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Scotland: ‘Any Colour You Like’

A wise man once said: ‘There are two seasons in Scotland.. June and Winter.’

I spent Christmas 2015 with my girlfriend in the stunning country of Norway. We weren’t there to explore but we rented a beautiful little cabin for the week on the southern coast in the small region of Askoy, about an hour from Bergen. We fancied at least one day of checking out the fjords and mountains so took a small road trip to Voss. We soon realised that wherever you are in Norway, you are going to be surrounded by one source of natural beauty or another. The scale of the mountains we drove through (quite literally most of the time) was phenomenal. It’s not hard to understand why the myths and legends of trolls, giants and gnomes came about in this country. It’s hard to describe the sheer size, bulk and beauty of the scenery, but I have seen a few mountain ranges over the years and Norway out did them all by a very long shot to say the least. I immediately fell in love with the country and I knew that my friends and I would love the opportunity to have a proper trip to explore and take advantage of the ‘right to roam’ laws that the country has to offer. So upon my return home to England I spread the news and sold it to them immediately. We opted to take a trip to neighboring Sweden, which also holds the same roaming laws and matches Norway in scenic beauty.

After our trip to Snowdon, we knew that we would have to get a few practice runs in before we depart for Sweden. We had to ensure we had all the kit we would need and that our skills were tuned perfectly for our trip. We would roughly be on the same latitude as Scotland which seemed to be an ideal place to go for a practice run as it’s a perfect distance to be away from the familiarity of home and would require us to take all the kit we would need. That way we would know what we can carry and what we might not actually need to take with us at the time.

I had researched the area of Galloway Forest Park and discovered at the same time The Mountain Bothies Association. The MBA is a volunteer run charity who, through subscriptions, maintain bothies in remote areas to essentially be used by walkers as shelter. No bookings required, no payments necessary, just turn up, treat it like your own home and leave it how you find it. I found this a little more exciting than I should have done, it fulfilled my dream of the remote cabin in the middle of the woods. No electricity, none of the home comforts, just a wood burning stove. Again I sold this idea to my friends without any persuasion. The plan would be to use a bothy in Galloway Forest Park almost as a final resort as we were aware that finding something like this in Sweden may be rather difficult. Our trip would be over three nights and we would spend the entire time travelling from forest to forest, building camp and sleeping in our hammocks. That was the plan anyway.

During the week before we left for Scotland, within an hours drive of where we were going to be in Galloway Forest Park, there were reports of a couple being caught in an avalanche and, due to the terrible weather conditions, an immediate rescue operation was looking unlikely. Then a couple of days later three men were taken to hospital after a day walk had taken a dramatic turn, leading to one of the group losing his life and the other two having to be treated in hospital. Needless to say, this didn’t fill us with the highest amounts of confidence and worried our loved ones alike. After a quick discussion and gentle persuasion to our families and friends, we agreed that the trip would go ahead. The weather reports for where we would be basing ourselves were improving steadily and we were kitted for the wilderness of Sweden, where snow and cold temperatures were more than likely. We also knew the location of the nearby bothy and would always have the car to fall back to if we absolutely needed to.

06:00am February 19th 2016 (almost a year to the day of our Snowdon trip) Dan rolled up to my house, as the designated driver, and I piled my rucksack into the boot of his car and off we went to collect Jack and Olie.

‘We’ll be at your house at 06:30am. Make sure you’re ready so we can hit the road before rush hour.’ Clear enough instructions we thought. 06:20 Jack and all of his kit in the car, ready to go. Perfect.

‘I haven’t got all my kit packed yet’ read a text received from Olie at 06:25. Wonderful..

07:10am, we finally hit the road.

