Westbury and Melbury Hill

Westbury and Melbury Hill

I’m bored of talking about how wet it has been down here in the South West recently and trying to persuade those who still wish to dig their heads in to the sand about the reality of global warming. We have had a few moments of blue skies though, a couple of weeks ago we had our friends down with their three boys and managed to cram in a cracking weekend with no dark clouds to be seen.

First up was Westbury for a gallop along the white horse. I love that place as it has a flat field for footie / rugby and kite flying but then you get to explore over the horse and the rest of the earthworks that are there. The following day we headed up to Melbury Hill for cracking views over the Blackmore Vale. Heres a quick vid of our two days.

Chee Dale & a New Year

A very happy belated Christmas & New Year to all. So far it’s been a cracker and a couple of days ago was no exception with jaunts To Chee Dale, Millers Dale, Arbor Low and Bakewell.

What’s surprised me however has been editing and putting together the movie you see below on my phone. I shouldn’t be amazed any more about what technology can do but I’ve been genuinely blown away about the possibilities of iMovie on the iPhone.

Anyway I’ll shut up now and you can watch the swollen river through Chee Dale try and wash me away.  Have yourselves a peaceful and joyful New Year that spreads far in to 2014.

Social Hiking Podcast

I was incredibly privileged to be asked by Phil from Social Hiking to take part in his second podcast recently and the fruits of our labours have just been uploaded. I’m pretty stoked with the results , if nothing else because it’s a reminder of a fantastic weekend that was had recording it.


You can download the podcast from iTunes here, or download straight from Social Hiking here. That last link has loads of great show notes as well BTW. You can also listen to the podcast below.

We looked at walking with kids and joys and not so joys that can involve, went walking with the kids in the woods, packed in a microadventure and looked at updates to Social Hiking and our fav maps. I would like to thank Phil for doing a masterful job in putting together the podcast itself and for the fact  he also uploaded some Audioboo’s of our climb up Alfreds Tower, the Tour de Dorset + Bongos that we came across and some outtakes 🙂

Jurassic Wild Camp

Let me know what you think in the comments below!


Cranborne Chase and the search for spring

Cranborne Chase and the search for spring

You’re still reading this? You need congratulating for some serious patience. Almost as much patience as mother earth has in waiting for that most elusive of seasons, spring, to disrobe her wintry dressing gown and step out with a welcome cup of tea for the landscape. So life’s changed and I won’t bore you with the details, but there’s a smile on my face, even if time spent trawling the Twitter timeline and keeping in contact with you good folk has taken a battering. We’re back to being simple, working hard and spending time en famille, resisting the plaintive call of the smartphone. I also wanted to write again, so here we are – nice to see you, you’re looking well if I may say so.

I had a lovely post lined up with all our outdoor stuff since last year but lets keep it fresh shall we? A cock-up in holidays meant I got to go walking with wifey as the moons aligned in a rare pattern of childcarus synchronous. Sixpenny Handley was our destination with a name suggesting a slightly less cluttered landscape than Britain currently offers. Woods of the ancient variety were also on the menu along with some stunning views that make you immediately realise why Cranborne Chase has had an area of outstanding natural beauty levied upon it. I love mountains, but woods draw me back time after time and this wander delivered them in spades. The smell of leaf mould has a hold on a part of my memory and soul that it won’t let go of right now.

Garston woods at the start is an RSPB wood and they have fenced off certain areas to allow ground nesting birds to have some respite from the deer. Humans are allowed however, so we started our stroll gently through the barren woods, layering up with hats and gloves as the cold made itself known. That was the theme and feeling of the day – cold, both in the landscape around us with the lack of spring growth and the chill that had to be kept at bay by our brisk walking. We meandered through the woods before heading up on to the top of the Chase and were rewarded with views both South and North that you would not think Wiltshire had the right to grace you with. Flakes of snow fluttered around us and the sound of breaking glass underfoot amused as we smashed puddles on the path.

