Lock down is tough. I’m lucky, I’ve had a fairly easy time compared to many but; all trips abroad and a city break cancelled, concerts postponed or cancelled, no camping trips and unable to access the hills for months.
I have tried to average around 30 to 40 miles a week doing local walks (I’m determined to still complete the ViewRanger 1000 mile challenge!). I’m lucky, I live near woods and quiet country lanes but Wirral is flat, very flat so, as soon as it was announced that Wales was opening it’s borders, I booked some time off work.
I’m very keen to try out the new MSR tent but I’m holding off any overnight stays at the moment as only self contained units (things with their own loo) can be used for overnight stays. At least, I think that’s the current rule. To make matters worse, on the drive up I passed signs saying Welsh Covid rules apply. I don’t fully understand my own country’s rules!
I parked up in my usual spot in Llanferres and walked through the Druid Inn car park to Rectory Lane. Just past the last house, I headed up hill. Only a few minutes from the car and the views were lovely.
It’s strange how Covid-19 has changed normal activities. Previously I’d think nothing of opening a gate. Now, it was a well planned manoeuvre involving one ‘dirty hand’, a foot and a squirt of hand sanitiser. Other than though, everything was as it has always been.
The first part of this walk was a route I knew well. Up Foel Fenlli and down towards the Bwlch Penbarra car park. The second part was (surprisingly!) new to me. I stayed to the west edge of the foot of Moel Famau then headed to the north of Coed Ceunant. Shortly after joining a narrow road, I had planned on cutting across a field towards Llanbedr hall. After crossing a small stream, I noticed a number of cows in the next field. They seemed content enough, munching away on their lunch. I glanced down at the map, just continue in the direction I was heading, towards a gap in the fence. I altered my route slightly to give the cows a wide berth. They noticed me and started heading closer. I moved further to the right, they started to group. They were congregating between me and the gap in the fence which I discovered, led to another field of cows. I wimped out and turned around and crossed back over the stream. I knew the road would lead me down to the road in to Llanbedr and from there, I could get back on track.
As it turned out, this wasn’t a bad decision. I headed up the track towards old St Peter’s Church. After a good look around at the gravestones dating from the 17 and 1800s and getting the obligatory photos, I headed to the back of the grounds, through an old gate and on to a path. I’m not entirely sure I should have been there, but it got me on to the lane where the cow field would have led to.
It was now getting close to midday. The temperature had increased and it had become rather muggy. I was glad of the drizzle to cool me off as the route slowly climbed back to Fenlli. I stayed on the lower path around the hill before following the path I’d taken earlier to the car.
Tuesday was another walk, this time near Ruabon. Not as hilly and not as scenic but a pleasant walk, despite a detour along the roads. A farmer had decided to grow the world’s biggest and thickest corn right across the path.
Wednesday was back to the realities of Covid, spending over two hours negotiating a full refund for another cancelled holiday, but the hills are back!
How many tents do I need? Looking through my posts on here, that would be a very good question. The short answer: You can never have too many tents!
For my birthday, I was lucky enough to receive the green MSR Elixir 1. Much more discreet than the red and grey option. Unfortunately, as we are still in lockdown, I can only do a ‘first impressions’ review based on a couple of pitches in the garden.
As it’s name implies, the Elixir 1 is a one person tent but has loads of space and headroom, almost on a par with some two person tents.
Ok, at a total weight of 2kg, it isn’t much lighter than my Robens Arch (2.3kg) and the pack sizes are fairly similar (I may look in to get a compression sack). I can shave off some weight by using my MSR Ground Hog pegs and, if the weather is decent enough, I can leave the 130g footprint at home.
So, the first pitch. This was a new one for me. Every other tent I’ve used pitches the outer and inner together with the poles on the outside of the tent. The Elixir is different, the ‘standard’ pitch is inner first then put the fly over the poles. The poles themselves are also different from the ones I’m used to, two of them are joined together by swivelling hubs. Being freestanding, I can pitch the Elixir then pick it up and move it to another spot. Might be handy if I accidentally pitch not facing the views!
The pitching instructions are printed on the inside of the stuff sack but it’s fairly straight forward. The footprint goes down first, then snap together the main poles and the smaller middle pole. The poles, clips and buckles are all colour coded; match any grey bits to the grey pole and the red bits to the red pole. Spread the inner tent (the one with all the mesh) over the footprint then put the grey pole in to the two grey coloured grommets then put the red pole in the red grommets. The inner tent has a number of coloured hooks, attach those to the corresponding coloured poles and the tent pulls itself in to shape. Place the separate red pole across the top then pop the ends in to the holes on the inner.
The tent can be used in this inner only configuration and I do like the idea of spending a barmy evening under the stars without a pesky flysheet spoiling the view. Whether I’ll ever get the chance with the unpredictable English weather is another mater!
