside The Red Lion was covered in cigarette butts, broken glass, and other rubbish (no dogs allowed inside). I went in to order some drinks and got the ‘chain pub’ vibe. Instead we drove just down the road back to the Wagon and Horses on the A4 in Beckhampton. It’s a Wadworth pub but looks quite nice from the front. Unfortunately also no dogs allowed and so we were in the beer garden…with the flies. The garden’s well cared for and very pretty but the service was with a stare, the coke was tasteless brown fizzy water, and the food was…um…edible on cold plates. Next time we visit Avebury we’ll be spending our cash on a homemade picnic. Pork pie, scotch eggs, cold sausages, ginger beer…. 🙂