Something for the weekend ….

At some point there might be a proper newsletter type thing. In the meantime ….

Full report on ‘Therapeutic Nature’ for DEFRA written by (amongst others) Exeter Medical School, and the European Centre for Environment and Human Health. The report analyses the types, aims, outcomes and benefits / disbenefits of the use of nature as a ‘treatment’ for mental health issues.

The 2021-2022 Action Plan from Natural England contains within it the 5 yr plan for how NE are going to do Connect People With Nature (or at least say they are).

More to ‘watch’ and ‘do’ than ‘read’ but you can read the programmes for Keswick Mountain Festival here and Sheffield Adventure Film Festival here. There seems to be a general gap in the market for films and talks about normal people doing normal things outdoors at a normal speed. Just a thought.

‘Why Society Needs Nature – Lessons from research during Covid-19. Multi-org summary of what caused the nation to connect with nature.

You can almost see the pub from here – end of day 1 on a The Path Less Travelled learn-to-navigate course

A talk by Tom Richardson about ‘mountaineering in Mongolia’. Tom’s the bloke that sells footwear in Outside in Hathersage. His alter ego is one of the most experienced mountaineering guides in the world. That vast experience is distilled in this little-known book

A shit story. The report by the John Muir Trust on the impact of visitation in remote areas of N Scotland – here

When i were a multi-millionaire outdoor instructor i used to often gift a copy of this book to clients. Then i realised the author was the son of a multi millionaire !! Nonetheless i still recommend it as perhaps the best prism to look through for the ‘beginner’ setting out to ‘understand’ nature. The online course on natural navigation (same website) makes a great gift to yourself.

A mixed weather system just now after the mini heatwave blew through. Understanding weather is one of the most important skills for the hill and mountain goer. Mike Raine is basically ‘God’ when it comes to environmental learning (top tip: if you’re a National Mountain Centre it speaks volumes if you make your Head of Environment redundant !!), if you get the opportunity to learn from Mike grasp it with both hands. Here are 2 e-courses that cost £1.99 each on understanding weather. If you visit Snowdonia then his book will increase your knowledge on the Nature of Snowdonia by roughly 14587%

‘Yet often the mountain gives itself most completely when I have no destination, when I reach nowhere in particular, but have gone out merely to be with the mountain as one visits a friend with no intention but to be with him’ – Nan Shepherd, The Living Mountain

The latest newsletter from the MBA is far far better than this not-a-newsletter. Worth the membership fee on its own so it is.

enjoy your weekend ……

Slightly Higher Up

Not the Peak District for a change. A weekend in Snowdonia. Not often one complains of the heat whilst there, but this weekend was silly hot.

The ‘main event’ was guiding 9 military veterans up Snowdon. I won’t go in to the queues and sights but needless to say the mountain was an eye-opener. The clag and 5 centigrade on top a welcome relief from the sun on the PyG track. Everyone got up and down slowly but safely.

On Sunday i felt the effort on the mountain in my legs – i find it more physically demanding to walk slowly and stop frequently, which is what the day demanded. A few routes on Little Tryfan were climbed on the Sunday. ‘Twas hot !!

Note to self not to drive home at 6pm on a sunny Sunday.

Grateful to be back in the mountains. Thankful for the company of those that i walked, climbed, nattered and drank with.

Dark Peak days

I took the opportunity to spend Thursday and Friday out on the hill. I’m getting reasonably hill fit again after all those months of plodding round local parks.

Thursday i took two clients that are ‘getting the miles in’ in advance of their Yorkshire 3 Peaks round, on a walk. We took the bus to Snake Pass Inn and then wiggled a descent line which included a reasonable amount of ascent !!

Alport Castles

That was a 15km walk in the sun. Afterwards we headed to Hope Valley Ice Cream to lower our temperatures.

Today (Friday) i met up with Paul Besley ( @paulbesleywriter ) and Scout ( @searchdogscout ) for a walk. We took the train to Edale.

After a bit of a faff finding breakfast, we set off up Grindsbrook Clough. It still had some water in it which was useful for humans and dogs !!

We met lots of folks on the way up, and then 4 DofE Gold expeds appeared at the top too. We opted then to traverse the Southern Edge of the Kinder Plateau (i did the Northern Edge last weekend). That was a lovely walk with great views. We stopped often to observe and natter, and a long lunch was taken.

From the East end of Kinder we dropped down to the Guide Stone and hid in the woods out of the sun for a while.

