A week on the Fife Coastal Path – Day 2

The second day of a walk is always a hard one. At this point the body has had a bit of a shock, it’s done something a bit out of the ordinary and been used a bit harder than normal. So after a day of walking it seems to go “ah yes, time to take it easy, heal up, build muscles and replenish energy stores”. Most people can go out and do one day of walking on a hard route, or with a heavy pack. The next day they may be suffering (or not, for the super fit), but they get that rest which the body is ready for. Of course, on a multi-day trail the body is in for a bit of a shock and won’t get into the swing of things until at least day 3 or 4. So an easy day is what’s called for. At least, that was the plan.

Day2

The day started easily enough. Awoken by a train on the railway 10m behind our tarp and shortly thereafter by a parade of local dog walkers, we hauled ourselves out of our sleeping bags, packed up and started hunting for breakfast. It wasn’t the best night’s sleep either of us have ever had outside, the trains didn’t stop running until almost midnight and Lauren’s sleeping bag proved a little on the chilly side. On the plus side, we’d had a lovely view of a huge number of bats fluttering around the nearby trees and a bright almost full moon to view them by. In any event, a breakfast roll and some coffee in the Waverly Cafe in Burntisland proved to be just what the doctor ordered to see us on our way.

And then disaster struck.

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A week on the Fife Coastal Path – Day 1

May of this year was a little bit special. I took my first real holiday in 5 years (and technically that was an academic conference which I tacked on some tourism to, so it’s probably longer). I’ve been wanting to do a decent long distance hike for a while, having bailed on a couple of attempts over the last few years due to blisters and weather.

So all that was left to do was to pick a route!

Requirements:

  • Somewhere between 1-2 weeks maximum (Lauren had a maximum of two weeks off left).
  • Somewhere reasonably flat (Lauren hates hills)
  • Somewhere we could be reasonably confident of good weather (Bob hates rain)
  • Somewhere with decent geology to look at (I didn’t tell Lauren this one in advance)
  • Somewhere we could camp easily, and resupply easily (these latter two proved trickier than you would expect)

 

After having a look around at walks in the 80-150 mile length I settled on the Fife Coastal Path. I’ve done parts of it before, given that it was my undergraduate mapping area and that I’d returned as part of an industry facing PhD field trip that I’d been on (which I, as a climate researcher gleefully crashed). It’s also variable and interesting enough to be an exciting trip with lots to see and do.

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The long overdue “so how did the new year’s resolutions go?” postmortem post.

What do you mean I haven’t posted a blog post in over a year? Lies. I’ve just blocked you. That’s why you can’t see them. Yes you.

 

Well yes, obviously it didn’t go that well given that my secret extra resolution was to blog a lot more. In my defense though it’s extremely hard to motivate oneself to write after completing a massive soul-destroying project (now available for anyone to read here, should you dare) which crushed both my self-confidence and will to get out of bed in the morning. It’s also doubly difficult to blog when you’re technically homeless and sleeping in your boss’s garden like some sort of medieval serf (cheers though Tom!).

 

Still, let’s go through the list and see how I did shall we?

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12 Nights in a Hammock

I don’t really do New Year’s Resolutions. Most of the time I think they’re just setting yourself up to fail – they’re an all or nothing proposition usually, and they’re often forgotten the moment you have your first stumble. How many resolutions to go to the gym every Saturday survive that first weekend away in late January? How many times does someone declare “no more chocolate” right up until discount mini-eggs appear on the shelves? Not many, I would wager. It’s also very hard to just decide to change based on a whim, rather than by being forced to through circumstance.

This year however, I am going to set a few long-term goals. I’m hoping I’ll have a little more luck than most since they’re things I actually want to do anyway – not chores in service of fitness or self-improvement (though handily they won’t hurt in these areas either).

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Climate, travelling, and the ethics of the round the world plane ticket.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the relationship between climate change and travelling. Part of this comes from finally handing in my PhD. I’ve been cooped up behind my desk for a good few months, and it’s been a long time (barring a couple of weekends and field trips) since I’ve really had the opportunity to go anywhere or do much exciting. The last decent trip I did was a pre-conference field trip around parts of Australia, a week long road trip from Sydney to Melbourne two long years ago. Even though it was a work trip (and thus spent almost entirely underground), we had a fantastic time doing some quick exploration of the Blue Mountains and Kosciuszko National Park. Kosciuszko in particular was an absolutely stunning locale, true wilderness in places with stunning vistas and wild horses and kangaroos roaming freely. I would love to go back there (spiders aside) and spend a few days or weeks wandering around.

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Quick HowTo: Modding an Alpkit Brukit to take any pan.

