In no particular order, then...
1. Striding away from that mechanical money-pit of the material age, the car.
2. Hobbling towards that miracle of warmth, comfort and convenience, the car.
3. Laughing inwardly at the poor fools who listened to the forecast and decided to stay in.
4. Swearing inwardly at weather that fails to obey the forecast as if contractually obliged.
5. Dry socks in the car.
6. RDS radio tuning.
7. Water beading up on fabric.
8. Forton services, Colossus of Roads, gateway to the Lakes.
9. Re-consuming every calorie you've just burned.
10. Gallows humour about the weather.
11. The answer "We're serving all day" to the question "Are we too late for food?"
12. Having but never using an Emergency Warm Layer.
13. 'Croeso y Cymru'.
14. Empty seats near open fires.
15. Drying rooms.
16. Reading all the labels on a new waterproof jacket.
17. Blindly feeling a Snickers bar in the depths of a rucksack.
18. 'PH' on a map.
19. The village of Fryup, Yorks.
20. Spotting a footprint in the mud after hours on a trackless moor.
21. Any map. All maps.
22. A stile ahead when you feared you'd gone wrong.
23. Narrowly avoiding a dog poo.
24. Achieving a clothed state of 'full deniability' after relieving yourself.
25. Stepping stones.
26. No phone signal - peace at last.
27. "They have free wifi here!"
28. Socks on a warm radiator.
30. Bumsliding in waterproofs.
31. When the water just runs off new boots after crossing a stream.
32. Taking boots off.
34. No cows.
We're compiling a guide to the best destinations to walk overseas, and we'd love to include YOUR photos to show people what's in store.
If you've been walking or trekking anywhere nice, anywhere in the world, send us your best pic or pics (preferably with a person or people in, at the highest resolution you've got) by emailing them to us HERE. Don't forget to tell us where they were taken (roughly) and we'll make you famous!
We'll print as many as we can, and five pic submitters (chosen at random) will win a year's subscription (or extension to their existing subscription) to either Country Walking or Trail magazine.
Remember, we're looking for real pictures of real people in real places - gear-brochure quality shots aren't required, so don't be shy!
Send your email to email@example.com with the subject line 'My overseas walking pic'.
Director: Baltasar Kormákur
Stars: Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, Jake Gyllenhaal, Keira Knightley, Sam Worthington
Mountain movies are a talking point in any place where hillwalkers meet, from the bar of Glen Coe's Clachaig Inn to the wall shelter on Scafell Pike to the desks of Country Walking and Trail.
Fact or fiction? Touching the Void or Black Narcissus? Cliffhanger or The Eiger Sanction? Third Man on the Mountain or Nordwand? Chris O'Donnell lugging nitroglycerin up K2 in Vertical Limit or - God help us - William Shatner scaling El Capitan in Star Trek V?
Into this fierce fray comes a film which could just be the definitive visual guide to what it's like to climb the planet's highest mountain. Everest is based on the true story of the 1996 Everest disaster, in which eight climbers lost their lives in a freak storm - to that point (before the earthquake/avalanche disasters of 2014 and 2015) the biggest loss of life in a single day on the mountain.
Some may know this story well: it was told in the book Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer, a journalist from US magazine Outside who was party to the events. But while highly acclaimed, his version of events has been heavily disputed. This movie is not an adaptation of the book, but those who know the intricacies of the debate will still be intrigued to see how the film handles this problem. Those who know nothing about the story shouldn't worry, though; the drama explains itself clearly enough.
This is a film that comes from the heart. At the press preview attended by LFTO, we met co-producer David Breashears, a U.S. film-maker and mountaineer who has summited Everest five times and was also a producer and climbing advisor on Cliffhanger. He explained that he was actually there at Base Camp during the events of 1996, filming one of the first IMAX movies - also titled Everest. He witnessed the appalling rogue storm that forms the dark heart of this story, and its aftermath. He has wanted to get this movie made ever since.
The storm is one pillar of the story, but the other is the commercialisation of Everest. A pointed opening caption tells us that for 40 years after Hillary and Tenzing, only top professional mountaineers climbed the mountain. That all changed with New Zealand climber and entrepreneur Rob Hall, whose company Adventure Consultants pioneered guided climbs for non-professionals in 1991. You had to be an experienced climber to join them, yes, but not a pro. So we meet Rob Hall (Jason Clarke), founder of AC, and find that his group includes amiable postman-cum-carpenter Doug Hansen (John Hawkes) and swaggery Texan pathologist Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin). Krakauer is there too, although he appears to do little actual journalism beyond a convenient "why do you all do this?" scene.
But these guys aren't alone. By 1996, a whole industry of guided climbing has sprung up in Hall's footsteps, and Base Camp is a sprawling dayglo slum of tents, the staging post for ascents by companies from all over the globe (including some very nasty South Africans, who don't come out of this at all well).
Hall's group, the South Africans and another group led by Scott Fischer (played as a nonchalant surfer-dude by Jake Gyllenhaal) are all targeting the summit on the same day, and this leads to a hazardous bottlenecking on the upper sections of the mountain. And thus the scene is set for a tragedy that unfolds in the most impossible conditions imaginable. As Hall presciently warns his charges early on: "Human beings aren't built to function at the cruising height of a 747. Up there, your body is literally dying."
Let's get this out there: the photography of this film is astonishing. If you want to know what it is like to climb Everest to the summit; to understand the complexities of its faces, ridges and cols, then this film delivers for you. The camera carefully takes you from the madness of Kathmandu to the harum-scarum runway at Lukla, and on up to the monasteries of the Pangboche Glacier; through Base Camp, up the Khumbu Icefall; up to the South Col, along the traverse to the Hillary Step, up the step itself and on to the top of the earth. The geography of Everest, normally so massive and incomprehensible, becomes a vivid and vital part of the drama here.
If you get the chance, see it in 3D. There's an early moment in which the camera passes through a gorge, passing the hikers as they cross a rope bridge bedecked with prayer flags - and it honest-to-goodness puts your heart in your mouth. Later, as the team scales ladders across the seracs of the Khumbu Icefall, you'll feel it's your very own feet that are setting out across each ludicrous chasm, rather than those of Beck Weathers. And higher up, your toes will curl involuntarily as you bid to keep them away from the 20,000-ft chasms that are a whisker away from the climbers' feet.
Is it quite as successful when it comes to the human drama of the story? Partially. It certainly creates a fantastic hero in Rob Hall, who cares deeply for his charges and is full of sage advice right up to the point where he considers breaking his own golden rule out of sympathy for one of them. Clarke plays him with the straightest bat, a man in love with the mountains but confused by the monster he has created. And Brolin is good value as the bluff, macho "let me ask you about your mountaineering experience so I can work out if I'm better than you" Weathers.
