Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Edition 024 - Walking the Pennine Way and repairing the moorlands of the Peak District and the South Pennines

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Snowdon isn't working... but why?

This week the British Mountaineering Council (BMC) said that Snowdon isn't working.

Britain's Busiest Mountain - Snowdon - Alex_Messenger

It said a properly funded, long ranged strategy is needed to address the problems and risks caused by a massive increase in the numbers of visitors on Snowdon is needed.

And they are certainly right.

This all follows the Snowdonia National Park Authority agreeing to remove ‘false paths’ from the summit of Snowdon - and after they made comments which have been interpreted in some quarters as warning families with children to stay away from summits.

Let's look at the increasing numbers of people walking to the top of Snowdon.

Busy path up Snowdon - Ray Wood
Snowdon is Britain’s busiest mountain - and one of the reasons why is it is actually quite accessible to walk up - so The BMC believes Central Government funding to the Snowdonia National Park Authority (SNPA) should be increased to reflect the challenges this popularity brings.

Elfyn Jones, BMC access & conservation officer for Wales, said: "In the last few years there has been a huge increase in the numbers of people on Snowdon – in 2013 there were 477,000 walkers, an increase of 23% on the previous year."

"Many of these visitors are unprepared casual walkers, and there has been a significant increase in the number of avoidable callouts to rescue teams, parking problems, traffic congestion and litter."

A quick search online reminds us of the many incidents which have happened in recent years on Snowdon - the Llanberis Mountain Rescue Team have a constantly updated page here.  In the past the SNPA have been implementing a range of schemes designed to reduce the number of incidents and call-outs to the Llanberis MRT.  In May 2013, new stone pillars were placed at points along the mountain where it was found walkers were getting into difficulties.  Stone pillars were placed to mark Bwlch y Moch and Crib Goch to encourage people not to go along these routes by mistake, another stone pillar identified the intersection of Llanberis Path and Snowdon Ranger Path as walkers often mix up the two paths.  Also, a stone pillar was placed on the summit to identify accurately where the Watkin Path begins and another stone pillar to identify Bwlch y Saethau as walkers often make the mistake of descending the mountain this dangerous way.

But The BMC say this hasn't helped.

"The current practice of managing the paths by reacting to individual problems such as ‘landscaping’ and smoothing out natural obstacles has done nothing to alleviate the issues. If anything it has created a bigger problem as many walkers and visitors are under the impression that Snowdon is a “tourist attraction”, similar to a fully waymarked country park trail.  User groups such as the BMC have had little opportunity to input into the strategic management of the mountain." said Elfyn Jones.

Let's be honest here... walking up a mountain is not safe as walking in a country park.  And no matter what measures are brought in, it never can be.  But surely the mountains aren't to blame here?  Nor are the 'fake paths' which are a feature of many a mountain?

Jon Garside, BMC training officer, explains: "To some people it might seem easy to blame ‘misleading’ paths for accidents. But simply removing paths is not the answer.  It is wrong to say that paths, summits or any other physical aspect of the mountain environment are inherently dangerous. The key factor is people themselves and their ability to deal with the hazards they encounter.  To stay safe people must be taught to rely on their heads, not cues provided by artificial pointers."

Map reading in Snowdonia - Alex Messenger
Jon's right.  Walking up a mountain requires more skills than walking a waymarked long-distance trail.  Map-reading skills, for example, are needed to ensure you are going on the right route - and these skills are not something you learn over night.

Waymarking routes to the summit can only ever be a part solution - what happens in poor visibility when signs can't be seen?  And the increasing numbers of walkers using apps on smartphones for navigation is a worry too.  What happens here when the phone can't get a GPS lock?  Or the battery runs out?  Maps are required in these situations as a fail safe backup.  And that means people need the skills to be able to read and map and interpret it.

Elfyn Jones, BMC access & conservation officer for Wales, again: "The park authority should prioritise education and awareness-raising, putting effort into ensuring the visitor is better prepared, instead of treating Snowdon as if it was an urban environment and attempting to physically engineer it into being ‘safe’. This is simply impossible."

It's not saying "Stay away for mountains" - just "Be prepared".

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Podcast Edition 023 - Show Notes

Edition 23 of the Walks Around Britain podcast is a special dedicated to the popular long-running series Coast. Emma Johnston joins Andrew from Sydney to talk about Coast Australia and Steve Evanson, the series editor of Coast, talks about the new ninth series of the original UK version.

Coast Australia

(c) Foxtel / BBC
Professor Emma Johnston (left) joins Andrew from Sydney to talk about how she loved watching the original UK series of Coast - before getting a surprise phone call asking whether she'd like to co-present the forthcoming Australian version.

Emma is the director of the Sydney Harbour Research Program at the Sydney Institute of Marine Sciences - where she investigates the effects of contaminants and introduced species on the structure and diversity of indigenous marine species in places as diverse as the Great Barrier Reef and Antarctica.  You can find out more about her work on their website here - and follow her on Twitter.

(c) BBC

Joining Andrew from not quite as far away as Emma - Coast HQ in Bristol in fact - is Steve Evanson, the series producer of the original UK version of Coast.

