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Featured in The Daily Mail as one of the 5 best farm stay holidays across the UK and The Telegraph as one of the 10 best back-to-nature UK breaks, Hush Hush Glamping provides an ideal setting for that much-needed digital detox.
Hare’s Form pod is a charming, hand-crafted wooden pod for two, nestled beneath the majestic Radnor forest. Situated at 1,300ft above sea level, you’re presented with breath-taking views of the Radnor Valley and Black Mountains. The pod is set within 90 acres of family farmland, sharing its space with friendly alpacas, sheep, red kites, the odd hare and the occasional deer. Sleep under the stars and wake up to nature in this stunning dark sky area.
Hare’s Form contains everything you need for an enjoyable staycation. The pod features a small kitchenette, providing all the essentials to cook a tasty meal, as well as an en-suite bathroom complete with a fitted shower. No more trekking to the toilet in the dark! Snuggle down in the comfy Hypnos double bed with a film, or warm your toes in front of the wood burning stove. Make the most of the lack of WiFi and spend quality time with your partner, away from all the distractions of everyday life. Cosy up inside with a good book, or sit out on the decking and bask in the sun’s rays and fresh country air.
If you wish to venture out walking, there are miles of expansive countryside right on your doorstep. Visit the wonderful Elan Valley Reservoir & Dams, the quaint town of Llandrindod Wells, the awe-inspiring Brecon Beacons, or the magical Radnor Forest. There are various local activities to choose from, including mountain biking, horse riding and the Gigrin Red Kite Feeding Centre. You could even treat yourself to a pamper day at the Cloud 9 Spa in Kington!
Hare’s Form makes for the perfect romantic getaway. Whether you’re looking to unwind and relax, or go out hiking and exploring, Hush Hush Glamping has something for everyone. Find out more and escape to the beautiful mid-Wales countryside today at Hush Hush Glamping.
Here’s just a brief explanation of what’s going on:
We (Sarah and I) have decided to complete the longest National Trail in the UK, the South West Coast Path. As you may have read here, the path is 630 miles (1015km) long, so we have decided to split it into more time friendly chunks and complete it over a number of long weekends, hopefully in the next 12 months or so.
You may or may not be aware that the South West Coast Path runs from Minehead in Somerset to Poole in Dorset. Some people follow that direction and others do it in reverse – Poole to Minehead. We have opted to mix it up a little bit and do it in sections going forwards but in reverse (if you think that’s confusing, try being the person who plans each section!) Our first section, which is what this article is about, was from Portland to the finishing point in Poole. The next section is from Budleigh Salterton, near Exmouth, to Portland, and then we’ll go from our next starting point to Budleigh Salterton and so on. The issue we have by doing that, though, is when we eventually complete the whole path, we won’t actually be in Poole or Minehead. So to make it more confusing for you, at Porthallow in Cornwall (official halfway point), we will then flip our direction and start walking towards Minehead so we finish at the official start/finish point – hopefully that makes sense, I’m confused even writing about it.
So, why are we doing it anyway? I’d love to say it’s because of the beautiful scenery, the challenge and the sense of accomplishment, but it’s pretty much just because we had some spare time, and why not? But I also often complain that people, including myself, leave the UK in search of the natural beauty of foreign lands which can actually be found right here in the UK – you might just need a coat. Therefore, it’s a good opportunity to make the most of what we have and also a good opportunity for me to showcase to you the beauty of what can be found in the UK.
Also a little warning that I’m a bit of a nerd and some parts of this article might seem like a history lesson but just go with it.
So let’s go…
Day 1: 5th July 2020 – Nothe Gardens, Weymouth Harbour, A cannon ball, some hot bikers and a beer
Before we even left home on day one, the plan had changed slightly. The original plan was to start at Portland Bill lighthouse but due to some lunch reservations with Sarah’s dad, time would have been a bit tight and we would instead start just at the edge of Portland Isle, but this didn’t bother us for two reasons:
People often skip the stretch down to, and back up from, Portland Bill. I’m not sure why because that’s just cheating yourself of 10 miles.
The lunch was delicious. I would highly recommend The Crab House Cafe near Weymouth if you want some seriously great fresh fish and some bloody massive crab.
Anyway, lunch was done and we donned our packs and made the first steps of what will eventually be a 630 mile trip. We had seriously lucked out with the weather right from the beginning – the sky was clear enough for us to see right across Portland Harbour, Weymouth Bay and right out towards St Aldhelms Head, a distance of about 18 miles/28 km across the water.
We were also quite unlucky as when the sun comes out it seems the entire nation flocks to the south coast of England – even during a pandemic. So dodging cyclists and trying not to knock down small children and the elderly with my rucksack, we eventually made our way into Weymouth. Day one was now to be the shortest stretch by far over the next couple of days. We had booked a room at The Riviera on the far side of Weymouth in Bowleaze Cove for the night which was now just a short 5 miles away, so we took our time but also rushed through as much of the manic bustle of Weymouth as we could. We were looking forward to getting away from people and getting stuck into the next couple of days where we would have nothing but the rolling Dorset hills to our left, the vast English Channel to our right and just the sound of the water crashing below us. Peace, however, would have to wait for the time being.
We walked through Nothe Gardens on the southern edge of Weymouth, which displayed stunning panoramic views of Portland Isle and Weymouth Bay.
Nothe Gardens then leads down into the old Weymouth Harbour, which is still home to some of the original 17th century Tudor architecture and certainly worth a visit on a quiet day. It’s linked to the main town by a rising bridge. Originally constructed in the late 1500’s and then rebuilt about four times since, it would have originally allowed access into the harbour for steam liners and probably galleons before then but now operates mostly for luxury mega yachts.
We accessed Weymouth beachfront from Maiden Street, one of the oldest areas of the town where, quite interestingly, you can find a cannon ball, which had been fired during the Civil War in 1645, still lodged in the wall of one of the buildings.
I’ll try not to bore you too much with history throughout this article, but the whole of the South West Coast path is absolutely riddled with the stuff, and I do like history.
The further away you get from the old town of Weymouth the closer you get to the typical ‘bucket and spade’ town. It also seems that the further you get into any town, especially on the beach during a hot sunny day, the more strange looks you get from holiday makers wondering why you have a big rucksack, big boots and hiking kit on – but then I was thinking the same thing about the large number of bikers sweating in their heavy leather kit on the beach.
We could see The Riviera in the distance at the far end of the beach, where sand turns to boulders, and decided not to join any of the queues for some food but to keep going and get sorted later. We had already done a bit of a recce of Bowleaze Cove earlier that day and it’s not exactly a place I would recommend for people to visit, but it does have a good view of Weymouth going for it. We cut down from the path and linked into Bowleaze Cove via the beach.
From a distance The Riviera Hotel has an impressive frontage and certainly wouldn’t be misplaced in 1920s Hollywood, or apparently 1930s Weymouth as it seems. Due to the recent COVID-19 lockdown, the hotel had been closed to the public and had been split into two halves. One half was used to house the homeless and the other half housed NHS staff who couldn’t go home. So, even though the place could have done with another renovation, I have to give them the respect they are due for the service they provided. After all, all we really needed was a bed for the night and some breakfast in the morning and both were great.
That evening, my preparation for the next couple of days walking was to sit on the beach and enjoy an ice cream and a nice cold beer looking out at the sea. Honestly, I wouldn’t be unhappy if I prepared for all trips like that.
Day 2: 6th July 2020 – Stranded cruise ships, smugglers, Vancouver, tourists and artillery fire
We were on the path by 09:30am after breakfast. We weren’t given a choice of what to eat – it was full English or nothing, which is fine by me but for Sarah, who’s vegetarian, that just meant a few beans and an egg.
The South West Coast path runs right next to the hotel and immediately up a steep climb, which provides a spectacular view of Weymouth, Portland Isle, Chesil Beach and inland towards White Horse Hill. There were also six cruise ships anchored off shore just outside Weymouth Bay. Due to the current travel restrictions, cruise ships obviously had to find refuge somewhere until they became operational again. After apparently being turned away by many of the UK ports, the Queen Mary 2 and the P&O cruise ships Aurora, Azura, Arcadia and Brittania eventually found a nice spot overlooking Weymouth – with the majority of their staff still on board.
From there it was just a short walk across the hills and cliff edges to the little hamlet of Osmington Mills, home to the 13th century pub The Smugglers Inn which has been one of my favourite pubs for about 10 years after accidentally taking a wrong turn on a cycling trip. The pub was the base of operations for the French smuggler Pierre Latour and the cove where Osmington Mills sits was one of the main landing spots for smugglers in the 17th century. A real hidden gem surrounded by history, quite literally as it sits right at the cliff edge of the Jurassic Coast full of fossils. They also serve a great selection of local ales… Anyway, again, I digress…
Unfortunately, the pub was closed. Apparently drinking that early in the morning is frowned upon anyway, and especially when you have about 20 miles left to cover that day.
The plan for day two was to walk from Bowleaze Cove to Kingston, a lovely little village just south of Corfe Castle, approximately 20 to 22 miles away. However, halfway along the stretch the Path runs through Lulworth Firing Range, used by the Ministry of Defence to train soldiers to blow stuff up with tanks and artillery guns. Apparently it’s quite dangerous to walk through an artillery range when they are firing live rounds (who would have thought), so it’s surrounded by a massive fence and the paths are locked when they are firing. On a side note, the information on the internet isn’t clear in my mind as to when you definitely aren’t allowed through on the designated ‘range walks’. If the gates were locked this would mean a slight diversion up and over the range making our total stretch 27 miles / 43km – a bit of a slog. Our plan was to follow the path to the edge of the range and, should it be locked, then follow our pre-planned diversion path up and over it. We also had a backup ‘evacuation’ route to the town of Wool where we could take a train to save some time if we needed to.