It was getting quite warm by now !! We then took the long shoulder up to Win Hill. A natter with some visitors on the top, and the descent to Yorkshire Bridge. Rations in the Inn and then a realisation that the last bus (in a key walking area in a National Park on a weekday in sunny weather) was at 1545. Phone a friend.

I think that’s about 120km in the legs in the last 6 days which is good. Time to move on to bigger hills next weekend as i have a guiding commitment in Snowdonia, the first of several which also includes Scafell and Ben Nevis over the coming months. 

Please do get in touch if you’re interested in guided walks, navigation training, climbing, or guided backpacking.

Continue reading “Dark Peak days”

Once more in to the W3W fray …

Another day and another news item about the accuracy of the What3Words App. It has its place. It has its imperfections. But it has saved lives, and it is particularly valuable to vulnerable people.

There is a reason why the emergency services continue to carry the tech to enable them to interpret locations from it. Again, it has saved lives, often times in a housing estate rather than a mountain range. Nobody hears the cry for help that isn’t made.

The app allows the location of the user to be messaged electronically or spoken (by reading the 3 words on the screen, to the recipient / emergency services). The key downside of the app isn’t ‘the app’ per se. It’s because when the three words are spoken to the emergency services there are multiple humans and notepads and keyboards involved in ‘hearing’ the 3 words, and transcribing them ….. all the way to the rescuer. Send ‘three four pence’ becomes send ‘free four pens’ which may well geo-locate the user to a different time zone. Sending the 3 words location electronically within the app removes this human fudge factor.

Some people are just ‘allergic’ to maps and map apps and no amount of telling them otherwise, or making them out to be some sort of technical luddite, will get them to use a ‘proper’ map based app. It is this user group that, despite the aforemtioned issues with ‘voice’ and W3W, still use it.

For clients that i teach navigation to i recommend (in addition to carrying and being able to use a paper map and compass (and a mobile phone and spare charger)) the free OS Locate app. It provides you with your location in grid reference format which is useful for getting unlost, and the ‘share’ button is as useful for letting your lift-home know how far you are from the car park as it is for informing the emergency services. The app also has some outdoors advice and navigation tips. The digital compass works in case you lose yours.

Any and all of these apps and devices are only any use if your phone has power. Carry a small spare charger. If you are allergic to apps but in need of emergency services go all old school and use the phone as a phone and dial 999. Tools called SARLOC and PhoneFinder will be used by the emergency services to find you (nudge nudge …. only if your phone has power !!). 

What you think of What3Words, or what you believe (or are being paid to influence in your magazine / blog this month) is the new must have, or whether you carry 15 different gadgets on the hill doesn’t matter. What matters is learning from experience and knowing what to do if ever the shit hits your personal fan. Practise calling for ‘help’ with whatever app / tool / technique you have elected to use before you need to do so ‘for real’. Use W3W ‘non verbally’ if at all possible – just click the ‘share’ button’.

I’d probably also subscribe to the ‘text 999 service’ in case the shit hitting your personal fan renders you unable to verbally communicate (Text the word ‘register’ to 999 then follow the prompts).

PS a £1 plastic perry whistle doesn’t need a spare battery.

PPS as well as being someone who teaches outdoor activities, i also spent 11 years involved in the management of operations that used, amongst other things, cutting edge technology to locate humans. I have a reasonable understanding of the human and non-human factors involved in achieving this.

Public. Transport.

The Hulleys of Baslow bus from Manchester Rd in Sheffield at 1342hrs didn’t appear. I waited. I scanned the QR code at 1339 and the 1342 wasn’t even listed. ‘Well that’s a bit crap just not running the bus’, thought i.

I had planned a quite hard walk from the top of Snake Pass and was trying to ensure i caught the last bus home at 2003hrs.

I managed to scrounge a lift towards the Pass. Before we got to Strines i saw my bus in front of us. The accelerator was gunned and i was dropped off in front of the bus at Ladybower Inn. I hopped on and asked about the 1342 ? The driver was polite but exasperated.

The Ladybower / Bamford junction roadworks were causing havoc. ‘But wait ‘til you see Fairholmes’ he said !!

Derbyshire County Council recently double-yellowed the entire road (bar the carparks) from the A57 to the visitor centre. Rules 238 to 252 of the Highway Code are fairly easy to understand. Both sides of the 2 miles or so of road were blocked by cars parked on both sides. People walked their dogs up the middle of the road. Verges trashed. Gates blocked.

