Sunday, 1 December 2013

Podcast Edition 018 - Show Notes

Edition 18 of the Walks Around Britain features the great walking along the Caledonian Canal in Scotland; we talk to Steve Backhouse about the centenary of HF Holidays and the Chief Executive of the Peak District National Park Jim Dixon talks about the Monsal Trail and the challenges for the park in the future.

Presented by Andrew White - @AndrewRWhite

Walking along the Caledonian Canal

In May 2013, the Walks Around Britain team spent a week filming some video Scottish Waterways Trust.  Ahead of all the videos being completed, Andrew discovers more about the history of the canal and the area of the Great Glen from the Scottish Waterways Trust's Heritage Office for the Caledonian Canal, Stephen Wiseman.
walks along the majestic Caledonian Canal in Scotland, in association with the

Here's the first walk completed from the series...

To find out more, visit the Scottish Waterways Trust website.

100 years of HF Holidays

2013 saw the centenary of the walking and activity holiday provider HF Holidays. Andrew chatted to Steve Backhouse (right), the company's Head of Holidays (what a title!) about the history and the future of HF Holidays.

For more details about HF Holidays, visit their website -

Jim Dixon and the Peak District National Park

Andrew travelled to Buxton to talk to the Chief Executive of the Peak District National Park, Jim Dixon (left), outside the headquarters on the authority.  Jim talks about the history of the park, the successful Monsal Trail and the challenges facing the National Park in the future.

If you'd like to sample some of the Monsal Trail, you can see what it is like on our video walk.  Andrew walked from Hassop Station with local born skier Ellie Koyander.

That's another podcast finished - we do hope you are enjoying them,  Remember you can also find them on iTunes, on AudioBoo, on our YouTube channel and on our website.

Please let us know what you think about our podcasts - what do you like, and what would you like to hear? Leave us a comment below, or send us a voice message on our blog.

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Book Review – Lakeland Fellranger : The Far Eastern Fells by Mark Richards

With the gorgeous Upper Kentmere Valley inviting you on the front cover, you know there’s something special about this book.  The 332 pages also tell you this isn't a book done by halves.  Then you spot who it is written by – and you know you’re in for a good read.  And I mean that from the point of view that Mark Richards' text has a poetic flow to it which almost demands to be given more time to.  Many walking guide books only really work when you are using them on the fell – this works as well when you’re sitting at home using it to plan your next journey.  And that’s rare.  To highlight this is the inclusion of a fabric page marker – you don’t get that in a standard walking guide book.  This is a book intended to be read.

This book is the combination of an odyssey which began in 1989 when Mark Richards was still living in his native Oxfordshire.  Inspired by the great Alfred Wainwright to jump into writing, Mark launched himself into being a full-time preparer of walking guides – at the age of 40.  Strange, as in 2014 I turn that age too…  Is there something about that age…?

Anyway, as I mentioned, this book is the last in a series of eight books dedicated to walking the fells of the Lake District – with each of the eight books focusing on a different area.  After 14 years, Mark has walked the 227 fells mentioned in those books many times in all weathers and seasons – the result is a most complete set of walking guides for the Lakeland area, if you are lucky enough to possess all eight.

Now here’s where I have to tackle the inevitable comparisons to Wainwright.  Firstly, is seems wrong to call Mark “Richards” in the same way as we all use “Wainwright” so I’ll use MR and AW.  Ok.  MR has eight books in his series, whereas AW had seven (MR includes the Mid-Western Fells in a separate volume).  AW’s list of fells total the famous number of 214, whereas MR’s total 227 as I’ve mentioned.  It took MR 14 years to complete the eight books and Wainwright took 14 years to write his seven.

There are similarities too.  Like AW, MR – oh that’s enough, Mark – is quite the master at pen and ink drawings, and the products of this talent are liberally used throughout the book – both as pictorial guides to the different routes up fells, and as piece of art in their own right.  In this age of iPads and digital imagery, it’s so pleasing to see good traditional ways of illustrating in a major guide book.