To add the flysheet, just place it over the poles, making sure the outer door is on the same side as the inner door! The grey and red version of the Elixir makes this even easier by making the door a different colour to the rest of the tent.
Once everything is nice and tight and pegged out, it’s done!
I was surprised how quickly I pitched on my first attempt. It wasn’t perfect but I imagine I could complete a standard pitch in around 5 minutes.
Hopefully, the stardard pitch will be the most used way of putting my Elixir up. I wouldn’t fancy putting the meshy inner up first in heavy rain and risk it getting soaked. I’m having Castleton flashbacks here!
It is possible to put the outer up first with the footprint and I tried this for my second garden pitching experiment. Yes, it’s a bit of a faff and takes a little longer than standard pitch but it can be done and will keep you and your stuff that bit drier. Put the poles up in the footprint in the same way as before then put the rain fly on. Once the poles are in the holes of the fly, go inside and clip the inner tent on to the poles and make sure the centre, perpendicular pole goes through both inner and outer. Putting the poles through the corresponding holes of the corners of the inner is a little awkward but the order you attach the poles shouldn’t make a difference.
There is a third way of getting the tent set up which is outer first and involves some sort of tent origami. I’ll save that for another day.
There is plenty of space in the porch area for kit or cooking. Additionally, the door has three settings; closed, partly open, fully open. Handy for cooking in less than favourable weather.
Speaking of rain, on paper, this tent appears to be shockingly un-waterproof. The fly has a hydrostatic head of 1500, the groundsheet 3000. In comparison, my Robens Arch is twice that value. Generally, the hydrostatic head value is a good indicator to the protection you get but it isn’t quite so black and white. The fly sheet design, thread count, and fabric used also contribute. The inner has a good size bathtub floor that should also keep things nice and dry. As I’ve only done a couple of lockdown practice pitches in the garden, I can’t comment (one for a follow up review!), however, all reviews I’ve read online say there’s no leakage problems and offers plenty of protection from the wind and rain.
Inside the main body of the tent, the first thing that strikes you is the space. For a one person tent it’s cavernous, although you pay for it in the extra weight. I’m about 5 foot 11 and can easily sit or kneel up inside. To the front and back are handy storage pockets for keeping a mobile phone and other odds and ends. The ceiling houses the ‘gear loft’ storage pockets and 4(!) loops for lights or a makeshift clothes line. Another nice little touch is the glow in the dark zip pulls on the tent door.
So far so good! Obviously the real tests are yet to come. Fingers crossed I won’t have to wait too much longer
My old trusty Brasher Hill Master boots had walked their last mile. Even on fairly dry days, my feet would end up soggy after walking through the shallowest of puddles. Brasher became part of Berghaus and continued to produce the Hillmaster. These boots get some very good reviews but, I fancied a change and started reading up.
My ‘go to’ walking shoes are my Mammut Convey GTX approach shoes. Comfortable and reliable on most walks, but, I like a more robust shoe for more challenging weather and conditions.
Many years ago, my first pair of approach shoes were by the Swiss brand Raichle. These were fantastic shoes and we covered many, many miles together. Now, like Brasher, the brand has been re-badged and has now come under the Mammut umbrella.
I was drawn to the Mammut Trovat Advanced High GTX Boot At £185 this was above what I was looking to spend, however, I had a £50 voucher for Snow and Rock which made the price rather less daunting. These brown nubuck leather boots with rubber heel and toe protection have a slightly more ‘old school’ look than many modern boots but, unlike the ‘old school’ boots, these are instantly comfortable. The nappa leather and memory foam help make these boots very easy to wear. They certainly look built to last. There’s a little bit of Raichle still retained too, their logo is displayed on the inside of the tongue.
These are a big boot, my size 8s just fitted in my boot bag although at 1,240g they weigh only a few grams more than the old Hillmaster boots.
As I started loading the car for my first walk in the new boots, I realised I was wearing Mammut pants and a Mammut jumper. Along with the Mammut boots, I would risk looking like a bad catalogue picture. Luckily, as it it was raining so I grabbed my Arcteryx Waterproof to break things up a bit! Perhaps I was over cautious but I threw my approach shoes in the car, just in case.
The weather forecast fluctuated between dry, drizzle and large down pours – pack for everything! Driving down the A55 with lights and windscreen wipers on suggested this wasn’t going to be the dryest of walks! At least it would be a good test of the Gortex and the Vibram MT Traction II sole.
My original plan was to park up in Moel Famau and head up a few hills but, as the road to the car park was closed, I turned back towards the car park in Loggerheads for Plan B. After parking the car I change from my Addidas trainers in to the boots. Yes, they are heavy but so comfortable. Not sure I’d want to be wearing them on a hot summer day though. I tighten the laces, assuming that I’m going to have to change the tightness a number of times until I got it right but, I struck lucky first time.
