Friday Flickr – Kungsleden (Ammarnäs to Hemavan)

Photographs from the final section of Sweden’s Kungsleden trail.

This week’s Friday Flickr album has the photos from the final stage of my Kungsleden hike. On this section I stayed in huts for the first time and experienced my best ever sauna. I was also hit with the worst weather I’d experienced on the trail since starting in Abisko two years ago, though from my photos you wouldn’t guess this as there are plenty of blue skies on show.

The total Kungsleden is around 440km (depending on which source you read). This section is 78km long.

Would I recommend it? Definitely. Would I go back and do it again? No. But only because there are so many other places I want to see.

Click on the image below to access the Flickr album.

Kungsleden 2016 - Ammarnas to Hemavan


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”

Friday Flickr – Kungsleden (Jäkkvik to Ammarnäs)

Photographs from the fourth and penultimate section of Sweden’s Kungsleden trail.

This week’s Friday Flickr is an album of photographs I took whilst walking the fourth section of the Kungsleden this summer. I’d walked the first two parts of the trail two years ago and had returned to finish it.

Last week’s Friday Flickr shows the first part of this year’s walk (the third section of the trial) and this week’s is the continuation from Jäkkvik (pop = 90), where I stayed in the village for a couple of nights, to Ammarnäs (pop = either 95 or 250 depending which source you believe).

This section is one of the quieter sections as, apart from the small village of Adolfström with its one shop, there isn’t anywhere to buy food along the way. There are a few STF huts, but as these are not manned, staying in them means arranging to borrow a key before setting off.

I spent about 10 days walking this section camping along the way.

To access the Flickr album click on the image below.

Kungsleden - Jakkvik to Ammarnas

Friday Flickr – Kungsleden (Kvikkjokk to Jakkvik)

Photographs from the Kvikkjokk to Jäkkvik section of Sweden’s Kungsleden trail.

Before I left for Sweden I wanted to set up enough Friday Flickr posts to cover my time away, so I’d at least have something appearing on my blog whilst I was sans-Wifi. Of course that didn’t happen due to some weird Flickr downtime in the UK. Thankfully everything seems to be up and working again now and so here is the first of my latest batch of Friday Flickrs.

Of course, this week’s Friday Flickr has to feature the Kungsleden.

Two years ago I walked the first two sections of this epic trail in the far north of Sweden. I was determined then to get back to  finish it and this summer I got the opportunity.

This week’s Friday Flickr features photographs from the third section (the first section I walked this year) which runs from Kvikkjokk to Jäkkvik. This is one of the least walked parts as it’s on this section hikers need to be completely self-sufficient as there is nowhere to buy food along the way. Also as there are no STF huts on this section it means as well as carrying plenty of food, you also have to carry camping and cooking gear.

Most people walk it in 7 or 8 days. I walk slowly. I had a VERY heavy backpack. I knew that I’ll probably never be back here and I wanted to have time to give it the appreciation it deserves.

I spent 13 days walking just this section.

I forgot about everything that was happening in the world outside and focused on my bit of wilderness. I breathed, I relaxed, I slept, I reflected, I daydreamed, I wrote, I read, I walked. And walked. And walked some more.

I was glad when it was finished and happy to arrive in Jäkkvik, but at the same time I had a feeling of sadness that it was over and didn’t want it to end. As I got close to Jäkkvik, I sat on a rock enjoying the sunshine and gazed at the lake. I felt I’d really achieved something – I’d walked across the line of the Arctic Circle and I’d rowed across a lake for the first time. But most of all I’d proved to myself I could survive in the wilderness supported by only that which I could carry on my back.

I mentally high-fived myself, stood up and walked the last half kilometre into Jakkvik.

To access the Flickr album click on the image below.

Kungsleden 2016 - Kvikkjokk to Jakkvik



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”

Friday Flickr -The Great Glen Way

This week’s Flickr album sees me reminiscing about my first long distance walk.

