Poppy’s Birthday

Poppy’s Birthday


Poppy waiting for her ball to be thrown (ball is at the bottom left hand corner) We were heading west and the tree in the foreground can be used as a direction indicator as most of the growth is on the left (southern) side.

Yesterday Poppy celebrated her eighth birthday. The sun was out and out we went for a walk. Poppy is a chocolate brown labrador cross and has a wonderful personality. Poppy is a neighbour’s dog and my wife takes her out almost every day but today I came along too. No, me being there wasn’t a birthday treat for Poppy but on this day she would go out on two different walks. When my wife takes Poppy out each walk they go on the route can vary subject to the weather conditions and state of the terrain. Which direction and route selection is very much in my wife’s hands and can change at a moments notice taking into account my wife‘s observations based mainly on the condition of the ground ahead. I wanted to see if Poppy has these routes imprinted. So out we went and every time Poppy reached a point where the route could go a different way she stopped. Poppy only moving on when instructed which way we were going and keeping on track until the next cross point. So does this mean that Poppy uses observation with points of recognition? With the evidence provided today it is highly likely that she does.


This Grey Poplar is located in an arboreum area and is a specimen tree grown in a nursery and was installed here a few years ago. This specific tree provides evidence that knowledge is as important as observation in direction finding.

Earlier in the week I received a copy of Harold Gatty’s book: “Nature is Your Guide – How to Find Your Way on Land and Sea by Observing Nature” which was published in 1958. This book has been on my really would like list for a few years and after unwrapping the packet I eagerly scanned though each section. Now having read a few chapters the underpinning elements to successful natural navigation are observation along with knowledge. Gatty was fascinated in how the early Polynesians navigated across the Pacific Ocean. He put his research based on their observations and knowledge into practice with two major events. One, in 1931, when he was the navigator on a record breaking eight-day flight around the world in an aircraft piloted by Wiley Post. The second was in 1943 when his first published work on navigation  “The Raft Book” became standard equipment on life rafts with the United States Army Air Force Pacific operation in WWII. “Nature is Your Guide” covers elements from both events together with general navigation observations on gaining direction which includes the effects of wind and sun on tree growth.

In summary then observation is a much needed element for navigation whether you are going on a local walk with the dog or crossing the Pacific Ocean. Also it is an important element in how a dog navigates and one cannot get more natural than that.


Poppy’s birthday was the first time I saw ground frost this autumn

Harold Gatty; 1958; “Nature is Your Guide – How to Find Your Way on Land and Sea by Observing Nature”; New York; E.P. Dutton & Company, Inc.

#resilience & #grit, The Challenge completed

#resilience & #grit, The Challenge completed

Phew! The timekeeper confirms that my finish time was just under my target of five hours by 47 seconds. Earlier in the day, at 9am precisely, the start horn sounded and this year’s Seagrave Wolds Challenge (SWC) was underway.


The start of the 2016 Seagrave Wolds Challenge

Held on the second Saturday in November this event is always a challenge due to the presence of mud and the distinct likelihood of rain. The SWC may only be 16 miles long but I needed resilience and grit to complete this year’s event. This year was the twelfth consecutive running of the SWC and my sixth completion. In the six times I have completed the event there have been four different routes. This shows a creative mindset to the route planners as the start and finish location is always in the Leicestershire Wolds village of Seagrave. The 2016 event was held on Saturday 12th November and was over a completely new route on mixed surfaces, taking in the Soar Valley, Mountsorrel and the scenically attractive Swithland Reservoir area. I was hoping for decent weather and an almost mud free walk just like my first SWC in 2011 but in the preceding week there was copious amounts of rain. So 2016’s SWC wasn’t going to be mud free just more muddier than usual plus the weather forecast for the Saturday was heavy rain for most of the day. With all this foresight should I bother to go? This is where one needs grit as it would be easy to stay at home be warm and dry and watch TV. However, I was in the zone to go as I prepared my gear the previous evening and my rucksack was packed and ready for action. During the walk I certainly needed resilience to contend with the mud and the weather difficulties that the day provided. The first four miles I completed in an average time of 15 minutes per mile so I hit the 4 mile check point 12 seconds over the hour mark. I was delighted with this given the conditions. Unfortunately, my target to reach the half way stage at mile 8 in under two hours didn’t materialise as when I went through this marker I was eleven minutes over. However, even with this disappointment I was still on schedule to complete the SWC in under 4.5 hours. It was not to be as the conditions took their toll and my lack of endurance fitness was beginning to take effect from mile 10. The last mile was particularly gruelling as it took me almost thirty minutes to complete!


