Four years is too long a time to not share a path with the ones you love.

Four years is too long a time to not share a path with the ones you love.

I’ve done something I haven’t done for several years this week. I walked in the hills with my wife. Doesn’t sound like much does it, but when you factor in that our eldest is now 3, thats nearly 4 years since we have been for a decent walk together, and by that I mean something over 2 miles without blackmailing / cajoling / carrying a tiny guy along as well. It’s been such a long time, it felt a little strange to start off with, but the silence soon lost it’s edge and became the comfortable companionship I had missed. I’m not sure what it is, but hill walking and car journeys always seem to be the easiest places to talk to people. The quality of conversation that you get on the path or the front seat of a long trip, seem to be head and shoulders above the conversations we normally try and fit in to our busy lives. Not having anywhere to go except the journey, the lack of internet, demands of work and everyday life result in communication that is to be cherished.

towards Strines resevoir

The plan wasn’t always for a wander, we woke up at Cath’s folks house and decided when looking at the heavy hoar frost that it would be a stunning day for a wander. Persuading Grandma and Grandpa was done first thing, and the boys didn’t even turn round as we bolted out the door. We needed a gentle, swift wander as we didn’t want to leave the boys all day, so we headed on over to Cutthroat bridge, just up from Ladybower reservoir to park up. We were heading off to a bit of the Peaks I had not been too before, up to Strines reservoir, before heading across to an old favourite, blackhole moor and down to Derwent edge.

salt cellar

derwent edge

It’s been a while since I have been in the hills with Cath, so Monday was a bit of a dreamy day, my memories now I am back at the PC is of the chuckle of many grouse, trying to break through ice sheets whilst giggling, the silent movement of mist and cloud across the heather, and the beauty & majesty of Peak district gritstone. We’ve just been looking at some of the photos we have taken, and it’s lovely to share a smile and memories we have had together again of the hills. Time to plan some more dates, it’s been too long.

in to the mist


1962 intrudes delightfully on a 2010 Christmas

We made the call to drive down last night to Maidstone, and a painless journey has us ready to celebrate Christmas for the first time in a while with all the Jones’. Christmas is always a family time, but as this is the first time in a while, and the kids are so small, it’s shaping up to be a bit of special one.

Searching in the understairs cupboard though has now stepped it up another gear, with the discovery of the following ;

It’s a 1962 bottle of port given to us from the cellars of New College Oxford. As the label is missing, we have no idea what it is. Having sampled a similar bottle 3 years ago (which was possibly the nicest alcohol I have had on planet Earth), I am seriously looking forward to what should be some stellar port.


The hangover as usual will be non-negotiable, but does anyone have a clue from the seal as to what sort of port this will be?

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone on the sofa drinking port.

Music to feed the Soul

It’s been a profoundly musical day for me today, and everything I have listened to has moved me enough that the Facebook update I was going to post, has turned in to a blog post.

It started by listening to the Smiths “The Queen is dead” at work this morning, and wondering how lucky we are that Johnny Marr and Morrissey came together. We then had a short walk as a family this afternoon in Duncliffe Woods, and there was a particular bird that haunted the woods with it’s song as we wandered through the leaves.

Jack shared an early video of James brown dancing on facebook this afternoon that had me trying to bust some moves at 38, and after a house clear up Cath made my evening by surprising me with a programme she taped for me off Sky Arts last night of the making of Stevie Wonders “Songs in the Key of Life”. If you haven’t listened to it yet, you need to buy it and devote some time to it in my humble opinion. It’s simply his best album and is underpinned by a strong spirituality and musical open mindedness that still has it as a classic for me now.

I’m tired from a slightly manic couple of weeks, and today has been a real tonic in reminding me that listening to music, rather than having it on as a background to life, makes a world of difference in how it uplifts you.

Leave your home, lock the door, and never come back.

We’re coming up for our busiest period of the year at Webtogs right now, and getting outside has had to take a back seat whilst we get things ready for Christmas. Saturday though was a rare treat, a day out with the family. Dorset doesn’t have much in the way of real wilderness, it’s pretty much tractor land where we live, with a few too many posh houses for my liking and lots of agriculture. Dartmoor, Exmoor & the Brecons are the most logical wild options close by to, us but today saw Cath take us off to the one really wild option we have within the county – the coast. So we got up, got the caffeine going, strapped our boots on, got in to the car and headed southwards to Tyneham.