A few albums later (Labbe Siffre, The Who and The Black Keys), we pass the border and immediately start putting on our perfect Scottish accents to read the road signs, and just generally insult each other. We had managed to avoid the rain for almost the entire journey, however, from the time that we approached the border and into the beyond, I don’t think it ever stopped raining. Eventually we reached Loch Trool, a beautiful, remote location in Galloway Forest Park. Home to Bruce’s Stone which was placed in commemoration to Robert the Bruce’s victory in the Battle of Glen Trool fought in the wars of Scottish independence in 1307. We jumped out of the car to have a quick look at the beautiful scenery before returning to the car, already soaked, to go over the route one more time before setting off. Our final destination would be a piece of woodland surrounding Loch Dee, just short of five miles to our west. We donned our rucksacks and hit the footpath in the hammering rain. We discovered a large waterfall coming off the hills which then ran underneath a bridge on the footpath with immense power and an incredible noise. It was very apparent that the harsh weather had been present for quite some time prior to our arrival.

The first problem we encountered was that the area had recently been cultivated. The map clearly displayed that the area we would be walking through to get to Loch Dee was mostly pine forest, however, due to the recent activities and thanks to Christmas and most probably Ikea, half of the area was barren. Luckily the path was still clear which made following the map easy enough, however when I suggested taking one of my short cuts through the wood, which I was certain would take us to the right place, I was soon corrected and informed we were still about three miles away. Who needs maps anyway?

As we climbed out of the valley (in which Loch Trool was located) into the open hills, the wind and rain picked up and seemed to be trying its best to be blowing us off our feet. We passed beneath two neighbouring waterfalls, aptly located on the map as ‘waterfalls’ which thundered down beside us and cut their paths through a small pine forest to our left and just beyond them we got our first glimpse of Loch Dee. We decided that we should spend the first night in the bothie, out of the weather, which would allow us all of the following day to explore the local forests and find a perfect camping spot. Even though the weather was horrendous and the mist and fog descending on the lowlands around Loch Dee was thickening, this was truly an area of outstanding natural beauty. The rolling hills collapsing into the pine forests which subsequently melted into the loch was definitely postcard worthy. Sadly I couldn’t get any pictures around that area due to the rain being so bad, but I will be going back as soon as I can, and pictures will be taken.12752045_1150190214991714_1616892861_o

We finally descended into the valley towards Loch Dee and soon, surrounded by pine forest, came across the White Laggan bothie. A sight that was greeted gladly with joyful hollering because it was the exact image we had had of our dream remote cabin. Placed far back off the path, framed by trees and with a small fresh water stream that ran off the hills and right beside the entrance. We would be very happy and comfortable here. Our only concerns were that it may have already been claimed by other walkers seeking shelter, or perhaps a dead body even. I approached the front door quietly and opened it, calling inside for any response. Silence. Well that ruled out walkers seeking shelter at least and soon enough we managed to rule out the ridiculous idea of a body as well. 12769408_10153900867340941_251443300_n.jpg

What you should understand is that these bothies are more or less completely empty, stone buildings. We were fortunate enough that this one had a wood burning stove, and even more fortunate that the previous occupants had left some fire wood in a log shelter outside. The interior was split into three separate rooms; one large one by the front door, which would be used to hang wet clothes to dry, then through a door from that room was the main ‘living room’ with a stove and a table. Adjoining this was a small kitchen type room with nothing but a table in it. In the picture above, that would be the room with the white window frames at the front. We were extremely greatful for the shelter from the wind and rain, but the bothie was still very very cold inside, so we got straight to trying to cut the fire wood.

Ray Mears once said that wood warms you three times, ‘the cutting and collecting, the transporting back to camp and finally the burning.’ We certainly proved this to be true. Well the first two anyway. Some tools were also left in the log shelter to help cut the wood, just a couple of old saws but they did the job for the most part. We used our own tools for the remaining work. We certainly warmed up by cutting the wood and taking it to the stove, however when it came to actually burning it, that’s where we hit a hurdle. Between the four of us we have made countless campfires but no matter how we tried, how we split the wood, what tools we used, it just wouldn’t catch.

But then it got even more interesting, and the beginning of the most surreal camping experience of our lives. And no it didn’t involve nudity.

Whilst both Olie and I were crouched over a small, damp log stove, swearing and shouting all sorts of profanities at the even damper fire wood, we heard somebody walk into the room. Assuming it was Dan or Jack I just continued my efforts and verbal persuasion towards the fire, which was now starting to catch and produce a moderate amount of heat but also a ridiculous amount of smoke.