The route is way marked throughout 

My Seagrave Wolds Challenge (SWC) 2016 performance

Mile   Time     Cumulative time swc-typical-terrain

  1.   15.12              15.12
  2.   16.45              32.00
  3.   13.29              45.25
  4.   14.46           1:00.12
  5.   19.22           1:19.33
  6.   17.08           1:36.41
  7.   20.13           1:56.54
  8.   14.41           2:11.35
  9.   17.46           2:29.21
  10.   22.52           2:52.12
  11.   17.38           3:09.50
  12.   23.36           3:33.26
  13.   17.45           3:51.11
  14.   16.35           4:07.46
  15.   21.53           4:29.39
  16.   29.34           4:59.13

Total time: 4 hours 59 minutes 13 seconds

On a personal level I am delighted I finished my sixth Seagrave Wolds Challenge. However, the SWC wouldn’t take place without the organisers, volunteers, land owners and support from Seagrave residents. So thanks to everyone involved in making the SWC a highly enjoyable event. Will I be back next year? Of course, and for 2017 the sun will shine and the terrain will be less muddier! Whatever the weather there will always be smiles from SWC supporters and crumble and custard at the finish!


What awaits every finisher – the Seagrave Wolds Challenge famous crumble and custard

For further information about this year’s and future Seagrave Wolds Challenges:


The Challenge – preparation and training

The Challenge – preparation and training

Next Saturday sees me on the starting line of the Seagrave Wolds 16 mile Challenge event. Preparation is thinking what to wear and carry for the walk and training means getting out of the chair and heading outdoors! Today #aussieEd on Twitter asked how do you unwind and relax? My reply was to read (maps), write (Blogs) and walk. Walk! Hey what am I doing reading tweets I need to head outside and do more training. Whilst preparing for the walk I selected clothing that I have worn before on previous Seagrave Wolds challenges and to trial stuff that I have bought since last year’s event. For both  items old and new this walk was a shake down to check or recheck that it works. Also I used experiences from walks I did during this summer especially the challenge events which I took part in. These were the 26 mile Dovedale Dipper and the 54 miles Three Forests Way. The former I completed and the latter I made it to 49 miles but then retired. Major issues for both events were footwear and coping with the heat. However, as the Seagrave Wolds Challenge is in early November the heat issue is unlikely. Footwear I sorted for the Three Forests Way but then underfoot conditions were hard and firm but for the Seagrave Wolds Challenge it will likely be wet and muddy. So taking all this into consideration I made my selection, put it on and stepped outside. Here is the run down on the performance on each item used today with a bit of history attached.

Troll Omni lightweight trousers

My go to trousers for walking built in North Wales from fabric made in Sweden.  Found them growing wild at Joe Brown’s Capel Curig shop. These are lightweight as they don’t have any zips and only have three pockets. The material they are made from is windproof, water resistant, breathable and durable. They have an elasticated waist with an integral belt, are a simple pull-on design and feature a gusseted crotch for freedom of movement. For me they are time tested as I have used them for many years and I have worn them for the last five Seagrave Wolds Challenge walks. Today they performed as usual in the changing conditions and even when it rained I didn’t feel I needed overtrousers.

Eddie Bauer lightweight 1/4 zip fleece

The oldest piece of kit I wore today which I bought around 20 years ago. Still in fabulous condition this item of clothing is made from lightweight Polartec fleece which I use predominately from November to February for technical walks. This is superb addition for a layering system as it is low bulk and flexible. Two lower pockets are well placed to warm hands. One of my few mail order purchases and obtained direct from Eddie Bauer when they had a base in the UK. Like the Omni trousers I have worn this on the five previous Seagrave Wolds Challenge walks. Provided effective warmth in today’s temperatures which averaged 5 degrees Centigrade.

