Expedition: Brakes of Wrath Pt. 1 The Plan

Alternative title: Not all heroes wear Cape(s) Wrath

A few years ago I cycled the ‘Tour de Turret‘, a three day trip from Nottingham to London via ten castles. This was an amazing, although pretty challenging, trip but it did make me hungry for more. Well this year, i’m back for more!

This expedition combines a number of loves and ambitions:

  • Be in the wild on my own for a few days
  • Be in Scotland (one of my favourite places)
  • Multi-day cycle tour
  • Visit Cape Wrath – The most north-westerly point of the UK mainland

Since March I’ve been cycling to work 2-3 times a week which is a 18 mile (26km) round journey. On top of that I somehow managed to cycle the 110 mile (180km) Dunwich Dynamo in July – one of the toughest things I’ve ever done. More recently I clocked up back to back 60+ mile (100+km) days to Manningtree and back. I have managed all these things but I have found them pretty tough.

The Route

Ok, the basic plan is to get the sleeper train up to Inverness, cycle up to Cape Wrath and then back to Inverness all in five days. I’ve been advised to do a clockwise circuit via Ullapool on the way out as this will be my best chance of a tail-wind. I’m praying to Poseidon right now! I have tried to include a couple of castles on route but there doesn’t seem to be many on the western side of Sutherland and Caithness.

Not including getting lost and any detours, my plan is cycle 300 miles (480km) which averages out at 60 miles (96km) a day. It feels doable but very challenging. On the one hand I have literally all day and in theory 60 miles should only take 5-6 hours. On the other hand I’ve never cycled five days consecutively in my life. Eek.

Wild Camping
My preferred way to cycle tour would be to bivvy and hopefully see the stars. If it rains a lot, however, that could be very grim indeed. I therefore plan to take my little one man MSR Hubba tent. I fully reserve the right to abandon all this and B&B if need be. I’m no hero.

I’ll also have a stove for making hot water for coffee and dehydrated meals. I also plan of taking my small but amazing MSR water filter. This way I should be able to fill my water bottles more or less anywhere along the route.

Two weeks to go, wish me luck!

Last night a board game saved my life (from boring TV)

Old memories of playing board games fill me with both wonderful nostalgia and awful awkwardness. Traditional (and extremely popular) games such as Monopoly and Trivial Pursuit promised to be amazing but often turned out to be quite disappointing. Who might have had an experience (maybe at Christmas) where someone has suggested ‘who wants to play a game?’, ‘it’ll be fun!’, followed by cries of ‘oh no, they are really boring’.

Monopoly and Trivial Pursuit are objectively bad games. There I said it. They take too long, rely too much on luck and rarely end in a close finish. You will often have a clear winner about half way through and have to watch them coast home for another hour. Despite this, I always loved the idea of boardgames. Doing a social thing with people I like, using my brain and with the promise of drama. I like that there is a focus to meeting up rather than just random chat (although I like that too).

After something like a 25 year interlude between playing boardgames as a teenager I was introduced to the hobby again in 2017 by a work colleague. Boy, things have changed! When I was young there was perhaps ten boardgames (20 tops) to choose from, now there are literally hundreds of (really good) boardgames that come out every year. Even people whose job it is to review games could never hope to play them all.

From this introduction into the new world of ‘modern’ boardgames I now find it being one of my main sedentary hobbies. I run a lunchtime boardgame club at work, I organise a regular meet-up for friends and I go to a friendly members only group through ‘Meetup’. I’m hooked.

Modern boardgames seem to be a rapidly growing hobby just bursting with innovation and enthusiasm. I hazard a guess that there is now a game out there for everyone, even ones that say that this is not their bag.

Next time, i’ll talk about my favourite games and how i plan my own small but growing collection.

Annual Report 2018

Another year, more stats.

TV and movies
I watched 91 TV shows, series or specials. This took up 487 hours of watching or an average of 9.38 hours a week or 1 hour 17 minutes a day.

In addition to that I watched 113 movies at home (or on a plane) but only 11 films at the cinema.

I did a little better this year and finished 14 books (I started 16). A very pleasant highlight was reading Anthony Horrowitz’s ‘House of Silk’ which I felt was a really good Sherlock Holmes homage. Dan Jones’ ‘Templars’ was easily my favourite history book this year.

Despite a number of injuries (broken foot and knee ligament) I actually managed a fair amount of activity.