The photos are from the author too – and this gives you a greater sense of trust in the words.  Here, you know that Mark has actually done these walks he is suggesting – a fact you can’t really be sure of if the photos are credited to a stock photographic library.  The photos might not be the atmospheric “I've wild camped for 3 days on this spot to get this moody sunrise” types of shots, but I can tell you I’d be proud to call any of them my own.  Especially Castle Crag on page 142 – which actually does qualify as a moody Lake District shot…

Great attention has been place in the design too.  The aforementioned line drawings and photographs are well spaced out, and indeed there isn't a page which doesn't contain a photo, a line drawing or a map.  And of the maps, there are two notable points.  Firstly, they are the Harvey versions – which provide a welcome change of style to the omni-present Ordnance Survey ones.  Secondly, the maps aren't constrained within boxes here, they are allowed to flow out and live on the page.  So much so, the maps often take over a full page – and on my favourite pages (102-103), the map almost covers the whole double page spread.  (yes I have favourite pages…  The panoramas are also well-made and very useful – laying out on a double page spread what exactly you can see from the summit of each fell.

So onto the routes and the descriptions thereof.  Well, here is Mark’s triumph with this book.  The words really describe in great detail what, where, how you can achieve your goal for reaching the summit of the fells.  To prepare this review, I followed Mark’s descriptions to 3 different fells, and found the detail to be astonishing – with a clever balance between direction and information.  I would never advocate anyone to go out walking in the Lake District without a map – but if my map was taken away from me, I’d want this book instead.  And Mark describes alternative routes to each of the summits – where possible – giving you additional walks in the future by taking the many different variations.

This book completes the eight-volume series.  So, is it possible to suggest the unthinkable?  Could this body of work become the definitive Lake District multi-volume walking guide?  Can the student topple his mentor?  Well, certainly, if a series of this quality and standing had been written about the Peak District say, it would easily be classed as the walking guide for the Peak.  The problem in the Lakes is that AW has got there before anyone else – and that makes it so tricky for anyone else to make their mark (a pun worthy of MR himself there)…

But – and I’m possibly going to lose some friends here – I think Mark’s have the edge.  Sure I enjoy reading AW’s guides and I respect and revere his writing and description – but Mark has the benefit of being around now.  He has the benefit also of the sum total of all the knowledge assembled since AW’s time too.  His guides are easier-to-read but still have an immaculate turn of phrase – which are modern and current.  And phrases will stick in your memory – just like with AW’s books.  It all leads me to prefer Mark’s books to AW’s…

Whether people will be doing the “Richards”, I’m not sure.  Again, perhaps if the series had been about a different area – yes.  But the “Wainwrights” are such a part of British walking culture now, it’s difficult to see that ever changing.  What will change, though, is people will be quoting from Mark’s books in years to come as readily as they do now from AW’s…

You mark my words… (I did it again)

 Lakeland Fellranger : The Far Eastern Fells by Mark Richards
published by Cicerone, priced £14.99
Walks Around Britain rating 9/10

Order it now online from Amazon here 

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Podcast Edition 017 - Show Notes

Edition 17 of the Walks Around Britain podcast features Kate Ashbrook - the president of the Ramblers' on their latest campaign; Dave Mycroft and Gareth Jones talk about walks in the Peak District and Chris Townsend ventures further afield on his long-distance walks.

Presented by Andrew White - @AndrewRWhite

Kate Ashbrook and The Rambler's "Go All Out" campaign

The president of The Ramblers' Kate Ashbrook talks to Andrew at the launch in Edale of the groups' latest campaign "Go All Out" - which is designed to start a conversation about what walkers would from The Ramblers' - whether they are members or not.

For can find out more on The Ramblers website here.

Dave Mycroft and Gareth Jones on Peak District walks

Long time friends of Walks Around Britain, Dave Mycroft - the editor of My Outdoors - and Gareth Jones - serious hillwalker - join Andrew to talk about the Peak District.  Which are their favourite bits and where is their favourite walk?

Perhaps one of them will mention Coombs Dale - where the pair walked for a Walks Around Britain video walk with Andrew...

Chris Townsend on long-distance trails

Chris Townsend is possibly the world's most prolific long-distance walker and the author of some 19 books about the outdoors, and he joins Andrew from his home in the Cairngorms.  If you'd like more information about Chris' writing and future long-distance walks, visit his website and follow him on Twitter.

That's another podcast finished - we do hope you are enjoying them,  Remember you can also find them on iTunes, on AudioBoo, on our YouTube channel and on our website.

