Monday, 22 April 2013

An addendum to my iPhone Walkmeter App vs Satmap Active 10 Review

It crossed my mind once I'd posted the Walkmeter vs Satmap Active 10 review that I had omitted something which was quite crucial. It is with reference to the Satmap Active 10, the Walkmeter review I feel is fair and true to the best of my knowledge.

The Satmap Active 10 however is inaccurate as an out of the box unit. Unfortunately at the outset I found the battery life to be substandard and was only really of use to record/log routes as any attempt to use it as a navigation tool drained the batteries like the fury. Obviously it was great to record certain routes in the wilderness as running on satellite the Satmap Active 10 was never out of service however the Walkmeter did suffer from this being reliant on it's mobile phone carrier signal.
The cure was to buy the rechargeable battery for the Satmap Active 10 which makes it an awesome piece of kit and can thunder on all day long on a lengthy one day hike.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Walkmeter vs Satmap Active 10

So of late I've been using the old iPhone with the Walkmeter app (review here) far more than I've been using the Satmap active 10 (review here). Why? A number of reasons but that's not to say that the Satmap active 10 has been made redundant - no way, its an awesome piece of kit!

So where does the Walkmeter iPhone app trump the Satmap Active 10? Firstly its convenient... The iphone is a handy piece of kit, fair play it's not as robust as the Satmap but as we all know it's compact and lightweight and you barely notice it in your pocket the Satmap, whilst not a brick, is considerably larger and is fairly weighty to take out on the hiking trail. What I like most about the Walkmeter app though is the mapping facility. It writes maps directly to google maps and the facility of emailing these or pasting them into google couldn't be easier. I find it also more accurately details the average pace, time walking etc. along with the pace and altitude graphs. It's perfect (or so I feel but haven't yet come across an app to beat it) mapping and diarising your walks.

The Satmap active 10 will always have it's place however. Whilst I've not yet found a way of swiftly and easily transposing the Satmap active 10 maps to my computer or email I wouldn't dream of being without this on anything other than low level pathways and bridleways. It locates with ease where you are and shows your location on an OS map which is imperative when off the beaten track. As this uses satellites too rather than 3g it never has any reception issue which the Walkmeter does when out of reception. I suppose though that the Walkmeter wasn't specifically designed for this kind of thing whereas the Satmap was and in this field it excels. It is a robust piece of kit too so you know you can rely on it. That said I would never ever suggest relying fully on this, it is always necessary to take a map and compass and more importantly know how to use them.

So in summary - Walkmeter app for low level walking and Satmap Active 10 for off the beaten track. Or put another way, Walkmeter to track and record your progress/route, Satmap active 10 as a navigation tool.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

A walk round Harewood Estate and Harewood House

Harewood House
Harewood House

Still trying to break in my Merrell Mid Moab boots (and to get some fresh air on possibly the most pleasant day of the year yet) we went for a wander around Harewood Estate. Sadly due to work commitments we never made it to the Lake District to do some walking and bag some Wainwrights so local it was. We parked the car in Harewood on the A659 and walked east out of Harewood. This is probably the most unpleasant part of the walk as you end up walking along hte grass verge of the main road with the traiffic passing.

Countryside near Harewood House
Countryside near Harewood House
Just short of a mile head due south passed a farm (ensure it's not the first turning to the cemetary as this leads to a dead end). You then continue across the field with the impressive Hollin Hall on your left hand side. Passing the fishing pond you leave the field and ascend with a woodland on your right.

Harewood House Countryside
Harewood House Countryside
The footpath continues in a straight line until you get to a t-junction where you join the Leeds Country Way in either direction. We went right heading in the direction of Hrewood Estate. Through a gate and down the hill we arrived on Wike Lane. Again walking on the grass verge but with far less traffic it isn't long before we arrived at Harewood estate. For the main part the part of the walk we'd completed so far wasnt the most staggering, between the main roads, through the farm and passed Hollin Hall were very plaesant but time on the roads do detract from it somewhat.

Leeds Country Way Sign
Leeds Country Way Sign

Once into Harewood Estate though the scenery is quite stunning with Harewood House revealing its magnificence fairly swiftly in the distance on the right hand side in the distance and boy is it impressive. The path however carries straight on and into some woodland, the path is clearly obvious here. You head through a gate and soon later over a bridge with a nice water feature to the left. Once over the bridge you continue alond the Leeds Country Way to the left. There is only one path which isn't prohibited which keeps things simple until you're hit with a crossroad. Here the Leeds Country Way heads off to the left, we took the route downhill to the right. Again once you're on this path it winds it's way around and you can see the fishing pond in the distance to your right.