But Gyllenhaal's slacker-generation Fischer seems oddly one-note (he's one notch up from those base-jumping goons in Cliffhanger), and while the film gets close to examining why these people do what they do, it seems to shy away from real answers. And it seems to suggest that the evil of Everest's commercialisation is somehow offset by the heroism and good intentions of those who have engineered it.
I was also slightly dismayed by the lack of focus on the Sherpas; every hero in this film is a white First Worlder, be they Kiwi, American or Russian. Even a Nepalese helicopter pilot, who attempts the highest flight ever in the vicinity of Everest in atrocious conditions, goes un-named and plays second fiddle to the special effects during the rather hurried final chapter.
That said, I won't be doing what some sneery reviewers from the Guardian and Telegraph have been doing, which is to diss the movie for a lack of dramatic twists, and for the portrayal of the three main female characters - Base Camp commander Helen Wilton (Emily Watson), Beck Weathers' wife Peach (Robin Wright) and Hall's pregnant wife Jan (Keira Knightley - who, it must be said, is much too Keira Knightley to be convincing as the tough climber Hall married). True, Watson spends a lot of time talking anxiously into a radio and looking worried, but to criticise the film for making the women 'dull' and 'whiny' (as the Guardian has) seems unfair. This is what happened. Would they prefer the film-makers had jazzed things up a bit with a shock twist that never happened, or a fictional superwoman who wasn't there? Frankly, I'm glad they didn't. There's too much of that in so-called biopics as it is (don't get me started on the liberties taken with the Enigma codebreakers in The Imitation Game).
And when the real shocks come, they hit as sharply as the tiny shards of blizzard ice that lacerate the climbers high up on the South Col. If you've seen the trailer, you may already have seen the film's 'money shot' in which Hall looks down upon the rising storm as it consumes the mountain; it's a man facing an impossible bigness and terror while confined upon a tiny space. It's amazing how quickly the surface area of Everest, a thing so huge, is reduced to just a tiny, vulnerable ledge as nature's whim strikes. I don't need a clever narrative twist in order to be stunned by that.
Is Everest a classic mountain movie? Certainly it is one that anyone with an interest in mountains will talk about. And it's truer than Vertical Limit, more in-the-moment than Touching the Void and just better in every way than The Eiger Sanction (sorry Clint). So by that rationale, yes, it deserves its place in the mountain movie hall of fame. How much of it is fact and how much conjecture? That's a different question, and I wonder at what point its desire to cast almost everyone in a benevolent light (except the South Africans) negates its power as an objective critique of a failure of mountaineering. Poor decisions were made; forecasts were spun towards the positive; in some cases ego, hubris and/or sentiment trumped common sense; but the film rather glosses over these points in its desire to honour the people involved.
So it has its flaws, but it takes you to the top of the world, and then into the depths of despair - and not many films do that. It looks incredible - I lost count of the amount of times I wondered "how the blazes did they film that?" And ultimately, it makes you want to know more - about the mountain, about the people, about the weather that wreaked this havoc upon them. About the why and the how.
I'd suggest that makes it a very good mountain movie indeed.
* Everest is on general release from Friday 18th September. Find the trailer and more info at www.everestmovie.com #everestmovie
Spend some time 'Spring cleaning' the Great Outdoors and enjoy a rewarding afternoon of fun outdoor activities by joining one of KEEN & Respect the Mountains.
Popular European mountain destinations are subjected to considerable environmental footprint and are in need of on-the-ground action to clear them of waste in order to maintain their natural beauty and enjoyment for generations to come. The Envirotrek is a fun 'grass roots' initiative, involving tourists, local volunteers and businesses that addresses this need, providing a feel good community experience, simply 'spring cleaning' the mountain environment and hiking through the hills to see who can collect the most litter.
During the 2014 series, some 613 volunteers signed up over six events, amounting to a monumental 1220 hours of hands on clean-up time in the hills. Their brilliant efforts resulted in a jaw dropping 5120kg of waste being cleared - including 459 refuse sacks and an assortment of waste being removed from the mountains.
2015 marks the 7th consecutive season of the Envirotrek Clean Up Series, and takes place across various European mountain destinations including the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, Czech Republic, Austria and France.
This year's UK event kicks off the eight date series and will be hosted in the stunning Snowdonia National Park in Llanberis, North Wales, on the 24th May 2015.
The family friendly programme will kick off around 10am, with volunteers walking a track and collecting rubbish and waste. Group leaders are allocated and all participants will be provided with cleaning and safety equipment and fully briefed with a safety talk. The Clean Up finishes at around 12.30pm, with volunteers being rewarded for their mornings' efforts with a delicious BBQ lunch on the hill.
Participants then get to spend the remainder of the afternoon enjoying a range of fun outdoor pursuits organised by the Envirotrek leaders, which will include climbing, rope climbing and a water based activity. There's even a chance to win some great prizes including KEEN footwear and gifts for the best or most unusual rubbish found (previous candidates have included mattresses and even a car door!), with the days event closing at approximately 4pm.
10am - 24th May 2015
Padarn Adventures, Padarn Country Park, Gilfach Du, Llanberis, Gwynedd, LL55 4TY
Children must be accompanied by a responsible adult. Robust, comfortable footwear is recommended (such as KEENs of course) and participants are advised to bring water, sunscreen and an all weather jacket.
Entrance for this event is priced at £10 per adult and £5 for children under 12 (though is free with those showing proof of purchase of a pair of KEENs in the last 30 days - don't forget your receipt!). Secure your place now by registering online at www.respectthemountains.com/envirotrek
Can't make this date- why not visit an Envirotrek on your European Holidays this Summer?! The schedule for the seven remaining events for 2015 are:
20 June - Landgraaf, the Netherlands
21 June - Eifel, Germany
28 June - Schoorl, the Netherlands
12 July - Freiburg, Germany
14 July - Mayrhofen-Hippach, Austria
22 July - Samoëns, France
20 August- Cesky Raj, Czech Republic
You may have gathered there's an election due soon. But who should get the walker's vote?
Country Walking has posed a series of outdoor-related questions to each of the main Westminster parties to help you decide (we even asked them for their favourite walk). Check out the new issue of Country Walking to see an in-depth interview with three Cumbrian MPs who had a lot to say on the subject. But here is the full, unedited text of each party's answers. Hopefully it'll help you vote with your feet on May 7th...
Click on the links below to view the interviews (parties appear in alphabetical order):
When you've just started your final year at school, there's quite a lot going on; preparing to send off a UCAS form, studying and revising as much as possible, working to earn some money, learning to drive etc.
