Monthly Archives: March 2014

Ramblers General Council Report

This weekend I made the 382 mile round trip to Liverpool to attend Ramblers General Council as the sole delegate of the Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Area of the RA. Over 35 years ago, I spent some time working in Liverpool city centre so it was a good opportunity to kill two birds with one stone by attending GC and taking the opportunity to see how the city had changed since I was last there. The 4 hour drive, each way, was uneventful although there was a lot of weekend traffic and speed restrictions on the M6 around the Stoke area. My satnav got me there without any problems. During my time as Chair of the Cambs & Peterborough Area I attended 4 or 5 GC’s in a row but hadn’t been for 2 or 3 years so it was a good opportunity to get up to speed with what is happening in the Ramblers today and in the future.

For the first time, I think, the Ramblers were using a hotel in which to hold GC rather than University halls of residence. This year’s GC, which was hosted by the Merseyside & West Cheshire Area, was held in The Adelphi hotel. It was celebrating its 100th anniversary and could be charitably described as a building of character and declining grandeur. Checking in was a little tortuous as their IT system was down and, despite asking on 3 separate occasions, I was unable to pay the £12 fee for car parking. Their electronic key card was confusing as it had to be used upside down to gain entry to the bedroom. This threw me and many other delegates. I had a double room on the 6th floor which was fine other than a smell of stale cigarette smoke. The set dinner on Saturday evening was no more than okay but the breakfast the following morning was excellent. I have some sympathy with establishments trying to cater for around 250 guests all at the same time. The changing of the clocks and my usual disturbed sleep pattern meant that I didn’t fully wake until the middle of Sunday morning and only made a minimal contribution to the first discussion session on the Ramblers “Vision”. I’d woken a little more for the “Governance” session that followed.

I’ll talk about GC in a little later on but I must mention and praise our hosts for their early morning and afternoon guided tours of Liverpool city centre. My walks were led by Pat and Angela who are both Royal Institute of British Architecture (RIBA) city guides. The early Sunday morning walk started at 7.15am and took us towards Hope Street where we were able to see the exterior of Liverpool’s two Cathedrals and the architecture of some of the older city streets. The afternoon walk started at 1.30pm and took us through the city to look at Lime Street Station, St George’s Hall and the Central Library on our way to The Cavern. From here we went to the waterfront to view the LiverBuilding and the Albert Dock before returning through Liverpool One. By necessity, these walks were conducted at a brisk pace but our guides took every opportunity to provide historic content along the way.

My arrival at GC a little after 11.00am on Saturday morning was too late to participate in the first of the pre-lunch workshops so I took the opportunity to look around some of the stands hosted by the Ramblers and their affiliates such as YHA, HF Holiday, and Ramblers Worldwide Holidays. There was a demonstration of a new Ramblers walks finder system which is due to be rolled-out before the end of June 2014, but it didn’t appear to have travelled too well and wasn’t fully functional. Let’s hope that the finished product doesn’t have the same problems.

My first real engagement with GC came in the form of a workshop on “The member experience”. This focussed largely on communications and explaining the wider aims, objectives and achievements of the Ramblers. There was some interesting detail provided by Surrey Area on member surveys and website development. The more formal aspects of GC were started after lunch when we heard welcomes from the Ramblers Chairman, Jonathan Kipling, and the Merseyside Area Chairman, Dave Callan. This was followed by Benedict Southworth, the Ramblers CEO, who outlined our collective achievements and Jonathan Kipling who gave a view on future challenges. This was the first time that I’d seen Benedict and I have to say that I was very impressed by him and feel that the Ramblers are in “safe hands”.

The remainder of the afternoon and some of the following morning was given over to debating a number of motions covering topics such as the 2026 cut-off date, waymarking, guidance notes for footpath workers, biodiversity offsetting and the use of barbed wire alongside footpaths and stiles. As you might expect, there was debate and differing views but each of the motions were carried with overwhelming majorities. Further information can be found here: http://www.ramblers.org.uk/volunteer-zone/volunteer-toolkits/general-council-2014.aspx

A number of fringe events were held between 6.00pm and 7.00pm but I was too whacked by now and needed a rest before the formal dinner at 7.45pm. This included an address by the local MP, Maria Eagle, Shadow Environment Secretary, who is a supporter of Ramblers and campaigner on many of our key issues. The Ramblers President, Kate Ashbrook, presented trophies to the winners in what I think are a new series of volunteer awards.

Following the early Sunday morning walk and breakfast, we were thrown in to workshops where we discussed the development of a future Vision for the Ramblers and possible changes to Governance arrangements. This was something of a first for GC which normally centers on debating motions etc and provided a welcome change and an opportunity for every delegate to express their opinions on the way ahead. The final session of GC finished off with more debating of motions and the usual round of thanks to those involved in organising the event.

I was glad that I made the effort to attend GC as it re-invigorated my interest in making Ramblers a successful organisation. The move towards discussion rather than debate was welcomed and I was pleased to see Keith Wadd (Harrogate resident) elected as a vice-president. Equally pleasing was the election of Christine O’Byrne, Paul Rhodes and Andy Rogers as members of the Board of Trustees. GC next year is being held at Robinson College in Cambridge so it won’t be so far to travel should I be elected as an Area representative.

Cley-next-the-Sea

Sunday 23 March. People who are superstitious may have thought that the 13 walkers who turned out today would bring us bad luck. I don’t believe in such rubbish and it certainly wasn’t the case as far as the weather was concerned. The forecast was terrible with heavy showers predicted for most of the day. Unusually, this was way off and whilst we had one shower just as we set off, that was it for the day and soon after the sun came out and the cloud gave way to blue sky.

This was Linda’s first walk as leader and I’m sure that she and her fellow walkers appreciated the dry conditions. Setting out from the Norfolk Wildlife Trust’s visitor centre at Cley-next-the-Sea we headed inland and steadily uphill to our coffee stop on the edge of The Wing (woodland) above Bayfield Hall. From here we went downhill past the Wildflower Centre and across the parkland of Bayfield Hall before crossing the Glandford Road.

The next section of the walk took us along permissive paths and up a series of short climbs through Hull Wood to the top of Ladies Hill. From here it was largely downhill to lunch at the Art Café in Glandford. We sat outside for lunch and the proprietors expressed their displeasure at us taking up seats and tables without buying anything from them. The unwelcoming attitude is perhaps understandable but did nothing to endear them to us and may well have lost them potential future trade. It wasn’t as if we were denying customer a seat outside in the cold. I had previously formed the opinion that their café was a little pretentious and certainly overpriced so I won’t be spending any money with them.

After lunch we stopped for pictures on the bridge over the River Glaven before walking on quite lanes back to Cley and past the windmill. The walk was 8.3 miles with a total ascent of just over 700ft.

Elton

Friday 21 March. It’s the Spring equinox today and finally I think that winter is behind us. I’ve been making the most of the recent dry weather with a 10 mile walk from Wansford on 19 March, a 5½ mile walk from Nassington with the Thursday Strollers yesterday and a 6½ mile walk from Elton today. 22 miles in 3 days to add to the 14½ miles that I did during last weekend. A total of 102 miles so far this month with another 8½ to come on Sunday

It was overcast for much of the first two walks but this morning dawned with beautiful sunshine so I took a few pictures on the way. Leaving Elton, I crossed the River Nene and made my way to Fotheringhay via Park Spinney. I took some time out for a coffee break in the grounds of the church at Fotheringhay before making my way back through Eaglesthorpe and Elton Park. It is a really nice walk; only 20 miles or so from home but it was spoiled by a section of flooded path at Eaglesthorpe, due to local quarrying, which meant that I had to trespass on their property to find a dry way through. I’m waiting to speak to the Northants Rights of Way Officer to see what can be done to correct this situation.

