Newsletter > Newsletter archive > July 2015
Following in the monks’ footsteps
Earlier this month we visited Fountains Abbey in North Yorkshire. Even in its ruined form it’s a grand monument, a reminder of the time when the monastic orders took over large areas of our countryside and transformed our landscape. Fountains Abbey had its ups and downs, at one time bankrupting itself by pre-selling all its wool to Flanders, only to have the entire flock of sheep succumb to a deadly disease. Financial crashes caused by massive over-confidence are clearly nothing new.
At its height Fountains Abbey housed some sixty choir monks, along with around two hundred lay brothers. The Cistercians centred their lives on agriculture; it was a vital element of their doctrine but it also enabled them to generate considerable wealth. The Cistercians spread their tentacles across the country, with abbeys frequently setting up daughter houses at some distance from themselves but under quite close control. Individual abbeys were self-governing and elected their own abbots, but key decisions were still made centrally. In fact once a year all the abbots of the order were obliged to attend the General Chapter at Cîteaux in central France, a journey that could be very arduous, especially for an elderly monk.
In some parts of the country, particularly in upland areas where new abbeys were often founded, the Cistercians created their own trackways to form direct connections between their houses. Known as ‘monks’ trods’ these paths frequently took the high ground, allowing someone on horseback to travel quickly and in relative safety. In this month’s chapter from our Pathways book we explore a surviving trod near Rhayader in mid-Wales. It’s a remote trail, cut into the hillside as it makes its way to and from exposed passes. It must have taken a lot of effort to build - a testament to how important it was for the Cistercians to keep in touch. Find out more about these fascinating old paths by reading our chapter on Monks’ Trods.
The new OS maps
We have been taking a look at the new OS maps. The paper versions are not very different from the previous ones and come in standard and 'Active' formats, the latter having a waterproof coating. If you're happy to pay the difference the Active maps will give long service out in the wet. Naturally they are a bit heavier and thicker, but not too much so.
The chief development with the new OS maps is that they come with a digital download that can be viewed in a special app, available for Android and iOS (OS have indicated that they are very unlikely to produce an app for Windows Mobile). The apps are free to download and are currently very basic, essentially just showing the map onscreen and your position on it. As yet it's not possible to import a GPX file, which means that you cannot view and follow a Walkingworld walk without plotting it manually on the app. Of course you can simply print out the map and instructions we provide and then use the app to confirm your position – not actually a bad way of following a walk.
Existing users of the OS Mapfinder app who have bought maps for it will be disappointed that this is a completely separate app and that the maps won't load into Mapfinder. Those using it on a tablet will also find that it displays in the portrait position, not the usual way one holds a tablet. There's clearly a lot more work to be done.
We were sent the map by outdoor retailers Above&Beyond. For the next week only (i.e until midnight Monday 3rd August) you can get a massive 40% off all OS maps in their store. Just go to the maps section of Above&Beyond and enter the code OSWW40 at the checkout to take the total discount up to 40%.
Walking along ‘The High Alpine Way’
With the snow-capped Ortler Alps as a dramatic backdrop, a week-long walk along the High Alpine Way above the Val Venosta, or Vinschgau, in the Italian South Tyrol is a thrilling experience.
It's a challenging route, but the rewards come thick and fast: from the shores of Lake Reschen and the lofty summit of Spitzige Lun, to the Alpine pastures of St Martin-im-Kofel and the imposing majesty of Castle Juval.
Parts of the walk follow the intriguing waale, ancient man-made water channels that hug the hillsides for great distances, taking life-giving meltwater from the glaciers above to the crops below. Throughout the week you stay most nights in delightful guesthouses in remote mountain villages, where the welcome is warm, the beer and the region's subtle wines chilled, and the hearty flavoursome cuisine guaranteed to put you in good stead.
For more details on Inntravel’s walking holidays in South Tyrol, see inntravel.co.uk or speak to their expert team on 01653 617034.
The High Alpine Way
- Self-guided hotel-to-hotel walking holiday, luggage transported
- Prices from £825pp, inc 7 nights’ half-board accommodation, detailed route guides & maps
- Flights extra (direct from several UK regional airports)
- Available from 9 May to 18 October 2015
It’s summer and everything’s growing
It’s mid-summer and we’re getting the usual reports of paths being overgrown and sometimes impassable. Councils are really struggling to keep up with essential footpath maintenance. Even so it’s vital to keep reporting problems because it’s the only way to keep some pressure on councils to maintain their footpath teams. It can be a bit of a bother looking up the relevant council department and filling in an online form (if you’re lucky – sometimes you have to email or write to them to submit a problem report) but it’s well worth it. You can inform us and we can submit a report but it’s much better if it comes direct from the ‘horse’s mouth’.
Meanwhile The Ramblers are stepping into the fray with an app which you can use to photograph obstructions and problems and send a report to them. They are asking walkers to pick individual kilometre squares from the OS map and walk every path in the square, using the app to send a report directly to their database. They’ll then try to get the problems resolved.
Partly this is aimed at giving the Ramblers some hard evidence on how our footpaths are suffering from lack of maintenance. From this point of view, too, this is an initiative that is well worth supporting. The campaign is running until the end of the year but it would be nice to see the facility continuing beyond then. You can find out more and and follow links to download the app from the Ramblers website.
Are our kids getting out enough?
In a nationwide survey, outdoor brand Berghaus asked over a thousand mums and dads how often the family got together to do exercise-based activities like a bike ride, ice skating or a country walk. Nearly 50% admitted they didn’t take their kids on an ‘active adventure’ more than once every other month. Considering that the NHS recommends that children aged between 5 and 18-years old should be doing at least one hour of physical activity every day, that sort of statistic doesn’t look particularly promising.
The results of the survey weren’t entirely bleak. 19% of parents said that they get out and about with their family ‘once a week or more’. Berghaus are encouraging families to get outdoors together and share a picture of their family adventure using the hashtag #activefamilyadventures. If you do there’s the chance to win a family trip to Go Ape!
Visit the Berghaus website to find out how to enter and to see all the entries so far.
Bare feet first
Until 31 August, the government is doubling every donation to The Leprosy Mission’s Feet First campaign, to help people in Mozambique with leprosy. The charity is asking people to take part in their Barefoot Challenge – spending a day barefoot in solidarity with those affected by leprosy and raising money to help them at the same time.
If you spend a day with your shoes or boots off write the hashtag #feetfirst on your feet and upload photos of your barefoot day on Facebook and Twitter. You can then nominate friends to take part in the Barefoot Challenge. Donations can be made by texting FEET06 £10 to 70070 and then £20 will be sent to Mozambique. www.feetfirst.org.uk
Spanish walking festival
Cómpeta, 40 miles east of Malaga, is a great place for hiking. The third Walking Festival runs between the 1st and 4th October. Each day you can choose between an easy or moderate/hard route. The cost is only €20 for all four days or €7.5 per day.
Headcam footage of walks
Does anyone have any ‘point of view’ footage of entire walks? One of our members is undergoing long-term rehabilitation and is building up strength on a walking machine at home. He’d love to have some footage to play on the television while he exercises. He’s happy to pay for it to be put on DVD and posted to him. If you can help please contact us and we’ll put you in touch.