Newsletter > Newsletter archive > June 2012

June 2012

Are you a pedestrian?
corpse road stonesIf you are of a philosophical frame of mind – and what walker isn’t? – there has been a spate of new books to get you thinking about the meaning of this walking lark. Robert Macfarlane’s previous publications, the superb ‘Mountains of the Mind’ and ‘The Wild Places’, explored our endless fascination with scaling the heights and immersing ourselves in the remote. His latest, ‘The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot’, takes him onto ancient tracks, drove roads and pilgrimage routes, in search of their latent significance and the myriad ways they have been celebrated in art, prose and poetry. Macfarlane’s writing is sometimes a tad over-wrought  – he is not inclined to use a simple word when an obscure one will do – but his wanderings take him to some surprising places, both in a physical and mental sense. His descriptions of trodden paths as far apart as the western isles of Scotland and the Tibetan Himalaya can be wonderfully evocative.

Geoff Nicholson is somewhat more down to earth and certainly funnier, which makes one warm to him rather more readily. He is openly sceptical of those who set out to ‘walk in nature’; “Walking, nature, spirituality – they make a powerful, and potentially very specious, trinity”. Nevertheless, ‘The Lost Art of Walking’ is a fine meditation on what walking means to him. The book is kicked off by his going out for a walk, not in some far-off wilderness but in the ordinary streets around Hollywood, where he falls and ignominiously breaks his leg. His subsequent exploration introduces us through a medley of walkers united only in their obsession; writers, artists, film-makers, musicians, ‘psychogeographers’, eccentrics and folk who just like to wander in the desert.

One of Nicholson’s subjects is Captain Robert Barclay, one of a group of famous 19th century ‘pedestrians’, who turned endurance walking events into bizarre and occasionally very lucrative public spectacles. His best known feat was to walk a mile every hour for a thousand hours, a record he achieved in Newmarket, Suffolk in 1809. Pedestrian challenges and races became hugely popular throughout the 19th century, a mania that is almost completely forgotten today. Edward Payson Weston was one who followed in Barclay’s footsteps. Weston was perfectly capable of walking over 500 miles in six days, an objective that formed the basis of a series of highly competitive walking events. He was reputed to have notched up an incredible 85,000 miles during his 60-year career as a professional pedestrian. Nick Harris, Helen Harris and Paul Marshall have written a fascinating and often very touching biography of the man. ‘A Man in a Hurry’ documents his extraordinary career as a walker, counterpointed by his sometimes troubled life.

Peregrines doing well at Malham Cove
Two Peregrine chicks have started flying from their nest in Malham Cove in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Staff and volunteers from the RSPB and the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA) knew that a pair of adult Peregrines nesting in the famous landmark had produced some youngsters – but at first they didn’t know how many. Now they know there are two. Ian Court, the YDNPA’s Wildlife Conservation Officer, is relieved that there are any: “We thought, with the recent bad weather, it was going to be a poor year for a number of species including Peregrines – so the fact the Malham birds have had a pair of chicks is really good news.”

As in previous years, the RSPB and the YDNPA have set up a special, free peregrine watch viewpoint in the cove so that visitors can watch the birds through high-powered telescopes. It will stay open until July 31 from Saturdays to Wednesday inclusive between 10.30am and 4.30pm (weather permitting). More at

SPOT Adventures gets an upgrade
SPOT2 deviceThe SPOT Messenger device we mentioned in last month’s email has generated quite a lot of interest. Since then the facilities for using the device to communicate with friends, relations and colleagues by linking it to a smartphone have been considerably enhanced. The upgraded SPOT Adventures site, which is a community of SPOT users, now has simpler links to flikr, Picasa, Facebook, YouTube and other social networking services, and more opportunities to share your tips and adventures with others.

As the SPOT Messenger sends all its communications via satellite, it is not dependent on receiving a signal from a ground station, as is the case with a mobile phone. This means that its most vital purpose, that of being able to send out a distress signal in the case of an emergency, is functional wherever you are in the world. It makes the system ideal for global travellers as well as for those walking, working, climbing or riding in remote parts of Britain. These distress signals, which are accompanied by a GPS position, are sent to a permanently manned emergency response centre, whose operatives pass on the message to the appropriate emergency service for whatever country the call for help is received from. Find out more

Walking in the Himalayan Foothills
Himalayan foothills viewWhat better backdrop could there be to a walking holiday than the mighty snow-capped peaks of the Himalaya? But isn’t this just the realm of the hardcore trekker and mountaineer?