Harewood Estate
Harewood Estate
This path becomes more of a track as it heads into the Harewood buildings. We managed to see a red kite here which was pretty impressive. We then continued back to the main road and back to the car.
Walkmeter had it down as 7 miles but that was taking into account the wrong turn we took to the cemetary at the very start of the walk. A pretty nice meander though, a leg stretch we'll be doing again.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Merrell Moab Mid Boots Review

Merrell Mid Moab Boot
Merrell Mid Moad Boot

So then following on from my previous post in the hunt for a lightweight boot and my purchase of the Merrell Mid Moab Boots here is my findings of what joy I came across.

I tried them on and at first try the Merrell Mid Moab is a really comfortable boot. It seems to be really well built and is really lightweight, which is exactly what I was looking for - the best of all worlds! They felt a touch tight to start with but that was no surprise really as I have desperately wide feel anyway (see my post on the Meindl Bernina Boots). The length however was fine so I gave them a shot waiting for them to give a bit as all trainers do, after all the Merrell Mid Moab boots are made of the same stuff, or so it appears.

I went on a 5 mile mosey round the park and whilst they were tight they weren't ridiculous, the inner soles were liking walking on a cloud they they were exceptional. It was nice to get them off however.

After that and with training for the Oxfam Trailtrekker in mind I thought I'd go out and break them in once and for all and set off for a meander up the Leeds Country Way. They started to give me a bit of grief after about 5 miles so I taped the tender parts up with micropore and ploughed on. The long and short of the matter is that when I got back I had a blisters on the sides of my heels where the footbeds are actually too narrow for my feet and whilst there is seemingly enough room width ways for my toes I had a blister the size of my little toe on the end of my little toe, rather a large watery growth at best.

I thought that would really have sorted them so again I gave them another shot the following week once the blisters had settled down to see if they were going to give. Same results, this was only over about 7 miles but still. It's the actual footbed around the middle of the heel of the foot that is too narrow so I feel no amount of breaking in is going to sort these unfortunately. I feel I've given the Merrell Mid Moab's a fair go but after 35 miles they are still giving me grief so I will go back to the drawing board. A pal of mine has pointed me in the direction of the Keen Targhee Mid Boot so I'll give them a shot next.

To surmise I have a friend who swears by the Merrell Mid Moab boot but for my wide feet there is just no way will these boots do, well not in my size anyway. Naturally if I went up a size then they could well work but then I'm nervous that the flex point over my toes will be too far forward and cause me discomfort there. So if you have normal sized feet from a width perspective I think these could be possibly the most comfortable boots you could come across however very very sadly they are not for me.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

More more more of the Leeds Country Way

Leeds Country Way

A much nicer day, I set out on another training walk for the Oxfam Trailtrekker along the Leeds Country Way - a far nicer day this time though. I went for it in my new Merrell Moab mid boots to try break them in but more about that later. Again the same start as the norm and set off through a particularly busy Temple Newsam Park, as it would be on what was the first weekend of pretty spectacular weather, and dare I say it the last for a while. I plodded through the wood in an attempt to shirk the crowds who normally walk up and down the Avenue in Temple Newsam.

The bridleway then skirts Bullerthorpe Lane and emerges not far from Thorpe Park. Rejoining the Leeds Country Way by the M1 I followed the same route through the farm and along the way to Scholes, this part of the route I had already done and was the more pleasant part of the route previously walked. Leaving Scholes via a hiking trail adjacent to the vegetable plots the route heads towards Barwick in Elmet. From here it improved vastly with a more countryside feel.

The route takes you through and alongside various fields which were still dotted with snow - even though it was over a week since we last saw it snow. Not long later the Leeds Country Way arrives in Barwick in Elmet which again is pleasant enough but I'd far rather be walking out of civilisation. I suppose there are plenty of country pubs to benefit from though which is always a plus, more so if you're walking for about 6 or 7 miles, more of a hindrance when you're hoping to walk 20. But Barwick in Elmet is quite nice. You follow the road passed the church on the left with the pub on your right. A left turn leads you out of the village. There's a public footpath which you may be mistaken in taking but by heading down the hill another footpath which is the Leeds Country Way presents itself.

