Tag Archives: walking

Review: 2 hours on Go Ape’s new Zip Trekking Adventure

Actually flying and not just dreaming about it (c) LJM Photography

Actually flying and not just dreaming about it

So you like flying at high-speed through the air with a bit of thick rope wedged up your bottom, getting smacked in the face by branches? If that’s you, then you’ll love Go Ape’s new Zip Trekking Adventure in Cumbria, Lake District. Just kidding, it’s nothing like that. But it is amazing!

Since the age of about three, my night-time visions have been filled with dreams of flying. Flying over fields and rivers and mountains. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. And now I had the chance. So I grabbed my photographer friend LJ and friendly Lake District expert, Kate, packed the car with camping essentials and bombed it up the M6 to Grizedale Forest in Cumbria.

sIMG_2127     sIMG_2134

This was my first Go Ape experience, and I must say, I was very impressed. Incredibly friendly staff were the cherry on top of an already exciting experience in stunning surroundings. So to give you a little glimpse into the experience, I’ve set out a bit of a Q & A below for you. Feel free to send me a comment if there’s anything else you’d like to know.

At this point I was still oblivious to the huge ground drop I was about to witness

At this point I was still oblivious to the huge ground drop I was about to witness

Q & A

Is it scary? Depends what your scare-factor is. My two friends and I all like varying levels of danger. Kate loves dangling off rock faces, I only partially like hanging off rock faces, while LJ prefers to opt for gentle strolls over rolling hills — but we all absolutely loved the experience.

Is it safe? Absolutely. You’re accompanied by two qualified instructors the whole way — they make sure you do everything safely, so there’s no chance of falling off. And as with other Go Ape adventures, you’re always attached by two safety lines.

Being given our safety briefing

Getting our safety briefing

Do you get an adrenaline rush? Sure do. The first zip wire is nice and short to help ease you into the experience. But the second one is easily one of the longest. About halfway along Zip 2, the land suddenly drops away, amplifying the exposed feeling. Zip 7 is by far the most adrenaline-inducing ride. But on all zips you get an absolutely amazing view over Grizedale Forest.

How fast do you go? Our instructor told us his fastest speed was 42mph on Zip 7. This is the longest and fastest zip and of course the most fun. I’m pretty sure I reached at least 40mph – pretty exhilarating!

The breathtaking view from Zip 2

The breathtaking view from Zip 2

Is it expensive? While other Go Ape activities are generally priced around £30-35, this one is £45. I did initially think this was quite steep, but I think the additional cost must be to cover the cost of the Land Rovers that drive you to the start and the instructors that accompany you on the course. I do still think it’s pricey, but completely worth it. A brilliant activity for a hen do or birthday bash.

How long is the experience? Our adventure was a little over two hours and although you’re actually only on the zips for around 10 minutes, it feels much longer. There are eight zips varying between 200-500m, so on average you’re flying through the air for about a minute at a time. Also, the groups are relatively small, as they don’t want to keep people waiting too long.

Go Ape Zip Trekking Adventure     Go Ape Zip Trekking certificate

But is 10 minutes air time really long enough? You know when you go on holiday and you reach that point where you’re happy with the time you’ve had away, but equally happy to go home? That’s how I felt at the end of the adventure — contented.

Tips for going faster… If you want even more of an adrenaline rush, you could try:

  • Going backwards — this is kinda hard, cause soon as you’re flying you do turn quite a lot. If you hold higher up the rope you can stop yourself from turning, but Go Ape discourages this, as you could get your fingers stuck. That would be kinda nasty.
  • Be heavier — not a whole lot you can do about this, but you could try eating a bigger breakfast!
  • Tuck into a small ball — the smaller you are the faster you’ll fly. Aerodynamics darling!
  • Don’t flail — the more you try spinning round to face the front or the back, the slower you’ll fly. Go with the flow.

The Apple Pie, Ambleside     The Giggling Goose Cafe, Ambleside

A couple of lush pit stops in Ambleside for a bit of tea and cake post zip trekking

Would I do it again? Absolutely! If you love flying through the air as much as I do, you’ll be wanting all your friends to celebrate their birthdays, hen do’s and graduations in Grizedale Forest.

Want a bigger rush? If this is a bit tame for you, you could always try Zip World Titan at Blaenau Ffestiniog. Flying at over 100mph for over a mile, it’s the longest and fastest zip wire in the world!

I hope you found this review helpful. If there are any other adventures you’d like to hear about, just let me know.