It’s quite a while since I had my introduction to long-distance walking and ticked a challenge of my 60 before 60 list by walking the Great Glen Way.

The Great Glen Way meanders it’s way through the (yep, you guessed it) the Great Glen, which stretches from coast to coast across the Scottish Highlands.

A series of lochs, formed along a geological fault line, almost splits the country in half. Just to finish the job, the Caledonian Canal came along in the 1800s and linked the lochs. It is now impossible to travel to the far north of Scotland without crossing water somewhere. (Does that mean the north of Scotland is actually an island?)

The Great Glen Way begins in Fort William and leads onwards and upwards to Inverness on the west coast. Although the official path actually starts and finishes in the middle of these two towns, I walked out to the sea lochs at either end, adding a few more miles and making it a true coast to coast walk.

As an introduction to long distance walking, this is a good one. Plenty of wilderness, but not too difficult to get lost. Few enough people to make it feel like an adventure, but enough people around if you ran into difficulties. Lots of trees and ‘nature’, but also plenty of man-made historical stuff to keep it interesting on a different level.

I wrote about it in a lot more detail at the time, but for an overview of what it looks like, I’ve put a Flickr album together.

Click on the photo below to access the Flickr album.

Great Glen Way

And in case this has whetted your appetite, here are the links to the rest of my posts on the Great Glen Way.

Great Glen Way Day 1

Great Glen Way Day 2

Great Glen Way Day 3

Great Glen Way Day 4

Great Glen Way Day 5

Great Glen Way Day 6

Great Glen Way Day 7

Kungsleden Photographs

Photographs from the Kungsleden; Sweden’s spectacular Arctic wilderness.

In the summer of 2014 I walked about half of Sweden’s Kungsleden (it translates as the King’s Way or the King of Ways, depending on who you choose to believe).

The Kungsleden begins well above the Arctic Circle in Swedish Lapland and follows a trail through valleys, over mountains and across rivers and lakes. Although there are camping huts spaced roughly a day apart, for the most part this is true wilderness with the nearest road often being several days walk away.

Basic food supplies can be bought at some of the huts, but for the most part you have to carry everything you need. The food in the huts is of the dried, canned and processed variety as it all has to be brought in my snow-mobile in March when the snow is at its deepest. It then has to last till the end of summer.

Water for washing and drinking is taken from the lakes and rivers and is some of the purest I’ve ever drank (and washed in).

I’ve put some photograhs (actually, I’ve put a LOT of photographs) on Flickr, but even the best photography can’t do justice to the beauty of this place. It’s one of those places you just have to see for yourself.

Click on the image below to access the album.


Thames Path – Marlow to Bourne End

A lovely evening provided the perfect opportunity to fill a gap in my walk.

Thames in the evening light

I was heading south for half term. I planned to leave early on Sunday morning and spend the day walking a section of the Thames Path before arriving at a friend’s place in the evening. However, feeling grotty with the remains of a cold meant I didn’t get myself into gear until much later than I’d intended.

By the time I got anywhere near the Thames it was far too late to think about doing a long walk. Particularly as the clocks had just changed and so I’d be losing daylight earlier as well.

duck on the river

It was a beautiful afternoon, perfect for a walk along the river, so I churned ideas over in my mind as I chugged down the motorway. I remembered I still had to walk the couple of miles between Bourne End and Marlow, as when I’d previously walked this section I’d had to cut out this bit due to flooding.


Ideally I would walk from Bourne  End to Marlow as I’ve generally been heading west on my walk, but I knew I could park for free in Marlow and it wouldn’t  be a problem returning in the dark. I didn’t know if I’d be able to do this at Bourne End.

Marlow lock
Marlow Lock

Train times between the two places meant it made sense to start walking straight away and catch the train back from Bourne End rather than take the train to Bourne End and walk back to Marlow from there. Not a problem. It’s not the only section I’ve walked ‘the wrong way’ and I don’t really mind which direction I go in as long as I eventually walk the whole path.