Please let us know what you think about our podcasts - what do you like, and what would you like to hear? Leave us a comment below, or send us a tweet.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Tips for walking in warm weather

A glorious summer’s day is the perfect time to head out into the countryside and enjoy a walk.  However, a
lot of people make the mistake of failing to prepare for the hot weather.  Here are some crucial tips to avoid any walking mishaps…

Protect against the sun
With Britain experiencing record high temperatures, protecting yourself against the sun’s rays has never been more important. Be sure to use a sun lotion with a high SPF and apply it at least half an hour before heading out. It is not enough to just apply the cream once so remember to reapply at least every two hours or whenever you feel necessary. Wear a hat to protect your head from the sun and reduce the risk of suffering from sunstroke. Sunglasses will protect your eyes from the sun’s rays and make it easier to read maps in bright light too.

Layer up
The British weather is renowned for being unpredictable and ever-changing so choose an outfit that will protect against all weather conditions. Choose lightweight, breathable fabrics and layer them up. The layers will be useful if the weather turns colder and you can always remove a layer if you are too hot.

Appropriate footwear
We all know the importance of wearing the appropriate shoes whilst out walking.  The comfort and support of a walking boot is essential to the enjoyment of any walk.  However, on a hot day another factor comes into play – keeping your feet cool.  Select a boot that is made from breathable material to ensure that your feet don't overheat and remain dry.  A decent range of affordable, breathable walking boots are available at Millet Sports.

Keep hydrated
Whilst walking in warm weather, a large amount of water is lost from the body through sweat.  It is important to keep hydrated in order to replenish the water lost to avoid feeling ill.  Before you set off on your walk, freeze a bottle of water.  ice will slowly melt providing you with a refreshing, ice cold drink.

Pack a snack
Long walks in the sun can be physically demanding on the body.  Keep your energy supplies up by packing
yourself a range of snacks.  A banana would be a good choice as it is a form of slow release energy. Likewise, pack oat-based nutrition bars as these are high in carbohydrates which will provide your body with a wealth of energy to keep you walking all day.

Pace yourself
The heat of the sun will leave you feeling tired more quickly than you normally would. Combat this by pacing yourself. Walk at a manageable pace and don't push yourself too hard. Try to walk in shady spots, underneath wooded areas as these will be cooler and allow you to walk longer.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Book Review - Cardigan Bay North: Circular walks along the Wales Coast Path

Having already dispelled my original pre-conceptions of reasonably-priced pocket walking books, the next in the Top 10 Walks series from Northern Eye Books is most welcome dropping on the doormat.

“If it ain't broke, don't fix it” is that well-worn adage, and it is certainly true with the format of this books.  Bright and colourful, with a good number of excellent photographs and a modern, airy feel to the design is what the Top 10 Walks series is all about.  Have a look at my review of Pub Walks: Walks to Cumbria's Best Pubs.

This book is part of a growing sub-series focused on circular walks along different parts of the Wales Coast Path.  The Path opened in May 2012 – here’s our podcast with a feature about the opening – and stretches 870 miles from the outskirts of Chester in the north to Chepstow in the south.  Great play was made in the path’s first year of Wales being “the only country in the world with a path around its entire coast” – and indeed this book mentions this too.  The PR guys at the time seemingly forgot about the Isle of Man having the Raad ny Foillan coast path since 1986…  I’ll forgive the book including this line, as it was generally used at the time, but it’s interesting to note the official PR line now is “the longest continuous coastal path around a country.” – which is perfectly true.

This particular book is focused on the north part of Cardigan Bay and feature 10 walks which include a section along the Wales Coast Path and then via off to take in a special place, and then return back to the start.  Who better to choose 10 top walks in the area than Sioned Bannister.  Sioned hails from these parts, and has picked a collection of varied and interesting walks from the coast path, from Porthmadog in the north of the area to Borth in the south.

All of the walks have a shout to be included in the book, but I have a couple of particular favourites.

First is the Porthmadog route to summit of the hill which dominates the port – Moel-y-Gest.  Porthmadog is very familiar to me as it was one of the places we used to visit on the annual family holiday to North Wales when I was a child.  It’s also a place to go now as a mid point of two spectacular narrow gauge steam railways – so there’s lots of reasons to visit.  From the summit, the walk offers a fantastic view of the port of Porthmadog – named after William Alexander Madocks and his attempt to command the route between the newly joined capital cities of London and Dublin in the early 1800s.

