Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Alone in the wild

Ed Wardle, pictured above, whom was featured in the Channel 4 programme "Alone in the wild" has come in for a lot of stick in the press. This seems to be mainly because he went out to a 'remote' area in the Yukon to survive for 12 weeks but had to give up after 7 weeks.

He was not fairing very well - had lost lots of weight and was basically starving - so, rightly so, he called it off for his own safety.

Many people have criticised him and Channel 4 for sending him out there very unprepared ie little or no survival training. The premise seems to be that he was chosen because he is a good cameraman/producer and had done some 'wild' filming before such as Everest. This clearly did not prepare him for a survival situation and understandably so. It is one thing to be out in the wilds with support and an entirely different kettle of fish to be in the wilds with no support.

Anyway, despite all that I think the guy has a lot to offer us in terms of knowledge. What he put himself through was probably as close to reality as is possible and gives a really good idea as to how a real person may cope if they were suddenly put into that situation. Personally I would love to interview him and find out how it went wrong for him, the psychology he went through and a whole gamut of other things about his physical deterioration etc. This would give me valuable knowledge that I could pass onto others when I teach them survival skills.

So all in all I say 'fair play' to the bloke and we should recognise that he managed 7 weeks before pulling the plug which could be more than a lot of people could manage.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Funny fox!

This made me smile!

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Keela ESP clothing system

Just the other day I had a press release from Keela about some new clothing technology that they are to release. It sounds very interesting so here it is:

"Imagine a garment with healing properties, a garment that improves balance, a garment that can ease some of the suffering experienced by those with Parkinson’s disease and other similar ailments, imagine a garment that stimulates muscle tone….
Science Fiction???

Welcome to Keela’s E.S.P. Clothing System
The World Has Just Changed

August 2009, Keela uses E.S.P. Complex to manufacture a new range of outdoor wear. The new range is called ESP, Equilibrium Stabilisation Principle. The idea was exciting and the research surrounding this science is progressive. What Keela has done with this technology is to incorporate the system into a unique membrane and develop key clothing items around it. Tests have proven that E.S.P. textiles actively help to improve blood circulation and sense of balance, as well as reducing muscle spasms.

The garments have been tested with various age groups but primarily with the over 50’s specifically those with particular ailments such as Parkinson’s disease. Keela stresses that ESP system is not a cure for any medical/health issues but can produce improvements in balance and a reduction of muscle spasms.

E.S.P. is a natural substance, made from a combination of different minerals. This mixture is fused at a temperature of 1600 °C - the end product of this process is the E.S.P. material, capable of reflecting infra-red radiation (heat). The human body normally emits infra-red radiation (including long distance infra-red radiation - FIR). E.S.P textiles are able to absorb this radiation and use it within your body, thus providing additional energy for regenerative processes.

Research indicates that the E.S.P fibres in these garments act like a multitude of tiny heat reservoirs that the body can use as needed.

• Sense of balance is increased
• Muscle spasms are minimised
• Helps to repair muscle trauma
• Improved toxin removal - natural energy and vitality
• Cell exchanges are facilitated and provide an improved oxygen supply
• Blood circulation is activated
• Antibacterial, eliminates bad smells
• improvement in performance - the capillary vascular enlarge and improve blood circulation and metabolism. The permeability of cellular membranes for water, oxygen and metabolism decomposition products is higher.

Keela is extremely proud to adopt this technology in their ESP range and looks forward to more innovation in the future."

Thursday, 30 July 2009

I'm walking backwards for Christmas!

The title will make some sense if you are a Goons fan! If not then it is imperative that you remedy the situation immediately.

Anyway, the other day when I was out for a walk I was thinking about the fact the we humans are real creatures of habit. We find comfort in the familiar and we often don't like change. By maintaining the status quo we are probably just being a bit lazy because we don't have to think about what we are doing. The reason I was thinking all this was because I noticed that the last 3 or 4 times I had done that particular walk I had used the exact same route.

So next time round I reversed the route and went backwards (in a manner of speaking) and it was incredible the different perspective it gave me. For a start I saw a number of things that I just couldn't see when walking the other way - such as a tree that had been barked by a deer and some mushrooms hidden behind a bush.

