Walking washout and walking gear

It seems the easiest way of making nearly a whole month a complete washout due to rain is to declare ‘National Walking Month’ (drought-stricken areas take note!). I’ve only had one walk in the month of May, the weather has been so bad, or the few good days I was ill or busy. Thanks Living Streets! :-/

Sadly the washout also spread to the blog, for which there isn’t much excuse apart from just as I was preparing one post, the weather cleared and I went walking – only to go crap again. I hope this means the spring is all raining and and next month is AMAZING (partly because I iz going to Glastonbury for the first time). Busy with other projects like the podcast and some mixes, and some server woes needing fixing took me away from walking & blogging too.

Anyway when the weather is crap like this, even in urban areas walking can be a bit fun. I said in the previous post how you don’t need anything special for walking – and I stick to that, you just have to put one foot in front of the other and keep doing that for as long as you want. But, if your footwear is either of the genteel work/dress shoe or even traditional walking boot you’re going to slip if it’s persisting it down….I learnt this the hard way walking on the cliffs near Garennin in Lewis with some CAT boots and an army pack on my back. It had been raining heavily the night before, and I hit some wet grass and over I went…

Since then, grip has been a priority. So enter the cross-trainer or approach shoe, the same but different names depending who you ask. The idea is for the crazy people who go running across clifftops and along mountain paths , or a lighter sort of shoe for the mountaineer so he or she doesn’t have to walk to the mountain approach in big heavy mountain boots.

They are waterproof (I’ve waded through the sea in them, through puddles and muddy fields which are more like swimming pools), light and breathable, with soft soles for grip.  I usually wear wanky North Face Hedgehog XCR III GTX, I’m on my 3rd pair. They are not only are not cheap, they version I liked aren’t made anymore, and about the new IVs – as a friend says, sequels are so disappointing aren’t they? Don’t look as nice, they’re still silly price (although shop around, I bought one of the last pairs of the old sort in garish red for the future) and according to reviews, cheaper made than the old ones.


So given that my current ones are wearing down (they only last a year at best if you wear them all the time) I decided to investigate cheaper footwear for general use, but with a similar grip, waterproof because even in the city puddles are deep, and breathable. Via the recommendation to a friend of a cheaper but not waterproof pair, I came to Karrimor Mount Low shoes. And at £20 (shop around, Navy is cheapest oddly, but Amazon & Ebay have good deals), rather than £100+ they’re Nice Price, and again I think I’m buying the older ones here, it seems a similar situation to the North Face shoes, cut price. But if you stick to the style I bought (see the picture) and/or buy like I did via Field and Trek which is actually a cheaper outlet of Sports Direct seemingly, then you’ll be OK.

I’ve been wearing them for a few weeks. So are they waterproof? (being ‘Weathertite’ and not the tried-and-tested Goretex). Well even the king of Cross Trainers the North Face Hedgehogs have let me down once (wet tall grass, it’s the worst test for any waterproof, more than standing in a puddle seemingly) but I’ve been wearing them in rainy London, even wading through a few deep puddles For Science. Yes for Science! And this blog! And they’ve been fine, so not sure what happened with some of the Amazon reviews . They are thicker and chubbier than the Hedgehogs, seem to be more ‘support’, but surprisingly not much heavier. Only thing I’d say is they’re not as breathable…OK for light socks or colder days, less so for a long run or walk in hotter weather. Hedgehogs definitely keep your feet cooler. But it’s not like a boot sauna, something I got with my old boots, you know when you take them off and steam comes out, and the feeling your feet have been spending far too much time in a Sweat Jacuzzi? Not that.

And remember that the down side of soft sole shoes, be they Karrimor or North Face is they do wear down – it seems some reviewers on Amazon and other places do not understand this basic fact. If you wear them always down the shops on hard surfaces, rather than the grass or earth/stony paths they are designed for, then of course they will wear out quickly – or if you wear them for regular long walks or runs after a year or so. That’s the trade-off between soft grippy soles where you can climb up wet rocks at the seaside or wet grass on 30-45 degree inclines (yes to both of those) and hard-wearing soles like you get on Walking Shoes/Boots that will feel like glass on a wet manhole cover or wet pavement/shiny floor. Those soles are tough, but won’t grip on smooth/wet surfaces. I hate that, despite the extra ‘ankle twist’ protection…although proper and careful foot placement is better than a hundred rigid boots. Anyway quite often a stiff hard boot just moves the damage up to your shin if you fall over/twist your foot!