Mountain Hardwear technical T-Shirt

Ideal for wearing under the Eddie Bauer fleece this T-Shirt is made from a technical fabric which has wicking properties. Found in the Rock Bottom department at Cotswold Camping a few years ago. Worked well today in the changing conditions encountered.

Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic waterproof jacket

There are times when one is wandering around a gear store, in this case Ultimate Outdoors, looking for an item of gear one really needs but coming out with something one didn’t! Such was this case when I didn’t really need a new waterproof jacket but it was the half price that caught my eye. Plus of course this jacket was made from a fabulous sounding material Dry.Q. Reading the information on the hang tag I found out this is a four-way all over stretch fabric that boasts excellent performance in wet conditions. Made with a new fabric and half the price how could I resist? I couldn’t so I bought it. However, I did find sorting the hood out for a neat fit slightly time consuming whilst on my first outing with this jacket. So back home I made sure that I did tweak it to fit perfectly so all would be OK next time out. An essential for me when selecting a waterproof jacket is to have a chest pocket to store my glasses when it rains hard. This jacket has this and it is also a perfect storage solution when I take out my iPhone SE. Today it was worn throughout the walk and provided a comfortable and effective barrier to the wind and later the rain. The under sleeve zips allowed ventilation when needed.

Brooks Ghost 7 training shoes


Brooks Ghost 7 training shoes on the day I bought them

Searching for a couple of years for a suitable pair of what I can use as approach shoes I found these at TK Maxx this summer for a bargain price of £35 (SRP £125). Although not officially classified as approach shoes they have an excellent tread that suits off-road tracks and trails. I used them today over similar terrain to what I will encounter next week and found them able to cope with forest tracks and field paths. In the last two Seagrave Wolds Challenge walks I have worn boots but I am seriously considering wearing these as they are far lighter. The one draw back will be if the terrain is wet as these training shoes do not have a waterproof lining.

Asics black socks

Lightweight synthetic socks built for wearing with training shoes. Fast drying and offer reasonable support for their weight. Worn today with the Brooks Ghost 7 training shoes and no issues. Bought a few pairs a couple of years ago from Go Outdoors.

Lacoste underpants

After wearing Y-fronts for the Three Forests Way and having overheating problems in a sensitive region I went out and bought these. Tried them on pervious walks where I was out for up to three hours and they work fine as they did today. Another TK Maxx purchase with a great price reduction. Only problem is I should have bought two pairs!

Silk scarf

Finally, in previous Seagrave Wolds Challenges I have found I needed something to protect my neck when conditions are cold. I have always coveted a silk scarf but a mix of price, colour and pattern have been barriers. Then TK Maxx come to my rescue with a silk scarf made in India which was both cheap and in an appropriate colour with an abstract pattern. I needed this today for the start when I was warming up and I put it on to avoid a chill for the last fifteen minutes of the walk.

The walk

OK so that is the clothing sorted out but how did the walk go? Looking at the BBC weather forecast I knew that I couldn’t hang around too long as they predicted heavy rain at 12 noon. So I decided not to take photographs but just go for it. As the walk is just over seven miles it is almost half the distance of next Saturday’s Seagrave Wolds Challenge 16 miles walk so it will provide an indicator of my fitness level. Setting a fast pace from the outset I went through my timing points in faster times than I had done recently. However, I still wanted to experience the beauty of the countryside so I observed the scene as I walked along. One difference I noticed were mushrooms close by a recently reinstated field path. Then as I passed a section which still has small field systems I startled two green woodpeckers that were feeding on the ground. One was larger than the other so I am assuming that it was an adult with their youngster. The adult gave out the warning call and headed diagonally into a line of trees whilst the youngster took a straight line approach to the same tree line. What other birds in Britain are such a bright green with a vivid red cap? So wonderful to see and the first time I have seen green woodpeckers on this walk which I have completed over many years. Now back to the weather I felt the wind becoming stronger and then the first drops of rain. Looking at my watch it was 11.49am! Not a bad forecast then from the BBC only eleven minutes out! The rain that came wasn’t heavy as predicted but it was enough to need a waterproof jacket. The rain beading on the jacket confirmed it’s waterproofness. In the last fifteen minutes the rain became stronger so it was hood up and head down. As I approached my front door the heavy rain arrived but by then I was inside.

Further information: