Archive for the ‘Unusual experiences’ Category

Hadrian’s Wall – day 3


Today’s journey took us from Chollerford to East Wallhouses (15k) and a moderate ascent of 200m over the first half.

As customary, you’ll see the opening photo but with an omission – that omission being Tom! While Joan and I took on the wall, Tom visited Vindolanda and Chesters Forts to brush up on his Roman history.

Joan on Chollerford Bridge

Before we set off we took a detour down to the Roman bridge abutment to discover the symbol of Roman prosperity!

The symbol of Roman wealth and prosperity!!

Walking on to St Oswald’s we took a quick visit to the church and Heavenfield battle site where King Oswald representing ‘Christianity’ defeated the ‘Pageans’, thus setting himself up as a future St Oswald and even has a walk named after him leading to Lindisfarne. The sundial on the wall wasn’t working (due to no sun!), but the Roman Altar was quite impressive as was the pocket sized church organ.

St Oswalds Church

The ‘non’ sundial

Roman Altar

Pocket sized church organ

Panoramic view from St Oswalds looking out towards Carter Bar and North Northumberland

After St Oswalds we followed the ditch line towards Newcastle and some very deep examples of the Vallum. At just about this point, Ritchie and Tom arrived with the bus and Tom joined us for the last couple of km. On arrival at the Robin Hood Inn, Tom was heard to announce that he was ‘pleased to have completed all three days so far’ 🙊

Ditch gets deeper and more impressive.

Tom looks suitably ‘bedraggled’ after his Herculean effort while Joan looks as fresh as a daisy but ready for a local brew of ‘Rivet Catcher’

One more day ahead of us to Heddon on the Wall – check Badger Adventures for your next adventure.


Coast to Coast May 2016 Day 2



After another good breakfast and improving weather promised, the group were ready and raring to go for day 2 and the 16 miles to Borrowdale from Ennerdale Bridge. With a good night of rest and the various potions and lotions applied, the energy level was palpable!

The walk along the Ennerdale shore is always an awkward one with large boulders and water after the last few days of heavy rain, but overall progress towards Black Sail was good.


We made Black Sail in a reasonable time for lunch and discovered it closed completely! It’s about time the YHA got this sorted and allowed visitors to use the facility at this time of year – after all it is May – shame on you YHA! At least you left the toilet door open for use………..


After an enticing mix of delicacies for lunch at Black Sail, our next task was the climb out of Ennerdale up to Brandreth Fence via Loft Beck. The group did well and the views from the top into Ennerdale, Buttermere and to the Solway Firth were as good as always.


After the climb on to the plateau, the walk across Moses Trod to The Drum House is pretty easy but punctuated with more stunning 360 degree panoramas. From there it’s a steady walk down to Honister mine and on to Stonethwaite and our billets for the evening. Stonethwaite has to be the most picturesque hamlet in all of Lakeland by far!

Dinner scheduled for 1930 and this meant that the youngest member of the group (Jo) could have a Nana Nap before a steak of Desperate Dan proportions in the Langstrath Country Hotel.

Good tales of blisters, ankle soreness and the ready volunteering of team Vaseline by Mark meant that pre dinner chat was of the lowest order!! Some even regaled the group with the worst possible jokes every told by anyone over 6 3/4 years of age (yours truly!)

Anyway, after a good meal, we bade our good nights and off for a good sleep before a modest day of 9 miles to Grasmere tomorrow over Greenup Edge.

31 miles down and only 161 to go!

Two of our group are challenging themselves to raise funds for two worthy charities. Jo Purnell is raising money for Macmillans and Cancer Research so if you would like to give a thing to help this cause, please visit http//

Trevor Hart is raising money for Caring for Life and if you would like to raise funds for this worthy cause, please do so at

The Coast to Coast is a tough challenge and raising funds by this method is no easy feat – please help them if you can.

Coast to Coast May 2016 – Day 1


What a start to this crossing – high winds, lashing rain but some determined ‘Coasters’ ready t brave the best Spring weather that the Uk can give them.

Despite the wet start, pebbles were collected and we were off on our two week crossing of the UK via the Coast to Coast route with Sherpa Expeditions.

The group of 5 women and two men are the youngest collective group that I have led across the route so I am optimistic that we will get a 100% completion. 

After a good stretch along St Bees Head and then heading East we were greeted with sun and even warmer weather (enough to give the group some sun reddened faces on arriving at Ennerdale Bridge this evening.  