‘Oh hi guys,’

Well unless Dan or Jack had become incredibly feminine, we had company. My initial assumptions were that we would be joined by another group of walkers and we might all be sat around the fire chatting and drinking tea. Little were we aware that this wouldn’t quite be so..

I turned and saw through the haze of smoke a figure of a woman and some more figures in the background shaking off their wet coats. Well this still matched my assumptions and we all said hello and began our introductions. I didn’t realise until the third handshake that my hands were actually completely black from the fire and now, I could only guess, were two of the other strangers’. We welcomed them even more when they said they’d brought a couple of bags of fire wood. I felt that dear old Ray Mears would be ashamed of us and disappointed that we wound up using a ready to go plastic sack of wood when we had the makings of a fire brewing already.

We very quickly realised that these were not your everyday ramblers seeking shelter when the room filled with a blaring bright light coming from a spotlight placed in the big room at the entrance. After a sneaky peek to investigate, I then discovered that the room was also filled with about eight university students with their blankets wearing slippers  and their pyjamas, drinking beer and smoking. Whilst we, on the other hand, sat in our wet hiking gear, in a dark room with a small log stove providing very little light or warmth. The four of us all looked at each other and couldn’t help but laugh as we dug into our boil in the bag meals.

‘Do you mind if we put some music on?’ one of them asked..

I have an enormous love for music, and it’s had a huge impact on my life in many ways, like it has most people. However I was concerned about what kind of music are they going to play. My ignorant self obviously associated these people with whatever computer produced digital noises people call music these days, but what we heard was something amazing. I grew up listening to the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Cream, Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix and, as it happened, it appeared that they did too.

The last thing any of us expected from this camping trip was being sat in front of a log burning stove with the soundtrack supplied by the wonderful sounds of Pink Floyd. It just added to how surreal the experience was. The next thing we knew were were sharing our food (Dan’s flapjacks again), singing along to The Weight by The Band, which by the way is a fantastic tune. I am fairly certain we wound up on some type of film that evening as we soon discovered that the group were actually ‘Adventure & Wildlife Film-makers’ and they were using equipment which cost more than anything I have ever owned. We were even allowed to take over the music for a moment, which ended up with almost the whole of Pink Floyd’s catalogue being played throughout this small bothy in the Scottish lowlands. All the while the rain hammered down, the wind blew and night fell. We were soon left to our own devices, which we appreciated, and the door separating our room and theirs was closed. We put the last of the wood on the fire, finished our food and settled down for some sleep. Falling asleep to ‘Any Colour You Like‘ from Pink Floyd’s ‘Dark Side of The Moon’ (one of the greatest pieces of music on the greatest album of all time) just finished our night off perfectly and I have never slept better on a camping trip in my life. We could have been transported to the 70’s for all we knew.

We woke up at about 08:00am which, for a camping trip, seemed quite late and one hell of a result. The bothy was silent and we could only assume that our guests were still sleeping. We made some coffee on our stove and went about packing away our kit as quietly as we could. Eventually came the time when we had to collect some drinking water from the stream outside, which meant walking through the mini hippy commune that had been erected next door and getting a few moans and groans from them as we opened the front door, allowing the cold and rain to be blown in and straight onto them.12787453_1150706971606705_331391262_o.jpg

The water from the stream was perfectly clear and fresh off the hills which made for  delicious drinking. However it isn’t recommended that you drink it straight from the source all the time as, especially from the hills where sheep are roaming, the bacteria levels could make you rather unwell. We had brought with us some, supposedly tasteless, purifying tablets which we placed into our containers to do their job. Half an hour later, these tasteless tablets made our water taste like something from a swimming pool. It was unpleasant and really not very appetising. In future I would recommend taking the extra time to boil the water to kill off the bacteria and just allowing it to cool.

So it was time for our departure and, as we said our farewells to the commune, we stepped back out into the driving rain. We decided that we’d take the five mile walk back to the car and find another area with a bothy nearby to continue our venture. The walk back to the car was wet and cold but took half as long as luckily it was mostly down hill once we got out of the Loch Dee valley. In the morning light, which actually looked like the rest of the day due to the weather, the hills looked incredible with waterfalls cascading into the river below and the mist being blown just across the top of them. The car was soon a sight for sore eyes and, as we removed our wet clothes and rucksacks, we made a wonderful decision. Like most wonderful decisions, it started with one very simple question.