The second of my favourite walks in the book is actually from Porthmadog again… but this time to the Italianate village of Portmeirion, the brainchild of Welsh architect Clough Williams-Ellis.

Beautiful images are liberally sprinkled throughout the book.
My last favourite from the book is the walk from Borth and along the Cardigan Bay part of the coast path and back into farmland for a contrast.  This is particular of interest as at low tide the remains of an ancient submerged forest is revealed.  This is from the ancient kingdom known locally as Cantre’r Gwaelod – which some of your “Coast” fanatics will remember for the 4th programme of the very first series.

10 walks in a bright, colourful and detailed book – complete with proper OS mapping which means you don't really need a separate map – all for £4.99.  It’s a real bargain, and although you can buy apps for your smartphone for less, they don't really have the detailed route descriptions or the beautiful photography this book does.

If you're in the market for 10 short walks in the Cardigan Bay area, then this is the book for you.

Cardigan Bay North: Circular walks along the Wales Coast Path by Sioned Bannister
published by Northern Eye Books.
Walks Around Britain rating 9/10

Order it now online from Amazon here or from the Northern Eye website here.

Monday, 15 July 2013

A guide to buying walking boots

As well as being a rewarding and enjoyable hobby, walking is a fantastic form of exercise.  It allows you to set your own pace and build up your fitness and stamina over time, often in beautiful surroundings.  To find out more about how beneficial walking is for your health, and to get some great advice on building your general fitness by walking and hiking, take a look at this handy guide.

Like all forms of exercise, walking and rambling is going to put pressure on the different parts of the body, particularly your feet and lower legs muscles.  That’s why it’s of the utmost importance that you take your time when you’re choosing walking boots, to ensure that you're wearing something that’s suitable for walking long distances or over difficult terrain.

Here's a few things you should be looking for in a pair of walking boots to ensure that you stay safe, healthy and comfortable on your walking adventures.

Support and Protection

Walking can take you on all sorts of surfaces and terrain, which naturally puts more strain on your feet than walking on surfaces like concrete or asphalt.  It’s because of this difficult terrain that your everyday shoes and trainers just aren't suitable.

When choosing boots, your buzzword should be 'support'.  After all, the reason you're wearing walking boots is to support and protect your feet.  Look for a design that’s high enough to support your ankle, as well as one that incorporates a protective rubber toe and heel-cap.  When you're walking, your heel takes the brunt of each step you make; having sufficient padding in the heel area is important for reducing the risk of injury.

The best walking boots use foam in their design for added support, so pay attention to product descriptions when you're buying boots, to see if they have this essential feature.


As you're walking, friction and the heat released by your muscles can cause the temperature inside your walking boots to quickly build up.  You should choose boots that are made using materials like split suede leather, which prevent an excessive build-up of heat, and are waterproof.

Again, you should pay close attention to product descriptions and particularly look for boots that boast 'thermoregulation' technology; a feature that allows heat to escape.


You are reliant on your boots to provide adequate grip to the surface you're walking on.  Opt for a boot design with a treaded sole, made from an adhesive material like rubber or EVA, for optimum grip.  You should avoid designs with plastic or PVC soles, which are will be unstable when you're walking.


Obviously, a pair of walking boots aren't going to be the lightest footwear that you own.  However, you should do your best to look for boots that boast a lightweight design.  Having boots that are heavy and cumbersome will reduce your walking capabilities and the distance you can cover.

Use this guide as much as possible when you're choosing your walking boots, to ensure that you select a product that’s suitable for your chosen pursuit.  Millet Sports have a decent range of walking boots and hiking shoes, which includes all of the big brands like Merrel, Brasher and Salamon.

Remember to check the product descriptions of boots to ensure that the features you are looking for have been incorporated into the design.  If you do this, you shouldn't go far wrong with your choice.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Top 5 Walks on the Isle of Wight

If you're looking for walking holiday destination with downland walks boasting views over rolling countryside, coastal rambles along wild primeval beaches, wetland estuaries full of wildfowl and woodlands bursting lush greenery and wildlife, then look no further than the Isle of Wight.