Cranborne Chase walk
A swoop downwards from the chase led us to the rather expensive but worth every penny King John Inn where fire and food welcomed us. This isn’t a food blog but the stand out course had to be the fresh donuts with apple sauce inside, toffee sauce outside and mulled cider to accompany. This wasn’t walking any more, it felt like gluttony and frankly, I didn’t care.

Leaving a pub after beer and food to start walking again feels akin to having to strap on a diving suit with weights, but the second half of the walk was just as delightful. Passing through the Rushmore estate we soon ventured in to woods that felt and looked as if they had been around for a fair while. The results of coppicing over the centuries delivering stools and tree shoots as numerous as the birds that scooted above us. 13 miles turned out to be 14 miles but in the end, we weren’t counting.

Cranborne Chase walk
If you want to wander in my footsteps grab the GPX from Social Hiking here, purloin the route from viewranger here, or check out the map from Social Hiking below

[slickr-flickr tag=”still here”]

Review of Making Tracks – children led walk route packs

We recently ran a competition over at Webtogs with walking-books.com to give away some of their walking packs. Whilst we were running the competition, I got chatting to Mike who runs the business about his Making Tracks series. The series are walking packs designed for children to take the lead with straightforward instructions and child-friendly maps. When he found out that I had 2 kids he promised me he would send me one of the packs to take with us next time we were up in the Peak District. They duly arrived at the beginning of the year, but we forgot to take them with us until we went back up the other week.

Each of the packs has 10 walks which have been designed for kids to read and lead. They are small and nicely illustrated, pointing out all the kinds of natural, historical and grim facts about places as you head along. We had Ifor (4 1/2 for those of you who need to know) leading and reading for the walk. Ifor picked a short walk starting from Winster which we had never walked from before, so we set off to the village with his brother Ellis (2 years old), Ma, Pa, Grandma and Grandad.

Ifor prepares Pack contents Ifor with his pack

Ifor only started reading this year, but the walks were simple and he found it easy to follow the instructions. Each point on the walk was clearly described and songs were soon being sung of the “two arches with the postbox nearby”. Ducking in between houses we soon left Winster behind, heading across fields. The maps are not to scale, but they stayed true to the navigation principle of checking off features as you walk. Stiles, walls, overhead cables, rocky outcrops were all spotted and ticked off by Ifor as he led us on.

Each of the packs comes with a booklet giving an overview on the walks, what sort of gear you might need to take and the countryside code. Perhaps it’s because I have walked for so long and the rules are part of my life, but I had totally forgotten about the code and how important it is to pass it on. Ifor was duly briefed and he made sure we shut every single gate behind us.

Leaving Winster

I expected Ifor to love the pictures and the horrible history aspects of the packs which he did. I also expected some good reading practice, but what I was surprised by was how much he grew in stature during the walk. Taking responsibility for our party and it’s direction gave him a new confidence. For me it was by far and away the biggest plus of the afternoon. It also had the bonus of driving him on. Usually walks are a heady mix of cajoling and bribery using food and drink, on this day though we fair galloped around!
All the gang Ellis has a go at leading

The walks are all short (up to 4 miles) and so after a couple of hours we came to the end of a very pleasurable walk. If there was anything I would like to improve it would be to include a backup OS map for the adults. We failed to find the start, parking at the wrong car park before realising which one we had to go to! I had also brought one of the plastic walk holders from another of the walking packs, these are missing from the Making Tracks series and I think it would be nice to include one.

Overall though these were a fantastic addition to our walking experience with Ifor much more involved, learning skills and chomping at the bit.


  • Maps are great fun and beautifully drawn, instructions are clear and simple.
  • Pacing and length are right.
  • Reading & Navigation skills get practiced.
  • The kids want to walk and leading is a great confidence booster.
  • The history bits are ace.


  • Be good to have an OS map section to cross reference with.
  • Add the card holders from the other packs, would help make the kids feel like real live leaders 🙂

DISCLOSURE – Mike from walking books.com ran a competition with us over at Webtogs & sent me the pack for free to review. The review is my own thoughts on the Making Tracks series.