It took no time at all to leave behind the bustle of Weymouth and all the people and find peace and quiet on the path and then the constant singing of a skylark very quickly joined us. I love these little birds and I am certain that they are probably the noisiest little birds known to man, especially considering they are so tiny. The male skylark constantly sings on the wing – as soon as he is up in the air you can guarantee he’ll be singing his little heart out. Apparently, they have a range of about 300 syllables and each skylark has a unique tone. We have an abundance of larks around our home in north Buckinghamshire, and it soon became very apparent this wasn’t going to be the last time we were serenaded by one in Dorset. What also became clear is the number of kestrels living on the south coast. Once we were away from the busy built up areas, almost everywhere we looked, there would be a kestrel hovering above the path or diving through the air around the cliff edge. At one point we even saw one battling with a buzzard.
We eventually dropped into a valley and into the village of Ringstead, somewhere we both decided very quickly we wouldn’t mind living at some point, and Ringstead Bay. Other than being just up the shore from a nudist beach, Ringstead Bay has 600 meters of reef just off shore, which is uncovered at low tide. The beach is also protected by the National Trust, which I don’t see as a bad thing at all. In the front garden of one of the many beautiful houses along the coastline in Ringstead the owner has built a mile post pointing to numerous cities around the world. One in particular, right at the front, was Vancouver, 4705 miles away. One of the most amazing places we’ve been to together. We were due to land in Vancouver in September as part of a holiday we’ve had to cancel, so sadly, 4705 miles was probably the closest we were going to get to Vancouver this year.
Just outside of Ringstead as you follow the coast path, on the left is a wooden structure which looks like a big shed but is actually a church. This, however, is not the original church as the original, along with the original village of Ringstead, mentioned in the Domesday Book, was abandoned and crumbled after the Black Death hit the area in 1348.
Between Ringstead and Lulworth Cove is one of the most spectacular parts of the UK coast I have ever seen. With enormous white cliffs and coves, surrounded by the almost crystal clear turquoise sea, every typical image you see of The Jurassic Coast comes to mind. Other than some of the mountains we’ve done, parts of this stretch are also some of the more challenging bits of walking I’ve done, with near vertical climbs – and this part of the South West Coast path is supposed to be easiest.
Atop a couple of the largest hills you find some old terraced cottages which used to belong to the Coastguard but are now probably holiday homes with the most amazing view straight over the English Channel.
Obviously as we got closer to some of the most popular parts of the Dorset coast – Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove – we started to see more and more people. We refilled our water in Newlands Farm, a huge camping and caravanning site just north of Durdle Door and then re-joined the path to overlook the iconic limestone arch. Durdle Door was a site that Sarah had always wanted to see but quickly it seemed the magic and excitement she had was lost as she thought it was ‘just something you walk past’ not, as it is now, a highly popular tourist attraction. The same could also be said for the beautiful little fishing village in Lulworth Cove.
Lulworth Cove is scattered with evidence that fishing still occurs there, however the crab and lobster cages perfectly stacked down the road down to the cove reminds me of what Raynor Winn experienced in Cornwall whilst writing about her time on the South West Coast path in the amazing book The Salt Path. Whilst she was speaking to a man stacking some of the lobster cages in a small Cornish village, he informed her that he wasn’t actually a fisherman, doesn’t like going out on boats and the cages were just for show because ‘that’s what the tourists liked’. I was pretty sure this was also the case in Lulworth Cove – ‘Just for the “grams”’ as Sarah remarked. I believe that’s a reference to Instagram.
I am in no way saying these beautiful and spectacular places are not worth a visit. I would just recommend going out of season to avoid the crowds. The whole coastline there is incredible and I in no way want to detract from that.
Just the other side of Lulworth Cove we could see the firing range fence line which would determine the next half of our walk for the day. Actually, we realised we probably wouldn’t be able to go through the firing range about 2 miles beforehand when we heard the sound of rapid gunfire and artillery. We reached the fence line and saw the red flags hoisted high on a pole with red lights flashing on top, the double gate well and truly locked and signs which read:
Military Firing Range
And written in a wasp like yellow and black warning, something along the lines of:
Do not touch any military debris.
It may explode and kill you.
It was definitely time to follow our pre-planned diversion. Leaving the coast path and joining sections of The Hardy Way, accompanied by the sound of gunfire for the next couple of hours, we reached our next decision point. The ‘evacuation’ route would be used if time was critical – ‘critical’ meaning we’d get to the pub after they stopped serving food. The footpath leading through Coombe Heath Nature Reserve right on the edge of the firing range splits into two directions. Left was the evacuation route to Wool and the train, or right for an extra 9 or 10 miles to our finishing point for the day. It was already getting late in the day and we discovered the pub stopped serving dinner at 8pm so our stomachs made the decision for us. What would have been another 3 hours or so of walking, miles away from the coast path, we completed in about 20 minutes thanks to South Western Railway. We took the train from Wool to Wareham and then ‘Everest Taxis’ to Kingston for dinner and bed. It was very apparent that ‘Everest Taxis’ named themselves after their sky high fees…
It felt like cheating, but we still completed about 20 miles on day two thanks to our route to the train station in Wool. After all, we came to walk the South West Coast Path, and it just wasn’t possible to continue through the firing range – and we didn’t get blown up, so that’s fine.
I prepared for day three, which was to be the longest of the three days, in the only way I knew how. I spent about 10 minutes reviewing the maps with a nice cup of tea, and then finished off my preparation with fish and chips and a large glass of Pinot Grigio in the pub garden overlooking Corfe Castle, and beyond that Brownsea Island and Poole Harbour, where we would conclude our 3 days of walking.
Day 3: 7th July 2020 – Castles, lighthouses, spectacular views, exercise smash, paddling in the sea and then the ferry
Day three started early again with a quick breakfast, plenty of coffee and stiff legs after forgetting to stretch everything out at the end of day two. Our home for the night, The Scott Arms in Kingston, easily has the best view from a pub garden in my eyes. Straight down the Purbeck Hills, over Corfe Castle and beyond.
Kingston is nestled in a perfect little spot surrounded by hills, woodlands, history and just a short stroll down the valley to the coast path. Everything somebody like me would want. We re-joined the Coast Path at St Aldhelms Head at the top of a very steep climb of steps leading from Emmett’s Hill. At St Aldhelms Head sits a very intriguing little stone Norman chapel, aptly named St Aldhelm’s Chapel. The build date is unknown but the records of the chapel go as far back as the early 1200s, during King Henry III’s reign.
From St Aldhelms Head the path takes you further and further away from any local civilisation and runs close enough to the edge of the 100m (plus) high cliffs that Sarah would keep pulling me back from or telling me to ‘get back from the edge!’ of every few minutes. Some of the drops are quite impressive though! The path drops down into the disused Seacombe Quarry, full of little caves and old abandoned stone buildings and foundations.
The quarry is worth a look around but should be treated with caution, reiterated but the numerous large warning signs that the very loose limestone walls are quite fond of crumbling and dropping enormous rocks.
That didn’t stop a number of rock climbers who were clinging to the walls as we walked through. Just along the path from Seacombe Quarry is Dancing Ledge, another disused quarry, named after the way the waves ripple and dance across the ledge at a particular time of day. We didn’t see much dancing but there were a few people down there using it as access for a swim. Swimming at Dancing Ledge isn’t recommended these days as the current has been known to pull people below the rock shelf and drown them, but back in the early twentieth century a swimming pool was blasted into the shelf there for the local school to use. It’s been destroyed since, but that would have been an intense swimming lesson. There’s no stopping some people though, and to be fair, I’d probably give it a go too.
From back on St Aldhelms Head I had spotted a couple of large metal pylons along the path in the distance and picked one as an ideal spot for us to have a quick 20 minute rest, roughly halfway along our last stretch. They then vanished for a couple of hours and reappeared not long after Dancing Ledge. If you were to look on an OS Map, you can find these pylons labelled as Mile Indicator Posts. They weren’t something I’d come across before, and were literally just two tall metal pylons, one just behind the other. After a bit of research, I’ve discovered that these are quite common occurrences along the coast and many other waterways, even appearing on the River Thames. The mile is measured from the point the pylons perfectly line up and ends a mile down the coast at the next set of posts. Boats and ships still use these posts to measure their speed against the fluctuating currents. It was at this break spot that we saw a kestrel battling a buzzard before diving down the cliff edge and appearing further down the path in the direction we had just come from.
It was also at this spot that I checked the map and realised the posts I chose as our lunch spot were actually the second set of posts a mile away, just above Tilly Whim Caves.
The caves are also, like many other points on this stretch, the remains of an old quarry used to extract Purbeck Stone many years ago. They were once open as an attraction but are now closed to the public due to rock falls. The caves look across a little inlet towards the small Anvil Point Lighthouse, a site of special scientific interest. It was once fitted with an explosive fog horn that would sound when it was foggy (obviously) every 5 minutes, which must have really pleased the locals in the middle of the night.
The Mile Indicator Posts above the caves also marked the point for us where the rolling grass hills would turn into the hustle and bustle of Swanage. We also knew that the steep hill climbing out the north end of Swanage was the very last climb we had to do, meaning the end of our little adventure along this stretch of the South West Coast Path was almost in sight. Just before you get into Swanage though, you walk through the grounds of Durlston Castle which, through the frame of the trees along the small woodland path, you wouldn’t be blamed for thinking you were somewhere in the Mediterranean, looking down at boats sailing on the turquoise water under the blaring sun.
