Sunny tinged with cold and wet is the most positive spin I can put on the last few weeks.  It feels as though we are already transitioning from summer to autumn, with dewy mornings and shortening evenings.  So it’s as well to think about adapting our walking kit accordingly.  Here’s some things to consider:

Walking shoes or boots?
Walking shoes and boots have been the prominent discussion point on my recent walks, especially as some of you are feeling that the tread on your current footwear isn’t now sturdy enough.  It’s always a tricky balance between flexibility and support and there are a multitude of variables. Walking shoes are generally lighter and more flexible than boots which suits our Nordic walking style but there are some down sides. 

  1. The tread isn’t as sturdy so you may find yourself slipping and sliding in the muddy sections that are starting to develop.  Having said that, I was fascinated by the vast difference in the type and depth of tread of the shoes worn by my Tuesday and Saturday walkers the other week.  So much so that I recorded it!  Click here to take a look. 
  2. The degree of water resistance seems to be worse in walking shoes than boots, even when both are supposedly waterproof.  Maybe their greater flexibility compromises the gortex (or equivalent) membrane more quickly.  In any event, now that we have dew-wet grass in the mornings keeping my feet dry has become a priority for an enjoyable walk.  I have re-proofed by Salomon GTX shoes but am about to buy some leather walking shoes as a comfort and durability comparison. 
  3. Walking shoes are cut beneath the ankle so provide less support than walking boots.  There comes a time when it’s wise to switch from shoes to boots to get the extra support in mucky conditions.  I’m still hanging on in there with my shoes but will probably start to switch between those and my boots depending on the conditions on the day.  There is a mid-way option – a short walking boot – which quite a few of you favour.  It’s more sturdy than a shoe but more flexible and cooler than a boot.  Choices, choices…

Waterproof socks
To avoid the leaky footwear conundrum, I know many of you simply wear waterproof socks.  This seems to work well, especially when coupled with a sock liner.  There are plenty to choose from and all the Bristol outdoor shops stock them.  You have to wash them with special detergent to maintain their waterproof capability. 

Unless you are wearing mid-calf or above trousers/leggings, the bottoms of your trousers will almost certainly be getting soggy.  This then makes your socks and consequently your feet wet.  I highly rate gaiters, especially at this time of the year.  Read my blog How to deal with squelchy feet and soggy bottoms to find out more.

Waterproof trousers
Always useful.  I’ve had mine out quite a few times recently.  I wear the Berghaus Paclite over leggings so I don’t overheat.  They are light, very breathable, and fold into their carry net so take up very little space.  Patagonia do something similar.  Many of you have waterproof trousers which are also excellent but too hot for me at this time of the year.

It’s still pretty warm so I’m sticking with my usual technical T, taking either a soft-shell jacket or a thin waterproof rolled up in my backpack if it feels cold/looks wet.  I always buy breathable jackets and there are some good end of summer bargains to be had at the moment.


Penny Nettlefield reports on the St Oswald’s Trail

I am extremely envious of the magnificent trail walks some of you have been walking recently.  Penny and her husband have just come back from the St Oswald's Way in Northumberland and she kindly wrote a brief report for me.  I absolutely want to do this trail one day, although hopefully in slightly drier conditions than the ones Penny experienced!  Here's her account: 

"There could hardly have been a more magical start to a long-distance walk, we followed guide-poles to cross the exposed tidal sands of the Pilgrim’s Way to the eerie sound of plaintive calls from the nearby seal colony.  This was the beginning of St Oswald’s Way in Northumberland which runs for 97 miles from Holy Island (also known as Lindisfarne) southwards and then westwards to finish at a small church at Heavenfield on Hadrian’s Wall.
This is a glorious walk through undulating, quiet countryside – farmland, moor and forest – and also down the magnificent coast of vast beaches, rocky outcrops and the stunning cliff-top castles of Bamburgh and Dunstonburgh.
I joined Bristol Nordic Walking just over 2 years ago with the main aim of keeping fit for walking holidays.  However, I’ve become rather addicted so I packed my NW travel poles and found that the terrain of St Oswald’s Way was often perfect for putting in some good NW practice. Our stretches along the wide-open beaches often had me striding along effortlessly with poor Husband trailing behind with mere trekking poles, they just don’t work in the same way…….  Although St Oswald’s isn’t a vertically challenging walk, the distances were an excellent challenge, we walked over 10 miles every day and found our 18 mile day demanding – thank heavens for those trusty poles.
Although I really loved the walk, I must say that the weather this July was rather grim, lots of rain and it was pretty windy too.  However, the B&Bs we stayed at, and the coffee shops we took refuge in, didn’t flinch at our rain-drenched state and we were welcomed in with generous Northumbrian hospitality!  It was a wonderful seven-day walk."

Penny Brohn's stomp for cancer

Finally, I just want to mention a fundraising event that Penny Brohn are putting on as it's one that would be perfect for all us Nordic walkers.  It's called Bristol Stomps for Cancer and is a mostly flat six mile walk from Millenium square to Penny Brohn HQ in Pill.  The walk runs the full length of the Avon gorge towpath.  There's water and snacks at Penny Brohn on arrival plus free transport back into town afterwards.  It's on Saturday 23rd September 10am.  Sadly I am away but I would highly recommend this event, expecially if you've never had occasion to visit the beautiful house and gardens that Penny Brohn is set in.  Click here for further details and to book.