/ The Lost Art of Tramping
Hi there. I'm currently reading The Gentle Art of Tramping by Stephen Graham (highly recommended btw), which is essentially advice on hiking for relatively vast distances or for extended periods of time, without any dependency on social infrastructure of any kind (think travelling hermit) and how to truly savour this return to Nature. So I was wondering if anyone on here had any experiences of solo or accompanied backpacking trips that they would care to share. Bonus points for exotic places or sketchy situations.
Sorry, no tales to tell. But I have just started reading it on the Kindle after seeing your post. So a thanks for bringing it to my attention
No, but I have a plan hatching to head out of my front door (Derby) with a bivi bag and some basics and head West on foot for a week or two, see what happens.
Sounds great! If you do go through with it, it would be great if you could tell us how it went. Good luck
> No, but I have a plan hatching to head out of my front door (Derby) with a bivi bag and some basics and head West on foot for a week or two, see what happens.
I once did that from my front door in Derby, except I went round the whole Peak, anticlockwise, in 12 days. Everything I needed on my back. Spent about half the nights sleeping out (v wild around the northern edges and Bleaklow) and on the west side north of the Roaches; other nights in pubs and and couple of nights in B+Bs. It was really satisfying sitting back at the Dolphin Inn saying I'd been out of the door, crossed the Derwent once, and then walked a long way and come back to the same pub without crossing the river again and without getting my feet wet.
> It was really satisfying sitting back at the Dolphin Inn saying I'd been out of the door, crossed the Derwent once, and then walked a long way and come back to the same pub without crossing the river again and without getting my feet wet.
Oh, that's lovely. I've always been aware of the Derwent Watershed as a thing to walk from Ladybower, but I'd never thought of taking it almost to its logical conclusion.
As one who did the Pennine Way north to south, I feel compelled to ask what persuaded you to do your Derwent Walk widdershins?
I left home with £300 in my pocket, hitchhiked and walked to Madrid to see Picasso's Guernica. I walked and hitched to Toubkal in Morocco to climb it. I hitched across the Atlantic on boats to Carribean and then on banana boats around the islands and made some money on yachts for the super rich. I got a ride to Miami and hitched and walked to Alaska. It took me 6 months. I worked as a landscape gardiner in Arkansas and painted a motel in Aberdeen, Washington but didn't meet Kurt Cobain. I then hitched to New Mexico from Alaska and thought I would see South America. But by then I was away from home for over a year and was homesick. I hitched and walked to New York and took a plane for the first time. I came home with £300 in my pocket.
I don't think there should be bonus points for exotic places. Starting from the front door should be the norm.
In November 45 years ago, I walked into eastern Nepal with a couple of Gurkhas from the Indian army going home on leave. I then walked and walked until I emerged out onto the Terai in Spring the following year some considerable way further west.
I have just finished reading 'A Pennine journey' by Wainwright. It was written in 1938 and in terms of food and accommodation he just knocks on likely doors and asks if they will feed him or put him up for the night. On one occasion the answer was 'Yes, but I just have to move my daughter out'. An interesting insight into how times have changed.
I also read somewhere that 'Tramps' had a series of codes that they scratched into pavements to indicate the 'likelihood of a meal being available', 'don't try here' or even 'The back door is often open'
I always used to start my summer job a week late so I could walk home from university. Only Sheffield to Belper but a very nice walk if you go via Buxton. My Australian friends used to call it my "walkabout" but I never found Jenny Agutter swimming naked in Mermaids Pool.
> As one who did the Pennine Way north to south, I feel compelled to ask what persuaded you to do your Derwent Walk widdershins?
That’s a very interesting question. Primarily, because the route otherwise would have been anticlimactic. The gradual ascent up the eastern edges to Margery Hill and Bleaklow seemed the natural way to go; the descent to Roaches from Axe Edge was also very aesthetic, with the Roaches ahead and not behind you; and the final approach to Derby was unquestionably finer from the north-west direction.
But there was a deeper reason why it felt more natural. The whole subject of ‘widdershins’ is huge. Early man saw this as the ‘lucky’ way to go, because it followed what the sun and the planets (wanderers) do through year (cn. ‘sunwise’ during the day), i.e. travel eastwards (through the zodiac); just as the moon travels eastwards through the month. East to west movement in astronomy is regarded as ‘retrograde’. There is also a sense in which the whole universe is ‘left-handed’ (and assymmetric): called ‘chirality’ (examples: neutrinos are ‘left-handed, and life on earth almost exclusively uses ‘left-handed’ amino acids). I’m not a scientist but got most of this from one or two interesting books on the subject including one called ‘The Left Hand of Creation’ by Barrow and Silk.
It was the Romans who turned all this upside-down and gave ‘widdershins’ its present bad connotation. For example, races from time immemorial have always gone in an anti-clockwise direction, and it’s the way we still proceed in our ballrooms. But the Romans, who were very superstitious, said this was ’cursus contra solem’ and later the word for left, ‘sinister’, took on its present unlucky meaning.
But for me, there was a deep sense in which it felt right (well 'left'!) going widdershins on my 'Peak Grand Tour' because it was in accordance with ancient tradition.
