Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Walking in the foot steps of Octavia Hill

Octavia Hill - Photo (c) National Trust

How about getting out and taking part in the National Trust's Great British Walk festival by embarking on one of 12 brand new trails in England and Wales which celebrate the life of its founder Octavia Hill (above)?

Social reformer, environmental campaigner and one of the founders of the Trust, Octavia Hill spent her formative years in the East End of London.  Her life was dedicated to social reform, campaigning to save green spaces and was herself an avid walker.  She set up the first ever housing association, was an advocate of the importance of learning and was the founder of the Army Cadets.  Along with Sir Robert Hunter and Canon Rawnsley she helped to found the National Trust in 1895.  Octavia Hill died on the 13 August 1912.

Ranging from a couple of miles to ten miles these walks reflect the diversity of the early sites acquired by the National Trust between 1895 and 1912.

From the jaw dropping beauty of the Lake District to the coastal gem of Morte Point in north Devon and the rolling countryside in Kent, these walks capture Octavia Hill’s passion for the countryside as places of discovery, reflection and a space to recharge the batteries.

Hindhead Commons - Photo (c) National Trust

Five of the walks featured include:

  • Brandelhow in Lake District – this new 3.5 mile walk will follow in the footsteps of Octavia Hill who visited this beautiful landscape during the Trust’s campaign to buy Brandelhow in 1902; its first property in the Lake District.
  • Hindhead Common in Surrey – a brand new trail around this famous and much loved common which is rich in wildlife such as Dartford warblers, Nightjars, dormice and silver-studded blue butterflies
  • Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire – a newly created 6-mile walk at this world famous nature reserve, which is home to more than 8,500 species, will capture the spirit of a site acquired by the Trust in 1899
  • The Kent Countryside – a two-part figure of eight ten-mile walk in the heart of Kent taking in Toys Hill, which was given to the Trust by Octavia Hill, and the church at Crockham where she is buried.
  • Morte Point in north Devon – a 2.2 mile circular walk around one of the first Trust sites in the south west of England with stunning views along the north Devon coast.

Fiona Reynolds, Director-General of the National Trust, said: "Walking rejuvenates both body and mind - something Octavia Hill and her sisters knew well. They were passionate walkers and would often take long walks in the countryside.

"These Octavia trails link the early jewels in the Trust crown and show some of the best places to enjoy the great outdoors and get that little bit closer to nature."

All of the walks can be downloaded for free from the National Trust website.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Gear Review - Men's Wool Ultra Socks- 2-3 Season

To say these have been a lifesaver would be a tad of an over statement – but my trip to Jersey would have certainly been more painful without them...

For reasons best left to another blog post, on my recent trip to film and experience walks on Jersey I discovered at Doncaster Airport I had left my walking boots at home.  I know, as I said, the reasons are best left to another blog post…

So, I was down on the itinerary to go on a “Moonwalk” along the coast during low tide, a walk through some the green lanes of Jersey and a challenging hike along the north coast part of the Channel Islands Way.

Now, for the Moonwalk, the crocs were a must, and they were fine for the roads and paths of the green lane walk – but for the north coast part of the Channel Islands Way – with its rocky coast, undulating paths and steep climbs, crocs certainly wouldn't have been my choice…  Brasher Fellmasters yes, crocs a definite no.

I had visions of blisters; of broken nails; of rubbed feet unable to convey me around the rest of my trip to this fabulous island.

So, having these socks in my kit back to review, I decided to save them for my coastal jaunt – and I'm glad I did.

First impressions are good.  The light grey colouring is one I don't mind people seeing between my trousers and my boots when I sit down, and it makes a change from the various shades of brown people who buy me socks for Christmas always seem to find.  (Seriously, how many shades of brown can there be in sock wool?)

Upon putting them on, it’s clear they are a great fit – not too big, which is always my bug-bear with walking socks.  This means all the parts of the sock is in contact with the areas they are supposed to on the foot.  The elastic around the top of the sock is judged well – not too tight as to stop the circulation to the foot, but not too loose that they fall down all the time.

So, I took them out for a road test along that north Jersey section of the Channel Island Way.  It’s strange attempting a path which, at times, can get quite challenging in crocs, but the socks certainly helped.  Obviously, socks with crocs provides nowhere near the support wearing a proper set of walking boots does but I was able to do the whole walk I'd planned without having feet throbbing like in a cartoon.  And when you think I’m walking around double the length of the 5 miles of the planned route to allow for the filming, that is no mean feat.

I can happily tell you that although they aren't necessarily designed to be waterproof, they do seem to resist water quite well.  Now, this might not be too important when you haven't got sidetracked and are wearing sensible walking boots, but when you're walking one of the most beautiful coastal paths in the world in crocs, it is good to know…  (note to self, always check footwear in future)  And when they get wet, they dry out quickly.

Subsequent wares of the socks inside proper walking boots have shown them to be most comfortable, and, during walks in the cooler temperatures of late autumn, fairly warm too.

So, in conclusion, they are a great ware and I certainly would recommend them for serious walkers everywhere... not just on Jersey.

What's good...
Great fit
Warm without being too sweaty

What's bad...
Started to go a tad bobbly after several washes

Brasher Men's Wool Ultra Socks- 2-3 Season - Rough price - £12
Walks Around Britain rating 8/10

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Podcast Edition 008 - Show Notes

Edition 8 of the Walks Around Britain podcast features an insight into the inspiration behind Wastwater Photography, Mark Brigham tells us about his National Three Peaks adventure and walking expert Cameron McNeish explains how he got into walking and writing - and about his new National Trail in Scotland.

Wastwater Photography

Mark Gilligan is cited as one of the worlds top Landscape Photographers.
A multi award winning member of both the British Institute of Professional Photography and the Royal Photographic Society, Mark is a features writer for many magazines such as 'Lake District Life', 'Lancashire Life', 'TGO', 'Country Walking' and 'Cumbria'.

On the podcast, Mark talks about his love of the Lakes and in particular Wast Water.

To find out more and to see Mark's stunning photography, visit his website here.

National Three Peaks

The Three Peaks Challenge involves climbing the three highest peaks in England, Wales and Scotland within 24 hours.  It is a misconception the challenge takes in the three highest peaks in Britain - it doesn't - over 100 peaks in Scotland are higher than Scafell Pike, and 56 higher than Snowdon.

Having said that, it is a considerable challenge, and one rated up there with several higher mountains by people who have attempted many.

Mark Brigham joined Andrew to chat about his National Three Peaks adventure last year.

Photo -

Cameron McNeish

There isn't much in the outdoor world Cameron McNeish hasn't done.  He's edited magazines, written books, presented television and DVD programmes, after dinner speaking, lecturing and being an adviser to various outdoor organisations.

But before all of that, he is a passionate wilderness hiker, backpacker and mountain walker - and it is this fact - as he points out - which makes him different to other presenters.  And spot the lovely mention of Nick Crane...

To find out about Cameron's ever growing range of DVDs and books, visit the Mountain Media site - and say we sent ya!

Hope you enjoyed this month's podcast.  Please let us know your comments and suggestions.