The village itself has a hell of a story having been abandoned since the end of the second world war, when the army requisitioned it for training for D day towards the end of 1943. There are a couple of other villages that have also suffered a similar fate, though for different reasons such as Derwent in the Peak District and Imber on Salisbury plain. They all evoke strong responses in people for lots of reasons, but for me, the emotions are stirred by the fact that houses some families had called home will never be so again. We drove through the Purbeck hills searching for the bluster of sea air when we came up the hill overlooking the village. Although the village was emptied to train troops for the D Day landings, after the war, the army held on to the land, and the villagers were not allowed back in. As a result, the village can only be accessed on certain weekends as it remains part of an army firing range. When you approach it, there are rather a lot of signs and flags warning you that you can get yourself blown up if you are not careful. I think that always adds a certain frisson to a walk, knowing that you are walking on land which you can’t usually traipse upon, and that you could find something that goes boom…..

Military firing range warning

It had been a beautiful start to the day though, so we drew up in to the car park at Tyneham with anticipation of a great stroll. Our route was a 2 mile walk and we hoped that Ifor, our 3 year old, would walk the whole way as we want to build up his stamina. Driving in to the village was a little underwhelming as you cannot see too many abandoned buildings. We togged up though, and headed off. I tweeted yesterday that bad weather is great for making you feel alive. We had no rain for Saturday however with the Sun gracing us for the most part, but the wind was strong, ever present, and the recent hours spent in front of a screen were blown away rapidly, leaving me with energy for the short trail ahead.

To the sea

There are many calculations for distance covered based on incline, weather etc, none however that allow for distance covered with a child. Based on Saturdays experience, I think 1 hour 15 mins per mile is about accurate! With Ellis on my back, we took a leisurely pace to the beach interrupted by the last Blackberries of autumn, puddles, rusting tanks and lots more puddles for Ifor. The sea swung in and out of view as we passed through through Tyneham valley. Large numbers on each hill and the occasional hunk of metal reminded us we were on MOD land, and it wasn’t long before we were at the beach. It’s been a while since I have been to the coast, and it was great to be reminded just how noisy waves crashing on a pebble beach can be. There is something incredibly wild about the Jurassic coast, so we spent some time just letting the sights, sounds and smells soak in.

Looking out over Tyneham bay.

Tyneham bay towards Lulworth

Looking down the coast to Werth Matravers & Kiddiminster

Cliffs above Tyneham

A biscuit, glug of milk, and we were off back up the cliff path back towards the village. We were rather glad to have Ifor’s littlelife animal daypack as the path ran rather too close to the cliffs, and the reigns were invaluable in keeping him by us. The path along the cliffs saw the sun come out, and we had beautiful views down the coast to Kimmeridge and Worth Matravers. Finally back at the car park, a rather tired Ifor & Ellis woolfed their lunches down, before we wandered off to have a look around the remains of the village. Spooky was the order of the day, particularly the schoolhouse which has been restored, and the graveyard of the church. Generations of families lay beneath the salty turf, yet no burials for 60 + years made it even more sombre than your average graveyard.

The farm stables in Tyneham

Tyneham church

Tyneham school

Heads lolling in the back of the car from the two boys, we headed home after a great stretch. Walking on the Dorset coast is fantastic, but adding the history and emotion present in Tyneham made it a day out that will stay with us for a while. If you want to take a look at all the photos we took, click here for our flickr stream of Tyneham.

Three traffic jams, a wedding and a birthday. That’ll be a bank holiday then.

Three traffic jams, a wedding and a birthday. That’ll be a bank holiday then.

Traffic. Just the word can make my blood pressure rise and we had a belly full of it this weekend.We’ve always been careful to avoid bank holiday rushes when we can, but this weekend saw my mate Rajen getting married at the Oshwal centre near Enfield. We hit the first of our traffic jams on the way up, arriving late at the wedding.  He’s a Hindu, and although we have been to one other Hindu wedding, it was a while ago and we certainly hadn’t been with kids before. As a result, we were unsure what to expect. We were though made to feel warmly welcome by one old codger who looked after us. It helped that there was a scroll for everyone that detailed what exactly was happening at each part of the ceremony, but this guy also took time to show us around the temple as well.

