10 Country Walks Less than an Hour from Central London

January 16, 2013 § 1 Comment

While London may an awesome city to set up camp in, those living in the Big Smoke’s urban sprawl may sometimes find they yearn for the opportunity to escape to the country, if only for a hipster-free afternoon of mud and cheaper beer in country pubs. Here’s a quick guide to 10 walks that are easily accessible from the capital:


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Desperately Seeking Adventure!

November 17, 2012 § Leave a comment

I think I may have found the perfect travel company for girls outdoors.

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REVIEW: Hi-Tec Lynx Trail mid women’s boots

October 30, 2012 § Leave a comment

I like post. Especially when it’s a box containing a lovely new pair of Hi-Tec Lynx trail hiking boots (£54.00) from the very nice people at Go Outdoors. My new boots are a pretty dove grey and they are all soft and suedey. But are they as comfy as they look?

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LOCATION GUIDE: Walking Lapland’s Pieni Karhunkierros trail

September 1, 2011 Comments Off on LOCATION GUIDE: Walking Lapland’s Pieni Karhunkierros trail

It doesn’t get much more authentically Finnish than waking up in Lapland in a cosy log cabin overlooking a misty lake in the middle of nowhere, having a breakfast of rye porridge, salmon and cheese and heading off for a walk along the attractively named Small Bear’s trail, the 12km Pieni Karhunkierros.

The path in the Oulanka National Park snakes over winding wooden boardwalks, three rickety rope bridges stretched across rushing waterfalls and down seemingly endless stairs built into steep hillsides. On the four-hour walk we stood on the edge of enormous canyons, dipped our feet in lakes and caught glimpses of the cold black Kitkajoki river through the trees.

As we trekked, we watched for the green and orange markers, painted at intervals along the way. Our lovely guides Janne, Andri and Johannes had informed us that it is very easy to wander off the beaten path along a tiny trail and find yourself alone in the wilderness, at the mercy of bears and moose and with only cloudberries for nourishment. So we kept an eye on the markers and nervously scanned the forest for moose-like shapes, which was not easy as a certain South African and a certain Frenchman in our group decided to hide behind trees making disturbing reindeer-like “aruuuuga!” noises at intervals. Thanks guys.

The air was heavy and humid but the going was mainly flat, so we weren’t too exhausted when we eventually arrived in a secluded little clearing, where open-air shelters and a Sami teepee were arranged around a big fireplace. Our guides lit a fire and served us a traditional Lappish lunch: salmon soup with cream, followed by coffee made in black pots on the fire, eaten with spicy sugar bread. Food and a rest after four hours of trekking is one of the best things in the world, so it didn’t seem like things could be improved upon – until we looked up and saw a reindeer in a bright red collar and her baby watching us curiously from the top of the hill, like a scene from a Lappish folk painting.

We stayed in two gorgeous log cabins at Rukan Salonki.
Information on walking the Pieni Karhunkierros trail.

xx Sian

Guest Blog: Nuuksio National Park by Karina Kold

August 16, 2011 § Leave a comment

It doesn’t get much more beautiful than Finland’s Nuuksio National Park, which may be only an hour from central Helsinki but feels like a million miles away in both space and time. Unspoilt and untouched, the semi-wilderness stretches for miles – glassy lakes, springy moss, tiny log huts with open wooden fires, blueberries underfoot. The lovely Karina Kold, who ventured into the forest with me and 18 other student journalists, wrote this fantastic blog about our adventures and kindly said I could post it here.

Nuuksio National Park – tall trees, lovely lakes and blue vitamin bombs

Welcome to Nuuksio National Park, its beautiful lakes and delicious blueberries! On the second day of FCP 2011 we all put on our hiking shoes and went into the wilderness.
Conveniently for nature lovers Nuuksio is only half an hour driving away from the city centre. Its landscape is formed by the Ice Age with rocky hilltops and is dotted with dozens of lovely lakes. In Finland it is free for everyone to fish, pick berries and mushrooms in the forest. No wonder that Nuuksio has over 200.000 visitors a year.

The participants of FCP 2011 is a chatty group and the hike was an excellent opportunity to get to know each other while breathing in the fresh air and admiring the lakes as they peacefully reflected the sky like a mirror. Now and then we stopped to listen to our guide Pekka Väänänen from Green Window who told us he might have gone a “bit strange” after all the time he had spent in the forest.

After some hours of hiking and a nice dinner in a wooden tipi-shaped house it was time for our first Finnish sauna experience. I dare say it was a hit heating up our bodies in the sauna, running to the jetty and jumping in the fresh lake. Screams of joy echoed in the forest of Nuuksio.

The last forest task of the day was to tell a tree our biggest worry while hugging it. Pekka Väänänen instructed us in this Finnish tradition. Everybody picked their own tree and with forehead bend to the trunk and eyes closed we shared a worry with a Finnish tree and said kindly goodbye to Nuuksio National Park.

Kiitos! – Karina Kold

You can read the rest of our blog posts about Finland on the Finnish Foreign Ministry’s website.