I think all I'm getting at with this post is to say that it is important to keep a bit of variety going in your daily routines, look behind occasionally and just keep your eyes open for all the sights that are out there.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

British backpacker found alive in outback

This is one lucky hombre!

Jamie Neale, a British backpacker has been found alive and remarkably well, after being lost for 12 days in the Australian Blue Mountains. This is the longest that anyone has survived in that area before.

He got lost whilst on a trek to Mt Solitary. He survived by eating berries and weeds and sleeping under logs. He had seen rescue helicopters pass overhead, but had not been able to flag them down.

Eventually, two bushwalkers stumbled upon him off the southern end of the Narrowneck Plateau, several kilometres from the Ruined Castle rock formation where he was last seen. His rescue has been hailed as a "miracle" by police, who had grave fears for his safety during the freezing nights and bitterly cold days of the past two weeks.

I like a good survival story.


Saturday, 4 July 2009

Raven' mad?

Over the last few days we have had at least one raven fly over the house each day. So I thought I would look into the 'meaning' of raven.

In the native American tradition, raven, throughout time, has carried the medicine of magic. Raven magic can give you the courage to enter the darkness of the void, the Great Mystery. Raven is the messenger of the void. If Raven appears to you it means you are about to experience a change in consciousness. This portends "You have earned the right to see and experience a little more of life's magic". Black can mean many things in Native teachings from the seeking of answers, the void or the road to spiritual or nonphysical.

Raven represents that something special is about to happen. The deeper mystery is how will you respond to the synchronicity of the moment when it happens.

In European folklore ravens are portents or omens that auger both good and ill. It was widely believed that a raven seen at the start of important activities such as hunting or fishing was a good omen. Unfortunately many of the superstitions are negative. An Andalusian belief is that it will be an unlucky day if a raven croaks over a house and there will be a death if it croaks three times. In parts of Germany it was thought that ravens contained the souls of the dead.

Of course an alleged centuries old tradition surrounds the ravens at the Tower of London. It is said that if they leave the Tower, Britain's downfall will soon follow. It has been shown recently that it is probably a Victorian invention. During World War II all the birds were killed during air raids and were not replaced until 1946 when the Tower reopened.

Ravens have also been messengers in many legends. In Tibet they were believed to act on behalf of a supreme being, in China it was believed they caused a storm through the forest to warn people that the gods were about to pass. The Vikings revered raven as it was the symbol of their chief god, Odin. It features in some native world creation myths and in some European traditions is believed to possess magic stones that can perform various functions such as healing and invisibility.

All in all, ravens are steeped in myth and legend. I for one love to see and hear them flying over the moor and I'm going to go with the idea that they are a good omen and something magical is about to happen!


Sunday, 28 June 2009

Bowdrill experiments

Whoa, ho, ho, ho - sinister Peter Cushing-type laugh. Time for a little experiment. Enough of this nonsense.

I had some bits and pieces of wood lying around drying out that were just begging to be abused. So I dug out a pine hearth, a hazel drill, a holly drill and my trusty teak bearing block (salvaged from an old table leg). I decided to go against the grain and have a little experiment with drill shape. I fly in the face of convention, ha!

In one of Ray Mears' books he says that the rounded end of the drill should go in the hearth because of greater friction and the pointy end should go in the block because of less friction. Seems logical but I was bit bored and decided to have a go with my rather eclectic mix of kit. My thinking was this, if the pointy end was in the hearth then due to its smaller circumference you would achieve faster rotations relative to the amount of effort put in. You would also be able to apply proportionately greater pressure for the same amount of force due to its smaller surface area. Elementary physics something to do with woman in high heels, elephants and who you would prefer to be stood on by! I believe that there are specialist websites for that sort of thing. I'm not sure what happens if the elephant is wearing heels though?

By contrast having the rounded end in the block means that it generates less heat due to slower rotation speeds even though it is presenting a larger surface area. Of course my physics could be completely cr*p!