You head out of the village here and over a stream which seemed like a perfect spot for a bit to eat and to micropore the blisters on my feet, blisters are the only bad thing about walking. This leg takes you along the side of a field and leads you over a track where trespassing is prohibited, bit confusing. Skirting a tree line beyond which there was a field of lambs this was one of the nicer stretches of the day, until I came across the A64. This is a treacherous road to cross not only due to the speed of the cars but also as one direction is a complete blind spot. Through Kiddal Wood and you're on the hiking trail to Thorner. Hugging the southern-most edge of the village, by road, then footpath, then road again until it bends to the right you head through the centre of the village. You pass the Mexborough Arms as you cross the crossroads and head out of the village. Through gates and up the hill you arrive in a small hamlet where Oaklands Manor is. On into the hamlet and you can see the yellow marked post which signs the Leeds Country Way. It's only a small hop down the field and you're back onto a road and walking a short hop down to Moat Hall which is the next right hand turn.

At the next opportunity I headed over a style and followed a footpath which turned into a complete bog. Navigable only by crossing make-shift bridges made out of logs. This path emerges into a field and you soon find yourself in Bardsey. Here I consulted the walkmeter and found I was suddenly 12 miles in and I now had to get home. I looked at the map for the most direct route and beautifully discovered that I could maybe shave off a mile or so by just heading in a straighter line then the straight line I'd taken to get here.

I basically backtracked to Thorner along the roads and cut off right before the Leeds Country Way. Walking through Thorner a path headed right before I hit the Leeds Country Way which I took thinking it would reduce the mileage. Which no doubt it did. The path took me into Saw Wood which is attached to Kiddall Wood which I walked through earlier. The path went to oblivion and just seemed to disappear so I just trudged through the woodland until I was close to the A66 then headed east looking for a marked footpath which I duly found.

I then crossed the road and walked down the hill, increasingly concerned at the lack of footpath, I wasn't wrong though as it was once again marked at the bottom of the hill. The hiking trail from here was well marked back to Scholes whereby I followed the standard route back to Temple Newsam park and home. According to the trusty walkmeter on the iphone I'd covered around 23.25 miles which was more than I'd set out for and was pretty pleased with the effort. Hot bath and a homebrew necessary. This was a far nicer stretch of the Leeds Country Way, looking forward to the next leg.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

I'm back! On the Leeds Country Way Hiking Trail

Leeds Country Way

The forecast wasn't great but with my physiotherapy in my head and the Oxfam Trailtrekker in the forefront of my mind I decided to give the Leeds Country Way another shot. I was going to walk from home, through Temple Newsam Park and wind up in a pub somewhere, likely Barwick in Elmet and set myself up in a boozer with a fine mead and call a lift. Which isn't quite how it ended up working out... I figured I'd set out to do about 16 miles but would feel my way through it as it had been a while since I'd been on a walk that far.

So I left home and if was spitting, albeit not too heavy. I walked through Temple Newsam Park and headed in the direction of Swillington. Temple Newsam Park itself is really pleasant. The Leeds Country Way is nowhere to be seen at this point and I'd probably covered 2 - 3 miles before I hit it close to the outskirts of Woodlesford. It started off more pleasant than my previous experience. It winds along footpaths and bridle ways through the outer suburbs of Leeds but passing through the likes of Great Preston (where I think I went wrong) and Kippax do detract from what you expect to be a Country Way as these are not the most pleasant of places. I was trying not to refer to the map too much either as it was throwing it down by the time I got to these places which in itself suggested that I should consult the map more as I should never have been in Kippax itself.

Once out of Kippax though the route takes you down a disused railway where I only came across a couple of cyclists and a couple of dog walkers which was nice, although I'm sure if it wasn't heaving down there would probably have been more traffic.

I then wound up walking into Garforth. Again the route takes you straight through the middle of the town, the surroundings of which you don't expect on a route called the Leeds Country Way. It was whilst walking through Garforth that a thoughtful and observant driver roared through a puddle and soaked me to the bone from the waist down which was far from ideal. Suppose that now meant that I wouldn't be finishing me day in the pub. Not amused!

Once out of Garforth the route heads back into the countryside, accompanied by snow now - which only lasted about 15 minutes in fairness. The route here takes you over the railway and then the M1 heading through a farm and off towards Scholes. The route continues to be marked with the picture of an owl and the letters LCW (Leeds Country Way) which you will see above and is really easy to follow.

Approaching Scholes I still felt pretty ok so I decided to add some miles on and make the yomp back home. It was here that I left the Leeds Country Way and I walked back passed John Smeaton Leisure centre. Through the industrial estate I turned left and when the opportunity arose I turned right and crossed the unmanned crossing of the railway. I then followed a hiking trail in the direction of Thorpe Park Industrial estate. Instead of trudging through suburbia I opted to walk back through Temple Newsam Park to home. I was aching when I landed back, 20.5 miles was the distance according to the iphone walkmeter. Encouraging but still a long way to go.

Again not overly enamoured with the Leeds Country Way but I think the further north I go the nicer it will be. We'll see...

