Food to Pack for the Kungsleden

The Kungsleden is a trail that begins in Abisko above the Arctic Circle in northern Sweden and finishes 440km later in Hemavan.

It is divided into five parts with the breaks in the sections falling where there is a road and access to public transport.

Although most people walk one or two sections, there are plenty who walk the whole path in one go. I’ve met people walking the whole way in as a little as two weeks (my mind boggles at this), but most take at least a month.

Even if you’re only walking one section you are going to have to think about what food to take with you. Continue reading “Food to Pack for the Kungsleden”

Packing for the Kungsleden

A list and photos of everything I took on my Kungsleden hike this summer.

I had intended to write this post before I left for the Kungsleden, but as usual real life got in the way of my cyber life and I ran out of time. I still wanted to write it though, so once I arrived home I cleaned and sorted my gear and then collected it all together to take photographs before putting it away. Continue reading “Packing for the Kungsleden”

Duke of Edinburgh Weekends

Losing four weekends means I’m tired and behind with everything, but it was well worth it.

Last weekend was the last of my four Duke of Edinburgh Award expedition weekends. I’ve been wanting to get involved with this for years and it has been every bit as good as I was hoping it would be. Of course losing four weekends in close succession means I’m knackered and behind with everything else, but I think it was worth it. Even when it’s been chucking it down and nearly blowing me off the tops I’ve still enjoyed it. I’ve worked with a good team of people and the kids have all been great. We’ve dealt with issues and problems as they’ve arisen and I think we’ve dealt with them well. I’m so glad I’ve had the opportunity to do this before starting my BELA (Basic Expedition Leader’s Award) course in September as I feel really confident about it now. I think I really could enjoy doing this kind of thing full-time – I just have to think of a way of actually making a decent living out of it!

Planning and doing

Making plans for lots of walking and camping.

South West Coast Path

Yay! Two more getups and it’s half-term. For what will be the third spring half-term in a row, I’m heading down to the South West Coast Path to get another chunk of it under my belt.

I’ve found a campsite near Hartland which I can use as a base. I walked as far as Westward Ho! last time, so this year I’ll be starting from there. I’m aiming to get to Bude as a minimum. I’d like to walk further, but I know from experience it’s not that easy when I have to rely on an infrequent bus service to get me from one end of the walk back to the other end where I’ll have parked my van. If the last bus leaves at 5pm, it doesn’t matter how light the nights are, I still have to make sure I’m finished walking before that bus leaves.

I’m planning to drive down to Devon on Friday night, leaving at around midnight to avoid the traffic. This worked really well in February when I had to drive down to Portsmouth to catch the ferry to France. I’ll try to get a bit of sleep on Friday evening and I’ll have my bed set up in the back of the van, so if I get tired I can easily pull off the road for an hour or two.

Lundy Island

I’ll be heading for Ilfracombe on Saturday as I’m going to try again to get to Lundy. It was cancelled due to storms this time last year, but I’ve checked the weather forecast and it does look as though it’ll be a bit better this time round. I tried to book last Saturday morning, but when I phoned the office they couldn’t take my booking then and asked me to phone back later, but so far I haven’t been able to. They did say that it’s unlikely they’ll be fully booked, so I’ll just take my chance and turn up.

Orkney and Shetland

I’ve decided to return to Shetland in the summer and also visit Orkney. I was last in Orkney about ten years ago and only really saw the Mainland. I’ve seen plenty of Shetland during my recent couple of summers there, so this time I’ll just revisit a few favourite places and then spend more time in Orkney visiting islands I haven’t been to before. I’ve been researching ferries and ordering maps. I’ve got a full set of OS maps for Shetland, but didn’t have any for Orkney. My Orkney maps have now arrived, all except one, which had gone out of stock. I’ve re-ordered it, so should get it soon.


Apart from maps, I’ve bought a rather reasonably priced 3 in 1 jacket. This is a lightweight waterproof with a fleece that attaches to the inside to make it a winter jacket. The fleece can also be worn by itself. I haven’t used a jacket like this before, so I’ve just bought a cheap one to see if I get on with it. I’ll probably get a lot of use out of it over the half-term, summer and my Duke of Edinburgh weekends. Other women buy bikinis for their hols; I buy waterproofs and fleeces. I’m sure I have the better holidays though!

I’ve also bought a collapsible canvas bucket. It folds completely flat so will be great for storing in the van. I left it full of water overnight to make sure it didn’t leak and it was absolutely fine. My other recent purchase has been a small, fold-up, short-legged table to use in the van. I’m looking forward to playing with testing my new toys bits of kit next week.

Stove Ignition

I contacted Primus in Sweden about my melted stove ignition and they got back to me really quickly and said they’d send me a new part. So far, so good. Just hope I know how to attach the new part when it arrives!

What else?

I’ve had several theatre trips over the last few weeks; some with school and some with a friend. Also a couple of dinners, a guided walk around the Little Ireland and Little Italy areas of Manchester, a 3-day Duke of Edinburgh weekend, and a day in Chester with students. Add to that a few union meetings and rallies and a parents’ evening at school and it’s all been a bit hectic. I’m really hoping to actually get some relaxing done as well as walking next week.

Silver weekend #1

Is it possible to have a great weekend even though a zillion things go wrong? Apparently the answer is yes, as I found out this weekend.

Is it possible to have a great weekend even though a zillion things go wrong? Apparently the answer is yes, as I found out this weekend.

Way back about a year ago, when school first mooted the idea of an enrichment programme every Friday afternoon to give our students, many of whom are from a disadvantaged background, a bit of, well, enrichment in their lives I jumped at the idea of getting involved with a Duke of Edinburgh Award group. We had over 80 students interested, as well as several members of staff. It was a logistical nightmare, but bit by bit, we got everyone registered, sorted out activities, arranged funding, got parental permission slips signed and gathered relevant medical information. I tried to organise a series of archery lessons for one group of students, but we ended up going climbing instead. They did this over 6 months and all got their level 1 and 2 NICAS awards.

School then decided that the whole idea of enrichment was way too expensive (I suppose I can see their point) and pulled it. Of course, Duke of Edinburgh is not just a one term only activity and some of these kids had made a serious commitment to see it through. They were getting a lot out of it and were devastated at the thought of not being able to continue. The lightweights dropped out and we were left with a (hard) core of 40+ students who really wanted to carry on.

Enrichment was pulled at the February half term which is halfway through the school year. During the first half of the year we’d concentrated on activities which would count towards the skill, physical and volunteering sections of the award. We’d planned from February onwards to run a series of first aid courses, and then focus on expedition skills e.g. navigation, camping skills, route planning, and so on. We also planned to get some Friday afternoon walks in to give them some actual walking experience. A couple of Saturday or Sunday walks out in the Peaks wouldn’t have gone a amiss either. As we no longer had Friday afternoons for enrichment, staff and students were all assigned other lessons. This meant anything to do with the Duke of Edinburgh had to take place after school during the week. This is usually how it would be run anyway, but as we hadn’t planned it this way, it threw everything into disarray and we didn’t get half of what we wanted to do done.

We split our students up into 2 rather uneven groups. The silver students are the older ones who had completed their bronze awards over the last year or two and had wanted to continue. There are only 8 of them. The other 30 odd of them are bronze award candidates who signed up when they had to choose an enrichment activity last year. We also have a few younger students (you have to be 14 or about to turn 14 to do the Duke of Edinburgh) who wanted to get involved. We thought it would be great for them to have a taster so they’d know what to expect when they’re a bit older and come to do the real thing, and so created a special school award that runs along the same lines but is a little easier.

This weekend was the first of our expedition weekends. We decided to take the silver group out first as we have to fit the practice and assessed weekends around their GCSEs. Also as it was our first expedition, having a smaller group of experienced students made a lot of sense.

So what are all the things that went wrong? Apart from us not being nearly prepared enough in the first place?

1) It snowed when we were supposed to recce the route and we weren’t able to rearrange it, so we were heading out on un-recced routes. Not ideal, but we didn’t anticipate any major problems.

2) We found out that we needed a BELA person at all times (BELA stands for basic expedition leader’s award) and not many staff have this particular qualification. I’m starting the course for it in September and my colleague, who has done most of the work for this expedition, won’t be doing her course until next month. So we had to go all out with our powers of persuasion, to powerfully persuade enough relevant people to ‘volunteer’ so we’d be covered all weekend. Job done. We had the people.

3) Two days before the expedition one of our BELA people dropped out. We flung a panic-stricken net far and wide to try to recruit anybody, ANYBODY, who could replace the missing person. Friends of friends of friends, passing acquaintances, anyone we thought might just happen to have a BELA qualification. No luck. Being bank holiday weekend, most outdoorsy, BELAy type people already had plans to be outdoors.

4) Two days before the expedition, but a bit later, another one of our BELA people was in hospital having surgery. We really didn’t want to cancel the expedition as, it being the GCSE season, we wouldn’t be able to rearrange it and our students would completely miss out. Cue massive hair-pulling, hand-wringing, head banging against wall session.

5) One day before the expedition our one remaining BELA person changed her time with us to cover both Friday and Saturday, and the hospitalised member said he’d be out and fit enough to cover Sunday. Big PHEWs all round.

6) On the day of the expedition, both my colleague and I were given covers to do during our free lessons. We were hoping to get away straight after period 3 at the start of lunch. As we’d lost our frees all the last minute getting together of gear and paperwork, getting ourselves changed, loading the minibus and Landrover, etc, just didn’t happen. So we ended up an hour late leaving.

7) Just before we left, my colleague thought she’d better double-check we really were insured to drive the Landrover which had been lent to us by the local authority Duke of Edinburgh people. Er, no. We’re not. As our school is an Academy, we are no longer covered by anything to do with the local authority. We couldn’t put all the luggage in the minibus with the students as there are safety requirements we have to abide by like not blocking the aisle or burying the students under mounds of backpacks. Isn’t it lucky I bought a van last year? So we transferred all the bags from the Landrover into my van.

8) I then had to go and get fuel which made me later at the rendezvous point than the minibus and so they’d all had to sit around waiting for me.

9) It was getting so late by this time that we decided to start the day’s walk 2 hours in and so drove to a layby where we could park my van and myself, my BELA colleague and the students started walking. The other two staff members took the minibus to the campsite.

10) Once we arrived at the campsite I had to get a lift back to my van to collect it. We were going to pick up a takeaway on the way back (for the staff; the students have to be self-sufficient and carry and cook all their own food). It took us quite a long time to get back to the van and we were finally on the way to Bakewell to get our takeaway when we got a tired and despondent phone call from our students. Their tents were up, they were unpacked, they were tired and hungry and ready to cook. But the meths for their camp stoves was on my van (as a safety precaution the fuel is the one thing we carry for them and just give them the amount they need when they are cooking). So we had to turn around and head back to the campsite so they could have a very late, but well-earned dinner.

11) The next day, started off rainy, but by the time we set off walking it had brightened up. I didn’t start the walk as we decided to take my van to the next campsite and leave it there and get us checked in at the same time. This would mean the students could go straight to our allocated sites and pitch their tents when they arrived rather than hanging about waiting for us to get them checked in. As we arrived there was a big notice at the front of the campsite saying no arrivals before 1pm. Then another notice saying ‘do not enter this campsite before the 1pm check-in’. So we entered and went to check in. We left the minibus part-way up the track and I drove down to the reception area to park up and deal with checking in and paying. The young guy behind reception was quite happy to get us checked in and for me to leave my van, despite the 1pm rule.

12) So far, so good. He opened his bookings book, checked his computer and … no sign of our booking. Thank goodness we’d come early. He was able to create a new booking for us and showed us where we could pitch our tents later on when we all officially arrived.