So with all that going on, imagine spending a weekend walking around navigating all day, sometimes in the dark, learning to lead others and sleeping in a tent. It's not your average weekend for a group of teenagers. But for six girls from Manchester High School for Girls it was more like an average weekend, thanks to the Duke of Edinburgh's Award. After completing their Gold Award (the highest of the three levels) the previous academic year, they loved it so much they wanted to do more! Fortunately for them, their teacher Steve Holmes suggested the Lowland Leader award.
Sam: "We'd all done Gold [DofE] and we really enjoyed it. And we kept asking: "can we do something else and can we come on DofE expeditions next year?""
Zoe: "I've seen quite a lot of people, just a bit older than us, doing this sort of thing in their gap year or during the summer and thought, maybe that could be an option. So this will give me the ability to do something like that."
The girls, along with their teachers Judith Parker and Steve Holmes, travelled to Cannock Chase one Saturday morning for a weekend packed full of training on being an effective Lowland Leader. The day started with a discussion about the purpose of the award and the qualities of an effective walking leader, followed by navigation skills and discussions about plant life, "mainly fungi" Mr Holmes explained, which appears to have been "a theme of the weekend."
The Lowland Leader award was launched by Mountain Training (the awarding body) last year and is designed for people who want to lead others in lowland terrain (fields, woodland, coastal paths etc.). It is open to people aged at least 17 and ideal for those looking for the next step after completing the Duke of Edinburgh's award. This training course was run by Paul Smith at Cannock Chase in the West Midlands (visit the Facebook page of Rock and Water Adventures to find out more: www.facebook.com/rockandwateradventures), with support from Mr Holmes. The course covered all aspects of walking leadership including group management, navigation, route planning, equipment, hazards and emergency procedures as well as access and conservation.
Evidently the girls' Gold DofE experience paid dividends and the girls found the navigation training relatively straightforward. A session on navigating in the dark took place before dinner, thanks to the time of year and limited daylight hours, and introduced some new skills to the team. When asked about their favourite part of the course, night nav was the first thing they mentioned:
Zoe and Eve : "Night navigation, because it was something we hadn't done before. There are quite a lot of similarities between the Lowland Leader Award and DofE. But there's also other stuff you don't think about, you're just on a different end of it so it's a different perspective."
Harriet: "We didn't do much first aid but that sort of area's quite interesting."
Sam: "It's quite nice to see the other side of DofE as well, what the teachers have to cope with."
As every good walker knows, planning your next food stop can be highly motivating and for this particular group, the thought of sitting in a pub eating pie and chips after an evening of wandering around in the dark was getting them through. Possibly one of the girls' biggest planning mistakes throughout the whole weekend was not making a reservation for the aforementioned pub. There was no room at the inn and they had to settle for fish and chips instead, such are the trials and tribulations of a sunny weekend in the West Midlands.
Sunday morning started with breakfast, which didn't consist of typical camping fodder.
Harriet: "I normally take a tube of pate with me but we didn't have any at home so I had to go to the supermarket but they didn't have any so I just saw the [smoked] salmon there and it was on offer."
Mr Holmes: "Harriet was stood there eating salmon while Hollie was there eating last night's chips."
After further questioning it became apparent that the girls were quite happy to innovate when it came to camping food.
Eve: "We found olives in a bag, which is a new thing, and also that squashed juice you can get, that's really good."
The rest of the day included more navigation, this time using fields as well as more open land, and discussions about other aspects of the syllabus; crossing fields containing crops or cattle, incident management, group control, the law, paperwork and route planning. After sleeping all the way back to Manchester and spending a few weeks back at school, the group seemed confident and comfortable with what they'd achieved so far.
Eve: "It [the course] was easier than we thought it was going to be. I think we forgot what lowland was. I think the most upsetting thing was that the pub was full so we couldn't have pie and had to have fish and chips instead."
Mr Holmes wrote a report for the Head of the school: "The 6 girls were an absolute credit to the school. Their behaviour was exemplary, and their campcraft put others on the site to shame! Paul was highly impressed with the standard of the girls (and JP!), being bowled over when the girls started a heated discussion over the various geographical features, and with their level of enthusiasm to learn about the flora and fauna of the area."
Key Facts about the Lowland Leader:
- The scheme consists of a training course, a consolidation period and an assessment
- It is open to anyone aged 17 or over (although you need to be 18 before attending an assessment)
- You should have an interest in leading groups in lowland countryside
- You need to register on the scheme with Mountain Training (who are the awarding body) before attending a training course
- Prior to training you must have recorded a minimum of 10 varied walks in lowland terrain where the use of a map is required (this is easily obtainable by anyone involved in the DofE scheme, especially those who progress to Silver or Gold level, making it an ideal next step)
For more information visit www.mountain-training.org
A small army of readers took part in our #walk1000miles program last year. For some, it was a life-changing experience. Why not join them this year?
It's wonderfully simple really. Commit to walk 1,000 miles between now and December 31, and make every mile count.
Log each mile religiously and share your progress with fellow 1,000-milers on social media. That's all there is to it!
If you only walk at weekends, this might seem like an intimidating number, but it actually works out at less than 20 miles a week. And as is the case in achieving any long-term goal, little and often is the key.
Doing a long distance trail or signing up for a charity challenge walk will help boost your total, but it's the little things like walking in your lunch hour or walking to work that will really rack up the miles over the year.
So finding new ways to integrate walking into your daily routine rather than charging around on the hills every weekend is the key to success - but if you can do both, you'll smash the target!
The key to success is to record every single mile and share your progress with other people. Being part of something bigger makes you more likely to stick at it and sharing your triumphs and tribulations with like-minded people will spur you on when you lose heart.
Do it with a friend
You're much more likely to stick with it
Do it for charity
Get friends to pledge 1p per mile and they'll owe you £10 when
you hit your target
Do it in the dark
Invest in a high-visibility jacket, reflectors and a headtorch and go for a quick stomp around town after work
Do it to lose weight
Walking 1,000 miles burns around 70,000 calories - so you can eat a jam doughnut every day without piling on the pounds!
Do it to feel great
Most participants report improved energy levels and a more positive outlook after just a couple of weeks of walking every day.
Trail magazine is in the Priest's Hole.
It's dark, it's cold, and even if there was TV, there'd be nothing worth watching.
But it is nearly Christmas, and by our watch, that makes it Mulled Wine o'clock!
Shame we left the mince pies in the car...
The January 2015 issue of Trail magazine includes an article on climbing Mount Teide on Tenerife - Spains highest mountain and the world's third tallest volcano!
Below you'll find links to a collection of the photos that we couldn't squeeze into the magazine, including some additional shots from the Anaga region in the north-east of Tenerife.