The bus driver explained that this leg, plus the Ladybower roadworks, were causing chaos with the ability of the bus company to run to any sort of timings. On the return trip to Manchester the bus was being delayed up to half an hour on this section. Multiplied by a few trips per day and the timetable is quickly all to cock.

Hulleys may sadly have to stop running the Fairholmes leg of their X57 service which will end access to the Upper Derwent Valley by public transport. The irresponsible drivers of cars causing the removal of access to the moors by bus users. There are words for people like that.

I eventually hopped off the bus at the top of the Snake. I never left the noise of the road all day, but it did recede a little as i went across the flagstones towards Mill Hill. It was obviously the time of the day (3pm ish) when Pennine Way walkers on day 1 (having set off from Edale and walked across Kinder) were about to cross the road and head towards Bleaklow. I must have passed 20 backpackers in the first 10 minutes. One of whom, and elderly chap, had an old battery operated wireless radio sticking out the top of his sack and was listening to the cricket.

By Mill Hill it was ‘quite’ hot. The pull up from the hause to the ring contour at 600m on the NW corner of Kinder was also ‘quite hot’. So began a traverse of the N edge of the plateau. Never have i done this walk without having to navigate. I could see at least 20 miles. The edge, the Dark Peak, this part of England lay out before me.

A vole. A family of red grouse. A curlew. Climbers topping out (in splendid isolation) on Fairbrook Naze. Views for miles and miles. I helped a group of 4 walkers navigate back to their car. They had left Birchen Clough, hadn’t found the Downfall, and now couldn’t find the way off. I set them off down Gateside Clough towards Snake Inn. Just visible beyond the Snake was Oyster Clough Cabin.

Snake Inn. Oyster Clough Cabin visible top right

So far so dry of foot. But Kinder had a reputation to uphold. I had been making good time. I spied a trod from the head of Blackden Brook straight to the ‘590’ trig point. I took it. I spent 40 minutes wading through bogs. Kinder delivered.

After the trig i cut across to the S side and was treated to a perfect side on view of the Great Ridge. On to the top of Jaggers Clough. I was on the Edale Skyline route now. Just follow the prints of a hundred pairs of fell shoes. Down past Crookstone Barn (a bikepacker discreetly asleep on his thermarest behind a nearby wall). A nice sit down and some rations at the Guide Stone. A cooling wind. Hardly a soul around.

Tired legs. I wasn’t going to get to, up, and over Win Hill and to the Ladybower Inn for the last bus. Oh well. Bloody car drivers !! The Roman Road to Win Hill was a joy in the evening cool. Lambs, Skylarks, a cuckoo somewhere. I hadn’t been up here since …. 2pm the day before (when it was rammed).

The walk off and a few messages to see if anyone fancied picking up a calorie-deficient walker with minging feet and a bit of sunburn.

A grand hard evening out on the moors. The sun setting behind Crook Hill ended it well ….

• Hulleys have advised me that they use Facebook to live update their services.

Lanes Not Moors

A weekend of assessing DofE Bronze expeditions for Bromsgrove School. This is an annual gig for me as the Head of the CCF there is an ex-colleague and long term good friend.

Ordinarily we would be on exped in the moorland of the Peak District but the rule on the ratio of students to buses would have meant about 8 full size coaches which was beyond impractical. Instead the necessary number of routes (for about 100 students) were plotted and planned in loops of Worcestershire countryside lanes and tracks starting from the school. Better an adapted plan than a lost opportunity !!

A new part of the country for me to hang around in. Lanes, fields, farm tracks, lay-bys and small villages. Day one unfortunately was spent in an area bereft of any village shop, cafe, tea-stop, or such like. I’m always keen to put a few quid back in the local economy but there was nothing. Just fields and very big houses ! The little car camper set up of folding chairs + small table + brew kit box came to the rescue.

DofE is many things to many young people, and so it was with my 2 groups. From the super fit super efficient super enthused super navigators to the why am i even heres. It takes all sorts. There was some very good campcraft and navigation and there were some navigation ‘errors’ that fortuitously shaved decent stretches off the days walk ‘accidentally’.