13) My colleague drove me out on the minibus to meet up with the walkers so I could walk with them for the rest of the day. For the final part of the walk we decided to let them walk on their own as this is what they will have to do the entire time on their assessed expedition. We drove round to a point where we knew they would have to cross the road and waited to see them. We waited and then waited a bit longer. It really shouldn’t take them this long. We finally spotted them walking along the road. They’d missed the turnoff for the footpath and so walked the long way round by the road. Minus a few points for missing the footpath, but full points for figuring out exactly where they were and working out an alternative route to get them where they needed to be.

14) That evening I came to put my stove on for only the second time ever. It’s a super-trendy stove bought for me as a present last year by my brother. As it was the end of the camping season when I got it, apart from checking it was working okay, this trip is the first time it’s been used. When I boiled water in the morning it was fine. It has an ignition switch that just needs pressing when the gas is on and it ignites automatically. No need for matches or a lighter. Great idea. I came to put it on in the evening and the ignition wouldn’t work. It just wouldn’t press in at all. Closer inspection showed the plastic switch had melted. So it was back to using a lighter. I’m not at all impressed as it was quite an expensive stove. I can feel a strongly worded email coming on. The area near the switch does get quite hot which is probably the problem. My brother has used one of these stoves for a long time and never had a problem with the ignition so this is probably just a faulty one. Hopefully Primus will do the decent thing and replace it for me.

15) Our students came to put their stoves on to cook their evening meal and asked for the meths. The meths had gone home with the teacher who’d been picked up by her husband an hour of two earlier. We broke the rules (it’s only a practice after all) and once the replacement teacher arrived, took them all into Bakewell so they could go to the chip shop.

16) By Sunday, our third day, the students were suffering. The lack of training was having an effect. We cut the route and part way through let them leave their backpacks in the minibus so they could finish it. This is something we won’t be able to do on the assessed expedition, so is a bit of a worry.

17) We climbed up to Monsal Head and met the minibus. The last part of the walk was along the Monsal Trail into Bakewell. We decided I’d get taken back to the campsite in the minibus to pick up my van and we’d meet the students at one of the disused train stations along the route to check they were still ok to finish the walk. They were fine and seemed a lot more cheerful now they were near the end. I came to reverse my van out of its parking space so I could drive to Bakewell, but nothing happened. After an awful lot of trying I finally got it to reverse. I then had a bit of a hair-raising drive into Bakewell in which, for some of the time, I was driving in neutral down a hill because I couldn’t get it to go into any gear. I followed the minibus into the car park in Bakewell and my gears went completely on me.

18) I had all the students’ backpacks and other miscellaneous camping gear in my van and so we really needed to get it back to school. Especially as it’s a bank holiday and so it will be Tuesday before I see them again and if my van is in the garage being fixed it could be even later than that before I can get their stuff to them. I called Greenflag and they said someone should be with me within the hour. We needed to get the students back so we unloaded the van and they took everything they thought they’d need into the minibus with them. It was probably too much to be strictly legal but not as piled high as it could have been.

19) The Greenflag man arrived at the car park well within the hour but then took about another half hour to get to me. It’s a massive car park and was chocca with stationery vehicles (and I don’t mean the parked ones) trying to get out. Bakewell is busy at the best of times, so on a bank holiday and with a funfair just up the road it was a nightmare.

20) The Greenflag man was very nice and soon figured out the problem. He wasn’t able to do a proper repair as it needs a part, but he said he would try to do a ‘bodge job’ (his words) so I could get home safely. If he had to tow me it would have cost around 100 quid. Cable ties came to the rescue and he spent over an hour securely tying numerous of them onto my dodgy gear linkage to hold it in place so I could drive again. As I drove home the gears actually felt better than they had done before, so thank you very, very much Warren for your bodge job. He’s also told me the part should only cost about £15 and take about an hour’s labour to fix. As I had visions of £100 towing fee plus a new gear box, you can imagine how relieved I was to hear this.

21) Once home, a lot later than expected, I had to empty the van into my house. I can’t leave anything in it overnight as one of the problems of living in a dodgy area is car thieves will break into a car if there’s a much as an old carrier bag left in it. My living room now contains, amongst other things, enough tents to start my own branch of Go Outdoors, several packets of teabags, some random socks and two guitars.

