View from Oban Bothy

View from Oban Bothy

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Sat & Sun, 15 & 16th September, A Lakes Backpack

But not just any Lakes Backpack, this was the Backpackers Club long-awaited Treasure Hunt.
The were a few hurdles to overcome before my weekend could get underway: Dad needed sorting, I had some business to deal with, stuff like that.
Nick, No2 son, was supposed to take part in this event with me but a university friend's wedding got in the way. Margaret, aka Beryl the Peril, stepped into the breach and did a handsome job of entering into the spirit of the event – which is a sort of weekend-long orienteering event....but with knobs on.
The basic plan (Plan?? Ho-ho!) is to navigate around as many predetermined locations as is possible and then when at each of these locations, answer a question. The question is relevant to the location so can only be correctly answered when you visit the spot. Cunning eh?
Oh, and there's a wild camp on the Saturday night.
I collected Margaret from Preston at around 7.45am (the one in the morning) on Saturday and we stormed up the M6 towards the Lake District. At least that was the general idea. Unfortunately the traffic gods were against us...big time: the M6 was closed due to a fatal accident. We should have arrived at Skelwith Bridge around 9am, we didn't actually get there until well past 11am. Not a good way to start a (slightly) competitive event.
imageSkelwith Bridge in the sunshine
I was a little nervous of competing with Margaret, she's a powerful and very experienced walker….whereas I'm a wuss. I needn't have worried. Margaret was getting over a bad dose of lurgy and consequently I was just about able to keep up with her in her weakened state.
At NY335032: ‘Evidence of an old school?’
We set off from the campsite at around midday and started picking off various checks. Two heads are certainly better than one on this event.
At NY328031: ‘What is special about this tree?’
The weather was glorious and we both really enjoyed navigating the fells and dealing with the questions. A tea shop appeared, well it was a tea garden really.
imageTea-shop: bearing 10degE, range 80 metres and closing
Well, it would be rude not we did. A large pot of tea and a couple of freshly baked scones were ordered and demolished as we sat in the warm sunshine. We probably spent the best part of an hour enjoying our break.
Alan take note: this was in danger of turning into a Daunder. You should come next year!
imageSlater Bridge
imageColwith Falls
We trundled through High Colwith, then close to Little Langdale, before heading south through the many disused quarries towards Tilberthwaite.
We slowly but surely ticked off the checks one by one.  Our late start (and long tea break!) meant that we didn't tick off all the checks we wanted to on Saturday.
imageFading light
At 8pm we came to a halt as the light was fading. Searching out a campspot we found a suitably flat spot adjacent to a disused quarry at Low Tilberthwaite, plenty big enough for our two tents. Inside the steep and high walls of the quarry and on it's grassy floor, were half a dozen tents – all fellow treasure hunters. There was insufficient space to fit our tents into the protected enclave so we made do with the grassy patch outside. But we had the better view from our tents:
A mainly dry but quite breezy night followed. The breeze was a bit of a worry because the ground only allowed tent pegs an inch or two into the ground. Sliding the pegs into the ground at a very shallow angle was the only way to hold our tents anything like taught. Fortunately the tents stayed up all night.
imageThe disused quarry at Low Tilberthwaite
Next morning the happy campers awoke to a very light drizzle. Breakfasted, tents down and all packed up, the Treasure Hunters set off to continue their searches for checks.
imagePacked and ready to roll
imageBefore the rain started in earnest
Margaret and I had A Plan (Ho-ho!) to pick up three fairly high scoring checks close to our overnight pitch. We stashed our packs and set off, unburdened, to navigate our way to the checks and after some faffing, successfully solved the clues.
imageNY305007: What is found at the end of this short gully? Ans: A cave.
By this time the drizzle had turned to rain -  and it was getting heavier. Two more checks were picked up quite easily, at High Yewdale and up the road at Glen Mary Bridge.
No pies, and it certainly wasn’t sunny!
Over to Tarn Hows and then Knipe Fold had more points successfully collected before we had to head back to base in order to beat the 2pm deadline. Arriving after this time would incur a heavy points penalty. A fruitless struggle to grab one last check very close to the event base, meant we arrived just inside the time allowed – just a minute or two to spare. 
We presented our answers to Colin, the organiser and course-planner of the event. Colin must have spent months putting the Treasure Hunt together, he worked really hard to make it such a success.
image Colin Smith pointing out where Treasure Hunt participants went wrong
Colin presenting the worthy ‘winners’, Bruce & Harry, with their award
It was good to see that Bruce and Harry ‘won’ the event – they are past organisers of the Treasure Hunt and I felt it was fitting they finished ahead of the rest of the field.
Some of the checks we used
There were many more checks, these were just the ones we used. I’ve no idea of our mileage or ascent, neither were excessive.
My kit caused me a fairly major problem over the weekend – I got absolutely wet through. The heavy rain on Sunday somehow worked it’s way through my ‘waterproofs’. The relevant kit was my Paramo Velez Adventure Light smock and Berghaus Goretex Paclight overtrousers. In addition to ME getting wet through, some of the contents of my Golite Pinnacle rucksack were soaked, in spite of a waterproof rucksack cover. The problem needs further investigation.
In spite of my sogginess I’d enjoyed myself. I think Margaret did – the other competitors certainly did. Thanks go to Colin Smith of the Backpackers Club for working so hard to put on such a successful event. Oh, and to Margaret too, her navigation skills certainly helped us complete the route efficiently – and having that extra head and extra pair of eyes made all the difference to our end result.
The next morning I was to fly to Madrid (the one in Spain) to walk a section of the Via de la Plata so I needed to get home to pack. The sogginess of my rucksack contents extended to my (paper) Driving Licence….the same Driving Licence I was to need the next day in order to pick up my hire car in Madrid. Oh well…. 