The first test was a very wet wooden bridge. So far, so grippy! My route continued through muddy woodland and over wet stones, none of which caused any problems. These are boots you can feel confident wearing.
I always pack a spare pair of socks. I’ve needed them on walks even on dry days wearing the Brasher boots, one puddle and that was it! In my Mammut boots, however, I was bone dry despite the persistent rain and walking through some long wet grass.
If you look after your kit, your kit will look after you. These boots are very easy to look after. A quick wipe down with warm water and a soft brush and they were as good as new.
In conclusion, the Trovat Advanced boots are on the high end of price points but you do get what you pay for. I’m really impressed with these boots and they certainly seem to cope well with any terrain thrown at them.
In March 2020, we began the Covid-19 lock down. As we got to April, it was clear than things weren’t going to change any time soon. Back in March, it was a novelty working from home and spending the allowed exercise time discovering new paths a short walk from home. Now, the novelty was wearing thin. A camping and concert visit to the Lake District was put back a year. A weekend football tournament in Crawley was cancelled. At least I got the money back from Premier Inn without any hassle. Big thanks to them! We had to postpone the traditional Mother’s Day meal and a family birthday get together.
Annoyingly, for a country with so few bank holidays, most of them occurred during lock down and the weather has been fantastic. I would have loved to have been in the Welsh hills with my tent, instead I was wandering the lanes, paths and bridleways of Wirral.
Some of my routes headed across Brombrorough golf course. Interestingly, on the first few walks, the route across the course was marked with a few small, wooden pointers. Later, large arrows were painted on the grass and tees. I suspect more people were walking and some were getting a bit lost!
After the golf course, the footpath passes to the side of a crop field with the M53 motorway on the right. Taking a right on the road at the end of the field brings you out on to Bentey Heath Lane, passing Hargreave House Cottages. Walking from the golf course, this route is clear but if doing the walk the other way around it’s not so obvious. From the road you see painted ‘Private!’ signs and the footpath sign have been removed. The bridge over the motorway has a piece of graffiti saying “f*** the farmer”, I do wonder if it was written by a disgruntled walker!
One of my ‘new’ walks was around Raby. I’ve made this walk available to download but altered it to start and end at Merseyrail train stations. I’ll be doing this walk again post lock down and popping in to the lovely, thatched Wheatsheaf Inn for a drink or two!
Friday 8th May was a bank holiday marking the 75th anniversary of VE Day. I used the day as an opportunity for a longer walk. I had to alter my route as the footpath to the side of Clatterbridge hospital was closed. This meant taking a slightly longer route along roads, luckily they were still very quiet. The route intended to take is available on ViewRanger. I’ve tweaked it slightly to start and finish at Bromborough Rake train station
June started off in much the same way as the previous months but with the added disappointment of the cancellation of the holiday to Zakopane in Poland. At least most of my money will be refunded, apart from the part I’d booked with LastMinute.com. I certainly won’t be using them again post lockdown and wouldn’t recommend any one else do either!
And now, well, it’s cold and it’s wet and there’s few signs of normality returning any time soon. I’m looking forward to the time when we can pop to Primark to pick up our “I survived Covid-19” t-shirts….until that time, stay safe out there.
I’ve a nice, growing collection of tents, the large Vango, the cheap and cheerful Coleman and the current favourite, the Robens Arch. Two of these are two person tents weighing in at around 2.3kg. The Wild Country Zephyros is a smaller, lighter (1.5kg) one person tent (note this is a review for the earlier, model not the 2020 compact version)
The Zephyros is a cheaper version of the sister company’s Terra Nova Laser. The Terra Nova tent is a lot, lot lighter but also several hundred pounds more expensive (RRP £170 and £450 for the current models in April 2020).
Pitching the Zephyros is easy. The fly and inner go up together which is great when pitching in bad weather. One long Superflex alloy pole runs across the middle of the tent and two smaller poles sit at the top and bottom ends to give structure, stability and help provide ventilation. It can be put up in around 5 minutes or so. On the subject of poles. the tent comes with a repair kit which includes a sleeve for fixing a damaged pole….alternatively, it makes a great pea shooter!
Outside, the tent is a nice green colour, nothing too garish! The flysheet has 4000mm hydrostatic head flysheet,it has fully taped seams and a 6000mm groundsheet. The guy lines are reflective which is a nice touch for when you’re wandering back to the tent at night.
Inside, there is plenty of room. I’m about 5 foot 11 and I can sit up right. There’s not a huge amount of space in the porch area but a 75l rucksack can be tucked in to the side and it’s not too bad for cooking. I’ve also found you can extend the porch by popping the door up with a stick or walking pole to make a basic shelter. There’s a few other little nooks and crannies for putting boots etc but, unlike many tents, there’s no handy pocket on the inner for leaving say, your mobile phone or head torch etc.
