Category Archives: Travel

Fast Packing. Birmingham > Worcester > Malvern > Bewdley > Kidderminster

On Sunday 14th June 2015 I decided to do some fast packing. I had been keeping an eye on the weather in the areas I would be passing, and it seemed the perfect time to go. My plan was to do roughly 90 miles from Birmingham, I would go down the Birmingham – Worcester Canal past Worcester and follow it further south to meet with the River Severn. I would camp at a camp site here. The next day I would walk to Malvern which is an area of outstanding natural beauty. I would then start the Worcestershire Way Trail heading north to Bewdley where I would then repeat the North Worcestershire Way trail for the second time this week. The idea was to do one big circular from my house back to my house. So that’s the overview.. and this is how it went.

I packed my usual stuff with me, 20L WAA Ultra Bag 1 man hiking tent, spare tshirt, long johns,spare socks, Thermarest XLite inflatable mattress, OMM Raider 1.0 sleeping bag, Sleeping bag liner, Marmot Essence waterproof jacket. For food I packed 2kg of dates (I did eat in some places along the way though) and I carried 1.5 L bottle of water which I finished off and topped up whenever I could. I didn’t bring my Petzl headtorch as I like to just sleep when it gets dark and I had one on mobile if urgent. I also carried a recharging unit which allowed me to recharge my Garmin Fenix 2 for the entire duration and my iphone about 3 times also. Finally a little cash and a card.

I set out from my house in Northfield Birmingham at 10:30am. I walked down to Wast Hills Lane where I joined up with the canal to Worcester. This path is pretty much down hill the entire time. Even though I walked a fair bit I struggled with this section. I think perhaps because I wasn’t used to carrying 8KG of stuff with me while running. Also what made it hard is that the council has started to turn the tow paths into tarmac paths instead which hurts under foot wearing studded Salomon Speedcross 3s. I have such a love hate relationship with these shoes and I have said before that I would throw them away. This time I have. For a country with little long distance TRAIL ONLY routes I find these to be pretty useless in the way of a quality long distance sneaker. Walking on tarmac roads over long distances with heavy weights on your back, with the studs on the bottom pushing into your feet every 180,000 steps or so over 90 miles really hurts. I’m going to opt for HOKA ONE ONE Maximalist trailies next time.

Regardless I really enjoyed this day. It was familiar ground as I have ran this route 6 times now. There was only the small section past Worcester down to the River Severn I wasn’t sure on but I knew from looking at maps it was very straight forward and I could just follow the Severn Way Sign Posts.
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I remember seeing this boat shortly after being set on fire by idiots. The owner has been trying to fix t for many months now. To his, and everyone else’s surprise, some bastard had let it lose overnight and it had drifted down the canal well away from anywhere to tie it up. The owner was just leaving as I arrived, he was very upset and I think had given up on it completely as he walked away soaking wet.

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In winter I went the wrong way here and it lead to a horrible dumpy looking cul de sac. I took this picture because as the seasons have progressed it looked just beautiful.

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I like bridges for some reason 😉 Hence all the bridge images.

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Happy moment. Knowing that I wasn’t too far now from Worcester and then only a few more miles south to the first nights camping spot.

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Tried to have a little talk with this swan but he got a bit aggressive with me and tried to bite me lol. Little bugger.

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Once I got into Worcester I spotted a Subway and decided to get myself a Salad Sub 😀

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It was a nice moment to get the River Severn. I hadn’t been this far down before.



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Yay first signs for the Severn Way. Another trail I must do. It’s 150 miles but it’s all downhill so should be a nice one. Right down to Bristol. 🙂


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I
 arrived at The Ketch Campsite early evening. I spoke with the warden there and paid for my hiking tent. This site was right along the river. Lovely location, though you can see why they don’t allow children under 11 here. You can just about see the tips of the Malvern Hills past the River Severn in the distance. That’s where I was heading the next day.
I did about 28 miles on this first day. Throughout the day I found myself running a few miles here and there when I could be bothered and wasn’t on stoned or tarmacked ground. I didn’t see this as a race. Just going how I felt.