Oh, and that fence....23 nails - the bottom left section was only secured by one nail. Go back and check if you don't believe me!
More pictures are here.

Friday, 14 September 2012

New toy

The purchase of a Panasonic Lumix G3 came about after an increasingly unhappy relationship with a Fuji FinePix S1500 camera which frequently crashed, losing photographs. This is a shame because other than that it’s not a bad camera for the price. Replacement memory cards, new batteries, changing the settings etc didn’t help – the damned thing just wasn’t reliable.

imageAnyway, the G3 came on offer so I took the plunge and bought one, it’s virtually an SLR without actually being one. So far I’m very pleased with the results – although it’s very early days. First results can be viewed here. Many of the photos on this link are very severely cropped and most are taken without a flash, which is why some will appear grainy.

I’m going to Spain soon to walk a section of the Via de la Plata and I wanted a camera that I could rely on. I rather feel this is the one.

A few features that persuaded me that this was the camera for me: A decent sized image sensor, accepts filters, viewfinder, reasonable battery life, much smaller and lighter than an SLR, very little time-lag taking photos, very fast auto-focus, idiot mode (fully automatic if needed, ie: point and shoot)….and lastly: Ian Cotterill reckons they’re a good buy.

‘Nuff said.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Wednesday 12th September, Getting the aerial up higher

Winter is approaching fast so I’ve been messing about with my aerial system at home.
The aerial is a half-wave dipole for 80m fed with twin feeder. My garden isn’t long enough to squeeze 132’ of wire in a straight line so the ends are folded down. The centre of the dipole was only at about 22’ agl, nowhere near high enough for the system to be an effective radiator. It performed adequately but that’s all.
Time for a re-think. I’ve managed to get the dipole centre up to around 30’, still not high enough but certainly better. This afternoon’s little job is to make a coax balun although the poor weather means it probably won’t get installed today.
The aerial is now certainly a better radiator on 80m & 40m, but receive noise is still a problem. Next door have a noisy TV, it may be plasma…the work of the devil!  Unfortunately my neighbours are unapproachable so I need to deal with the problem on my side of the fence. The RF noise next door’s TV generates makes 80m difficult to use in the evenings. I’ve treated myself to a noise canceller (MFJ1026)but I’ve not tried it out yet, I just hope it works!
image MFJ1026 Noise Canceller
This little box works by mixing signals from the main station aerial with signals from a ‘noise’ aerial – an aerial that is aligned to pick up the interfering noise. The phase and level of the interference is then altered by the box in a manner that allows it to cancel out the noise received by the main aerial = much reduced noise. That’s the theory, we’ll see.
My main interest is using low power (2-3 watts) CW (morse) on the 40 and 80m bands. Winter is a good time to play radio, hopefully my tweaked aerial system will pay dividends.
Apart from the noise canceller, my main station will remain unchanged: Yaesu FT817 transceiver fitted with a narrow CW filter, and a Bencher squeeze key. A ‘T’ Match ATU is used to optimise the match between transceiver and aerial system.
         image image
                        Bencher Key                                                   FT817
My FT817 has a microphone but it’s rarely connected – it just gets in the way!

