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Pretty much decided on heading south on Monday and walking part of the South Downs Way.

Looking at the weather and the outlook looks cooler at 18 degrees and with light rain showers, which to be honest would be a lot better than the current heatwave for walking. I always take the four days forecasts with a pinch of salt though as I believe they use radar etc for up to 48 hours and then a 20 sided dice for anything over !

Making plans up tomorrow for exactly how to do the walk, weather to backpack or car camp and am looking at campsites along the South Downs way although to be honest despite it being turned into a National Park does seem very lacking in camping opportunities once you get past Alfriston.

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Time to get away !

Well Ive found myself out of work for the first time in 20 years and am currently on ‘gardening leave’ for the next couple of months. Its an odd situation to be in and Im currently looking for a new job and had a number of calls already but in the meantime think its certainly an opportunity not to be missed and am looking on a 2 or 3 night backpacking trip in the next few weeks.

Ideally Id look at the Lakes but common sense is nagging that I shouldnt be spending too much money with my current situation and its fairly pricey to get up there. The alternative is somewhere down south and as Ive mentioned before  the favourite is the South Downs Way and Im currenlty looking at a walk along from Brighton – Beachy Head area.

The only issue I can see with the walk is a lack of campsites along the route and I certainly dont want to be using B&B’s as the cost of them would negate the reason for not heading north. I know of a campsite in Alfriston and in the Seven Sisters Country Park but none to the west, so Ill be having a look at options there. Ill be checking the Backpackers Club listed sites and hopefully they will have plenty of places to pitch the tent along the way.

Itchy feet

Well after two recent trips to the Lakes I’d had my fill for a little while, but now Im getting itchy feet again and starting to look longingly at my boots in the corner and the tents piled in the cupboard.

Question is where and when to do something ?

The next big trip wont be until September so I need to look a little closer to home and somewhere in the south east and the South Downs look tempting again. I may look to do a 2 or 3 night backpack some time in the next few weeks, although weekends are at a premium at the moment.

Slideshow from the weekend’s trip.

Well as expected the weather turned out to be as forecast, wet and windy.

I met up with my mate Tony on the Friday morning bright and early at 7-15 am ready to get the train into London and up to Penrith from Euston on the 9-40 train. Taking the train really does make the journey easier and despite having to travel through London the journey is far easier than sitting in a car for 7 hours and doesnt feel as tiring.

On arrival at Penrith our normal guarded and distrustful southern mannerisms held fast when a mini bus driver approached us asking where we were heading. Now in the south this is normally an approach used by homicidal maniacs to lure unsuspecting backpackers into ambushes, but on this occassion it appears all that was on offer was a lift into Keswick from someone heading in that direction. Bizarre! So from this act of kindness we found ourselves in Keswick an hour or more ahead of schedule which was much appreciated.

We had a quick look around Keswick’s Main Street to stock up on a few snacks and to give me a chance to pop in to Needle Sports to pick up the 4L OMM Chest pouch. Tony had turned up with an OMM Jirishanca 35L rucksack with the pouch attached which was a coincidence as Id already planned on getting one. The pouch was £17.99 which was a fair amount but was extremely useful as I really dont like to keep removing my rucksack and found it great for storing snacks, maps and wallet etc. Being able to keep hands free and pockets empty was of great benefit and it was a great purchase.

 

OMM 4L Chest Pouch

OMM 4L Chest Pouch

The downsides of the pouch are that its not waterproof so drybagging is needed, the lower hooks came loose a few too often for my liking and it may hide your feet. I never actually found this but it was a complaint Tony made about his. Lets just say it may depend on your body frame how much of an issue this may be !

 

The Gear:

I took my Laser Competition, the Alpkit Pipedream 600 sleeping bag and an Alpkit Slim Airic sleepmat.  The tent Im delighted with, its easy to pitch (although I wasnt overly happy with my first attempt this trip), plenty of room in the bedroom and adequate if not plentiful space in the porch.  As we were anticipating some poor weather I took along 4 alpkit aluminum stakes for the guy ropes, which proved to be a wise decision on the last night with some pretty severe gusts.

Im very pleased with the Alpkit Pipedream 600, I found it warm all weekend and just right for my needs and am sure Im a cool sleeper as Im sure its overkill for a May trip that temperature wise never strayed too low. I’d like to try a lighter sleeping bag as I wonder what a hot and humid July night will feel like it in it, but for the time being the 600 is going to have to be my bag of choice.

Sleepmat wise the Slim Airic did its job in that I managed a decent nights sleep however I wonder if I need something a little more comfortable as each morning I would wake with a back ache. Now Id love to take my fat airic but as it rolls up the same size as a small sofa I dont think this is viable for backpacking trips so I may well take a look at the Neo Air mats which are being very much sung about on blogs across the web. 

Tony on the other hand used a small tarp, the pad from the back of his rucksack and a down quilt. I felt like I was sleeping in the Hilton in comparison! He also had a rucksack 4 kilos or more lighter so whilst I languished in relative comfort at night he smiled inwardly during the day as I whined about my aches and pains!