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It was a hard boring 7.5 mile walk to Malvern Hills. I set off at 5am. I tried to plan a trail route but I wasn’t confident in the trail I had created through an advanced route creator online. I worried a lot of it was closed off completely to public so I opted for an A road which ran right to Malvern.

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I sort of did one of those little happy dances when I saw this sign. I knew I’d soon be off the busy A road and onto the quieter hills where I belonged.

When I arrived into Malvern the first thing I did was go to COSTA and buy a Soya Latte. I warmed up with this and chilled for a while before heading back out, to a shop to top up water and then to The Hills.

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I wish I’d have been here during the afternoon. I was on the East side of the hills and because the sun rises in the East it made it hard to get a good snap of how amazing this view was. You could just see for absolute miles on end of farm lands and tiny villages. There were even a few hot air balloons.

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When I got to the top of the hills I started the Route for Worcester Way which I had saved to my Garmin as a GPX file. I was so upset by this. My Garmin Fenix 2 allows you to set how often it records data. I had set it to record every 2 minutes on UltraTrac rather than every second. The result being up to 50 hours battery life. When I activated the route onto my current session (from day one point 1) it changed the recording frequency to SMART and wouldn’t let me decide how often. The dilemma here was that I would need to not use my phone or music anymore and keep charging my Garmin much more with my recharging unit. The alternative would be to save what I had done so far and start a new one to put the settings back to UltraTrac. As I wasn’t even sure I’d have enough recharges for the duration of my journey I decided to save that session and begin a new one. I decided what I would do instead was select “map” option on the Worcestershire Way and follow that. Sadly when I zoomed in further the line showing the route went off the watch so I couldn’t even see where I was going unless I had it at a 30 mile radius. I realised I would have to rely on way marks for the next 65 miles.

This is clearly something I’m going to have to look into. I loved the idea of Fenix 2 for it’s ability to upload GPX or create routes and have such long battery but it seems the battery wont last that long if you use a predetermined route? Why is this? If you have any alternative suggestions that please do let me know. If this wasn’t a waymarked route and I didn’t have a charged phone I would have never made it as far as I did.

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This is looking back to the Malvern Hills I had walked up and across earlier.

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I believe this is the River Teme. There’s a little Post office around there called Suckly Post Office. I’m not 100% now on locations sorry. Anyway I remember going in to top up my water and I also bought a few apples. I went outside and sat on the bench to eat them. To my surprise a young guy came up to me and asked if I was Vegan. He had spotted my Vegan Runners top and said he was vegan too. He also mentioned he had seen some of my posts on the Vegan Runners Facebook group. It was really nice to bump into a fellow vegan especially in a place like this population 10. He seemed a really happy person and said how lucky he was to live in such a beautiful place in the world. We wished each other well and on I went. Maybe he might read this post… if so say hello 😀

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I stopped at a The Talbot pub in this little village called KnightWick and had two portions of chips and a large lemonade. I piled on the salt to replace my salt loss.

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Here is another trail I would like to look up. I hope it is full of geological delights. I have a keen interest in geology 😉
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I was getting pretty tired by this point and was considering camping around here. I’m not very good at wild camping. When I was a kid I did it all the time but now as an adult and knowing it’s illegal I never know. Also I don’t know if there’s anyone around in the area. It did seem ideal as a place to camp for the night though.
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At about mile 30-32 on day 2 I was just turning to go down a hill in the forest. I spotted the lower half of a guy running. He hadn’t spotted me yet and I made a flash decision to start running. There was no way I was going to slog my way down a steep hill in my VEGAN RUNNERS top that he was running UP! So I got going and he said hey. The funny thing was that even after slogging for so many miles that day I managed to pretty much run the last 8 miles all the way into Bewdley.