A cute little feature is the ‘curtains’ at either end. Well, OK they are really covering the ventilation but, providing there’s enough air circulating elsewhere, it does help keep things a little darker. These can be opened and closed from inside the tent.
The bath tub inner is not very deep compared to my other tents but I’ve not noticed that being an issue yet. One slightly strange design feature is the outer door rolls back in to the inside of the tent which can make the inside damp if opening the door after a rainy night. While we’re discussing negatives, it is a little bit susceptible to condensation, nothing too bad but more than my other tents. I imagine this is to be expected in a smaller tent.
This is a very popular tent, so there’s loads of videos, forums and reviews for this tent. You can pick up this model for under £100 (April 2020) if you hunt around , and for that price, it’s not a bad bit of kit!
My annual leave entitlement at work runs April to April which means in March, my entire team battle to claim days to use up their leave. Being sneaky (some may say selfish!), in December I booked a week off in March before anyone else did. I planned to buy a 4 in 8 Freedom of North West Rail Rover ticket which can be used for travel towards Chester to the south, Leeds to the east and Dumfries to the north. Leeds was a definite, I’d not been before and I was keen to see the armouries, perhaps combine with another Yorkshire town. Carlisle was tempting too. A walk along Hadrian’s wall, sneak in a spot of camping…. ….. …..then came Covid-19.
My football Sunday league games had already been cancelled, my football and fencing training sessions soon followed. My hotel in Crawly cancelled the booking I’d made for April as did the campsite in the Lake District. Things were slowly getting ready for lock down. My big plans for the week off were becoming smaller plans.
For the time being at least, walking/hiking was still allowed. One idea was to use the Chester to Manchester line, get off the train at Delamere, walk back to Chester then, take the Merseyrail train back home.
The ticket is in two parts. The bottom part can be read by ticket machines, the top part is for writing in the day and month the ticket is being used (click on the image to expand).
After a pleasant journey on an empty train, I got off at Delamere station. From the station, it’s a short walk to the visitor centre (with it’s toilets!) and on to the Blakemere Moss lake.
Navigation is easy, follow the signs for the Delamere Way through the forest to the road running (almost) through the middle.
Unfortunately, this route does go along roads for a short while but they aren’t very busy.
I was now following the well signed Baker Way. Just to the north of Ashton Hayes (which sounds more like a Hollywood actor than a village), I had a decision to make. I could continue on the Baker Way which lead to the south of Chester or I could turn right on to Gongar Lane. This would take me on the Longster Trail towards the north of Chester. I decided on the Longster Trail. This was a nice 12 mile walk, passing villages and crossing farmers fields before reaching the outskirts of Chester. The route is available to download from ViewRanger. Needless to say, I’ll be trying the other route when I can!
I did get to Leeds as planned, but now all the museums including the armouries were closed. As I sat alone in PieMinister, the annouoncement was made that all pubs and restaurants would close that night. Total lock-down was imminent. I made mu way very quickly to the station, I certainly wasn’t going to wait for the last train as more and more were cancelled.
I never managed to use the final day of my 4 day ticket.
I didn’t return to the office after my week off either. I got a text message off a colleague saying that we would be working from home for the foreseeable future. Luckily I guessed this might happen. I had taken my laptop home and, more importantly, my stash of coffee.
Working from home wasn’t too bad. The time I’d normally spend communing. I spent doing the government approved daily walk. I would walk for a couple of minutes to the local woods then wander around discovering the various paths. For the most part, I was very lucky with the weather. I’ll certainly miss these early morning strolls through when normality returns.
At the weekends, I’d get up early and head a little further down the road (still only about 5 minutes!) to the larger woods at Eastham Country park. Leaving early mean I could easily follow the social distancing rules, only seeing the occasional early dog walking in the distance.
We work flexi time in my office, and I’d managed to build up enough hours to take a couple of days off. When I booked them, I had planned a couple of days in the Welsh hills. When the time came, we were in full on lock down and were only allowed to go on one exercise a day. The (short) list of permitted exercise included walking but only from where you live. I’m quite lucky, there’s several footpaths and quiet country lanes near my home. I drew up a couple of routes, both in a similar area. One 8 mile circular route from my house, the other about 10.5 miles. I’ve added both to ViewRanger but tweaked both to start and end at the nearest train station.
We’re now approaching the end of the third week of lock down. Needless to say, we’re all missing seeing family and it’s tough missing usual activities…..but there’s quite a few walks and camping trips getting planned!!
All quiet on the blog recently, WordPress has decided not to work on Chrome, it’s a little wobbly on Edge too… ….Anyway, June 2019 (yes it really has taken me that long to complete this post!). Another year, another trip to Slovenia. This was a rather impromptu and virtually free trip using the money I’d built up via TopCashBack…..and I gained more cashback with my booking!