  • Running – 610 mins (10.1 hours)
  • Swimming – 120 mins (2 hours)
  • Project Awesome (Circuit training) – 2463 (41.05 hours)
  • Gym – 190 mins (3.1 hours)
  • Cycling – none
  • Total – 3383 (56.3 hours)

Campouts and camping
I scaled back my campouts this year with only 12 bivvy outs and 5 days in a tent. This is something that i’d like to get back to doing more of in 2019.

Board games
This hobby has continued to take off and apart from TV is my main sedentary hobby. I organise a work club, a friends club and I go to a meet-up group and play at least once a week.

  • Different games played – 79
  • Games new to 2018  – 64
  • Number of plays – 192
  • Most played games – Pandemic Legacy S1, Codenames, Carcassone, Flamme Rouge and Deception: Murder in Hong Kong
  • Best experiences: Pandemic legacy (still not completed) and Dead of Winter


  • Museums and art galleries – 11 visits
  • Theatre – 2 plays (‘Small Worlds’ by Punch Drunk and ‘Austentatious’)

Annual Report 2017

My year in review:

  • Nights Camping or Bivvying – 29
  • Books read – 10
  • Cinema movies watched – 13
  • TV series watched: 63
  • TV series watched (total hours) – 338
  • Movies (at home) watched – 85
  • Boardgames played (unique) – 40
  • Boardgames played (total) – 47

Wild sleeping
I’m quite chuffed that I spent nearly a month of the year sleeping outdoors. This figure is split nearly evenly between tents and bivvying. The highlights would be a campout near Beachy Head in April (sunset, stars, moon, sunrise and sea swim) and five night in the Lofoten Islands, Norway in my little one-man tent.

Looking at the stats there is a worrying trend in that I read only ten books but somehow managed to watch 338 hours of TV (6.5 hours a week average). I definitely want to get more books read in 2018.

Of the books that I did read, I loved a pair of history books by Dan Jones (Plantagenets and The Hollow Crown). I also re-read ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ which is still one of my favourite books of all time. I’d also give an honorable mention to the fantasy book ‘The Lies of Locke Lamora’ which was great fun.

Of the few cinema visits I made there were a few crackers:

  • Moonlight
  • Dunkirk
  • Baby Driver

I watched a LOT of TV, mainly on Netflix, some on Amazon and almost nothing on terrestrial television. The standard has been so incredibly high that I have hardly gone to the cinema (which I love) and haven’t really missed it. My favourites would include:

  • A Series of Unfortunate Events (Netflix)
  • Daredevil (series 1 and 2)
  • Narcos (series 1)
  • Stranger Things (series 1)
  • American Horror Story (series 1)
  • Peaky Blinders (series 2)
  • American Gods (series 1)
  • The Detectorists (series 2)
  • Rick and Morty (series 1 and 2)

Movies at Home
I watched a lot of movies at home, many for the first time. Of the films that I watched for the first time, these all made me cry and were brilliant:

  • Son of Saul
  • Interstellar
  • Room

A new category this year and a huge new area of my life has been my growing interest in Boardgames. Not Monopoly or Trivial Pursuit but modern actually really amazing games. I only started recording the games that I played half way through the year so 40 is an underestimate. It is notable that so far i’ve not played any single game more than three times and mostly only once.

The outstanding experiences have been the epic ‘Twilight imperium 4’ and ‘Eldritch Horror’. I also loved ‘Lords of Waterdeep’, ‘Deception: Murder in Hong Kong’, Flamme Rouge and Deep Sea Adventure. I’ve not played any game yet that was terrible, they’ve all been either good, great or amazing.

No fitness stats this year despite actually doing some regular running and other exercise. It’ll be back for 2018!

Original Mountain Marathon 2017 Langdale

“There are only 60 places left and you have just a few days to find a partner and register” said one of my ‘Project Awesome‘ friends. The ‘OMM’ has been on my wish-list for years but due to injury or other commitments i’d never done it. This was my chance if only I could find a partner!

Some would pick an OMM race partner on fitness or maybe navigation skills. My priority was to find someone who would keep their sense of humour when cold, wet and lost – conditions that seem inevitable in the race. My good friend Michael was open to some persistent persuasion and joined me!

OMM 2017 Langdale, Lake District

What is the OMM?
The Original Mountain Marathon is a 2 day self-supported orienteering race hosted somewhere in the rugged areas of the UK. This year the setting was beautiful Langdale in Cumbria. There are many different categories, including the ‘Elite’ 85km linear race. I signed up for the ‘easy’ Short Score which is a timed event that turns out to be quite tactical. Five hours on day one and 4 hours on day two – score as many points as you can from various checkpoints scattered around the hills but incur penalties for running over your time!