Edit: As a lefty, it's nice to know who to blame for the anti left handed bias too.
This was the route I took:
> Hi there. I'm currently reading The Gentle Art of Tramping by Stephen Graham (highly recommended btw), which is essentially advice on hiking for relatively vast distances or for extended periods of time, without any dependency on social infrastructure of any kind (think travelling hermit) and how to truly savour this return to Nature. So I was wondering if anyone on here had any experiences of solo or accompanied backpacking trips that they would care to share. Bonus points for exotic places or sketchy situations.
I have done quite a few trips like this in mountains and plains of Iceland, Norway, Ukraine, Georgia, Turkey, Albania, Macedonia, and other Balcan countries as well as surrounding countries of (and) Czechia. Al least ten of them were alone. More or less irrational fear of wolves, bears and the unknown makes lone travel more intense.
It took me usually a few days to reorient myself to some kind of "slow time" when you don't solve the exact time or how many days you have your food for. Now, when I am older and perhaps more experienced it´s easier for me to switch off and just enjoy the jurney
Edit: I forgot to mention great three days between Kinlochewe and Dundonell...
Not wishing to be contradictory in any way but since you mention the word "sunwise" , I take this to be an apparent clockwise motion to the observer ( in the northern hemisphere, at least).
> Not wishing to be contradictory in any way but since you mention the word "sunwise" , I take this to be an apparent clockwise motion to the observer ( in the northern hemisphere, at least).
I meant that: the westward movement of the sun during the day, as seen in the northern hemisphere. The old term for it was 'deisiol' (or some such ... sorry, haven't looked it up) - the opposite of Widdershins. The Romans favoured that because they worshipped a sun god, as opposed to the Celts' worship of the moon goddess. Thus the importance they placed on the solstices, whereas the Celts were more interested in the full moon, and the equinoxes - they liked things in balance/'between', night = day etc.
Great word "deisiol" and new to me . Just googled it and the first hit was on a Celtic?Irish website which describes it as a popular orientation in those cultures ( or should I say circles). All extremely interesting to me, as was your walk. As a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Peak Park my brother ( a ranger) organised a guided walking tour of the park's perimeter using public footpaths closest to the boundary. Ashamed to say I only took part on the second and last days.
Not yet but I plan on doing this very soon! I want to travel extremely light which I think is doable now it’s summer. Just want to head south and see where I end up!
90 miles of the West Highland Way in 5 days with a tent on my backin 1986 is my limit but we did use local inns at the end of the days walking for hot food and beer before back to tent and spliff out in the stars. I have a couple of pals I'm determined to drag onto the WHW as it is very memorable.
> Great word "deisiol" and new to me . Just googled it and the first hit was on a Celtic?Irish website which describes it as a popular orientation in those cultures ( or should I say circles). All extremely interesting to me, as was your walk. As a commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Peak Park my brother ( a ranger) organised a guided walking tour of the park's perimeter using public footpaths closest to the boundary. Ashamed to say I only took part on the second and last days.
I think the main thing about any long walk like this is that you should 'invent' it for yourself. And absolutely not follow any guidebook. You have to base it on your own imagination and your reading about the place. Of course, a walk is much more interesting if you haven't walked much or any of it before.
Later comment: Sorry to say it, but to me 'The Pennine Way' sounds just so boring, the words themselves like great boring slabs ... such as the ones you find across the top of Kinder. Just trudging along this not very interesting line (the bits of it I happen to have done, confirm this prejudice) on an appallingly, but necessarily, over-engineered 'path'.
PS2. Bleaklow is utterly brilliant as a true wilderness area. Absolutely extraordinary for its proximity to Sheffield and Manchester. If my memory is correct, the route we took from the Grinah Stones to the Snake Pass Inn was very heavy going through heather, with absolutely NO footpath/s of any kind. Incredible.
There is something very good about walking without a defined plan.or route, its very settling.
Ive only really done it 2 times: first time was 2 weeks after I came out of the forces and I took a flight to Madrid and then walked through Spain ending in Cadiz. I did it to slow down and learn to walk slowly as I didn't know how to, I was so used to rushing from A to B......it really worked and I slowed down in every way possible. It was summer so very hot, especially in La Mancha but people were so warm, caring and hospitable, I have never forgotten them.
About 10 years ago I walked the Leeds-Liverpool canal over about 10 days, sleeping under bridges, it was a great trip and very relaxing. I met a great guy who was an old school tramp who had spent a lot of his life walking the canals of england, he'd spent a bit of time in psychiatric units he told me as his mood was unstable but walking kept him steady. I spent about half of my trip with him over the 10 days and he knew where to get a meal for free and said he never really had any money. I learned so much about life from him...
There is something very special about walking and spending time doing it without deadlines and schedules..
> There is something very good about walking without a defined plan.or route, its very settling.
What you are saying is so true. That is the essence of an adventure. You venture out, you don't know what's going to happen. (Another interpretation of the meaning of 'adventure' is that it's something that 'comes to' you.) On the essence of walking in the sense that you're talking about, I highly recommend Thoreau's classic little book 'Walking'.