On the way over St Bees Head we stopped to look at the nesting Kittiwakes and Guillemots although not as plentiful as previous May crossings – no doubt due to the colder weather so far. We did manage to see the Isle of Man, and Southern Scotland as the cloud lifted and visibility improved!

The big challenge for today was Dent hill and with the wet weather, the steepest descent on the C2C was going to be a challenge. I needn’t have worried though as the group made an assured descent without incident. From there it was a steady walk into Ennerdale Bridge and our accommodation for the evening. As usual, the meal at the Shepherds Arms was fantastic and fulsome and after a quick discussion about emerging aches and pains and blisters we settled into a discussion surrounding various remedies used for aches and pains. I liked the sound of the Aussie remedy of ‘Stiff and Sore’ although we couldn’t quite work out what Cheryl and Karen were using it for! Not sure it will help Trevor with his damaged finger from an argument with a lawnmower blade though.

Tomorrow is one of my favourite legs of the way up through Ennerdale and into Seathwaite in  Borrowdale – surely one of the most beautiful places in the whole of the U.K. if not the wettest with 4.7m of rain annually – but who cares – we are only there for a day!

More tomorrow on our adventures, but if you’d like t learn how you can become involved with a Coast to Coast challenge, take a look at Sherpa Expeditions

Arctic Expedition #6 the final day before travelling home


Well it’s the final day here in Finland and it’s no less packed than the previous week. Our excellent guide and I walked out on to the ice last evening to check the depth and to ascertain whether we could go ice fishing on the lake or not. After drilling some test holes we ascertained that the depth of ice was 10cm and safe to take our collective weight and the stress of the fish we were going to catch!

So after breakfast, suitably attired for a three hour fishing expedition we headed off to the ice to wrestle with the huge fish Jarno had been telling us about. We were concerned that the size of ice hole was going to limit our ability to land our fish, but unperturbed we took our instruction from Jarno, baited our hooks with worms and sat down to wait for the bites.
It didn’t take long for us to start reeling the monsters in and to start thinking about our upcoming lunch. Surely fresh fish would be on the menu? I decided to go and tell Harri our chef to hold on the planned lunch for our catch and asked him to ready a sledge to come for our catch at noon.

However, I was a little premature in my assessment of our fishing ability through the ice and whilst we caught 5 fish, the description ‘lake monsters’ didn’t quite fit …………

Oh well, Jarno did soften the blow by telling us that fish spend the cold winter bottom feeding in the warmer water if they feed at all. So catching 5 didn’t seem so bad after all. 

After lunch we werecoff to a reindeer breeder and to learn about the way of life as well as hearing about his life as a counter spy in the Cold War – such an interesting man and a treat to be invited into his home for songs, food and Finnish hospitality in front of the log fire.

 Jarno gets comfortable
Does he know Rudolph?

  Piano recital complete! 
Well that concludes another great day in Finland and all that remains is a sauna, shower, dinner and the packing for a 0500 start in the morning back to Kuusamo and Helsinki to London. A fantastic expedition with a great group of students who made it a perfect example of a life changing experience with Outlook Expeditions

Arctic Circle Expedition -Finland #4


Well I’m impressed that all but one of the students made it through the night sleeping in their self made igloos. The temperature fell last night to -26c so it was no mean feat to stay the course. Our guides showed us how to make ice candles for our igloos last night and they looked pretty spectacular!

The mornings are dark until almost 1000 and the sun threatens to rise with a lovely coloured sky but we haven’t seen the sun in the best part of a week.

The night was eerily quiet, but most of the bird life is conserving energy during the long winter nights. We snowshoed today through forests around frozen lakes and tracked reindeer, lemmings, squirrels, foxes, mountain hare,  and capercaillie but didn’t see any wildlife during our walk. The sky was clear and almost saw the sun !! But tomorrow and the rest of our time we have heavy snow forecast. 


We stopped at a great little ‘Kotta’ at lunchtime for a fire, hot sausages, toasted sandwiches and hot drinks while we watched the moon rise at lunchtime! The students are a little more tired today after a cold night and I suspect there may be some early bedtimes this evening. 

Jarno our guide is an expert in the wildlife, flora and fauna and traditions of the Sami so we are all learning so much on the way. We have another day of exploring on snowshoe tomorrow and then we are ice fishing on Saturday before we head to a reindeer farm to say hello to Rudolph! Tonight before dinner, Jarno is going to give us a slideshow and talk on the wildlife and let us see some of the photographs one of his professional photographer clients has taken on expeditions in the area.

So far it has been an amazing expedition for the students and their teacher and full of ‘first time experiences’ that are building an unforgettable and life changing adventure.