Considerable thought, effort and expense can go into acquiring and packing the gear. There is a long(ish) list of mandatory items that you need to bring including a proper tent and stove and emergency rations. The goal for many competitors is to pack the lightest (and smallest) possible items even if this means they might be cold and uncomfortable. I saw a lot of bubble wrap that supposedly replaces a proper sleeping mat?!

OMM kit

My aim was to not buy any new kit. My bag was one of the biggest that I saw!

The Start
After a little bit of an epic drive with the wonderful Rebecca, Charlotte and Leanne we arrived late on the Friday night, pitched our tent and then enjoyed the ‘Pasta party’ and a beer. This was everyone’s first OMM and there were a few worried looking faces (mine included). Had a decent night’s sleep myself though despite it being fairly blowy.

OMM 2017 Langdale, Lake District

My partner Michael and I had a relatively late start (10.30) so we mainly watched all our friends and most other competitors head off before us. The weather looked pretty grim as we hit the start line, a bit of light rain and menacing cloud on the hilltops. The rainbow was very welcome.

OMM 2017 Langdale, Lake District

Race – day one
At the start line we ‘dibbed’ our timing chip, got given our map (one each) and we were off! Well, to be exact we knelt down by a rock and tried to plan what the hell we were doing for 5 minutes. A sketchy plan made we headed off and quickly hit a lung-bursting ascent and the further we climbed the more inclement the weather became.

OMM 2017 Langdale, Lake District

We quickly learnt that the organisers were not going to give us an easy time finding the individual checkpoints. They were generally in a dip or crevice and because the maps were 1:40000 we could only really identify a general area. The thick (very atmospheric) mist only added to the challenge. What was a help was seeing a gaggle of fellow racers heading for areas off the path!

OMM 2017 Langdale, Lake District

At the top of the hills the wind and rain was ferocious and we were soaked through before midday. A few hours in Michael started to develop some cramps that only seemed to get worse as the day went on. It was also becoming clear that we were unlikely to get to the finish within 5 hours.

OMM 2017 Langdale, Lake District

OMM 2017 Langdale, Lake District

It is notable that the ground conditions were incredibly boggy and that wet feet was a feature of the entire day. I wore trail running shoes (a good decision) and was lucky that I didn’t suffer any blisters. I did wonder a bit how long it takes to get trench foot?

OMM 2017 Langdale, Lake District

We eventually crawled into the overnight camp over an hour late to find that we had gained 150 points but been deducted 128. A bit of a blow!

OMM 2017 Langdale, Lake District

The Overnight Camp
In what seems like an act of minor cruelty the designated overnight camp was basically a bog with most of the dry bits being on a major slope. Michael and I managed to find some slim crevices to put our little one-man tents and try and sort ourselves out. A priority was to get some hot food down our neck which led me to panic slightly when Michael told me that he’d brought the wrong fire-starter for the stove! Luckily a friendly competitor lent us a lighter.

OMM 2017 Langdale, Lake District

I made the controversial decision to just keep on my damp clothes and hope they dried out on me (fine as it turned out) while Michael laboriously took off his wet stuff and put on his dry stuff. This included some hilarious (to me) grunts, groans and yelps coming from his tent. By the time we’d eaten and warmed up it was about 1800, we were so tired though that we just got in our sleeping bags and snoozed or went to sleep. I have to say that my tent was snug and I was perfectly warm over night. It was a tad steamy for a bit as my clothes dried out. In the morning I did, however, still have to put on soaking wet and cold socks. Yuk. Michael, on the other hand, had to put on cold wet everything! Yikes.

OMM 2017 Langdale, Lake District

In contrast to day one, the morning was beautiful and clear, though cold. We had another late start time which meant that we had quite a bit of hanging around. In the end it meant that we were possibly the last competitors to cross the start line.

Race day two
Michael and I were fairly exhausted before we even set off and having learnt our lessons on the penalties of being late we decided to keep the plan simple today. Just get to the finish on time and don’t worry about racking up a basket of points. The race map told us that we could pick up 2-3 checkpoints without going out of our way too much.

OMM 2017 Langdale, Lake District

After a very short walk along the road between Hardknott and Wrynose passes we forded a stream and headed up the stiff climb of Cold Pike. With our tired legs, this was a bit of a tester and seemed to go on forever. The blue skies and clear views were gorgeous though and this was easily one of the clearest days I’ve ever had in the Lake District.

OMM 2017 Langdale, Lake District

OMM 2017 Langdale, Lake District

We spent what seemed like ages trying to find our first checkpoint and eventually gave up. This seemed particularly galling as the weather was clear and there seemed like few excuses. Damn sneaky organisers! To my utter surprise but complete delight what I did find was my wonderful work colleague Nicola who was out walking with her husband! A fantastic coincidence.