Coast returns for an amazing ninth series on BBC Two this summer, and Steve has been the series producer from the very first series way back in 2004/5.  Here he chats to Andrew about the way the series is made, and the various elements which all go together to make Coast the successful and popular programme it is.

You can follow Steve on Twitter at CoastTV.

That's another podcast finished.  We hope you enjoy listening to them as much as we do putting them together.  Any comments and suggestions are gratefully received - pop them in the comment section below.

Monday, 12 May 2014

Edition 022 - A interview with Terry Abraham

Thursday, 1 May 2014

Edition 021 - Countryfile Magazine Awards

Friday, 7 February 2014

Book Review - How To Connect with Nature by Tristan Gooley

If you’re not familiar with Tristan Gooley, he is probably best known as the Natural Navigator.   He has led expeditions on five continents, spent time with the Tuareg, Bedouin and Dayak in some of the remotest places on Earth and pioneered a renaissance in the rare art of natural navigation.  He is also the only living person to have both flown solo and sailed single-handed across the Atlantic.

So, he is well qualified to write a book about connecting with nature.

But, firstly, why should we connect with nature?  In our daily life today, we don’t really need an understanding of our natural environment for everyday survival – so should we really bother?  Do we need to have these skills any more?

Well, Tristan believes any connection to nature is beneficial – no matter how small – and this book is a collection of his techniques to help enthuse our senses and re-establish that love-affair with the outdoors he knows we all have.

The book is part of a series from Macmillan exploring life’s big questions “The School of Life” which doesn't purports to have all the answers, but they know people who have ideas of how to make life better.  And Tristan certainly fits the bill here.

The book is littered with exercises to do – which I have done, and I can tell you they really will make you stop and think about your surroundings and your place within them.  And it’s full of information you think “I really should have known that – and I'm glad I now do” – for example the name “ghost orchids” was coined for that particular plant as they are one of the rarest plants in Britain and can disappear from a site for decades, before briefly reappearing – which sounds very logical.

There’s fantastic knowledge you can use in everyday life in here; finding the North Star from The Plough for instance, and some useful info about Ground Time too (you’ll have to read the book…)

I guess the only thing that lets the book down is the rendition of the photographs – several of monochrome images are difficult to clearly make out what they are all about.  You feel that a book which does reference and rely on its images should have been allowed to have better quality printing for the photographs – but I guess that’s down to the house style of “The School of Life” series and the price point.  But don't let that out you off.

Overall, a cracking read which you’ll find you’ll be mentally accessing as you go on future expeditions into the great outdoors.

How To Connect with Nature by Tristan Gooley
published by Macmillan, priced £7.99
Walks Around Britain rating 8/10

Order it now from Amazon here

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

The best of autumn/winter walking

As temperatures drop, don’t assume that you have to forfeit your passion for exploring the outdoors on foot. Winter offers beautiful walking opportunities, when the landscape is transformed by a riot of colour and weather is often crisp, clear and refreshing.

If you've never experienced winter walking, or you think the seasonal chills aren't worth the benefits of exploring the countryside at this time of year, take a look at this guide to the best of cold weather walking:


Arguably one of the best things about exploring the countryside at this time of year is the changing colours.  Landscapes that you've seen in the past will be unrecognisable, when the trees lose their leaves and the scenery gets covered with white frost or snow.


A lot of people assume that once the summer months are over, hiking and walking is
out of bounds. However, when you think about it, winter is a great time to explore the outdoors. When temperatures are fresh and crisp, it’s much easier to push yourself and cover larger distances. What’s more, you won’t have to concern yourself with the threat of sunburn.

It’s a good idea to invest in a lightweight waterproof jacket in case of any sudden downpours, but this can be rolled up and packed into you backpack, should you become too hot (Brantano stock some Mountain Peak items that are pretty reasonable).

On, chillier days, it can be the tendency to wrap up in heavy layers to keep warm. This may be a good idea at first, but as you pick up the pace your body temperature will soar and you’ll quickly start to feel hot and sweaty. A much better idea is to wear a base layer beneath your clothes, which traps an insulating layer of air against your skin. These are usually worn by athletes, but they’re perfect for walking in cool conditions.


Walking is so popular at this time of the year that there are lots of great festivals taking place throughout the country. The Enchanted Forest Festival is a light and sound show based in Faskally Wood, which makes for a magical and interesting evening event. The wood lies just outside the popular tourist town of Pitlochry, which is itself considered a centre for hillwalking in Scotland.

You can find more information about the Enchanted Forest, including dates for the 2014 event, at the official website.


Some locations in the UK just cry out for walking during the winter/autumn months.  Areas like the Lake District and the New Forest experience the biggest transformations at this time of year and make for wonderful walking.  A top spot is Mortimer Forest in Shropshire, which boasts fantastic routes through the woodland and stunning views of the Malvern Mountains and the Cotswolds.


Autumn is a unique time to spot wildlife, as many animals prepare for hibernation and large flocks of birds leave the country to head for sunnier climes.  If you’re heading to a deer park, this is the time of year when stags develop antlers, which can make for a majestic sight against the backdrop of an autumn landscape.
 If you’re heading to a coastal location, keep an eye out for large flocks of geese arriving from Arctic breeding grounds to spend the winter in the UK.

For more great ideas and outdoor activities to do during autumn, take a look at this guide from Wildlife Watch.