Showing posts from December, 2009

Exped Downmat 7 Short

I've used a Therm-a-Rest Ultralite 3/4 on backpacking trips for at least 15 years, but the world has moved on and new products have become available.  The Ultralite no longer keeps me warm enough when camping in winter and I have increasingly found myself waking up cold during the night, although I do like the small packed size and light weight.

The Holy Grail of sleeping mats is that it is lightweight, durable and above all, in winter  conditions, warm.  Unfortunately for the T-a-R NeoAir, numerous forum and blog reports about leaking valves and overnight deflation put me off buying one, although the early problems with the Neo may well have been resolved by now.

I settled on the Exped Downmat 7 Short with integral pump.  It's an interesting concept as a sleeping mat and completely different from the self-inflating foam core construction of the T-a-R range and various clones.  The mat is filled with goose down which is held in place by internal baffles. It promises warmth!


Richard III. The Last Plantagenet.

Needing to get some fresh air this afternoon I set off for a Christmas Eve walk close to home.  The site of the Battle of Bosworth Field lies near to where I live and there is a pleasant walk around the area in rural Leicestershire.  The battle, which took place on 22nd August 1485, was the  decisive battle of the Wars of the Roses between the Houses of York and Lancaster.  Richard III was the last king of the Plantagenet dynasty and his defeat by Henry Tudor, Earl of Richmond (subsequently King Henry VII) at Bosworth Field marked a defining moment in English history.

I passed this memorial stone to Richard III and spent a few moments pondering the course of our nation's history if Richard had been victorious at Bosworth Field. He was the last English king to be killed in battle on English soil.

Winter Solstice

Today is the winter solstice which marks the first day of winter in the Northern Hemisphere.  I went down the lane to Thornton Reservoir this evening to take a few images as the sun went down on the shortest day of the year.
The winter solstice is a pagan festival which has been celebrated for thousands of years, long before the arrival of Christianity. The Romans celebrated it as the feast of Saturnalia, the Greeks as the birth of Zeus and the ancient Druids celebrated it as the rebirth of the sun as the days gradually lengthen.

Io Saturnalia, Happy Yule!

A new Challenge!

I made number 84 on the TGO Challenge standby list so it looks unlikely that I'll be lucky this time.

Plans are being made for an alternative: in October 2010 I'm looking forward to a three-week trek in Nepal.

Watch this space!

Argos Pro Action Hike Lite Tent Review

I used the Argos Pro Action Hike Lite 1 person tent that I bought a couple of months ago on a two-day walk on Dartmoor.  This tent has had plenty of exposure on outdoors forums and blogs for quite a while, with mainly positive reviews.  I was keen to see for myself if it really does present a cheap, viable option to more exotic and vastly more expensive offerings.  The first thing you notice is the weight in comparison to the packed size.  It's a small tent, it packs reasonably small in it's compression sack but it weighs around 2kg.  That is heavy for a 1-man tent by most standards, but it's not really surprising.  You won't find any exotic lightweight materials here.  Just good old pu coated polyester, but for a price anywhere from £50 (rrp) to £17.99 depending on what the latest Argos offer is, there isn't much to complain about.

What you get is a well-made piece of kit with two shock cord linked alloy poles and 7 (1 spare) round wire alloy pegs.  The inner is su…

Scorhill Stone Circle, Teign-e-ver clapper bridge and a couple of Hawthorn Trees

The hawthorn tree has had great significance since prehistoric times.  I often see these twisted and gnarled old trees on moorlands, usually near to some feature such as an ancient crossroads or burial site, and always wonder at the aura that surrounds them.  Hawthorn trees have long been associated with paganism, witches brooms are reputed to have been made from them and there are often hawthorns growing beside wells and springs, many of these sites are considered to be sacred and by association, the hawthorn has connections with the Otherworld.

The tree itself was once known simply as 'May'.  This is the month when it comes alive with sweet-scented blossom.  Until recent times in some parts of the UK,  'Mayers' would leave hawthorn branches outside cottages, singing traditional songs as they went from house to house.

The prehistoric round pound at Batworthy Corner (above) on Dartmoor has a fine solitary hawthorn.  On quiet evenings when all that can be heard is the br…