About a mile out from Bewdley I ran into some danger. This was the only trail I knew of into the village and it really was a race against the sun at this point. I came across a field with what I thought was cows. They seemed relaxed and I (unknowing how dangerous bulls were at the time) decided to take the trail. As I passed about 5 of the 8 or so bulls they blocked off the was I came in. Which meant I had a longish climb uphill to the exit and had to pass 4 more  up the hill in the process. Their attitude changed and they began to group up an run in my direction. I turned to face them and slowly walked backwards. I really wanted to run but I knew that bulls are faster than people and I had already done 38 or 39 miles today! I didn’t know how to react so I faced them but didn’t look into their eyes. I opened my arms and showed them my palms. I firmly but calmly said to them “nooooo, come on now… easy boys, you’re ok, I’m not going to hurt you.”. The lead bull settled back a bit and I thought I might be ok. Then one of the other bulls took lead and they all began to charge at me again. This time he got within 2 or 3 meters of me but I managed to somehow get them to calm again. This happened 5 times in total. I really thought I was going to die. So many people get a blow to the head or their body’s crushed. I got out safely though. I managed to find the exact field on Garmin Connect. I sent an email to the Long Distance Path Association to ask who I contact about this. It is my understanding (I could be wrong) that it is highly illegal for farmers to block public rights of way with dangerous cattle and no warning signs or alternative route signs.

As I got into Bewdley I started to pick up the pace as I headed for the River Severn once more 🙂
I went to The Cooperative to top up my water and buy 600g of Strawberries. My body was craving fruit and lots of it. I wandered along the Canal Path going into my first mile of the North Worcestershire Way. I stopped on a bench and rested a while. I then put on my other top and a jacket as I was starting to shiver. The sun was going down, it was about 9:30pm now. My feet were completely bashed. It was my intention to wild camp in the middle of Worcestershire way like I said, but I decided to take it all the way to Bewdley.

This day was much tougher than my first day. It was in no means downhill. There was a total of at least 1,560 m (5,118 ft) ascent. Yet that day I felt much stronger. I wasn’t feeling my bag hurt my shoulders so much and I felt like my feet were capable of more even if torched at the end. I remember whenever it got tough I would count my steps to 20 and then repeat. I did this continuously sometimes for an hour or more non stop. Whenever my mind drifted initially I refocussed back to counting and just got lost in the rhythm of counting. When pain set in I would also notice it as just a feeling. I would remind myself it’s a feeling, it isn’t me. It’s physical and I’m just an observer of this physical body.

So day and light was ending and I needed a place to camp. I could hardly walk at this point and I wobbled up the river about a mile to find somewhere safe to put my tent. In the end I put it not too far from a main road but a really well darkened spot. This site turned out to be a car park for the private fishing anglers association. I know this because at 2:45am there were car lights coming into my tent which woke me up. I quickly opened the zip on the tent to see what it was. I could then see him get out the car and close the barrier to the car park. His reg plate was something like SLOTS or something. I panicked. I thought he had seen me from the road and now he was coming to kill me. He went to his boot and started sorting out his murdering tools. I called “hello?”. He replied “Hi you ok? I’m just here fishing. Didn’t mean to give you a fright. You do know this is the fishers car park?”. I apologised and explained I had walked a long way and ran out of light and just pitched up. I kept my eye on him a while and could finally see it was fishing stuff in his car. Then I tried to sleep again.

I only got 3 hours rest that night. I remember getting up at 3:30am and packed up to carry on the final part of my journey.
This is where the big problems started. My eyes kept dropping and I kept seeing things. I stopped to eat a shed load of dates to give me energy and drank a load of water. I kept walking along the river. There’s some grassy areas along the river and so naturally my feet and socks got soaked. I kept praying for warmth to come through and sun so that hopefully my sneakers will dry. They didn’t though and my skin soon folded and blistered which became really painful. I was only a few miles into my day and had to do 34 miles in total for the day.
11140267_1669042419993410_6109479989292645280_n I know this is nothing compared with other runners feet pics I have seen lol. This has now become a top priority for me to master, not only to deal with blisters (I’ll use my Fixing Your Feet book), but also how to keep them dry. I have T184 mile Endurance Race in 2016 and I know that the grass will be wet in the mornings along the River Thames. It was enough to knock my morale and make me stop my journey.