I set an alarm (and a backup alarm!) for 02.30. Argh! On the bright side the roads were quiet . Sadly, things went downhill at the rather chaotic Manchester airport. A queue had formed just to get upstairs to the check in area! To avoid this, I went into the multi story car park and used the stairs there. When I arrived at check-in for my TUI flight, there was the usual very, very long queue which seems common with all their flights.
Airside, I filled up my empty plastic flask with water from the fountain (saves few quid!), bought a much needed coffee and an egg & (apparently) bacon baguette for the flight.
Arriving at the gate, I was told one of the toilets on the aircraft was not working. The flight would be delayed while they attempted to fix the problem. I plugged my phone in to charge and waited….. I was due to fly on the new Boeing 737 Max, however, following a couple of accidents, every aircraft of that type had been grounded. We were now flying on an Olympus Airways Airbus A321. This resulted in some faffing due to the changes to seat configuration once we did get onboard. Our Greek crew eventually got us airborne 40 minutes later than scheduled.
A couple of hours later, we arrived in Austria. From here it was a three hour trip in a minibus over the border to Kranjska Gora.
My room in Pension Milka was comfortable and a good size for a single room but the best feature was the view!!
After unpacking, I made my way downstairs on to the outside eating area. I was staying half board which included a three course evening meal. There was no choice, you got what you were given, but the quality was phenomenal. The ‘amuse-bouche’ was a beetroot bread with smoked butter and hummus. All home made. Next came celery, bacon and walnut soup . Main course was duck with beetroot reduction. A lavender panna cotta with berries rounded off this fantastic meal.
The next morning I woke at around 07:15 to the sound of grass cutting. They start early here! I helped myself to a selection of ham, cheese, bread and cereal while a very nice ‘proper’ Americano coffee was prepared for me.
After breakfast, I headed out, up the road to path 7 towards Vrisc. This was a very easy route to follow. Taking a left from the hotel, I followed the road up as far as the footpath to the left. Although this was a climb, it was fairly gradual with plenty of views and things of interest, such as the Russian Chapel. I arrived there at 10:30, before the tourists descended so had a good look round.
My route took my past the ‘face in the cliffs’. Needless to say, there is a story behind this.
On reaching the part of Vrisc where the tourist coaches stop and their passengers get a photo, I continued past the dom (a large mountain hut serving food) to a much quieter peak where there was still some snow on the ground. I passed through the white stuff towards a little grey box containing a book to record my visit (for safety) and a rubber stamp. It would have been nice to mark on my map that I’d arrived but, sadly, the ink had dried up. It was a beautifully warm and sunny day. This was a great spot to sit a while and take in the views.
The route back was similar to the route up albeit slightly quicker. The total distance being around 12.5 miles. A GPX file can be downloaded from the OutdoorActive website.
Friday 7th June and I’m the only person at breakfast. I was offered eggs cooked any way I wished to go with my coffee and cereal. It was another hot and sunny day. The plan was to take the path/cycle route D2 to the Fusine lakes across the border in Italy. This was a walk I’ve done a few times but it really is beautiful and well worth a return visit. I did a figure of eight loop stopping at a quiet spot for a quick drink and to take in the views. I continued along D2 the far end of the village Fusine in Valromana but there was little reward in extending the walk. I’ve removed this extra part from the GPX file.
Saturday was looking to be another hot sunny day. The car park around the lake Jasna was already busy when left my room at 9am. My original plan was to get bus to Mojstrana but I decided to walk. This was perhaps not best idea! It was 26 degrees in relentless sun. On a previous visit, I got as far as the foot of Triglav, today, I only reached the gallery rock formations. Still, it was a nice if surprisingly tiring walk. I returned to Mojstrana for the hourly bus back to Kranjska Gora. I felt quite smug. After a quick look on Alpetour website, I’d got to the stop a few minutes before the bus and had the correct change….I hadn’t spotted that the 16:12 bus didn’t run on Saturday. Could have been worse, the bus stop was closed on some days due to road works.
Sunday 9th June After being the only person at breakfast on the previous mornings, today there was another English lady travelling alone and an Austrian family. Later in the morning I popped in to the shopping area for some cash. Two cash machines were out of money. I assumed there had been a rush on Friday and Saturday. I had enough money for some drinks so headed to the supermarket. It was closed. Using my limited Slovenian, I’d worked out it should have opened at 8am. It was now 9.20 Giving up on that idea, I grabbed my stuff then went on walk to the Koca v Krnici hut. A nice simple walk following the river through woods. I took the track back making it fairly circular. I’d returned to Kranjska Gora quite early in afternoon so took D2 to Gozd Martuljek, crossing the river for the walk back. This walk can be easily split in to two separate shorter walks from Kranjska Gora. I later discovered that today was Pentecost or Whit Sunday, a national holiday in Slovenia. Explains why everything was shut!