OMM 2017 Langdale, Lake District

In the end we only completed two checkpoints on this day and came in nearly an hour early. We did manage to jog in the last half kilometre and ran triumphantly through the finish line. We did our last ‘dib’ with the timing chip and picked up the finishers badge.

You do get a cup of tea, ribena and a bangers and mash dinner for getting to the end! What was even better was meeting up with our friends and swapping horror stories about the horrific weather or how few points we may have scored.

OMM 2017 Langdale, Lake District

Going into this, I did think that finishing at all would be good and not being last would be fantastic but i’ll be honest, I didn’t hold out much hope for the second goal. We had walked, rather than ran more or less the whole thing. On day one we had lost most of the points we had accrued and on day two hardly scored any at all. We ended on a grand total of 62 points. What I hadn’t reckoned on was that loads of folk on the ‘short course’ were late on day one, some even had negative points. We finished an almost respectable 114th out of 138 finishers in our class. I heard over 150 teams had simply pulled out the first day. Sometimes, just persevering can do it.

OMM 2017 Langdale, Lake District

Would I do it again? Of course I bloody would. I really hope to be back next year, fitter and more experienced!

Massive thanks to Michael for being an awesome buddy. Thanks to all my other friends from Project Awesome that were there, you are inspirational!

Still terrified on a campout

Since discovering this microadventure malarky back in July 2015 I have slept out under the stars (not in a tent) a minimum of once a month (and often a lot more often) since. A majority of these have been with other people but quite a number have been on my own.

I love a campout with others, in fact I organise trips pretty regularly in autumn, winter and spring, but going on my own is still very special. Why is it special?

Because I still find it damn well scary, that’s why!


Yesterday I was lucky enough to be sent on a work trip to Aberystwyth in Wales and while I was here I thought it would be lovely to walk up the coast and campout on a clifftop. After weeks of hot and balmy weather, fate waited till I was at the seaside and made it rain with high winds. Not ideal campout weather but you go with what youve got. By the time I was looking for a place to bed down, the rain had at least stopped but there was a ferocious wind and I found a disused lime kiln on a beach that looked like perfect shelter. The downside being, it was right next to a house.

Aberystwyth microadventure

My normal procedure is to get out of sight and wait for dark before I unpack my bivvy and sleeping bag. As it was quite stony in the kiln I did get my therm-a-rest out to sit on. Just as I did, a dog appeared and gave me a friendly sniff, then another dog hove into view and finally a teenage girl, presumably from the house, walked by. Oh no, i’ve been spotted! I then had a nervous couple of hours wondering if the grown ups in the house were going to come and tell me to bugger off or worse.

This is the thing, the sane me, currently sat in a cafe all warm and snug knows that nothing bad was going to happen. The ‘me’ at the time, however, had the wind howling, the gulls crying and a deep feeling of vulnerability. Were a bunch of guys going to come out of the house, maybe a bit boozed up, and beat me up? Was an angry farmer going to chuck me off his beach? [Can the beach be owned??].

Obviously my night was was totally fine, apart from seeing a mouse that did make me jump. Rodents aside, I had an uneventful night listening the the waves crash on the beach. I got up early, packed up, made coffee and got out of the area.

After nearly two years of sleeping out I think of myself as a fairly ‘seasoned microadventurer’ but this just highlights that the magic is still there.

I think I actually love the ‘edge’ that putting myself in these situations creates. A little bit of fear actually makes these feel like an adventure and as experienced as I might be, they are still special. I can’t wait for my next one! Who needs a comfort zone all the time!

Lofoten Islands (Norway) on a budget

Reine, Lofoten Islands, Norway

Norway is an amazing country but it is also a pretty expensive place to visit. I did, however, manage to visit the wonderful Lofoten islands (from London in the UK) for six days without breaking the bank.

My basic plan was to try to only spend money on the travel (flights and ferry). This would entail wild camping (which is free) and taking all of my own food for 5 days. Being a major cheapskate, I also made up my own dehydrated breakfast and dinner meals (see appendix for details).

Lofoten 2017

I booked a very early morning flight from London Heathrow (after spending an uncomfortable night at the airport) to Bodø (via Oslo). The flight touched down at 1430 and I had exactly one hour to make the ferry. I’ll be honest that I never thought I’d have any chance of making it! The consequences of missing the ferry would be to wait for the midnight sailing (eek). I’m delighted to say that Bodø airport was very efficient in delivering my rucksack and is also only just over a mile from the ferry terminal. I was comfortably on the ferry in 40 mins. Win!