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As I walked up hills in the forest there was a big drop to the right of me and I didn’t see the drop but I saw a lake and kept hallucinating. I kept thinking how I’d like to take a dip in the lake but it wasn’t really there and the picture eventually became clear and all I saw was a the big dip that was really there.

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Here I am looking exhausted and feeling it. I was sat on one of those wooden cross over fence things. It felt so nice to have something to sit on and get my feet off the ground.

At about mile 8 of today I remember just starting to cry. I kept slogging along at like 3mph. I kept thinking about how I wanted to just lay down on the ground and sleep. Even just for an hour. I realised that 3 hours sleep after 40 miles isn’t enough to sustain another 34 miles the next day. I wanted today to be the last day and reach the end. At mile 12 I kept losing the way marks and getting lost. I felt disorientated and realised I was walking around in circles.
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I only continued another 5 ish miles and then I decided to come off the trail and head to a local pub to eat and call for a taxi home. I was 15 miles away from finishing my planned journey. Although when I got home and calculated the distance I thought it would be 89 miles and it was 89.9 for what I did. So I had actually done more than expected. This stands to reason as I got lost on a few occasions.

I had told myself that it comes to a certain point that when you believe you have found what you where looking for there’s no real need to keep looking. I had learned so much for future events and adventures that it was now time to go home and analyse all the information that I had absorbed from this experience.

I want to thank my husband who helped me along the way with the odd text of support from him. Also I want to thank everyone on my Facebook friends. I made a post to ask for their support as I was feeling it emotionally at the end of day 2. I had so many replies. I was absolutely gob smacked. Thank you so much for your support it meant the world to me and still does. You made me cry… just a little 😉 Xoxo

My hat goes off to those out there running 100 milers and more. I can’t wait to get to that point. I have had little training due to injuries lately. I’m seriously looking forward to getting some proper training behind my belt for some ultra events and some more fast packing.

Who knows that’s next? I am now tapering for the Birmingham Black Country Half marathon on July 4th. As I write this it’s only a day since I got home and I’m feeling much better already and hope to be back out running as normal tomorrow.

I have the JW ultra coming up in September it’s 30 miles on the canal from Stratford Upon Avon to Birmingham. My friend has offered for my to come and practice the route with him soon. I think we are going to after we have done the Summer Round the Reservoir Marathon on 26th July in Northampton.


North Worcestershire Way

CIMG01729:00am and our alarm went off. I stuck my earphones in and sat up to do my daily meditation and let my husband rest another 20 minutes. 75 minutes later and we were out the door with our packs on our way to Northfield Train Station.

We took the train from here to Birmingham New St and then walked to Birmingham Moor Street to catch the train to Kidderminster at 11:10am.

Once we arrived into Kidderminster we walked westward to the small village of Bewdley to arrive at Hopley’s Caravan and Camping Family grounds.

It cost us only £8 each for our one man hiking tent pitches. We were shown which areas we could pick to place our tents on their map. It was a very large space and we picked an area just on the other side of a little pond in which we had to cross a little wooden bridge to get to.

We recently bought our 1 man hiking tents. They only weigh 1.4 kg, inner and outer sheet, hemmed, compact and waterproof for only £19.99 in ALDI.  We are extremely impressed with them. In fact I am more impressed with this than my Snugpak Lonosphere which was damaged and the outer sheet never touched the ground so got very windy inside. This ALDI tent not only touched the ground but was flush with the ground.  11251001_1666705740227078_3187664999759999975_n