It was still early, about 10:00am, but we thought we could at least get a good breakfast or something nice to eat and set us up for the day ahead either way. We had spotted a pub on the way into Loch Trool the day before and drove there to see what they could offer. As we pulled up outside it had the air of one of those pubs where outsiders weren’t exactly welcomed with open arms – especially damp, muddy outsiders. So we decided to head into the town not too far down the road and eventually found The Black Horse. On the walk from the car to the pub myself and Olie popped into a petrol station to pick up some quick supplies. After speaking with the cashier, who was far from Scottish, we realised that we hadn’t actually heard anybody with a Scottish accent since our arrival; the group of students at the bothie was English, and one was even Swedish. We walked out, crossed the road and into the pub. If it wasn’t for the TV playing in the background, I am fairly certain the place would have been totally silent as we were greeted by everybody turning and watching us approach the bar. We ordered our drinks, from a Scottish barman to our surprise, and took a table that had become empty soon after our arrival.

I can’t exactly remember what the reason was, or why we even considered it, but we had decided that we would in fact end our trip there. We finished our drinks, fairly quickly, and left for Sainsbury’s to pick up some breakfast. By the time we had reached the car we knew we’d be lucky to get home at a reasonable time without getting stuck in the rush hour traffic, but we decided to give it a go, put home into the sat nav, and left rainy Scotland behind and soon reached rainy home instead. After letting my girlfriend know that I would be returning home earlier than expected, she drunkenly informed me that she was having cocktails in London – an evening which couldn’t have been further on the other end of the spectrum to my chosen weekend activities. This is a pretty good representation of our relationship and the topic of a blog to come.

After a few more cocktails she then decided to inform me that she had taken my keys with her. So on top of being cold, wet and muddy, I was also locked out of my house. So on the way home the decision was made that Dan and I would stay at Jacks (Dan did actually have his keys but the prospect of sharing a bed with me was obviously just too strong.) To anybody else the idea of getting into a warm bed, with or without Dan, would be perfect after a night in a cold damp bothie in Scotland, but I wouldn’t trade my hammock for anything in the world (no offence Dan).

We are due to make another trial run before we leave for Sweden, as I can’t imagine sat by a log fire listening to Pink Floyd has really set us up efficiently, but we had a great time nonetheless.

We swore to never tell this story because, as you can see, it wasn’t exactly the greatest  camping trip we could have had. We were after a slightly challenging forest camp in our hammocks with a crackling campfire between us, however what we actually had seemed more like a small holiday in comparison. I just figured it was too good a story not to tell and thinking back to laying in my sleeping bag with Any Colour You Like lulling me to sleep still makes me laugh.

So basically the only message I can pass on as a bit of an education, is that the quote ‘There are only two seasons in Scotland, June and Winter’ actually does seem fairly suitable, and the wise man was Billy Connolly.

So until next time.. I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon.



Mount Snowdon: ‘I wasn’t expecting snow’

I once read an article from Wales Online which, on a side note, claims to have won ‘website of the year’.. Seriously? Anyway, this article was written by an expert climber who stated that ‘Climbing Snowdon can be more dangerous than Everest‘. Now, we’ve all seen films and heard what can only be described as heroic stories of those who climbed Everest and not always returned. I still find it hard to believe Mr McNeish, who made the above statement, but if I had read the article before climbing Snowdon, I may have at least considered packing some gloves.

My friends and I had always fancied the idea of climbing a mountain – a real challenge and the sense of achievement that came with it. We’d start small and eventually work up to some of the big ones, Kilimanjaro has always been a personal aim of my own, but obviously gaining the experience and skills needed would be essential. So we set our minds on Snowdon, the second highest of the UK’s three peaks.