For more details on a school expedition for your school see

Arctic Circle Expedition #3 – Building tonights’s accommodation!


It’s a balmy -16c today, so a little bit of physical exercise will keep us all warm. Today we are learning some bushcraft skills, igloo building, lighting wilderness fires to cook on, and the way to utilise the Arctic    Surroundings to our advantage before we head off on a snow shoe safari over the next two days.

Stage  1  was to start to build our two man igloos for this evening. The temperature is forecast to drop to about -20c but it will be around -2c inside the igloo. So a great deal of shovelling snow into a useable pile first.


Stage 2 is the scooping out of the interior once the snow and ice has had time to consolidate into a firm shape. Making sure of course that the walls are thick enough to withstand the weight of the roof. 

 Stage 3  is making a raised sleeping platform so that the cold air sinks and moves out of your sleeping area, and of course to make some shelves inside for your personal items to be stored.
Stage 4 was to create a snow sculpture to add a finishing touch – in my case a troll!

Then it was time to learn some bushcraft, light a back woods fire, make some hot drinks and enjoy the warm glow prior to a Finnish sauna accompanied by the traditional roll in the snow before repeating the process.

Another great day in Finland and half way through our expedition already. A lot more snow forecast over the next three days too – hope we can still get to the reindeer farm to see Rudolph before we leave 😊

Just had time to make a snow angel on the lake too – not sure about the two indentations though 🙊 nothing to do with my buttocks I assure you!

I hope I don’t have a drip on the end of my nose like that tonight in my igloo – it’ll freeze!

Hoping that the Northern Lights make another appearance tonight but so far not a thing – and it’s been dark since 1430 –  still plenty of time yet though. My broken finger doesn’t like the cold but it might be the extra damage I’ve done to it trying to stay on the dog sled around a corner at speed the other day 😕

And this is the sunset today over the lake…..



Winter is here in the Lake District and holidays are coming……………………..


Well, the 1st December traditionally heralds the start of winter and right on cue, we had a crispo night with temperatures at -5c in Shap and a lovely white vista surrounds us in the village here at Bolton. A white frost only means one thing, must go and get a Christmas tree, especially as the Coca Cola Holiday Wagon arrives in Penrith today – Holidays are coming, holidays are coming 🙂

The iconic Coca-Cola truck will visit Penrith on Wednesday 3 December.

Time: 12:00 – 20:00, Devonshire Street, Penrith.

So much on our Lake District doorstep …………………………


Driving back from Penicuik, near Edinburgh I came across this view over the Devil’s Beeftub near Moffatt. It’s a long time since I used the A701 on my motorcycle trips and I’d forgotten just how lovely the area is.

Of course the area was the scene of much bloodshed in the 14th century as the battles between England and Scotland raged. The north / borders have seen bloody battles for as long as history can remember, the norse invaders, the Picts versus the Romans, the Scottish rebellion, and the Border Reivers et al. Although from the north east and familiar with a lot of the local history, I stumbled upon a small information point on my way back when I stopped to photograph the ‘Beeftub’ and learned why the Douglas coat of arms always depicts a red heart. Now I know it’s Robert the Bruce’s heart and the story of how it was carried to the Crusades against the Moors in Spain (scene of one of the greatest epic movies of all time , El Cid, starring Charlton Heston and Sophia Loren). So it was a nice tying of a knot seeing the view again and learning a little more of the local history of this fabulous area so close to my doorstep in the Lake District – the Eastern Trail might just be worth looking out for a walk in spring!

The 'Devil's Beeftub' near Moffatt, Scottish Borders

The ‘Devil’s Beeftub’ near Moffatt, Scottish Borders




Peak District Expedition Training with Outlook Expeditions


Over the last weekend I had the ‘pleasure’ of leading three days of expedition training on behalf of Outlook Expeditions for a London school. The school are heading off to Malawi in July so the weather we had ordered was of course nothing like Malawi in summer! The group of 12 and two teachers braved the elements to learn campcraft, expedition skills such as river crossings, navigation, first aid, group management, risk assessment, safety and teamwork in the worst conditions in the Peak District.

The team decided the route of their Saturday hike and we duly set off in worsening conditions towards Hollins Cross and Mam Tor.

Setting off in the rain to climb to Hollins Cross, near Castleton

Setting off in the rain to climb to Hollins Cross, near Castleton

After a number of navigational challenges, the group arrived at the top of ‘somewhere’ – they just needed to agree where!


"So where are we guys? - show me on your map!"

“So where are we guys? – show me on your map!”