I got my other equipment into my tent. With me I took my medium sized Thermarest NeoAir XLite inflatable mattress. This is a life saver in colder weather. Weighs next to nothing easy to erect and repack and feels suuuuper warm under your body. It pushes cold air back into the ground, while circulating warm body heat back to the body. The temperature dropped to 4 or 5oC over night but I still felt the warmth from the mattress.
My sleeping bag was the OMM Mountain Raid 1.0. I want to love this bag I really do but it’s not enough on its own in this country lol. The quality and weight is absolutely exceptional though and with my long john’s, trackies bottoms, 2 tshirts, fleece jacket and standard sleeping bag liner I was just about warm enough in 5oC. It really is a one season summer (our one week hot summer) type of bag.
Sneaks I wore my Salomon Speedcross 3s. Excellent shoes for grip and nice light weight. I feel like these are too structured and supportive for my type of landing though. I will be trying to use a HOKA trail sneak soon instead for extra cushioning and to help my over supination.
My bag was the WAA Ultra Pack 20L. I didn’t bring the front pouch. This is just enough size for my packed items and a kilogram of dates. Love this bag. Only long distances though (especially if not running) I may opt for a 45 L bag instead, so I can pack more food.
Clothing was just 2 cotton tshirts, fleece jacket and £10 trackie bottoms. I messed up with the trackies recently when I went to try the Pennine Way National Trail. Ideally I would like to take waterproof trousers, I checked what the odds were of rain this time though the day we left and it was only 2% so I took a gamble, as we were only going to be walking one day and was right. My jacket is the Marmot Essence Waterproof Jacket. Can never complain with this. I use it for everything nearly these days. It keeps me dry when shopping, walking, hiking and running. Sweats vanishes from it very easily too and it’s so breathable. I would recommend anyone to have one of these jackets!
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We then went to the local farm shop and bought some fresh fruit and vegetables for dinner and breakfast the next morning.

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How do you get to this table? ha

After we had been to the shop we decided take a walk over to Wyre Forest which was right on the edge of Hopley’s Camping ground. I have been here before with a friend night running when testing out my new Petzl headtorch around September 2014 I think. It was so nice to see it in the daylight though.
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Once we got back to the camp site we grilled our veges and then settled down for the night at about 9:30pm.
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We woke up at 5pm and packed up our items. Today we would be walking most of the 35 mile North Worcestershire Way Trail.
We headed back down to Bewdley Village and stopped off at a TESCO mini to get some nakd bars and crisps. Then we headed for the start of the Trail on the River Severn.
Navigation was pretty straight forward. The way marks where frequent ans easy to spot. There were a few turning points which where not way marked though. We had no trouble here as I was following the course I had uploaded as a GPX file to my Garmin Fenix 2. The way marks where really just a nice reassurance that we were going the right way haha.
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For the first few miles the trail passed alongside the River Severn curving around it. It was nice to see the river, the birds, ducks, swans etc and also the other bridges that had collapsed or crossed over the Severn.
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We were even privileged enough for a beautiful horse to come to us and allow us to stroke her and talk to her for a while.
I love this picture of Philip stroking her. She was so gentle and well natured. CIMG0117

We then crossed over a bridge with love locks attached to it and then headed back on ourselves on the other side of the river, along a beautifully overgrown green alleyway.
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e continued through a forested area which was absolutely beautiful. The trail had started to get a little more hilly by this point though the views helped us to ignore this fact and keep soldiering on. I have always loved Ivy growing around large tree trunks. Especially when both are in full flourish. Absolutely beautiful.
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By about 9am it had started to warm up a bit and Philip decided to take my VEGAN hat off. His hair was a right mess. After a while we finally came to our next mileage sign…. as you can see here I had tidied his hair up a bit by then lol.
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Here’s a picture of a creepy building we passed. It was in the middle of nowhere in the woods. There was a steel door on it with a little window at the top. I was going to shine my torch through it but decided I wasn’t that interested (a little scared), so didn’t bother.
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Nature really knows how to provide. This tree has been super generous in it’s growth to decide to create the perfect seat for hikers such as ourseleves 🙂 Thank you.

