Arran Coastal Way – Brodick to Sannox

I’ve been and not quite conquered the Arran Coastal Way for reasons I’ll go into later but I’ll attempt to give a run down of each day for anyone who’s interested!

The first day was mainly taken up travelling, starting out at 10.30 to catch the train to Glasgow Central and then on to Ardrossan to meet up with the ferry. I love trains and ferries so I find this part quite enjoyable, even the waiting between connections is fun if there is coffee and people watching involved. I had booked my train ticket from Oxenholme station (nr Kendal) to Glasgow back in January for just over £20 return and picked up a ‘Rail and Sail’ ticket which covers travel from Glasgow to Brodick for £22.90 from Glasgow Central. The plan was to walk a section each day carrying all my stuff with me to camp along the way. (I’d like to add at this point that my rucksack must have weighed in excess of 15kg so not ultralight by any stretch of the imagination!)

I arrived in Brodick at 4.15pm to a few grey clouds and a little bit of wind and headed straight off knowing that I had until about 9pm to get to my intended wild camp site at Sannox approx 8 miles away. Unfortunately both my phone and solar charger were slowly dying so didn’t manage to get too many photo’s along the way.

I think I had underestimated how much of this walk was uphill, heading up into Merkland Woods above the castle at Brodick and then following broad forestry paths for what felt like miles. Just as I thought I was coming back down to the coast, up it went again! The views through the gaps in the trees were amazing and I couldn’t wait to get back down near the sea way down there. I was getting tired and ended up slipping at one point and smacked down on my bum, I felt like a turtle trying to get back up with a fully loaded rucksack attached!!

Merkland Woods – looking back down to the ferry.

Eventually I came down to the road and walked along to Corrie, finding a handy water tap at the village hall there (also toilets!) and the lovely pier complete with sheep! I must have looked shattered as a local came cycling up to let me know I could camp at the village hall if I wanted to. Thinking that Sannox wasn’t very far, I thought I’d push on and make camp so I was that bit further on for the next day. That last mile or so was tough, I was sooo tired and feeling disheartened that it seemed such a struggle on day one!

Pier at Corrie complete with sheep!

Tent up, food eaten, bed ready, woolly hat and numerous layers on…sleep! The rain and wind woke me a couple of times but my first night wild camping on my own was absolutely fine. The tent held up to everything thrown at it and I felt safe even if a little fed up.

Slog and Sloth?

I haven’t done much the last few weeks, no real walks, no wild camping, no getting out much at all. All I seem to have done is work, work, work…between that and ferrying teenagers around it’s all got a bit dull around here!

BUT… there is light on the horizon. I’m going to Arran in a week and a half. It was touch and go for a bit as to whether I could realistically do it. Life has a way of throwing all the crap at you at once and you have to scrabble to stick your head above it all, hence the work, work, work. We decided that despite not really being able to afford a week off work (I’m self-employed so if I’m not here, I’m not getting paid) I am going. This is time-out for me, a breathing space to re-energise mentally. There’s things in the last five years which I’ve not really dealt with and have taken their toll so getting back to nature, on my own, dealing with my own rubbish will be good for me.

I feel like I’ve been a bit of a sloth and I may not have got all the training walks in I intended but I know I can do this both physically and mentally so bring it on!

Plus, you’ll be inundated with hundreds of photo’s very soon…be prepared!

Monday Mini-Adventure

The sun has been shining! Time for a mini-adventure to try out our ‘new-to-us’ tents before deciding which one I will take to Arran. With Teen 2 along for the adventure we headed up to Hodge Close, near Coniston. An intersting and slightly spooky old quarry which we’ve been to a few times before but we’d never been up to the two little reservoirs just above the quarry itself. What a great place! The pictures can tell you the rest…

P.s. think the blue ‘Lightwave’ tent wins the honour of being my home for a week on Arran! Not quite a stealth wild camp tent but feels so much roomier than the Banshee and is lighter in weight.

The kindness of strangers…

I’ve mentioned in previous posts about the possible need for a different tent to take around the Arran Coastal Way, the smallest tent I had was a great little Eurohike one which had never let us down but weighed in at over 3kg. I’ve spent weeks wading through Ebay to find a half decent one that I could actually afford, that was a more reasonable weight of 2kg or less, and failed miserably. In a last ditch attempt I put a shout out on some Outdoor Gear Facebook pages just asking if any one had one they were upgrading, chucking out, or willing to sell. I thought I would get back some snidey comments about never finding anything for my budget but how wrong was I!?

I had a whole host of helpful comments about where to look, giving advice of what to look for, offering tents for sale as close to my budget (which wasn’t much!) as they could go. I was extremely grateful for all offers but the one that blew me away was a lovely lady offering me an older tent, still in great condition, which she just wasn’t using anymore. At first I didn’t catch on and kept asking for the price but it turned out she was actually offering it to me for free!! WOW !! Not just any old cheap tent, an older model Lightwave T1 Cylq… not only that, she posted it to me and wouldn’t let me pay the postage either! She had upgraded and wanted someone to make good use of her old tent and obviously thought I might be a likely candidate.