Note on travel costs: I was a little late in booking so my flight costs of £280.00 could almost certainly have been cheaper. The ferry was about £20.00 each way.

Lofoten islands

I got off the ferry at Moskenes, located towards the western end of the Lofoten Islands at 1830 in the evening. My first, and really only worry, was trying to find a gas canister for my stove. It was going to be a tricky trip if I couldn’t boil any water!

I’d done a bit of research and the nearest place to buy camping gas was in Reine, 4-5 km away. I shouldered my pack and started my walk, some of which was on the road and some on a path (actually the old road).

Lofoten islands

Lucky for me, the gas station in Reine was open and actually sold the type of canister I needed. Slightly unfortunately it was an enormous one that i’d never use up during my trip. My map of Lofoten seemed to indicate that there was a campsite in Reine but it turned out that this was total fiction! Not a major problem as I walked back towards Moskenes where I had spotted a couple of camping spots by the side of the path. I was sorted!

Lofoten islands 2017

Day 2
In London, the weather in late May was pretty balmy, in Lofoten, which is well above the arctic circle, it was quite cold – 6-8C. On my first night it was also very rainy and windy and when I woke up I was reluctant to pack up and go until it stopped. My little one man tent (MSR Hubba HP) was pretty snug and comfy and I managed to safely make coffee and porridge in the porch. The rain stopped about 1030  and I headed back into Reine.

Lofoten Islands 2017

My original plan to was to get the ferry from Reine to Vinstad but i’d stupidly forgotten to look up the timetable before I left and had missed the morning ferry. The timetable is written very oddly (to me at least) and I didn’t think that there were any other ferries that day so decided to walk around the fjord/bay. Note: I later discovered that there was an afternoon ferry that I could have gotten. Doh!

Lofoten Islands 2017

The Lofoten islands are famous in the winter months as cod fisheries (cod spawn here), following which the fish are hung out to dry. These drying racks are around all of the little villages that I saw and yes, the places do smell a tad ‘fishy’.

Lofoten Islands 2017

One thing became pretty clear to me was that there really isn’t much open here. I won’t complain too much as I did have literally world class scenery to look at but it’s worth noting that in bad weather there aren’t many indoor activities. Luckily for me the weather was sunshine and cloud without any rain. What it wasn’t though was very warm and I was grateful for a cafe/bar to open in Reine in the afternoon. I splurged what I think must have been a million pounds on a pretty decent cake and an awful coffee. I did take the opportunity to use the wifi to contact to the family and brag a bit on facebook and instagram.

Lofoten islands 2017

Lofoten Islands 2017

When i’d had enough of looking at mountains soaring out of the sea I retreated to the same campsite as the previous night and hunkered down.

Day 3

Lofoten islands 2017

I woke up early on this amazingly sunny and beautiful day in order to get the early ferry from Reine to Vinstad. Despite it still being the ‘winter’ season, the boat was full to the gunnels.

Lofoten Islands 2017

Lofoten Islands 2017

Lofoten islands 2017

After arriving at Vinstad, I walked (along with a a small group of fellow tourists) up through this small community, over a small pass to the breathtaking Bunes beach.

The beach seems, at first, to be quite small but it is only an illusion created by the height of the substantial mountains that surround it. I rushed down as soon as I could, dumped my bag and then with only my phone and a towel headed for the water. I wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to swim (or in this case briefly dip) in the Arctic Ocean.

Lofoten islands 2017

It was cold, but oh so glorious! Plus I saw an avalanche (my first)!

I ended up staying at Bunes beach for more than a day and a half, walking around the beach, gazing out at this amazing beauty or reading my book. The weather was wonderfully sunny all the time I was here although it was never warmer than 8C and the wind was often high creating quite a wind chill factor. There is a drop toilet at the back of the beach (without a door) but I avoided it as much as possible.

I’ll confess to being a little disappointed that I wasn’t the only person to sleep on the beach overnight. I really fancied being alone here. To be fair to my fellow campers, they all kept themselves to themselves and I wasn’t disturbed at all.

Day 4

Lofoten islands 2017

[Note: These strange hollow iron balls were washed up on the beach. What are they? Pretty sure they are not cannonballs.]

After lunch, I packed up my stuff and headed back towards the ferry point. I decided to attempt to walk further down the fjord as there was a tall and amazing looking waterfall at the end.