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From here it was miles of miles of trails inbetween farmers fields. I hadn’t walked on trails like this before they were very sandy and I felt like we were walking down to the beach.

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We came across more of those type trails along with walking through the middle of farmers crops too.
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Philip spotted a really big caterpillar. He asked me to take this pic with his foot in it so you could see the size of him clearly enough.
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We were now at about mile 25. Philips achilles had been hurting him for the last 6 miles and the bottom of my feet were hurting by now. I always have sore feet though so didn’t care much. Here’s a snap of us when we were starting to have enough.
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I didn’t take any more pictures after this point. We just kept walking and I counted my steps to zone out a bit and forget that my feet where hurting. Once we passed through Clent Hills we walked to a pub called Swallows Nest. This was mile 28 now and we had decided that we would order a taxi from here to take us home. Had we had an extra day we would have camped half way somewhere and completed the distance though we had obligations the following morning back home as well.

When you look on Google Maps at this area and most of West Midlands, with the satellite option it looks like there’s no open green for the serious adventurer but it seems there is. All those ancient trails all over the place taking in such beautiful scenery. We hardly ever had to pass any roads and through the bulk of the first 20 miles + we only saw half a dozen people! We saw many more animals than we did people.

For us runners I’d say you could get in a few good runs on this route. There’s a few hills but also plenty of flatter sections to enjoy too. I’d opt for trail sneaks as the vast majority of it is all on trails. Very little is on roads at all. If you want it a bit easier too I’d start near Birmingham first and end in Bewdley.We missed out Lickey Hills near our home due to the taxi. So you have that and then Clent Hills (the hilly bit at the start) to consider. If you did these at the start of your run then you could enjoy the journey with the rest of it not being so bad.
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The next day I was expecting my feet to be really sore and my legs to be stiff, but I have woken up feeling fine. Refreshed and ready for action again some time soon.

I was happy to find when at the start of the trail it said Worcestershire Way, with arrows going in two directions. It was here that I found out you can take the trail all the way from Malvern Hills to Wythall just outside Birmingham. With a total distance of 66 miles. This gave me great interest in returning to do the whole thing over a few days.

I was also delighted to see that the Monarchs Way crosses through. This is England’s longest inland trail and runs 615 miles. it kinda circles parts of West Midlands and then heads towards Bristol, then to the south coast not far from  Dorchester, it then goes back inland and across past Salisbury and Winchester and then ends in Brighton.

Lots to think about for the future and I’m hoping I manage to get in another adventure or two before winter creeps up on us.

Cheers for reading
-ScottyRunner


Geocaching

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So as part of my training I had decided from January that for every mile I ran I would also walk. Of course this is not practical on a long run weekend. It wouldn’t be very good to go out and run 30-50 miles and then walk the same that day. I would make the miles up during the week on my shorter runs.
It all seemed a great idea at first until it came to my first day running 5 miles and walking 9. I managed to walk 3 miles and run 5. I have no problem with the running part but seriously lack motivation to actually walk for training. I can’t let this continue because when I am fast packing (run/walking long distances) I will need to be able to walk long distance as well as run. I can’t solely run the 630 miles of the South West Coastal Path in England!

Then I heard about Geocaching. Geocaching is when other people place a landmark in which you have to go and find. Sometimes they will leave something there for the seekers like a notepad and pen to write your name on.  You can also log your own for others to go and find! You can set the difficulty too.

I checked out this website called www.geocaching.com . I popped in my postcode and asked them to show me all locations within a 10 mile radius and was presented with 2007 results! I tried again within 20 miles and I got 6866 results!

I have decided to use this as a means to get me out there exploring and actually walking the mileage I’m supposed to be walking as part of my training.

The website is actually free to join. There are many you can access without being a paying member. You can print out the details and clues. As a paying member you get access to ALL activities. You can also download the details to your smart phone, smart GPS watch or GPS tracking device etc.

I’m seriously looking forward to trying this out.