So having agreed that they had made Hollins Cross, all that remained was to find the cafe for a hot cup of tea and a bacon buttie.

Lunch time on top of Mam Tor - 25-35 mph gusts and rain make it a cold affair for all but the hardy! Good test for the shelter though.

Lunch time on top of Mam Tor – 25-35 mph gusts and rain make it a cold affair for all but the hardy! Good test for the shelter though.

Ok – so I lied about there being a cafe with heating and hot drinks – but at least the team brought their emergency shelter so that they could eat cold wraps, drink cold juice and enjoy the scenery of the Peak District.

On the way off Mam Tor - George thinks he is in the Arctic :)

On the way off Mam Tor – George thinks he is in the Arctic 🙂

After a lunch break it was time to get moving again to generate some body heat and get out of the wind. As you can see the prospect of heading down was not an unpleasant one for some of the team.

Expeditions run by Outlook Expeditions Ltd are a wonderful way for students to step outside of their comfort zone, see the world, and develop into confident and content young adults. Life on expedition will depend very much on the destination. An expedition to Greenland, for example, will feel very different from an expedition to Peru! All of the expeditions Outlook run have an ethos of getting back to basics and experiencing the culture of the place in which the group is staying. In developing world countries, things can be very different to back home – and the build up through traing expedition weekends help prepare the team for what to expect.

If you would like to find out more about these life changing experiences check out the website at or

Victorian Engineering at its best


I had a day of work around the Welsh borders last week and took the opportunity to explore some of my favourite historical structures – canals and bridges and railways! I’ve had a long fascination with man’s ability to create structures using his ingenuity and vision – the Egyptian pyramids, the Mayan structures, Inca temples, Roman roads, etc and closer to home Victorian engineering. Canals provided efficient and cost effective transport for industrial revolution along with the many tunnels and bridges that helped span the landscape.

The welsh borders around Llangollen are a perfect place to see them in action and to witness the endeavour of  some of the great Victorian engineers. The Trevor Canal Basin and the Pontcysyllte Aquaduct near Llangollen made a good afternoon stop for a wander between jobs and allow me to get some decent photographs on a murky autumn day.

Season end brings a calm atmosphere at Trevor Basin

Season end brings a calm atmosphere at Trevor Basin

Trevor Basin is home to the Anglo Welsh flotilla of canal boats, all moored up at season’s end. I confess to never having had any time on a canal boat but they really do intrigue me. Spacious, warm with wood stoves, central heating, hot water, showers and a serene ambience as they glide through the hundreds of miles of waterways through peaceful countryside seems to be a perfect way to relax and de-stress from today’s all too hectic lifestyles for many people. A canal basin is usually packed and also home to many who live on a canal boat as a permanent residence, eaking out a living as an artist, or woodcarver as in the Trevor Basin.

A warm welcome awaits on board these floating homes. One was an artist and the other a woodcarver, making wooden reindeers for Christmas gardens

A warm welcome awaits on board these floating homes. One was an artist and the other a woodcarver, making wooden reindeers for Christmas gardens

The basin exits over the Pontcysyllte Aquaduct – the largest one in Britain with 18 piers made from local sone and 126 feet high crossing the ravine with the River Dee far below. The aquaduct was built by famous Victorian Thomas Telford in 1795-1805 and constructed using an iron trough 1007′ long, 11’12” wide and only 5’3″ deep, and only cost £47,000 to complete! Walking across the aquaduct, you gain the impression of just what an impressive structure it is – with no leaks visible and a perfect pitch that allows the water to flow gently downhill.

The view from Trevor Basin across the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

The view from Trevor Basin across the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct

Which way to go? Choices, choices and not a bad one between them

Which way to go? Choices, choices and not a bad one between them

Further along the Llangollen Canal, you reach the quaint town of Llangollen with its Victorian station, canal and buildings all bisected by the fast flowing River Dee which I have had the pleasure of kayaking through over some impressive whitewater.

Llangollen station and bridge

Llangollen station and bridge

The station is a step back into time and well worth a visit. steam trains run the line, many Victorian artefacts remain like the signals, the signal box, the waiting rooms and of course the buildings themselves. You can even take a horse pulled canal boat trip along the canal – perfect and very environmentally friendly 🙂

Next train arriving at platform 1............

Next train arriving at platform 1…………

If you get the opportunity and are in the vicinity, take some time to explore this lovely area, take some tea at the station or any number of small tea shops in the town or just marvel at the ingenuity of our past – the Victorian age was a very resourceful time that has left us with a rich heritage.

%d bloggers like this: