Staying closer to home

This year looks as though it’s going to be a particularly tough year for me, financially, for a few reasons – the main one being the purchase of a new car.

Sadly, the car I purchased in January turned out to have a good few problems with it, and as a result, I’ve so far spent about £450 on repairs (A dodgy calliper, rear discs and pads, a drop link, rear seat belts and a replacement parcel shelf – and I’ve still to fit the replacement seat belts!)

I’ve also got other general maintenance work to carry out on the car. As it has done more than 80,000 miles (It’s a 53 plate Mazda 323, 2l Sport, if anyone cares), it’s in need of a timing belt. It’s also had a bit of a hard life, so it’s due a full service and the oil sump is slightly corroded and leaking. Net result… this thing is a big drain on money. It’s also less economical in terms of fuel, which isn’t brilliant with increasing fuel prices.

As a result, I’ve decided that I’m going to try and stay a little bit closer to home this year. It just doesn’t make sense, financially, to be driving off to the highlands every weekend in the summer months.

I’ve walked the Lomond Hills to death, so will predominantly be avoiding them this year, which leaves, locally, the Ochil hills, Cleish Hills and the Pentland Hills.

I’ll be avoiding the Pentland Hills for the first part of the summer, while roadworks are in place for the replacement Forth crossing – that then leaves the Cleish Hills and Ochil Hills.

I’ve walked in both of these areas before, but I’ve never fully explored either of them. I’m hoping that between now and the end of the year, I’ll have covered them off (and the Pentlands) more or less totally, as I’m hoping to be out in the hills most weekends.

I do, however, get 1 long weekend a month (running Thurs – Sun), so I’ll likely use those to travel further afield, do a bit of proper backpacking in some of the wilder areas in Scotland, or simply to base myself at a hostel and bag a few hills. We’ll have to wait and see.

I’m also planning on walking the Great Glen Way in August, and have holidays for this, and I’ve got a week at the beginning of October, where I’ll be in Northumberland, so will explore some of the countryside in that area, too, particularly the Cheviot Hills.

I’m hoping that this’ll mean I still get out into areas which still feel wild and remote, without having to break the bank to do so.

I’m also going to try and avoid buying much in the way of gear this year (well, from now on – I’ve bought a wee bit too much over the winter as it is!), to try and save myself a bit of money. The only things I’m still looking to purchase are a new pair of walking shoes (I’m looking at the Anatom V1 shoes – yes, they’ve got a waterproof membrane, which can be a drawback, but with that exception, they look really good, particularly for their price) and I’m on the hunt for an odour resistant shirt, which is proving more than a bit of a challenge for a reasonable price. The ideal shirt seems to be the Haglöfs Salo Long-Sleeved Shirt, but at an RRP of £70, it’s a little prohibitive price-wise. Sadly, most shirts, though perfectly good, don’t seem to have any odour resisting abilities for multi-day hikes. My Mountain Hardwear Canyon shirt gets a bit pongy after just one or two days.

So, expect more walk reports from my local area in the coming months, and in terms of gear reviews, I’ll try and update the reviews I’ve already done, with more info, and add reviews of gear that I’ve already got, but not reviewed (such as the Canyon shirt, noted above)

This will all be starting in a couple of weeks. I’m not going hiking this weekend, as I’m working on Sunday, and I’ll be at the Outdoor Pursuits Scotland show on Saturday (I happened to win free tickets in a twitter give away!)

Next weekend would be my long weekend, but the car is going in for work on the Thursday and Friday, so I’ll be staying closer to home.

Effectively, this means that it’ll be May now, before I can really act on these plans, but hopefully I’ll still have plenty of time in the outdoors, with plenty of great experiences, both near and far, to come!

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