New Forest Film Project 2019

As some of you may know, over Easter Evan and I set of on an almost 50 mile hike around the New Forest National Park with the aim of making a little film for the New Forest Film Festival.

Armed with a couple of smartphones we recorded nearly 4 hours of footage, which we then beat and moulded into the 10 minute run time limit required in the submission guidelines.

Last week we were delighted to find out that we had made it the semi final stage of the competition in 2 categories, “International Documentary” and “Zero Budget”. We’re really pleased with this, it’s our first film and first submission so it’s given us heart that someone else liked our little story and maybe we’re on the right track.

So without further ado, We proudly present our first film, hope you enjoy it.

Finding our Way

Batteries not Included

One of the things I hate carrying but always carry extras of “just in case” are batteries. And while they can be recycled, usually they end up in bin in a trail town and we can get through quite a few.
My camera needs AA as does my GPS device, ah but my head torch needs AAA and the kids headtorches need those funny flat ones that are like the hearing aid batteries but a bit bigger. Oh, and I need a USB battery pack for the phone. And Hazels phone. And AA batteries for her camera too.

(more…)

Yorkshire Sculpture Park 2017

It’s not always strenuous hikes and long trails. Sometimes we like to find other things to do while out and about. This was the case last year when, with time between a visit to the Peak District and a family occasion in Doncaster, we headed up for a day at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.

A place where Mum can get inspired, the kids can be kids, and Dad can go hiking

We had camped the night before and were feeling a little dishevelled when we arrived at the park. We negotiated the toilets and as it had just started to rain a little we had look around the indoor galleries which were pretty impressive. Some of the stuff went straight over my head but Hazel was really enjoying herself and there was even an area for the kids to contribute some works of art of their own. 

Kids will be Kids

We headed outside, through what I would describe as a well kept sculpture garden, just with far cooler sculptures than I usually see in gardens through the course of a day at work, and out into the larger park, complete with a lake, parkland, woods and livestock. Now things got interesting. While we had a map we didn’t use it to navigate, we just wondered down paths and between hedges and in circles, all the while being surprised and excited by what came around the next corner. By the end of the day we had probably covered 4 or 5 miles and that counts as hiking to me.

The biggest highlight for me was simply how these massive installations just looked at home in the countryside.  The army of sculpted figures in an open space felt like that was where they were meant to be, as did the giant head amongst the trees across the lake, even the massive rabbit headed lady didn’t look out of place and I suppose that’s the point of it right? Right? Just making sure! 

I’ve just been on the website and they’ve got an exhibition of Norman Ackroyd images called The Furthest Lands until February 2019 so we might try and organise another trip in the new year.

Located in West Bretton, near Wakefield, and it’s basically a 500 acre art gallery with loads of contemporary sculptures spread throughout its park and woodland. 

It is home to pieces by Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth.
(My far more cultured wife tells me these are important creators).

Its extremely child friendly, accessible and cheap, you only pay for parking AND you get the added bonus of a half decent hike if you explore for a whole day.

Start Here

Welcome to Just Up The Trail and thanks for joining us here at the trail head. Whether you’re an outdoor veteran, just starting to get out there or coming along for the adventure from the comfort of an easy chair, we’d like to welcome you to our little band of adventure seekers.

We believe in the power of the trail to surprise, inspire and rejuvenate. It brings our family closer and provides opportunities for kids to show just how capable, adaptable and resilient they can really be. Test them, they will surprise you!

Mile One
Meet the Family

If your curious about the type of people who hike 100 miles with a tiny tent and 3 kids and still call it a holiday, then you read a little about each of us on our Meet the Family page.
Then drop us a note to say Hi or to tell us about your latest adventure or to tell us you think we’re crazy,  send us an email or use the comments section at the end of the page.  

Mile Two.
Join Our Band of HikerMums, HikerDads and HikerKids

While solo hiking has it’s place, it’s far more fun for us to hike as family and we benefit so much from the support of this little community we’re building. We’d love for you to be a part of it.

Follow our adventures, give us ideas for future expeditions, help us navigate this trail we’re on and inspire us to carry on.