Not so, according to Inntravel who offer a number of walking holidays in the Himalayan foothills of northern India. The emphasis is squarely on immersing yourself in the rich local culture of mountain villages, while being led by your own private guide – one who has grown up in these communities – but at a pace you set.

Walking between villages, you might see eagles, vultures, deer, mountain goats – maybe even a leopard – amid sweeping panoramas; and, while staying at authentic village houses (owned by the local communities), you witness at first hand village life continuing as it has done for centuries. This isn’t just a walking holiday – this is a truly unique experience that will remain in the memory forever.

For more information on inspiring, community-based walking holidays in the Indian Himalaya, see Inntravel’s 'Indian Adventure' brochure for 2012/13. Order a copy online or speak to one of their experts by calling 01653 617034.

Start up message could save your GPS
A nice little tip here from our friends at GPS Training, if you have a newish Garmin GPS device. It puts a personalised welcome message in the startup routine on your device. The message, shown when you switch the unit on, can contain simple contact details, like your name, telephone number and maybe email address.

Several lost GPS units have been restored to their owners simply because they had added a welcome message. It’s easy to do; we’ve just added one on our own Garmin Dakota. GPS Training have put together an instruction sheet telling you exactly what to do. In fact it’s worth signing up for their regular newsletter and you’ll then get lots of tips like this, every month or so.
Anquet map bundle offer
Anquet currently have a good offer on mapping for the whole of Britain at 1:50,000 Landranger scale. Usually this much Ordnance Survey mapping will come in at well over £100, but with this limited offer (of 300 units) the cost is just £80. This includes Anquet's new digital mapping application, Outdoor Map Navigator Pro, which is actually rather good, with a nice simple interface and storage of all your maps and routes 'in the cloud', from where they can be downloaded to any of your computers or devices. An Android mapping app should be available soon. More information

Artair posterThe Art'Air festival is a travelling art and music event combining hiking, culture and heritage discovery in some spectacular areas of France. It runs from the 18th to the 22nd of July in the Puy de Dome and from the 15th to the 19th August 2012 in the Cantal. You hike from place to place and are met with various artistic and cultural ‘happenings’ along the way. Sounds good fun and with both day and weekend passes (an all inclusive pass for the 4 day Puy de Dome event, including the walks, dinner and concerts is 128 euros) pretty good value too. More at (the website is all in French so a smattering of the language helps).

It may seem months away (it is), but the Kendal Mountain Festival organisers are working flat out preparing for this year’s event (15-18 November). It’s nice to see some speakers who are not from the usual festival roster. They include BBC adventurer and presenter Paul Rose, one of the world's most experienced and respected science and adventure expedition leaders. Paul was Base Commander of Rothera Research Station, Antarctica for 10 years and is a polar exploration and field science expert. Another is mountain legend Fred Beckey, still climbing at 89, every day if he can. The mountaineer, ‘archetypal hobo’ and author has travelled all his life with hundreds of first ascents to his name. Plenty of other stuff too. Tickets will be available from August.

Charity challenges
With the Great North Run coming up in September, you might consider raising a bit of money for our local Mountain Rescue team, which is busy trying to cover the £35K cost of a fully kitted out Land Rover. There’s a fundraising page for the Kirkby Stephen Mountain Rescue Team on the Virgin Money Giving website.

Walk Ten is a series of 10 kilometre twilight walks taking place this summer in support of Marie Curie Nurses. The walks are spread across 25 locations all round the country  – many of which are closed to the public in the evening. Each walk is followed by picnics, entertainment, fireworks and some special celebrations at 10pm. This hour of the evening is especially poignant as this is when many nurses begin their night shift - providing care and support to people with terminal illnesses and their families in their own homes.

Member news
Richard Vahrman is walking from Scotland to Brighton, from July to mid September. If anyone cares to join him on his route you can get in touch with him through his website.