Hotel Rural Las Cañas
The Anaga region
In this day and age, an awful lot of works goes in to choosing, designing and publicising brand logos. Outdoor gear is no exception. It's normal to find the latest hard shell, boots or rucksack emblazoned with the logo of the manufacturer. Some of these logos are, in their own right, pretty cool. But how many of the brands behind those funky symbols, clever illustrations and obscure squiggles can you name? We've chosen 20 different logos belonging to outdoor brands of some kind. Where they appear in the original, we've removed the names (we wouldn't want to make it too easy), and we've given you a choice of 4 options in each case (we wouldn't want to make it too hard). So give it a go, and if you're feeling proud of your result, share it with us in the comments section at the bottom of the page!
In this day and age, an awful lot of works goes in to choosing, designing and publicising brand logos.
Outdoor gear is no exception. It's normal to find the latest hard shell, boots or rucksack emblazoned with the logo of the manufacturer.
Some of these logos are, in their own right, pretty cool. But how many of the brands behind those funky symbols, clever illustrations and obscure squiggles can you name?
We've chosen 20 different logos belonging to outdoor brands of some kind. Where they appear in the original, we've removed the names (we wouldn't want to make it too easy), and we've given you a choice of 4 options in each case (we wouldn't want to make it too hard).
So give it a go, and if you're feeling proud of your result, share it with us in the comments section at the bottom of the page!
Imagine setting out on a weekend break where the same clothes, shoes and accessories will see you right for all your walks and for everything else you do around them. This is your handbook to that weekend. We love walking, but we also know that a weekend away means more than just walks: it means travel, sightseeing, eating out, chilling; a museum, a gallery, maybe even a little retail therapy. So we've set out to find walking gear that also works in all those places. Gear that will take you up a hill but look perfectly at home in a chic coffee bar or a city pub. Gear that feels good, works properly and looks great. Gear that bridges the gap between town and country. And gear that saves you money, because you can wear it anywhere. Nick Hallissey
Gear Editor, Country Walking
Imagine setting out on a weekend break where the same clothes, shoes and accessories will see you right for all your walks and for everything else you do around them.
This is your handbook to that weekend. We love walking, but we also know that a weekend away means more than just walks: it means travel, sightseeing, eating out, chilling; a museum, a gallery, maybe even a little retail therapy. So we've set out to find walking gear that also works in all those places.
Gear that will take you up a hill but look perfectly at home in a chic coffee bar or a city pub. Gear that feels good, works properly and looks great. Gear that bridges the gap between town and country. And gear that saves you money, because you can wear it anywhere.
Our next issue is lovingly devoted to great railway lines for walkers. What's your favourite? Here are some likely contenders; tell us which one fires up your boiler and we'll publish the results in the August issue, on sale July 17th.
Our next issue is lovingly devoted to great railway lines for walkers. What's your favourite?
Here are some likely contenders; tell us which one fires up your boiler and we'll publish the results in the August issue, on sale July 17th.
I want to talk about the cost of kit. Yes, yes, yes - I know it's an old subject that's been done to death, but I'm not convinved it's necessarily been treated fairly.
Most outdoor gear consumers (of which I'm assuming you're one) seem to be universal in their criticism that the cost of outdoor gear is becoming increasingly expensive, putting it beyond the means of many enthusiasts. Certainly if you only use the opinions of the online forums you could be forgiven for assuming that a waterproof hard shell will set you back roughly the same amount as a two-week stay in an all-inclusive 5-star resort in the Caribbean. And it will probably let in water anyway.
But putting healthy cynicism to one side for a moment, I want to take a slightly different slant on it. My question is this: is all outdoor gear too expensive?
Suppose you wanted to buy a car. If you're a regular viewer of Clarkson, May and Hammond on a Sunday night, you might think that it's impossible to pick up a 4-wheeled vehicle for under £100,000. A quick Google tells me that a Bugatti Veyron will set you back something in the region of £1,000,000. That's even more than a down jacket. But then, the Veyron has an 8-litre, 16 cylinder engine, a top speed of 253mph and, at full whack, can devour a £10,000 set of tires in 15 minutes and drain its 100 litre fuel tank in 12.
On the other hand, my 10-year old hatchback has a 1.5 litre diesel engine, averages 60mpg and costs me £30 a year in road duty. Oh, and it cost me a little under 0.2% of the value of the Bugatti and does everything I need a car to do. Bargain. The point is this; yes, there are some ridiculously expensive cars out there that, unless you're Richard Branson, Bill Gates or Tony Stark, are unlikely to ever wind up parked in your drive-way. But there are plenty of other options too, ranging from the moderately pricey, to the dirt cheap, and everything in between.
The same, of course, is true of outdoor gear. There are jackets that are designed to keep you warm, dry and protected when hanging off the north face of the Eiger, and then there are those that are designed to keep the rain off when walking the dog. Naturally, the costs vary dramatically. It could also be argued that the reason some gear has become rather pricey over the years is becasue of the advanced technology that can be found in the kit. After all, in the same way that developments in Formular 1 racing cars eventually filter into mainstream motors, advances in high-end outdoor technical kit often winds up featuring in high-street gear shops. So why the assumption that all outdoor gear is too expensive? Is it, perhaps, because it's the top end expensive gear that the manufacturers publicise more heavily?
Let's go back to cars for a moment. Imagine you're flicking through a Sunday supplement or half watching the TV when a new car advertisement catches your eye. It's so shiny! Look at the shape and the colour and all those flashy bits that make it look so appealing! Wow. You could really imagine yourself driving one of those. And with prices starting so low, maybe you could! But hang on, what's the small print? Oh. The car shown isn't the standard model. The car shown is at the top-end of the range and has been upgraded with all the optional extras. And its price is almost double the 'starting from' figure. Oh.
The truth is that, in general, manufacturers tend to push their top-end stuff more than they do their entry level products. And that's because the brands aren't just selling you a product, they're promoting aspiration. They want you to look at an item and think "Ooh, that's very nice. It's probably more than I need, but maybe I'll need it one day." This is obvious in the outdoor industry. How many jackets that would be at home in the Alps during winter do you see on a rainy day in the Lakes? Heck, I'm guilty of it myself. I've got some kit that may never be used to its full potential, but I bought it knowing that it will do what I want it to do and if I ever 'up my game' it'll do that too.
Maybe I'm being slightly defensive, but I don't see anything wrong with that. The fact that manufacturers are still selling the gear suggests other consumers feel the same. After all, if a product is too expensive and too overpriced, it won't sell. Certainly some of the purchases may be destined for extreme use in extreme conditions, but I'd guess that the majority will be under-used. You can't blame the manufacturers for that. That's our fault as consumers.
However, if, unlike me, you're able to separate what you need from what you want, there are plenty of lower priced options out there. True, you may not see them promoted as much by the brands or the media as much as the more expensive kit, and that's for one simple reason - consumers are more interested in the flash gear and, to be blunt, are buying the stuff.