Monday 10th June The plan today was to do the three borders walk but the dark clouds were gathering in that direction. I started walking towards where the borders of Slovenia, Italy and Austria meet but took a left a Ratece towards the Planica centre. Passing the visitor centre and ski jumps, I continued on to walk to the Nadiza waterfall. I’d walked up the waterfall last year so today I followed one of the paths south just because it was there! I was glad I did! More snow to play in and some fantastic views. This is a great, easy circular walk from Planica although I removed the extra bit to the south off my GPX file
Once I made my way back to Planica, I took the path beside the hotel and on to the Slanta ski lift. The path had the usual yellow signs pointing to Kranjska Gora and Ratece. Then I hit a sign saying ‘private’. Was walking across here still possible? There was nobody around so I carried on but no yellow footpath signs until I got over their land. According to my GPS I was still on the footpath. Had it been removed? My route, legal or otherwise, came out near the bizarre labyrinth, from here it is an easy walk on D2 back.
Tuesday 11th June Today I was going to try a new route, head towards the Martuljek waterfall. then take the path towards Spik and the bivouac. The further I went along the path, the more difficult the terrain. Not hugely difficult but rain was predicted, the clouds were getting darker and I was rapidly loosing confidence in my Scapra approach shoes. It was enough for me to think to myself, “I’ve seen nobody since leaving D2 and the phone signal has disappearing. As much as I want to stay in Slovenia, I didn’t want to prolong my stay by being stuck up a mountain after a slip.” There were a lot more contours on the map ahead and, looking at the map, there would not be much more in the way of views although seeing the bivouac would have been fun.
I followed the path back down to a track which led me down to D2 opposite the memorial for cyclist Jure Robic. From here, I followed D2 to Gozd Martuljek taking the road through the village and up past a waterfall. Taking a left at Srednji Vrh, the route continues through pastures, woodland and past a house selling fresh yogurt. There were some great views over to Kranjska Gora but the weather was turning so I cut the walk a shorter and headed back to the hotel the rain became very heavy. The Pension Milka kitchen was closed today at the hotel so I headed to Kotnik’s for a takeaway pizza. I got the most expensive pizza on the menu (€10 plus 50c for box). Truffle; Mozzarella, sweet cream, truffle, deer prosciutto, Karst prosciutto, Parmesan. Fantastic!! I made my way very quickly in the torrential rain to my balcony where I sat with my pizza and a Slovenian IPA beer watching the storms in the valleys.
A 5.30 pick up for the airport in the morning so an early night this evening. A total of 214.67km or 133.4 miles to add to the total this year.
I picked up the Coleman Cobra 2 cheaply on an Amazon Black Friday deal. It ticked all the boxes; small enough to carry, not too heavy (2.3kg) and, being a two person tent, there should be a decent amount of room for one lanky person and their kit.
I’d taken it out on a number of trips, all in good weather…until one trip to North Wales. I woke up, made a coffee and realised the flaws in the Cobra when the rain started….. …..there was no porch and the lack of head room made it rather uncomfortable.
I sat in the main body of the tent to drink my coffee, curled up due to the limited head room in a way a that would have put many contortionist to shame. I decided that breakfast would be best cooked in the small park about a mile down the road. I was dressed in waterproofs but, at least I could sit upright.
As good as the Coleman is, I needed something about the same weight but with some headroom and a little bit of shelter for eating and cooking (with plenty of ventilation, cooking inside a tent isn’t recommended!!!) I spent a while browsing numerous different tents. I had a good idea of what I wanted and got the shortlist down to two….well three but one didn’t seem to be in stock anywhere.
I purchased the Robens Arch 2 at a sale price of £110. Robens is a Danish brand you don’t see much of in England, therefore, there were very few reviews online. I crossed my fingers! My one concern was how pink it looked on the photos. Perhaps keep the Coleman for more discrete camping!
The tent arrived the following evening. I didn’t have too much time, so I quickly put it up in the back garden to check all the bits where were I expected them to be. I was relived to see the tent was more a muddy brownish-red colour rather than the girly pink the website suggested.
Pitching instructions are provided in the tent’s stuff sack, they are also available on the Robens website which has some useful videos, however, it is an easy tent to put up.
First, put the two colour coded alloy poles through the corresponding sleeve, making sure the flat coloured end goes in first. A rather unusual feature of this Robens tent is that one end is sealed. Push the pole as far as it goes in to the webbing (it may need some wiggling!). The other end goes in to the eyelet on the opposite side of the tent. Pull the tent into shape then peg out. Simple.