So I’d say 8/10 – good for wearing around town, light walking, getting wet. Not sure yet about long hikes, but certainly I’d not be bothered about a 5-10 mile walk in them if it was all I had. Good bargain, but for the really long/hot walks, I’ll save my precious Hedgehogs for those. Which was the idea really – general/small walks I’m happy to trash these on pavements and tarmac.

Orca Bute Boots

Other purchase (yes, spending far too much time indoors due to rain leads to online shopping) has been some leather waterproof boots. Now some of you might remember earlier in the year, the Mud Trilogy, and when I faced a literal field of water to wade through…something even my cross trainers couldn’t cope with, too deep. I needed wellies. But as a former sailor, wellies are evil, they chafe and rub, and don’t breathe – worse than boots for that in fact. Also as I said I’n going to Glasto, so the idea of walking miles in rubber wellies in mud does not appeal.  So my Dad recommended what are called ‘Country Boots’, ‘River Boots’ or ‘Sailing Leather Boots’  – the Dubarry ones are SCARY PRICE, but have a variety of sizes, expensive for the Horsey Set I guess. Dublin boots are cheaper, but no size 12  – grr – and many of the other Dubarry clones again don’t do larger sizes. In desperation I tried the sailing sphere, and surprisingly found cheaper ones there. Orca Bay did a boot called Bute, and I bought those. I tried them a few days ago in the rain and mud helping John with some photos in Hertford, and they were find. Not waded through any rivers yet, but they will be fine I think. And unlike wellies which perish. I think I’ll get many years from these. I hope so, since they weren’t as cheap as I’d like…but then again it’s my big feet. Cost me a lot of money over the years these feet!

I did a couple of miles in them OK, no blisters/rubbing. Not sure if I’d do a 15 mile walk in them – I think I could, might be harder going than the usual trainers. We’ll see – probably next Mud Season, or this Summer, whatever comes sooner.

I won’t mention where  I got these from though (a place that ironically promotes fast delivery and Marine in it’s name), because they entrusted delivery to UK Mail, and didn’t even tell me they tried to deliver them, in fact nothing except many spam emails to say that the item was dispatched. First I know is a call from them and a message that the boots had been returned…seems that UK Mail didn’t bother to even ring, or leave a note as I’m usually at home at the moment, I know they didn’t ring. Very bad.

By the way – you might notice no advertising on this blog, which is intentional. This applies to anything I talk about, recommend, link to or whatever. No ‘affiliate links’, no cross-promotion, and no kickbacks. As with my podcast and other blogs, it’s my opinion and my opinion only. No selling here – well apart from my photographs and if I ever get round to writing a book.

Then it will be all BUY MY LOVELY BOOK!!!! 😉


May is National Walking Month…

Yes a non-walk post! They do happen. May in the UK is Living Street’s National Walking Month (I meant to post on this earlier, I am on their mailing list after all…). I’m hoping the weather will be better than today’s rainstorm, so I will get out and do more walks and detail them here, I’m sure I’ll at least do a few. Or if it rains for the whole of May (don’t laugh, it has happened, this is Britain remember), I’ll at least be writing about my past ones.

But I do wonder where they get some of the people to blather on about walking, here’s the list of what Rebecca Solnit, an expert because she wrote a book, obviously, said walks should be:

  • Walk further and with no fixed route
  • Stop texting and mapping
  • Don’t soundtrack your walks
  • Go alone
  • Find walkable places
  • Walk mindfully

Don’t laugh. Oh OK, laugh. What is this ‘walk mindfully’ shit? New age Gladwellian self-improvement crap, I’d bet.

Being mindful suggests that the rest of the time you’re off in some la-la-land, which is a luxury most people cannot afford, ut walk somewhere away from people – which is possible EVERYWHERE, yes even in ‘crowded’ London you don’t need ‘walkable places’ – you will get away from distractions. Everywhere is walkable, and the most surprising places are actually interesting and not signed ‘Mindful Walking HERE!’ with a nice little brown sign, sealed and delivered to Walking Enlightenment. Really it’s this sort of stuff that makes me angry.