But if you refuse to spend more money that you need to, don't be angry with the manufacturers for making expensive gear, or the websites, magazines and TV shows of this world for promoting it. Just be happy and grateful that you're probably smarter than the lot of us.
Let us know your thoughts on the cost of gear by completing the poll below:
In the forthcoming July issue of Country Walking, we meander through six of Yorkshire's most scenic dales, but which is your favourite Dale for walking?
Choose from one of the options below and we'll publish the results in the same July issue of the magazine.
Nearly two thirds (64%) of British adults perceive themselves to be a daring, courageous and fearless adventurous type of person.However, a new study by Travelodge has revealed we're actually a nation of scaredy cats, as only 29% of us have been bold enough to try an adventurous activity.
The study of 2,000 adults was undertaken by hotel chain, Travelodge, to seek out how adventurous we really are, in support of its new Get Up & Go campaign -which has been designed to inspire Britons to explore Britain.
Key findings from the survey revealed that we are a nation that likes to live in a fantasy world, where we believe that we are adventurous, thrill seeking individuals. However this is far from the truth, as the study revealed we're actually all talk and very little action.
Just over a fifth (23%) of British adults has had the courage to undertake an abseiling challenge, whilst just 18% of Britons have tried caving and 17% of adults have been brave enough to climb a mountain.
When it comes to water adventures, just 11% of adults have experienced the thrill of jet skiing and just one in ten Britons have experienced scuba diving. In addition just five per cent of adults have had the courage to do a bungee jump.
Listed below is the top ten adventurous activities British adults have been brave enough to try:
Mountain climbing (17%)
Rock climbing (16%)
Jet skiing (11%)
Scuba diving (10%)
Sea Kayaking (7%)
Hot air balloon (6%)
Bungee jump (5%)
Corinne Sweet, Psychologist said: "It's no surprise that so many adults think they are more adventurous, than they actually are. In today's social media obsessed world, we're surrounded by constant peer pressure to showcase that we're all living an action packed, adventurous lifestyle and no one wants to be seen as being unadventurous.
Although the research shows that we're actually a fearful nation, incorporating a little adventure into our lives is no bad thing. There is a great deal to be gained from 'feeling our fear and doing an activity that is out of our comfort zone, as it helps to grow our confidence. Plus, the adrenaline rush can create a fabulous 'feel good factor'. So this summer, why not try one thing you have never done before but dreamed of doing and enjoy feeling your self-esteem grow in the afterglow of success."
Shakila Ahmed, Travelodge Spokeswoman said: "Our research has highlighted that it's high time Britons stop thinking about being adventurous and actually get up & go, and discover their wild side. With so many exhilarating, fun activities available across the UK, we can easily inject some adventure into our lives."
Further research findings revealed that a third of Britons have reported that they have become more adventurous with age. A fifth of adults stated that they feel constant pressure from work colleagues and friends to portray a more adventurous personality.
The study also found that the most adventurous people in Britain can be found in London, the North East and West Midlands. Listed below is the top ten ranking of locations across the UK, where you will find the most adventure seeking Britons:
2. North East
3. West Midlands
5. East Anglia
6. Northern Ireland
8. North West
When respondents were quizzed on what adventurous activity would they love to do, abseiling down the White Cliffs of Dover and jet skiing along The Thames topped the poll, followed by climbing Big Ben and doing a zip line from the top of the Shard building. Listed below is the nation's top ten list of adventurous activities, they would love to do, if they could:
1. Jet skiing down The Thames
2. Abseiling down the White Cliffs of Dover
3. Climbing Big Ben
4. Zip line from the top of the Shard building
5. Climb Blackpool Tower
6. Bungee jump from the Clifton Suspension bridge
7. Scuba dive - looking for Nessie in Loch Ness
8. Climb the Angel of the North statue
9. Sail around the UK
10. Drive at Silverstone
If you're anything like us, you're probably a slick and well-practiced tent-pitching machine.
If you're anything like us, other campers watch you in awe of your ninja-like skills with a peg, pole and guy-line.
If you're anything like us, your tent is perfectly erected first time, every time, and you'll be tucked away safe and sound inside your mobile shelter while others are still flapping and faffing.
And, if you're anything like us, all of the above is an enormous pile of Battenburg*.
The truth of the matter is that regardless of how often we pitch our tents, there's always the chance of something throwing a spanner in the works, or rather, a spike in the groundsheet. Even the most experienced pitcher occasionally finds themselves wrestling with an enormous tangle of fabric and cord while trying to understand how the inner and flysheets have turned inside-out and back to front in the bag, or how all the guy-lines have weaved together in a way that suggests an under-performing Boy Scout has been practicing his knots while high on a mix of Sunny Delight and blue Smarties, when they're certain everything was as it should be when they last put their tent away. But what is it that most likely to cause you to wish you were back home in a proper brick-built, centrally heated, four-walled abode?
We've come up with ten of our most hated tent-pitching problems and we want to know which you can relate to. So close your eyes, picture the scene, and let us know...
*Ever since Brian Blessed informed us that he believes there is a special place in hell reserved for the marzipan-wrapped, pink-and-yellow-checked cake, we've become determined to get it into everyday conversation as an alternative curse-word. Feel free to join in.
James Rouse is the director of new independent movie Downhill, which tells the story of four childhood friends who reunite to walk the Coast to Coast path from Cumbria to Yorkshire - bringing plenty of emotional baggage with them.
Here James tells Country Walking where the idea came from, how the epic trek was filmed, and why the White Lion in Patterdale is a great place for a meltdown...
Where did the idea come from?
We wanted to make a British road movie, but we soon realised the problem with that: Britain isn't big enough.
You can pretty much get anywhere in a car within two days, which doesn't give you much scope to tell a developing story. So then we thought, slow it down, and make it a road movie on foot.
I used to walk a lot with my parents when I was a kid, so I definitely had memories of what it was like to undertake a big mission in the outdoors, and I'd often wondered what it would be like to go back out there as a grown-up, as Gordon does in the film. So we had a film about a walk.
Why the Coast to Coast?
We settled on the C2C because we loved the idea of walking right across the country from sea to sea, and showing off the spectacular countryside of England. It seemed like the perfect challenge that would appeal to this group of men at this particular point in their lives, particularly Gordon as the leader and real walking enthusiast.
As a director I love putting my characters through situations that will bring out the best and worst in them, and the Coast to Coast certainly does that to people. It can't help but bring out sides to yourself that you've never seen coming. You learn about yourself as you're walking.
How did you research it?
We read everything we could, and then me and Torben Betts the writer and Benji Howell the producer did a section of it as research. It was the section from Patterdale to Shap, and I've heard many people say it's the toughest section because of all the mountainous terrain it goes through. Sure enough it was very hard, we got wet and we were pathetically badly equipped.
