Apr 11

Working for a canadian telecoms company

This is a repost from another site I frequent. I laughed when I was at my desk at this so had to share it.

"Working For A Canadian Telecoms Company

We had a global video-conference call with the Asia/Pacific team (all Ozzies), the Europeans (my team) and the Americas (all Yanks). We were doing the introductions when the boss introduced me.

"And this is Legless. He's from the North-East, near the Scottish border"

One of the Yanks chimed in:

"Scotland? I love Scotch whiskey! Could you bring me a couple of bottles over when you're next over here?"

"No problem" I said "But is it OK if I filter it through my kidneys first?"

Europeans and Ozzies cracked up. Americans look confused.

"Yeah - that would be fine. Just as long as it gets here."


-- Brilliant, Dave

Apr 11

Sphagnum moss for water purification

I've been doing a bit of research on Sphagnum Moss and it appears to have iodine in it's chemical make up. In the US, they are using Sphagnum moss as a water purification method with spa's and swimming pools instead of using Chlorine. In WW1, the Russian doctors used it to treat wounds, the wounds treated with the moss healed faster than wounds that were simply bandaged.

After wading through god knows how many research papers and what not, I've come to a conclusion....

Sphagnum Moss can kill off bad bacteria due to the iodine present.

Now comes the biggie... does it kill off enough bacteria to make unsafe water, safe? To be honest no one seems to have researched that.

I think that if you got some moss, bruised it up and let the water sit in it for, say, 15 minutes, the iodine would make the water safe to drink, all you would need to do after is filter it to get rid of the floaty bits.

Mar 11

Wild Camping Weekend 2013

This short wild camping expedition to Loch Laggan will take us around one of mainland Scotland's most rugged and inspiring wilderness areas. The trip will include an ascent of one or more of the many 3000ft mountains surrounding the campsite on the shores of Lochan na H-Earba as well as exploring the forest of Dunkeld.

The area between Loch Laggan in the north and Loch Ericht in the south is a great tract of upland wilderness with no roads and few tracks containing numerous munros, lochans, mountain rivers and streams. Wildlife is plentiful especially grouse, mountain hares and deer and being situated in the central highlands the views are vast, stunning and 360° panoramic. We will be leaving urban life and modern comforts behind - the only way to experience and appreciate wild Scotland at its most glorious!

Day-by-day plan:

Day 1: Lochan an h-Earba. We will be heading via Newtonmore to Loch Laggan. On arrival at Laggan, we will walk for an hour along easy tracks to the shores of Lochan an h-Earba where we will set up the first nights camp.

Day 2: Geal Charn. After breakfast, we will head up the shapely munro Creag Pitridh (924m/3031ft) before heading over to the higher Geal Charn (1049m/3442ft) which has wide ranging views over much of the central and eastern highlands. If the weather is good we will descend to the lochan for a bracing swim before dinner at our campsite.

Day 3: Loch Laggan. Our final day will be spent either heading up Beinn a Chlachair (1087m/3566ft) or exploring Ardvreckie Forest before breaking camp and descending back to Loch Laggan. On the way home, time will be spent looking around Dunkeld and the tallest trees in Scotland at the Hermitage before having a post-trip meal and heading back to Glasgow in the evening.

A full report with pictures will be posted later.

Jun 10

Wilderness Camping - Isle of Arran

In a couple of months, I'll be packing up my camping gear and heading to the Isle of Arran just off the West coast of Scotland for some back to basics camping combined with some serious hillwalking. Arran is an incredibly varied island and I believe it is one I have neglected over the years. I've been spending time planning my route, equipment list, camp menu etc. I'll be taking some photos and maybe even creating some videos when I'm there to document my trip.

May 10

7th Paisley JNI Scouts in Inchmurrin, 1975

I discovered an old video posted by Gordon Barr, the son of my old Scout leader, John TK Barr (Ian) from a scout camp in Inchmurrin, just off Loch Lomond in Scotland. I wasn't there (I would have been only a few weeks old at this point), but I do recognise some of the leaders (love those glasses Roger) who are still there to this day.

1975 Scout Camp - Inchmurrin from Gordon Barr on Vimeo.

The video was created in 1975 by Ian who was an avid film maker and has made several films over the years. I think it's interesting to look at these videos and realise how much Scouting has changed over the years. I hope some old members of 7th Paisley JNI Scouts will look at this video and maybe bring back some long forgotten memories. Thanks to Gordon for posting this.