So, in the battle of Coleman versus Robens, both are equally simple to pitch. Coleman 1 – Robens 1
For it’s first trip out, I took the Robens to Hebden Bridge Camping which is part of the New Delight Inn. I was flying a Vulcan Bomber simulator in Stacksteads, about 30 minutes drive away. This was fantastic experience and very different from anything I’ve ever flown before. We took off from RAF Finningley (now Doncaster Sheffield airport) and headed up the coast. I did a few barrel rolls over Blackpool then continued for a low level (500m) pass over Lake Windermere. Great fun!
As my ‘flight’ took off at 10am, I had plenty of time to get the tent sorted and take a decent walk afterwards. On checking in, I was handed a wooden spoon to put in to the ground next to my tent. A novel way of proving that I had paid! The camping area is a slightly sloping, fairly small field to the side of the pub car park. There’s two good separate ‘bathrooms’ in a portakabin, both containing a shower which is free to use.
Once again, the tent went up quickly and easily. A nice little feature in the Robens is a pocket to stuff the internal door into when opened fully, this makes it a bit easier to access the porch area. I changed out of my ‘flying clothes’ and into my walking gear. I was grateful of the extra headroom the Robens tent offered. I can easily sit up at any part of the tent. A big extra point for the Robens.
Suitably attired, I went on a pleasant circular ish walk to Hebden Bridge. The route started at the path almost opposite the campsite then returned on the Caderdale Way which has great views over the village and beyond. The route is available to download as a GPX file from the ViewRanger website.
Back at the campsite, I had dinner at the New Delight Inn. A portion of scampi for starters followed by bacon cheese burger. All good tasty pub food.
As it was a nice evening, after dinner, I followed the bridleway back up to Hebden Bridge for a night cap at Drink?. I was joined on the walk back by several bats. I watched them from the porch for a while before settling down for the night.
First, I had to hook my lantern up. The Coleman tent has a handy plastic hook on the roof. The Robens just has a loop made of material. I managed to hook the lantern’s USB charger part through then back on itself which did the trick. A slight ‘win’ for the Coleman there. One plus for the Robens is it has two loops ….so why did I hang the lantern over my feet rather than within easy reach?!
Like the Coleman, the Robens has two mesh storage pockets. I put my mobile phone and portable charger in one and my head torch in the other. I plonked myself in the middle of the tent and promptly fell asleep…..
…..I woke up quite late on Sunday morning. The others on the site were busy preparing breakfast or even packing up by the time I surfaced. I think the lie in was partly down to the how much darker it is inside the Robens. Another point for the Robens there!
After the usual breakfast of coffee and porridge cooked on the Jetboil, I started to put my camping kit away. The Robens is a very easy tent to take down, getting it back in it’s stuff sack, however, resulted in much swearing and cursing. Trying to put it away in rain is almost impossible. Another stuff sack will be used in future – perhaps the wide opening bag the Coleman is kept in. A definite point for the Coleman and it’s taco stuff sack.
The Robens was fantastic in the horrible conditions during a camp near Castleton. Both tents have a hydrostatic head of 3000 and taped seams. Both tents pitch the inner and fly together which saves soggy inners if pitching in the rain. Both also have a good deep bathtub inner which gives protection from any wet weather. The Coleman kept me dry over night on a rainy trip to Wales but it was virtually impossible to keep dry and cook breakfast due to the lack of headroom. Point to the Robens.
The two tents also have good ventilation so no problems with condensation, however, the Robens does have more vents which are easier to open and close so just wins this test.
If you’re counting, I make it 4.5 points to the Robens and 2.5 for the Coleman. That’s not to say the Coleman is a particularly bad tent especially as it can be picked up at such a good price. The Coleman is currently (August 2019) around £85 but can be found for as little as £70. The Robens is more expensive at about £120. I like the extra headroom and porch the Robens offers and for that reason it’s now my go to two person tent, but, both are very good tents. How much is the extra height and porch space worth to you?
As a Tranmere supporter, brought up on the Holmlands Estate, Birkenhead (about two minutes walk from Prestbury Ave) , who went to the same primary and secondary schools as Nigel Blackwell, it was impossible not to become a fan of Half Man Half Biscuit. I’d followed them around the country, Liverpool, Manchester, Sheffield, Hull…… but when I spotted a gig in a cave I just had to get a ticket.
I bought the ticket in February for Devil’s Arse cave in Castleton. A month later I’d booked a spot at a campsite a few miles down the road. The concert was in mid August. Splendid. Pitch up at midday, walk to nearby Ladybower reservoir, cook dinner then a nice evening stroll to the venue…. …..well, that was the plan!
There had been a rain warning in place for a few days. I left my house at 10am for what should be about a 90 minute journey. I hit the first tailback on the M56, then another. Even on the clear bits of motorway it was not advisable to go too fast. The rain was heavy and the surface extremely damp. It took around three hours to reach Swallowholme Campsite in Bamford. I was shown to my allocated spot on a patch of grass reserved for only for tents. I put on my waterproofs and set up ‘home’ I haven’t been too impressed with my Scarpa approach shoes, I’ve little confidence in the grip and, despite getting re-waterproofed recently, my feet were already soaked by the time I’d pitched my tent. I sat in the doorway and made myself a coffee. I felt I’d earned it!
