Archive for June 2007

The new 3-season tent

Posted by on June 27th 2007 in A bit of a rant, Shiny new kit

Well, it's about time I blogged about my new 3-season tent...

the one that I ordered and paid for on the 23rd of May 2007...

the one that was showing as "in stock" when I ordered it...

but wasn't the next day...

the one where the seller then arranged for it to be sent direct from the manufacturer...

the one that I should have been using last weekend...

the one that still hasn't been delivered...

the one where the seller is choosing to either ignore, or delay responding to, most of my emails (latest reply from them was sent to me on the 7th of June 2007, I've sent three more emails to them since then, so far there's been no reply to any of those three emails).

Wake up and smell the coffee, Mr Seller!

I’m no longer recommending Zooomr

Posted by on June 25th 2007 in A bit of a rant, Photo hosting

Attentive readers may well remember my 21/05/2007 blog entry concerning the Zooomr Mk III upgrade. Furthermore, said readers may even remember that I have been recommending Zooomr to all and sundry, as up until recently it had been my preferred photo-hosting site.

Well, belay that recommendation (and pardon the outdoorsy pun). At the moment, if you want to do more than just store and refer to your pics, Zooomr Mk III is just rubbish (in my opinion), and at present I'm no longer recommending it to anybody.

The previous release was good. Photos could be tagged and then organised into sets according to those tags. Bulk-uploading programs were available to let users send large numbers of pics, pre-tagged and with the required privacy settings attached. People with websites, blogs, etc could apply for a free Pro Account if they used their Zooomr-hosted pics on their site or blog. Pro Accounts allowed unlimited uploads of unlimited-size pics.

In short, Zooomr Mk II did everything it said on the tin. Sadly, the same cannot be said of Zooomr Mk III. Many of the features of Mk II just don't work now, even though over a month has passed for fixes to be applied...

Tags (sometimes called labels, how consistent is that?) don't work. Most of the tags/labels set for pre-Mk III pics have been lost, and currently there's no facility to bulk-tag/label existing pics. Not that that matters much anyway, because the sets (sometimes called smartsets, how consistent is that?) facility can't find any tags/labels even if they are there, hence all my sets/smartsets are now shown as being empty. And if it did find pics according to tags/labels, the scope for use is limited - pics in sets/smartsets can only be sorted by "Awesomeness" (wtf?) or "Most Recent" (I've no idea whether that means "most-recently uploaded" or "most-recently taken", it's not explained), so if you wanted to organise them in a custom order, you're screwed. The good news is that you can have an unlimited number of these sets/smartsets. Wow, that's generous, you can have as many sets as you want.

EXIF data seems to be treated the same as tags/labels - in some cases it's been lost for existing pics, it's a game of chance as to whether the EXIF data makes it when uploading new pics.

The claimed ability to use the jUploadr bulk uploader is a joke, it no longer works properly for Zooomr (but it does work for Flickr), so this must be due to changes at the Zooomr end of things. Zooomr's own upload page is faulty too. It has a facility to assign tags/labels and privacy settings, but of the pics that make it through the upload process, (and many don't!), most lose their tags/labels and the resulting privacy level seems to be drawn from a hat, so they have to be checked and, if necessary, changed, after upload. Sometimes the changes don't stick, either.

The profile page doesn't work, so it's impossible to change account details such as email addresses. Even the simple things are broken, such as the facility to set an avatar for an account.

A new feature, Geotagging, doesn't work. Now, I know that the Earth still exists, so the geo bit must be fine. Hmmm, maybe it's the tagging bit that's FUBAR?

I could go on and on, the list of problems is much longer, but I don't have the time. If you're the remotest bit interested, you'll get more info on the Zooomr Blog and the Zooomr Mk III Launch Problems page. While you do that, I'll be preparing to send all my pics to a different hosting service.

No, I can no longer recommend Zooomr in it's current state of utter disarray, and I apologise to any that have taken up my previous "good faith" recommendations to use it.