Either way I went for it. I managed smoke very easily and after a couple of passable attempts at recreating the bouncing bomb effect with flying drills I got a really good ember. This worked for both the hazel and holly drills and didn't take much effort. The reverse configuration seemed to work well though the penalty was greater wear on the pointy end.

An interesting way to spend an hour on a sunny Saturday afternoon. The question is - has anyone else flown in the face of wisdom and tried doing it differently (the bowdrill that is)?


Ramblers in the mist!

Dianne Fossey I'm not. Anyway, a couple of days ago I went for a walk on Dunkery Beacon with my dog, well puppy really, Barney. Nothing particularly special about that really except we were engulfed in a rather thick mist.

I decided I fancied having a little walk out in the mist mainly because I hadn't done it for so long. It was pretty hairy driving up there because visibility was about 20 feet. Needless to say there were no other cars parked up there when we arrived. Perhaps no one else was stupid enough to deliberately go for a walk in really thick mist. Well, it's an easy path and it wasn't as if I was going to get lost, was it?

So, the two great explorers headed out into the whiteness. It was great fun and I loved it! The mist was like a blanket of silence wrapped round you. There was total and utter silence and it was marvellous. As we made our way up to the beacon itself, I did indeed hear something in the distance. Voices. They were very faint to start with but were growing louder by the second. It was interesting hearing the conversation revolve around characters from the Pirates of the Caribbean series of movies. Eventually 6 young lads came marching out of the mist - clearly they were Duke of Edinburgh scheme judging by their poor equipment and overburdened rucksacks. Only one of them returned my jaunty greeting (perhaps too jaunty considering the weather). Hey ho!

We did reach the beacon in good time. Initially I did think we were alone until I saw a behatted individual huddled with his or her back up against a stone, seemingly engrossed in a book. They didn't look up which I thought strange but they may well have thought I was a nutter as only a nutter would walk up the beacon in a very, very thick mist. They may have been missing a point there.

We headed back to the vehicle after a few more minutes. No one lese joined us on the return trip and it was nice to savour the silence for a few more minutes. Ah, bliss!

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Snow, ice and wolves - Part 5

Wild wolf tracks!!!! (Jump up and down and get all excited)

Well this is what we came for and finally we have found some wolf tracks made by a real live wolf and one that is not in captivity. Very, very cool. It has literally been a long slog to find these beauties but we did get there. This time round we were in a different park. We started off on the main track, split the group into three and each group started cutting for sign at different points.

Within 200 yards of our drop off we found day old wolf tracks. The other groups also found wolf tracks of differing ages and some even had urine associated with them. We even found scat in the middle of the track. Needless to say we were all a bit excited by now.

Next part of the plan was to move away from the track and see if we could cut across the wolves trail further on. Well we all slogged off in our different groups and covered quite a distance between us but none of us had any luck in finding more wolf.

We did find lots of other things. We saw a wild boar family unit in the distance, one of which had a very bad limp.

We later cut across their trail and saw them at close quarters and saw that there was puss and blood in the tracks of the wounded boar. It would be lucky if it survived the night. Evening was drawing on so we headed to an observation tower to see if the wolves were going to howl but despite our best efforts at imitating the calls, we had no luck in hearing the real thing!

Back at our digs we entertained the locals by testing out our gear at -18C who clearly thought we were totally crazy.

Of course they are completely right!

Tomorrow being our last day we plotted and planned as to possible routes to take, how many teams to use and the such in order to thrash the area and find more wolf tracks. The anticipation was hard to contain but we managed somehow.


Saturday, 23 May 2009

Snow, ice and wolves - part 4

Basically, this our fourth full day, was to be a travel day, as we moved areas in order to try our luck in a totally different part of the country.

Our first stop was by a river where we hoped to find sign of beaver. And beaver we found! There was plenty of evidence of beaver gnawing through trees and we found a couple of slides where the trees had been dragged down to the river.

You can see the teeth marks on this stump! (above)

One of the things about European beaver is that they don't build dams. Their lodges are built into the banks and are, in effect, underground. One of the guys managed to find the lodge - by putting his foot through the roof! Luckily beaver are used to repairing damage to their homes. We didn't see beaver in the flesh but we did see where there feet had been :)

We did also find plenty of mink tracks as well as the anal secretion from our beaver friends. I don't think I'll post a picture of that though!