With over half of the Island designated AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) and 500 miles of well-maintained and signposted footpaths, the Isle of Wight hosts two Walking Festivals each year, with specially designed walks to help you become acquainted with this 23 mile by 13 mile diamond-shaped gem only two hours away from London.

With so many different walks and trails to explore whilst visiting the Isle of Wight, here’s a shortlist of five of the best.

The Coastal Path

This is a great way to see the Isle of Wight and it covers a total of 67 miles, most of them along the cliff tops or clinging to the coast, although in places it has to detour inland – especially over the north-east coast to avoid the multi-tributaried Newtown Creek.  The whole coastal path can be walked in around 24 hours or you could split it into around six manageable daily walks of between eight and 14 miles.  And if you have kids and/or are intrigued by the Island's Jurassic past, then there's a new 'Dino Trail' along the southern coats that is well worth a visit.  Special 'rocks' have been sited along the coastline from Yaverland to the Needles that have QR codes within them for you to download an app to your smartphone.  Once downloaded the app will provide information on the Island’s Jurassic heritage and will also insert a lifelike life-size dinosaur into photographs you take at each location.  There's a different dinosaur at each of the seven rocks and they are representations of the real dinosaurs that have been found here and roamed this stretch of coastline between 200 and 145 million years ago.

The Ridge Walk

A chalk ridge runs through the centre of the Island from Culver in the east to the Needles in the west, cut only by river valleys.  One of the best walks on the Island is along the crest of this ridge and it is the route for the annual Walk the Wight to raise money for the local hospice.  Starting point at Bembridge Airport and the walk runs to the tip of the downs in the west, just before the Needles rock formations.

The Stenbury Trail

Another stunning walk across the Isle of Wight is the Stenbury Trail from Ventnor to Newport, taking in Stenbury and Appuldurcombe Downs, with far reaching views to across the Island and then dipping down into Godshill, the edge of the Arreton valley and along the Medina river into Newport.

The Hamstead Trail

Perhaps you might like to cross the beautiful western side of the Island from the north to south coast, on the Hamstead Trail.  You set off from the coast between Yarmouth and Newtown, passing salt marshes and over downland to finish at the jurassic Brook beach with its fossilised forest and dinosaur footprints.

Shepherd's Trail
Shepherds Trail is a superb walk from Carisbrooke Priory, up and down the chalk downland that at this point stretches further south than at other places, and finishing at Shepherd's Chine at Atherfield.  A wild pebbled beach with rocky outcrops and a dangerous undertow, but superb for able swimmers.

There are plenty of amazing places to stay when visiting the Island and great pit stops to re-fuel whilst out walking too – to find out more checkout  And getting to the Isle of Wight couldn't be easier, with Red Funnel Ferries running up to 49 ferry crossings daily from Southampton to Cowes.

Thursday, 6 June 2013

You've heard of the Wainwrights and the Munros...

For many people, part of the attraction of walking is the completion of a list of targets - with the most well-
know being the Wainwrights and the Munros.

The Wainwrights are a collection of 214 Lake District fells - or hills - which were included in the 7 books written and illustrated by Alfred Wainwright, and the Munros are named after Sir Hugh Munro (right), who  produced the first list of mountains in Scotland with a height over 3,000 ft (914.4 m) in 1891.

But climbing to "bag" 282 Munros isn't everyone's cup of tea...

As a bit of a night owl, I'm often awake editing or writing when the early morning Shipping Forecast is broadcast on BBC Radio 4.  Although it's primarily designed to provide valuable long distance weather information to sailors, it's found an increasing number of listeners from landlubbers whose only experience of high seas is on a ferry to Ireland or mainline Europe...

Part of the Shipping Forecast is the "Forecast from Coastal Stations" - these are coastal stations and automatic weather logging stations located across the British Isles and provides essential information about the weather at sea along the coast.  The Coastal Stations forecasts are included in the extended Shipping Forecasts on BBC Radio 4 at 00:48 and 05:20 local time each day.

And this got me thinking...  How about a new walking tick list based on the "Forecast from Coastal Stations"?