Bloggers’ Meet, June 2007 – Part 4 – Sunday

Posted by on June 16th 2007 in Bloggers' Meet, Great Escapes, Wildcamping

As is pretty normal for me, I didn't sleep much. I snatched a few hours after midnight but woke briefly at about 3am. After a few minutes of taking in the starry sky I slept again until about 4:30am when Lay started taking down his tent. After that I dozed for another hour and then got up and out. Lay was gone but the others were all still snoring away happily.

The sun wasn't quite over the horizon so I made a brew and decided to go out for a circuit of the tarn to get some pics in the early light while the others were still asleep. The tarn was flat-calm for most of the time and the reflections of the sky and fells were impressive. At the head of the tarn I found a couple of good wildcamping spots away from the main track and with decent running water nearby. Rounding one of the moraines I disturbed a heron which was fishing in the shallows. Later in the morning we would sit and watch it being mobbed by some of the seagulls that were in residence at the other end of the tarn.

I completed the circuit to find that some of the others were up and about. Darren was still in his doss-bag so I started off a brew for him and let him finish the job himself. John didn't appear for some time, was it because he was pacing himself, or was he just fed up of our company? 🙂 Anyway, the conscious members of the group started where we had left off the night before... more chat and banter, more brews and food, more photos.

It didn't take long for the day to start to heat up, there were a few light clouds around but for the most part it was very hot. There was general agreement that we should retreat to the safety of the Miller Howe Cafe again, so we packed up, checked that our site was tidy and clean, then set off down Easedale towards Grasmere.

Grasmere was a hive of activity - the place was full of runners and spectators gathered for the "Grasmere Gallop", which is described as "7+ miles over roads, timber trails and footpaths around the spectacular scenery of Grasmere and Rydal lakes". I decided not to join in, as I had errantly left my plimsolls and lycra bodysuit at home, so instead I went for a fried breakfast and a decent cuppa, inside the cafe this time because the sun was just too hot outside and the crowds were hogging the pavement.

Then it was time to start saying our goodbyes, first to John, who was off to other parts of the district for the next few days, then to Duncan who was steeling himself for the long drive back up to Scotland. Darren and Dawn kindly gave me a lift back to my car where we parted company after Darren had been presented with a small token of our appreciation.

So it was back to the tarmac for the drive back home, taking back the memories of a great time spent in the good company of a new group of friends.


Lilies and reeds

Howes Ridge reflected

Morning haze

Returning through Easedale

So, now my tally of “Wainwrights” is 160 (not counting repeats), which leaves 54 still to do. I'll update the maps ASAP and do a post-trip roundup sometime soon.

Bloggers’ Meet, June 2007 – Part 3 – Saturday afternoon/evening

Posted by on June 15th 2007 in Bloggers' Meet, Great Escapes, Wildcamping

We pick up the story at the ever popular Miller Howe Cafe. The others were keen to be off up the Easedale path, but I was still taking on fluids after the exertions of the morning, so I stayed sat down for a while longer to sup up. Lay waited for me while the others went ahead, then we went off in pursuit of the others. It was a good opportunity for a chat about the new forum board and the ways that it could be developed.

Certainly the chinwagging helped the miles pass quicker - in what seemed like a very short time we had passed Brimmer Head Farm and had just got to the top of the first rise when we found Darren chilling in the shade of a tree aside Sourmilk Gill. Nobody was in any rush to be anywhere special, so we all sat there for ages recharging body and mind, there was a lot to talk about, and it was an idyllic place to linger. Many folk passed by on the way up, all were polite, some were appropriately dressed and kitted out, none of them looked as though they had been on an exercise bike or a rowing machine or similar such device.

Passing the waterfalls we found a group of folk that had just been skinny-dipping in the plunge-pool. Judging by the frantic pulling-on of clothes by the young ladies, I reckon we had got there just a couple of minutes too late to take pictures.