Time to move onto a wildlife sanctuary run by a conservationist who is very keen on reintroducing the lynx back into the wild in Poland. It was a slightly strange place with lots of different enclosure for things like elk, deer, wolves and grouse - an eclectic mix of species to say the least. We entered the park through one enclosure which housed some very friendly elk. So friendly they would give you a good barging if you had the audacity to ignore them! Lovely creatures that could make a very plaintiff and quiet noise but could also do you a lot of damage if they wanted to.

We then moved onto the wolf enclosure and had very good views of the wolf pack and its behaviour - from the aggression of the alpha to the apparent 'aggression' of the omega wolf who would bare its teeth as if it was being aggressive but was, in reality, just reaffirming its place in the pack. Fascinating to watch.

Needless to say we spent quite a bit of time watching the wolves interact with each other and with us!

This is when it started to get a bit surreal. The owner said that he takes a rehabilitated Lynx out for a walk and would show us except that he had left his lead at home. Well being trackers and bushcrafters we soon knocked up a lead. He disappeared off and we were hanging around to see him walk his Lynx on the lead. Well, we were wrong on that score - the first thing we saw was a very high speed Lynx go shooting past us followed a minute later by the owner with his dog on the lead! Not only that but he also had a young deer with him too. It turns out that the deer and the Lynx were best of friends and played together all the time.

Like I said - a bit surreal but a brilliant thing to watch them play and chase with each other. Awesome!

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Monday, 18 May 2009


Well, I'm on Twitter now (god help me!). I thought it might be a useful way to keep people up to date in a quick format.

take a look and subscribe if you like.

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Snow, ice and wolves - Part 3

Our third full day - it makes it sound a bit like Big Brother, doesn't it? Anyway, today's plan was for another route march - this time about 15km. Again this doesn't sound like much but it is when its -18C and you are slogging through knee high snow! Dammed good fun though!

This time the route was going to be mainly through woodland with a little bit of open 'meadow' (not marsh this time).

To start with we had the usual suspects - elk, fox, brown hare and the like and we seemed to have a lot of urine this time too! As we moved further into the woods we came across some beautiful bird impressions in the snow. They were so good you could tell a whole story around them. This, of course, is the ultimate aim for a tracker.

The story was being able to see where the bird landed, had hopped a few steps, where it had fed and then flew off. You can clearly see where the tail has pressed into the ground as the bird took off again. Then about 50 yards further down we found where it had landed again and had another feed. Very cool.

One of the guys decided to follow a set of fox tracks and see where they led. Eventually he followed it to a kill site - a very interesting kill site.

Mr Fox had killed this shrew, dumped the body and pee'd on it! Quite extraordinary. Well, we trudged on and had a final bonus for the day. Pine Marten. Absolutely brilliant - a great find and fantastic to see where it had been and what it had got up to.

It was a long hard day but well worth it. The next day was to be a travel day but that one ended up being a very different day indeed.


Sunday, 3 May 2009

Snow, ice and wolves - Part two

This, our second full day, was, in effect, a bit of a route march! We needed to cover a lot of ground - through forest and over frozen marsh. It promised to be a hard day.

We split into 2 groups with a view to meeting up in the middle and then going our separate ways again and thus covering more distance. Anyway, the guide we were with was a very tall chap with really long legs who seemed to be walking slowly until you actually tried to keep up with him! After 20 minutes we were sweating buckets which is not a good thing when the temperatures are so low. We stopped for a quick zone in and managed to get him to slow down - phew.

The first part of the route was forest where we saw plenty of tracks of elk, fox, red deer and roe deer. After our little stop we headed out onto the marsh which was even colder due mainly to windchill. It was here that a most amazing thing happened. Three of us stopped for a moment to look at something when a vole popped up out of nowhere and tried to climb up Ros' gaiter! It had a really good try for a minute or two before it decided to head off into one of its tunnels again. Fantastic stuff.

As we moved out onto higher ground we started finding more tracks again - this time, weasel, stoat, more vole and bird.

