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I have used my Buff to protect my kindle, support a sprained wrist, pad under a fraying rucksack strap – oh yes … and to keep the sun and wind off in summer and keep my neck warm in winter. Maybe I need more than one!
Though I have to say I have never worn one as illustrated here except when trying to sleep a little longer on a summer morning.
Stock up now >>>
I must have bought my first Mountain Equipment clothing in Buxton back in the 1980’s, but today I learned that the company has been producing outdoor clothing and equipment for over 50 years.
I love this image which I am sure is the same design as the one I still have made from ‘Polartec’
The range now has State-of-the-art technologies and user-driven features, but for me it’s the seeming indestructibility of the fabrics and construction which make this my first choice of gear.
There’s nothing quite like getting away from it all and setting out into the wilderness on a mountain hike. It’s just you, nature and the sound of your own footsteps, and the feeling you get when you reach the summit of the mountain is unparalleled. Mountain hiking can sometimes feel like a Lord of the Rings-esque epic quest, so it’s important to make sure you’re fully prepared for the journey, both there and back again.
Map and compass
This should be top of the list. If you’re going to venture out into the wilderness, then you need to know where you are and how to get where you’re going. An up to date Ordnance Survey map will be able to give you a feel for the lay of the land as well as any landmarks and hazards, and a compass will be vital in getting your bearings if visibility is poor.
If you want to look like the traditional wayward explorer you can purchase a print copy of a map and a real compass. There is also the digital option for the more tech-savvy hiker, and there are a number of apps for Android, iOS and Windows that provide your map and your compass, giving you more space in your backpack. Just make sure your battery is fully charged before you set out.
It doesn’t matter if it’s the height of Summer and you’re practically swimming in your own sweat; bring many lightweight layers with you, one of which should be waterproof. On a mountain, the weather can turn very suddenly from blistering heat to biting cold and back again, and since you could be hiking into cloud cover you’ll probably get more than a little wet.
Another hiking essential is a good set of hiking boots. Without these you’re likely to run into all sorts of problems from cramp to shin splints to blisters and worse. A good pair of boots need to be sturdy, waterproof and breathable. Depending on your foot shape and walking gait you might need specialist insoles, so get some advice before you buy.
This is one that people rarely think of when they go trekking, but could be very important. We’ve all heard horror stories of people being injured while climbing mountains, so it should be a no-brainer to make sure that you’re covered in case you have an accident while climbing.
A good travel insurance policy should cover your medical costs should you injure yourself while hiking. This becomes especially important if you’re hiking in the mountains outside of the UK, as the medical costs can be expensive.
Food and water
It can’t be stressed enough how important it is to stay hydrated while hiking. You’re going to lose a lot of water through sweat, so you need to have a large supply of water in your pack to last you the journey. The pack will be heavier for it, but it’ll soon get lighter as you tuck into your water supply. The climb gets easier as the pack gets lighter, and you stay fully hydrated in the process. Everyone’s a winner.
It’s also a good idea to stock up on food to give yourself an energy boost on the hike. Some chocolate or cereal bars are good to give you a small sugar boost, and make sure you stock up on carbohydrates (e.g. in pasta) beforehand for slow release energy. Pack yourself a little picnic so you’ve got something to nibble on if you start to feel tired.
Survival gear (torch, Swiss army knife)
These are small and handy little items that don’t take up much space but could help you in a pinch. Having a powerful torch with you can be extremely useful if you’re caught on the mountain after dark, and if you get one that flashes you’ll be able to signal your position to others nearby.
A Swiss army knife is the staple survival tool for any hiker, and with its myriad of functions it could prove useful in a number of situations (except the corkscrew, unless you plan on hiking into a wine cellar). It’s also a good idea to take a lightweight survival blanket along with you in case you’re stranded and need to wait for help.
Why do people go hiking
For those who don’t enjoy walking, or going out in the elements, hiking can seem like a bizarre pastime. They wonder what can possibly be enjoyable about climbing up a rock, or walking in the rain along a country pathway.
The main reason hikers hike is obvious. We enjoy it. It’s our hobby. The fresh air, the solitude, the feeling of purpose, simply being outside instead of cooped up in the house is irresistible to us. Obviously if you like to stay in doors with a biscuit and a cup of tea, that’s your choice. But for hikers, we just like to be outside, and it’s a reasonably gentle way to get in touch with nature.
And there are a lot of benefits to hiking, that you might not even be aware of. It’s thought that those who spend more time in rural areas getting fresh air, are more likely to live longer. City and town dwellers are prone to inhaling fumes and toxins that aren’t welcome in the body. Those who live in the city, and hike in the countryside are giving themselves a healthier life.
It’s also very relaxing too. If you have a stressful job during the week, spending Saturday, Sunday, or both getting some gentle exercise, is a great way to burn off any residual anxiety you might have left over from the week. Plus you can think clearer when you’re not distracted by shops and tempting events. Nothing but the rolling hills, the mountains and the country treks.
And there’s something quite beautiful about walking along with no destination in mind. Who knows where you’ll eventually stop and turn around again. You can go for as long as you like, trudging through the undergrowth, and up the rocks, enjoying the view, and the freedom. We all love a good adventure, and what’s more adventurous than not knowing where you’re headed?