Linking back to the rather dull subject of quarrying, Durlston Castle was built by the man who was responsible for much of the quarrying and after destroying large sections of the natural coastline, he wanted to give something back to the locals and built himself a nice little castle. Very thoughtful…
Much the same as we did in Weymouth, we rushed through Swanage as quickly as possible. From a distance, the climb leading up to the cliff above Swanage looked horrible, but once we were on it the climb was very gradual and we more or less ran up it. The view from the top, looking over Swanage and the Purbeck Hills is particularly good. I often say the further away you get from a town, the nicer it looks, and the view from the top of that hill was a good example of that.
On the other side of the hill, along from Ballard Point, is Old Harry Rocks, one of the other most popular sites along the Dorset Coast. With its enormous chalk cliff faces and eroded arches, it’s reminiscent of The Needles on the Isle of Wight and for very good reason. Old Harry Rocks is the remains of what, once upon a time, used to be a long stretch of chalk connecting to the Isle of Wight some 15 miles away. The Needles on the Isle of Wight are the remains of that end of the chalk bridge. The origins of who Old Harry is, though, is a bit of a mystery. There are a few legends surrounding the origins like Harry Paye, a famous pirate from Poole who used to keep his ship hidden behind the rocks. Another legend says that the devil, who is apparently also known as Old Harry, used to sleep on the rocks, but who knows? Whoever Harry is, he has some pretty good rocks and some pubs named after him.
Almost 18 miles from our starting point that day, we hit the home straight – the very nice long sandy beach of Studland Bay. ‘Did you know that Coldplay filmed the video for their song ‘Yellow’ on this beach?’ is often a question we ask of each other when we walk on the beach as it’s a fact Sarah’s dad has told us nearly every time we go there. Good music video though. What’s even more impressive about Studland Bay, though, is that we trained for D-Day landings there and the concrete bunker where Churchill observed the training is still standing, along with various other heavy gun bunkers and Dragon’s Teeth tank traps. The training operation was named Exercise Smash. They also set fire to the sea by pouring gallons of crude oil on it and, I like to think, Churchill probably dramatically flicked his cigar onto it. Imagine trying to get that mess off a poor unsuspecting seagull…
Once on the sand, I immediately removed my boots, rolled up my trousers and went for a bit of a paddle. There is no better feeling that getting your feet out of big hiking boots after three days and letting them soak in the cold water. I did, however, forget that the beach was nearly about 2 miles long. You’d think after walking nearly 50 miles, walking those final 2 miles on the beach with your boots hanging from your rucksack would be quite nice, but I soon realised it wasn’t the best feeling in the world and was better off getting them back on.
At the far end of Studland Bay is South Haven Point, the official finishing post of The South West Coast Path and where we stepped aboard the chain ferry across to Poole Harbour to eventually go home.
The closer we got to the end of our little adventure the less excited we felt about finishing it. Our time on the path had come to an end for the time being and we felt like we could have done another 50 miles straight away, spending a few more days walking the coast path. The idea of having to stop at that point did make us a bit sad. We were really proud of ourselves and what we had achieved in two and a half days, but we weren’t ready to stop. So, as soon as we got home, I plotted the next section for us to complete.
If you’re interested in completing all or just sections of the South West Coast Path, below you’ll find:
Useful facts and figures
Some of the many notable places along the way
And the wildlife
At 630 miles (1013 km), the South West Coast Path is the longest marked footpath and National Trail in the UK – soon to be overtaken by the England Coast Path which is due for completion imminently. The South West Coast path, as the name suggests, covers the whole of the south west coast of the UK from it’s starting point in Minehead, Somerset (Grid reference SS 97069 47077) to Poole in Dorset (Grid reference SZ 03631 86660).
The path takes you through four of the most popular English counties; Somerset, Cornwall, Devon and Dorset and because of that, you come across an abundance of interesting, beautiful and historical sites and it’s very well maintained, helped by the fact that over 70% of the route runs through National Parks, Areas of Natural Beauty, 2 World Heritage Sites, a UNESCO Biosphere and a UNESCO Geopark.
Some pretty impressive facts and figures here for you:
With 115,000 feet of ascent and descent, walking the full length of the South West Coast Path is equivalent to scaling the world’s tallest mountain four times!
Along the route you will cross 230 bridges, catch 13 ferries, go through 880 gates, climb over 436 stiles, pass more than 4,000 Coast Path signs and go up or down over 30,000 steps.
Approximately 9 million people visit the Path each year.
The South West Coast path was originally created by the Coastguard on the lookout for smugglers who were rife in the 13th century and the Coastguard continued to patrol the route until the early 1900’s, because of this the path still runs very close to or through many of the coves and caves along the way, providing spectacular views of some of the UK’s otherwise hidden coastal gems. Evidence of the route being used goes back much further than that, however. Through the discovery of various fossils it is understood that our ancestors could have walked and hunted on sections of the route as far back as the end of the last Ice Age – approximately 11,700 years ago. I assume they probably didn’t have the same sign posts and markers to follow though.
On average it takes approximately eight weeks to walk the path. Most people divide it into sections and complete it over several years, however you do of course find that some people will complete the whole trail in one go. Various records have been set over the years for quickest completion time, in 2016 the outdoor journalist and GB ultra runner Damian Hall set the new fastest known time of 10 days, 15 hours and 18 minutes. Now that’s pretty impressive!
Many people wild camp along the route, and there are plenty of hidden places you could easily get away with that, but do remember that wildcamping is not permitted in England and you might be moved along if you’re not careful, also if you do wildcamp please also remember to leave no trace and try not to ruin the beauty for everybody else.
If wildcamping isn’t your thing though and you still want to give the path a go, then there is a plethora of campsites, B&Bs and hotels with the path running right by them or not too far away to make a slight detour.
So what will you see along the way? Other than 630 miles of some of the most spectacular coastal scenery, the path takes your through a number of iconic places such as:
Exmoor National Park, Somerset & Devon
Port Isaac, Cornwall (As featured in ITV’s Doc Martin)
Lands’s End , Cornwall (UK’s most westerly point)
Lizard Point, Cornwall (UK’s most southerly point)
Chesil Beach, Dorset
Portland Bill, Dorset
Durdle Door, Dorset
There is also an abundance of wildlife you could see, such as:
Swifts and Peregine Falcons ( Two of the world’s fastest birds)
Wild goats and ponies
Rabbits and hares
You might also find us along there too! We have recently decided to make it our goal to complete the full 630 miles, breaking it into various 50-100 mile stretches. You can find my reports of where we’ve been, what we’ve done and what we’ve seen on the site once we’ve done them.
As well as the route appearing on various OS Maps, there are a great selection of guidebooks by Cicerone which focus mainly on the route allowing you to easily follow the path without getting tied up in your map.
You can find your OS Maps here and your Cicerone guidebooks here
If you want to find some more information about the South West Coast Path, have a look at the official website over here
Like so many of her articles in her wide catalogue of work, ‘A Dawn Chorus’ is so poetically written and expresses Charlotte’s experience and emotions beautifully.
It commands your attention throughout, so read on to find out what Charlotte experienced when she got up at the break of day to embrace the beautiful dawn chorus.
There aren’t many reasons I’d set a 04:30am alarm. Even the promise of the dawn chorus felt like it was going to be a stretch. But as that shrill wailing jerked me awake, I found myself stumbling straight out of bed and into the clothes I’d laid out the night before. A final stock-take before leaving the house – phone, keys, scarf, binoculars – and I was out the door and off into the night.
The dawn chorus has long captivated us humans. It is exhilarating, pure magic entwined with the promise of freedom and escape. It is a reminder of an older time, long before I was born, when life was slower and quieter. For the birds, however, the dawn chorus is about just two things: sex and power.
The first thing that hits you is the sheer volume of each bird, their regular daytime tootling paling in comparison. As I walked up the street and the early morning chill nibbled my cheeks two beautiful songs completely wrapped me up: the blackbird and the robin.
Until that moment I hadn’t realised just how much strength each member of the dawn chorus held in its little lungs. Each species sings desperately to be heard above the noise of other birds and prove its worth to potential mates, as well as local rivals who may be thinking about swooping in to steal territory or females.
I smiled to myself as the blackbirds and robins – always the birds to start the chorus – sung me towards the patch of woodland where I’d decided to listen to the main event. The blackbird is a romantic, its notes all syrupy ripples, while the robin is a dreamer, its tinkling silvery and wistful.
I paused on the woodland edge as another singer joined the choir, insistently vying for attention with each staccato phrase repeated three or four times: “Hello! Hello! It’s me! I’m here! I’m here! I’m here!” Once you learn to recognise it there is no mistaking this distinctive song thrush ditty.
Next, a machine-gun-burst cut through the dark, followed by another – two warring wrens duelling for territory from opposite sides of the wood. I’m always astounded by the power in the tiny wren’s voice. In fact, it’s thought that our second-smallest bird actually vibrates with the power of its own song.
I looked at my watch. It was just past 5am; the choir would soon start building to its crescendo. A little wooden bench where I often stop to sit with my cocker spaniel, Ruby, on our short potters (my golden girl is getting old) was the perfect spot to pause and listen to the ever more powerful avian soundtrack ringing out around me.
As I took my seat I was welcomed by a chiffchaff practising its first hesitant notes of the day: “Chiff, chiff, chiff.” I stared into the depths of a gloomy bush, hoping to see a flicker of movement, when a fluttering something-else caught my eye, up the corridor of trees and then back again. A butterfly? This early in the morning? No, a bat!
As soon as the realisation hit three more staged a high-speed fly-past, then another, then another; some whizzing straight by my seat on their commute while others raced laps after the night’s last insects before continuing to their roost. I smiled and counted, “One bat… two bats…” a la Count Von Count, and by the time the eighth tiny bat had flown past, the chiffchaff had found its voice and proudly proclaimed, “Chiff-chaff-chiff-chaff-chiff-chaff” to my eager ears.