All images courtesy of LJM Photography


Have access laws ruined our hillsides?

Footpath in Glyders, Snowdonia, Wales (c) Margaux Smale

Access laws have meant an increase in footpaths like this one in the Glyders, Snowdonia (c) Margaux Smale

Acting editor of The Great Outdoors magazine reflects on how access laws, Benny Rothman and the British Mountaineering Council have been instrumental in the evolution of hillwalking.

Hillwalking has seen some major developments since communist activist Benny Rothman and his team trespassed Kinder Scout in a mission to bring walkers the freedom to roam, but acting editor of The Great Outdoors (TGO), Daniel Neilson, says the effects of increased hillwalking means our duty to protect the hills is greater than it has ever been.

Neilson has a long-standing passion for the great outdoors and with a background in adventure travel writing, the 36-year-old has seen first-hand the huge impact The Kinder Trespass has had on hillwalking, hillwalkers and the hills themselves across the UK.

Rothman’s trespass in 1932 may have caused a few unpleasant scuffles between those who simply wanted access to hills and those who owned the land, but it was the key moment in changing laws and opening up access to land in the UK.

“Hillwalking used to be quite a niche thing to do, but now it’s a mass market activity,” Neilson says. People certainly have become incredibly passionate about hillwalking. TGO’s loyal readership over the last 35 years is proof enough.

While we may have access to the mountains now, there are still a number of restrictions in England and Wales; wild camping being one of them. When it comes to access to wilderness, Scotland is one of the most progressive countries in the world says the Eastbourne-based editor.


Wild camping in Scotland (c) Margaux Smale

Wild camping is completely legal in Scotland (c) Margaux Smale

“Lots of people would like to see the same kind of freedom across the rest of the UK,” says Neilson. “In England and Wales you’re not supposed to wild camp without the landowner’s permission, although various National Parks, like Dartmoor accept it. In Snowdonia, if you arrive late and leave early and leave no trace, they won’t often know you’ve been there, and in the Lakes as long as you camp higher than the highest fence and away from the public highway you’re generally OK. But every time you’re supposed to get the land owner’s permission.”

A number of organisations have sprung up, working both to protect the mountains and to further promote the increasingly popular leisure pastime. Neilson identifies the Rambler’s Association, the National Parks Association and the British Mountaineering Council (BMC) as three such institutions.

However, the increasing footfall on UK hills and mountains, as well as the rise in charity challenges, such as the Three Peaks Challenge,  has resulted in increased path erosion; a concerning matter for dedicated hillwalkers.

“The problem of path erosion has caused National Parks and authorities, even charities to create quite solid walkways. Some don’t mind it, others absolutely loathe it. Over recent decades routes have become a lot more funnelled to go up certain mountains, like Scafell Pike and Snowdon,” Neilson says.



Hiking, path erosion, Scotland (c) Tom Doey

What do you think about the increase in solid footpaths like this one in Scotland? (c) Tom Doey

Cairns are also on the increase. “At the top of Scafell Pike they’re everywhere. Some people hate the fact they’re there and go and kick them down. When there’s one every 30 metres it does begin to feel like you’re on a highway,” Neilson admits.

But we can still help protect the hills we have been given the privilege of enjoying by following some basic guidelines. “The really obvious one is sticking to paths,” says Neilson. “People put those paths in for a reason and not sticking to them can lead to us losing lots of flora. It’s certainly happened in Snowdonia, paths seem to be getting ever wider.

“I’m also always amazed at how much litter I see. I think it’s just really simple things. Exploring other mountains and getting off the main trails is another way to increase your enjoyment, because you’re seeing something different and you’re not just following everyone else,” Neilson concludes.

If you're looking for more off-route walks, check out The Great Outdoors' Wild 
Walks and keep an eye out for my alternative route up Y Garn, Snowdonia in TGO's 
February issue out on 4 January 2014.

Training for a 100 kilometre walk

Karrimor boots by Margaux Smale (c)

You’re nearly there! Training for a long-distance walk can be challenging, but here are some tips and advice to help you finish with a smile.

Can you imagine anything better than 24 hours of pure uninterrupted bliss in the great outdoors? Did I mention it would involve walking 100 kilometres? There’s no denying it’s a long way, especially if all done in one go, but don’t knock it before you’ve given it some good consideration.

We all love being outside, appreciating the beauty of the natural world. But what if you want something a little more challenging than a gentle stroll along the Chilterns? Something more like an all day all night trek along Hadrian’s Wall Path or the coast of Cornwall.