I'm pretty good with a map but as soon as the mist comes down and you can't see where the path is, it becomes a different world. We were very grateful to some real walkers who came past with one of those GPS devices to show us where we should have been. Naturally we then decided that our characters would NOT have one of those.
We also decided that we would have to understand how it felt to try and do a big walk after a big night of boozing, as the characters keep doing. We chose the White Lion in Patterdale, which turns up in the film. That might sound like a fun assignment, and obviously it partly was - but the morning after was total punishment. We made sure the actors understood how painful it was to drag yourself out when you've really overdone it the night before.
So we put these characters, who are going through a very tumultuous time in their lives, into this fantastic landscape and took them right out of the comfort zones they normally occupy. The landscape, and what it demands of them, just pushes the buttons that release the tension they're all coping with.
How was the filming?
We made an active choice to make the cast do as much of the journey as filming would allow. In film-making it's very rare to shoot scenes in the order they'll eventually appear but we did that, starting in St Bees and going across to Robin Hood's Bay. It was an immersive experience and the characters grew with the journey.
Obviously there was a script to start with but it was very much script rather than Scripture - the actors were free to go where the characters and the landscapes took them, and watching that happen was fascinating.
It was a three-week shoot in June and we had rain every day. It was unbelievable; you'd hope for one day free of rain but it never came. But we did get some lovely breaks where the sun came out - mainly on the days when the girls' characters joined the group, which was strangely apt. And actually I don't think the film suffers for the rain; it creates quite a true and real atmosphere and reflects the mood these characters are in.
The trailer makes it look like a real scream, but there's a lot of emotion in the film; did you want it to be as much as drama as a comedy?
There are moments of comedy but it wasn't intended to be an out-and-out comic film. It was more important for it to have a human side, a heart and a soul, and to be something that maybe stays with you for a while after you've seen it. Funny things will happen on a walk like that with people like this, but serious and angry and tender things will happen too, so as I say it was a case of wanting to show everything that the walk would do to the characters.
There's a character - Julian - who has shades of that great Lake District adventurer Withnail, from Withnail and I. Was that deliberate?
A few people have said that. It wasn't a conscious thing at all, I'd never want to ape such a wonderful character as Withnail. The character is actually more based around (actor) Ned Dennehy's own personality - I hope he won't mind me saying that!
We see a lot of real places in the film - pubs, cafes, guesthouses etc. Was there a warm welcome for a bedraggled film crew?
Oh god yes! I'm so grateful to all the places where we filmed, which are all authentic places that I hope Coast to Coast walkers will recognise - pubs and farms in Ennerdale, Shap, Keld, Reeth and so on. There's a full list at the end of the film and we'd recommend all of them.
There's a big dramatic scene in the White Lion in Patterdale; we had a corner of the pub to film in but normal life was carrying on everywhere else, so when Keith has his big meltdown, the reactions in the background are completely genuine. It's great to watch.
Any favourite places on the journey?
Ennerdale and Borrowdale; they were just incredibly beautiful. And we shot a big scene at Honister that I love very much; I'm sure keen walkers will recognise the landscapes there. The character Steve has this wonderful childish tantrum at that point, halfway up a harsh, brutal-looking crag with this amazing view behind him. It was June but it was bitterly, bitterly cold; the crew were in six layers but the cast were only wearing the basic stuff they had all along, so they really were freezing.
There's also a swimming scene in a river in the Yorkshire Dales; that was even colder. To show the cast I wouldn't ask them to do anything I wouldn't do myself, I stood in the water at the start to talk them through the scene. It was absolutely freezing, but I had to make like I was completely calm and the end of my speech was totally natural and casual, rather than me desperately wanting to get out of there as quickly as possible.
It feels like quite a personal film for you.
Yes, we all literally threw ourselves into this film and I'm so proud of what the cast and crew accomplished. From a personal point of view, I've put my life, soul and savings into it so it's an emotional journey for me. But I didn't make it for the art or for a personal quest, I made it because I hope people will enjoy it.
And if it inspires one person to do the Coast to Coast, I'll be absolutely delighted. England should be seen, and I think that walk is the perfect way to see it - even if it rains.
* Downhill opens in UK cinemas on May 30th. Find more about it, including a competition and the trailer, at www.downhill-the-movie.com
* The new issue of Country Walking features a complete guide to walking the Coast to Coast without the hassles encountered by the Downhill characters - plus five other amazing ways to go coast-to-coast across the UK! It's on sale now.
If you enjoyed this month's feature on Moses Rigg and Lanty Slee, here's something else that might tickle your adventure cockles... the full account of the day Trail made historical history on the slopes of Great Gable...
The below article originally appeared in the March 2005 issue of Trail. Words: Guy Procter. Photos: Tom Bailey.
"No-one else knows about it."
Those were the words which piqued my interest. When it comes to a day in the hills, I'm of the Wainwright school. He said life without ambition was just aimless wandering, and the same applied to a hillwalk. Ninety nine point nine per cent of the time a summit is enough of an ambition for me. But here was a whole different order of aspiration. Find something that NOBODY ELSE KNOWS ABOUT? High up on one of our most famous and fantastic mountains? Here was something which offered not only the satisfaction of a simple goal achieved, but which dovetailed neatly with my own ambition to be Indiana Jones. One per cent into the story, and I was one thousand per cent sold.
Which is odd, really, since the story's as patchy as the memory of the man who told it to me. Trail's mountaineering editor Jeremy is an old man of the mountains, a kind of cut-price Harry Griffin. Like Harry, Jeremy used to rock-climb a lot in the Lake District, but now his climbing's mostly been replaced by rambling. Both of the walking sort, and the Grandpa Simpson "When I was in the army, no, wait, the navy..." sort. One day, out of Jeremy's stream of consciousness poked this supermarket trolley wheel of potential interest: "I remember doing a winter climb on Great Gable in 1983 - Central Gully. It's on Gable Crag, the north side. We'd finished the climb and were scrambling out onto the summit when I thought I saw something poking out of the snow on a sort of grassy ledge. There was a lot of snow lying, so all I could make out was the outline of three walls, in a square shape. It was definitely man-made, but in such a bizarre, inaccessible location I couldn't work out what it was. I did a bit of digging when I got back and discovered a sketchy Wainwright reference to a hut called 'Smugglers' Retreat', 'now completely in ruins', and nothing else. I reckon it might have a connection to Lanty Slee, an old whisky smuggler who brewed his stuff up there. I don't think anyone else knows about it."
I contacted English Heritage, the National Monuments Record, and the National Park's own Historic Environment Record: sure enough, no such hut exists on official record.