This is a lesson on how being under prepared can seriously jeopardise your safety

07:15am February 17th 2015. I seem to remember it being a fairly pleasant morning as I was packing the remaining pieces of my kit into my car with my dog, Pepper. Not half an hour later my friends, Dan and Olie, arrived at my house so we could make our way in convoy to Snowdonia National Park, North West Wales.

‘We should arrive in good time to get to the top and maybe find a spot to camp on the way back down.’

When we were coming to the end of our three and a half hour drive I spotted the mountains in the distance and, for some reason, was surprised to see they had snowy peaks. In February. I was so shocked that I called Dan (on my hands free set of course) to pass on my sightings, to which I received, to the best of my memory, nothing but abuse. We soon arrived at the small town of Llanberis, at approximately midday. We had prior knowledge that a train went directly to the summit of Snowdon. I’ll come back to that later.

We donned our rucksacks and hit the footpath in the general direction of the mountain. I can’t recall how many times the line ‘You didn’t tell me it would all be uphill’ was used, but it was one of those ones that, after probably the fourth or fifth time, would become irritating rather than funny. The closer we got to Snowdon itself, the more we realised exactly what we were taking on. The picture (at the top) doesn’t quite do it justice, but it loomed over us, partly hidden beneath the grey clouds, totally belittling the already towering hills below. We stopped for a moment to rest, somewhere we thought must have been about half way, and we noticed that we were actually the only people walking up the mountain. We saw numerous groups of hikers, but what should have started alarm bells but didn’t until it was too late, was that everybody was heading down the mountain instead of up. I clearly recall, as we started the steep ascend up the north face, a man walking down and, after explaining that we were going to the summit, all he had to say was, ‘Good luck.’ It must have been very clear that we were not experienced climbers.

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From the time we hit the edge of the snow, we were alone, nothing but the building wind for company. I had done research into the weather around Snowdon almost constantly for two days prior, up until the moment we left home, and it had stayed moderately steady and fine. However, we all knew that the weather could change quicker than our minds up there and we would never know for certain what we would be in for until the last moment. We soon realised that the remaining ascend to the summit would be much harder than we expected when the stony pathway that we were walking on eventually turned into nothing but snow.

I love snow. For me personally, there is no better weather. It looks beautiful, rekindles childhood memories and in general, is just a bit of fun.

However, fun this was not. Because of the constant wind and chill, this snow was more like ice. Completely compact and, depending on how you’d place your feet, you’d be sliding off and hitting the ground fairly hard. As I have mentioned previously, I have never climbed Snowdon before, however, from what I could tell, the pathway runs fairly close to the edge of a very, very steep drop. Or it certainly did that day. For most of the time we were almost walking at a perfect 45 degree angle, if not considerably more, on nothing but ice. To the right of us was a sheer drop into the abyss that was just cloud, and within no time at all, our vision was cut to almost nothing. It must have been about 16:00pm but it was getting dark – very dark. The clouds thickened around us and visibility was minimal to say the least. Our experience had gone from a bit of fun, to being totally serious within a matter of minutes, maybe seconds. This should have been the time to turn around.

We were fairly sure we must have been getting close to the top, we had a tent and kit that could hopefully withstand a bit of wind and we had warm clothes. For now.

This picture was taken before we lost visibility, however the incline and path are both getting pretty bad. We also spotted one single man further up the path who was initially coming towards us but then turned and walked back up towards the summit. Eventually all those stones and rocks would soon vanish and we would be walking on only the compact ice and snow. As the path veered to the right, that was where the drop to our right was at it worst and that is where we lost visibility. We never saw that man again.

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What annoyed me most of all about this trip, is how bloody well my dog was doing. It may seem cruel of me to have brought him along, however he is very fit and loved every minute of it. What annoyed me though was that I began to struggle keeping up with Dan and Olie and gradually fell further and further behind them, all the while my dog (Pepper) would be running up the steep path to walk with them, then run all the way back to me, and then back again. He must have climbed the mountain twice by the time we got to the top!

