Slower Journeys

Slower Journeys

Logan Trail start Gotham

On our AIM Awards Access to HE Diploma in Health Professions course one of the key themes in the Health Promotion unit was to engage in physical activity. To this end several teams elected to plan, organise and deliver a health walk as a health promotion event. Here the method of delivery was a demonstration and an actual walk which took in The Forest Recreation Ground, venue for Nottingham’s famous Goose Fair, and the Arboretum was planned as the activity. The course measured 1.93 miles and not only did students state that it was a great physical activity they said that going though green spaces also gave them a sense of wellbeing.

The Tree in late Spring

The Ash tree in the centre of a field on Bunny Moor

Moving on from this walk I decided to organise a 10 mile countryside walk which provided a stretch and challenge activity to take place towards the end of the course. This walk would be over varied terrain using footpaths, bridleways, tracks and trails. To maximise student participation I decided to organise two opportunities for the walk. Also the walks would be used to help raise funds for the Nottingham Universities Hospitals ‘The Big Appeal.’

The walk starts and finishes in East Leake and the first section gradually ascends to Bunny New Wood then descends to Gotham Lane. The next leg follows Fairham Brook over Bunny Moor then heads west going through a former Great Central Railway bridge. After crossing a few fields the route goes along The Logan Trail which was originally a railway line built by the Great Central Railway serving the gypsum industry in the Nottinghamshire village of Gotham.  This leg ends on Leake Road and the next section crosses this road and continues along the western section of The Logan Trail.

Cuckoo Bush

Circling the Neolithic burial mound and site of the Cuckoo Bush near Gotham

A short distance the trail ends and crossing the road the path follows a bridleway which gradually steepens to gain the top of the hill and our lunch stop. After lunch we take the opportunity to visit the tumulus which is a Neolithic burial mound over three thousand years old. This is also rumoured to be the site of the famous Cuckoo Bush where the Wise Men of Gotham built a fence around a tree to prevent the Cuckoo from flying off so that spring will last forever. Unfortunately, this didn’t work as the fence wasn’t built high enough and the Cuckoo simply flew away. After crossing a field the route goes through the West Leake Hills wood and then follows tracks and rights of way to the village of West Leake where this leg ends at the church. A quick break for a drink and for the next section the route follows the Midshires Way ascending Fox Hill. Just before the top of the hill the final leg descends following the footpath to the footbridge and turning to follow Kingston Brook to eventually go through a railway tunnel. Exiting the tunnel  the route goes through Meadow Park to the car park and the end of the walk.

Selfie end of walk 200617

The Tuesday team selfie at the end of the walk – I am second from the right

The main aim for the walk was for a slower journey to enable connections within the group and enable them to connect with nature and history during the activity. I planned the walk to take around five hours and the first walk was completed in 4 hours 19 minutes and the second one in 4 hours 57 minutes. The ambient weather for the duration of both walks was just perfect. Feedback from students was extremely positive and they all would like to continue with walking in countryside environments to promote physical activity and wellbeing. Both areas being beneficial to a life work balance especially in the careers they are pursuing in nursing and other health professions.

The day after the final walk I received the Summer 2017 issue of the Institute for Outdoor Learning’s ‘Horizons’ magazine. I was pleasantly surprised to read an article by Geoff Cooper under the title: #walking as a humble & subversive #activity which ended with the need to encourage ‘slower journeys’ that allowed for spontaneity, contact with people, enjoyment of nature and give them the chance to express their feelings and discuss issues of the day. I certainly feel that the two walks provided opportunities for all of these themes and this is further supported by the students positive accounts of these ventures.

Find out more about the Nottingham Universities Hospitals Trust’s: The Big Appeal

http://nottinghamhospitalscharity.org.uk/appeals/the-big-appeal/

Here is a link to my Just Giving page if you would like to make a donation:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Chris-Sweetman3

For information about the Institute of Outdoor Learning:

https://www.outdoor-learning.org/

My Scoop It site for health walks and the health benefits of walking:

http://www.scoop.it/t/health-walks

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#walk1000miles the first 600 miles

#walk1000miles the first 600 miles

After seeing the Country Walking magazine’s #walk1000miles in 2017 challenge on Twitter I decided it would be worth giving it a go. However, it took  until the 3rd of January to make the start. Knowing that one needed to do 2.74 miles every day for 365 days to hit the target why didn’t I start on the 1st January? I devised a plan to keep me on target for each month based on the number of days in each month times 2.74 miles (see below).