I parked my car, got my boots on and walked the short distance to the river. A year ago when I was here and walked to Henley it was a hot, sunny day and I couldn’t quite believe it was the beginning of November. People were out in hordes strolling along the riverbank in t-shirts and eating ice-creams. It was a nice day today, though not quite as warm as last year and being later in the day, there weren’t nearly so many people around.

Turning east at the river I walked towards the weir and lock. As I looked back  the low sun cast Marlow in a beautiful light.

Marlow Lock

I soon left the houses behind on my side of the bank and stopped frequently to take photos of the dazzling array of autumnal colour trying to capture the perfect image of red, orange and gold reflected in the silvery river. Although I was quite happy with some of my photos I never quite got that perfect shot.


Across the river, the wooded bank rose steeply and was dotted with mansions, some in colours vivid enough to rival the autumn leaves with their brightness. If you’ve ever hankered after a Barbie pink mansion, this is the place to find one.

Pink mansion


The Marlow bypass is the only ‘ugly’ bit of this walk and it’s soon passed by.

Quarry Wood on the opposite bank is thought to have been the inspiration for the ‘wild wood’ in The Wind in Willows.

I kicked my way through the leaves and eventually came to a series of fields, the first of which was home to a herd of very inquisitive cows. A couple of young cows were standing in the river eating from the side of the bank. I wondered how they’d get back up, but as they seemed quite content presumed they knew what they were doing.

As I tried to photograph them one cow in particular was very curious about my camera and kept pushing its face towards the lens. I was worried it make try to take a bite out of it, but I think it was just trying to photo-bomb my pictures.

These were the fields that had been completely under water when I’d tried to walk here a couple of years ago. The fields are bordered by the river on one side and the train line on the other and there’s no way of avoiding them without a long detour along roads away from the river.


There were quite a few boats on the river, some were posh yachts, others were like this tiny boat with two men balanced inside enjoying a bit of fishing.

As the sun started to set and the moon began to rise, lights started to come on in some of the houses opposite and smoke puffed out of chimneys.

Large flocks of geese rose and nosily made their way across the river to their roosts.


I passed the benches I’d photographed from the train last time I was here. Then I could see only the tops of them above the water.


Coming towards Bourne End the path passed through a narrow walkway with wooden houses lining both sides. Exiting this walkway I continued past the marina before turning in to find the main road and the train station.




The Thames Path – Marlow to Henley

I found a herd of white deer, some very large pumpkins and mansions galore on this stretch of the Thames.

I had to drive home from Kent on Saturday and as it was such a beautiful day, despite being the first day of November, I really didn’t feel like spending it sitting on the M25 and the M6. Instead I detoured to Marlow and spent the day walking along the Thames to Henley and only completed my drive in the evening. 

I parked in Marlow as this is an easy place to return to by bus from Henley and the street parking is free. I had wanted to walk from Bourne End as this was where I’d had to finish when I walked the Thames Path at New Year and flooding prevented me getting through to Marlow. Backtracking to Bourne End from Marlow proved quite difficult as the trains were only every two hours and my timing was out. I didn’t want too late a start as I knew I’d have to be finished by 5pm as it’s getting dark so early since the clocks went back last week. I never thought to check out the buses, so with hindsight maybe I could have got there. But not to worry, I’ll try to do this ‘missing section’ next time.

Marlow was buzzing with Saturday morning activity. The sun was out and so were the people. Some were wandering up and down the high street, others wandering by the river. The local park was full of families with young, and not-so-young, children and the ice-cream van was doing a roaring trade.

I popped into the church, an impressive building with a chequer-board tower just by the river. All Saints was rebuilt in 1835, replacing a 12th century church. Inside I met a sprightly old lady who spotted my walking boots and informed me brightly that she was 93 years old, and not so brightly, that she’d recently had to give up walking as an activity. Her face momentarily clouded over as she remembered the day she’d taken her boots to the thrift shop. She brightened as she added that she’s still driving and still attending yoga and aerobics classes regularly. Feeling inspired, and determined to make the most of my next fifty years’ walking before I have to hand my boots over to the charity shop, I strode down to the river and started walking west.