The sky glew gas blue; pale fire lit by the steadily rising sun. I checked my watch again: 5:35am, time for a slow walk home as the final birds added their melodies to the dawn chorus.
Crows croaked and wood pigeons complained about how much “my toe hurts, Betty.”* A great tit see-sawed overhead like a squeaky wheelbarrow. The house sparrows came last, chirping away from the tops of garden hedges under a morning sun muffled by clouds. There was no-one else around, my heart was full, and my eyes weren’t even stinging with sleep.
That day, I was more productive at work than I’d been for some time. I felt really, genuinely happy. I walked to my polling station in the humid evening to vote in the local election, and as the fat clouds burst I turned my face to the sky and embraced the cooling raindrops. I’m positive that it was the dawn chorus effect. Birdsong is a balm for the soul.
All credit to BBC 6 Music’s Radcliffe and Maconie for coining this wonderful wood pigeon whinge.
If you have a moment, please check out the amazing work that Lancashire Wildlife Trust do in order to ‘give wildlife a voice, protect wild spaces and enthuse the next generation with nature across Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside.’
Leave a comment below and let us know if this is something you’ve done and how it’s affected you and if you had the same experience as Charlotte!
Alternatively get in touch using the form below to enquire about submitting something to the intothesticks community!
I have always loved the look of canoeing down a beautiful, still and silent river and for years have wanted to give it a go. I’ve canoed before and I’ve done a little kayaking but they’ve always been day trips and I was after the adventure of hauling all of my kit in the canoe and travelling for a couple of days, living out of the canoe on the riverside.
Almost every year when we planned our trips into Sweden, I would suggest hiring some canoes and exploring the vast lakes and river systems taking advantage of their freedom to roam laws to camp on the riverside every night. Sadly the idea never materialised and my longing for that canoe trip just grew every year.
I’ve spent a lot of time walking and exploring in the Wye Valley and eventually got to know the area very well. There was a small beach on the river bank in Symonds Yat where I used to sit with my dog and watch in glee as the canoeists would glide past and I later found out that that beach was actually the landing spot for Canoe The Wye (a brilliant canoe hire company).
After months of researching some great canoe trips in the UK, I looked at trips running in one of my favourite places, Wye Valley and discovered Canoe The Wye. They have a brilliant selection of self guided trips ranging from a half day to 4 days. I opted for and booked the 3 day trip. 3 days canoeing and 2 nights camping.
Surprisingly, it didn’t take much persuasion at all to get Sarah on board (no pun intended) to take part in the 3 day canoe trip on the River Wye – to be fair it took a lot of research and planning on my side beforehand so it was a fairly easy sell!
Time passed, we booked our campsites and got ready for our trip.
Day 1 (Thursday): Hereford to Hoarwithy – and chatty man Nick
It should have been a fairly short drive, just a couple of hours, from home to Canoe the Wye’s base in Symonds Yat. A drive I have completed many times with no issues whatsoever, however this time it took considerably longer due to a minor accidental detour on the motorway which took us a good half hour in the opposite direction…We called ahead and told them to expect us slightly later than planned. This wasn’t an issue though as we found out we were the only people doing the multi day trip and they were only waiting for us to arrive to get started anyway. Keeping to the speed limit (ish…) I managed to get us there a little earlier than we thought, but still quite late…
We met Nick from Canoe The Wye who would be kitting us up, providing us with our canoe and briefing us on what to expect on the river each day. We packed all of our kit into the waterproof barrels (well…most of it, we had so much stuff it looked like we might have been on the 7 day trip…) and climbed into Nicks pick-up.
On the 3 day trip, you get dropped off at Hereford and over the next couple of days you make your way back down river (about 70km) to Symonds Yat.
Nick was a very pleasant man, very chatty and clearly had a lot of knowledge about the local area. We pretty much had a free guided tour all the way to Hereford! We arrived at the launching site at Hereford Rowing Club and hauled the canoe and kit off the pick-up and went through the briefing on the grass next to the river. Nick showed us various methods of controlling the canoe and how to guide it through different sections of water. I already had some knowledge of how to do this and Sarah and I had canoed together in Algonquin Park in Canada, so we knew how to work together and who was better at the back and front of the canoe. We were ready to go!
Canoe taken to the water – kit packed in canoe – we climbed in and set off – Nick drove away…
It had been a couple of years since we were in a canoe together, so it took a little moment to get back in the rhythm of it and keep in a straight line, but within 10 minutes we were away and canoeing like the pros.
Once you go under the last bridge away from Hereford the whole area is plunged into peace and quiet. With the sound of nothing but the paddles gliding pushing us through the water, we officially began our adventure. It dawned on us fairly quick that we actually had no other way to get to where we wanted to go, we had to rely on our skills and trusty canoe to get us there, and that was really exciting. We were provided with a fairly basic map of the river for each day’s stretch. The river was split into sections eventually counting down to 1 which we would reach three days later in Symonds Yat. It was easy enough to follow and it pointed out various points of interests along the way. So we navigated ourselves along the river by counting down how many bridges we had gone under and how many we had left to do before we reached our end point for the day. Day 1 would finish at a lovely riverside campsite on the edge of Hoarwithy village.
The water was really smooth which made paddling easy, however in numerous sections on day 1 the river was exposed to a strong headwind. The current was slow moving, so we had to put in some extra effort to keep moving through the wind, back into the sheltered sections of the river. Other than that though, day 1 was beautiful. We didn’t see a single person along the whole stretch of water, the weather was amazing and just short of five and a half hours later we arrived at Tresseck Campsite in Hoarwithy.
Upon climbing the steep bank up to the campsite and hauling the canoe up behind us (not fun), we discovered we were the only people on the site which was perfect. We pitched up on a spot next the river and ventured into a pub, which was also a shop, just across the field to get some firewood for a campfire (campfires are permitted at the site, we weren’t being hooligans). We very quickly discovered that it was more of a ‘locals’ pub and the landlady was less than welcoming, obviously realising that we weren’t their fellow village folk or even from the same county. We downed a very well earned drink, bought some supplies and ran away back to the safety of our campsite. We were soon joined by a small family who had also canoed down from Hereford and pitched next to us.
We lit our campfire, had some dinner, drank a whole bottle of Prosecco, napped next to the fire and with that, day 1 was complete.
Day 2 (Friday): Hoarwithy to Ross on Wye – and Wildlife
Day 2 was a slightly shorter stretch but very picturesque and full of wildlife. We woke up early and made breakfast as our neighbours packed up their camp and prepared to leave. They were following the same route as us and would be staying in Ross on Wye that night too. We finished breakfast, packed everything away, launched the canoe into the water and we were off.
Straight away we were surrounded by wildlife. As we paddled down the river we were watching families of ducks and swans rushing about with their babies. Along the route we passed salmon pools and caught glimpses of the salmon rushing upstream below us. Above our heads we had kingfishers flashing through the trees and even spotted a hobby hawk. Alongside us, on the banks, were slides created by otters coming in and out of the river. It was nice to think we wouldn’t have spotted any of this if we weren’t on the river. As soon as you get on the water, the perspective of the whole area changes in an instant.
The route was broken up by old disused bridges which were actually quite eerie and daunting as we glided below them in silence. We had some rain overnight which had caused the water levels to rise slightly and the current was faster, this made for some pretty exciting canoeing as we negotiated our way through small rapids and dodged large boulders that were only just surfacing above the water. It was in these little rapids where we spotted small groups of salmon. As soon as we hit calm water again, the serenity returned and we were once again surrounded by absolute peace and quiet. I wish I could explain in more detail how beautiful the experience was and how amazing it was to just lay the paddle down inside the canoe and let the current slowly take us peacefully downstream.
We nearly went the whole route without seeing anybody else on the water. After a couple of hours we overtook the only other group of people in canoes we had seen for the last 24 hours. We had seen (and probably disrupted) a few people fly fishing in the river, but that was it. We felt like we were miles away from anywhere and we easily could have been.
We eventually spotted Ross on Wye in the distance. Most of the small town is set at the top of the valley and gradually comes down to the river where Ross on Wye Rowing Club was, and that would be our end point for the day. We booked to camp in one of the fields behind the rowing club which backed onto a small recreational green overlooking the river. We moored up, unpacked our kit and dragged the canoe up on to the bank then set up our tent in the field. At the time we were again the only people on the site, but as the afternoon went on, more campers had arrived and took up some of the extra space we had.
A well earned drink was once again needed, so we explored the town. It was a rather pleasant little place as far as we could tell, lots of old antique shops and bookstores and we found a good pub to enjoy a cider or two. We also found an excellent Chinese takeaway which would be providing our dinner that night! It was still early afternoon, so we headed back to the campsite and chilled out next to the water for a bit before heading back up to pick up our dinner.
After a long day canoeing and wildlife spotting, the feeling of sitting in our tent, enjoying a great Chinese takeaway was amazing.
