Preparing to be a Practical Pilgrim

A rather long-winded explanation for why I’m walking the Camino de Santiago this summer.

Some walking trails jump out at me and demand that I walk them. (I’m thinking of you Kungsleden!). Others, not so much.

The Camino de Santiago is one of those not so much ones.

The scenery looks stunning (I’ve driven over the Pyrenees and would love to see them more slowly) and the tales of camaraderie sound like something not to be missed.

So why has it never really appealed? Continue reading “Preparing to be a Practical Pilgrim”

Monsal Head – A Circular Walk

This walk was great for introducing a seven year old to the Peak District.

I had a friend and her seven year old son stay with me for a few days over half term. In the past this friend and I have enjoyed some wonderful walks in the Peak District and now her son is getting a bit older we decided it was time we got out there again and introduced him to the delights of the Peaks. Continue reading “Monsal Head – A Circular Walk”

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 – Henley to Reading

A miniature railway, a missed train and three ways the Thames Path deals with private gardens that reach to the river.



I’d googled parking in Henley before leaving home and discovered I could park for free in a small car park by the section of the Thames Path I was intending to walk.

I parked, got my boots on and walked across a field to the river. As it was a nice half term day and not too far from the centre of town there were plenty of families about.


Close to where I was starting today’s walk, houses and their gardens reached down to the river bank which should have necessitated an inland detour, but didn’t because a long, winding, wooden walkway sits in the river like a bridge connecting two parts of the same bank.

The walkway leads to a small island from which Marsh Lock can be accessed. The current lock dates from 1773, though there have been locks here for at least 600 years. The walkway, which continues from the island and returns to the bank, was originally created as part of the towpath, but is now a structure used for pleasure rather than work. An information board explains how the fish ladder to the side of the lock and weir works.

035Once the walkway deposited me back on the bank I was able to follow the river through a meadow until the path turned inland towards the village of Shiplake.

The path led alongside some rather large houses including one that has its own railway running through the extensive grounds. The railway is of the miniature sort, but still has its own station building looking very real, albeit scaled down to about half ‘actual size’.  The house is Thameside Court and has been owned by billionaire Urs Schwarzenback since the 1990s. It was after he moved in that the gardens were landscaped and the railway built. I guess if you’re a billionaire a miniature railway is no big deal. He could probably buy out Network Rail should he ever feel the whim.


I followed the road by the houses until Thames Path signs led me along a narrow path before leading to Shiplake Station (the full-size one) and through the village. Eventually, I was able to walk across a field to get back to the river.

As I walked through fields, I was overtaken on the river by a military task force canoeing their way on, I presume, a mission to invade Reading.


Houses and gardens yet again reached down to the banks of the river. So far today the problem of pesky private houses had been resolved firstly, by a walkway over the river the itself and secondly, by a long inland detour. I now found the third solution: to tramp right through the gardens themselves.


Each garden had fences or hedges running right down to the river and in each fence or hedge was a gate with a Thames Path footpath sign. I felt a little strange wandering into people’s gardens, but soon got over my hesitation as no-one seemed to be around and the gardens were far too interesting to keep my eyes averted anyway. Each owner had their own style, though there is obviously a bylaw compelling everyone to have a Buddha and wind chimes in some form or other. My favourite garden was the first which had a lovely summer house at the bottom right by the river.

065The path signs eventually led right up someone’s garden and through a gate onto their driveway, I followed the road for a few minutes before getting back to the river at Shiplake Lock. The walk continued along a pleasant towpath with boats chugging by.

I crossed the bridge taking me back from Oxfordshire to Buckinghamshire and continuing now on the opposite bank, I stopped for a short break at Sonning lock and finished the coffee in my flask. There were a lot more people around now with many obviously just enjoying a short stroll.

I felt I was in Reading a long time before I actually reached it. I walked along playing fields with the river on my right and a busy road lined with modern office buildings on my left.


As I came closer to the town centre an offshoot of the river disappeared behind apartment buildings on the far bank. I could have reached it by crossing a bridge, but had no reason to. Instead I took photographs of swans swimming amongst rubbish with backdrops of huge gas storage tanks.

It was only when I stopped a bit later on and checked the map to see where I should turn away from the river in order to reach the train station, that I realised the narrow offshoot I’d seen was actually the Thames and I was now walking along the Avon and Kennet Canal. It wasn’t a problem as I was still able to easily get to the station.

There’s a Riverside Museum in Reading that I’d quite like to come back and have a look at one day. If I do, I may also walk a loop of the Thames and the canal so as to complete the small section of Thames Path I missed out on today.


I found Reading Station, bought a ticket to Henley, checked the platform number and time of the train, then, as I had lots of time, went for a wander. It was only when I went to catch my train that I realised just how big Reading Station actually is and I hadn’t allowed enough time to get to the platform. I arrived in time to see my train pulling out.


I had to wait a while for the next train and by the time I arrived back in Henley it was completely dark. I set off along the river to follow the Thames Path for today’s final kilometre to the car park. Although it was dark my night vision soon adjusted and I didn’t need to dig my head-torch out of my backpack. I’d expected this to be a lonely stretch as it was dark, but there seemed to be plenty of joggers and dog walkers still about. I quite enjoyed this last part of my walk even though I couldn’t see anything. It felt like I’d sneaked an extra bit onto my day.