Posts Tagged ‘walking’

Poles apart

Tuesday, February 18th, 2020

I’ve been using trekking poles – either telescopic or folding – for decades. Originally developed from ski poles, the idea of the trekking pole is to give you stability when you’re out hiking in rough terrain. That could be in the mountains, where a pair of poles can improve your balance and give you the equivalent of four-wheel drive to help you on steep uphill slopes. But they’re also extremely handy going downhill, where it’s like you’re carrying your own set of banisters downstairs. On less hilly but no less tortuous terrain, trekking poles take some of the load off your leg joints – especially good if you’re backpacking – and they add an extra level of security to stream and river crossings.

Note I’ve said “a pair of poles.” While you can buy them singly, and one is better than none, a pair is more than twice as good as one! There are many variations on the types of poles you can get, from the materials they’re made of, to the way they pack down when you’re not using them and thus more likely to have them carried within or attached to your luggage. There are plenty of websites which can offer advice on how you choose what type of pole to go for, but the purpose of this post is to go off somewhat at a tangent.

Apart from seeing an increase in the use of poles out in the countryside, I’m seeing more and more people using them in urban settings – the older generations particularly. With rubber feet attached to the sharp tungsten carbide tips, you can wander along the streets and even in shops without causing any damage. But what I have seen amongst this level of user is frequent misuse of the wrist straps. So many times I’ve spotted where people have simply put their hands through the Nylon loops without thinking that there’s a right way and a wrong way to use them.

A lot of downhill skiers dispense with wrist straps on ski poles for the very good reason that if they take a tumble, a pole attached to each wrist could be more likely to cause an injury, so best be able to jettison them as you fall. But with trekking poles, the idea is to put weight on them, and while you can certainly do that while holding the hand grips, the wrist loops make it so much simpler – provided you remember to put your hand into the loop from underneath. So if you lift your hand up without grabbing the hand grip, the pole will dangle by its strap from your wrist. Then when you bring your hand down to hold the hand grip, you can pull on the trailing end of the strap to adjust the fit for comfort.

With your hands properly located in the wrist straps, you can put lots of weight on the pole without having to hold on to the hand grips that hard, and if you stop for a moment to take a picture, your poles are still attached to you ready for action. While it might seem obvious to many users, I wonder whether the manufacturers of trekking poles are missing a trick by not including these basic instructions on how to locate your hands correctly in the wrist straps.

100 walks later

Tuesday, March 19th, 2019

While I’ve been Camping magazine’s lightweight camping equipment expert for the last 20 years, since 2010, I’ve also devised a weekend backpacking walk for every issue, which has always made a very nice double page spread. As the editor told me recently – knowledgeable yet accessible. But increasing demands on my time have led me to decide to call it a day on the monthly walk.

The June issue (on sale May) will be the last to feature one of my weekend walks, and while it is purely a coincidence, that last walk will be number 100! I’d originally planned this in order to free up some time to spend on the Spirit of Cardiff documentary which I’m making, but some very exciting developments with Team Britannia‘s round the world powerboat project are also about to happen, and they have already soaked up some of my spare time.

I’ll still be reviewing lightweight tents and outdoors clothing and equipment in Camping, but the walks won’t be forgotten. With 100 weekend walks spread across the country, I’m already thinking that at some point they’ll enjoy a second lease of life either in a print or electronic book. In the meantime, there’s a big red boat to get into the water, and the time is coming close!

Power walking

Sunday, September 16th, 2012

You might think that starting a nice walk in the countryside from the site of Britain’s only Pressurised Water Reactor to be a little odd, but the fact is that Sizewell lies in the middle of some of the most fantastic coastal scenery Suffolk has to offer. So it was that this weekend I did a circular route for Country Walking magazine. While the large concrete edifice which is Sizewell A (currently being decommissioned) has nothing to recommend it, I do quite like the look of Sizewell B. The main building is a lower profile, and on a brilliant sunny day, its light blue finish makes it blend in with the sky, so the futuristic white reactor dome almost seems to float in the air from some viewpoints.

The walk itself was exceptional, combining a couple of miles of the Suffolk Coast Path with a wander through the southern edge of the RSPB Minsmere Reserve, then on to a stretch of the lovely Sandlings Walk. Lots of variety along the seven mile route, but you’ll have to wait for the magazine to come out for the full details.

On my way back to Norwich, I dropped in to see friends Phil and Karen Stead. They recently took over the Huntsman and Hounds pub in Spexhall, between Bungay and Halesworth, and are in the process of breathing new life into the place. The Grade 2 listed building is utterly charming – the oldest bits dating back to 1496, with the most incredible chimney stack. Inside, it’s a veritable forest of ancient oak timbers, with hardly a straight edge or level floor to be seen anywhere. There’s a fine selection of ales, and they offer a good menu of traditional home-cooked food using locally-sourced produce. They even do accommodation, so they’re well worth checking out if you fancy staying somewhere which oozes character.

Neat and Teide

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

Coming home from a trip away tends to leave me with mixed feelings. There’s always the brutal reality of work that must be done, bills that have to be paid, all tinged with the regret of curtailing an enjoyable experience and meeting new people. Sometimes I wonder which bit is fantasy and which the reality, and while I was very sorry to leave Tenerife on Sunday night, even though the weather had been a little below par on occasions, it was tinged with an element of relief when I saw the news yesterday.

The rain was getting pretty heavy as I departed Sunday evening, but by Monday, Santa Cruz, where I was on Saturday, looked rather more like a war zone, with streets covered in mud and debris left by the flood waters. But I guess it’s something they’re used to – I remember similar conditions in 2002, during the preamble to my circumnavigation of the world in Spirit of Cardiff. We were delayed by bad weather on our passage from Cardiff to Gibraltar, when a major storm hit Tenerife and flash floods in Santa Cruz killed several people and made hundreds homeless.

My memories of Santa Cruz, however, are rather happier. I had the opportunity to find out about the carnival – second only to Rio, so they say. The biggest surprise, however, was not only being treated to a spirited performance by the drum ensemble Zankotada, but getting the chance to play as well. And so it was that my fellow members of the British Guild of Travel Writers and I grabbed ourselves a drum each, and split into groups depending on whether we had big bass drums, smaller tom-toms or snares. Amazingly it wasn’t long before we were not only in the groove, but considered good enough to go out into the street and put on an impromptu performance for bemused pedestrians and clients of a restaurant just down the road.

Mount TeideThe majority of Brits holidaying in Tenerife tend to go for the beaches and the nightlife, but there’s a lot more besides. There’s some fine walking to be had, and whilst I didn’t get the chance to yomp up it, 3,718 metres Mount Teide certainly looked very tempting, although you can always cheat and take the cable car. Teide is an active volcano, and the landscape around it has an eerie Martian quality (no wonder they actually test robots to be sent to Mars here). Anaga rain forestSo it was a complete contrast when I finally got to pull on my walking boots and do a little hike in the ancient laurisilver forest of the Anaga Rural Park. It was virtually all downhill (more tiring than you might think). The rain forest reminded me of New Zealand, but the robins here seem to be bigger, fluffier and even more friendly than the ones at home.

Flying all the way to the Canaries for an Annual General Meeting might seem a bit over the top, but after all, this was for a bunch of travel writers. And while we were there, they did a great job of showing us what Tenerife has to offer. It’s certainly a place I’d like to explore more.

Tenerife Tourism