Sure there will be some training and preparation involved, and you may find yourself doing something silly like singing Doe, a deer, a female deer to keep yourself awake in the darker hours of the walk, but you don’t have to be superman, or indeed Bear Grylls to conquer a challenge like this.

Sarah Liveing is a 52-year-old mother of three and recently completed her first 100km walk from London to Brighton. A keen adventurer, Liveing tries to walk 50-60 miles a week and has tackled a variety of challenges over the years, including climbing Kilimanjaro, jumping out of an aircraft and cycling from London to Paris. But she didn’t always used to be this fit.

Sarah Liveing walked her first 100km event this summer

Sarah Liveing walked her first 100km event this summer

“In January 2005 I weighed 18 stone and was very unhappy with how I looked, how I acted and what I was eating. I’d signed up to do the Breast Cancer MoonWalk in May 2005, and in preparation I began walking and changing the way I was eating. For the first time in my life I was able to get into my head space,” Liveing shares.

As exciting as an event like this can be, it is not to be taken lightly. Acting editor of The Great Outdoors magazine, Daniel Neilson, believes the key is to work on your endurance. You need to build yourself up to a stage where you can walk all day without any problems.

Adam Brockett, senior events manager for the British Heart Foundation’s London to Brighton Trek, says, “It takes months of training to be able to get to the finish, but it’s so worthwhile when they see the sun come up as they reach Brighton.”

The British Heart Foundation runs an annual London to Brighton Trek  (c) Chenderson

The British Heart Foundation runs an annual London to Brighton Trek (c) Chenderson

It certainly is a worthwhile challenge, and if you’re raising money for charity, even more so. “It’s great to raise money, and I do seriously think that the build up to the event with fundraising is very good for motivating people to train and get fit,” says Neilson.

During training is a good time to trial any new clothing or equipment Neilson says. “You don’t want to be trying anything new out on the day. Tiny problems with gear – even a buckle you find annoying – will be magnified tenfold in an endurance event. Even things like energy gels can have adverse effects when used for the first time.”

One of the biggest challenges on such an event is walking and navigating through the night, so training is essential. Neilson advises taking three or four evenings to walk somewhere familiar in the dark to get used to it.

Neilson advises getting some night walking practice in

Neilson advises getting some night walking practice in (c) Chenderson

The battle of the mind is another big challenge and you’ll be surprised at the amount of time you have to think. Try some of Neilson’s tricks to keep your mind occupied. Make up silly lists – like the best ever festival line-up or your own top ten movie names. If you’re alone, don’t be afraid to sing or talk to yourself – it often helps clarify your thoughts, especially if you’re lost. Audio books are another great distraction.

In the dark hours of the night, Liveing too had to find a way of distracting herself. “I started singing Doe, a Deer from The Sound of Music to give me a good pace and I counted 123, 123, 123 to get a good rhythm. My grandfather used this method to keep himself going as he walked from Poland to Paris in 1917, escaping the ravages of the first world war,” she says. “I’ve used it before and it always works.”

While you’re out, don’t forget to take advantage of your beautiful surroundings. Snap some pictures to capture your journey or take a bird, flower or tree book, so you can learn about the countryside you’re walking through.

Finally, when things look hard and your feet ache, remember you’re doing this because you enjoy it. But also be aware it shouldn’t be a route march, it should be a fun, informative and enlightening walk. Neilson tries to make sure he does a little history research before a walk. “The South Downs are absolutely covered in Tumuli – ancient farmsteads and burial grounds up to 3000 years old,” he says. “If that doesn’t make it a little more interesting, I don’t know what would!”

Beach walking

I picked up The Simple Things – a beautiful magazine; if you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend – in the shop the other day and spotted an article about spending a day on the beach. There’s a peace about escaping to the seaside; there are wonderful things you can catch and eat and so many little wonders to find. And they’re totally right, a day on the beach, even in winter is incredibly refreshing and invigorating!

Now I must admit, you can go to the beach with one of two agendas. You can be there to escape and relax and wander along the shoreline admiring the beauty of it all, or you can be there to feed your adventurous spirit, push your limits and get truly bashed about in the waves. Our agenda was the former, but I can’t deny I was a little jealous of these kitesurfers.

A beautiful sight in hazy light

A beautiful sight in hazy light

It was a beautifully windy day – perfect for these guys. Kitesurfing is something that’s intrigued me for a long time. I’ve always wanted to fly and I can imagine kitesurfing is one way of satisfying that desire.