A man sat on the river bank shouting commands and encourgement through a loudspeaker to rowers whizzing past making it look easy. Large boats with families and groups on board chugged past, not allowed to exceed 4 knots per hour. 


Bisham Church soon came into view on the opposite bank. Next to it, one of the UK’s National Sports Centres can be found at Bisham Abbey, the 13th century manor house near the church which replaced the original priory. It was on this stretch of the Thames that poet Percy Shelley spent his time bobbing about in a skiff whilst writing about a boat and river in ‘The Revolt of Islam’. 

Passing Temple Mill Island, I soon reached Temple Lock. A young couple were launching dinghies which they then paddled out of the lock and downriver. I sat and ate a sandwich, watching a boat pass through the lock as I enjoyed the sun on my face. 

Remembering I still had a lot of walking to do before I’m 93 I didn’t linger for long and was soon off towards Hurley Lock and Islands. First I had to cross to the other bank using Temple Bridge which, with a span of just under 50 metres, is Britain’s longest hardwood footbridge. Once at Hurley Lock I followed the path over a shorter bridge to reach Hurley Island, then walked the length of the island before crossing back to the towpath.

The path, which so far had led through trees and was deeply littered with autumnal leaves, now took me across open meadowland and fields. Looking back, the opposite bank rose into a high cliff with a mansion house sitting right at the top. This is Danesfield, named after the Danes who built a fortification in the field here. The present-day mansion is a hotel. 

A large caravan park lay to my left, the river was to my right. Large, expensive-looking houses soon came into view and the path joined a road labelled as private. The houses were to the left of the road and what seemed to be private gardens alongside the river were to its right. I puzzled for a moment, before realising that the path doesn’t follow the road, but actually goes right by the river through the gardens. A couple of them had seats, lanterns and potted plants and looked like wonderful little spots for sitting and reading or just watching the world go by. 

Medmenham Abbey soon came into sight across the river. The Abbey had been founded in 1201, but all that remains of the original building is one derelict tower. The rest has been rebuilt over the years and now forms a luxury hotel. In the 1700s it became infamous as a meeting place for Sir Francis Dashwood’s notorious Hell Fire Club. Members became known as ‘Franciscans of Medmenham’ after their host was said to have performed obscene parodies of religious rites there. 

Walking through more meadowland and crossing several bridged ditches led me to Culham Court. The strange looking sheep I saw from a distance turned out to be a very large herd of mostly white deer. A few were browner with spots and as far as I can make out they were fallow deer. I could be completely wrong on this. The house with its sixty-five surrounding acres is a privately owned family home, bought by financier Urs Schwarzenbach and his wife Francesca in 2006 for £38 million. 


After passing in front of the house the path then veers away from the river to reach the small village of Aston. The Flower Pot pub is a local landmark with chickens running around the garden. Outside was the largest pumpkin I’d ever seen. It was carved for Halloween and the inside could easily have held a small child. I touched it to check as I couldn’t quite believe it to be real.

Walking from the pub along Ferry Lane to return to the river I passed several more huge pumpkins. One had an array of ‘normal’ sized pumpkins around it which looked tiny in comparison.

Back at the river, it was through a kissing gate and just a short way along a grassy path until Hambleden Mill came into sight. A long weir glinted in the low sun, backed by a splendid display of autumn colour. Realising I’d easily make it to Henley before dark, I sat awhile on a bench scoffing a snack and looking at my map. 

Greenlands was the next mansion to appear. White and palatial it stood proudly on the opposite bank, facing the river, and making me think of the White House in Washington DC. It had been built in 1853 for bookseller and First Lord of the Admiralty W H Smith. These days it houses Henley College. 

