26 March 2008

A Show, A Tent and An Empty Wallet

Evening all,

Belated "Happy Easter" to you all! Hope everyone has managed to kick back and recharge the batteries a bit over the bank holiday despite the miserable weather. I was planning to get out to the Peaks and do a spot of walking/camping for a few days but the thought of putting up my tent in the snow rather put me off I'm afraid. To those of you who rather pessimistically see this as a lack of commitment to my project, let me remind you that I haven’t actually started yet, so if I decide to stay indoors a scoff down chocolaty Easter egg goodness rather than tromp around the countryside in a blizzard I think I'm well within my rights to do so. That said the inclement weather may have been a blessing in disguise as it forced me to put away my boots and break out my hoard of maps and crack on with a job I've been putting off for far too long.

I decided early on that rather than winging it this summer, I'd prefer to cobble together some sort of route plan before I actually set off. That's not to say that my path won't alter once I hit the trail, as I'm fully expecting to get lost, delayed and if last 'summer' is anything to go by, forced to navigate around flooded sections of the route. However having a battle plan before setting off will at least give me realistic targets for each day and it means I can book my accommodation a bit in advance and avoid any overnighters in the local bus stop. With the benefits clear then, why should I put such a task in my ever expanding 'to-do' pile? I suppose it's partly down to laziness, but before you turn away in disgust please bear in mind with a journey of 1100 miles over 54 1:25,000 OS maps through some of the more remote parts of the country, finding a chain of suitable accommodation within walking distance of each over is far from a ten minute task. In fact it has taken pretty much every waking hour of my four day Easter holiday to finish, but finish it I did and to be entirely honest I'm quite glad it’s over. Now I've just got to give my chosen establishments a call for current prices, availability etc but the hard part is out of the way at least. I'll try to find some way of posting up my tentative itinery on here somewhere, that way if any of you fancy joining me for a day or two on my ramble then you'll have a vague idea of where I'll be and when.

Now that I've finished boring you into a coma about all things map related (having spent so much time on the sodding things I thought it at least merited a mention here) I can mix things up a bit and bore you about something else. Namely my trip with my mate Rob to The Outdoor Show at the NEC a couple of weeks ago. I'm sure some of you may have been to one of these shows in the past, but if you haven’t then I'd definitely recommend going along for a look if you get the chance next year. Given the sheer size of the place, and the variety of exhibitions on display it would be pretty much impossible to not find something you're at least remotely interested in. My plan for the day given my impending trek was to have a good rummage though the hiking stalls and stores and try to get some ideas of suitable clothing and equipment to accompany me on my journey. Rob being an outdoorsy type chap and also rather more knowledgeable about hiking gear than myself, agreed to join me for the day and give me some pointers. It must be said that as I was there for ideas, I had no intention of actually purchasing anything but despite this I somehow came away with a new pair of walking trousers, a fancy new tent and a sharp pain in my wallet. In my defense, I was offered a special 10% 'show discount' and given that I'm planning on a whole lot of camping in the near future I thought I may as well break out the cash now as later and at least I'll be able to practice lugging it about on my next few walks.

Thankfully, I was soon distracted from musing about the health of my bank balance and whether I would actually be able to afford to eat for the rest of the month by the lure of the 'hands on' displays. Much like the exhibits these activities came in all shapes and sizes from climbing walls to makeshift diving pools, though the most entertaining in my opinion was probably one of the simplest. Slack lining, (effectively tight rope walking with a wide belt instead of a rope) was suprisingly good fun, though I can think of few quicker ways of breaking an ankle or a neck especially if I'm involved in any way. Despite the risk we both thought that as we were passing it would be rude not to join the line and give it a try. From the photo's you can clearly see that Rob (above), having done this sort of thing before was actually pretty good (yes I realise he's still standing on the box in the picture, just take my word for it) whereas my own attempts (below) were somewhat less elegant.

Having survived unscathed we moved on to the Ireland stand (pretty much every country had a stand somewhere in the hall) where we were drawn in with the chance of winning a shiny new mountain bike on their racing bike simulator. To be fair to the guy running the competition he did make it clear that their fancy simulator was not your run of the mill gym bike and that we might find it rather harder than it appeared. Now whilst I'm certainly no marathon runner I try to keep myself reasonably fit and so with a large measure of bravado and despite the warning I scoffed at the suggestion that a couple of miles on the bike would be any hardship. Two minutes later I was rummaging hastily through my bag for my water bottle whilst trying desperately to catch my breath and two minutes after that, Rob was likewise engaged. To give him credit the guy refrained from a snide "I told you so" but his look frankly said it much more succinctly. To those of you left wondering, no we did not win the bike.

Changing the topic completely, those of you who are paying attention may have noticed a few changes to the blog recently. I now have a nice map showing my proposed route which was unabashedly pinched from Mark Moxon's excellent site (link can obviously be found in my links list) which I would thoroughly recommend a visit to if you find yourself with the internet and a spare five minutes. One major new addition that I'm sure you've already noticed, is the shiny new link to my sponsorship page which can be found in pride of place at the top of the page. I suggest that each and every one of you give that handy 'Donate' button a bit of a click and have a little shufty at my newly set up Just Giving page. I've set myself a target to raise £1000 for Katharine House Hospice and with your generosity and assistance I'm hoping we can exceed that figure before the completion of my trundle in August/September. Now I realise my donations page says it all really, but this is important so it's worth reiterating here. Please, please, please show your support for my challenge this summer by heading on over there and donating whatever you can afford to those who need it most. I would also ask that anyone reading this please implore your family, friends and works colleagues to join you with donations of their own. A penny a mile (£11) or even a single pound, can and will make a difference so please dig deep, spread the word, and do your bit for an excellent cause.
Until next time,

Thanks Folks