Bromyard Day 2, Sunday 9th September


The previous night’s entertainment had been spectacular – Scottish supergroup Session A9 were tremendous in spite of one of their fiddlers, Adam Sutherland (ANOTHER Sutherland, they seem to do a lot of this musical stuff), being down with a bad cold. TGO Challengers who pass through Ault-na-Goire may well be familiar with the Sutherlands.

image Session A9


The Copper Family from Rottingdean in Sussex have been singing their songs for generations. They had three generations on stage at one point – their songs are some of the most well-known in the English tradition. Listening to their singing brings me out in goose-bumps! 

imageThe Copper Family

Keith Donnelly’s late night (early morning!) spot meant it was 2am by the time I got to bed. Keith is a favourite of mine – and of the Mrs JJ, she’s normally early to bed, but not when Keith Donnelly’s about. His absolutely insane humour had his audience in stitches, I went to bed with aching sides.

imageKeith Donnelly

After such a late night I felt justified in having a lie-in on Sunday morning….but even I was surprised to sleep until 9.30am.

The previous day had been extremely hot, with clear blue skies and a strong sun. The clear skies made for a cold night and I was glad to be in my caravan.

I had a hurried breakfast and headed off into town to meet up for another lunchtime music session in the Falcon. The usual suspects had gathered in the bar and the session was in full swing when I arrived:

image The Falcon does an excellent Sunday dinner, it’s one of our Bromyard Festival treats. The rest of the time we self-cater so we feel justified in pushing the boat out just this once over the weekend. That’s the good news. The bad news is that I have to leave the session early because the chef goes home at 2pm. Still, it’s a nice treat.

Back on the Festival site the festival was winding down towards the final concert. I have to confess that the line up didn’t float my boat – perhaps I was folked-out. I popped into the concert for a short time then headed over to the beer tent to meet up with some old friends and to listen to the impromptu music session that had sprung into life.

By 11pm I was in bed.

I seem to recall that Bromyard is a sunny festival, hot during the day but cold at night. My journey home on the Monday morning always seems to be in gloomy weather, leaving Bromyard and the summer behind. This year was no exception.

Once at home it was back to parent-caring and trip planning: the Backpackers Club Treasure Hunt (a laid-back orienteering event with an overnight wild-camp) is next weekend, in the Lake District. Then I need to plan my trip to Spain to walk a section of the Via de la Plata.

I really must get my finger out.

More photographs are here.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Bromyard Folk Festival 2012


The Falcon, Bromyard


Flos’s English Music Session in the Falcon


? on fiddle, with Sandy on box – two very competent musicians


A Cotswold Morris side on the festival site

Although I dipped into Whitby Folk Festival for three days in August, this year has been very quiet, festival-wise. I normally go to Sidmouth, Dartmoor and Shrewsbury festivals, but other stuff has meant that I've not really been in festival mode this year.

Bromyard Folk Festival is always a 'must' for me and I wasn't going to let other stuff get in the way of this weekend of excellent music, singing, dancing and, er, beer. Bromyard (= Ambridge?) is a lovely village in the heart of the Herefordshire countryside.

I have wonderful warm memories of this delightful village, it has become a special, almost secret, place for me. Being here is wonderful although visits will always be tinged with some sadness.

The weather yesterday was cookingly hot, sadly the beer at Bromyard's Hop Pole was well below par: 3 different brews that were decidedly sub-standard. The beer on the festival site, Wye Valley, more than made up for this short-coming.

Last night's excellent concert, compered by the hilarious Keith Donnelly, consisted of sets by The Askew Sisters, The James Findlay Trio, and the very excellent John Spiers and Jon Boden - front men of folk supergroup Bellowhead.

Much of today, Saturday, has been spent in the bar of the Falcon, playing in the English music sessions run by renowned fiddler, Flos Headford.

I always learn new tunes from Flos, his encyclopedic knowledge of English traditional music is legendary.

The Wye Valley Bitter was as good as ever, and the comfort and warm welcome offered by the Falcon equalled that of my visit earlier this year and previous festivals.

Tonight's plan has yet to be finalised, but will include a shanty session, a ceilidh, a concert and an entertaining hour with Keith Donnelly....although Keith's performance isn't due to kick off until well past midnight.

It will be a good evening

More tomorrow.

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