Sleeping Pads – A grounded view |

My sort of backpacking  … 🙂

Winter backpacking requires more of everything: More warmth, more insulation, more gear, more equipment, etc. Sleeping pads used for winter backpacking are no different.  A person can have a -20F bag but if they are camped out on too thin or short of a pad, then the night will be much colder than expected. Near Mitchell Lake at sunset on a fine winter evening R-Value is critical to keep in mind when picking out a sleeping pad (or pads) for winter camping and backpacking. Generally speaking, an R-Value

Source: Sleeping Pads – A grounded view |

Journey with Trees

Trees for Life’s Corporate & Trusts Development Officer Joyce Gilbert trades funding application forms for a  ‘Journey of Trees’ – a Gaelic place-naming weekend of tree planting and pony trekking.

Last weekend found me walking beside a couple of ponies on a “Journey with Trees” along an old Military Road between Glenmoriston and Invergarry via Fort Augustus. The journey was the initiation of a project I’ve put together to celebrate the place of trees in the local landscape around Dundreggan, but also to highlight the fascinating links between our natural heritage and the Gaelic language. Look closely at ordinary OS maps and you will see a plethora of Gaelic place-names for just about every loch, peak and stream in this part of Scotland. My interest in this was sparked by the realisation that these names can act as a sort of “ecological memory” where the names of animals and plants, including trees are recorded. Just across the Glen from Dundreggan Conservation Estate is Creag a’ Mhadaidh meaning Wolf Crag while just to the east of this is Coille nam Beithe – the Birch Wood. Amazingly, the birch wood is still there, after who knows how many centuries since the name was given to the place by local people. Of course, there are no wolves in Glenmoriston today, but the fact that a remote corrie in the glen is named after an animal that only disappeared from Scotland sometime in the 17th or early 18th Century, is food for thought. Read more …

Cat Scramble podcast


Cat Scramble – a solitary walk on Exmoor.

Some of you will have heard this before but I think … think … I might just be getting the hang of podcasting via my website! Don’t hold your breath but please do cross all your fingers and toes 🙂

Trees for Life: Rewilding Grove

I’ve just written a wee story for Trees for Life … this is part of it …

More dreams come to you. This time they begin with a long deep howl. Straightway it’s answered, and answered again and again. Your skin tingles and a smile creeps onto your mouth, you know you are dreaming and have not the slightest wish to wake. ‘Come!’ your heart whispers and soon you hear the patter of delicate, clever paws that know their way so well through the forest, ‘Come,’ you whisper again, ‘please come’. In your dream your eyes open and all around you now stand the grey shadows, tongues lolling, smiling, eyes shining with curiosity. ‘A human!’ you hear in your head, ‘a human who wants to know us!’ The alpha, a white female comes slowly towards you, you sense she doesn’t wish to frighten you. You stay quite still, projecting love and delight. Her nose is two inches from yours, you smell her sweet breath, her tongue comes and licks your face … your stop breathing and your heart gives a little skip. She moves away from you and the others come up, they nose and lick and push you, soon you are rolling in a heap of warm fur, being licked and played with as if you were a cub. The alpha female gives a short bark, the pack looks up, they give you quick lick and nose-pushes, and then they are off, following her back into the forest.

You can read the full story HERE.

It’s part of a piece for the website of the grove of trees I’ve just organised to celebrate and encourage rewilding through Trees for Life. They will begin planting it this autumn which is the best time to plant the trees. This is the grove’s website

I would really love it if you can help by adding trees to the grove. It only costs £5 to plant one tree so if you ever find yourself with a choice of what to do with a spare fiver do think of this grove, it would love to grow and can with your help. I’ll certainly be adding to it myself. My husband says he’d rather have a tree planted than a brithday or Sun-Return prezzie so I’ll be honouring that wish, and the same for other friends who’d like a tree for a present too.

Please share this grove around your networks if you can. It’s one of many but every little sharing helps to grow the whole great wood we’re aiming at … and enables more woods to be planted too.


Hot Tenting Vs. Cold Camping – Outdoor adventure, gear, travel & skills

winter-camp-2013-16This is good …

Hot tenting beats cold camping, hands down. I remember the trip that changed everything for me. I was “cold camping” in Algonquin park, sleeping in my four-season tent at the end of a long and cold February day of snowshoeing through deep snow.

