Saturday, July 26

Blog - Birthday, Backpacking & Belief

Back in 2006, as I was part way through my usual Summer pattern of wildcamping and backpacking forays, something sparked me up to start this blog, in an attempt to express this feeling somewhere deep inside of myself.

On the second anniversary of this Blog I reread that first post to see if my thoughts had shifted in the two years since it started.

That deep driving force remains true, but there has also been some positive changes as a result of that decision take two years ago. And an indirect fall-out, the sense of enforced responsibility with a slow realisation that what appears on here may possibly influence others, dependant on what message they chose to take away from their visit.

Originally the Blog was a way to supplement my usual walking diaries, that I still keep, but to embellish the short handwritten notes with photos and reference links.

My pile of diaries, scribbled in small notebooks in the tent each evening with a stub of a pencil, provided route details, places enjoyed, ideas for future trips, and pitches noted along the way, to return to maybe. Most importantly it left little factually based reminders to myself for the future. Kit to try out, modify or discard. Different ideas or approaches to help improve what I enjoy doing. Especially potential wildcamp spots to follow up (Even now I seem to spend a walk, whatever the location, automatically mentally noting potential sites)

At the time UK based blogs were few and far between, and certainly in single figures. There were a number of walking websites, but with the exception of Backpacking In Britain few related to my specialised interest. Or suitable for a two way communication of interests and ideas.

I felt I had some experiences of my own way to offer, after a number of years of basically learning mostly by personal trial and error. This had been supplemented by the occasional group "camp out" in the wilds, soon abandoned as I quickly realised that the general 'walker' in my geographical location just didn't get "It". That kick deep inside I still get on waking up in a lonely wildcamp location; A day's walk ahead; Carrying my essential amenities on my back. To see things few others know exist. And to survive, nay prosper, in the basic natural environment that can at times be downright hostile and dangerous. Nature & the Outdoors away from the cities. My version of Real Life.

My only source of new ideas and challenges came via digging into the few backpacking books available relating to the UK itself, and keeping an eye on the outdoor magazines.

For whilst those in the traditional outdoor pursuit areas such as the Lakes, or Peak District, may take their introduction and education to the Great Outdoors in their stride, those of us outside these localities don't have that benefit. Finding like minded people, or even places, to follow this calling were rare.

I also understood, and still do, that experience only become wisdom by listening to others, learning from my own trial, and applying the particular lesson in a way that works best for me.

If my site statistics are to be believed, two years on this blog has had over 34,000 visitors. Each day around hundred new people arrive to look over it, some stay, many move on, but a hard core of repeat visitors return again and again, and join in to share their own experiences, comment on my own, or offer some alternative thoughts.

And at each Blog anniversary I'm surprised to find that these numbers keep increasing by around a 50% increase each year (At this rate if I keep this up until I'm 102 I'll have most of the English reading world on here!)

But the stats, as those involved in this Blogging malarkey know only too well, are of comparative value only. Its not about the numbers, but about the bridges built between those sharing a love of the outdoors, or seeking to explore it further.

Without meaning to sound boastful it may be safe to say that without Blogs like this, alongside those early established trail blazers & later arrivals in early in 2007, the outdoor scene would have been slightly different.

  • No UK Outdoor Blogger Association to support and advise those interested in the Blog as a way of expressing their own take on the UK Outdoor walking and wildcamping scene.
  • No coming together of people from across the UK and beyond for regular meet-ups & wildcamps.
  • No forming of long term friendships between people who otherwise were unlikely to ever meet.
  • No Wild Camping E-Petition Campaign to explore the associated issues for those who were similarly motivated for change.
  • And especially no chance for some of us to step outside our personal small insular areas, a circumstance of geography and community. To learn from others, and to teach. To consider different ways, and to adapt our own individual style.
Now that's not being arrogant. At least its not my intention. Call it a personal view, a personal history if you like, of progress during the last two years.

And all a somewhat divergent preamble to the point of my reflections.

Magazines, on-line forums, Blogs and Podcasts share one basic theme. Communication. Mostly a consideration of how we may approach what we do, the kit used, and the methodology concerned.

But for you, the reader or listener on the receiving end, it isn't meant to be a proscriptive set of rules but a never ending discussion of the tools and our use to follow the pursuits that we have chosen. And sometimes that point can be missed amongst all the shiny kit reviews and latest trends.

Whether its ultralight tarp and trail shoe, 80 litre pack and two man canvas tent, or the latest/best/alternative/traditional bit of kit or area ........ it all comes down to one thing which Monty Python put so succinctly:

"Brian: Please, please, please listen! I've got one or two things to say.
Crowd: Tell us! Tell us both of them!

Brian: Look, you've got it all wrong! You don't NEED to follow ME, You don't NEED to follow ANYBODY! You've got to think for your selves! You're ALL individuals!
Crowd: Yes! We're all individuals!

Brian: You're all different!
Crowd: Yes, we ARE all different!

Man in crowd: I'm not...
Crowd: Sch!"

Don't be the Man in the Crowd folks. Or should that be do- confusing. Anyway - soak it all up. Try it out in safety. Take what works. Discard what doesn't. But most of all experiment whilst aware of your own skill and experience levels, and learn from whats available adapting it for what works for you.

Backpacking and wild camping will never be a 'trendy' pursuit amongst the public at large. It tends to attract those with a more individualist streak, possibly even the downright weird at times (names provided for a 'small' handling charge -lol) But its that self driven element that is part of what makes it so satisfying.

Possibly the very worst sort of people to be told what to do. But the most able, I find, to weigh up the good alongside the bad and safely find their own unique path to get more out those special places we visit all too rarely.

Yes. The writer now is not the same individual of two years ago. But one that today gets even more enjoyment, alongside an increasing number of like minded individuals, with benefits that long ago were not even considered.

Now after all that, time to blow out the birthday cake candles.


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Congratulations and well done.
Congatulations and keep up the good work!
Well said and done John. Am away again next Wed. night. North west again. Dawn
Quite right too!

Happy birthday John's Blog.
It doesn't seem like 2 years - how time flies. Happy birthday (or anniversary).

Exactly right John - as I always say to apprehensive newbies who contact me, 'you'll find your own way of doing it'. Read all the published stuff in the blogs and websites to get a basic idea, but most importantly get out there and have a go.
Inspired John - keep it coming. this sounds like a cliched piece right 'off of' the X Factor or something equally as hideous, but - if it wasn't for the outdoor bloggers like yourself and Geoff 'off of VG, I would never have found my way in this amazing pastime. If I found that just one person read my blog and decided to have a go, I'd be the happiest wild camper around!
Great post John. We have been blogging for around the same time and yes, one of the great benefits is the relationships you can build up on this type of medium.

I recently walked the Overland Track in Tasmania with a guy from the US that I had met via the blog. It was a great walk and fascinating to walk with someone from another country.

Keep up the great blogging
Thanks for the wishes and feedback.
And yes - the value of turning others onto all this (safely/prepared/realistict) is one of the real blessings of this. That and getting together with all those like minded individuals out there
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