With the weasel tracks is some fresh urine. Though it is hard to see in this photo.

After a quick lunch stop we headed off again to cut across more marsh when we came across a wild boar lie up, less than 100m from where we had lunch - and it was fresh, still warm and had fresh scat. We had probably disturbed it when we stopped for a snack!

The next leg was going to be a long slog across the marsh which was very hard work and had the constant risk of falling through the ice. In many ways, not a lot of fun but a great experience nonetheless. Anyway at one point we went through a small bit of woodland and found fresh boar tracks - four of them in fact. We trailed them for quite some distance until we actually ended up coming up behind them where they were foraging. They knew we were there so ambled off after a few minutes but they did circle us for a while to maintain the wind advantage.

The boar track is a little indistinct in this photo but you can still see the shape and the dew claws (on the left).

What looks like an attack by a bulldozer is the result of a bit of wild boar action!

After that excitement we had quite a few clicks left to do through the marshy wastes. In terms of spoor it was a bit disappointing but again it was a nice sense of achievement to complete and survive! Overall we covered about 10km. That may not seem like a huge distance but through that kind of terrain and through knee-high snow in places, I can assure you, it was long enough.


Monday, 2 March 2009

Snow, ice and wolves - Part one

Poland is cold in the winter - very cold! Luckily I was well kitted out thanks to people like Chocolate Fish. The big question is, did we see wolves? Well, yes and no so read on to find out more.

After landing in Warsaw our first port of call was a camping shop. The joys of international travel do not allow the transportation of gas canisters for stoves or lighters with which to ignite them. Hence the stop off at a camping shop. I think the locals were a bit bemused by our small invasion. Nice shop though a little expensive. It was then another 3 or 4 hours before we got to our destination, Dobarz. A forest lodge that seemed to be in the middle of nowhere - not quite true but it had a nice feeling of remoteness about it. Having had only about 3 hours sleep the night before (long story) it was a welcome sight.

I have to say that the food in both our locations was superb. I'm not a foodie but this was good, filling stuff - nothing fancy but it did a good job in giving you enough fuel to survive the rigours of snow bond Poland. And did we need it!

The next morning was our first foray out into the cold. We were dropped of in some woodland near to the lodge, split into pairs and then let loose. The brief was simple, head on one bearing until you reach the end of the forest, then head back, take a couple of hours to do it, track whatever you want and have fun. We certainly did! I will talk about gear in another post later.

Anyway, we started off by seeing lots and lots of Elk tracks though the majority of them were at least a day old and many a lot older than that. We kept on going in the hope of finding something fresher that would we could follow. About 20 minutes later we got our wish - a roe deer broke cover from its lay up and went racing off. We got to the lay up and could still feel a little bit of warmth in it and started to track. We measured the first bound at about 13 feet long! Awesome! After a while we stopped tracking the roe and went looking for something else and soon came across a brown hare which also did a mad dash - its first bound was about 8 feet long!

Now we were rocking - tracking hare, fox, roe, elk, hare (again) and so on. We tracked a hare for about 1km, seeing where it had fed, stopped for a lay up, rushed across open ground and generally went about its business. This was when we came across a very fresh set of elk tracks. Excited does not even get close to the feeling. We tracked this animal for what seemed an age and were definitely getting closer all the time, the scat was fresher each time and the tracks were more defined. As we moved up a slope we found what we were looking for about 50 yards in front of us. A huge male enjoying the delights of one of the bushes on his route. We watched for about 5 minutes and he then slowly ambled off. We, not so slowly, headed over to where he was. It was fantastic to see fresh feeding sign and very fresh scat (so fresh it was still melting the snow). We were up for a bit of stalking but realised we had run out of time and had to head back for the pickup. Bummer. But what a great way to start the trip!

Needless to say this first part has taken me well over a month to complete! Very, very busy in a lot of different ways - some of which I'll cover in the blog! Sometime. Honest. I will.....


Sunday, 15 February 2009

Tracking wolves in Poland

I'm off bright and early tomorrow to track wolves in Poland. The title kind of gave it away, I think!

No doubt I'll have a lot to talk about when I get back.