I discovered that night that Sarah could potentially sleep through anything. That night I was woken by some commotion on the recreational ground and lots of shouting. Very soon after the place was filled with light and I was desperate for a pee, so I climbed out of the tent and found the light was coming from a group of police cars and officers as they were shining torches around the site. Meanwhile, Sarah slept on, totally unaware. I figured that as the site was full of police officers it was fairly safe to leave Sarah alone in the tent for a couple of minutes whilst I took advantage of the rather nice rowing club facilities. The following morning Sarah had absolutely no recollection of anything happening overnight and she told me how well she had slept all night. Good for her…
Day 3 (Saturday): Ross on Wye to Symonds Yat – and pirate hats
The commotion of the night before aside, day 3 started nicely. There had been a bit of rain throughout the night again, but it was looking like it would be a clear day and ideal for the last short stretch of river from Ross on Wye to Symonds Yat. Once we had ourselves ready and the canoe in the water, it became obvious very quickly that we weren’t going to have such a quiet and peaceful day like the previous couple of days. Being Saturday, it meant that the river was full of people on one day trips and most of them appeared to be stag parties. We weaved and dodged around the other canoes as they all blundered their way down the river, bouncing off the river bank and getting caught in overhanging trees. Once we past most of them and got out of Ross on Wye onto a much wider stretch of river, the view behind us looked like a scene from Zulu… if the Zulus has canoes… Anyway, this meant that if we were to relax and take it easy on our last day, we would most likely get caught up among the crowd behind us.
We were told in the briefing by chatty man Nick that day 3 is the shortest leg but most picturesque. We were also told that he did see another group at their headquarters being taken upstream and they were wearing pirate hats…We couldn’t fault chatty man Nick on either of these points – it actually seemed that at every canoe launching spot along the river, there was a pirate waiting to get into his canoe, but that made for an entertaining break between watching the Kingfishers and other wildlife along the river.
Not far down river from Ross on Wye sits the Medieval Norman ruin of Goodrich Castle, which from the ground is a spectacular site I’m sure, but from the water was even better. Several hundreds of years later, in ruins, it still looms over the water with suggestive power and from the river you can really get an idea of how incredible it would have been in the 1100s. It was another example of just how different everything seems and how great the perspective of the world is from the water.
As we got closer to Symonds Yat the valley grew higher and higher above us and we were almost transported back to the prehistoric era, surrounded by the ancient rock and forest. We had managed to leave behind most of the crowds and we powered on in serenity once again. We were also briefed that the final day has the roughest water too, with lots more smaller but much faster spots of white water to navigate through.
There is one particular section half way down the river which has a small island sat in the middle of the water. We were told that if we wanted a safe, smooth passage through, we should take the left fork around the island. If we went right we would hit deeper and faster white water which would take a bit of concentration and effort to battle through. So of course, we went right. We had enjoyed all the previous sections of tricky water and tackled them perfectly every time (almost) and this was no different. On this section, the current flows in an S bend, firstly going far over to the bank on the right side among the rocks and trees, then out and toward the bank of the island for another potential battering. The water was rough enough that if we hit it wrong and got caught up in the current we could have potentially ended up in the water – losing some of our kit in the process. Challenge accepted! We lined ourselves up to hit the water at exactly the right spot and got through the first part perfectly. Sarah was at the front providing the power and I was steering and driving from the rear. Everything was going perfectly – adrenaline flowing. brains working hard. Then, right in the middle of the S, my brain wasn’t working so well and I drove the paddling into the wrong side of the canoe and steered us too hard back into the current kicking the back of the canoe out 90 degrees and across the river with the current pushing directly into our side. We were a bit stuck and being rotated towards the bank with a few other canoes and kayaks waiting behind us to get through the same section. Working as hard as we could to correct my mistake we managed to push ourselves back in the right direction and out of the white water back to the wider, smoother section to continue our journey. Something we were also told about regarding this section of water is that it’s right outside a pub and it’s a popular spot for people to come and watch people take on that challenge – being a Saturday, we were watched by a good few dozen people. I think we did ourselves proud though, and the kayak behind us wasn’t so lucky!
Soon, Symonds Yat appeared along the top of the valley and the old familiar beach that my dog and I used to sit on came into sight. We landed the canoe, dragged it up into the field for collection and felt a bit sad that our little canoe adventure was over. We loved every bit of it and felt that we could have easily done another day or two on the river. So I think we will definitely be back in the not so distant future.
Afterthought and recap
Was this the experience I was after? Was this the type of adventure I was looking for? Carrying all the kit in our canoe, paddling for multiple days and camping on the riverside – yes it was.
Looking back, several months on, I’m still sad that I didn’t consider booking the 4 day trip and it feels like it was over and done with far too quickly. I’m looking forward to booking another trip through Canoe the Wye, hopefully in the not too distant future!
I would highly recommend looking at Canoe the Wye to everybody reading this. You can hire multiple canoes, go in large groups and spend days out on the river, or you can do what we did and have a peaceful few days out on the river. You receive an excellent briefing from the staff, catered to your experience level, and you’re required to inform them when you leave and arrive at each destination everyday so they know where you are and that you’re safe. They recommend that you book the multi-day trips starting midweek, and I totally agree. I would actually recommend starting earlier in the week as the river does get very busy on the weekend – I’ll probably look at booking Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday next time to avoid the weekend pirates.
The Wye Valley is a spectacular place to visit in general, just for long walks leading up into the Forest of Dean, but I now believe that in order to experience it completely, you need to get on the water. You see so much more and things that you’d never see if you were walking on the riverbank. The river takes you through a vast amount of private land too, so you find completely brand new areas and perspectives of the valley that you wouldn’t get on the ground.
The canoeing isn’t too difficult either. Depending on the weather of course, but the river is mostly smooth with a gentle current. It’s also known to be so shallow that you often end up walking down the middle of the river towing you canoe behind you. If you haven’t canoed before, or have little experience, The River Wye is an ideal spot to develop your skills or learn something amazing.
We’d love to hear from you if you’ve been on a similar trip or have some great suggestions for other canoe trips to take. Just get in touch using the below form!
”Switzerland is a small, steep country, much more up and down than sideways” – ErnestHemingway
For the last 3 years Dan, Olie, Jack and I have explored various parts of the Swedish wilderness, and last year we had the best trip there we could have asked for – exploring the absolutely beautiful Skuleskogen National Park on the east coast, camping on the beach in near 24-hour sunlight and bathing in glorious sunshine.
Unfortunately I didn’t record the trip and it went totally unpublished (can’t remember why!), but it was without a doubt, an awesome few days. I might try and write a little something about our trip to Skuleskogen but I’ll have to do some thinking.
We decided that we simply couldn’t beat our experience in Skuleskogen National Park if we went again this year, so we set our sights on something a little bit different.
We wanted a change of scenery and something slightly more challenging to get stuck into. After months of discussing and looking blankly at maps, we thought The Alps (largest mountain range in Europe) would be an interesting contrast and provide that challenge we were after. The tricky thing, however, was deciding where exactly we should go in The Alps – after all, they cover a huge area of 192,000 km² and spread themselves across 8 countries: France, Monaco, Italy, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Germany, Austria and Slovenia.
A factor we had to bear in mind when it came to choosing our destination was the roaming laws. Fortunately in Sweden we had the option of, within reason, camping wherever we wanted to. The roaming laws, however, are slightly more strict in many other European countries – including the 8 countries that are home to the Alps. Of course, once you get further up into the mountains this is more manageable, but we opted to look for a remote campsite where we would be able to base ourselves. This then gave us the option each day of leaving behind some unnecessary bits of kit, allowing us to explore the surrounding area with lighter loads. With this in mind I started doing some research into campsites in the Alps and eventually came across Camping Des Glaciers in the very small and remote town of La Fouly. It’s tucked away in the southern corner of Switzerland and as the crow flies, more or less a mile from the French and Italian borders. The pictures on the campsite’s website looked pretty great, with the campsite based at the foot of The Aiguille de l’A Neuve – a bloody big mountain (not a direct translation).
I sent the website link over to Olie, Dan and Jack (featured in all Swedish trips plus others), and organised a little meeting to look into everything else. A while later we were all sat around my dining table with a couple of rapidly emptying wine bottles and we booked the campsite, then the flight to Geneva and a Jeep Renegade to drive around the Alps in – on a side note, the Jeep turned out to be an Opel (Vauxhall) Mokka which is very different to the Jeep Renegade – anyway…we were going to Switzerland!
We knew that this was going to be a very different experience in comparison to what we had grown accustomed to in Sweden. We had the option to relax a bit more, have our own little base for 5 days and take advantage of the facilities that came with a campsite – like a shower. It was more or less going to be luxurious and civilized in comparison and because of this, Olie, Jack and I even opted to leave our huge rucksacks at home, instead, taking suitcases and small day packs for our daily treks.
So, time passed and the day had come to fly to Switzerland
Much like the style of my Sweden articles, the rest of this piece will be written using the entries from a journal I kept every day during the trip. Unlike other articles however, my journal entries on this trip were fairly small and simple, so I’ll interrupt every now and then to explain or elaborate on certain bits. It’ll make sense once we get going.
Oh.. also bear in mind that just hours before I got on the plane my girlfriend gave me this advice:
‘Always listen to Dan. Dan is sensible and if he says not to do something, don’t do it.’
Thursday 23rd May 2019 – Day 1
We have a campsite. An actual tents on the ground, toilet block consisting, reception bearing, humanity inhabiting campsite. It’s definitely the contrast to the Swedish trips we’ve been looking for.
Not entirely sure how I feel about it yet. I already miss my hammock and the forests.
The view I had whilst laying in my tent
This campsite is incredible though. Halfway up a massive snow peaked mountain, surrounded by even more mountains and even more snow. It’s so much better than the photographs on the website make it look. Currently the site is basically empty so it’s silent except for the sound of the river of glacial water running from the mountain above us.
We had an early flight out from Luton this morning, so we’ve all been up since about 03:00am. I have to say, the drive from Geneva Airport to La Fouly could have started better. Due to some navigation difficulties we had a nice little drive around the terminal a few times before eventually hitting the correct road and heading away from Geneva in the right direction. The drive was pretty much just one very long road for a couple of hours, but half of that was around Lake Geneva which I didn’t realise was so massive and beautiful. I would come back just to spend time around there I think. The road then wound it’s way up into the Alps and away we went.