I had no heat source — which is what defines cold camping — except for my own body heat. It was -27 degrees Celsius when I crawled out of my frozen tomb in the morning. Getting up and get moving on the trail was the only thing that was going to thaw me out, but the bindings of my snowshoes (and my boots) had a thick layer of ice to chisel off first before I could get anywhere. With frozen fingers and toes I made slow progress to my vehicle parked at the access point. When I reached my car, jacking the heater full blast to thaw out, I pledged that that would be my last four-season winter camping experience, ever!

via Hot Tenting Vs. Cold Camping – Outdoor adventure, gear, travel & skills.

Paul Kirtley's Bushcraft Socks !!!

Oh Wow !!! My socks are now famous !!!

Knitted socks

Paul Kirtley’s feet in the socks I made for him !!!

One thing I was very impressed with was hand made for me. To be more precise a pair were made for me. Following her attendance on one of my bushcraft courses over at Frontier Bushcraft, Elen Sentier was kind enough to knit me a pair of socks from North Ronaldsay wool. Comfortable and unrestrictive, they proved fantastic for arctic conditions. I wore them every day for two weeks over a pair of Thorlo mountaineering socks. The combination was luxurious. Elen’s socks have earned a firm place in my arctic outfit! … from Paul Kirtley’s blog of his Return to the Northern Forest

I’m really glad they were so successful. I’ve got several pairs and find them excellent. But there you go … I’m famous!


Myth & Moor: Dreaming awake

Nattadon morning 3Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Dreaming awake

Nattadon morning 1

“I write fantasy because it’s there. I have no other excuse for sitting down for several hours a day indulging my imagination. Daydreaming. Thinking up imaginary people, impossible places. Imagination is the golden-eyed monster that never sleeps. It must be fed; it cannot be ignored. Making it tell the same tale over and over again makes it thin and whining; its scales begin to fall off; its fiery breath becomes a trickle of smoke. It is best fed by reality, an odd diet for something nonexistent; there are few details of daily life and its broad range of emotional context that can’t be transformed into food for the imagination. It must be visited constantly, or else it begins to become restless and emit strange bellows at embarrassing moments; ignoring it only makes it grow larger and noisier. Content, it dreams awake, and spins the fabric of tales. There is really nothing to be done with such imagery except to use it: in writing, in art. Those who fear the imagination condemn it: something childish, they say, something monsterish, misbegotten. Not all of us dream awake. But those of us who do have no choice.” – Patricia A. Mckillip

via Myth & Moor: Dreaming awake.

Bushcraft Clothing

A small low impact bushcraft camp in the North of Norway


It’s very good to find that technology still isn’t a patch on a sheep 🙂 Gary Waidson (friends call him Wayland, he says he’s “a freelance Viking”) of Ravenlore gives a very good outline of useful bushcraft clothing …

“I prefer to take my inspiration from the hardiest of mountain dwellers, that endure the worst weather nature can throw at them, without shelter, 365 days a year 24 hours a day. Sheep.

Millions of years of evolution has given sheep one of the best insulating materials known to mankind.

Wool is warm, it’s breathable, it has antibacterial qualities that stop it smelling and it will absorb a lot of moisture before it loses it’s insulating effects.

The downside is that it has been out of fashion for a while in outdoor sport pursuits and getting good woollen gear can be a challenge. The wool shirt you can see above was made by Bison Bushcraft.

Wool clothing is also a little heavier than synthetic fleece, but it doesn’t burst into flame and melt onto your skin like fleece either. I know which I find preferable while working near to a fire.”

To read the whole artile go to  Ravenlore Bushcraft and Wilderness Skills. Clothing.

Intermediate Bushcraft Skills: An Exercise in Elimination

Bushcraft course student inside shelter with only cooking pot, knife and hand-drill

This article is very good and true about life in general …

At first, learning bushcraft is about gaining fundamental knowledge and basic techniques, learning the most useful and widely-applicable elementary bushcraft skills. These bushcraft skills are largely aimed at addressing your basic needs – shelter, fire, water and food.

