Your browser (Internet Explorer 7 or lower) is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites. Learn how to update your browser.

X

Navigate / search

  • The Outdoors

    The new home for mycountryside.org.uk: exploring and enjoying the British countryside Jump to: Outdoors

  • The Web

    Discussing the internet, developing for the web, and being a freelancer Jump to: The Web

  • Sharing Adventures

    Using the internet and social media to share your adventures Jump to: Sharing Adventures

A wild camp in Cranbrook Castle and Tor / hill bagging near Castle Drogo and river Teign valley [Dartmoor Trip – Part 1]

It turns out that a lifetime of watching horror films does not mentally equip you for being alone in a bivvy (the hoop is no consolation) within the fog shrouded earthworks of an Iron Age hill fort. As I lay unable to sleep in the moonlit stillness, my mind drifted to thoughts of long dead warriors rising from the damp ground to extract their revenge on the person rudely sleeping on their graves! Not that I know anything about Cranbrook Castle, let alone what is buried underneath the ferns – the internet acknowledges its existence but that’s about it, but it was not history that brought me to this spooky place. It met an exacting set of criteria for my first wild camp of my week on Dartmoor: it is the nearest bit of Dartmoor to me where you can legally camp (the fact it is a short walk from a pub and a peak you can ‘bag’ on Social Hiking was just a bonus!).

Read more

Some of the best walks in the UK (my entry came first!)

Back in July, several outdoor bloggers and writers were approached by the outdoor retailer Field And Trek to submit their favourite walk in the UK. I nearly did not bother until I remembered the fantastic waterfall walk I did back in 2011 in the Breacon Beacons. It is a forest river walk with a difference, as both rivers are crammed full of waterfalls, including Sgwd yr Eira which you can usually walk behind! Rivers in a forest with waterfalls, the chance to feel the spray on your face, some nice views as you drop down to Pontneddfechan, a convenient pub halfway and even a chance for a quick outdoor swim – it is my idea of the perfect walk! [I would also once again like to thank surfnslide, who originally shared the route on his blog and inspired me to pay the area a visit in the first place]

Read more

From orange survival bag to hooped bivvy: falling in love with bivvying

I couldn’t possibly sleep. The full moon we had watched rise from beyond the sea was making its steady progress across the sky, lighting up the cliff top around me.  I was surprisingly comfortable in my plastic orange survival bag with the breeze gently gusting across my face and Gareth’s last minute warning about adders, as he zipped himself up in his hooped bivvy-tent, had quickly faded from my mind, replaced by the intoxicating thrill of being part of the outdoors.

Read more

A bivi on Pew Tor, Dartmoor

Pew Tor is just south west of Merrivale on the western edge of Dartmoor National Park. I first visited it in 2011 at the end of a walk around some of the Western Tors (a route borrowed almost entirely from Backpackingbongos) and it was my favourite Tor of the day, with fantastic views south down the valley to Yelverton and Plymouth, east to Tavistock and beyond, and north across to the higher Great Staple Tor and Great Mis Tor. In my post from the walk, I describe Pew Tor as “like a ruined castle with lush grassy floors” and suggested it would make a great place to camp. As it happens Paul, who had joined myself and friends Neil and Kate for a weekend on Dartmoor, agreed and it was to be our ‘hotel’ for a night.

Read more

Tor bagging on Dartmoor

“How about another trip to Dartmoor?” suggested Neil, one of my best friends, during a rare (not even annual) phone call.

Dartmoor has always had a permanent grip on my soul. Every summer when I was a kid, my family and I would head down to Devon for our annual holiday – staying with my grandparents who lived on the edge of Plymouth Hoe. I do not remember many specific trips to Dartmoor exactly, although I am sure there were many, but the brooding mass of moors were ever-present looking down over Plymouth and the surrounding countryside.

Read more

On the road to recovery and a pre-Dartmoor health check with @turbostream

The last five months have been frustrating. Back in February I pulled my back, triggering a bout of painful sciatica which left me unable to get outdoors. By the end of April, things seemed to be improving and I managed a few short local hikes, but subsequent relapses meant I had to pull out of the 10in10 and have not been hiking since.

Over the last month though I have started noticing an improvement and my back survived a week of hard labour ‘poo picking’ a couple of horse fields whilst my partner was on holiday. So, with a planned trip to Dartmoor next weekend, it seemed a good idea to get out on test hike to see if it could cope. Adrian (@turbostream) offered to travel down from Birmingham-shire to accompany me on a walk in Salcey Forest.

Read more

The Liebster Award – Pay it forward

Like quite a few people, I have been noticing this ‘Liebster Award’ thing appearing throughout my social media timelines recently. Turns out it a nice blogging community chain-letter thing, where you are nominated by a fellow blogger to answer a series of questions, then set the challenge for a few other bloggers to answer your questions. A big thank you goes to Tookie Bunten (@tookiebunten on Twitter) (he designed the Social Hiking logo by the way) for nominating me in his blog post: http://walkwithtookie.com/the-liebster-award-pay-it-forward/. As a bit of fun, here are Tookie’s questions with my answers:

Read more

Chocolate Fish discontinue their baselayers

If you asked me what my favourite item of outdoor clothing is, I would answer, without hesitation, ‘my Chocolate Fish merino baselayer’. I actually have two – my first one suffered an accident with a dodgy washing machine and was badly ripped in several places… but I still wear it… (albeit in the privacy of my bed and much to the disgust of my partner!). I even contributed towards one for my brother, who wears baselayers throughout all of winter. My experience of other makes is, I admit, ultimately quite limited – I had an Icebreaker, which shrank after the first few washes and did not seem to regulate temperature evenly, and then I discovered Chocolate Fish – soft to wear, a good fit (long torso length), kept an even temperature and never shrunk in the wash. It looked like my search for the perfect baselayer had come to a quick end! So it was with some sadness that I received an email from Chocolate Fish that they are discontinuing their baselayers.