Although it was windy, it looked pretty hard work getting the kites up

Although it was windy, it looked pretty hard work getting the kites up

Seeing these guys makes me want to try kitesurfing even more!

Seeing these guys makes me want to try kitesurfing even more

The beach is a great playground for both two legged mammals and the four legged variety, and a brilliant location for your furry friend to exert all his energy, so he doesn’t run raucous in the house.

The beach is a great place to tire your four legged friend out

The beach is a great place to tire your four legged friend out

Shep loves playing on the beach as much as we do

Shep loves playing on the beach as much as we do

The light wasn’t great, but it was dry and that’s all a photographer can ask for. Welsh beaches run for miles and miles and when the tide is out, you have even more space for playing. I can see us coming down here in the summer with a cricket bat or volleyball net and some Kubb – a brilliant old Viking game from Sweden.

I've always been a stickler for lines in nature

I’ve always been a stickler for lines in nature

But if you’re serious about finding some real treasures on the beach, you have to be willing to go out of your way a little. Get down on the ground, look behind a bush, try a different angle – you’ll be rewarded with some stunning pictures if you’re willing to go the extra mile.

The beauty's in the details

The beauty’s in the details

Shells are not only beautiful, but come in pretty handy in crafty projects too

Shells are not only beautiful, but come in pretty handy in crafty projects too

Where’s your favourite beach? I’d love to see your photos and hear your stories!

Government funding to help improve West Highland Way

We were only in West Scotland at the end of last summer walking up mountains like the Three Sisters, Am Bodach and even into the Lost Valley. It’s such a beautiful part of the country. So it’s really fantastic to hear that the government is throwing £750,000 into improving parts of Scotland’s West Highland Way. But that’s not all, it’s only part of the £3 million it is giving the Forestry Commission Scotland to improve Scotland’s forest estates.

Thought you might appreciate Trail magazine’s YouTube video of the Lost Valley – enjoy!

Have you been hiking in Scotland recently? What do you love about the Scottish Highlands?

To read the full story on BBC, click here.

Hiking gear review

I like a good hiking adventure and although it’s pretty cold at the moment, the winter months can be a beautiful time to get up into the mountains. It’s often just a few degrees colder up there, which means at this time of year you’re likely to find a bit of snow lying on the ground. Be that as it may, it’s always a good idea to be well prepared and having the right gear can make the difference between a cold, soggy, miserable day in the mountains and a dry, warm, beautiful day in the mountains.

So I tested two bits of kit from Gelert pretty vital to any walk.

One more thing about the Venture Trousers is that they’re not only good for walking, but climbing, bouldering and mountain biking. I even took them for a run the other day and am still loving how light and comfortable they are!

Gelert has been trading since 1975 and has a strong ethical trading policy. The company works hard to ensure it not only produces high quality and fair priced products, but that everything it uses is ethically sourced.

Jon Clarkson is head of product development at Gelert and offers some handy advice for anyone looking to go hiking in the Brecon Beacons, or any other mountain range, this winter.

What advice can you offer walkers hiking in the Brecon Beacons this winter?

“The Brecon Beacons is a beautiful area of the country for walking, but being prepared for changeable weather conditions is essential whenever hiking in the UK. Taking practical precautions should ensure you enjoy a good day out which is both safe and comfortable.

“Even if you know the area well, weather conditions in the Brecon Beacons can change quickly and it’s important to take a good map and compass, carry plenty of water and food and make sure you’ve told somebody where you are going.

“With exposed conditions on the tops, it’s really important to carry extra layers, waterproof clothing and dress for warmth, even if it feels like overkill when you begin your climb.”

What gear can you recommend and why?

Gelert Women's SS Flex T-Shirt

Gelert Women’s SS Flex T-Shirt

“In winter even experienced walkers can be caught out if they are not wearing suitable clothing. You may want to carry a larger rucksack than you would in summer to make room for extra layers and waterproof trousers. A 35 – 45 litre bag such as our Summit Rucksacks would be ideal.

“A warm base layer will keep you comfortable when exercising in the cold. Our Women’s Flex SS Tech T-Shirt is carefully designed to wick moisture away from your skin, keeping you warm and dry whilst exercising in the cold.