We eventually reached level ground, somewhere near the top, and at this time the only light was an eerie blue hue that glowed around us. We were well and truly in the cloud and it was all we could do to see each other when we were merely feet away. We were happy that the ground had levelled slightly, however the path was about ten feet wide with a sheer drop to the left and what I could only assume to be nothingness to our right. I quickly put the dog on the lead and held him close for the remainder of the ascend along the ridge. A few natural steps had been made that presumably were there to make the final few hundred meters easier, however these were iced over and were accompanied by two enormous drops on either side. I wasn’t having much fun anymore. At the top of the steps we were met by the railway lines protruding through the snow, and at the end of them a large building. Our pace picked up as we imagined what could only be the warmth and shelter of whatever this building was, however soon enough realised that it was locked down tight with multiple padlocks and shutters. The snow was deeper and went up to just below our knees in some places, which was a relief from the thought of sliding straight off the mountain, but still an annoyance when you get your leg stuck mid-stride, lose balance and either end up on your back or with a very cold, red face. To the rear of the building was the actual summit, a small pillar with steps spiralling around it and a directional plaque at the top. We made a point of still climbing it to complete our journey.

The weather on the summit was going from bad to horrendous as we dug away at the snow in a corner sheltered by the building and a brick wall that came off at 90 degrees. The only tool we had was a small saw, which made cutting blocks of snow away much easier than digging with our hands. We eventually got somewhere near the rocky ground and used the snow to build another slight wall to the side of us for more shelter, then it was a case of setting the tent up in the crater and bunkering down for the evening.

‘Why the hell didn’t you bring gloves?’ I remember Dan asking me as I had to borrow his to try and bring my hands back from a worrying shade of blue.

‘I wasn’t expecting snow,’ was the best answer I could give. At least I was honest. For some reason a part of me really just wasn’t expecting there to be snow at the top of a 3500ft mountain, in February. Idiotic. I did bring a hat though.

We finally got the tent up when we all noticed that Pep was curled up, amongst our rucksacks against the wall, almost asleep. After everything we had witnessed on our ascend, this was what worried me most. I quickly got him up and bundled him into the tent and threw my warm clothes on top of him then got him inside my sleeping bag. He warmed up and joined us eating flapjack and general rubbish to try and keep ourselves warm. For those who are interested, Dan makes a fantastic flapjack; I make a good one, but Dan’s is just magical. We positioned ourselves laying in a triangle with Pep in the middle, the warmest and almost certainly the comfiest of the lot of us. From inside the tent it was clear just how bad the weather was outside, the volume alone was astounding. The tent was being blown around so much we were all worried, although didn’t share this until we got off the mountain, that it would be destroyed and we would be out in the elements, and at this time, there would be no getting off the mountain safely. There was completely zero visibility past twenty feet, the risk of sliding down was even greater on the descent and we were concerned that we wouldn’t make it down if we had to try.

Luckily the tent held up for what felt like the longest night of my life, none of us got any sleep, there was a constant drip from the roof of the tent (I had forgotten to put the rain cover over the top and found it in my pocket the next afternoon) and the wind never died down at all. The prospect of just waiting for the train to arrive at the top to get us off the mountain in the morning kept us going, ‘only a couple of hours now, surely.’ One thing that surprised me at the top of Snowdon is that I found phone signal. I called my girlfriend to update her of our situation,

‘Oh everything is fine, we’re just camping at the top, we’re all good. Yes the dog is fine. Yes we’re alive. Yes Dan’s flapjack is amazing.’

So I thought I would check the timetable for the Snowdon Mountain Railway. Which was an awful idea because we discovered it wouldn’t be running until May. I also checked the weather forecast, as if our situation would be made better by doing so. It was -10°C with over 40mph winds. Fantastic.

So we had no choice but to walk. When the time came, we packed our kit, collapsed the tent and went on our way. We decided to follow the train line all the way off the summit into the clear because it was much wider than the footpath and offered the lines and sleepers as a bit of guidance, or it would have done if they weren’t covered in a couple of feet of snow and ice. The wind was so loud that we couldn’t hear each other trying to talk, so to have a conversation or discussion we would have to shout to one another at what would be a normal talking distance. Suddenly the wind stopped, visibility came back and an eerie silence returned to the surroundings. We had gotten out of the clouds and off the snow, back to the grass and rocks. I don’t recall looking back behind us, we were just focussed on getting to the bottom. Meanwhile, Pep was now back off the lead, running around, completely full of energy and looking like he could do it all over again.