Read more

Reflecting on 6 years of blogging after being shortlisted for Go Outdoors Walking Blog Awards 2014

I started this blog (originally as countryside-walks.org.uk, then a few months later moving to mycountryside.org.uk) back in March 2008 (has it really been that long?). I had just started walking again (for the first time since a child) and, inspired by a few other walking blogs I had discovered (but long forgotten), I wanted a place to record my walks and share my experience.

Read more

The River Avon Heritage Trail, West Lothian, Scotland

It has always been a bit of an embarrassment to me that I have never (as an adult at least) walked in Scotland. This gaping absence in my outdoor experience has lingered over me throughout my outdoor-related successes over the last few years: being involved in the growing popularity of Social Hiking, speaking about social media in the outdoors and being shortlisted for Outdoor Personality of the Year…. I kept thinking to myself… surely eventually I will be outed as a fraud for not having ever walked in Scotland….

Well thankfully my personal self-doubt (about this at least!) can at last be put to one side – I have finally walked in Scotland!

As I was heading up to Scotland to give a training session for a customer in East Lothian anyway, I decided to make the most of the trip and arranged to meet Paul (@iomadh), a fellow user of both Audioboo and Social Hiking, for a hike. Paul had, the week before, stumbled across a leaflet for The River Avon Heritage Trail, and as the weather forecast was dire for the weekend, it seemed a sensible to do a low-level hike.

Read more

Hiking Bow Brickhill, south of Milton Keynes [January’s outdoor day]

Over the last two years, my outdoor time has been very hit and miss – I have only had a few irregular, albeit lovely, weekend outdoor trips, and even the more routine local dog walks has been severely reduced (much to the disgust of my dog). Ultimately I have been getting the balance between being on a computer and being outdoors all wrong.

So this year I set myself two outdoor related resolutions. The first one is to go for a walk each day (ideally with the dog) – distance or location are unimportant, it can be a late night dog walk around the village or a 15 mile hike up a mountain. All that matters is that I get off the computer and go outdoors! The second resolution is to plan an outdoor day (or weekend) each month.

This month I thought I would ease myself in gently and take the dog on a hike around the local countryside – by chance I discovered that Rich (@FlintyRich), who lives relatively local to me, was at a loose end, so we arranged to meet up at The Grand Union Three Locks in Stock Hammond (south of Milton Keynes) the following morning.

Read more

Using Social Hiking on a hike: a personal example

On my most recent hike, with Rich (@FlintyRich), I decided to record a series of mini-podcasts talking about how I actually use Social Hiking when out on a hike.

The podcasts cover a range of topics: starting a walk and switching on location source (and what Social Hiking does when you start sharing location), setting a map title using Twitter, adding media to your map, automatic peak bagging, tweeting with context to your hike, changing a map icon using Twitter and uploading gpx files and photos when you get home.

The main point I wanted to get across is that I did not need to visit the Social Hiking website  at all throughout the day, I just used the apps and social media sites I would usually use to share thoughts, photos and audio on the walk, and Social Hiking has then compiled it all to create a live updating, media rich, map to help me share my adventure. Simples.

Read more

Social Hiking 4 MS – a social, hiking mountains, in aid of MS Society

Earlier in the year, I came across an article in the MS Society magazine about an annual event where a bunch of people climb some mountains to raise money to help support people affected by Multiple Sclerosis. As I have not done much fundraising in a while, I cut the article out and put it in my in-tray for future consideration, then promptly forgot about it…. until a few weeks ago.

As I re-read the article, it occurred to me that I happen to know a bunch of people who like walking, especially mountains- wouldn’t it be brilliant if we could get together, hike some peaks, raise some money, and have some fun?

Read more

Want to take part in an Ordnance Survey Workshop (and free on 27th November)?

On Thursday, I trundled down to London to take part in an Ordnance Survey Workshop, an opportunity to give my opinion on all things relating to OS and mapping. Unfortunately I cannot talk about anything I saw or that was discussed (due to confidentiality), but it was certainly an interesting and insightful experience. There is another workshop next week, and they are looking for  participants who do outdoor activities recreationally to take part.

Read more

Shortlisted for TGO Awards – Outdoor Personality of the Year 2013

Autumn is upon us, and so too are The Great Outdoors awards – a chance for outdoor enthusiasts to vote for their favourite outdoor brand, retailer, pub, book accommodation and more. This year I find myself short-listed for the category of Outdoor Personality of the Year. It is of course an honour to be short-listed (thank you to whoever nominated me!) and I am chuffed to bits, although it is a bit surreal appearing on a list with such household names as Ed Bryne and Ray Mears (even my mum has heard of him!).

Read more