Several things stood out for me at the ceremony. Firstly, they served Ice Cream during the service. You read right folks, a delicious vanilla and pistachio combination which considering the room was warm, was a piece of genius. We had two, Ifor guzzled one in about 2 minutes flat and promptly went outside looking for more. The ceremony was long, probably around 3 hours or so and hopping in and out was fine and dandy. I found out more about the particular type of Hinduim, or Jain Oshwals whilst there, their adherence to non-violence, respect for life and different cultures striking a chord with my Quaker values.

On one of our trips out to let Ifor burn off the energy that a three year old miraculously accrues, the chap we had got talking to came out and offered to take us across to look at the new temple they had built. Frankly, it was jaw droppingly beautiful, and delightfully different to see something so Indian in Englands green and pleasant fields. The pink stone used picked up the sun gently, and the intricate carvings were stunning, offset beautifully by the simple green of the gardens.

Sadly, we didn’t have the camera with us so we have a lack of photos, but inside was just as impressive with white marble and the detailed carvings on both the doors and the walls speaking of the time and effort that had gone in to it. All the work conveyed the deep sense of spirituality involved, and it was a good place to stop and reflect quietly with my family. Not that Ifor really understands the words “quiet” just now. So it was back to the wedding, and we took our leave at the end as the boys got hungry. It was with this journey that we hit the second traffic jam, not too bad, but not great when we were tired from the day. It was a relief when we wended our way back to Maidstone to see Mum, and chill out before heading up to London on the Friday to visit little bro.

It had been his birthday on the Thursday and we had hatched a surprise with his other half to turn up un-announced which we duly did. Loving the look on his face, we headed out for an early lunch at Eat 17. Both the previous day and lunch summed up the things I miss about London, it’s multicultural heart and food! Having the chance to catch up with my nearest and dearest was also priceless. We figured on getting an early get away to avoid the traffic so at 1:30 we hit the road. What should have been a 2.5 hour journey then turned in to a 7 hour mission from Hades. Heading along the north bit of the M25 we encountered a car park, the boys thankfully sleeping through most of it due to their exertions. 3 hours in and we made the junction for the M4 at which point we decided it was enough for that game of skittles and drove slowly down the M4. The traffic began to clear, our thoughts turned to actually getting home and we strode off down the A350 stopping every 200 metres for Ifor to do a wee. Did I forget to tell you we were potty training Ifor too? How silly of me.

Driving past Warminster, we stopped in to Focus to look at a kitchen, at which point Nookie, our ever trusty Honda Accord, decided that enough was enough and promptly wouldn’t start. How a) Cath and I didn’t have the mother of all arguments and b) our Children didn’t melt down was beyond me, but an hour later by the grace of Green Flag we were on our way home. Bruv, I love you, but don’t expect a visit on the Bank Holiday ever again…….

Retro rucksack goodness tweaks memories

We had one of our favourite customers in the other day, just finishing off his shopping list for Kilimanjiro. He walked in with the bag below, which stirred all kinds of memories of my first rucksack (a Karrimor in case you hadn’t guessed!)

Retro karrimor goodness!

It also brought back memories of the old rucksacks they used to keep in their London store, from all the first expeditions to places they have supported over the years. I hope when Karrimor was sold, somebody has kept them safe and sound somewhere. It has made me nostalgic for the days when you could pretty much recommend any Karrimor rucksack, and it would be a good ‘un. If anyone else can remember what your favourite / first rucksack you ever had was, please post up in the comments below! All I can remember is that mine was 55 Litres, a lovely red, and my back will not forget carrying it – that’s for sure….


I was going to write a quick rundown of my recent trip to Dartmoor, but it looks like the chaps I went with over at the Vale Mountaineering club, Sean beat me to it! We had a great weekend, although, I have discovered my Berghaus pro mid rushes are not quite as waterproof as I was hoping after an extended bog hopping marathon taking in Brat Tor, Great Links Tor, Green Tor, Kitty Tor, Corn Ridge, Sourton Tors, Coombe Down and Great Nodden.

Even more of a shame is the fact that it looks like having sprained my ankle, I won’t be going to Snowdonia now on Bank Holiday weekend. I was hoping it would get better but I need to be realistic when my foot looks like this…..

A rather sprained ankle

A rather sprained ankle

I’ve knackered my ankle before, but never as badly as this, so I’m off to buy a wobble board and make sure I never lose a hill day again.