May 10

Scouts & Activities

I've been involved now with the 30th Southwark Scout Group in London for a couple of years now.  We meet on Monday nights and usually about Thursday/Friday on the week before I start my research on activities and games for the group to do.  I'm always trying to find unique games for the children to play as these tend to be more fun and original.  Some of the activities I have suggested have been taken from my days as a scout in the 7th Paisley JNI Scout Group and I always remember them as great fun and a really good way to get to know your fellow scouts.   I've made up a list of so many games now that I feel I need to find a better way to organise them, so I'm going to print them all out on cards and store them in a card file box and then, maybe on troop nights, we can ask one of the children to randomly pick a game from the box and that's the one we'll play.

So.  Here are some examples of the games our children play...

Dodge ball - This one is always a winner and the children seem to love it.  But maybe a variation on the game, such as the leaders stand at one side of the hall and the children on the other.  The children have to make it from one side of the hall to the other without getting hit by any of the balls the leaders are throwing at them.  Once they make it, they're safe, however, if they don't...they have to join the leaders and try to get the other kids out.

Doodle Bug - We haven't played this one yet, but I think it would be a great game.  I'm sure I remember playing this when I was a Scout.  Take 2 staffs and put them on one side of the hall.  Have the scouts line up on the other side of the hall in 2 single file rows.  Now, the patrol leader has to run up the other side of the hall, grab the staff, run back down the hall with the staff held horizontally at chest height and run past the scouts to the end of the line whilst the rest of the scouts have to duck to avoid being hit by the staff.  The leader then continues round the other side of the scouts with the staff held below waist level and each scout has to jump to avoid being tripped up by the staff.  The leader then runs back to the other end of the hall and places the staff at the start point, run back to the scout, taps the next person in the row who then continues in the same manner and then runs back to the back of the queue.  This continues until every scouts has had a turn.

Sheep Sheering - We've not played this yet, but we plan to introduce it soon.  You need some printouts from the Scout Associations Programmes Online for this.  Make several printouts of sheep, place them at the end of the hall with some scissors.  The scouts then form 2 single file lines at the other end of the hall.  When the leader shouts GO, the scouts run up to the printouts, takes the first one and, as neat as possible, cuts round the sheep with the scissors.  The scout then runs back to the front of the line.  The leader then checks the cut-outs.  Any cuts  into the sheep and not the fleece is an injury to the sheep and is marked with a red marker and any spare paper is considered bad sheering and loses points   It's a race.  First one to complete is the winner.

It's great fun devising games for the kids to play.  I'm really trying hard to ensure that the children have the same amount of fun as I had in the Scouts when I was young.

May 10

Hillwalking/Rambling Basics & looking after the countryside

My friend and I were in Litten, Yorkshire over the weekend to do a 16-mile hike across the Yorkshire Dales.  I'll post a full description later as I just want to highlight a couple of things I noticed on this walk just now.  Our walk takes in one of Yorkshire's famous 3 peaks known as Pen-y-ghent and we started our walk from the charming village known as Litten.  This is a very popular walk and we passed a number of walkers who were 'doing Pen-y-ghent'.  I noticed a lot of the walkers were very poorly dressed and ill-prepared for a walk such as this.  A lot of them had chosen to wear trainers on this steep climb and one person at the top of the hill complained about sore ankles and then blamed the amount of sugar he had consumed during the walk for his sore ankles.  He didn't blame the fact that this is quite a steep climb and he was wearing trainers.  Also, the state of the popular path and the top of the hill was a disgrace with crisp packets, empty bottles and banana skins and apple cores all over the place.  There is really no excuse for this.  The countryside is a place of beauty and peace and shouldn't be ruined by lazy or ignorant walkers throwing their rubbish onto the path instead of storing it and disposing of it properly.  Also, despite what some people may say, I cannot over-emphasise the need for proper walking boots when out on the hills.  The boots give your ankles support and help avoid sore and twisted ankles.  Also, a good pair of woollen hiking socks is always a must as this takes the sweat away from your feet and helps avoid blisters.  I always end up packing a little too much in my backpack but I like to be prepared for any eventuality so ensure you have some waterproof gear (jacket/trousers/gaiters), woolly hat and gloves.  A small packed lunch and some water is good.  I always take a small pack of tablet (a sugary Scottish snack) with me.  Avoid fizzy drinks as this can make you feel ill later as your walk becomes more strenuous.  A lot of walkers take walking sticks with them.  These are useful on long steep walks, but for an easy Sunday stroll, I would say they are not required.