See you later.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Survival Cat

Now, I have two cats - one is a bit of a lardy stay at home ginger tom and the other is from feral parents. Obviously the ex-feral likes to roam a bit and is generally quite adventurous. This can sometimes be a problem!

We had quite a dump of snow here on Friday - 2-3 feet on average with drifts up to about 5 feet. This is the first 'real' snow that the cats have seen. So my adventursome cat thought it would be a good idea to explore and promptly disappeared for the rest of the day. We started getting worried as the day drew to a close and he hadn't returned. This involved donning winter survival gear and slogging out into the snow calling the cat. At one point we heard a couple of mews but couldn't locate him because he shut up again!

This went on for a few hours with us going out and calling but to no avail. My last trip out was a lengthy one whilst I checked out likely haunts and the like. Eventually I heard a plaintiff mew and caught sight of his eyes reflected in my torch light. He was a good long way off in the boundary hedge of our main paddock. It took me a while to wade through the 3-4 foot drifts but I got there in the end. I was quite surprised at what I say when I got there.

He had either dug himself a snow hole or had used a tunnel created by something else. Either way he was sat in a little snow tunnel, quite cosy and warm but just stuck! I was impressed. He obviously has been reading my survival books :)

That's my boy!


Thursday, 5 February 2009

Fox hunter wins High Court Appeal

This is an interesting result for the first hunter to be prosecuted under the Hunting Act. The Appeals court overruled the previous judgement thus making it harder to prosecute hunting offences.

Nail in the coffin for hunting ban

I can imagine that this will cause some controversy!

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Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Snow joke

Well once again the UK grinds to a halt with a bit of snow. I know some places have been hit quite badly but even so there always seems to be a bit of hysteria about it. Obviously the media plays to it and, in my opinion, makes it worse!

A case in point is the school my boy goes to. The first phone call was to say that the buses were not running but school was going to be open. No problem I thought - I'll just break out the Discovery. Slightly easier said than done seeing as it had a flat battery and 2 flat tyres. Luckily we have one of those portable battery thingys that allows you to pump up tyres, jump start cars and run a normal 13 amp socket. Great bit of kit and proved very useful today.

Anyway, I drove him to school and the roads were pretty good even though it was snowing. Got myself home only to get another phone call about 45 minutes later from the school. This time it was to tell me that they were thinking about closing school and I should come and pick the boy up. Hang on I thought. Yes, it is snowing quite heavily at the moment but it is going to stop very soon (I could feel it in the air). I pointed this out but didn't get very far. Another 15 minutes later and I got the call to say that school was closing and I had to pick him up.

Guess what - it had stopped snowing by that time. I dutifully drove down to school - the roads were even better than they were about an hour earlier. Turned up on the doorstep only to be told that school was not closing they just wanted kids that had to be picked up to taken away because the roads were so bad. Being a little bit miffed by now I decided to leave him there because he was having too much fun!

If they had listened to me in the first place it could have saved a lot of us a lot of problems. The sun is out and the snow is melting fast here and my day of tracking in the snow has been ruined by other people's paranoia and over protectiveness. Damm. Though I do appreciate that there are plenty of worse hit places than here.


Thursday, 22 January 2009

Chocolate underwear?

My first mini review is the Chocolate Fish Taranaki 190 Fly front boxer short. Yes, I'm talking pants (perhaps nothing new there then!).

My normal boxers are usually cheap cotton jobies that are generally quite loose fitting. So it came as a bit of a surprise when I first put on the Taranaki boxers as they actually are designed to fit and do a splendid job of it too. It took me a while to get used to that very well supported feel but in the long run it is rather nice.

The boxers are made of superfine merino in a double panel construction designed for comfort and support. The waistband is about an inch wide made of thin elastic and initially I thought this might dig in a bit or become sweaty. Not the case at all. The only thing that happened was that the 'camouflage' (chocolate induced) covering my six-pack stomach caused the band to fold over on the front. This was not a problem and did not affect the comfort. The seams are serged for durability and double stitched for shape retention. Basically this means that they are very well screwed together.