Jeremy's monologue soon took a turn for the irrelevant, but it had been enough. Great Gable, logo-mountain of the Lake District National Park, home to Napes Needle, the Gable Girdle, the Sphinx, plus Wasdale, Ennerdale and Scafell views, was a more than worthy weekend aim in itself. The mystery of the apparently nonsensical (and possible non-existent) hut was enough to pitch worthy into compulsive.
I'm sure were he real, Indiana Jones would start his adventures with a Google search too. I typed 'Lanty Slee' and hit return. 25 results. Lanty Slee: real name Lancelot, 'a tough and indefatigable Dales farmer and illegal whisky distiller, feared by many, yet in a liquor-thirsty age always tolerated'. 'Lanty Slee' + 'Great Gable'. 1 result. I was evidently entering richly obscure territory. Changing tack I entered 'gable crag' and 'hut', garnering five irrelevant results. Irrelevant except for one, referring to "The remains of a hut high on Gable Crag... possibly linked to the illegal distilling of whisky". So it was known about, by someone at least. Crestfallen, I rang Jeremy to tell him we'd been beaten to it. Is that on the Cumbria Tourist Board site?" he asked. "Don't worry, I wrote that...".
It's great being repelled by Google. It sends you back to the real world with renewed faith that there might still be the odd corner of it invisible from cyberspace.
I packed the car and headed for the Lakes - not, for once, straight to my valley base, but to Kendal. Because here within its imposing library lies an excellent Local Studies department, seat of all hard-core Cumbrian Learning. Here I hoped to stock up on the latest learning about Lanty Slee, smuggling and other illicit activities, and anything that would help me pinpoint our supposed hut in space and time, and enrich the walk we'd planned for the next day with a Bisto tang of adventure.
Two hours later, I would shuffle out of the library a broken man, one line from a 1983 newspaper clipping ringing in my ears: "The last remains of the so-called smuggler's hut, near the top of Gable Crag on the north face of Great Gable, seem to have disappeared."
Phoning ahead to the Kendal Library resulted in a stack of books awaiting our arrival each containing a reference to Lanty Slee, Gable Crag, whisky distilling, or secret huts. It was by turns exciting and dispiriting work. Lanty was an interesting chap, by day a farmer in Little Langdale, by night a brewer of potato-and-bog-water whisky in remote caves. He delivered his brews as widely as Ravenglass and Kendal, carrying it in tough, unburstable pigs' bladders - the origin of the phrase 'had a skinful'. Interesting, but not a damn thing to link him to any hut on Great Gable. In fact not a damn thing to mention a hut on Gable Crag at all.
Another name, with a more persuasive Great Gable link, kept coming up though: that of quarryman Moses Rigg, an earlier figure (18th century to Lanty's 19th), with possible links to the trafficking of something called 'wadd'. Of course: this would tie up with the well-known 'Moses' Trod' path - a slate quarriers' route which broadly speaking contours from the quarries at Honister round Great Gable and into Wasdale. Was Moses linked to the hut? A little more investigation into the subject of wadd certainly suggested a motive. Wadd was the Cumbrian name for the ultra-pure graphite which was mined in nearby Seathwaite. Used for everything from making moulds for coins to lubricating guns and as a medicine, in the late 18th century this 'black lead' was so stupendously valuable it required an armed guard to move it from Borrowdale out of the Lake District. Just how valuable? Well one pony-load could net the lucky smuggler £800 - over £70,000 in today's money. Now that's the kind of moolah to salve a lot of grazed hut-building knuckles high up on Gable Crag.
The next pile of books and folders turned up a rich cache of material by Harry Griffin, the long-serving, recently deceased Guardian correspondent, and authority on all things Cumbrian. Harry didn't merely believe the hut existed - he'd seen it, on more than one occasion. "When I first saw the hut about forty-five years ago," he wrote in 1975, "it consisted of a corner of a wall, three or four feet high, with other signs that this had been part of a small building, perched near the top of Central Gully. No higher building has ever been constructed in Lakeland." This was encouragingly concrete stuff, although it was sad that as diligent an investigator as Harry hadn't found anything much in the way of evidence to point a finger at any particular use: "No sign of whisky distilling activities have ever been found. [...] Nor have any signs been found in the 'hut' of wadd stealing."
Then came the bombshell. The next brown card folder opened to reveal a later Harry Griffin article, this time from the Lancashire Evening Post. Dated 1983, it was entitled 'Hilltop legend bites the dust'. I read on with blood sinking to room temperature and below: "The last remains of the so-called smuggler's hut, near the top of Gable Crag on the north face of Great Gable seem to have disappeared. " I groaned and read on. "Crossing the mountain recently I scrambled down the upper part of Central Gully to see what there was left of the old hut, but there was nothing to be seen." First paragraph, and my Indiana Jones dreams, over. "Probably we will now never know the real story of the 'smuggler's hut'." It was too depressing to go on.
I left Kendal Museum with a shipful of hopes holed below the waterline, and my purpose for tomorrow's walk diluted to truly homeopathic levels: try to find the site of something connected to something nobody will ever know what, that isn't there any more anyway.
A night in the Ambleside Youth Hostel, contemplating a placid Windermere and looking at the dark shapes of the surrounding fells cured me. Boil away the adventure stuff and there was still a damn good hillwalk to come.
Great Gable is a supermodel mountain. Its most famous aspect, from Wasdale, gave the National Park its logo, and no wonder. As Wainwright said: "It is the undisputed overlord of the group of hills to which it belongs, and its superior height is emphasised tremendously by the deep gulf separating it from the Scafells and allowing an impressive view that reveals the whole of its half-mile altitude as an unremitting and unbroken pyramid...". Well, that presses my buttons.
Wasdale might be the most scenic approach from which to tackle Great Gable, but it's a long, long drive, and the mountain's much more accessible from the Borrowdale (north-east) side. Starting from the top of the Honister Pass also gives you a big leg-up, and allows you to quickly pick up Moses' Trod - on your OS map as the spidery path contouring round the side of Grey Knotts, above Brin Crag, and round Brandreth to Stone Cove and the looming Gable Crag.
Shortly after leaving the bleak slate workings at Honister Hause, Moses' Trod diverges from the bridleway leading toward Hay Stacks. Smaller cairns, less erosion, a purpose more obscure than the usual summit-bound paths - the signs soon mount to confirm you're on the old slaters' track. Ennerdale looks fantastic under gothic weather like we had - and Moses' Trod's easy gradient is an easy way to get a great perspective on this lonely, magnificently anti-social corner of the district.