Our journey to Snowdon was certainly an adventure. A story to tell but above all, a lesson to learn and to pass on. We found out that somebody had died, not too long before we climbed Snowdon, at the ridge near the top. They had, much like we had too, lost visibility and walked off of the edge into the darkness.

We tell our story with jest but we all know just how lucky we were and more than that, how stupid we were to even think it would be OK. We at least had some experience with hiking, making shelters and camping, which came in useful and may well have saved our lives when we got to the top. However anybody who attempts to climb it as just a casual jaunt, completely unprepared, could wind up in a lot of danger. Which links me back to Mr McNeish’s statement: ‘Climbing Snowdon can be more dangerous than Everest.’

And those are the reasons why.



The Mighty Oak

I have been judged numerous times for saying that the forests are magical, but if you stand silent, in the middle of a dense ancient woodland, you may witness some magic yourself.


Now, we all know that trees and plants have been around for millions of years, but of course those ones are basically now oils and coals under the ground. However, imagine yourself stood in the same spot for a thousand years or more. How much history would you see? What would you have seen? How would you advise others? A small history lesson this way comes..

In a field on the edge of the small town of Bourne in Lincolnshire, there sits an Oak tree (pictured above). Just over 1000 years ago the Bowthorpe Oak was a small acorn that began to sprout. To put this in perspective, England was now in the Middle Ages, America wouldn’t be discovered for another 400 years, and it would be 926 years until the current Queen of England was born. Little did that small acorn realise that it would live through every day between then and now, narrowly being missed by a German bomber crash landing after being shot down in World War 2, having its hollow 12 metre trunk being turned into a small coffee meeting area for locals and also winning a Guinness World Record. It was also rumoured that at one point 39 people managed to stand within it. The idea that a grand old oak in your local woodland is likely to have been living longer than you will ever live, before you were even born, is stunning. If you were to plant an acorn, the chances are, it could well outlive you and me one hundred times or more.

Over those thousand plus years, just imagine what the Bowthorpe Oak would have seen, imagine the stories it could tell, imagine the lessons it could teach. Not surprising that they are known as ‘the kings of the forest’ or simply ‘the great oak’. To me, simply the age adds a real personality.

So when I’m walking through thousands and thousands of acres of real ancient woodlands, it’s nice to imagine being looked upon by the elders of the world, holding thousands of years of knowledge and stories between them all. This is why I find it impossible to find myself feeling lonely in the forest.

At the time of writing, we are currently moving from Winter to early Spring. I find myself walking in the forests all year round, and sadly, but not surprisingly, the past couple of months have been quiet as far as visitors go. I can walk for hours and not see or hear a single person in the Winter or even as far back as late Autumn. Ray Mears once said ‘if we only go out in Summer, we miss out on three quarters of a lifetime’, and this couldn’t be more true.


At a quick glance you wouldn’t be wrong to assume that in early March the woods are
cold, wet and, in general, rather uninviting. However, look closer and you see that, almost like a dress rehearsal, you can see that something enormous and beautiful is about to take place. On the ground hidden beneath the fallen leaves are the early shoots of the Bluebells steadily pushing through. Buds on trees are swelling, waiting for the next boost of sunlight to encourage them to bloom. Within a month, maybe less, the trees will be blossoming, the bluebells will be blowing in the wind and then soon enough young animals will take their first steps out of their dens and hides to discover a beautiful new world. The trees almost huddle together, like cupping a match in your hand, to protect this new growth and their young and old furry companions.

‘So why do you want to spend time in the countryside? There’s nothing there.’ Shocks me every single time I hear it. Throughout my blogs of just small thoughts like this one, or informative ones (hopefully), like those to come, I will be gradually answering that question with my own personal insights, and hopefully, if this takes off, you fellow readers can take your own stance on the question and share your ideas. I’ll also be letting you all into the secrets that every season of the year holds, everything they share with us, and everything they set the rest of the year up for, hopefully encouraging more and more people to get out and about all year round.