Lofoten Islands 2017

Lofoten Islands 2017

As I caught the ferry back to Reine, the sunshine was replaced by cloud and it got distinctly chillier. Back in ‘civilisation’ I had a sandwich and coffee (another million pounds) in the cafe and then headed back to my usual wild camping spot for the night. The night was pretty windy and rainy! The tent was solid though!

Day 5
This was pretty much my last full day in the Lofoten’s but bearing in mind that I needed to catch a super early ferry in the morning I didn’t want to go far. I therefore decided to walk to the end of Norway itself! Well, the western most point that can be reached by road.

Lofoten Islands 2017

I walked through Moskenes (apart from the ferry, not much here), Sørvågen (more stuff here but all closed), Tind (more or less nought) and finally Å (yes, just the one letter).

Lofoten Islands 2017

Lofoten islands 2017

As with just about everywhere else in the Lofotens, the views were just spectacular but it did feel quite special to be at the end of the road. Å also boasted some actually open places too. The stockfish museum (which I didn’t go in) and a wonderfully rustic bakery selling a delicious cinnamon roll and totally wonderful Barley bread. The coffee was awful but you can’t have everything!

Lofoten islands 2017

The sun was still out and I decided to take the footpath from Sørvågen up to Stuvdalsvatnet, a lake surrounded by mountains. It is a bit of a stiff climb but the view is stunning. The path continued up to a mountain hut called Munkebu but I decided not to go that far.

Lofoten Islands 2017

Lofoten islands 2017

I have to say though that this was a glorious way to spend my last afternoon. I was a tiny bit disappointed to learn that you could neither swim nor camp here but considering this is where everyone gets their drinking water from it was fair enough. It was my initial plan to not stay in any formal campsites but my hygiene situation was such that I decided to relent tonight. I’d only had a sea dip since i’d been here and I was starting to find myself a bit unpleasant!

Lofoten islands 2017

The campsite fee turned out to be the equivalent of £13 which in effect was what a shower was costing me. Annoyingly there was a ‘pub’ but of course like most things here, it wasn’t open. At least it stopped me spending £10 on a pint of lager!

Day 6 – Going home

Up at 05.30, I had my usual porridge and coffee before quickly packing up my stuff for the trip home. I was at the ferry in plenty of time, indeed I was second on the boat for the trip back.

Lofoten islands 2017

The ferry trip was uneventful (I slept some of it), as were the flights. I spent a bit more time in Bodø than on the way here but it didn’t strike me as all that exciting (sorry if I missed the good bits).


Well, firstly, I really can’t recommend the Lofoten Islands enough. World class, breath-taking scenery in every direction! Going in late May before the ‘summer season’ started did mean that it was still pretty chilly even on the sunny days and that very little was open.

It’s possibly worth noting that I didn’t really go very far (in terms of miles) on this trip, partly because I was walking with a 16-18kg rucksack at all times. I made a decision before I came that I wasn’t going to bother with the infrequent bus service. It did limit me, but I can’t say I regret it as it was all awesome more or less all the time where I was.

I’m also fairly happy with managing to keep costs to a minimum. I did end up having a few cafe visits but this was OK for me. I actually came back with some food so i feel pretty good about how much I packed. I wasn’t in any danger of going hungry on this trip!

If it had rained for days on end I think it could have been quite grim, considering I was living as a hobo. If you had a car, you could at least go for a drive or go somewhere that has things to do but car hire is quite pricey and it is harder to wild camp.

In short, don’t delay, just book your tickets now! It is a must-see place.

Appendix 1

You can get some pretty tasty dehydrated expedition food these days, however, they are also mostly quite expensive, i.e. £5-6 a meal. This really adds up over the course of a week so I decided to make some of my own.

My food list for the week:

100g porridge oats
15g milk powder
2 teaspoon Sugar
1 dessert spoon of sultanas
1 teaspoon peanut butter

Add twice the volume of boiling water, stir, wait 7 mins, stir again and eat.
I keep the porridge in a platic food bag and use a large mug to keep it in shape. No washing up!