Eventually we reached Stone Cove in coming-and-going cloud, and decided to head up to Wind Gap, up a path of small creamy-feeling small-stone scree. Moses' Trod eschews such unnecessary ascent - but would Moses himself? We wanted to get a closer look at Gable Crag to see if Jeremy could remember where the climb started, and whether any hobnail-shod, booty-laden quarryman could conceivably have climbed it. We also wanted to get a GPS fix on the bottom of Central Gully, to help us locate its top for the down-scramble. An engagingly airy traversing path skirts the bottom of the crag (it's part of the Gable Girdle route, which circumnavigates the mountain). It's a path rich in atmosphere, but it's no springboard for the cliffs above - greasy and forbidding, everything at a neck-cricking angle to your left looks like it would make for a horribly dicey climb.
A flicker of hope: Jeremy thought he recognised the initial few feet of Central Gully in the murk. The GPS moved swiftly to counter our enthusiasm - its batteries died before we could get a fix.
We pushed on, beyond the bottom of the crag, before picking our way up on easier ground up and onto the summit. This was rubbish, I reflected as we slithered on the cloud-sucked rocks. No GPS fix, no view, and I hadn't even bothered to savour the walk because I'd been brooding about the Major Archaeological Find we almost certainly weren't about to make. I looked sourly at Jeremy as we gobbled some sandwiches and wondered why we ever thought the reminiscences of this insane old man would ever amount to anything.
After lunch we began scanning the crag from above - walking along its unnerving lip in the cloud, looking for a cairn that might tally with Jeremy's moth-eaten memory of the one that marked the top of Central Gully. We didn't find one that exactly fitted, but we did find a grassy rake, topped with a hesitant-looking cairn, that looked safe to investigate. Set in cloud like milk jelly, we descended tentatively, waiting for the gradient to call time so we could go away At Least Having Tried.
But things continued not-too-steep, and it soon appeared that - amazingly - the grassy slope was sifting us the right way; towards the top of Central Gully proper. It probably wouldn't even need it in summer, but as it was wet and the rocks were slimy we opted to stop as soon as the ground steepened any further, and use the rope, helmets and harnesses we'd carried. This was the next chew: we could carry on investigating further down the crag, but Jeremy, the only reliable anchor-builder, belayer, and sole possessor of memories relating to the hut, wouldn't be able to come.
I strapped in and began the rather embarrassing 'face in or face out?' descent of a not-too-steep grassy rake leading into the cloud. "Don't go down anything you're even slightly concerned you won't be able to come back up" cautioned Jeremy. Five, ten, twenty metres of wet grass and slimy-but-knobbly rock I clambered down. This would be easy scrambling in dry spring weather, and I only really needed the confidence the rope gave in the last five metres, where an awkward and steep bit required a fair bit of face-in, four-points-of-contact negotiation with the mountain. I slithered the last few centimetres and landed on a flattish grassy balcony, hemmed in by cloud. Jeremy had metered out precisely 30m of rope. I could explore this flat area, supported by a broad rocky rampart, unroped. Further on down in any direction lay cliffs, cloud, a limitless void. I knew as a non-climber that I had hit bottom.
I unclipped from the rope and advanced onto the deck of grass, by now out of sight of Jeremy, and not at all sure what I was going to find.
I headed towards the rocky promontory - it looked more spiny up close - and with a bit of clambering reached a sort of rim on its far side. I knelt on the rock and looked at the space spread out before me. Instead of being the all-swallowing death-dealing void I expected, lay... order. Four walls, perpendicularity, a flat, square floor - angles that issued a still, small voice of man-madeness from the vast chaos of the rest of the crag. This, without a shadow of a doubt, was IT. "This is it!" I shouted.
I clambered over the near wall, which was made almost entirely of one natural slab of rock, and plonked down on the moss-covered stone floor below. The walls around me ranged from between a metre and somewhere approaching two metres tall. I felt immediately protected, calm: this would be a good shelter. The floor was totally clear, with just a small hole in one corner. I spent a few minutes sketching and feeling excited. Then I called for Tom the photographer to come and share the joy.
Once installed in the hut we both continued our learned-from-TV Gentle Archaeological-Type Investigations - in the hope of find something (What? Bottles? Labels? We didn't have a clue) that would somehow link this place to the excitements of illegal whisky distillation. I probed the hole, which by the dim light of my LED torchlight I could see was actually a deep shaft (this could definitely be still-related, I speculated), while Tom sniffed around some dark patches on the rocks in the bottom one corner - 'potential fire blackening' we thought.
It was just then, while I was weighing the respective significance of our discoveries, and finding in favour of my shaft, that Tom hit the Big One. Above and to the right of where he'd spied the blackening, there was a tiny shelf in the hut's back wall. I hadn't noticed it, but he was right. There was a shelf, like a small soap dish really, and on it two stones, or what looked like stones, the size and shape of small potatoes. Very old and weathered and slightly manky-looking potatoes. We took one each in our hands and doled out a little more softly-softly Tony Robinson-style inspection. A gentle rub with a thumbnail, and a small section of the mossy mank came off mine, and then off Tom's, revealing underneath a silky gleam. I felt my giddy heart-rate step up another notch as I gently rubbed my sample on the corner of my notepad. The soft black smudge said it all: this was graphite, black lead, WADD.
Dusk was falling as we scrambled gleefully back up to Jeremy, standing there wearing an expression that said "I am Gandalf. How foolish you were to question me." We were reluctant to leave the scene of our splendid find and begin the walk back over Green Gable, Brandreth and Grey Knotts, back to Honister. But with each step away, our mouths watered at the prospect of popping the lid on this party-pack of a story, and sharing it with our friends, colleagues, and (more shyly, with less exaggeration) to interested experts. Never mind if it would need 2,000 words of context before it would impress anyone. Wainwright had been right: a walk, like a life, without ambition, is just aimless wandering. What he'd failed to say was just how awesome a walk with a mission can be.
What happened next...
Not without a certain amount of childish excitement, we emailed the story and photographs of our find to the Lake District Historic Environment Record, the definitive record of sites of archaeological interest in the National Park. Next day we received a call from senior archaeologist at the National Park, John Hodgson, saying just what we wanted to hear: "You're right to be excited. There's nothing on the records about this. It's a very interesting discovery. We'll make a site visit to confirm identification, and record the information you gave us in the Historic Environment Record, which means it'll be protected from now on." Result!
There's more to be found!
"Only 20 per cent of the Lake District has been archaeologically surveyed, and new and exciting finds are being made by people all the time," says Lake District National Park senior archaeologist John Hodgson. "Recent discoveries have included Bronze Age ring cairns and Neolithic cave paintings, all of which were completely unknown. We rely on the public finding and telling us about sites of potential interest," he adds.
If you find something on your own mission, here's the official advice: "Contact us at the National Park Authority - (01539) 724555 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. If possible, email us pictures - we're always happy to offer advice on what you may or may not have discovered."
Given a month's fully paid holiday, which National Trail or Long Distance Path would you do first?