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Trail Magic
The biggest thing you can do for us is join our community and shout about it. Find a post you enjoy, feel free to share it, tweet it or how about this, grab your friends phone or laptop or tablet and bookmark Just Up The Trail for them. They might not ever notice….. or they might be buying hiking boots next week! 

There’s our growing Facebook page for more regular updates on trips and trails and we use Twitter and Instagram for live updates from the trail. Just click the links below.

 

Mile Three
Find your Trail Legs

Just Up The Trail started in 2017 as a way for us to document our adventures for the kids to look back on when they’ve grown up and found trails of their own. While that remains its core purpose, we’d feel selfish if we kept all the fun to ourselves so we decided to share them with you, our new hiking buddies.

Our first ever trip was up Snowdon in 2015 when the kids were 8, 6 and 4 and since then we haven’t looked back. Multiple trips to the mountainous regions of the UK spurred us on and in 2017 we headed out on our first major backpacking trip. The West Highland Way. Not every thing goes according to plan as we found out in early 2018 but we have finished this hiking season off in a great fashion. 

And while we’d encourage you to get off trail a little and explore the site, it’d be a little rude not to provide a few waymarkers to help you navigate your way Just Up The Trail. So here’s a few posts to get you underway.

Mile Four
Hike your own Hike

One of the biggest benefits of hiking with kids is that we have no choice but to take our time. We hike at the pace of the slowest (which isn’t always the smallest) and we have more than enough time to take it all in and the next day we do it all over again.

So if your here, and you have time, feel free to dig deeply into this little site. You might find something enjoyable, or interesting or maybe even useful and if you do, please let us know through a comment or an email. And don’t forget the Trail Magic.

Trail Magic

We’re working really hard to build something rather special over here at Just Up The Trail but we do need some help from time to time.

The number one, top of the tree, thing you can do to help us out is to spread the word. Shout about us on your Social Media channel of choice. Just find a post you like and click the button to share.

By signing onto the trail register you are confirming your support for Just Up The Trail. It tells us we’re on the right track in building this little community of adventure seeking families. If you haven’t yet done so, its below.

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Sometimes we need a little helping hand to get to the mainland as often as we’d like to. Here’s a few ways you can help us get on the trail more often.

Affiliate Links
If you see a link to a product* or a brand, the chances are that they are an affiliate link. Basically, you click the link, buy that product you were going to buy and the RETAILER/BRAND gives us a little commission for sending you there. It costs you nothing and we get a little something. Thanks. 
We won’t send you anywhere we wouldn’t go ourselves.

*any reviews are of products that we have bought ourselves and have personally tested. If that isn’t the case we’ll shout loudly about it.

Sponsorship
We long for adventure in the mountains and wild spaces. However the high cost of ferry travel restricts our visits to the mainland
 
If you would like to sponsor a future trip financially please get in touch or donate via Paypal.
Any monies collected will be used to fund the next adventure and contributors will be credited on this site.

Review: Alpkit Numo Sleep Mat

I bought this product with whatever money I had left after the kids had been fed, clothed and sheltered.
The opinions expressed in the post are my own.

Here’s an idea. Plan a hiking trip with your family. The kids are small and can’t carry much but that’s ok because Mum and Dad can carry most of their stuff. We won’t go far, just around 100 miles on the West Highland Way. That will be a perfect first hike. Great. Until you grab your pack and realise its just far too heavy to carry for even 2 or 3 of the proposed 96 miles. So you start culling stuff. That extra fleece can go, how much underwear do I really need. Those 2 self inflating sleep pads that weigh nearly a kilogram each are probably overkill, and what difference do those thin foam ones make anyway.

IMG_0117
Our Massive Packs for the WHW.

It’s the first night in the tent, in Scotland, in very early April. We’re wishing we had carried the sleeping mats. The kids have got one of the foam ones each and are surprisingly cosy but Hazel and I are freezing. I emptied my pack and slept on the empty rucksack. Turns out those mats make a huge difference so we picked up 2 more foam pads before hitting the trail and we were much less cold.

