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.
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!).
“I don’t mind, just don’t kill me!”. That was my response to Rich (@FlintyRich) when asked what I wanted to do for a planned weekend together in Snowdonia. It seemed important – Rich, who is a self confessed addict of bagging peaks on Social Hiking (411 to date this year), spends most weekends up in the mountains, whereas I am lucky to see a mountain more than a handful of times a year (let alone climb one) and recently work commitments and my health had combined to restrict my outdoors time (and therefore my fitness). “How about Northern Carneddau? It’s quite gentle” he suggested….
For a couple of days a week, I am often based on-site at a customer’s office in Stony Stratford, just over 8 miles (by road) from my house. We are a one car family, which naturally means I do not get use of the car, so I have to travel in by bus. As I live in a village with only one bus route, this involves catching the 9am bus* to Wolverton (another nearby town) then waiting around at a bus interchange for a connecting bus to Stony Stratford, arriving by 10am.
(* due to a very odd bus rota, the bus driver who picks us up has to go on his break at the next village, so we have to swap buses – it still counts as a single bus on the timetable though!)
Earlier in the week I was idly day dreaming over a local OS map when it occurred to me that after only 10 minutes on that first bus, we pass though Castlethorpe, a village that is only 4 miles (by road) (3 miles by crow) from my final destination, and the countryside between is actually rather pleasant – two river valleys (one is the Great River Ouse) and the Grand Union Canal. Why don’t I walk to work?
“Welcome to episode one of the Social Hiking podcast”…. so began my first ever podcast, recorded with my friend Nina (@smirnieoutdoors) in her house in Shropshire. The podcast itself, now it has been published, has gone down really well (the feedback has been beyond my wildest dreams), but it is hard to believe that, as we sat there in Nina’s sitting room with our show notes and podcast sponsor, it was only two weeks before that I scribbled in my notebook: “podcast? guest co hosts? Nina?”. This post is the story of what inspired me to decide to record a podcast and how it went from an idea to reality (at minimal cost). Hopefully it will interest, aid and inspire.
Quite a while ago, Google launched a feature called authorship, which allows people who publish content online to link that content with their Google+ profile. The most obvious effect of this is that your Google+ profile picture and link appear in Google search engine ranks. I see this as having a real benefit for content creators so I decided to give users of Social Hiking the ability to claim authorship of their maps. Imagine my surprise to discover that Google was inferring authorship of pages where it was not explicitly defined.
Hot on the heals of my few months trying out the Target Dry Origin Thermalite Insulated Jacket, I was approached as to whether I wanted to try out the Berghaus Akka Mens Down Jacket. I was really impressed with the warmth of Target Dry’s jacket and I thought it would be interesting to compare it with a (almost double the price) down jacket. Unfortunately none of the sizes available fitted me so, not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I managed to conscript Tim Cooper (@ukjeeper on Twitter) to try out the jacket on my behalf. Tim, whilst not a blogger himself, is a regular on several walking forums and social media sites across the internet, and he is as a regular sharer on Social Hiking (he was in fact the first user other than me!). There is hardly a footpath in Essex he has not walked (if you don’t believe me, take a peek at his map of his Essex walks 2009-2013) and he can be found by his fire pit most evenings whatever the weather!
If you are a blogger, you will have almost certainly come across seo/link spam – this takes the form of irrelevant comments left on a blog post solely for the purpose of getting a link back to their site (ideally in the comment itself, but also as the link associated with the name of the poster). The ‘wisdom’ is that these links help boost the originators site in search rankings (with a bonus that someone might actually click on it).
Photographer John Butterill discovered a way he, and subsequently other photographers from around the globe, could share photo walks using Google+ hangouts to bring the world to people bed-ridden from Multiple Sclerosis and other illnesses. Read more
Target Dry, an outdoor clothing company from Belfast, Northern Ireland, is not a brand I think I have come across before, so I was curious when they got in touch asking if I would be interested in trying out one of their garments. Their main product is the Mac in a Sac, which I have heard of, but, with winter drawing in, I opted for the Mens Origin Insulated Jacket. I usually have a Craighoppers Down Gilet (it was a bargain buy from a closing down sale) shoved in the bottom of my rucksack that I wear during breaks and when camping but it is not an ideal solution, so I have been looking out for a suitable replacement.