So was it a successful weekend? I think so, as despite all the obstacles and problems we overcame them and still managed to enjoy ourselves and fit in plenty of laughter. I’m looking forward to the next three expedition weekends and to doing my BELA. Once I’ve done that, I’ll feel a lot more confident to start working towards my actual walking group leader’s qualification.

Sleeping in my van

Exploring Barra and finding a great spot to sleep in my van.

Sailing into Castlebay

I’ve camped in my van for the last three nights and I’m loving the freedom of it. I left home much later than planned on Thursday and arrived in Oban just after midnight. I found a free car park, rolled out my bed in the back and went to sleep. I had a really good night’s sleep and felt comfortable and safe. It would have been much more difficult to find somewhere to pitch my tent. It was dark when I was driving so I couldn’t spot any good camping spots from the road.

Barra and Vatersay

On Friday I caught the ferry over to Castlebay on the island of Barra at the bottom of the Outer Hebrides. It’s a five hour sail and was calm, clear and sunny all the way. We arrived in the early evening to more sunshine. Knowing the good weather wouldn’t last and wanting to explore I drove a full circuit round the island’s ring road stopping to take photos of the white sandy beaches and looking for a camping spot for the evening.

Barra and Vatersay

I drove over the causeway to Vatersay and followed the road finding more white beaches and a lone seal. I also discovered the remains of a second world war plane crash. This reminded me of walks I’ve done in the Peak District to see similar remains (a more macabre version of being a plane spotter).

plane wreck

Although I saw lots of nice places I would have had to park a little bit back from the sea and not have had the best view. With this is mind I drove back to one of the laybys I’d passed earlier on the west side of Barra and stopped there. Although it was on the main road there were very few vehicles passing. I had the beach and sand dunes in front of me and a rocky grassed over hill rising up behind me on the opposite side of the road.

Barra and Vatersay

I wouldn’t have been able to pitch my tent here as the layby itself was covered with loose stones, the hill behind was too steep (and I probably wouldn’t have got my pegs into the rock anyway), and the sand on the beach was too soft and the tide was coming in. So having my van meant I was able to camp in an amazing spot and have it all to myself. I kept the door open until quite late and opened it early the next morning, sitting in the doorway to eat my breakfast. Last night I camped here again. Another campervan was parked at the far end of the layby, but it was far enough away for us both to have privacy.

Barra and Vatersay

I’ve put a roll-up bed that I’ve had for years in the back of the van. It’s actually meant for a child and is made up of three foam cushions attached together – two larger ones and one smaller one. When it’s folded up it makes a chair, the smaller cushion being the back of the chair; when it’s unrolled it makes a bed with the smaller cushion being slightly raised at the head. It fits really well in the van and is where I’m planning to build my bed when I convert the van. Down the other side from my bed I have everything stored and although it looks very packed, it’s much more organised than I was in my car.

Barra and Vatersay

The more I use my van, the more I’m getting the feel for how I want to convert it. I’m glad I didn’t rush into anything. Although most of my original ideas still hold, there are a few things I will do differently and other modifications I’ve realised would be nice to have.

Barra and Vatersay

This doesn’t mean I’m giving up on my tents though. When I want to get off the beaten track to places I can’t access with a car and when I’m walking and carrying all my gear, a tent will be needed. Also, when I’m staying in one place for a while it’s better to have everything set up in one place so I don’t have to pack things away in the daytime. I’d also have more room in the back of the van during the day.



I’m looking forward to my week in the Cotswolds and going to Womad, but there are a few things I’m a bit apprehensive about.

I put Womad on my 60 before 60 list as I thought I really should go to a big, muddy, weekend festival. It’s the kind of thing that people assume I’ve already done and I really feel that I should have. I’ve just never got round to it. Never been in the right place at the right time.