 

This year I treated myself to a new sleep pad. I was tired of carrying the weight of the self inflating one and the foam ones were just a little bulky so I thought I’d try an inflatable one. After a while trying to decide which to go for, I went for the Numo from Alpkit. It was reasonably priced and so much smaller and lighter than the ones we had. It was cheaper than similar options from other manufacturers and I felt a nice warm feeling inside by supporting a smaller UK company besides, I’d previously bought a top and a crash pad from them and was very happy with the speedy service and the hand written thank you note that was in the package.

It came out of the box, even smaller than expected and weighed next to nothing in my hand. I immediately went to the Gear Store (or the cupboard under stairs as Hazel calls it), grabbed the old one for comparison and bounced into the living room to excitedly show off the size difference to anyone who was there. Evan said it was cool but no-one else seemed interested.

Time to blow it up. The info said you could inflate with 12 breaths and it wasn’t many more before I’m lying down on it in the kitchen. It was nice and comfy and surprisingly non-slidy and as soon Hazel had tried it out (again on the kitchen floor) I was back on the computer ordering one for her.

Lils Birthday - 17
Wild camp with Lil on Brook Down. Numo hidden under sleeping bags.

So we’ve used them for all this years camping trip since our snowy Glyndwrs Way hike where they would have been useful. They’ve performed really well in the tent and under a tarp both with and without a groundsheet. I would be extra careful if you don’t have a groundsheet because I’d imagine a gorse or bramble thorn would lead to a harder nights sleep but so far no punctures and we’ve been wild camping more this year than we have been to camp sites.

There are a couple of huge outcomes for us after buying these mats. The first is the weight and bulk savings, and while I’m sure you could get a lighter mat, I reckon you’ll struggle to get one at this price point and made from the same tough material. The second is that we actually sleep well on them so we’re better rested to wrangle 3 kids along the trail

The only drawback is that the kids want one each now I’m happy to get them one because they’ll last them for a couple of years at least, I’m not sure if I can fit 5 of them in our little blue tent.

 

Field Dressing a Wound In your Jacket.

For some strange reason the kids can’t seem to wear anything without ultimately destroying it. Just check out Lil’s boots from our last trip. Ok they weren’t brand new when she got them and she did easily put another 100 miles through them so it shouldn’t have been a surprise really.

Just before we headed off on that trail we found a huge tear in the sleeve of her waterproof and not having the time to sew it up, or the money to replace it we went about fixing it with gaffer/duct tape. And it only went and worked!

So when, after the trail, we found some small tears in her insulated jacket, probably from the brambles she just had to run through, we set about fixing that in the same way only this time we photographed the process to share with you.

Pay Attention now, it’s very complicated.

Step 1.
Locate the holes in the jacket and pop any loose stuffing back inside with a finger.
DSCF0005

Step 2.
Cut a big enough bit of tape to cover the whole. REMEMBER Measure Twice. Cut Once. If you can’t find scissors use your teeth.

DSCF0006

Step 3.
Place the tape on the hole and make sure it’s stuck.

DSCF0011

Step 4.
Wear your newly repaired jacket with pride. A taped up jacket not only looks cool but you can do that “lets compare scars” thing like in Lethal Weapon (Only with less kissing!)

DSCF0015

Step 5.
Start making pre-taped jackets and sell them on the High Street like those jeans you can buy brand new with holes in them. Once you’ve made enough money you can place that order for a new Patagonia puffy.

In all seriousness though it’s a really important way to help reduce our impact even further. We often use Reduce, Reuse and Recycle but how many of us actually Repair. At the end of the day a bit of tape will help Lil’s jackets get through another winter so surely it’s worth spending those 5 minutes to save both the money for a new coat and the resources needed to make it and get it to the shop.

And she gets to look really cool too!

Review: SIGG Water Bottles & Flasks.

*I bought this product with my own money.
The post contains an affiliate link so if you choose to purchase this product from that provider, we will see a small kickback if you use the link provided.
We have also included direct links to the manufacturer if you prefer to order direct.
Rob.

 

IMG_0848It seems it’s really hard to review a water bottle. I’ve been sat here for ages, typing a bit, deleting, starting over. How do you review a bottle. It holds water. Done. What I think I’ll do is try to tell you why I like these particular bottles so much. And if that helps you in the decision making process, I’ve done alright.