A weekend with the Wainwrights

Blisteringly the opportunity has arisen this weekend to head to the Lake District with some friends - what joy. The destination as yet is not specified but this of course presents the opportunity of walks and Wainwright Bagging. Now however with a pregnant wife the options do become limited as her range is restricted. No matter however walks with Wainwrights somewhere, anywhere in the Lake District is always as awesome weekend. This one falls well as I'm trying to walk miles but with the scenery of the Lake District to benefit from it can't be better. Spring weather pending of course. Decisions decisions decisions...

Monday, 8 April 2013

Oxfam Trailtrekker

A chum of mine likes a challenge, well don't we all. He's been wanting to do something big for a couple of years, so we did the Yorkshire Three Peaks, then the National Three Peaks. He was planning to do the Yorkshire Three Peaks on back to back days which would have been pretty heavy. We were looking at having a stab at the Lakeland 3000's but for one reason or another this never happened, probably because we felt the Lakeland 3000's was almost too much. I then recalled some pals doing this beast, the Oxfam Trailtrekker, well it's a beast in my eyes.

The Oxfam Trailtrekker has 3 different levels, bronze, silver and gold, with differing distances around the Yorkshire Dales. So of course if you're going to test yourself you'd might as well go for broke and really fire headlong into it with full commitment. He told me we were doing gold. It's for teams of four, the other two guys he's roped in aren't so sure we can do it, 100km's is a long way. Especially when we've got just 2 months to train for this behemoth of a yomp.

So the training for the Oxfam Trailtrekker starts here, odd to think that 5 months ago I was barely hobbling out of hospital having had reconstructive surgery only to be having a shot at this monster just around the corner. Bring it on. Yeah I'm full of it now, unlikely ill be as bullish after having meandered for 40 miles around the Yorkshire Dales.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

The Leeds Country Way Hiking Trail

The Leeds Country Way Map

So I had my anterior cruciate ligament reconstructed in November and have been undergoing physiotherapy since then. It's been pretty intense but ultimately you get out what you put in and the more of a slog I put in now the better the results will be in the long run. As all physiotherapists will tell you the actual operation is only half the battle, the rest is down to the patient and the exercise. 

Living on the outskirts of Leeds I decided to have a look at an ordnance survey map of Leeds to see what there was locally instead of driving the hour or so to the Yorkshire Dales, the North Yorkshire Moors, the Lake District or the Peak District. It would probably be easier on my joints too on the flat rather then up hill and down dale. Whilst it would unquestionably be preferred to walk in Yorkshire Dales, the North Yorkshire Moors, the Lake District or the Peak District the 2 - 3 hour round trip makes it a bit impractical. So looking at the map I stumbled (visually, not literally) on the Leeds Country Way which is a 62 mile route around the outskirts of the city. 

So as part of my physiotherapy I started along the Leeds Country Way from Woodlesford, heading towards Methley with not the best results. I started off along the Leeds Liverpool canal and whilst it was pleasant, it was a touch less than inspiring. It's fairly well marked and this section was all very flat, naturally as it was along the canal side for the main part. I think we did about 6 miles as a circular route. So to surmise, this part of the Leeds Country Way was fairly uninspiring and sadly was too close to suburbia to avoid litter. That said I'll persevere with it as the rest may turn out to be quite different. 

Thursday, 4 April 2013

New Boots vs New Trainers

Merrell Mid Moab Boots
Merrell Mid Moab Boots
In winter conditions I wouldn't consider wearing anything but my Meindl Bernina (review here) clodhoppers. They offer awesome support and are toasty warm.

There is a monstrous compromise though and that is the weight! As a direct result the fatigue sets in far far quicker than in trainers. I swore by my North Face Hedeghogs! They were awesome and have only recently crumbled, they have split, which is devastating. So I'm now on the lookout for a replacement.

I thought about going the same and going in for another round with the North Face Hedgehog but am also considering alternatives. Why not got for a lightweight boot? So that's where I think I'm headed.

I've dug about and the Merrell Mid Moab boot seems to come up as being pretty highly regarded and well received by most that have got them. They're goretex and have vibram soles so should suffice nicely. I'll keep the North Face Hedgehogs in mind as a lighter weight flat option but only need one pair for now and will se how the Merrell Mid Moab boot goes.

Whilst my Meindl Bernina will always have their place I think a lightweight shoe with the support of a boot will kill numerous birds with just the one stone. A difficulty I may come up against is the widened of my feet. When I bought my Meindl Bernina I did so because they were the only boots I could find that would house my wide feet. We'll see how the Merrell Mid Moab boots go on that front.
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