Mountain Hardware Koa 35

This probably has to be one of the strangest reviews of a mountain hardwear sack ever. I would love to tell you that I have been climbing in Patagonia, traversing some via ferrata in Italy or been off for a sneaky wildcamp in the Brecons.  Instead Saturday saw the Koa 35 rucksack from Mountain Hardwear became for the day, the largest family kit and nappy bag ever as we went off to the Larmer tree festival near Shaftesbury. Don’t think the bag got an easy ride as a result, far from it, it probably saw a more punishing day on my back than if I had been out in the hills.

First Impressions are great, I love Mountain Hardwear as a brand, their equipment in particular is always great to look at and the Koa is no deviation from that. I had a full load of waterproofs, nappies, food, suncream and god knows what else that Cath had decided I absolutely had to have that day in super mum faff mode. Before anyone complains, can I just say for the record she’s awesome and she can faff  to her hearts content as everything she packed did actually see the light of day at some stage!

Koa 35 Front

Putting the rucksack on with all that weight, you notice this is a seriously comfortable sack. I have had major problems with both Berghaus airflow and Deuter air system rucksacks in the past being a little on the skinny side. Although the Koa uses MH’s FL suspension system, the gap from sack to back is smaller than both, and as a result, your centre of gravity is not too far away from your body. I much prefer this for riding and scrambling. Couple that with a decent lumbar support,  an excellently supportive hipbelt, and I was never in any discomfort all day.

Koa 35 Back

The bag has two sections which are not done as top and bottom, instead you have two full length zips with one accessing the smaller side section, and the other the main bag. I really liked this as it meant access to all my gear easily for both sections. The daisy chain section cunningly has reinforced panels behind them so it meant if I was strapping sharp stuff to the bag like my crampons, the bag won’t get damaged. Top wise they have got rid of a lid and you have a roll top closure which I like. The bag keeps it’s shape better as a result and you get no floating lid hopping off to one side which is a bug bear of mine. The stowable front compression panel would be good for a helmet (I used it to dry a damp fleece!) and the hydration pouch I guess would be easier to refill being outside the main bag. That last point is a small one, but for me it’s what Mountain Hardware gear is about, and that is everything has been thought about in some serious detail, right down to the dinky little nut tags on the zips!

Koa 35 zips

The day was a long one but great one, and the sack was on my back pushing the boys around the Larmer tree site all day. The music was awesome (highlight Toumani Diabate ) and by the end I was feeling a little weary, but my back was in good shape. The full tech spec for the Koa is available over at MH’s main site here. So would I buy it? For me it has to be a yes. It’s not cheap, but the design, comfort and features have been melded together to make an awesome large daysack that having had on my back for a day, I would definitely put my hand in my pocket for. I’m going to be giving it another run out in anger on Dartmoor in early August so I’ll update in the comments with any more thoughts after I have been scrambling.

The ultimate ice chest reviews are up, you can read it on our blog right here! For any other information please contact us via private message.

On being a man

One guy whose blog and tweets I have been enjoying a lot of over the last couple of months, is a chap called Matt Edmuson . He has a strong faith, a keen interest in business and is an engaging read. A couple of days ago he asked the question “what is it to be a man? It’s something that has pre-occupied me for a large part of my life. It’s taken on even more resonance now that I am a father, and especially as we are so lucky to have two lovely boys – what sort of men will they grow up to be? What will be their idea of a man?

I want to keep this brief as it’s something I can rattle on about for days, but it seems to me that Women have been on a journey for some time now, and Men have been lagging behind in honestly looking at what it means to be a bloke. Women have had perhaps more pressure from Men, as to what Men want them to be, as well as responding to their own view of themselves. Converesly, I think Men have more pressure from ourselves as Men to conform to existing paradigms. For us, being confident, strong, un-emotional, taciturn, or aggressive are traits we learn and feel pressure to be from other men, rather than as external pressures to confirm to from society in general. Traits that do not confirm to these are frowned upon. Until we can ignore the pressure from other men, we will never be able to shift what it is to be a man I feel.

So Matt, in answer to your question, for me personally, being a man is whatever you are – whether you are a loving, listening, playful, musical, enthusiastic or rugby playing action man. Being a man is being honest with yourself in accepting who you are, and not simply accepting the roles handed down to us.

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