Womad interests me because it’s so international (hence the name = World of Music, Arts and Dance). And I don’t think I’d enjoy Glastonbury – 20 years ago I might have done, but not now. I wasn’t planning on going any time soon, mainly because I like to do other things in the summer, but also because I didn’t have anyone to go with and this is something I feel would be better experienced as part of a group.

Then a colleague mentioned she was going this summer with a group of friends. Although I didn’t really want to break my summer up, it seemed like an opportunity that was meant to be. I asked if I could tag along and of course she said yes. I got straight online and booked my ticket. I haven’t heard of any of the bands that are playing, but I’m sure I’ll enjoy them nonetheless and come away with a wishlist of music to be purchased.

I’m going down to the Cotswolds on Sunday and will spend most of the week there staying on a tiny campsite with a portaloo but no shower. I’m thinking of ways of rigging up the back doors of my van to make a shower cubicle and then I’ll be able to have bowl and jug showers. Or if the weather doesn’t improve, I could just stand outside with a bottle of shampoo. On Friday I’ll go to Womad. I’m not expecting to find showers there, so if my van doors idea doesn’t work I’m going to pretty smelly by the time I come home on the following Monday.

I’m looking forward to Womad but at the same time I’m apprehensive about a few things. If the weather is really horrendous I won’t enjoy standing around watching bands. I don’t mind walking in rain and keeping my head down, but standing still and looking up for hours at a time will be pretty miserable. I’m also a bit concerned about security. I imagine these events are a magnet for thieves, so I’m concerned about taking anything expensive with me, or leaving it in the van. I also hate not being able to wash my hair. I could survive without a shower as long as my hair gets washed, but I don’t know what the water situation will be like.

Anyway, I’m not too apprehensive about my apprehensions as usually when I’m apprehensive about something I end up having a great time and none of things I was worried about materialise.


A weekend in Snowdonia will give me the chance to test my new tent.

I’m heading to Wales straight after school tomorrow. I’m meeting friends and we’re going to camp at a climbers’ hut. The address I have is that it’s near some boulders. I think there are a lot of boulders in Snowdonia. I have a grid reference, which I would be fine walking to, but I’ve never used one to drive to before. Wish me luck!

The weather’s not meant to be too great so I’m going to use the weekend as a good opportunity to test out my new Vango.


I’m home from a week of jumbled up walking.

I arrived back very late last night from my week walking the North Devon part of the South West Coast Path. It was a gorgeous day – hot, sunny – and after a week in which I’d had lots of rain and wind I didn’t want to waste any of it. I also had one bit of my walk left to do, which would have really niggled at me if I hadn’t been able to complete it. So I walked all day, watched seals, ate an ice-cream, and only left at 5pm. Now I have to spend today sorting out my camping gear, getting everything dry and put away, and then I can think about writing up my walks and sorting out my photos.

This isn’t going to be as easy as it sounds as the whole thing is rather muddled in my head. I’d wanted to walk from Ilfracombe to Westward Ho! and of course it would make sense to start at the beginning and walk to the end. But with the combination of Sunday and the two bank holidays affecting bus services, stiff knees and the poor weather, I ended up walking the route in a really hodge-podge manner and now I’m feeling very confused as to which bits join up with which other bits. I’m sure it will all fall into place when I start working it out, but for now it’s all a bit of a daunting jumble.

Half Term

I’m looking forward to walking a bit more of the South West Coastal Path.

I haven’t posted much over the past month as I’ve been far too busy at work and barely had time to think. Still, next week is half term and I’m heading down to Devon to walk a bit more of the South West Coast Path. After spending the really hot week we had recently in what is basically a giant greenhouse, I was really looking forward to a hot week in my tent and walking along the coast. The weather forecast is pretty miserable though. Nothing like last year when I walked the Exmoor stretch of the path. Whatever the weather, it’ll just be nice to get away and have a break. I’m going from Saturday to Saturday. I’m hoping to walk 4 days, have a day trip to Lundy Island on Thursday and have one day being a tourist. I’m booked into a tiny campsite near Barnstaple which I’ll use as my base and I’ve just found out that there’s a bank holiday weekend real ale festival on in Barnstaple. How perfect is that!