“Getting wet can really put a dampener on a walk and could let in a winter sniffle. Different kit has different ratings and for hill walking in the winter, I’d recommend opting for a hydrostatic head rating of 3000mm, meaning that it will withstand water pressure from a 3000mm column of water. Our Women’s Timor Jacket is designed specifically to keep you thoroughly dry in adverse conditions and was awarded ‘Best Value Waterproof Jacket’ by Trail magazine. With a double storm flap, adjustable hood and cuffs and taped seams the jacket makes sure that you will stay dry as a bone underneath.

“Walking poles are popular with fell walkers as they can act as an extra limb, helping to stabilise you on rough ground, particularly on tricky descents. Our walking poles are designed to make longer hikes more comfortable by reducing pressure on the knees, controlling speed, improving balance and providing support for the shoulders and arms.”

Gelert Wind Up Headtorch

Gelert Wind Up Headtorch

What gear would you recommend for both beginners and more advanced walkers?

“The essential items we’d recommend to anyone wanting to start walking are a decent pair of boots and a warm waterproof jacket. Other items such as waterproof trousers and fleeces can be added in time.

“Gelert supplies a wide range of kit with different specifications, from beginners’ kit for those wishing to enjoy valley walks, to technical hill walking kit, suitable for adverse weather conditions. Advanced walkers will need items such as base layers, first aid kits and small camping stoves for longer walking trips.”

What does Gelert do to encourage and support walkers and the protect the natural environment which is so important to them?

“Gelert also supports a number of outdoor associations including the RNLI and the Ramblers, helping them in their endeavours to promote responsible walking and respect for our environment.

“We also supply our own range of eco-friendly products. With innovative hardware such as the Gelert Wind Up Headtorch and a range of clothing made with Bamboo charcoal yarn, including base layers and warm jumpers.”

Walking after the Christmas festivities

Wellie it up for some extra fun

Wellie it up for some extra fun

So you’ve eaten enough turkey, potatoes, Yorkshire puddings and chocolate, that you’re quite happy to give it up until next Christmas. You’re a little woozy from all the wine and sitting around watching Christmas movies and playing games. If that’s how you feel, I’ve got just the cure for you (if it’s not raining too much)!

Don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you to go walking up Ben Nevis or swim across the channel. It’s a little less taxing than that and a little closer to home. It involves grabbing some willing family members, a canine friend, a pair of wellies and taking advantage of the beautiful scenery around you.

As you do at this time of year, I’m visiting the family for Christmas. In fact we had family visiting from Hamburg and Paris this year, so it’s a pretty full house. Waiting for your turn in the shower may be a chore, but the banter at the breakfast and dinner table is so worth it.

The perfect walking companion

The perfect walking companion

My family lives in rural Carmarthenshire, and is surrounded by lovely countryside and some stunning walking routes. So after all the food and wine, we wanted a bit of fresh air and so did our Welsh border collie, but none of us really fancied trekking up some mountain for six hours.

So we chose a route closer to home, the Teifi Loop Walk. It’s a short drive from our house and starts in the Coed y Foel Woodland Trust car park. The walk is mainly along country lanes, but can be extended to include a section along the banks of the River Teifi (or in Welsh: Afon Teifi). We did spot a little route slightly off the beaten track on the last leg of our walk, so think we’ll have to try that one out next time…

“…that would have spoiled the fun of jumping through all the puddles!”

Venture off the country lane a little

Venture off the country lane a little

We were on the road for about an hour and a half – the perfect post-Christmas distance if you ask me. Wales has suffered from serious rain over the last few weeks, and although we were lucky enough to have chosen a non-rainy day, wellies were still a must. You could just about get away with a good pair of walking boots, but that would have spoiled the fun of jumping through all the puddles!

But Carmarthenshire is not only good for walking. There are a number of other activities and places worth visiting while you’re here.

The amount of rain the county gets is good for at least one thing – the rivers. The Teifi river is great for kayaking and canoeing, and if that’s your thing, there’s a great paddling club in Llandysul. You might also want to keep an eye on this blog over the next couple of weeks, as I’ll be speaking to Fiona Beale, an instructor at Llandysul Paddlers and a former world champion motorcycle stunt rider.

You might also want to stop by the Rock Mill, where you can still purchase traditional tapestry bedspreads, blankets, shawls, scarves, and more. And if you’re keen on staying in the area, the Rock Mill has a lovely self-catering cottage that sleeps up to four people. Or if you’re a bigger group, the Long Barn in Capel Dewi, a fully converted 18th Century stone barn, offers some cosy accommodation for groups and individuals.