The sun was started to set behind the trees as I approached Temple Island. This is the start of the Henley Royal Regatta which runs to Henley Bridge. The ‘temple’ on the island, now a private fishing lodge, was designed in 1771 by James Wyatt who added frescoes inside. It was originally built as a folly to draw the eye to the view from Fawley Court which is situated a little further upstream. 


Facing Fawley Court is the hamlet of Remenham with its 19th century church. It was built to replace a Norman church and has its apse built on the line of its Norman predecessor. 

Houses and dog-walkers started to appear more frequently alongside the path and, rounding a bend, Henley itself came into view. The light was fading now and lights on the bridge and in the shops and houses along the bank produced bobbing gold reflections in the water. A raft of ducks, strung out in single-file, were out for a final swim of the day. I walked into Henley as the town was closing up for the evening. A bus was waiting at the stop when I arrived and twenty minutes later I was back in Marlow. 


Distance: approximately 8.5 miles.

Researching and writing

I’m working hard on my book at the moment. Even to the extent of inventing my own language! (Dutlish anyone?)

After a lot of research into travel books (good excuse to do lots of reading) I’ve come to the conclusion that most books have around 200 pages and 100,000 words. Give or take 10-20%. This is reassuring because this is what I’m aiming for with the book I’m trying to write at the moment. I’m not looking at bestselling travel writers as they tend to have much longer books, but more the sort of writers you only discover when researching books on a particular region or way of travelling.

At the moment I’m about a third of the way there with around 32,000 words. I’ve divided the writing of my first draft into three phases:

Phase one was typing up my diary notes. I kept quite a detailed diary as I was walking, but as I was hand-writing and, more importantly, not wanting to add a huge notebook to my load, it was in note form. My typing up in phase one involved writing it up into proper sentences and paragraphs rather than just copying up notes. As I’m a fairly fast typist this was completed quite quickly.

I’m now working on phase two, which is much slower going. Phase two involves the factual side of my walk and means lots of research. One of my USPs (unique selling points) is that the book will be useful for anyone planning, or thinking about, a walk along the Kungsleden. Although it’s not intended as a guidebook, I do want to get quite a lot of solid information into it. One of the reasons I wanted to write this book is because so few people in the English speaking world are aware of this walk and there is very little written on it in English. The very reason I want to write the book is also the reason my research is going quite slowly – there’s very little written on it in English.

I’m finding quite a lot on the internet, but it tends to be in Swedish. Although I picked up a few Swedish words, my language skills are definitely not of the proficiency needed for reading Swedish websites. I’m ploughing through, picking out the words I know and finding myself doing a complicated process of translating into English via Dutch. Yes, Dutch. When I was in Scandinavia in February I noticed how a lot of the words in both Danish and Swedish seemed to share a similar root to Dutch. I don’t speak Dutch, but my Dutch vocabulary is far more extensive than my Swedish vocabulary and whilst I was travelling over the summer I found this came in very useful. I’m finding it just as useful now. When I’ve read through a page and got the gist of it in Dutch and English (Dutlish?), I’ll put any relevant bits into Google translate to double-check. Although it comes up with a few strange translations and the word order is sometimes rather jumbled, I’m quite impressed with it. I wouldn’t use it to translate anything of importance, say a legal document, but for my purpose it’s fine.

Once I’ve done some research and made my own notes, I’m then inserting this into whichever part of my draft I think it’ll best fit. This is all taking quite a long time. I’m aiming to have roughly 50,000 words by the end of the phase two. That’ll be half the book dedicated to my first USP. Only 18,000 words to go then …

Phase three will be dedicated to my second USP which is something along the lines of stressed, middle-aged woman/teacher gives up job and goes for a long walk in the Arctic wilderness. I think I’m going to enjoy writing this part. Not that I’m not enjoying what I’m doing at the moment, but I’m conscious of time and want to get as much done as possible before the need to pay bills means I have to go back to work. 

Of course, once it’s all done, that’s only really the start of it. My first draft will be a collection of disorganised ramblings and will be in need of some serious editing. But I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.