BUT…the story doesn’t end there readers (!) The day it arrived I had another message from someone else offering me a older Vango Banshee 200 for ‘cheap as chips’ money! I didn’t want to appear greedy so explained I had just got one but that my son would love it so we could go wild camping. So now we will have two great little tents to go adventuring with. So, so happy!

The kindness of strangers… x

The Dovedale Round – Wainwrights, Birketts, Hewitts and Nuttalls (and lots of swearing!)

More recently I’ve shied away from doing any higher level walks due to health and worry about keeping up with other people (I’m a plodder!) So when a group of Home Ed friends said they were doing The Dovedale Round I wasn’t convinced. However, Teen 2 decided he wanted to give it a go, and being assured it wasn’t too steep, off we went.

Of course, if I’d been a bit more sensible, I would have checked the contour lines on the map beforehand but maybe that would have put me off completely!

We followed this route description (Walklakes – Dovedale Round) but did it backwards, so in theory we had the steepest part first and then a nice gentle wander along the ridge on the way back (yes, this was advised by the same person who said it wasn’t too steep!) The route takes in High Hartsop Dodd, Little Hart Crag, Dove Crag, Hart Crag, Hartsop Above How, Gale Crag and a few other lumps and bumps – 5 Wainwrights, 6 Birketts, 3 Hewitts and 3 Nuttalls…phew, no wonder it was tough!

The younger and fitter ones in the group seemed to have boundless energy and made it look easy while I had resorted to counting 40 steps, stopping, 40 steps, stopping (my strategy for coping with tough hills!) There were a few choice words along the way muttered descreetly to myself. The really steep descent on a loose stone path at the end was almost my breaking point – but WE DID IT!

The sun had shone all day, not a drop of rain, just a cold wind on the tops so almost perfect walking weather. The views were absolutely amazing and getting up high was fantastic, even through all the pain! After all the moaning and groaning, I’m really glad we did it, just goes to show how much more our bodies are capable of than we think they are. Teen 2 was a star, always checking back with me to make sure I was ok, making sure I knew about loose rocks and wet slippery bits.. proud mum moments!

Down but not out…

I haven’t been out much this last week or so, the weather has been pants here and work seems to have taken over my life! When the sun has decided to put in an appearance it’s usually been on days when I’ve had to be taxi-driver for the teenagers. All in all, frustrating and I’m tired and grouchy (had you guessed!?)

Anyway…a quick update on how I’m getting on with getting bits and pieces for doing the Arran Coastal Walk in May. Firstly I’ve picked up a nearly new Down 2-3 season sleeping bag which is fantastic and a nearly new pair of Craghoppers Kiwi Pro-Stretch trousers which are as comfy as all the ladies who rave about them said they were! I have a new pair of walking shoes (don’t really like boots) from Karrimor on their way and I’ve decided I really need another tent…3kg is just too much weight to carry. The rucksack we have is not ideal but this will have to be last on my list of things I can afford, so that would be a bonus.

So, things are ticking over, my birthday is in three days so fingers crossed a tent appears!!

New-to-me – Big Agnes Insulated Air Core

I’m soooo happy!! I’ve been looking for an affordable sleeping mat which wasn’t the size or weight of a small family car for a while. After getting a bit too used to my lovely thick self-inflating one I take when family camping, I really didn’t think I would find a comfortable, lightweight and compact one that I could backpack with that was within my budget.

I sighed as all the ones I watched on Ebay suddenly went from 99p to astronomical prices in the blink of an eye and gave up on my dream of owning a Thermarest. It was then that Mr.Gnomead spotted someone selling a Big Agnes mat on one of the Facebook selling pages… not Thermarest so I wasn’t too impressed! However after looking at these online and for the price they were asking it was worth a shot.

It’s a 3 season pad, has Primaloft Insulation layer with a comfort level down to -10c, inflates to 2.5″ thick, has a water-repellent coating, thick 40 denier fabric and packs into a carry sack the size of a nalgene bottle and weighs approx 800g… what’s not to like? and only been used twice since new!

So… I am now the proud owner of a Big Agnes Insulated Air Core for not very much money (compared to second-hand Thermarests) and the best thing of all is that it is super easy to inflate, and really comfortable for a side-sleeper like me…Yay!

Just like this one!

The moral of this story is…if you are on a budget, be patient, don’t get your head stuck into what you ‘must’ have and be willing to try other makes, and buying second-hand means you get better quality for a fraction of the price of new.

One more thing knocked off my dream list…

Staveley – Potter Tarn and Gurnal Dubs Circular

It’s been amazing weather in the Lake District this week so after being inspired by the brilliant film ‘My Big White Thighs’ I decided this was my chance to get in early with a wild swim, walking up to a tarn that had been recomended by a friend.

The first part of the walk is a bit of a climb and I’d woken up feeling decidedly rough and wobbly. I know I said in my last post that I would take enjoyment over endurance anyday, but I guess sometimes endurance wins, or maybe just my pure bloody minded stubbornness!! It was a struggle but I was determined to get that swim at the top.