My current stove is an Alpkit Brukit. It’s a nifty little thing that excels at one purpose: boiling a pan full of water in its integrated pot. For the price, weight and convenience this camp stove excels. However, it is limited to its built in pot, as putting any other pot on the top will cut off the air supply to the burner.

So here’s a picture guide to a little 15 minute, £4 project that will let you use the Brukit with any old camping pan you own.

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BBC Sport: If I was in charge

When you work in an office environment (like I do) then you end up watching a lot of sport on your second monitor during the summer. This is doubly true during years where the Olympics or World Cup are held in appropriate time zones. My Masters degree coincided with the 2012 Olympics, and frankly I’m as surprised as you are that I have a Masters degree.

These days, though, it’s all about the cycling for me. Which, when it comes to the BBC, means coverage provided by a BBC sports journalist somewhere in an office with a microphone watching the feed from Eurosport (or occasionally ITV) because the BBC can’t afford the broadcast rights for the events. The exact same thing happens with the main events of most sports, with the exceptions of the rare occasions when the BBC decides it’s worth whatever cost for them to show it. That would be the Olympics, and football. Of course these rights are sold through the IOC, FIFA or the like – and therefore are at an astronomical price to the British tax payer. [As an aside, what is it with large sports organisations and corruption? Is it just an inevitable case of power corrupts?].

Not being privy to the internal budgets of the British Broadcasting Corporation I can’t speculate on how much of their budget is spent on these large events – but I guarantee you it’s a small fortune if the premier league is anything to go by. In fact the BBC is rapidly being priced out of large sporting events.

So, what would be different if I was in charge?

Forget the lot of them.

Any conversation about the BBC and its purpose inevitably boils down to this: Lord Reith’s declared purpose of “inform, educate, entertain” and the inevitable debate over what it means to be a public service, and whether that precludes pushing commercial interests. Personally, I have no problem with the BBC making a bit of money by producing commercially viable entertainments and selling them to overseas markets. America gets its Doctor Who and Top Gear, and we get a bigger budget to spend on other things. That’s fine. But when it comes to commercial sport the BBC is never going to manage to compete with a commercial enterprise which can sell adverts during big events. Every additional viewer of a large sporting event means that commercial providers like BT and Sky can bid even more for it – because they’ll make even more money back on ad revenues. The BBC can’t compete with that for the big events, so as far as I’m concerned they shouldn’t even try. The public get to see their large events anyway – because they’re going to watch them on the ad-supported channels anyway – and on the off chance that they don’t have access to those channels the BBC can continue its excellent radio and text coverage online.

Now that I’ve saved the BBC millions on their budget, what shall I spend it on?

Sport!

I have a vision for what BBC sport could be. I can’t claim total credit, because I actually got the idea from the unlikeliest of possible places – the BBC itself. One of the best regular BBC shows is one that you’ve never heard of. It’s beautifully shot, well commentated, focuses on (largely) very British locations and promotes some more obscure events and regions. It’s called The Adventure Show, and the reason you’ve never seen it is that it’s barely promoted and is shown exclusively on BBC Two Scotland at dinner time for 10 nights out of the year. I highly recommend checking out the show yourself, but in a nutshell it consists of a presenter and a camera crew filming episodes around adventure sports. They go to small, interesting UK sporting competitions and film the stories behind them and show some of the highlights. Sometimes they even compete themselves. A good example of this is their Strathpuffer episode where they document a midwinter 24-hour mountain bike race in the north of Scotland (and if you watch very, very carefully you may spot my friend Cat competing in). The show is fantastic, and it doesn’t cost very much because all it requires is a presenter and a camera crew. Half the time the events probably don’t even charge the BBC to film them, because they’re glad of the publicity.

The BBC has national studios spread across the country. They have presenters, they have camera crews and they have the resources to broadcast on both television and online. What’s stopping them from relaunching a new BBC Sport channel showing amateur British sports across the country? And isn’t that what the BBC is for? We can inform and educate the public about sporting events they don’t know about, whilst entertaining them with fun stories and sporting competition. All the while performing a public service by giving exposure to events which might otherwise fly under the radar because there’s not a large enough existing audience for commercial viability. Football doesn’t need any help, but I’m sure British Archery would love to show their larger events to the public. I’m sure the national ice hockey or roller derby leagues would love to have their games on national television. Women’s sporting events can finally be shown in full, I’d like to see a bit more than just the barest highlights of the women’s six nations. There was supposed to be an olympic sporting legacy where people discovered new sports and got out there to try them – maybe a new BBC Sport channel can be the reminder and the gateway which lets them find local, exciting sports which might interest them.