With all the ‘observing from a distance’ there is always a lot of time to see new places, often at the micro level, a new village or a small valley, or perhaps a view (the Malverns were omnipresent). I try and use paper and digital maps, wikipedia, the horizon scanner facility on the OS maps app, and my own senses to learn about places and the people there. The Tardebigge flight of canal locks, Tardebigge church (no residents in the village but hundreds of gravestones), the deafening noise of standing in the middle of a footbridge over the M5, and the history of the Droitwich Transmitters kept me entertained.

And endless brews too.

All of the staff and assessors commented on how good it was to see young people out in the countryside and able to spread out and chillout again, at the 52 acre Blackwell Court (Birmingham Scouts owned) campsite.

All of my students passed their Bronze. Some doubtless will try and avoid backpacking again ever ever ever, and some will have caught the bug and hopefully navigate towards Silver and Gold.

The Martin Moran Foundation

I was a bairn when ‘The Munros in Winter’ came out. I remember booking it out of the library many many times until i joined the Army and bought a copy. It lit a flame in me.

I recall tracing Martins route on an OS sheet of Scotland. I did the same on a Bartholomews map of the Alps when ‘Alps 4000’ came out. Hugely influential books both.

In May 2019, some 33 years after the Munros book came out i was driving South through Glencoe. When i got near the ski-centre my phone pinged repeatedly with a message. I was on my home from a week of mountaineering in the far North West with Martin Moran Mountaineering. Several of the recent crop of newly qualified and aspirant @brit_mt_guides were instructing. Joy Moran was doing the hospitality and catering. The SMS messages, i think there were six from friends, all told me the same thing ‘Martin Moran is missing presumed dead in the Himalaya’. I pulled over and stood a while staring at the Buachaille.

The Moran family have set up the @martinmoranfoundation to ‘elevate the lives of young people through purpose, passion and powerful experiences in the mountains’. A commitment to inclusion, diversity and equality is at the heart of their mission.

If you haven’t read ‘Munros’ and ‘Alps’, please do, they are classics of the genre. If you are able to support the Foundation by making a donation, the details are at


Mental Health Wellbeing Week – Nature

The theme for the 2021 Mental Health Wellbeing week is ‘Nature’.

It’s all very well having a ‘theme’, but it is important to understand the link between “mental health wellbeing’ and ‘nature’. Professor Miles Richardson of the University of Derby worked with the Mental Health Foundation on the report explaining the research linking the two. The latest blogpost of his (at has, as well as a link to the research, a range of activities, resources, and relevant papers and information.

So what ? Well if you can find the time to read the report you will perhaps better understand ways of interacting with nature that benefit you the most. But I would also urge you to consider interacting with nature in a way that benefits nature too. It’s not a finite resource.

The blog post is here

The ‘Nature and me’ – guide from Uni of Derby and the National Trust is here

Learning from experience

I recently became a ‘volunteer patrolling warden’ for the Eastern Moors Partnership who look after the moors close to home. I have already done some litter picking plods and also a ‘challenging behaviours and having difficult conversations’ course (see earlier post), but today was my first ‘proper’ day out. Fortuitously for me, as I was heading to Barbrook Cottage to collect my warden t-shirt, John Mead, one of the full time wardens, was heading out on his ’rounds’. I tagged along.

First off Toads Mouth car park for Burbage South to put up a notice asking walkers and climbers to avoid a particular bay of the quarry due to a bird nesting there (I will be deliberately vague with the location and or species of some bird / animal in my posts). The sun shone. John did the hammering.

We then went to Suprise View after reports of BBQs and litter. Oh my. A minutes walk from the car park and we found a large fire pit on a clearing. And 4 BBQ trays. And multiple food wrappers and beer bottles. And human waste. And two established saplings that had been uprooted for firewood. And fireworks.

The rest of the walk along under Millstone Edge was nicer. A few fire pits to disassemble. Some climbers to natter to. Bees to try and guess the species of. Nails rock climbs to stare at. The old workings to wander through.

There was then the curious incident of the dog walker sat by his campervan in the car park with his dog, who walked over to us and and asked us to take his dog shit away for him !

I then nipped to Hathersage to buy some lunch whilst John did a trip along Ox Stones and Houndkirk. I met him at The Grouse Inn lay-by for a wander along White Edge looking and listening.

In between there had been lots of noticing, of taking photos of things, of the business of looking after these landscapes, of the good, bad, and ugly interaction with the landscape by humans. There was also standing and just listening. Lots of lists of notes and books to read and places to go and things to see.

And when we were walking from somewhere to somewhere at the end of the day there was something in a tree …

thanks John.