How about several walks of differing length going to each of the Coastal Stations mentioned in the 00:48 forecast?  As they are coastal, it would connect with the British love of the sea, but it could also make it a fairly accessible tick list.  Although the list of people completing the Wainwrights and the Munros grows every month, it still is a very small amount of people compared to the large numbers who go walking because of the inherent nature of the those mountains.

Here could be a walking tick list which many more people have a chance of achieving.  But it is still quite a challenge... Two, for instance, are in the Republic of Ireland, another two are on the islands of Jersey and the Isle of Man and a further two are located on on the Hebrides.  This is not a tick list you could do in a few well-coordinated walks as with the Wainwrights!  And to make it even more challenging,  three of the Coastal Stations are actually light vessels moored in the English Channel!  I'm not thinking people should swim to these, but they could be pointed to the nearest point on the coast to where those light vessels are.

So, I decided to develop this idea further and do some research.  It turns out someone has had a similar idea, but they visited all of the Coastal Stations and wrote a book - they didn't try to create something for others to discover - but it proves the fascination with the Shipping Forecast and the coast.

I've already had input from the Met Office and I'm putting their suggestions in the mix.  What I'm working 2 or 3 walks to each of the Coastal Stations mentioned in the 00:48 broadcast.  As I'd like this tick list to be the first in the British Isles to have an element of digital involvement and social media from the start, I'm working with the team at Social Hiking to have the walking routes available via GPS downloads and to have some sort of a presence on their fantastic site.

Each of the Coastal Station points will be set by a GPS point too, as some of the stations are not able to be accessed by public rights of way - and some are in the sea, as I mentioned.  So, there will be a GPS point which will be "set" as the target end destination of each of the walks, and there will be detailed descriptions, photos and possibly videos detailing the routes and the end points on a website too.   At a later point, if the tick list becomes popular, there could be interpretation boards and waymarkers on the ground - but let's not get ahead of ourselves...
on at the moment is

So, there's a lot of work to be done, but having already walked to places like Ronaldsway in the Isle of Man and Bridlington, I think this walking tick list might become something people would like to do: a long term project to travel to some of the most scenic coastal spots across the British Isles.  Although I'm not too sure about the nickname a friend has already given the project... you've heard of the Wainwrights and the Munros, well he's called it the Whites...


Please leave any comments or suggestions you might have below.

Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Television Review - Coast series 8

Most welcome a new series of Coast is… but really, blink and you’d have missed it!  In time gone by, a series of Coast would have 12 episodes, then down to 8 and now we have to make do with 6.

Nick Crane on the Isle of Wight overlooking The Needles

Still, these are 6 episodes of top quality.  Top quality stories hosted by top quality presenters produced by top quality film-makers.  Sea cliffs, rivers and seas, workers on the coast are all classic Coast stories.

In the past, Coast has been a journey around the sea’s edge in a particular neck of the woods, but this eighth series following on from the “themed” style of the seventh…  and it works just a well as it did in that previous series.  After all, there’s only so many times you can go past the White Cliffs of Dover and talk about them in isolation… but make the episode about Sea Cliffs and suddenly you can link those same cliffs with stories from around the British Isles.

 Neil Oliver at Clydebank
Don’t be listening out for the dulcet tones of a long-haired Scottish historian in every episode this series.  Out of the original line up of Coast experts, only Nicholas Crane remains throughout the series… but that’s one of the brilliant strengths about the series.  It never was “Coast with Nicholas Crane”, because if it was, it probably wouldn’t have carried on after the second series when Nick moved onto to other projects to leave Neil Oliver as the main presenter… and again when Neil moved on and Nick returned as the front guy.   The changing of the experts brings a new, fresh feel to the series in much the way a newly regenerated Doctor brings to my other passion, Doctor Who.  The new experts have a different take on the stories, allowing them to develop in a totally bold way.