We carried on up and over the last rise to be met by a fantastic view of Easedale Tarn. This is an excellent place to come to see glacial features - moraines, tiered hanging-valleys, corrie-walls, scoured side-walls, glacial striations etc.. There was no sign of the others, but from where we were, we couldn't see the full length of the path as it weaved between moraines. There was a quiet spot a few hundred yards along the shore, so we sauntered over to it, dropped the packs and discussed our options for the evening. Darren seemed happy to stay in Easedale, I could have gone up to Codale but was so impressed with my surroundings that I decided to stay and keep Darren company, Lay seemed keen to go on up but he was concerned about Darren. Anyway, we lugged the kit over to a more secluded grassy flat-spot a bit further on, and got a brew on. Lay went off without his pack, I thought he was off on one of his photo-shoots until we saw him a long way off striding up towards Belles Knott on the way up to Codale.

We had some time to kill before we could pitch, so we lounged about taking in the scenery, took some pics and tried a bit of bouldering on a huge rock that reminded me of an elephant seal (vivid imagination required).

Eventually Lay returned - he had found the others up in Codale, and told us that they were coming back down (except for Geoff, who was happy to stay pitched there). We started pitching when we saw the others on the track down, and soon we were reunited and back into the campsite routine, then it was back to the banter, the cameras and the bouldering. The evening meals were accompanied by some in-depth chats about "current affairs", a short session of poetry-reading by Duncan, jokes about buffs (Darren was presented with one, a gift from Spiritburner, but he refused to try it on), and many opinions on many topics were aired. Duncan passed around the sake and the roasted seaweed - top stuff, that.

Darkness started to fall and one by one the others retired, leaving me and Duncan chatting away for a while longer, discussing matters of much import and trying to identify the features of the night sky, but eventually it was time for a final tick-check, ablutions and goodnights.

It had been a good day.

Lay and Darren


Rock in profile

Rays and reflections


Nearly finished - just one more part to come - hang in there!

Bloggers’ Meet, June 2007 – Part 2 – Saturday morning

Posted by on June 13th 2007 in Bloggers' Meet, Great Escapes, Wildcamping

The morning was bright with clear skies, there was a heavy dew which left the big red slug looking like it had been in a downpour. After checking inside for leaks and excess condensation (none were found), I took a few pics of the hills beyond Grasmere from inside the bivvy. Then the Jetboil was deployed for a brew while I wriggled out and finished dressing.

None of the others were awake, and all was silent except for their snoring and the whining of a lamb on the other side of the tarn, so I decided to go for a wander with the camera to get a few pics of the surrounding fells.

About an hour later, Lay emerged and strolled over through the damp grass to tell me that Duncan was pitched up next to him and was sound asleep.The lighting conditions and the misty layers in the valleys were making the surrounding fells look awesome, so we decided to gain a bit of height and take some pics from above the tarn, while discussing our objectives for the day. I had decided to go up to the top of Stone Arthur before the hike over to the pitch for the second night. Lay was leaving his decision until he had consulted the others.

Some time later the others started to regain consciousness and exit their shelters, so I started back down to them while Lay kindly volunteered to go higher up to scan for a route that contoured around from our pitch to Stone Arthur. When he returned to the camp to report no such route, we were well into breakfast.

After packing away the kit, I left the others and went off to tackle Stone Arthur while they broke camp and headed back down to the cafe in Grasmere. The absence of a contouring path meant losing a lot of height before getting to the slopes of Stone Arthur, and the sight of the steep bracken-clad lower slopes was daunting, not so much because of the gradient, but more because of the exposure to ticks.

Anyway, I dropped down the zigzag path from Alcock Tarn to a spot just above a small reservoir and found a path that followed Greenhead Gill up towards a large, impressive lone rowan tree (at the confluence of Rowantree Gill, would you believe?). From there I took a beeline up through the bracken and gained the main path up Stone Arthur a few hundred yards below the summit crags. The view from the summit cairn was impressive, my pics don't do it any justice at all. I could see two of our party just reaching the bottom of the zigzag path that I had descended earlier, so I set off in not-so-hot pursuit, as the sun was unrelenting and there was no breeze to aid cooling.

The lower reaches of the path back to Grasmere were in a bad state, but work had been started to repair it - alongside (and often in the middle of) the path there were many sacks full of local boulders, waiting for skilled hands to assemble them into a decent (if unnatural) rocky stairway. Right at the bottom of the path I found a sign informing passers-by of the rules and regs governing the use of off-road vehicles at Garburn Pass... err... nope, can't figure that one either.