Happy walking and keep safe.

Apr 10

Scout numbers are up!

I was reading on various news websites and the national newspapers that Scouting numbers are up.  This is great news.  The results of the 2010 census are in and the number of young people in Scouting has increased to 499,323.  This is also the greatest increase in numbers in 38 years.  Also, the number of adults becoming involved in scouting is also up.  As always, however, there is always a need for more leaders as there are 33,500 young people still on the waiting lists...so get involved.

Read the full story here

It's always encouraging to see the media looking to the Scout Association in a positive manner again which is good as there has been somewhat negative views of the scouts for various reasons over the past number of years.  Also, our new Chief Scout Bear Grylls is also mentioned.

Apr 10

Gordale Scar - North Yorkshire

The Gordale Scar was formed at the end of the last ice age when melt water from glaciers carved its way through the landscape resulting in this dramatic limestone ravine. It's in located near Malham in North Yorkshire.

When I first heard about the Gordale Scar, I was a young cub scout in my hometown of Paisley. I had a picture of it a book and I was very much in awe of it. Being so young, the Scar seemed a 1000 miles away from my hometown and 25 years would pass before I even thought about climbing it.

The Gordale Scar is a large limestone formation in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales. Several theories exist on it's formation which range from it being a large cavern that collapsed thousands of years ago to the devastation caused by the receding ice waters from the last ice age carving it's way through the Yorkshire landscape. I personally don't know how it was formed, only that there must have been some major event that caused this dramatic landscape to form.

The walk takes in the awe inspiring Gordale Scar, the peaceful Malham Tarn and the impressive limestone scar at Malham cove.

The small village of Malhalm in the Yorkshire Dales in the starting point for our walk to the Gordale Scar.

We drove from the City of York after our train journey from London Kings Cross. It was a perfect time of year to visit as there was still a bit of a chill in the air and the hills were capped with remnants of snow. Thankfully, I had checked the weather beforehand, so we were promised a good dry day, although the sky did look threatening.

We arrived at Malham, changed into our walking gear and started on our journey towards the Gordale Scar. We walked upstream away from the village next to Gordale Beck, through Webder Wood and eventually reaching Janet's Foss.

We made an odd discovery on our way through the woods. Some previous hikers had pushed coins into the surrounding trees. There were literaly 100's of coins pushed deep into the trees. I don't know the basis for this custom, but I'm sure it can't do the trees any good.

We reached the Janet's Foss which is in an enchanting setting. In the spring and summer, this place will be bursting in colour. One can almost imagine this place immersed in deep mythology and I can imagine that people in our past have created some long forgotten myths and legends based on this place. We relax here for sometime as we prepare ourselves for leaving the wood and Janet's Foss behind us and we enter into a landscape which is drastically different from any previous location.

We emerge from the woods into the dramatic entrance to the Gordale Scar. I feel some trepidation and awe when I look upon this limestone formation. The feeling felt by walking through the quaint and enchanting woods with it's many lush greens and suddenly exiting and looking upon this limestone wonder is hard to describe. As we walked across the

Gordale Bridge, the landscape became less and less colourful and a feeling of foreboding comes over me. The Gordale Scar is a huge gorge with near vertical sides and over 100 metres high (330ft). Gordale Beck flows through a cave at the top and plummets down a chasm. Further on you eventually find your way blocked by a large waterfall over which plunges the Gordale Beck. The best way to climb up the waterfall is to navigate your way up centre-left. There are plenty of hand-holds for you to pull yourself up, but be careful as the water does make this cimb quite slippery. There is also a route up the right hand side of the waterfall, however, there are less handholds and seemed quite dangerous to me. When I reached the top, I looked down and was quite shocked when I looked down and realised how high this waterfall actually was. At the top, we met another walker who was heading the same route as us, so we had good company as we continued our walk towards Malhalm Tarn.