REVIEW: Gelert Wilderness 55 Litre Rucksack

August 6, 2011 § 4 Comments

The Girl Outdoors has been a bit quiet recently, mainly because the only downfall of actually being out and about outdoors is a lack of internet connection on remote beaches or in pineforests. Now that I am back in civilization and in posession of a laptop and WIFI I can actually start blogging about said beaches and forests, namely in Nova Scotia and Finland, starting with a review of the bit of equipment that actually got all my stuff from place to place – my gorgeous new Gelert 55l rucksack, courtesy of the friendly people at Outdoor Look (£48.15). The Gelert Wilderness is one of those backpacks that looks great and allows you to laugh at people with wheelie suitcases in a hardcore traveller kind of way, but does it do the job as well as look the part?

The product description:

“The Wilderness range of Rucksacks are a highly versatile range of performance bags which have been designed to provide you with the best fit and functionality for all the uses you would expect from a backpacking range. This rucksack has a Cool Air Design for cool back comfort, padded adjustable waist belt with additional lumbar support and pull forward hip belt adjustment. Made from P600D Honeycomb Ripstop / P600D Ballistic material. A great rucksack for all you outdoor enthusiasts..”

Test 1: Packing a month’s worth of stuff for Finland
When packing stuff the 55l is a perfect space – you can get a surprising amount of balled-up clothes in and there are handy pockets scattered everywhere, including some plastic ones for liquids. The Wilderness was a godsend when I had to figure out how to take 30 days worth of casual and smart clothes and all-weather gear into one bag. It’s incredibly easy to pack, and it really is quite impressive quite how much volume can get pushed into it and still be carriable.

Test 2: Hiking in Canada
By far the best factor about the Wilderness was how cool it was to wear – the mesh padding wicks away sweat, even somewhere as muggy and mosquito-ridden as a Nova Scotian lake. The top pocket of the bag has a handy waterproof cover stowed away that takes a minute or two to put on but protects effectively. The whole thing is very comfy and feels like it molds to your back, and the hip supports stop you feeling too top-heavy.

Test 3: Travelling about on planes and trains
Besides knocking a confused Thai woman over on the tube (it takes a while to get used to the fact that you represent twice your usual body mass when strapped into a big backpack), the Wilderness was great for travelling. I took a rush-hour underground train and then wandered around the airport pretty contentedly: the straps feel secure and flexible, the rigid back of the backpack doesn’t dig in when leaning forward or moving about and the weight feels well distributed, especially when the waist straps are done up too. The only issue I really noticed was that when picking up and putting the Wilderness down often (for check in or getting on and off trains, etc) it’s easy to be lazy and hoist it onto one shoulder. By the time I got to Helsinki I’d managed to cut and bruise my left shoulder due to the weight. Best to be careful and always make sure it’s on properly and that the waist belt is done up to distribute weight evenly.

A fantastic backpack for a decent price. Great for hiking in hot countries, as its breathable mesh really works and the straps and back support are very comfortable. When used properly it distributes weight really well, and it looks nice too (never a bad thing).

xx Sian

Spectacular Snowdonia: a photo blog

April 19, 2011 § 1 Comment

It’s been a few weeks since a crack team of 13 of outdoor enthusiasts decided to take on the mighty Snowdon. I swear my legs still ache.

Housemates Flo, Leo and I managed to organise ourselves enough to leave Cardiff at 6am, armed with the results of our over-enthusiastic Tesco shop the night before. Carbs and fat featured heavily. So heavily, in fact, that we were all feeling pretty sick about an hour in, having gorged on rolls of the chocolate and sausage kind, washed down with coffee. It took four hours to drive to the national park, which turned out to be a lovely journey as there’s no motorway – we spent the entire journey cooing at pretty little cottages, lambs gambolling in fields and the occasional deep blue lake, all good excuses to get out of Flo’s tiny weeny car and stretch.

After parking at the visitor centre at Llanberis, at the foot of Snowdon, we set off. For the first few hours the peak wasn’t visible, instilling me with a false sense of ease that soon faded when I realised that around every corner was another huge valley, usually with a freezing-looking lake glistening at the bottom.

The path wound around the edges of the valleys and eventually we came face to face with the peak. Well, we would have if it hadn’t been shrouded in cloud and spotted with snow in places. It looked scary. Flo tried to keep me going with regular breaks for Tunnocks wafers (food of the gods) but I had to work hard not to whine like a tired toddler.

It was all worth it when we (finally) got to the peak, where the clouds had dispersed enough to give us a beautiful view over the valleys. Except for the black road snaking through the hills in the distance we could have been looking out on a medieval landscape. We toasted the peak with, err, chicken drumsticks, because we were starving, and got ready to walk back down.

The walk down turned out to be a lot harder than the ascent – we were tired, there was no peak to aim at and the steep downward angle jarred our kneecaps. Luckily Flo, Liam and I figured out that loudly singing musical numbers and Disney medleys (which Liam turned out to know all the words to) was an ideal distraction, and we finally got back to the village, where we managed to drag ourselves to the pub and collapse on sofas.

We stayed in a bunkhouse on a lovely little farm with comfy beds, a big kitchen, a little hut with a fire in it and, my personal highlight, the friendliest cat in the world ever. Oh, and some chickens.

All in all, some very good times, and I have a huge amount of respect for people who take on the Three Peaks in only a few days, as I could barely negotiate stairs after our epic climb.

xx Sian

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