Here there is a substantial overlap with survival skills. Basic bushcraft skills are typically directly applicable without much material preparation. They are skills that can be applied immediately upon arrival in an environment without access to an established material economy or cycle. That is, you don’t need materials collected, hunted or prepared during a previous season in order to apply the technique right now.

The basic level of bushcraft skill is the stage at which you are most likely to be reliant upon equipment carried with you. This is both a physical and a psychological dependence.

via Intermediate Bushcraft Skills: An Exercise in Elimination.

Coppet Hill – prep for spirit walk

view from trig point

Wonderful walk yesterday. Prepping the Spirit Walk for 18 Feb, so I walked the way we’re going to go that day. The walk’s a bit over 4.5 miles and mostly downhill or flat after the initial surge up to the trig point.

I tapped my stang three times on the ground and asked permission of the spirits of place, and Elen most particularly, to begin my walk. After a moment I felt the release, the invitation; the walk began.

That beginning is stunning; you climb up through woods then come out onto the edge of moorland and look down on the Wye from 185m (about 600ft). You can see for miles all round, it’s gorgeous!

The track, an ancient ridgeway going back thousands of years, leads you gently down into the forest – oak, hazel, hawthorn, pine, chestnut – takes you up to a folly, a small ruin-building with another lovely view. Hazel grows in the walls, it’s a place of Elen of the Ways, to confirm this for me a fallow deer buck and a couple of does moved slowly out of the forest edge about 50 feet away and a buzzard called overhead. I carried on down the track; the bare trees stood up around me like huge antlers, reaching for the sky, calling down sky energy into the earth, sending earth energy into the sky, exchange. Elen’s track led me on.

Raven - pic from birdguides

Caark! Caark! I stopped, peered into the sky. Yes! There! Huge and black, wings spread to soar, there he was … Raven. He circled lazily, calling the while, then settled in the top of a pine tree a quarter mile off. Another called, he called back. With my spyglass I could see the pair talking, refurbishing their nest ready for this year’s eggs. I watched; then he called again and flew off down to the valley. I set off on my way again.

Next I came to Blodeuwedd’s tree, an ancient, twisted hawthorn still half-covered in berries. I know her, she’s lovely, there are comfy stones to perch on beside her. If the frosts continue she won’t have the remains of her berries for long, the birds will need them … but that’s part of the exchange; she makes the berries, the birds eat them and spread her seed.

Down, down, down; through the woods, past the yews and pines, through the chestnuts, squirrels chasing from tree to tree. Next year I must come in the autumn and collect some. Some, not all as the deer need them to put on winter fat. It gets steep near the bottom, exciting! And through the trees I see whiteness, the filed between the woods and the river is white with frost. I reach the stile and there it is. The Yat rock is so high the field gets no sun at this time of year.

Standing by the stile, looking, watching and asking permission of the spirits of place to leave the wood and enter the field, I hear her calling … the peregrine. She’s nested in the Coldwell rocks for years, and so did her ancestors before her; there’s been a peregrine there for time out of mind. I stood listening; then the barrier broke and I felt I could cross the stile.

The walk through the frosted field was stunning. It’s a different sort of light, not daylight as you normally know it, not evening or night either, between the worlds. I reached the river; oh! how fast she flows! The Wye is a strong, fast and deep river, not one to mess with, it’s several feet deep just below me at the edge, and the drop is a good ten feet. I go carefully, watching my step. Mallards, duck and drake, squawk and flutter up from just below me, walking on water across to the other side; the land with that wonderful waterski-skid, unruffled their feathers and continue to sit perfectly still in the middle of the fast flowing river. That always looks like magic, still duck while you can see the river going several miles an hour as it flows past them … those feet must be doing the four minute mile underneath the water!

I walk on and suddenly … whoooo!

I turn. The calls come again, this time ke-wick whooooo … what are a pair of tawny owls doing out now, it’s two o’clock in the afternoon! I wait but they don’t call again.

It’s quiet here, no human sounds at all. Up at the trig point you still have the distant traffic noise from the A49; as you come past the folly and enter the woods this goes, the wood-quiet enfolds you, peace, only nature surrounds you. Down here, by the river, under the peregrine rock, it is still; the river rushes softly gurgles sometimes; the birds call, tree-fulls of thrushes sing on the opposite bank; you can hear the sheep’s feet crunch the frosty grass.