So to commence the challenge on the 2nd January I planned what was to become my #WorkWalk. This was a 1.93 mile route that started and finished where I worked and went through two green spaces in Nottingham, namely the Forest Recreation Ground, famous for the site of the Goose Fair in October, and the Arboretum. I completed fourteen #WorkWalk ‘s in January to which I added a walk I have done many times in the past few years (7.25 miles) and one I devised especially for #walk1000miles in 2017 (10 miles). The latter were countryside walks over footpaths, bridleways, tracks and trails close to where I live.

Meindl Cambridge GTX muddy

Typical conditions with the countryside walks early in the year so my Meindl Cambridge GTX shoes came into their own and they kept my feet perfectly dry

In February I only missed three days where I didn’t walk and was pleasantly surprised just how many miles one can achieve with a #WorkWalk every weekday. Weekend walks were in the local countryside but as a respite from the mud I did three laps of the National Water Sports Centre’s (NWSC) Regatta Lake. March saw four days missed walks but more countryside walks enabled more miles walked this month compared to February. April was a great month and a turning point despite missing four days of walking. This was due to gaining blisters after a Long Distance Walkers Association 29 miles Erewash Valley Trail walk with the Anytime Anywhere group. Also I devised a new walk which took in three historical sites around East Leake and measured 16 miles, and I completed this every weekend in April.

Blue and Yellow

Fields of Oil-seed rape near Rempstone Nottinghamshire May 2017

May saw me go through the 500 miles target with a total of 501 miles recorded on the 7th of that month. Then there was a lull with four days in a row missed and a total of ten days when a walk wasn’t recorded. However, with determination I set a target of completing 600 miles before the end of the month and this was achieved on 30th when five laps of the NWSC Regatta Lake were completed which meant 0.7 miles were needed to get to that target. Getting back home I didn’t want to leave it until the next day so literately it took a 2.5 mile walk in the park to go through the 600 mile target. Finally, on the last day of May I added another 11.34 miles with a countryside walk in beautiful weather.

Now onward with seven months left to do 386.84 miles. I am enjoying this personal challenge and thanks to Country Walking for devising it and providing the motivation.

#walk1000miles plan for 2017

January 31 days X 2.74 miles / day = 84.94 miles

January total 36.6 miles (58.91 km)

February 28 days X 2.74 miles / day = 76.72 miles 161.66 miles

February total 91.22 miles (146.8 km) cumulative total = 127.82 miles

March 31 days X 2.74 miles / day = 84.94 miles 246.6 miles 

March total 120.98 miles (194.7 km) cumulative total = 248.8 miles

April 30 days X 2.74 miles / day = 82.2 miles 328.80 miles

April total 210.7 miles (339.1 km) cumulative total = 459.5 miles

May 31 days X 2.74 miles / day = 84.94 miles 413.74 miles

May total 153.6 miles (247.2 km) cumulative total = 613.16 miles

June 30 days X 2.74 miles / day = 82.2 miles 495.94 miles achieved 501 7th May

July 31 days X 2.74 miles / day = 84.94 miles 580.88 miles

August 31 days X 2.74 miles / day = 84.94 miles 665.82 miles

September 30 days X 2.74 miles / day = 82.2 miles 748.02miles

October 31 days X 2.74 miles / day = 84.94 miles 832.96 miles

November 30 days X 2.74 miles / day = 82.2 miles 915.16 miles

December 31 days X 2.74 miles / day = 84.94 miles 1000.1 miles

Used Ordnance Survey Digital Mapping for route planning and Suunto Movescount to record walks.

#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.

seagrave-wolds-challenge-start

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!

this-way

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!

swc-crumble-and-custard

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

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

http://www.seagravewoldschallenge.co.uk/index.html

Essential Endurance Walking Skills: What to Carry?

Essential Endurance Walking Skills: What to Carry?

Here are some of my personal views when deciding on what to carry on an endurance walk like the 75 mile National Forest Way. This is a trip which I am currently organising and planning to do the walk in three days. On each day I will be walking an average of 25 miles. In this type of activity it is necessary to keep weight down to a minimum to aid enjoyment. Selecting equipment needs thought as when conditions dictate it maybe that you are carrying and not wearing items of clothing. Here you need to be aware that the clothing you use is not only light in weight but is compact and can be easily compressed to reduce volume when packed. Please note that the following observations are based on an endurance walk undertaken in late spring in a low level environment close to human habitation over terrain that consists of public rights of way, paths and tracks.