Tessa Dunlop at Plymouth Lido
Of these new experts, two are really of note for me.  The first is Tessa Dunlop, whose enthusiasm for the stories she tells is unbound.  Tessa is also now on my list of people who I could officially listen to all day long, together with Kirsty Young and Radio 4 continuity announcer Zoe Diamond – I’d listen to them read the telephone directory…  The second is the excellent South Yorkshireman Ian MacMillan – the man who shows his passion for the spoken as well as written word in all his segments.  And perhaps now there’s a space on telly for a South Yorkshire-born walking expert too…

So it does beg the question why only 6 episodes?  Well, there’s no doubt budgets across the BBC are being tightened, and it seems there possibly is only enough money from BBC Two for 6 programmes.  And within that budget, everything else is going up too.  Take transport for example; how much of Coast’s budget is taken in transporting crew, cast and equipment to the various locations?  For my own experience with our Walks Around Britain video walks I know that’s a fair chunk.  But another benefit of the “themed” style of Coast is it allows the same cast and crew to film two segments for different episodes back to back in a similar location.  Again, something the team here know all too well!  So Nick’s trip to the Isle of Wight makes it into both episodes 5 and 6 – with different stories of course.

Nick Crane at top of Grimsby Dock Tower
It seems another drawback of the squeeze on budgets is the reduction in the number of computer generated imagery, or CGI.  Traditionally one of the series’ signature points, there’s noticeably less of these sequences in the eighth series.  Thankfully, the ones included are just as amazing as they always have been.  As is the sumptuous aerial photography – another of Coast’s signature points.

There were quite a few highlights throughout the short series, but Ken Gollop hearing a recording of his father which he didn't know existed was perhaps my particular favourite, along with Nick’s perilous descent along the remarkable ropeway to get to the fishing grounds below.

The big question is just how does the production team manage to keep the programme of such high quality every series?  Here’s looking forward to series nine…

Monday, 13 May 2013

Gear Review - Hi-Tec Sierra Mid walking boots

Being the editor of Walks Around Britain often means I’m surprised.

Surprised when walk I've started out on suddenly changes into another one – like the one through Coombs Dale;  or when a famous person is revealed to be a dedicated walker; or the Hi-Tec Sierra Mid boot.

From first glance, you struggle to see how this this boots are going to be suitable for anything other than walking from the car to work in the middle of town.

But therein lies the surprise… and I’ll come to that side later.

Let’s have a look at the boots.  They feature a leather high-top married to a Vibram sole.  The ones we had are a black upper – which Hi Tec say is Dark Chocolate - with a cream sole, and this provides an attractive contrast between the two.

There’s the option of single and double eyelet lacing combinations, as well as a moisture-wicking lining to keep feet dry.  Inside, there’s an ortholite sock liner will aims to provide long-lasting cushioning, plus anti-odour and anti-microbial properties. The Vibram rubber out sole provides extra flexibility, although don’t expect anything more than a more conventional foot bed here.

So, how are they?

Well, I've been wearing these boots intermittently for the past 4 months, including several low-level walks and one – the Ladybower one from our website – in conditions which were best described as “extremely soggy underfoot”.  And my verdict?  Well, I like them.  Firstly, they are very comfortable.  I've been wearing them all day and I've found them to be really quite suitable both on a walk in the countryside and in the town afterwards.

The extended mountain boot-style ankle support does help provide much needed stability whilst out on the
paths, and the soles, whilst not having the bouncy nature of some other boots do provide good cushioning.

Onto the sole, and the tread is more substantial than a trainer or conventional shoe, but less so than a dedicated mountain boot.  As I said, I wore them out on the Labybower walk in quite soggy conditions and I felt safe and supported throughout – although I did feel slightly nervous as to how long my feet would remain dry for with the endless amount of unavoidable puddles along the way.

 And that’s why I feel that kind of walk is probably the limit to which you should attempt with these.  Silver Howe, Wansfell Pike and the like with rocky outcrops and difficult paths should really be done with more substantial boots.  That said, for what these are designed for, they are super.  Keep them to town and country walking with woodland and low fell treks and you’ll be fine.

The other point to note is because of the fashion styling, you don’t necessarily feel like you've just climbed another Wainwright when you wear them to go to Sainsburys.  The build quality has provide durable after the in-depth wearing I've been doing with them.  The one thing I’m not sure about it whether the side mounted mesh eyelets which are meant to help with breath-ability, actually do much.  One of these has actually fallen off..

Perhaps they should be the first in a new category of boot – a travel boot.  Equally at home on the low-fells, woodland walks and treading around our towns and cities, the other benefit of them is the weight – 800 gram isn't going to break any weight restrictions on travelling to places like the Isle of Man or Jersey.  In fact, I could have done with them when I went to Jersey to walk… but that’s another story.

What's Good

Comfortable, easy-to-wear boots
Low maintenance
Extended ankle support

What's Bad

Mesh eyelets may fall off over time
There's a danger of being too bold with them and getting caught out.

Hi-Tec Sierra Mid walking boots - Rough Price £50

Walks Around Britain rating 8/10

For more information, visit the Hi-Tec website here.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Top 5 Snacks to take on Walks

If, as Napoleon Bonaparte said, an army marches on its stomach, then us walkers certainly do too.  But whilst it is easy to make sure you have a good breakfast, it’s harder to know what to pack in your backpack for snacks en route.

So here’s our Top 5 suggestions for snacks to pack to keep you going through the walk…

Undoubtedly the best walking snack food known to man!  Bananas are a fantastic source of slow-release energy, making them guaranteed to see you through the morning’s walking and well into the afternoon.  Like other fruit, they are a great source of vitamin C – essential to help fight off any nasty bugs.

A fruit which has become largely ignored, thanks to popular image of nuts being fattening.  Well, if you eat a bag of salted nuts every day, they probably are – but as a snack food whilst walking, nuts are fantastic.  They are a good source of protein and contain essential fatty acids – these are “good fats” which will give you a boost of nutritious energy.

Oat-based Cereal Bars
You've got to love those oats… especially as they are great at keeping your energy levels up throughout the day’s walking.  Carrying a vat of porridge around the Northumberland hills isn't really an option – but a couple of oat-based cereal bars should fit into a daysack pocket.  The carbohydrates included within will sort your energy for quite a while.

Dried Fruits
All dried fruit is a good source of energy.  The main benefits of dried fruit for walkers is their space-saving and long-life properties – making them excellent for multi-day walks.  The fibre content will fill you up and help keep your intestines in fine working order.

Raw Vegetables
If you can prepare some chopped carrot, cucumber, red peppers, etc, then they make a super crunchy snack.  The ones we've mentioned have a great mix of lycopene, folic acid, vitamin A, vitamin B and vitamin C – all in a small tub of crunchy colour!

Thy are our Top 5 Walking Foods... but what are yours??

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Dog Poo Bags for Snowdonia National Park

Dog Poo Bags for Snowdonia National Park

SNPA Warden Gethin Corps demonstrating how to dispose of dog mess responsibly.

If you are a dog-walker in North Wales, did you know dog mess bags are available from Snowdonia National Park’s Wardens and Tourist Information Centres' staff?

During last summer, the National Park Authority appealed to dog owners to dispose of their dogs’ mess in a responsible manner and some improvement were been made following the appeal.  However, the concern persists and the main problem areas are to be found in the most populous places - from Llyn Tegid, Traeth Benar and Llyn Mair in the southern area of the Park to Cwm Idwal, Pen y Pass, Abergwyngregyn Woods and Sychnant in the north.

The National Park's Head of Wardens and Access, Mair Huws, said "We want people to enjoy themselves when they come to walk. But seeing and smelling dog mess affects people's enjoyment of the area, and creates an unpleasant experience for everyone. Not only that, but the mess can cause serious infections such as toxocariasis and can cause damage to the environment as well.

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon to see dog owners allowing their animals to foul and then do nothing about it. Our hope, in introducing these bags, is that owners use them to clear the mess and then dispose the bags in a responsible manner. "

Failure to dispose of dog waste increases the risk of causing serious infection, especially among young children between the ages of 18 months and 5 years through the disease toxocariasis, which can lead to nausea, asthma and in severe cases, eye disorder that can lead to blindness.  The most common form is to catch the disease through hand contact but also through the soles of shoes and other objects such as bicycle wheels.  The eggs of the toxacora parasite can be found in soil or sand that’s contaminated with dog faeces.

The little blue bags, which are biodegradable and odourless, are available from the National Park Warden Offices at Pen y Pass, Betws y Coed, Penrhyndeudraeth, Dolgellau and Llyn Tegid, Bala. They are also available from the Authority's Tourist Information Centres in Betws y Coed, Beddgelert, Harlech, Dolgellau and Aberdyfi. Some are also available at Plas Tan y Bwlch in Maentwrog and the Authority’s Headquarters in Penrhyndeudraeth.