What do you need to walk? Two feet in front of the other. That’s all. No extra gear, no extra mind-training, no extra ‘stuff’. Tim’s list for walking goes thus:

  • Start walking
  • When tired, or it gets too late, stop
  • Rules are for suckers. Or people desperately scraping up copy for a BBC magazine. Or argument linkbait…oh damn…

And the author of the piece  also says you shouldn’t listen to music or podcasts either. Grr, best time to listen to podcasts like my lovely one *cough* is when you can ‘mindfully’ concentrate on them. Depends if you see music as a background ‘distraction’ or something that can enhance the experience, that deserves more than just ignorance. I listen to music on my walks but on shuffle, and quite often the two complement, so I can concentrate on the environment and the music. And yes, it helps me relax.

But sometimes bliss is so quiet you might not listen at all – Venice was a revelation in that fact, and made me realise I use music to block out a lot of traffic noise, and stupid people. As there were no cars, and I couldn’t understand the language it meant for days I never listened to my iPod. But in the UK I walk places with cars, and yes stupid people….but it’s more than just a block, particularly on my walks.

I’m all for Living Streets Walking Month, anyway – but the press and PR need to realise that coating walking with some glamorous, capitalistic or ‘mindful’ self-improvement sheen is self-defeating, it only serves to give people excuses NOT to walk. Best thing about walking is anyone can do it, at any time, in any place, and find things they never expected even where they live. It doesn’t need ‘selling’ in that way. It doesn’t desperately need an ‘angle’ unlike the author of this piece.

What does need ‘selling’ that less people need cars, that public transport needs to be better and is non-existent in parts, that some roads can be extremely pedestrian unfriendly (then again, there are nearly always ways around that, but Right to Roam would help for the really antisocial landowners that stop or block walking on their land or rights of way) but that doesn’t seem ‘sexy’ enough for magazines and the press.

Far easier to focus on the personal sphere and apply ‘mindful’ self-improvement solutions to a social problem that didn’t exist…I would say this is blame the victim, really. With the assault of cars in our cities and also small country roads, can you blame people for not walking as much? Make it nicer to walk, and duh, people will walk, I don’t think people are mindless zombies by choice, or that they are that mindless actually.

As  a side note – I don’t see how the RSPB and National Trust with their massive car parks, and lack of access for pedestrians is helping either – quite often the access to a RSPB reserve or National Trust property reminds me of the entrance to large supermarkets where you are bombarded with cars and crossing busy roads before you even get there. This shows these organisations aren’t really walker or public transport friendly at all.

Welcome to Walking the Wrong Way

Walking the wrong way: down the path less travelled and getting lost on the way. Walking into the wind or sun. Walking without a map, without water, without sun cream or warm clothes and missing the last bus. Walking only on sunny days and not in rain. Walking across military ranges ignoring the keep out signs, past nuclear power plants, walking late at night along cliffs.

I’ve done all of these, survived to tell the tale and did them intentionally and unintentionally. And I’ve learned quite a lot along the way – a random squiggly line that is still err, unsquiggling?

Here are photos and reports from those journeys, past and future, an artistic exercise and Loneliness of the Late Disorganised Walker in one mad man’s idea of walking around Britain and up the Thames in tiny stages only on nice days (rain? Ugh!) and to where there is a pub or a chip shop (usually just closed, because, well, they hate tourists).

My River Walks I’ve already walked from Henley to Swanscombe Marshes along the Thames, since 1999 (back to when I used a film camera – scanning those might be harder), and a few years back I started my Coastal walk around Britain. Last count I’m over 50 miles from Chichester to Teynsham in Kent. OK I’m not exactly in a hurry, but I suspect the 6am-starting cagouled Kendal Mint Cake types forget it’s not about getting there, it’s the journey along the way.

And anyway they drive cars, those cheating, planet-destroying, recycling yobs (hey there’s nothing more ironic than a National Trust Car Park!) – and I have to rely on public transport. And as you will see, that’s sometimes harder to plan than the walk itself.

And check out the fancy map! Not much to see yet apart from my test posts, but yes, every walking post and even posts and pics along the way will be geolocated, and most likely have a GPS GPX track (either in fancypants plugin form or just an image) and details. And a lot of rambling probably…(no not that sort, well yes that sort, both really).