With my right foot squelching every time I took I step, I did not fancying too much of a walk so I took a look around Bamford. There wasn’t much to see to be honest. I went on to Hathersage. I’m not a fan of shopping but there are a couple of good outdoor shops in the village and it got me out of the continuing monsoon.
Back at the tent, I sat in the porch area and heated up my meatballs and pasta and downed a very nice can of Thornbridge beer I’d purchased at Hathersage Spar. At around 6pm, I headed back out in to the torrential rain for the 80 minute walk to Devil’s Arse cave. I did ask myself why I didn’t take the car.
Devil’s Arse has to be one of the most impressive concert venues I’ve been to as well as being the best named! I’d arrived in good time so I bought a drink at a stall near the entrance. As I drunk my coffee, I said ‘hello’ to bassist Neil who was sporting a nice Appleton cricket shirt (there’s a story behind that!).
The audience area was split in to three tiers. I took my place on a raised area to the right of the stage, leaning on the safety barrier between my level and the lower level on the left. The support was JD Meatyard. Not really my thing but a number of the audience seemed to enjoy his set.
At around 8pm, Half Man Half Biscuit came on stage and started their show with “She’s in Broadstairs” I seem to remember the other songs were as follows:
Renfield’s Afoot. A woman standing near me had danced her way through the previous two songs and continued through this one. A strange dance reminiscent of the of “Tales of the Unexpected” opening credits.
Lilac Harry Quinn
Harsh times in Umberstone Covert
Look Dad No Tunes (the theremin part really warmed the crowd up)
Ode To Joyce
What Made Colombia Famous
Paintball’s Coming Home With the extra verses which get added at every gig – “They say It Is What It Is and Gin O’Clock” “You OK, hun?” “They’ve got an ice cream maker and a George Foreman grill”
Left Lyrics in the Practice Room
God Gave Us Life (“God gave us tailbacks on the M56, and God gave us tailbacks on the M60”. Nigel must have taken the same route I did)
Terminus (I think my favourite song at the moment)
Joy Division Oven Gloves
Running Order Squabble Fest
Dukla Prague Away Kit
Worried Man Blues
We Built This Village with the variation of “cavers out moshing”
David Wainwright’s Feet (a song originally on a kids album which is ridiculously catchy)
Born To Lose (a cover and totally lost on me)
The Unfortunate Gwatkin
National Sh**e Day
Light at the End of the Tunnel
Time Flies By
Then the encores
Everything’s AOR Quite possibly my favourite live song
Sounds of the Suburbs (another cover)
Every Time a Bell Rings. The crowd had been shouting for this all night.
A fantastic gig. The band sounded great. Nigel played guitar on a few songs but for most of the time he looked like a slightly less frantic Bruce Dickinson, up on the monitors and climbing the safety rails. As usual, he spent time chatting with the crowd but his attempt at jokes are probably not worth repeating! We did, however, learn that the river running through the cave was the Noe.
The show finished at around 10pm. The rain was still falling but was now less heavy. This was the first time I’d ever taken a head torch to a concert but was very glad of it as I walked the dark roads back to the campsite.
Back at the tent, everything was wet. I was glad to get tucked in to my sleeping bag, warm and dry. Unfortunately, the wind had got up, gusting around 35mph. I had positioned my tent in to the wind and had no doubt it was capable of withstanding wind a lot stronger. It was my pegging out I worried out about!
I woke at 6am after a reasonable sleep, all pegs still in place! I set the Jetboil up on a picnic table, made a coffee and porridge. I finished just as the rain started again. Being wet and a little muddy, the tent really didn’t want to go back in to it’s stuff sack. As I was in the car, I flung it and the rest of my muddy kit in the boot then headed to Castleton. Just outside the village, I parked on the side of the road. Two of the pay and display machines were covered over, the third wouldn’t take my money. Bonus – free parking! My feet squelshed as I put my Scarpas back on. I headed towards the concert venue and followed the signs to Pervil Castle.
I spotted a tent near the entrance to the cave. I suspect someone may have been doing some wild camping after the concert! I followed the Cave Dale path up. I say path, there was now a river flowing down the rocky route. I continued along the Limestone Way before taking a right and following the path back to the car. This was only around three and a half miles in length and I had planned two loops, the second taking me up Mam Tor. As I finished the first loop, the clouds got darker. It was time to bale out and perhaps plan another camping trip in the future when it wasn’t so damn wet!
As I pulled off in the car, the rain became torrential yet again but, despite the weather, a fantastic weekend and one of the best concerts I’ve been to in a long time…..now to see when the next gig is…..