To cut to the chase. They were very comfortable to wear, there was no tendency to ride up even during rigorous exercise (yes I do some occasionally) and they did not go baggy during extended wear. Now this may sound a bit horrible but I wore them for 3 days in a row to really test them out. As I said, they maintained their shape and as with all quality merino products they did not smell even after 3 days! Awesome. I didn't get too hot in them when I was moving around or in a warm room. In fact they kept everything at a pretty constant, comfortable, temperature.

My only quibbe about them is the fly opening. I'm not bragging here (much!) but I found the fly opening a bit tight and a little bit awkward in use especially when readjusting myself after going to the loo. This may be because they are new and need to loosen off a bit or it may be the design. It's not a major problem but a little annoying.

Overall I really like these boxers and will be getting more in the future to have as everyday wear.

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Monday, 19 January 2009

Timberland Earthkeeper boots

I recently bought myself a pair of canvas Earthkeeper boots from Timberland. I was lucky to get these in a sale at a greatly reduced price (almost £100 off RRP) because I had seen some of the blurb about them and thought they might be good for stalking.

The advertising will have us believe that these boots are for the rugged outdoors. They may well do that job for some but I'm pretty sure not for me!

Well I have now worn them a few times and here are my initial thoughts.

The first thing I noticed when they came out of the box is that they do not have a sewn-in tongue! For a waterproof, allegedly outdoor, boot this seemed to be a bit of an omission. What's the point of having a waterproof material in your boot when water will ingress as soon as you step into the nearest shallow puddle. Pointless in my opinion.

The sole is quite thin and flexible and has a very open tread pattern. They are fairly comfortable to wear and also can be quite quiet so have the potential for being good for stalking. My biggest problem with them is their lack of grip. When the soles get wet they are very slippery on a smooth surface - I nearly broke my neck this morning when I came back into the kitchen, having been outside, made a turn and lost all traction! Not impressed.

At least I now know that there is no way I will be using these boots for stalking unless it is a dry day and has been for some time. I know that these boots will slip when I step on wet branches or brash.

I am very glad that I did not pay full price for these boots as I would be totally gutted. They will be OK for general use and are quite comfy around town but I will not be using them very often for proper trips into the woods.


Friday, 16 January 2009

Chocolate Fish ...yum!

This morning I received a little parcel from Chocolate Fish stuffed full of yummy merino.

As you know I'm a huge fan of merino wool garments and with impeccable timing I have bought some more, just as the weather has got warmer. What can I say. It will all get a dammed good cold test in February when I'm in Poland.

Over the next few weeks I'll be putting the kit through its paces and will post up reviews when I have something constructive to say about them. Having said that I have had a good look at the construction and stitching and can say that I am very impressed. The stitching is extremely good and looks very secure and the material itself seems to be of the highest quality.

The service from Amanda at Chocolate Fish was superlative and very entertaining and the goods arrived when promised. They also arrived in reusable packaging which I think is brilliant. The best thing about their stuff though, is that it is all genuine New Zealand through and through. None of this "Made in China" lark.

I'll keep you posted about the joys of merino as the weeks progress. I'm wearing some of it now and in a purely subjective manner - it is lovely.


Thursday, 15 January 2009

Big cats in Forest of Dean

The Forestry Commission has revealed recently that there have been two reliable and confirmed sightings of large cats in the Forest of Dean. The information relates to sightings back in 2002 and 2005 and has only been revealed under the Freedom of Information Act.

Rangers using thermal imaging equipment saw large cats during deer census work and Deputy surveyor Rob Guest has said that they are reliable sightings. But Mr Guest said there was no sign of large cats during the most recent deer census in March 2008.

Despite lack of conclusive photographic evidence of big cats in the county, Gloucestershire police believe there are pairs living in the Forest of Dean and around the Cirencester area. The force has a wildlife and environmental crime officer, Mark Robson, who has been documenting sightings since 2002. He said the Forestry Commission sightings were credible.

I find this stuff really interesting and would love to see one for myself - then there would be a chance to track it! I live in hope of one day seeing the Exmoor Beast.

Let me know if any of you have seen large cats here in the UK or in places, you think they shouldn't be, elsewhere in the world.