The Walking and Camping:

 The plan was to head to Stonethwaite to camp there again for the first night, then walk somewhere over the Scafell area and either wild camp or to return to Seatoller or Wasdale campsites if the weather wasnt kind to us.  So late afternoon we caught the 78 bus from Keswick down to Stonethwaite and walked through the village to the campsite. Due to the weather the campsite was pretty much deserted, one tent and a couple of vans and the rest to ourselves so we chose a spot right next to the river.  

 

Home sweet home...

Home sweet home...

 

Tony in his handkerchief. Sorry I mean tarp. Cosy.

Tony in his handkerchief. Sorry I mean tarp. Cosy.

On the Saturday we decided to head off up the Langstrath Valley and to see whether we could get up to Angle Tarn via Allen Crag Gill. The orginal plan was to ascend from Seathwaite, and the decision not to did with hindsight seem a missed opportunity however the Langstrath Valley and its remoteness was appealling and with the weather reports looking poor thought a valley walk may be the wiser option. The valley itself was beautiful, with waterfalls to admire small streams to cross and commanding fells all around. Sadly what it lacked was any reasonable footpaths halfway in and we quickly found that the land was very boggy and on many occassions I found myself shin deep in wet bog. The weather ranged inthe morning from poor to absolute miserable and for the first time in a long while I had to put on my waterproof trousers. Even Tony had to put on his waterproof jacket, a sure sign of bad weather!

After some hours we reached the end of the Valley and came to the Allan Crag Gill, a steep climb alongside a waterfall. We managed to get to around 300 feet of the top when the climb became steeper still and coincided to a huge downpour at which point we decided enough was enough and thought it safer to head back down. Sadly when you are at the end of an enclosed valley the only way is back where you came so off we went to Stonethwaite. All in all we walked from 9-30 to 6pm which is a long time to cover the 8.4 miles, partly caused by the boggy conditions and also from having to navigate across some fast moving streams. Certainly by the time we got back to site all I could think of was getting into the Langstrath Country Inn for dinner and they managed to squeeze us in at 6pm. The food at the Inn is very nice, if somewhat pricey for what it is, and as its so busy you only get a couple of hours before being cast into the wilderness again, it would have been nice to be able to loiter to warm the bones, however as we hadnt pitched we had to get back to the campsite and set up anyway.

 

Drowned rats...

Drowned rats...

The next day we decided to head up to Keswick for a bit of luxury and to be closer to the bus station for the trip home on Monday. We walked from Stonethwaite up to Grange at which point I jumped on the bus to save my failing feet and shoulders unaccostmed to carrying the weight, whilst Tony continued to walk to Keswick along the Allerdale Ramble.

We managed to get into the camping and caravanning club site on the northern shore of Derwent Water. Truly wildcamping I know! However we were wet and tired and thought we would treat ourselves and luckily being a member I didnt have to pay with credit on my account after being cancelled last September on the same site through to flooding. Im not a big fan of the site as a whole as there are too many caravans squeezed into a small area and the site looks cramped. However for camping its actually very nice as you can camp on the shoreline and the views across to Cat Bells and down to Borrowdale are stunning. As long as you dont turn around and look at the lines of caravans its spectacular. Shame as with Skiddaw looming behind the view north is impressive also.

 

Ok its not hardcore, but hard to beat the views.

Ok its not hardcore, but hard to beat the views.

The weather on the last night was very poor,  torrential rain and the strongest winds of the trip and the only night I had an unsettled nights sleep. I was very surprised to find the Laser Comp was unaffected other than a little moisture on the inner from where the fly must have been pushed onto it during the wind. All pegs were intact and the Alpkit Stakes had done their job.  My initial reaction was Tony’s tent had been blown away, then I remembered it was only a foot long and was still there 🙂 It all seems irrelvant anyway as he somehow managed to roll several feet from it during the night anyway, probably subconciously heading for the girls tent nearby!

Well after 5 trips to the Lakes in 11 months with  beautiful sunshine every time it had to happen, wind and rain for the whole trip! We did have some brief nice spells but overall a pretty wet weekend. Ill put up a trip report tomorrow but heres a couple of moody looking pics that Tony took to match the moody weather!

 

Camping at Stonethwaite

Camping at Stonethwaite

Stonethwaite

Stonethwaite

Off we go…..

In bed at 1am, up at 5-30am to get the kids ready and round to their grandparents, so really bright eyed and bushy tailed now! (press sarcasm button!).

Packed my rucksack last minute, literally, and no doubt forgotten something major, like a tent or such like, but its all in there. The OMM Villain really is only just big enough for what Ive got and I notice the OMM 4L chest pouch is again available and Im planning on picking one up from Keswick today just to take a little strain from the Villain, and also to hopefully make accessing little bits and bobs easier without having to take the rucksace off.

Forecast isnt looking great but it seems to change randomly every couple of hours so who knows. It certainly doesn’t look like Ill be worrying about having to take sun tan lotion though and the waterproofs are definitely coming in to play this weekend!

Anyway, enjoy the weekend if you are out and about and will post a report of our soaking upon our return!