I always think Northamptonshire gets forgotten when it comes to outdoor activities. For the first few years I subscribed to Countryfile Magazine I religiously collected, ordered and stored the ten route cards included each month – whilst almost every part of the country was covered, there was not a single route in Northamptonshire! So imagine my excitement to discover Northamptonshire has, in the opinion of Daniel Martin – Extreme Athlete, one of the best spots for wild swimming in the world!
It turns out that three people and two dogs do not fit comfortably in an Outwell Arizona L – a three man dome. This was the discovery I made on a family camping weekend away a few months ago in Peak District. Originally bought for two people (and a dog), what I liked about the Arizona L was that I could stand up in it and it had a porch to shelter from the inevitable rain , but it was time to accept that my needs had outgrown it. So, after a bit of research, I bought a Kampa Carbis 5 from Camping World and took it on my trip to Cornwall.
After the initial excitement back in 2005, there has recently been a lot of negativity and cynicism and about the London 2012 Olympic Games – whether it is the McDonald’s monopoly on chips, the failings of G4S, spiralling costs or restrictive social media policies. However, for the last two years, project manager Mark Stanley has been working on a fantastic positive project for normal people to get involved in the Olympic celebrations – The Games Way, a 184 mile long distance path between Weymouth (the location of some of the Olympic sailing events) and the Olympic Park in London. The route goes through some fantastic British countryside – the Jurassic Coast, the New Forest, the edge of the South Downs, the Surrey Hills and along the Thames, past ancient castles, over hills and through woodland and across fields. The opening walk leaves from Weymouth on Saturday 28th July – you can either walk (or run) the whole thing, or join in for different stages.
To be honest, I had never really thought about where leather hiking boots (or indeed any other leather product) come from before I met Michael Redwood (@michaelredwood), visiting Professor in Business Development in Leather at The University of Northampton, at this year’s Innovation for Extremes conference (write up coming soon I promise!). Mike and I were both on a panel discussing whether wearable technology in footwear was inevitable and, as I live just down the road from Northampton, we got chatting about the leather industry and in particular the Institute for Creative Leather Technologies at the University. A few weeks later Mike invited me to visit the Institute for a tour.
Is this the ultimate is sharing your adventure live as it happens? In this video Google’s Sergey Brin leads a demo of Google’s Project Glass with a group of skydivers, bmxers and abseilers all using Google’s new video-capturing spectacles sharing live via Google Hangout.
Google hopes to start selling the devices, which broadcast images directly in front of the users’ eyes allowing them to stream video and social media applications, as early as 2014.
Earlier in the week I was invited up to Nottingham by Phil Campbell to do an interview about Social Hiking – Share Your Adventure. I was joined by Chris (@pilgrimchris) who is a big user and advocate of Social Hiking and intends to use the site to share a pilgrimage on the famous Camino de Santiago de Compostela.
I have known Phil Campbell, in a Twitter sense, pretty much since I first started using ‘modern’ social media (he was the second person I followed on Twitter). Other than a very brief introduction a few years ago however, I have not actually met him face to face. This finally changed earlier this week when he invited me up to Nottingham for an interview about Social Hiking.
Over the last few trips, I have been experimenting with different services for ‘instantly’ sharing photos. I am by no means a good photographer, but often I see something I think others will find interesting and I want to point, shoot and share to my preferred networks from my phone with the minimal amount of hassle. On a recent trip to Dartmoor I had a play with Instagram, and was pleasantly surprised with the results. Read more
Despite being only a short break, my recent family trip to Devon and Cornwall was certainly adventure packed. Although we were only away for 6 days, we managed to fit in: crabbing in Looe, watching stormy seas in Polperro, a visit to Plymouth Hoe, exploring rock pools on Seaton beach, walks, swimming and a wild camp on Dartmoor, body boarding in Salcombe and a visit to the largest waterfall in England. Here is a quick write up of some of the things we got up to.