Once you pass this obstacle, scree and boulders lead up left around a corner, passing a little waterfall coming out of a hole in a rock curtain above you to your right. You then break out through a drystone wall heading out along a smooth grassy track towards Malham Tarn. We continued on the road until we reached to a small clump of trees and head ed left just before we passed the trees. We then reached Malham Tarn. This was a good refreshments/lunch break and we sat, chatted with our new friend and ate our lunch. If you have went through the gate on your way to Malhalm Tarn, you will have noticed the sign heading the opposite direction to Malhalm Cove. We returned through the gate and followed the sign across grassland. The further we walked, the more I noticed that the grass was becoming less and less and more patches of limestone started to appear. The path soon went into the narrow grass valley. We passed an interesting cave on the left hand side which will be worth a look next time we visit the Gordale Scar in the spring/summer, but as the light was fading, we decided against the short scramble to the cave.

We continued onwards and soon we passed through a tiny gate atop a stile. We now found ourselves atop the famous limestone pavements above Malhalm Cove. There is some good exploring to be done here and some vertigo-inducing views to look down. It was almost totally dark now and our torches were beginning to fail, so we had to be careful as one slip could have resulted in a twisted ankle, or even broken bones. We descended into the valley below via a path after the limestone pavements. Once you're in the lower valley, you can turn around and explore the bottom of Malhalm Cove which is popular for rock climbers. We'll probably do this later in the year when the nights are lighter.

This is an ideal walk for youth groups and is recommended for older scouts and explorer scouts as it can encompass a lot of various subjects such as map reading, compass reading, rock climbing and it is a very good walk for young people and scouts to practice their hillwalking skills.

We then enjoyed a peaceful walk back to Malham and enjoyed a couple of pints of real ale and the local pub with our new walking companion.

Please view the gallery from thiis walk on Mobile Me by clicking here.

Feb 10

Walk - Windsor to Marlow

Marlow is set in arguably the most beautiful stretch of the Thames Valley. The wooded slopes of the Winter Hill rise on the opposite bank as you reach the town and there are views of grand homes starting with the grandest of all, Windsor Castle. We started off from the Eton & Riverside station on a bright Saturday morning in January. Windsor seems like a very nice and picturesque place with brief views of Windsor Castle towards the area of parkland which would be the start of our walk to Marlow. There are an abundance of swans on the river and families on days out throw bread for them. We continue our walk to the outskirts of town and cross a small but pretty pedestrianised bridge. We now continue past the boat houses to reach some riverside meadows. The Windsor racecourse is on the right handside and seems to go on for miles, continuing as we pass Boveney Lock. The Lock is well maintained with well maintained gardens and even a little flower pot man by the footbridge over the lock.

The path became increasingly tree-lined as we continued, and as the racecourse was left behind Windsor Marina and the magnificent Oakley Court became visible across the river. This was replaced with what must be some fairly expensive riverside houses, but all the time the path remains in trees. Soon the noise of the M4 starts to intrude our walk, and soon we are passing under this large steel structure to approach Bray Lock.

It was nighttime at this point and the sky was clear with a full moon illuminating everything. Soon, a road was joined with some houses to the right, and then one of the highlights for me of the entire walk of the Thames Path came into view - Brunel's Sonning Arch that carries the Great Western main line over the river in two arches. This bridge is still the lowest, flattest brick arch in the world, and carries far heavier trains at far greater speeds than when it was first constructed nearly 170 years ago. We soon reached Maidenhead bridge, which carries the old A4 over the river. This bridge, despite being less than a century older than Brunel's railway bridge, is of an entirely different generation, with a series of small stone arches carrying the road over the river. It is a pretty bridge, but details well how much Brunel pushed the engineering of his time, and indeed how fast civil engineering was progressing in the early nineteenth century.

A long road walk followed northwards alongside the river, with some fairly pleasant views over the river. Before long we passed by the bustling Boulter Lock, next to which in the middle of the river is Ray Mill Island.

Shortly after the lock the path thankfully left the road and headed along a path behind houses, with some pleasant view across the river. The houses were soon left behind and a rough path continued along the riverside for about a mile, and just after the boathouses at Cliveden on the other side of the river were reached the path left the river to had inland towards Cookham. Cliveden, now a hotel, is best known as being the scene of the Profumo scandal in the sixties, and apparently the riverside cottages was heavily involved.

We reached Marlow and stayed in the Crowne Plaza hotel for the night and headed back to London the next day.

Our next walk will be in the Yorkshire Dales to explore the Gordale Scar on Saturday 26th February. Keep a look out for the report on that one. This is an area I have dreamed of exploring ever since I was a young boy.

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