Equipment for endurance walks

Rucksack

The rucksack is the container for your ‘life support system’ during the trek and this is the starting point to keep weight down. There is no need to have a pack that has all the extras like ice-ax fittings, attachment points for crampons and automatic cup holders! All these add unnecessary weight. For endurance walking in low level terrain I use a pack that has an uncomplicated design, is comfortable to carry, light weight and is around 26 litres capacity. The latter feature is to limit the volume and weight I carry. My current pick of the bunch for endurance walks, and indeed short rambles, is the Black Diamond RPM.  Access to the main body is via a zipped lid and inside is a bladder pouch holder and a front compartment. The lid has a zipped outside pocket and a zipped inside one which includes a clip to hold your keys etc… On the exterior are two mesh pockets each capable of holding a 600ml drinks bottle plus a lunch bar. The volume of the pack can be adjusted by an external draw cord on it’s front face which ensures everything loaded is held tight and close to your back.

Inside the Pack

Waterproof Jacket & Trousers

My most recent addition in outdoor clothing is a Marmot Artemis NanoPro lightweight water proof jacket. I bought this to replace my aging (and leaking) Marmot Preclip jacket. I wanted a lightweight waterproof jacket that had a chest pocket to hold my glasses when it rained hard! And this jacket has said pocket. I have now used it on several occasions including a full day of rain when on the 2014 Seagrave Wolds 16 mile Challenge Walk. It performed perfectly and I remained dry throughout the event. In contrast the oldest item of clothing I am still using is a pair of Rohan overtrousers. I bought these maybe 20 years ago and Rohan’s Waterlight H2P fabric still does the business. Although they are lined they are lightweight and fold up compactly.

Spare Warm Jacket

Again I am going back in time because my Marmot Driclime Jacket from over a decade ago is still the most effective and efficient garment to carry (and wear when needed) providing warmth and an element of wind resistance in a lightweight and compact package. I selected the jacket version with the full length zip to aid getting the garment on and off easily as the need and conditions required. The outer is wind resistant nylon and the inner is a lightweight polyester fleece.

Hat & Gloves

In weather that is forecast to be changeable, which is most of the time in England, I take a warm hat and gloves. These don’t need to be full on mountaineering styles but lightweight and effective ones. My warm hat dates from the last century and is made by Patagonia from their stretch Syncilla fabric whilst my fleece gloves are a similar vintage displaying the Icefall label. A baseball cap is useful just it case the sun decides to come out.

First Aid Kit

The usual stuff: assorted plasters, antiseptic wipes, pain killers and Compeed blister plasters are contained in a fold out pouch. Included in this pouch is a SwissCard due to having a pair of tweezers and a neat pair of scissors along with a tooth pick and nail file! As it is late spring and the sun may be out then it is essential to take sun cream. On recommendation from my daughter, who is a snowboarder, I am taking Piz Buin Mountain Suncream with a 50+ SPF! This provides protection not only from the sun but also cold, wind and high altitudes!

Torch

A trusted Maglite 2 AA cell torch is included in my pack. I will make sure it has a spare bulb in it’s tail and it contains fresh batteries. These essentials, the first aid kit and torch, are kept together in a Lowe Alpine U-shaped mesh bag and then placed in a waterproof bag.

Sit mat

A small piece of closed-cell foam is carried to ensure that when I need to sit down to eat or enjoy the view I can in relative comfort.

Nutrition 

I will carry two 600ml plastic bottles of diluted orange drink for liquid whilst food will consist of a variety of snack bars and dried fruit. This will be supplemented along the way as the route passes through many villages that have shops and some have a pub!

Spares

On a low level walk like this carry spares is not really necessary. Also it is light until late and the essence is to keep moving at a reasonable pace hence not taking the kitchen sink! However, space will be found for a length of paracord which has a multitude of uses including make-do laces.

Keeping it all Dry

Plastic bags will ensure everything is kept dry.

Navigation Aids

Route Plans

I have downloaded the route guides from: http://www.nationalforestway.co.uk/downloads/and have laminated them to protect them from the elements.

Maps

The relevant Ordnance Survey maps will be carried and used: 233, 245 & 246.

Compass

A Silva Type 4 will be taken along as a ‘just in case’.

GPS Receiver

I have one but still debating whether it is worth carrying in this kind of environment. OK it doesn’t weigh much but every kg counts in this game.

I hope you have found this helpful and I welcome comments.