The winding, twisting mountain roads would prove to be quite nauseating but we’ll get to that later…
It’s now 21:00pm and we’re a bit tired to say the least. We decided that today would be the day to relax, acclimatize and check out the immediate area before going exploring tomorrow. I’m not too sure of our plans for tomorrow exactly, but the mountain looks enticing. Every time I look at it, I’m just blown away. It’s hard to tell the size of it, but it looks like an amazing backdrop or painting and it is enormous. Definitely need to get up there at some point.
Taken whilst stood in the river. Camp was just behind the trees on the right.
We had a quick nap once we’d set up our tents and then did the next most important thing and found a nice local bar which served even nicer, well needed, cold Swiss beer. We had a couple of beers each then headed back to camp and made dinner. I think Wayfayrer meals are great, but you certainly don’t get the same reaction from them as you do from a beautiful, crisp, cold beer. We did realise at the bar that being able to speak French would have been helpful. None of us really know anything in French other than ‘Where is the swimming pool?’ and ‘Where is the library?’ and not forgetting the very useful, ‘When is your birthday?’.. none of which are particularly helpful questions. Especially when we wouldn’t understand the answer. Lot’s of pointing and gesturing was required..
In bed now and it’s nearly 22:00pm. Going to get some sleep. Let’s see what happens tomorrow.
Thursday was definitely a day of relaxing and getting our bearings, but Olie and I did have a little exploration that afternoon to check out the river that ran down from the mountain and alongside our camp. We got a very little way up the mountain and realised how unfit we were.. so that didn’t bode well, but we had a little wander about to get an idea of what we would do the next day. The mountain was definitely calling.
Friday 24th May 2019 – Day 2
”Wear Sunscreen. If I could offer you only one tip for the future, sunscreen would be it.” – Baz Luhrmann
For the first time in a very long, long time, I slept nearly all night whilst camping. I woke up at about 08.15am which was an absolute treat!
We eventually had breakfast which was accompanied by a freshly baked baguette Dan had collected from the camp reception.
We discovered that we could actually order fresh breads and pastries at reception for the next day. So fresh croissants became our go to option for the rest of the trip. It would have been rude not to really…
During breakfast we made the plan to follow one of the routes up the mountain above us. The map told us that there was a cabin way up there somewhere which we could go and find and potentially stop for some lunch or something before making our way back down. Firstly however, we had a quick stop at the local shop in town to get essentials – I bought a very nice 10 pack of Boxer Biere which I stored in the river to keep cool as today has been super hot.
The Ascent (Dan left/Olie right)
We started the trail at about 10:00am in a small pine forest which lead up the mountain. As much as I love the mountains and hiking, I seriously hate going uphill.. but this was actually a very pleasant start to the trek. After a few breaks we eventually hit the snow line where it got slightly more interesting. Deep holes were covered with snow, which when stood on went right up to the waist in some places. It was pretty fun until we found the occasional massive rock to crash into underneath. This made progress up the mountain very slow but we eventually broke out of the treeline, losing our shade from the sun – and it was only getting hotter! We really weren’t expecting it to be so hot this weekend. Just a couple of days ago I was looking at the weather forecast and it predicted snow today!
We reached a section where the trail had been completely buried by the snow. The only option we had, if we wanted to keep climbing, was to stick to the rocky ridges that protruded from the snow.
Rest Stop (Dan left/Jack right)
The problem being, we didn’t know how deep the drop would be from there through the snow and to one side was a massive gorge with a couple of waterfalls running down into it and on the other was a perfectly fresh, 45 degree slope of snow. Under which could have been anything. The next rocky ridge leading up the mountain was on the other side of this slope, and not knowing how deep or how sturdy it was, we paused for a moment to think of some options. Then Olie and I stopped pausing and just went for it. It was strong enough to take our weight so after some jumping about we crossed it and climbed up onto the rocks on the other side. Jack and Dan stayed where they were.
I like to think I performed a fantastic example of a dynamic risk assessment here.
Dan took the opportunity to get his camera out and take some photos. Jack took the opportunity to rest and Olie and I took the opportunity to leave them behind and climb up the mountain. When the trail started to get harder, we picked a goal to reach which was a small peak just above our spot on the ridge.
It was maybe just 400m or so away but that 400m or so away was up a very steep slope of slippy rocks, ice and snow. We gave up trying to walk some of it and resorted to scrambling and bouldering some sections – definitely got the blood pumping. As the base of the peak loomed above us, we found the only way up was a very precarious looking wall which had a chain fixed into it to help you climb it bit by very slippery bit. I think it was Donkey from Shrek that said ”keep on going, don’t look down.. keep on going, don’t look down” and that was some pretty sage advice.
We reached the top and, as we stood looking down to where our camp was, we were absolutely blown away. The view was incredible and awe inspiring. Everything below us was tiny, the town was minuscule and Jack and Dan, who were just a few hundred metres below, looked like ants.
Our view from the top
The scary thing was though as we looked behind us, back up the mountain, we weren’t even half way up! The real peaks of the mountain still towered above us completely. The scale was so enormous that it hardly looked like we’d made any progress at all.
The view looking up
The peak we were stood on is circled in this picture.. The top of the mountain is just sticking out from above cloud.
Dan had eventually decided to cross the snow and walk up the ridge below us, which is where he stayed. From his view, the peak we were stood on looked tiny, but from where we were, it was a large area which eventually linked up with the main trail we had started from, however it was totally inaccessible due to the snow. We just didn’t have the right kit to traverse the rest of the way. The cabin we had sought out was not going to materialise, but it didn’t matter. The view we had from up there was worth every step.
We waved down at Dan who waved back in a ‘get down from there!’ angry parent kind of way. Pointing at us and then down to where he was. ‘I don’t think Dan approves of this’, Olie said, as we sat down for a minute, took some photographs and carefully abseiled off the peak using the rusty old chain back down to Dan. Jack was sensible enough to stay put a little bit further down on the other side of the slope.
Dan is stood fairly central to this picture if you can’t see him
We started our decent back down to him which, due to being so steep, was actually harder than going up the ridge in the first place. So, much to Dan’s disapproval, I decided to throw caution to the wind and just slide down the precarious looking snowy slope. Thanks to my boots having the worst grip in the world, it was so much easier and only when I got down to Jack did I go through the snow and hit a big rock.
It’s over a week later and I still have a big purple bruise on my knee
On our way back down the mountain, as we dipped back into the treeline, we met a group of German hikers. They asked how difficult it was and, looking at them in their jeans and trainers, I wished them luck and let them keep going. Never did see them come down…
We eventually got back to camp and I retrieved the beers from the river and it took us less than an hour to go through the whole pack. We are now also incredibly sunburnt, especially Dan. I just read a bit of my book in the sun, played rummy with Jack and Olie and later I think we’ll enjoy a nice bottle of wine we managed to get for free from the reception currently being chilled in the river.
*’Always listen to Dan. Dan is sensible and if he says not to do something, don’t do it.’ Dan is also the person who brought sunscreen and refused to put any of it on before climbing the mountain on a super hot, clear day and had to spend the rest of the day in his tent hiding from the sun. I wouldn’t say that was particularly sensible. At least I just totally forgot to bring any in the first place.
I must admit though, the free bottle of wine came from a rather large cock up on my side as I didn’t understand the booking site I used for the campsite and overpaid considerably. Therefore, free wine and ice creams were part of paying us back (as well as a massive discount on the outstanding amount we had to pay).
Lesson learnt today: Wear Sunscreen – cheers Baz.
Dan’s sunburn developing nicely (Olie on right)
Saturday 25th May 2019 – Day 3
I woke up this morning at 07:30am after another pretty successful night’s sleep – actually I was woken up by Dan asking for the car key which Olie actually had in his tent instead, so that was annoying but he made up for it by returning with some croissants. I do like a croissant. It was raining already and had been for a while, but I was so warm and comfortable in bed that I really didn’t care.
Due to opting for a suitcase over my rucksack, I took advantage of being able to fit a comfortable camping bed, three sleeping bags and a woollen blanket to go in my tent. It wasn’t exactly wild camping this year..
We made some more breakfast – well, I made a coffee and Dan stayed in his tent hiding from the sun. He is very burnt…
A plan was made to follow a circular track that ran next to the river and through the valley, across and back along the base of the mountains opposite, eventually leading back into the campsite. It wasn’t going to be a challenging route and probably no more than 18km, which suited us after yesterday’s climb. It stopped raining and Dan tentatively revealed himself from his tent to brave the very overcast sun for the day.
Dan (left) and Jack (right)
The track started in the same small pine forest as yesterday’s but ran along the side of the mountains instead of up. We took a slight detour once we came across a huge waterfall coming down from the left and running across the track and into the river on our right. The climb up to the waterfall was steep but manageable, so it was definitely worth having a closer look. As we reached the top of the ridge, we were cut off from getting any closer due to the snow and ice that had built up at the bottom of the falls, under which you could hear the water flowing heavily. It wasn’t worth the risk of falling through and getting wet and potentially quite sore.
Coming down from the waterfall (Dan, Olie, Jack)
We continued along the track, or what was left of it – in various places the path had been completely wiped out by landslides and rock falls. Whilst climbing over one precarious landslide I managed to slip and cut my hand – Stevie Nicks makes a landslide sound far more romantic…
We crossed the river on a very wobbly bridge and climbed up and out of the ravine into a pretty little village called Prayon, one of the most picturesque villages I’ve seen, and also where the route took a huge incline.
The track we were on was supposedly a cycle track, but I definitely wouldn’t feel comfortable taking a bike on it. I’ll leave that to the likes of Mel I think!