Hallaton Recce

Saturday 15 March. I had a text from Linda during the week to see if I wanted to do a longish hill walk. We decided to recce the Hallaton walk that she’ll be leading in October. At 8 miles and with 700ft of ascent, it fitted the bill but was half a mile more than we had thought. The hills weren’t too bad and afforded magnificent views.
The cafe in Hallaton was being refurbished so we stopped for a post-walk pot of tea at The Haycock in Wansford.

P.S. I commented to Linda during our lunch stop that the sun felt warm on my face. It turned out to be 16c and now I’m mildly sun-burnt. Incredible for early March but perhaps I need to wear a cap or factor 20.

Berghaus Derwent Review

One of the most important questions for walkers, both new and old is which jacket to buy? Well, there is no easy answer and experience is normally gained through trial and error. This can be a costly exercise, so that I thought that I’d give my opinions based around a review of my latest acquisition.

I have no particular brand allegiance and over a period of 20 years or so I’ve amassed a collection of jackets/coats/tops for almost every occasion. These range from a couple of down-filled jackets for the coldest winters day to a few lighter articles for summer use. Whatever you buy, there are generally two primary considerations: is it waterproof and is it breathable. Well, it is possible to buy jackets which meet both criteria, but as with most things in life, my experience is that you get what you pay for. The more expensive jackets manufactured from a fabric such as Gore-Tex Pro can cost more then £300 and would not be a sensible choice for a casual walker. At the entry level, walking jackets can be bought for less than £50 but this might be false economy as they may only be shower-proof and not very breathable. You could find yourself getting wet from both rain and perspiration.

If your budget allows, I would recommend that you look for something in the £100-£150 price range as this will probably include jackets in eVent. A good guide to the various materials used by manufacturers can be found here: http://www.walkandramble.co.uk/fabric-advice.php Berghaus uses a variety of materials for their jackets. http://store.berghaus.com/c/mens/clothing/waterproof-jackets

My latest acquisition, the Berghaus Derwent (http://store.berghaus.com/p/clothing/mens-derwent-waterproof-jacket/420758) uses their own AQ2 material (http://help..berghaus.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/299) which is claimed to be both fully waterproof and breathable. I should say for anyone new to walking that most of the lightweight jackets are not necessarily warm – that’s not their job. They are primarily to keep you dry, so if you need warmth then you need to consider using a layering system underneath your waterproof jacket.

The Derwent ticks a couple of my boxes in that it has a roll-away hood and, to my mind, is affordable with a price of £100. It can probably be bought for less if you search on the internet. I know that it isn’t quite the thing to do but I like to search the internet for the best available price and then to try on clothing in-store. Both Go Outdoors and Cotswold Outdoors will price-match and the latter offers a 15% discount to Ramblers members.

Back to the Derwent review: most of my friends know that I don’t like walking in the rain but in this case it is something that has to be done as this is the only way that I know of testing its waterproof and breathability qualities. I could have stood under the shower but wanted to test it “in the field”. So, on your behalf, I ventured forth on a rainy day to see how good or bad the Derwent really is. The jacket has a rather large hood with only minimal volume adjustment. The storm flap over the front zip and adjustable cuff fasteners mean that there are reduced opportunities for the rain to find its way inside. My “large” size jacket is a little snug around the middle but that is more to do with me than any inadequacies in the jacket itself. As with most jackets, the sleeves are a little too long for me. Being the shape that I am, trousers are always too long and so are sleeves. For a more normally proportioned body they will probably be just right. I hate it when clothing rustles as you walk along and I’m pleased to say that the Derwent doesn’t suffer from this problem. It is comfortable and there are adequate pockets to store the things that need to be close to hand such as gloves etc.

I’ve worn the Derwent a few times now and, at the price, it’s a versatile walking jacket which does what it says on the tin. It has kept me dry; the water beads well due to the DWR (durable water repellent) finish and has proven to be relatively breathable. It weighs in at 650gms. My similar Sprayway Gore-tex jacket weighs 600gms and my Mountain Hardware DryQ shell is only 320gms. The Derwent is, perhaps, a coat to be worn rather than carried. For those just in case, summer occasions, I think that I’d opt for something a little lighter.