Now, up to my right is an old barn; oh, how I would love to liver there!

The river winds me on, my feet are drawn and carried as I walk down stream alongside her; the land and water energies are the silver threads that feed my feet, walking is easy when you remember to ask the land to help. Elen of the Ways nods and laughs as she watches me remember this again. And, as an extra,  there is a badger print, clear as anything, in a cow pat … walk with you feet, badger tells me, walk with your feet and not your head!

The field ends and I come to a gate. I tap my stang on the gatepost three times, asking permission to cross the threshold from one place to the next. Permission is granted, and I feel a thank you in my mind; the land and the goddess like to be acknowledged.

The way is a track now, the farmer uses it with his tractor so he has put hardcore down to save the land from becoming a mud-bath. It’s different walking, not so easy on the feet; I reach into the earth, asking for more energy, the land gives but it’s not so easy now man has put metalling between us. We achieve a balance.

Here is the stile. I stop for a few minutes, eat my apple and a piece of crystallised ginger, drop the apple core as a gift for the beasts and birds in the oakleaf litter of the path. Again, I tap the stang on the stile; again permission is granted to enter the wood.

This wood is different to on the top; we’re down near the river, near the bottom of the hill. The path rustles with dry oak leaves, their edges silvered with the frost; it climbs gently; there are old chestnut and sycamore leaves amongst the litter too. I come to a yew tree, like an arching bridge over the path; she is old, has lots many branches but is growing babies all the way down her trunk. There are no berries, all gone to the birds already. I tops beside her, sing to her and rest my head against her; she has many stories to tell.

The path goes on, gently upward, no strain at all and the land is able to feed me easily again. I can see through the bare tree trunks, up the hill to near the top where I walked earlier.

And here is a house again, a roadway, civilisation! The farm I passed earlier, by the stile, didn’t feel like civilisation, it seemed to be part of the land, accepted, working together. I think the peregrine had feasted there too. The farm has white doves, there were a dozen or so sat on the roof. As I walked up the first bit of the path there was a great mass of white on the wall further up; when I got there I saw it was dove feathers, picked clean; at first I wondered if it was a fox but, touching the feathers, it felt like the peregrine. I’m glad she was able to feed, build her strength for those eggs to come.

But here I was at the first cottage. I took the track and went on up, past the most wonderful crab apple tree, full of thrushes again, feasting. Now the way is quite civilised for a while but not long before I came to the Candle Shed. Friends make candles from the beeswax of the Coppet Hill bees; you can buy them there and get a cup of tea too … a lovely end to the walk.

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18 Feb 2012 – Shaman's Walk

1-day walk-shops in the Welsh Marches. The first one is on the 18th Feb 2012, over Coppett Hill and along the Wye. Places limited, if this sounds like your cup of tea do contact me … I look forward to walking with you.

More about Shaman’s Walk below …

walking with the goddess

Walk-shops … ??? Yes, walk-shops. We walk together, through the sacred landscape … a fundamental part of the awenydd’s way.

Walking, setting your feet on the ground, one foot after the other, purposefully and letting your senses feel into land and the spirit of the place, really puts you in touch with the Goddess. Walking this way is incredibly joyful; it revitalises you … because you allow the spirit of the land to flow her energy through you.

There are lovely things to see along the way: it may be just a flower or leaf … “just” ??? And how magical are they? Deeply magical, as we all know in our hearts. The birds, insects, the trees, leaves, sky, clouds, light and much more will all be out to give us thrills.

And the river … the river Wye. Several walks are along the river Wye, the Mother River of Welsh border-country. She winds her way through the beautiful land and her energy ripples out from her flowing self into the land on which we walk. We can sense this, often through our feet. Foot-dowsing … not a well-known practice nowadays but it was and it can be again. It’s part of what you can begin to learn on the walk-shops.

I only take a few people on each walk. It’s intimate, we share our sensing together in a personal way. The Goddess always gives what we need … the trick is learning to see it.

You’ll need good walking boots, warm, waterproof clothing, a hat and gloves help and so does a walking staff.  A camera and notebook (or phone app) are useful, and bring a packed lunch and a bottle of water too. Donations welcome after the walk.