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Welcome to our humble blog that will follow the misadventures of very average camping, hiking/rambling enthusiasts based out of Oxford. We will blog on camping trips, latest hikes, equipment reviews and whatever takes our fancy...

Thursday, 30 September 2010

A breif guide to the National Three Peaks

As we get ready to embark on our Three Peaks challenge we thought it was time to take a closer look at the three mountains that make up the national version of this challenge: Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon.

Ben Nevis (Estimated climb time - 5hrs)

Ben Nevis (Scottish Gaelic - Beinn Nibheis) or The Ben as it is also know is the highest moutain in the British Isles and is located at the western end of the Grampian Mountains close to the town of Fort William.

The summit of The Ben is 1,344 metres (4,409ft) above sea level and attracts an estimated 100,000 ascents each year, 100,006 if you include our group of ramblers. One of the key features of Ben Nevis, are the ruins of an meteorogical observatory at the summit, which wass permanently staffed between 1883 and 1904.

Scafell Pike (Estimated climb time - 5hrs)

Scafell Pike is England highest fell, or mountain and is the smallest of the three peaks at 978 metres (3,209ft). Located in the Lake District National Park in Cumbria.

 In 1919, the summit of Scafell Pike was donated to the National Trust by Lord Leconfield.

Snowdon (Estimated climb time - 4hrs)

Snowdon or Yr Wyddfa in Welsh is the highest mountain in Wales. Constantly describe as the busiest mountain in Britain, Snowdon at 1,085 metres (3,560ft) is the second highest mountain in the Three Peaks challenge.

So there it is, a very brief guide to the Three Peak mountains.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Walking in Sandford Pit and Parsonage Moor – The Last Hike before the Challenge Begins!

Our last practice walk before the big day and we headed out into the Oxford countryside once again in search of those hidden footpaths and bridleways that offer a glimpse of rural Oxfordshire. We decided on the network of routes in and around Sandford Pit and Parsonage Moor.

Once again the weather was pleasant, if a little on the cold side, and I got the chance to try out my new fleece for the first time (this may not sound exciting but it’s good to know I won’t be shivering by the time we get two thirds of the way up Ben Nevis). Almost immediately we came upon Sandford Pit, which opened out into an oasis of calm with a lily-covered pool at one end, surrounded on all sides by sandy slopes with thick vegetation at the top.

Sandford Pit from above
It was one of the first times on these walks that I felt entirely cut off from the surrounding world, which although fleeting, was an enjoyable experience.

As this was new territory for us we had no definite route in mind so we chose instead to let the routes guide us, which enabled us to be flexible in our approach. The most surreal moment without doubt was when we came upon an area of forest with several large ramps in it. We quickly decided that it must be used by BMX riders and thought little more of it. However, as we moved deeper into the woods things became even more curious as we discovered more and more ramps and about 30 empty bottles of antifreeze. Just to (ahem) ramp up the tension even more we rounded a bend and found ourselves face to face with a hand carved totem pole and skull-like carving.

A conservative estimate would say that in that relatively small area there were in excess of 35 ramps of varying sizes forming an intricate and complex circuit designed (I assume) for very skilled and experience BMX riders. The antifreeze would stop the track from becoming frosted with ice and so treacherous. We all came away with the feeling that we’d just seen something quite special, and I certainly wouldn’t want to be someone waiting to drop in vertically from the starting ramp and then have to take on such a demanding course.

Just one section of course
As we moved further into the heart of the Oxfordshire countryside we found ourselves out of the wind and able to take in the pastoral scenes that surrounded us. Greig even kept us informed of the potential pitfalls and possible dangers of doing the three peaks. Thanks to a quirky book written about the challenge, I have found out that one of the symptoms of hyperthermia is ‘death’. I’m not sure if there’s a cure for such a symptom but the book didn’t seem to offer any suggestions.

So there we were approaching the end of our last practice walk as ‘amateur’ hikers and we all looked particularly attractive in our new ‘Rambling Hikers 2010’ custom beanies (my personal favourite is Rach’s pink one and am slightly jealous that I didn’t choose that colour).
Greig & Iain

Rachel & Greig

And so we waved goodbye (not literally) to Parsonage Moor and took several faltering steps towards this weekend’s epic walk. 26 miles up and down the three highest mountains in the UK…..I can’t wait to get started. (Iain - hiker)

You can see all our pictures from this walk on our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Rambling-Hikers/135758203132272

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Giving Shotover Country Park a Shot – Tales from the Far Side (of Oxford)

So, the big day is getting dangerously close now and I feel a bit like I did the week before an exam. I’ve got that small feeling in my stomach like when I knew I hadn’t revised enough and realised that when the questions turned to the reign of Edward 2nd I was going to be left clutching at straws. One key difference is that whereas I’d probably glanced through the history text book to give myself a chance, this time I haven’t climbed any of the peaks and so don’t even know if I have the first clue what I’m doing.

This aside I’m getting increasingly excited about the possibility of this hike. In preparation, I thought I’d put my mind at rest by going online and looking at the respective routes. I did this only to be greeted on the first website I looked at with the warning ‘NOT FOR THE FAINT HEARTED’. At that point I began to ask myself maybe I’m not the right sort of person for this adventure. Maybe I should just sit at home and watch reruns of Friends on Sky rather than punish my soft, flabby body with this most difficult of challenges.

Fortunately I slapped myself and snapped out of this negative mindset (I was the only person in the room so couldn’t rely on anyone else to do it for me) and instead cast my mind back to the weekend before last the ramblers decided some extra hiking practice was needed to give ourselves a fighting chance.

The venue was Shotover Country Park within the boundaries of Oxford. Having never been there before, I was pleasantly surprised to discover a diverse, undulating conservation area with pleasant views of Oxford and the surrounding countryside. Thanks to a photo taken by Greig of the information board I can tell you that it covers 280 acres and we mixed and matched the available paths through the trees (little bit of the Sandpit walk, most of the Northwood trail with some other trails thrown in there for good measure).

The map of Shotover park
Once again we were trying out our boots and I thought I’d carry a rucksack just to see how comfortable, or not, that was. It turned out to be a very enjoyable walk in warm, but not uncomfortable conditions. We spent a couple of hours negotiating the well-signposted routes of the park and even got to walk past (not play in) the sandpit from Winnie the Pooh (I was informed of this fact by a reliable source).

The routes available - Green is the longest and follows the boundary, Yellow = Northwood Trails and the short options is in Red = Sandpit walk
I would recommend having a wander around as you will no doubt be surprised that such a place exists in the urban sprawl of Oxford. Although not perhaps a challenge for the hikers out there, it serves as a brisk walk to help shake away the cobwebs, and the hills at least allow your body to feel the burn of real exertion.

Due to the sunny weather I still haven’t tested my boots’ waterproofing but I’m confident that they will stand up easily to whatever weather conditions the peaks have to offer. I can definitely feel the momentum of this walk beginning to build now and I suspect that if I have chance to write another blog before it starts then I might find that those butterflies in my stomach might have grown to epic proportions. I only hope that my optimism and excitement grow in proportion to any nerves or doubts - Iain (Hiker)

The winding path