  1. They feel solid. These are the metal ones and feel really durable. We’ve bought cheaper alternatives before and once they’ve been dropped a couple of times they split. These bad boys have already been dropped numerous times and wear their scars beautifully. Also the lids fit well while on cheaper ones there’s always a fear that the seal will go or the lid will get cross-threaded, not on these.
  2. The Hot and Cold bottle does exactly what its supposed to do. The heat retention is amazing. I take one with me for work everyday and because I work so, so hard, I can make 300ml of black coffee last all day. And it’s still hot, not warm but hot. In fact, after making my coffee at 7 am, it’s just about cooled down enough by lunchtime. The instructions say to warm the flask before filling but unless you like your coffee at the temperature of a thermo-nuclear war you may want to skip that step.
  3. sigg-trinkflasche-colour-your-day-black-touch-orange-06-l-8536-90They look good! For once I’m not the guy on the trail or at the climbing gym with a scrunchy plastic water bottle. People have even commented on the coolness of my SIGG bottles (the black & orange one especially) and believe me as I near 40, cool matters!
  4. And this is probably the biggest factor. I use them. Maybe it’s my subconscious justifying the extra money spent on these bottles but I’ve always got one nearby, so I drink more water, which I’m told is good.
  5. As we’re yet another blog taking on single-use plastics with our Zero Waste Hiking plans, I need to mention this. Any reusable water bottle, even the cheap ones are better than their single use alternatives but by spending a little more cash on a simple item, we look after it better. The chance of it getting left behind is reduced as is the risk of dropping off a ledge, and while these seem to last longer than others, if you do lose a lid, SIGG actually sell spare parts!

So thats 5 reasons we love our SIGG bottles and once our children’s plastic bottles for school get lost/broken/chewed we’ll be in the market for a few more.

View the range of SIGG products on Amazon UK*

Youtube: Oh The Places We’ll Roll.

Ever dreamed of packing everything into an RV and disappear on a never ending road trip. Of course you have but these guys have only gone and done it.

www.ohtheplaceswellroll.com

I’ve only watched the first few episodes so far and, “tainted Mac’n’Cheese” and vehicle troubles aside, they all appear to be embracing life on the road, dogs and all.
I’ll put the first episode here but please make sure you click subscribe

As well as new episodes every Sunday you can follow the adventures on social media AND if you’re feeling generous you can contribute to the coffee fund on Patreon

Facebook:

 
And On Instagram:

 

Dartmoor 2018

This summer we visited one of our National Parks for the first time. Somehow, after 6 years of living on the South Coast, within a few hours drive, and after countless trips to Devon and Cornwall for family visits and “normal” holidays I had never set foot on Dartmoor.

The purpose of the trip to was to spend a few days down there and just boulder as much as possible and when we first planned it out the forecast was great for Friday to Sunday with a few showers on the days either side. On the week of the trip the forecast changed and we were faced with the prospect of torrential rain  over that weekend. I hadn’t had time to plan any wet weather hiking as an alternative to bouldering so I moved some things around, worked like a dog on Monday and Tuesday, cramming 4 days work into 2 and on the Wednesday morning we jumped on a ferry and headed west.

We took a slow drive down as it was meant to be wet in Devon that day, so we stopped at a few places for a wander and an explore. One of which was going to be Lyme Regis but the “park and ride” car park was bursting and we just didn’t want to put ourselves through that. We did stop at Haldon Forest , which was very busy too but we found a quiet spot in the woods for a picnic and an explore.

Back in the car we decided to take the smaller roads through the park rather than the ironically named Devon Expressway, and we’re so glad we did. We so blown away by the landscape, even from the car, and I said to Hazel that “this place should be a secret!”. My mind started whirring, wondering if we could come back and hike across the park. (If there’s an established route please let me know). We were heading to Down Tor and Sheepstor at the western end of the park, near Tiverton, as I’d found a guide to the bouldering on Down Tor and ,after a chat with Graeme at www.wildcamping.blog/  on Instagram, found that we could camp on neighbouring Sheepstor. (Cheers Graeme!)

