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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.

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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.

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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.

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Celebrate London 2012 Olympics by hiking all or part of The Games Way

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.

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Brecon Beacons Day 3 – Waterfalls!!

I love waterfalls. There is something so soothing and peaceful about the constant motion of water partnered with the natural splendour of water surging downwards. I also love forests. My ‘happy place’ would almost certainly be a waterfall in a forest (although I am yet to find a real world location that suits), so I was very excited when, back in May, I came across this waterfall walk on Surfnslide featuring several spectacular waterfalls. I added it to my ever-growing collection of routes in Evernote*, so I had it handy when I was planning this Brecon Beacons trip.

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Brecon Beacons Day 2 – Fan Frynych, Fan Dringarth and Fan Fawr

Thanks largely to one too many of the aptly named ‘Hikers Ruin’ I had consumed the night before and the fantastic breakfast my hosts had produced, day 2 was quite a late start! I wanted to head out onto the part of the Brecon Beacons just west of A470 but the lingering headache was making it hard to concentrate on the map, so in the end I download a free route on ViewRanger published by Trail Magazine.

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Brecon Beacons Day 1 – Corn Du, Pen y Fan, Cribyn and Fan y Big

Whenever I am heading towards Wales there is always a point in the journey when everything seems better – after days on end of sitting in front of my computer working, my shoulders loosen, my mind clears and my mood lightens. It is the point in the journey when, after cresting yet another nondescript English hill, you suddenly see the hills and mountains of Wales laid out before you.

In this case I was driving down the A438 heading towards Brecon, on the edge of Brecon Beacons. It was the weekend of the annual Brecon Jazz festival which, in my younger days, I used to attend fairly regularly. This year I was combining spending some quality time with some old friends (and drinking the best homebrew brewed by my friend’s dad), with some much need quality time on the hills.

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Dartmoor: Western Moors and Tors

After successfully tackling Fur Tor and the wilder parts of Dartmoor the previous day, the plan for the Sunday was to explore the more popular Western moors and Tors (a route lifted almost entirely from Backpackingbongos). We were camping at Langstone Manor, a lovely quiet campsite (with it’s own bar serving pretty decent meals!) tucked on the edge of the moor, so, after consuming some bacon sandwiches, we left the campsite and began the gradual climb onto Whitchurch Common.

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Dartmoor – Fur Tor

We left Bristol early on Saturday morning (fuelled by bacon sandwiches) to head down the M5 and A30 to Dartmoor in a convoy of three cars (6 people, 1 big dog and lots of car camping kit). During breakfast, I had been updated by @DanSantillo that the hills were still shrowded in mist, and I was a little nervous as the haze covered countryside flew past. Fortunately though, by the time we arrived at the tucked away Lane End carpark, the sun had done it’s job of burning away the mist leaving mostly blue skies and glorious sunshine.
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