Bulgar wheat surprise
100g Bulgar wheat (mine has some quinoa in it)
40g of roughly ground lentils (they take too long to cook if whole)
half a stock cube
dash of chilli sauce

Add twice the volume of boiling water, stir, wait 20 mins, stir several times. I again use a food bag and a mug for stability. Nothing to wash up. [Note: I found this filling but quite bland, next time I plan to add a spoonful of curry paste]

Wed 24
Breakfast: on plane
Lunch: Oslo airport
Dinner: Bagels and peanut butter
Snacks: Crimble macaroon x 2, Snickers bar
Thur 25
Breakfast: Porridge
Lunch: Bagels and peanut butter
Dinner: Bulgar wheat, lentils and pepperami
Snacks: Crimble macaroon x 2, Snickers bar
Fri 26
Breakfast: Porridge
Lunch: Malt loaf
Dinner: Bulgar wheat, lentils and pepperami
Snacks: Crimble macaroon x 2, Huel bar
Sat 27
Breakfast: Porridge
Lunch: Malt loaf
Dinner: Bulgar wheat, lentils and pepperami
Snacks: Crimble macaroon x 2, Huel bar
Sun 28
Breakfast: Porridge
Lunch: Malt loaf
Dinner: Bulgar wheat, lentils and pepperami
Snacks: Flapjack bar, huel bar
Mon 29
Breakfast: Porridge
Lunch: Moskenes/Bodo
Dinner: Oslo airport
Snacks: Huel bar

Injury update (March 2017) – I’m back

Blimey, this has been a much longer saga than I ever could have imagined.

First run in over a year!

Way (way) back in December 2015 I was doing sprints with the lovely folk from Project Awesome and on one of the turns (nothing special) something clicked. Of course I just carried on because that’s what I always do. Later that day in a meeting at work my leg collapsed under me and I couldn’t walk at all.

I went to a physio and eventually my doctor who in turn referred me to a joint specialist. I was (officially) diagnosed with a meniscus tear (a bit of cartilage inside the knee). The consultant even delighted in saying that I had ‘fat knees’ which was tough to take from a basically pretty corpulent man.

For over a year I have been (mostly) doing my physio (a LOT of squats), switching my exercise to cycling and generally being ultra careful not to twist my knee. The pattern then followed that I would feel a bit better, push things on the exercise front and re-injure myself. At the beginning a re-injury would have me limping for a week but over time the recovery time reduced and the gaps between injury increased.

I’ll be honest, there were times when I thought that I was going to have a permanent (albeit minor) disability and never run again. I love running which meant this thought was pretty depressing. As much as I know how minor this is and how lucky I’ve been physically in my life it has gotten me down.

Since the turn of the year though, things have improved a lot. I’ve not had a relapse and whilst I can definitely still ‘feel’ the knee throb a bit after exercise it seems more or less ok. The big news was last weekend when i did an actual bonafide real proper run. It was very slow (by my old standards) but a solid 4.5km round the park.

I felt quite emotional afterwards. Doing a proper run again felt HUGE. Oh yes, i’m back baby! [cough]

Project awesome 'happiness day'

Photo by www.annarachelphotography.com/


How to winter bivvy on a budget

The last two years i’ve enjoyed going on campouts throughout the winter. In the UK this rarely gets too extreme (sub-zero temps are rare) but it is undoubtedly a very different undertaking for someone who has only tried a summer microadventure.

frosty leaf

The obvious answer to this is to pony up and invest in some decent winter kit. A three or four season sleeping bag and maybe an arctic puffa jacket. The trouble is a decent down sleeping bag will set you back several hundred pounds at least. One of the things i truly love about microadventures are that they are pretty inclusive and expressly don’t require a major financial outlay. What to do then?

I have some thoughts on how to stay cozy on those cold cold nights without breaking the bank. I’ve assumed here that someone owns at least a bivvy bag, a sleeping mat and a summer sleeping bag.

Sleeping bag solutions
Ok, so a 1-2 season bag isn’t going to cut it in the winter months. How about buying (or borrowing) a second 1-2 season bag and put one inside the other? Decathlon (one of my favourite shops) do a 2 season synthetic bag for £30.

If you don’t quite want to lay out for (or have to store) another sleeping bag but need a bit ‘extra’, how about a sleeping bag liner. Silk is ideal but expensive so why not try a micro fleece for £15?

Boxhill awesome Campout

Sleeping mats
Some kind of insulating mat is a good idea even in summer months but on frozen ground it’s a good idea to double up (or is that down?). Foam roll mats are relatively cheap but if you want to maximise your ‘bang for your buck’ try something like this aluminium backed roll from Amazon for only £5.70.

Insulating yourself from the ground will make a huge difference in winter.

Hot water bottle
A few pounds will buy yourself a hot waterbottle that you can fill from a stove just before bed. It won’t last all night but it will start you off toasty. You can also get some chemical heaters that may make a useful contribution.

Shorne Woods Country Park

Pack on the layers
I’ve heard quite a few times how not wearing much to bed somehow makes you warmer. The basic laws of thermodynamics refute this i think. In a frosty situation wear many layers, even your coat if you have to. In the morning you can get up and move around to stay warm.