Up and Over…

With a bit of quiet swearing and a lot of self motivating(!), I made it up to Potter Tarn and had the place to myself while I had a drink and listened to the birds. This tarn has an interesting concrete dam which you can clamber up on. Apparently this supplies Croppers Paper Mill in Burneside and the present water level is around half of it’s 1990 level, which is when the dam was lowered. The outflow runs down to Ghyll Pool further down the hill and then goes on to Croppers.

I reached Gurnal Dubs just as another swimmer was donning their wetsuit (ha ha wetsuit??). She insisted it was lovely so the game was on. I found a secluded spot and was just about to whip my leggings off when she appeared around the bend with her partner following her along the bank… nearly got more than they bargained for!! After a little chat they went back to their beach and I swiftly changed and went in for a dip. .. oh my lordy, lordy it was COLD!! I did manage to swim for about five- ten minutes but then I stupidly decided to dunk my head under … I’m sure my brain froze for a second, I’m so glad I had my woolly hat when I made a quick exit. Amazingly though I did feel better than I had all morning!

Beautiful Gurnal Dubs
Woolly Hat – Forced grin!
Mini Trangia behaved itself today – hot drink needed!

A hot noodle pot and hot coffee later and I headed back down to take the Dales way back to Staveley (another little bit done!) This is a lovely part of the Dales Way running right alongside the river.

A shaky start but ended up being a great day, so glad I carried on.

The whole walk route can be found here: Staveley Tarns Circular

Endurance or enjoyment?

I read a post on one of my favourite Facebook pages the other day where a lady was asking about completing the Arran Coastal Way in less days than the suggested six/seven because the daily mileage didn’t seem high enough (slightly paraphrased!) I think I was tired and grumpy and my hackles rose just a little bit. For a brief moment I felt as if my efforts weren’t quite good enough. I am planning to take the whole six/seven days, take in the scenery, explore the caves, swim in the sea and plod along happily… I got over myself!

I’m a 46 (ahem) year old mother, staring the menopause straight in the face, a dodgy hip and 17 years of hypothyroidism under my belt. I never have been and never will be super fit, super energetic and super enthusiastic about notching up as many miles in a day that I possibly can… and it doesn’t matter.

It’s so interesting reading other people’s posts and blogs, finding out about their adventures and their plans, some I would jump at given the chance, and others I would run a mile from (if I had enough energy!) Everyone is different, with different bodies, different opportunities, different wishes and that’s what makes the world go around.

My plan to walk the Arran Coastal Way on my own, wild camping, carrying all my equipment may be a drop on the ocean for some people but it’s a biggie for me, one that makes me nervous and excited at the same time. The reasons are many, life is short and it’s too easy to get dragged along in the everyday of ‘getting by’. So, enjoyment or endurance? Personally, I would choose enjoyment every time.

Trangia Mini – Review

Being an extreme budget, wanna-be backpacker I’ll run through some of the gear I manage to pick up along the way.

Solid, compact and doesn’t rattle!

So, first up is my new-to-me camp stove. We’ve had an ancient trangia set for years which has had a lot of use and is still going strong but I wanted something a bit more compact and lightweight just for me. On the ‘Outdoor Kit Exchange UK’  Facebook page I found a guy selling a Trangia Mini which is exactly as it says… a mini trangia!! For your money you get a standard trangia burner and screw on top, a seperate simmer top, aluminium saucepan (holds approx 0.8 litres), non-stick frying pan (which also doubles as a pan lid) and a pan handle. The whole thing weighs 330grams, not for the ultralight community but fine for the rest of us (!) So after a trial run here are my pro’s and con’s so far:

PRO’S:

  • Small and compact – packs together with the burner and holder inside the pan and frying pan (also the pan lid). Lid snaps shut nice and snug.
  • Lightweight.
  • Easy to use.
  • More stable than a screw on gas stove.
  • Cools down in the time it takes to drink a cup of coffee, so can be packed away once you’ve finished.
  • Has a simmer ring lid so the flame can be a bit more controlled if needed.
  • Non- stick frying pan.
  • Great lightweight pan handle which actually works, although it looks really flimsy!
  • The pot and the lid / frying pan have handy little grooves on the bottom so they sit snug onto the stand or the top of the saucepan to make them safer and more stable.

CON’S

  • This uses a standard trangia burner and it maybe would have worked better with a slightly smaller version for this model to avoid flaring.
  • Generally a bit slower to cook with than gas but I’m not in a hurry!
  • It doesn’t like any wind!! This was an issue which has come up a lot on other reviews and I wasn’t quite sure what they meant until I tried it on a breezy fell! I had fortunately taken a folded piece of foil with me which helped fend of some of the wind, but without this the flame was blowing all over the place. This could be a huge issue if you had to use it in your tent doorway on a rainy, windy day!!
  • Only really big enough for one person which is absolutely fine for solo trips but not quite up to any more.
Slightly cockeyed and the aluminium foil kind of worked but a better windshield is needed!

Overall, you can’t go far wrong with Trangia’s and I like the compact size of this one but we need to find (or make) a decent windshield before I’d be really happy taking this away with me.