IMG_1574 (1)

On the way across we stopped to investigate some boulders, so we parked up grabbed the crash mat and climbing shoes and hiked maybe a 1/4 of a mile to a promising looking Tor. We climbed for about an hour, just looking for any way up. The kids enjoyed squeezing into a crack and making their ascents that way. We were just playing really but having a great time all 5 of us doing the same thing at the same time and all completely knackered by the time we hiked back to the car.

Dartmoor 2018 - 07

Suddenly it was 7 o clock and as we got to the car, we heard thunder, then the rain came and then we saw the lightening, none of which was on the bloody forecast! We sensibly decided to head for a campsite lower down rather than wildcamp high on the moor with all this lightening around. It ultimately rained until the early hours but that didn’t stop the kids getting soaked in the play area in the dark while I sorted out the tent and dinner.

The following morning was damp but breezy so we headed into town and treated ourselves to a big, dirty fry up to give the rock a chance to dry off. We drove round some narrow lanes and before too long we were there. A 5 minute hike took us to the first set of boulders, which we ended up spending a few hours at. To honest I climbed really badly but really enjoyed myself. The kids had a blast and after trying a few lines from the guidebook were happy just finding their own ways up things.

Dartmoor 2018 - 13

After a brew we headed on up the hill and just had so much to play around on. We reached the top of the Tor and found some really fun stuff to climb, some in the guidebook, some not but we didn’t care. It was just great to be climbing outside. We were just discussing the plans for the next day when the rain started so we wandered back to the car for a late tea. We were hoping to camp up on Sheepstor but again there was some lightening around so we decided to just go for a drive and see what the weather does.

Then evening brightened up so we stopped for a little hike up onto another Tor from where we could see where we had spent the day getting sore fingers and grazes and then we went to find a spot to camp. The rain had started again so we found a layby, spent 10 minutes wondering if we could all sleep in the car comfortably and just started putting down seat when another car came into the layby. A young french couple asked if we were planning to camp here, so abandoning the chaos in the car we grabbed the tent and sleeping bags and headed only about 200 yards away and pitched up behind some gorse. The other couple pitched only about 10 yards from their car so we felt like we had at least made an effort toward stealthiness.

Dartmoor 2018 - 14

It rained all night and into the next morning. The forecast said it was in for the day so we had a slow drive back to our ferry. This time the slow drive wasn’t our choice as the rain and holiday traffic turned our drive into an 8 hour marathon! Never mind.

Even though the weather seemed against us for this flying visit to Dartmoor, I know it will quickly become a favourite spot for us. Outside of school holidays, it should be a really accessible and beautiful “go to” place for us. Its huge amount of climbing, bouldering and hiking and being so close (on a good day) may just move it ahead of Snowdonia as our National Park of choice.

Mind you there’s still a few we haven’t visited yet.

Thanks again to Graeme at Dartmoor Wild Camper and Pete Saunders at Rusty Peg

Review: OrganiCup

*I bought this product with my own money
Hazel.

A few years ago, in a previous life (before the kids came along), at an outdoors expo/trade show type event, I was approached by a rather enthusiastic man selling menstrual cups. I had never thought of using one before, and to be honest I hadn’t since. The gentleman in question went into almost graphic detail about its use, including a demonstration involving a the pouring of a red liquid which I hoped was Ribena, and as you can imagine, put me off entirely.

Recently our family have made a commitment to reduce our impact on the world. We practice “Leave No Trace” on the trail so why not at home. So after researching plastic free alternatives and zero waste practices I was reacquainted with the menstrual cup and thought now would be a good time to give them a try.
After the initial shock at the size of of it (I’m a size B after 3 children), I found it quite liberating. My period was no longer a pain. Changing it twice a day was no hassle and you don’t notice it’s there. But how would it fair on the trail?

I used it on the Isle of Wight Coastal Path,  with good access to toilets with a sink so cleaning it was no trouble. On a more remote hike I would probably take some wipes, as the ease of this would outweigh the small amount of plastic. I would definitely recommend this as a zero waste and minimal hassle alternative to traditional sanitary products.