Get some extra socks to go over your normal socks. If you have a spare jumper or coat, put it down the bottom of your bag to keep those toes toasty.

WEAR A WOOLLY HAT, a scarf (or a buff) and some light gloves if need be. If you have a hoody pull it up. The neck and head areas lose a lot of heat otherwise.

Don’t breathe in your sleeping bag
I realise that this is a tough one but try to keep at least your mouth and nose exposed to the air. One of the enemies of warmth is being wet and breathing inside your sleeping bag may keep it damp.

You’ll need the BIG rucksack
Quite a few of the tips i’ve suggested here will add considerable bulk to your microadventure kit – 2 sleeping bags, 2 roll mats, extra clothes, a stove etc.

There is an old trope – light/small, effective, cheap – pick two. In this case i’m suggesting we go for effective and cheap.

Good luck microadventurers! If you have any of your own tips, let me know. 

Boxhill awesome Campout

A Walk across London – North to South

Having ‘conquered’ a walk across London from east to west (Part 1, part 2, part 3) it was time to tackle North to South. London is a lot shorter than it is wide and I reckoned that this route could be done in just two days of walking. I was also really fortunate that my friends Nickos and David were keen to join me on the challenge.

Part 1

A walk across London (north/south) part 1

It turns out that the most northerly part of Greater London is a lonely country road just inside the M25 near Crews Hill station in Enfield. This required walking along an unpaved verge for a kilometer or so. The completest in me meant that we had to make the border. My companions were less fussed. At least there was a sign to mark the start. It was exciting that almost from the start we could see the half-way point of the Shard in central London.

A walk across London (north/south) part 1

A walk across London (north/south) part 1

The morning was quite cold but very sunny and it was a pretty lovely walk alongside fields and trees. It wasn’t too long before we found suburbia though in the form of Enfield town. There some very nice parks though and my old friend Google maps took us through as many as possible.

A walk across London (north/south) part 1

A walk across London (north/south) part 1

I did take us slightly away from the most direct route firstly by insisting on walking by a street near Bounds Green that I used to live in and second by climbing up to Alexandra palace. The views from here are magnificent and the ‘palace’ itself is still pretty great.

A walk across London (north/south) part 1

A walk across London (north/south) part 1

A walk across London (north/south) part 1

By this point, however, the beautiful sunshine gave way to threatening clouds. It wouldn’t be long before it turned into drizzle and finally a proper downpour. Good old British weather.

The revelation of the walk was quite how nice Crouch end is, a place that none of us had been to (at least in many years). This is one of the best things about walking round your home town. Discovering or re-discovering places that life hasn’t taken you to.

A walk across London (north/south) part 1

A walk across London (north/south) part 1

It’s fair to say that once the rain got heavy the walk was a little bit of a trial and we didn’t dawdle. Also the central London Sunday shoppers were out and making fast walking a bit tricky too. When will there be a ‘locals lane’ on London pavements?

A walk across London (north/south) part 1

We ended our day on Waterloo Bridge, the northern part of our walk completed. Damp but undefeated we celebrated with a beer and a burger. Yay!

Part 2

The weather couldn’t have been better for the second part of this walk (about three weeks later) – a crisp cold blue sky day. It may have been cold but it was glorious. We started off from Waterloo bridge and made our way down the river to Vauxhall.

A Walk across London - north to south

Leaving the river we passed through Stockwell and made it to Tooting Bec Common where we stopped for some excellent brownie (thanks David).

A Walk across London - north to south

A Walk across London - north to south

From here our journey took us through the unremarkable suburbs of Mitcham and then Carshalton and Wallingford. It included passing the aromatic Beddington sewage works.

A Walk across London - north to south

A Walk across London - north to south

With daylight starting to go we finally arrived in Coulsden, the last bit of town before our destination. Farthing down would have been a superb end to the trip. It is a pretty bit of heath with lovely views into happy Valley and beyond. We even got a majestic sunset.

A Walk across London - north to south

A Walk across London - north to south

Sadly, however, the edge of Greater London was a further 1.5 km down a small unpaved lane. I was checking our position on my Ordnance Survey app on my phone which eventually told us we were there. We had made it. We had a nip of whiskey and a celebratory photo.

A Walk across London - north to south

All that remained was to walk several miles back up the lane and across farthing down to Coulsdon where we could have a drink and a curry.

A huge thanks to my companions David and Nickos who were brilliant company. Even when it rained or I made them walk to the middle of nowhere ‘because that’s what the map says’.

This was a really nice project that I’d recommend.