Once the track left Prayon it wound through a large pine forest, occasionally cut and redirected by streams and rivers crashing down from the huge mountains above with spectacular views across the valley.
View across the valley to the waterfall we had checked out (Olie)
We got a little stuck at times due to the lack of detail on the 1:50,000 scale map we were using, and as the navigator for the day, that’s the excuse I’m sticking to. After a few short breaks to check the map and then check it again, then again, we noticed the clouds rapidly descending towards us from the mountain tops, bringing with them even more rain. Packs off, coats on, hoods up –
Apart from Olie who didn’t want to put his coat on because it’s actually a poncho and he’s worried it makes him look stupid – he’s not wrong.
-packs back on and keep checking the maps as we head in the general direction of La Fouly. As the town came into the view the rain began to seriously try and get Olie to put his poncho on…it failed and he was happy to get wet for the walk back to campsite.
I’ve been back in my tent, away from the rain for a little while now and can hear the occasional bit of thunder around us somewhere. We can also hear small rock falls and avalanches rumbling down the side of the mountain above us, which makes me grateful that the campsite isn’t directly below it…So far we’ve actually seen and heard them at least two or three times a day and it’s an impressive sight to see and some of them make a truly awesome noise which I originally believed to be a plane over head until I saw the debris coming down.
I got a really good video of this but for some reason I can’t upload it..
I wouldn’t be surprised if we get some more beers tonight…It’s only 16:45 but I’ve been in my tent for about an hour now and a beer would be really, really appreciated. It doesn’t sound or look like the rain’s planning on sodding off any time soon.
On reflection…whilst laying here, listening to the rain pounding on my tent…without my beer…this trip may not be as inspiring as Sweden was over the last few years, but we’ve had the challenge we were looking for and the whole area is absolutely stunning. Definitely one of the most picturesque places I’ve been so far.
Walking out of Prayon
Sunday 26th May 2019 – Day 4
My camping sleeping pattern of being too hot, then too cold, then too uncomfortable and then really comfortable but a bit too warm but too comfortable to do anything about it then overheating slightly so roll over to shift some bedding about and get uncomfortable again…and repeat…came back last night. However, lucky me, I also had a song stuck in my head going over and over and over again…So I was a bit tired to say the least this morning. I blame the soundtrack from the musical Hamilton for that as I was playing some of it to Jack last night which then caused the title track to be stuck in my head for bloody hours until the rain kicked in and I was more concerned about my tent either filling with water or just floating away…neither happened.
Anyway…for some reason this morning the other three sat in the car for ages after breakfast, so I grabbed the map and had a look at any potential paths to follow for our last day’s trek. The tracks around the site and La Fouly in general were quite limited, we had walked the majority of them already over the last couple of days, so I looked further out of the area. When I was researching the area a while ago during a slow day at work, I discovered a couple of large lakes in the nearby area. I eventually found some of these on the map and discovered that they were either at the top of some bloody huge mountains that weren’t accessible at the moment, over an hours’ drive away, in Italy or, even worse, in France. This left just one other lake, not so big on the map, but it did have a circular track that went around one side and up in the mountains and back round to the lake. Perfect. Lac Des Toules, in the Bourg-Saint-Pierre region, was where we would spend the last full day in Switzerland hiking. I did a quick google of the lake and it looked amazing. It was actually a reservoir controlled by a gigantic dam. It looked pretty impressive.
I showed the others the plan and booted them out of the car and told them to be ready in 20 minutes, then drove to the toilet block for the morning constitutional. We were tight with time, as by now it was nearly midday, Lac Des Toules was nearly 40 minutes away, the route would be about 3 hours and Jack has been desperate to go to a pizza place in La Fouly since before we got on the plane to Switzerland. We then also needed to get all of our kit packed up as much as possible in order to leave super early for tomorrow morning’s flight. Time was against us and the longer we took, the less likely a nice meal on our last night was looking. Oh and we’ve ran out of gas in our stove, so it was either a nice hot meal in some restaurant or cold boil in the bag meals..
I got back to the camp just before the 20 minutes was up and we were pretty much all ready to go. We stopped to refill the water bottles and we were away, perfectly on time… then Jack needed to get something from the shop in La Fouly again. About 20 minutes later they all came out of the shop and got in the car. Olie had decided to buy some cheese for the journey-
this very shortly turns out to be a bad idea
-and some Swiss Army Knives were purchased too. Just as we were leaving La Fouly, Olie decided to open his cheese which immediately stank out the car, it smelt like goats cheese, but we weren’t too sure what it was. Not long after that, and before we even reached the next town out of La Fouly, we had to stop to let Dan get out of the car as he was feeling very sick.
I blame the cheese smell, plus the incredibly bendy mountain roads – not my general driving style.
This happened a couple of times on the drive to Lac Des Toules and just as he got in back in the car the last time, the huge dam we were expecting to come across appeared in the valley ahead of us.
Dam (focus didn’t work very well)
Almost stitching the valley together, the dam was massive and so much bigger than the pictures online let on, which meant the lake or reservoir behind it must also be pretty spectacular. As we wound around another stomach churning mountain road we disappeared into a tunnel which ran adjacent to the lake. We were expecting to come back out of the tunnel and be met with a glorious sight, but what we actually found was very different.
If you Google Lac Des Toules right now, it’ll show you hundreds of amazing pictures of a beautiful, almost perfectly blue, lake surrounded my mountains – just lovely! What it won’t show you is that right now, Lac Des Toules is actually just an absolutely colossal empty hole in the ground with little to no sign of there ever being water in there in the first place. I’m not sure if we actually took pictures of it, but if you imagine a huge hole in the ground, you’ll have a fairly good idea. Lac Des Toules appeared to now be a quarry. At this point Dan informed me that the map he bought of the area was nearly 5 years out of date. Something he had forgotten to mention previously.
It doesn’t look like this at the moment..
We drove to the end of the huge hole in ground, parked up in a lay-by and looked at the map. The track I had planned wasn’t going to be particularly interesting anymore and we were far higher up than we originally thought we would be. Just above the lay-by we were in people were still skiing down the mountains in the same area the track was supposed to be. The same path however did head off down away from the lake, towards a little town further down the valley then came back on itself, so we chose to do that. It was a little shorter than planned, but after driving nearly 40 minutes to get there, we didn’t see any point in driving even further to find something else.
We found a place to leave the car just off a small dusty road directly underneath the dam which towered above us –
I can imagine it would be quite scary and daunting if it wasn’t just holding back a few rocks and lots of absolutely nothing else.
Our car. Definitely not like a Jeep Renegade.
-so we didn’t have to worry about losing the car or forgetting where we left it anyway. The track followed a line cut through the valley by a small river and ducked down into another pine forest. Along the way, on a small open part of grassland, we spotted a number of Mamottes –
-which are so much bigger than I was expecting. I imagined them to be a similar size to a gopher, but I was very wrong. They were pretty much just badger size. If a badger somehow managed to have babies with a guinea pig, you would have a Marmotte.
The route was certainly picturesque with the occasional gap in the trees presenting a perfect view through the valley and the small town below. Coming down on our left hand side from the mountains were numerous waterfalls that then ran under the track and crashed down into the river on our right which at times was a shear hundred foot drop below us.
At a junction where the track turned right to go over the bridge and up into the town above, the route continuing ahead had been completely destroyed by a recent rockfall. We weren’t going in that direction but if we were we would be stuffed. Unlike the other rockfalls and landslides we were able to climb over, this one was far too dangerous and had torn away the entire track instead of just burying it. Olie and I still walked out as far as we could to have a peek though, obviously.
We crossed a little bridge over the river and climbed down to the riverside to have a little break.
Dan took some photos, and I just ate some pistachio nuts…anyway…
The river was much deeper where we had stopped, potentially caused by the landslide just on the other side of the bridge crashing into the river. I sat on a boulder next to the water and it was a perfect moment to just stop and absorb the peacefulness of the surroundings, with nothing but the sound of the river flowing under my feet.
A little while later we walked up the other side of the valley, along yet another bendy winding road and into the rather lovely small town of Saint Pierre. Much like many of the little towns and villages we had been through, the place was silent and we seemed to be the only people out and about. Mind you, it’s been raining pretty much all day, so they were probably sensible enough to not be walking about in the rain..
We dropped back down into the valley and started on the stretch leading back to the car through the forest. Lucky for us, the whole track had been downhill until coming up into the town, unlucky for us though meant that the rest of the trek back to the car was all uphill and not a particularly friendly incline either. So we took our time and trudged all the way back up the mountain towards the dam…in the rain…
We stopped for a short while at the open section of grassland again to watch the marmottes. On our way down we only saw two or three but this time the ground was littered with them on both sides of the valley.
They’re probably an absolute menace to local farmers, but they’re also a bit cute.
Fortunately we found the car exactly where we left it and climbed in. We had finished our last little walk about in the Swiss Alps. All that was left was to go to the pizza restaurant Jack had found and just relax, pack our stuff away and get ready for our journey home tomorrow morning.
So now everything is packed away. On the way out my luggage weighed about 4kg over the limit, but I got away with it somehow and now everything feels even heavier. Really not sure how I’ve done that.. All of my smelly, wet and muddy clothes are shoved in one of my bags and I’m just in my normal clothes for the first time since Thursday morning and it’s rather nice. I think I’m going to have a cold night as I have packed all of my bedding away apart from one sleeping bag. So tomorrow morning should just be a matter of getting up at 04:00am and packing up the tent which takes a whole 2 minutes. Should be fine. Which also means I can enjoy some beer and pizza tonight without regretting it too much tomorrow morning.
At this point I actually stopped writing as plans changed slightly..
Dan was hiding in his tent from the daylight again and Olie and Jack had just returned from having a chat with the lady on the campsite reception desk. One detail that had been missed regarding the pizza restaurant was that it actually wasn’t opening until June or July, so pizza was no longer an option. She did recommend a nice place to go called Café du Dolent in Prayon, the town we had walked through on Saturday. We decided that was a much better option compared to hiding in our tents and eating cold boil in the bag meals in the rain.
The cafe/restaurant was definitely a bit more of a ‘locals’ place though. We walked in and immediately realised that nobody really spoke a word of English and again, our lack of being able to say anything of use in French, Italian, Dutch or any other language that might be useful in Switzerland became an interesting obstacle. I took the lead and, with some gestures and what will probably turn out to be complete gibberish, we got a table, worked our way through the menu and enjoyed a lovely meal together.
If you’re ever in Prayon for whatever reason, get over to the only bar/restaurant/cafe in the village and order yourself the Carbonara with salmon. It was glorious and I’ve actually made it myself about 5 times since being home. The chef and owner of the place could potentially be a murderer (scary eyes), and if you get to sit at our table, you’ll get to eat right underneath an interesting photograph of him posing with a massive dead ibex that he shot.. but other than that, the food is great and so is the beer we sampled multiple times.
And with that, our time in Switzerland came to an end.
As mentioned already, we decided to go to Switzerland for a change of scenery and something a bit different and relaxed compared to Sweden. I touched slightly on it in my journal entry about how I felt this left me and the others possibly feeling like something was missing though.
The whole area was absolutely stunning and I couldn’t find a fault with the place at all. It really was beautiful and I would definitely go back but not necessarily to do what we did this year. I think the feeling of missing something was because of the lack of dependence on the surrounding environment. In Sweden, because we really were just living in wilderness and sleeping in the forests every night, we had to rely on everything around us to keep us going. In Switzerland, that was totally removed. By having our own campsite and being able to leave stuff behind for the day or being able to sit in the tents and relax whilst it was raining, we didn’t have to rely on the environment to give us firewood, shelter or somewhere to hang our hammocks for the night. I think what was missing was being in touch with that inner caveman that needs checking in on every now and then. It wasn’t a wild camping trip, but it was a beautiful one.
I think we’re planning on getting back to basics next year and exploring Norwegian wilderness – searching for that missing piece of adventure. So that could be interesting!
Thanks for taking your time to read my article. I hope, if anything, it’s just given you something interesting or entertaining to read. Just below the group photo, there’s a little slideshow of some of the featured images from the article along with some others from the trip.
His site is a fantastic source of all things outdoors with a mixture of adventures, kit lists, recipes and crafts. As well as providing us with his recipe for Campfire Fish and Chips, Gavin has also been generous enough to share with us his first attempt at carving a kuksa and the end results look brilliant! So how did he do it?
Let me first of all start by offering a disclaimer; I am by no means an expert in this field, indeed it is the first time that I’ve carved a kuksa! I’m writing this post very much from the layman’s perspective with the hope that you might learn from my mistakes!
What is a kuksa?
Popular among bushcraft and outdoor enthusiasts, the kuksa is a traditional style of drinking cup originating from the Sami people of northern Scandinavia. Usually carved from wood, but modern variants have been produced from plastic or wood/plastic composites.
Sourcing the wood:
The process of creating my kuksa started several months ago in the summer of 2018. My wife and I were out walking the dog when we discovered that a Sycamore tree beside a public footpath had been felled and the remnants were bucked up into small sections. I immediately noticed a piece that I could make use of which seemed to be big enough to make a decent kuksa. The wood pile had been sat there for a few weeks before I plucked up the courage to take the bit that I’d spotted! I considered that, as it was on public land, it was probably fair game!
I carried the wood home (it wasn’t far!) and left it in my garden to ‘season’. Rightly or wrongly, I had reservations about using green wood to carve a kuksa. Even though the wood is easier to carve when it’s green, I’ve heard there’s a risk that it will crack up during the drying process, rendering the cup useless!
And here I am, several months later in March 2019 and I thought the time was right to start work on my very own kuksa. I recall having conversations with my wife about Kuksa’s, she rightly pointed out the lovely examples that I could purchase from a variety of shops and crafts people. I agreed that they were indeed lovely, but were crucially missing one key element – I hadn’t made them! What a thrill it is to be able to put something that you’ve made into regular use.
Before we get into it, I thought it would be good to run through the tools that I used on this project. I was very keen to keep things simple by using basic hand tools, here’s what I ended up using
Axe – I actually used two; my Wetterlings Outdoor Axe to do the splitting and bulk waste removal. I then switched to my Gransfors Bruks Small Hatchet because it offered me more control as I got nearer to my markings. To be fair, I was a bit indulgent here as the Wetterlings was more than capable.
Bahco Laplander Saw – For stop-cuts and bulk waste removal
Mora Companion Knife – For shaping the outside of the cup
Mora 120 Carving Knife – For the more detailed shaping of the cup
Casstrom Crook Knife – To carve out the bowl of the cup
Pencil – To mark out the shape of the kuksa
Whetstone and Leather Strop – this was used a lot to keep the blades in good order!
Sandpaper – starting with a course 60 grit and moving up to a fine 240 grit
I also kept a first aid kit close by – just in case, indeed there were one or two incidents which required a plaster!
Stage One: Splitting the Wood
The first stage of the project is to split down the log. I carefully selected a piece of Sycamore which was relatively straight grained and not compromised with any nasty knots or twists. I split it down the middle and selected the section which offered me the greatest depth for the kuksa. I felt it was important to have a Kuksa which was deep enough to hold a decent cup of tea!
Using my axe, I then removed the pith and flattened off the split section so that I had a surface on which to mark out my kuksa shape. I sought inspiration from my plastic Kasa Kuksa (made by Wildo) for the design that I was working towards.
Stage Two: Roughing out
With the design marked out, I started to axe out the rough shape of the kuksa. In some sections, I created some stop cuts with the saw so that I could split away some of waste material. In this sense, I was following a similar process to what I would usually do when carving a spoon.
I did however choose to leave an extended section of the wood on the handle end of the Kuksa. This was for safety reasons so that I could keep my hand out the way while using the axe.
Stage Three: Scoopy scoopy time!
Time to get the crook knife out and carve out the bowl. In all honesty this is the hardest bit and will take a bit of time. My hand took a bit of a beating from the crook knife. I picked up blisters and scrapes and took regular breaks to rest the muscles in my hand and wrist. At times, I forced myself to stop as I was fearful of losing control of the blade and causing myself an injury.
The crucial lesson that I learnt in this stage was to just take my time. I’d often take the opportunity to stop when I noticed the blade was starting to dull and I’d touch it up with the strop or whetstone.
While carving the bowl, I took care to ensure that I wasn’t removing too much material. I was conscious that I still had to refine the outside of the cup and was also concerned that some cracks may appear as the wood continued to dry out.
This process could be simplified by using power tools. For instance you could drill a series of holes into the bowl at set depths to remove the bulk of the waste material and then refine the bowl with a crook knife. It’s also plausible that a curved gouge might have been easier. Alas, I was keen to use the tools that are available to most whittlers and spoon carvers.
Stage Four: Time to refine
Nearly there now! The final job is to refine the outside of the cup and the handle. At this point I used my two Mora knives. My main objective here was to remove any rough axe marks, keep a fairly flat base to the kuksa and shape the sides so that they curve nicely up to the lip of the cup.
Thereafter, I turnt my attention to the handle. As mentioned earlier, I sought inspiration from my plastic Kasa Kuksa. I like the ergonomics of that design and did my best to replicate it.
I tried to produce a kuksa which was aesthetically pleasing, but inevitably found that I’d left a few uneven areas where I’d removed too much waste! But with that said, I reached a point where I was pretty happy with the overall shape and feel of the kuksa.
Stage Five: Finish
The final job was to sand and oil the kuksa. I started with a course grit of sandpaper and moved my way through a series of papers until I got to a 240 grit which left a nice smooth finish. I then poured some water over the cup. I don’t fully understand the science behind this but, in my experience, this process opens up the grain and exposes any rough spots. When it’s dried I gave it another go with the 240 grit sandpaper and then it was ready for oil.
Confession: I did cheat ever so slightly by using my drill to make a hole in the handle for a lanyard loop. This could be done with an auger, but I don’t have one!
Finally, I liberally applied a couple of coats of Walnut oil and left it in my shed to dry.
Stage Six: The Christening!
This is the best bit! Now is the time to take the cup to back to nature and enjoy a nice cup of tea!
Barney’s final thoughts…
I’m very proud of this little cup. It was a lovely project to undertake and put a lot of my wood crafting skills to the test. In all honesty, it didn’t quite turn out as well as I’d hoped. I’d really liked to have created a cup with a slightly larger capacity. It currently holds around 180ml when I was aiming for something closer to 250ml. I was also hoping to create a better finish on the outside of the cup, unfortunately I think I just ran out of talent!
With that said, I’ve intentionally left the side walls and base of the kuksa a bit thicker than I’d like as I still have concerns that it might develop some cracks while the wood seasons. If this doesn’t happen then I shall definitely return to it with my crook knife and increase the overall volume. I guess that’s the beauty of a wooden kuksa, there’s always scope for refinement!
I thoroughly recommend you give this a go. I wouldn’t say it’s the best thing to try if you’re new to wood carving. But if you’ve dabbled in a bit of spoon carving and feel confident with your tools then this project will make for an interesting challenge.
Thanks as always for taking the time to read this blog, hopefully it’s helped shed light on the process of creating a Kuksa, at least from a beginners perspective
You can keep up to date with Gavin/Barney on Instagram: @Gavin_Riggall
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