Have a look at it on Amazon

3 Easy Ways to Reduce Plastic on the Trail

I should call this “3 Bloody Obvious Ways” to use less plastic, but to be quite honest, the amount of these types of litter I see on our local trails makes me wonder sometimes.

Swap a plastic bottle for a good one.

sigg-trinkflasche-colour-your-day-black-touch-orange-06-l-8536-90Spend some money on a proper, durable water bottle. The number of “Spring Water” bottles that get either chucked or if we’re being generous “left” on the trails is obscene.
Just don’t buy bottled water, there’s no need, especially in the UK.
We’ve topped up from outdoor taps in churchyards, farm yards and gardens (with permission, if we’ve found someone to ask). Failing that, I’m sure no one will say no to filling a bottle if you ask nicely.  Failing that, carry a water filter.
Also if it’s a decent bottle that has cost you a little bit you’ll retrace your steps if you forget it, or the next person along will pick it up and keep it for themselves. At least it’s less likely to stay in the woods.

The kids use their school ones which are plastic but last a year or more, usually. Next time they’ll be replaced with a metal one like mine from Sigg.

Use Dry Bags instead of Carrier Bags

78431302_4plInstead of relying on plastic bags to organise stuff in our packs we use dry bag stuff sacks. As well as the usual things like spare clothes and sleeping bags, we’ve started keeping other things in them too.
For instance, we use one for breakfast and dinner foods but a different one for snacks/lunch so we don’t have to get everything out for a handful of peanuts.
We carry one each for wet stuff or dirty clothes and the “toilet” equipment is kept in another (Nothing worse than damp toilet paper)
We always have one dedicated to rubbish which gets emptied when we find a dustbin.

We got ours fairly cheap from sports direct and there’s a variety of sizes. I know they’re more money than a bag for life but some of ours are 4 years old and still going strong.

Paper Bags and Bulk Bought Snacks.

jelly-beans-children--plain-1-820x532We go for a hike which lasts 5 days, there’s 5 of us. On an average day we consume:
5 packets of instant porridge
5 packets of instant noodles
10 cereal/chocolate bars
1 pack of Tortilla Wraps
1 pack of Tuna

To be honest that’s probably a minimum but that’s nearly 100 bits of plastic over the duration of the hike. That’s just not good enough so we’re trying to change that. And you can help by leaving your advice, ideas and tips in comments below.

For our last big hike, I went to our local weigh shop and bought various nuts, dried fruits and sweeties for the trail. These were packed in paper bags which we then put inside a drybag to protect from the rain. We topped up with fresh fruit when we could or bought plastic free extras along the trail.

 

Going Plastic Free on the Trail

I’ve given Rob a challenge. While I have the monumental task of making our household free from single use plastics, at a manageable budget, I want our hiking trips to be just as ethical. So he’s in charge of that!

His first reaction was that it will be easy, by the time we pay the extra for plastic free alternatives, there won’t be any money left for long hiking trips. However, we’ve made a solid start at home and he’s starting to plan how to get rid of single use plastics before our next trip.

Just Up The Trail, saving the world, one cereal bar at a time!!!

The biggest worry is food, because our usual staples of noodles and pasta snacks are usually wrapped in plastic as are our go to snacks of jelly beans, cereal bars and beef jerky. We may need to get creative. We may need to bake. We may need a dehydrator. We will need a bigger pack. And while tupperware is the easy option for storage/packing, its just not that great in a backpack so solutions for that will be necessary. We could use foil, or wax paper but won’t that get squashed/torn/wet? Research definitely needed.

Other than food packaging I can’t think, off the top of my head, of much else where we rely on single use plastic. We do have those silicon pop up bowls and plastic cutlery but those have already lasted 3 or 4 years and when they die I’ll try to get a replacement from another material. The kids have plastic water bottles but we already intend to replace them with metal bottles like Rob’s SIGG when the time comes and I can’t remember the last time we bought bottled water, anyway that’s why we have the filter.

So if anyone has any tips on packaging hiking food in non-plastics, any plastic free snacks or if you want to share some delicious recipes with us, leave them in the comments below.

I’ll check back in on the plastic free mission between now and our next big hike, which will probably be at Easter, and let you know how we’re getting on.