In short, you might find you’ll enjoy hiking if you give it a go.
Just got back from a great walk in the Gower and had to do a quick write up. Oxwich Bay is on the south coast of the Gower and is home to one of Britains best beaches. We stayed at the Oxwich Bay Hotel which is one of the best bases at this time of year as its a little chilly for camping unless you have a wind proof tent. As the weather was a little chilly it was a good opportunity to test out my new North Face Jacket which had no problem keeping out the cold.
From the hotel we followed the beach all the way to the end. Apparently when the tide is very low you can follow can round the head land to 3 cliffs bay, but we were a bit to late. However we were lucky enough to get to the “secret beach” which can only be accessed at low tide. Its difficult to advise which is the best way to go at this point because it depend on the tide. If you cant access the secret beach you need to head up the dunes before hand and get on the coastal path. If you can get on to the secret beach you can clamber up onto the headland. As previously mentioned if you time it right (low tide) you may be able to stay on the beach and sneak round the headland before the tide comes in (but don’t take too long!!).
The next bay over is three cliffs bay and is one of the most magical bay’s in the country. With meandering stream and derelict castle it really is one of the best views in UK if not the world. There are numerous ways to drop down into the bay, the safest option is definitely the coastal path. We dropped down off the head land through the tree’s but beware there is a large drop at the bottom of the woods.
There are then stepping stones over the stream in the bay which allow you to cross the bay and head up the dunes to see the derelict Pennard Castle. From this points you will get the best views and a good spot to take a few photo. We then took the coastal path back over the headland and dropped down back onto the beach.
Its truly a great walk no matter what time of year.
Images to follow.
Map: Explorer 198 or pathfinder 988 New Quay and Aberporth
Distance 4 miles or 8 miles circular
Approximate Time 2.5  hours
Description From the smugglers cove of Cwm Tydu to the cafés, pubs and lively harbour of New Quay. [and back inland to complete the circular walk]
Start Cwm Tydu car park overlooking the sea.
- Cwm Tydu – a perfect picnic spot below the old lime kiln or why not walk out the first half mile to the stunning views across to the Lleyn peninsula. The walk is steep at the beginning start but soon becomes more level to give clear views of the path ahead, dropping into tiny coves and up again onto the cliff paths,
- Seal Bay – October is the best month to see the young seals, but older seals can often be seen basking in the sea. This stretch of the coastline is very quiet and it is possible to see adders and slow worms sunning themselves on the path.
- Bird Rock – A site of special scientific interest with colonies of nesting birds.
- Coastguard Station – at most times of year the path here is full of wild flowers from thrift early in the year to sea campion in the summer.
- New Quay – Here you can enjoy welcome refreshments overlooking the sea or the chance to take a boat trip to see seals and dolphins. From the town follow the road uphill to a large public house at Penrhiwllan and here turn right to follow the lane to Coybal Farm.
- Byrlip – The pathway runs alongside the larger house and towards the duckpond with stunning views across to the sea. An old green lane then leads to your left and into Byrlip woods, at the right time of year full of snowdrops, wood anemones and a waterfall set deep in the woods. The path is then sign posted back to Cwmtydu.
- Map available here
The Cardiff Bay Circuit is the best way to see some of the best parts of Cardiff. Its a really easy walk, all you need is a good outdoor coat as the weather can change quickly on the barrage. If you are starting in Cardiff Bay then you need to head towards the Norwegian Church which in 1868 was donated by the Marquis of Bute. You can’t miss it, its on the left of the bay when you look toward the sea. From the church you can follow the road over the new red bridge and past the new BBC studios and the new addition to the bay (not currently finished) The Doctor Who Experience.
This section of the walk is quite built up and not quite finished, so its not the best section. The path will soon open out and you will be able to see great views across the bay. The next mile stone is the skate park and outdoor gym that has been built on the barrage. This is a great place to hang out when the weather is fine and maybe even use the basket ball court and climbing wall.
The next section of the walk is the nicest stretch of the walk as you can see water either side of the barrage. You can enjoy about a mile of great views before reaching the working part of the barrage. When we walked across the bridge was up so we were lucky enough to see the barrage working to let boats pass through. Its sort of like a massive motorised lock like they have on canals.
Once you have made to the other end of the barrage you need to follow the path through Penarth Marina. There are numerous routes but if you try and stay next to the water you are on the right path. Eventually you will come to a bridge that will take you across the river and past the Cardiff International White Water Center. As you pass you will be might be lucky enough to see the canoes in action, and maybe have a go your self? Right next to the canoe center is International Swimming Pool with Olympic standard facilities and the Ice skating rink which is a good place to stop to cool down.
The path is signposted past the ice rink and meanders along the side of the bay for a couple of miles. You will eventually end up back in Cardiff Bay ready for a well deserved drink 🙂
Wondering if La Gomera is one of the best places in the world for varied hikes.
One of my favourites is the walk from Arure to Valle Gran Rae. You pass by an ancient threshing floor and a derelict farm building. Despite the height, the land is fairly level, before the very steep descent to the sea. I was glad I had my walking poles on the last stretch, the dry stones were like scree.