> Check out:
Glad this has been mentioned. I first heard about Will and Ed when they were on Ramblings (Radio 4) in, I think, 2014. The original plan was to walk around Britain for ~6 months to survive by singing for food and accommodation. Such a wonderful idea which struck a real chord at the time (forgive the pun). I'm delighted to see they're still at it. I can recommend the music on the CD, a really haunting mix.
Just checked - it was 2009 on the radio and I bought the CD in 2010. God how time flies! Delighted they are still living the life.
It's probably old news to most people on here, but if you've got a couple of hours to spare and haven't seen it before then Hooks is well worth a watch:
It's basically an amiable beardy bloke doing a continuous 3000 mile walk from his home in Brighton to put an extra hook up in every (official) bothy in Britain, punctuated with little discussions of history, geology, wildlife and general musings on the experience of long-distance walking.
One comment in it that I found interesting - which seems relevant to this thread - is that in his experience of wandering around, the British culture of "get-off-my-land-ism" is getting ever weaker, and people, even in fairly heavily cultivated areas, are less and less bothered by the odd person dossing overnight in the corner of a field or on a patch of unused land.
I saw them at a folk night years ago and follow them on and off now.
I'm currently walking across the Caucasus, around 3500km from Armenia to Azerbaijan. I can't say I'm not relying on social infrastructure though, Caucasian hospitality makes this all but impossible! Without a doubt my favourite trail experience so far.
> This was the route I took:
Thank you Gordon.
I think ( health permitting)you should walk the PW and report back as to how boring you found it. It would make a good read.
High point of my trip was possibly dossing in an old lead mine entrance near the top of High Cup Nick, though meeting Hannah Hauxwell and being allowed to camp in her field came a close second. Biggest disappointment was arriving at Ponden Hall and finding that PJ Proby wasn't in residence, as I'd been led to believe, so we wouldn't be duetting West Side Story around my little Optimus.
Last day was Great Western (Standedge) to Edale and I could have done it with my eyes shut which is a good job because it was pissing it down all day and I opted for Wildboarclough rather than Torside.
My only night under a roof was in Alston and the rest was under a borrowed Robert Saunders tent. It took ten days and if I ever broke into a yawn, it wasn't out of boredom.
In an only slightly related tangent, my wife's grandfather, chap called Joseph Stamper, was once a tramp. He wrote a memoir about it, Less Than The Dust, which to my shame I haven't read.
Ok, tramp-related diversion over.
As I Walked Out One Midsummer's Morning by Harper Lee reminds me of the tone of this thread.
I find Cider With Rosie a little bit less laboured in it's writing though, I think it being described as having sparkly prose is very apt.
On a tramp/tramping related theme, I bought a book of collected stories by the Derbyshire Women's Institute (iirc the name correctly) looking back on their lives and childhoods from the last century and a little bit of the one before, and I get the impression that it was easier to exist as something of an itinerant wander back then than it is now, in going from farm to farm to do different jobs. It was probably easier to fall through the gaps in the system, too, until 2010 that is.
> As I Walked Out One Midsummer's Morning by Harper Lee
Laurie Lee. But yes, I agree.
I got home and needing money I was a hod carrier building the chimney stacks on the Dutch embassy off Hyde Park. I slept on the sofa of the son of a rich opera singer, orphaned at a young age. I walked and hitched to Berlin, three months after the wall came down. I fell in love in the forests of southern Germany but it wasn't to be. Then on to Prague and I climbed in the Tatras with a Check climber I met on the road. I saw my first classical concert in Budapest and worried about my ragged clothes. I starved for five days in Romania. I waited in a bread queue for two hours and they refused to feed me when I reached the counter. I filled up in the spring sunshine of Bulgaria. I hitched to Istanbul and on to Ankara. The Iranians would not give me a visa, because of the fatwa on Rushdie. I tried again but gave up and slept in a cave like an old Christian in Cappodecia. I hitched a boat to Cyprus and took a plane to India where I got sick and was robbed of all my money in a hotel in Josimat in the Himalayas. I was going to go over the high pass in the Karakoram to China and come back on the Trans - Siberian but got ill and fled for home.
> Laurie Lee. But yes, I agree.
Argh! Yes of course, Harper was a different kettle of fish entirely.
The tramping lifestyle has always been alive in Scotland and it was well documented by T Ratcliffe Barnett (No relation) in a series of books about his adventures in the early c20th. He is also notable for ministering to Wilfred Owen & Siegfried Sassoon whilst they were convalescing in Scotland, indeed he may have introduced them to each other. He was a classic Summer tramp - a reputable life in the city for most of the year but then a gentleman of the road for the rest. His books are full of an enthusiasm for the landscape and the occasional companionship of fellow travellers. 'Drumming up a brew' by the wayside is a frequent pleasure. Look him up.
Spent a year living in a van, surfing France, Spain and Portugal. It was easy. Apart from buying the van, it didn't cost much. No more than staying at home. Can get lonely at times though. The sea is nature just as much as a hill.
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