A short while later I caught up with the others at the Miller Howe Cafe. After taking on food and fluids, we made ready for the afternoon walk up Easedale to the intended overnight spot at Codale Tarn.

The early morning view from the big red slug

Alcock Tarn from above

Helm Crag from Greenhead Gill

Looking back to Alcock Tarn from Stone Arthur


To be continued...

Bloggers’ Meet, June 2007 – Part 1 – Friday afternoon/evening

Posted by on June 12th 2007 in Bloggers' Meet, Great Escapes, Wildcamping

Friday afternoon... the normal dash up the A5 and the M6, confounding the speed-cameras and cursing at selfish drivers who persist in sitting in the middle or third lane doing 65 when the inside lane is devoid of traffic... why do they get irate when I go past them on their left? They are the ones that have the problem - just drive in the correct lane, you eejuts!

To be fair, the drive up was much better that usual, there were no roadworks, no hold-ups for accidents, no detours. Stopped off at the services for some grub, texted the others but only got an answer from John, who was in Kendal. I arranged to pick him up at Windermere railway station, so it was back to the tarmac and foot down to get to him asap.

When I got there, John had been joined by Geoff. Their kit was bundled in the back, handshakes were exchanged all round and off to Grasmere we went.

We dumped the car for a while next to the now-defunct Tourist Information Centre while we went off to get some bits of gear. While snacking again at the Miller Howe Cafe, Darren and Dawn arrived, more handshakes ensued then we were off to start the trudge up to Alcock Tarn.

As forecast, the weather has hot, sunny and settled, so the walk up was a sweaty affair, but it was worth it. We sat about for a while next to the tarn, waiting for the evening so that we could get pitched. After all was sorted, we spent the evening shooting the breeze, taking on carbs and wielding cameras. Some of the sadder attendees were caught doing some covert blogging!

The others retired early, but I stayed up to enjoy the scenery and the changing light. Lay arrived as the light was failing, after he had set up we both stood watch until about 11pm waiting for Duncan, but he was running a bit late so we retired. An hour later, Duncan arrived, but being a lazy git I stayed put in the big red slug, watching stars and satellites in a totally clear night sky for a long, long time. I managed to get an hour of sleep before the daylight returned.

Great Rigg from Alcock Tarn

Dusk over Grasmere

Jaggedy rocks

A lonely tree


Stay tuned for the next instalment - featuring the bit where BG goes up while the others slope off down to the cafe for breakfast!

A cracking good day out at Conkers

Posted by on June 11th 2007 in Great Escapes

As part of the celebrations for Ella's birthday last week, we took her and some of her friends to Conkers. As predicted, the assault-course was the favoured activity of the day despite the intense sunshine and oppressive heat, but we did manage to spend some time around the woodland walk and the other attractions, which have been improved since our last visit. We've resolved to go yet again, probably in October, to see the trees in their autumnal garb.

19 pics, click on any of the following to get started:


Anna on the traverse net


Building a log cabin


One of the many ponds and lakes


Looks fun, eh? Get there if you can - you won't regret it.

A good time was had by all

Posted by on June 4th 2007 in Great Escapes, YHA

At last, some time to catch up on here. First up: Okehampton YHA Family Activity Break...

We arrived on Monday afternoon after a fairly stress-free 200 mile drive, got installed in the hostel, then chilled out playing cards with the kids and mooching around the railway station:



After tea, the evening activity was a led-walk to a guided tour of the castle:



Tuesday morning started with full English breakfast followed by a session on the climbing wall:



After a buffet lunch we enjoyed a few hours of team-games, problem-solving activities and belting down the on-site assault-course (sorry, no pics from this).

After tea we went up on the moors for a night-walk, we stayed at the trigpoint above Okehampton until the moon rose and the sun went down:



Wednesday started with another full English which set us up for a half-day of archery, this was so much fun that there was no time for taking pics.

And that was that. We left wishing that we had booked for one more day, there were plenty more activities that we could have done if we had had the time. Still, there's always next year... I reckon I'll try gorge-scrambling and mountain-boarding next time.

25 pics, click on any of the four above to get started.

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