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Thursday, 30 October 2014

A post about the UK’s electrical supply

These two videos are enlightening.

The first is an interview on Andrew Neil’s Sunday Politics show this past weekend. His guest, Elizabeth Truss, was appointed Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on 15 July 2014. It is frankly terrifying that she has absolutely no grasp whatsoever on what the UK has signed up for – legally binding agreements to cut our greenhouse gas emissions by 80% of our 1990 levels by 2050, and the massive associated ramifications. Andrew Neill, quite rightly, shows no mercy.

It is scary to think that people like Truss have our collective future in their hands. It’s even scarier to consider that a Prime Minister would want them in his cabinet.

 
The next video is blunt and to the point. Professor Dieter Helm's appearance before the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee on Tuesday was pretty special. From his opening remarks he lays it on the line with the House of Lords Science & Technology Committee. He says that it's a pretty amazing state of affairs that Britain is even discussing the possibility of power cuts, and that we are failing on each of security, price and decarbonisation, which is certainly true. 
It is deeply disturbing that as one of the top industrialised countries in the world we find ourselves in this appalling state of affairs. Professor Helm’s evidence to the committee starts at 11.39, so slide the button along a bit to that time. 
<script src="http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Embed/js.ashx?16233 460x322"></script>
 
 

Just to cheer you up, I’ll let you on your way with a cutting from today’s Press & Journal; More raptor deaths are caused by wind farms than from by shooting industry. Click on it to enlarge it slightly.
Press & Journal Raptor Deaths 

The wind energy industry: Don’t ya just love it?

TGO Challenge 2015: Cheese & Wine Party

2014 CHEESE & WINE PARTY

2014’s CHEESE & WINE PARTY – CLICK TO ENLARGE

Sipping fine wines, scoffing tasty cheeses over 2,000 feet up in the freezing cold, in the middle of sod-all, with like minded souls in the finest hill country in Great Britain? Has this piqued your interest at all?

Lord Elpus and I have been hosting Cheese & Wine parties on the TGO Challenge for quite a few years. Each year we issued the invite on the TGO Message Board and if Challengers felt it was close to their proposed route they could pop along and join in. It was the luck of the draw if the party was to be on their route.

But in more recent years we have been publishing the party’s date and location a little earlier, so that Challengers could actually plan their routes to take in the parties. This still did not please some folk, as they had already planned their routes in advance of even hearing if they had a place on the Challenge!

So, with this in mind, this year Lord Elpus has issued 2015’s party invitation on the day all application forms were due in at Challenge Control. He posted the following message and invitation on the Challenge Message Board:

 

With all the entries safely gathered in, and the nights drawing in, Challengers old and new are thinking of the brighter days of May, and routes that they may wander across Scotland ... but, even as the Landranger maps are spread out they hesitate.
Why? Because they do not yet know where and when the social highlight of the Challenge will take place.
Hesitate no more. The invitations are printed, and here is yours, ready to prop on your mantelpiece.

Cheese and Wine Invite 2015

CHEESE & WINE INVITATION 2015 [COURTESY PHIL LAMBERT] CLICK TO ENLARGE

 

It will be interesting to see who accepts our invitation this year. ALL Challengers are welcome. Here are some pictures of past parties so you can see what to expect.

2010 CHEESE & WINE PARTY

2010 CHEESE & WINE PARTY – CLICK TO ENLARGE

2010: Held at the headwaters of the Waters of Eunich. We started at a tropical 2 deg C and then it rained and dropped below freezing with light snow flurries. You have to be hard to be a Cheese & Wine participant. The weather might not have been brilliant, but the C&Wers were wonderful. There was almost a couple of drownings.

2011 CHEESE & WINE PARTY

2012 CHEESE & WINE PARTY – CLICK TO ENLARGE

The 2012 C&W party was held between Loch Treig and Loch Ossian. We were blessed this year by Val & Dave Machin ferrying in balloons and wonderful party food and wines! The weather was bright, sunny and freezing cold. The company was wonderful.

2013 CHEESE & WINE PARTY

2013 CHEESE & WINE PARTY – CLICK TO ENLARGE

The 2013 C&W party was held at the very top of Glen Tromie. Again the weather was kind but again, it was bloody freezing! I wasn’t feeling too good (I had a kidney transplant a few weeks later) and baled out early. Again, Val and Dave magically produced wonderful party food & wines before walking off back homeward in the gloaming; They got home in the small hours.

2014 CHEESE & WINE PARTY

2014 CHEESE & WINE PARTY – CLICK TO ENLARGE

The 2014 C&W party was held near the Chalybeate Spring in the midst of the proposed turbines for the massive Stronelairg wind farm in the Monadh Liath. We had a fantastic turn-out – fourteen or fifteen Challengers. Again, the weather was wonderful – sunny and warm (ish) to start with, turning to a wonderful moonlit night.

During the night someone built a henge close by…

PHIL'S HENGE

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

An appeal from the JMT for Stronelairg legal fight

STRONELAIRG

STRONELAIRG – CLICK TO ENLARGE

This year I walked through a part of the Monadh Liath for what I thought would be the last time. The Scottish Government had approved, without going to a public inquiry, the massive Stronelairg wind farm which was going to destroy a massive area of Scotland’s finest wild land. I’ve written quite a lot about the appalling destruction of the Monadh Liath, more recently HERE and HERE.

I was wonderfully surprised to hear that the John Muir Trust has had a change of mind and is now biting the bullet and are taking on the Scottish Government in court over this incredibly poor decision.

This of course means raising a significant amount of cash, as court cases are expensive. But this is worth fighting for. It is worth digging around for some spare cash and donating to the JMT.

Please watch the video and help as much as you possibly can.

 

 

Please click on the link below to make a donation ~ whatever you can afford. Everything helps.

www.jmt.org/stronelairg.asp  Or, you can call 0131 554 0114, where the JMT will be pleased to help you

THANK YOU.

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Gear review: Ecco Ulterra – First thoughts

Plimsolls, Sir? Plimsolls???

Yes. Back in July you would have found me stumbling along a part of the Greater Ridgeway with Lord Elpus. The weather was delightful – delightful enough to be lounging at the side of a pool in the cooling shade of an umbrella, with half hourly deliveries of Seybrews. But no. Phil had me toiling up and down chalk downs on iron hard prehistoric flinty/chalky tracks. My heavy boots made for hot work.

I was dreaming of plimsolls to lighten my load and cool my fevered feet. But there were none.

My previous forays with trail shoes had me tripping across Scotland in Terrocs (twice) and Raptors, and I was sort of a convert, but not quite so much so when the weather was cold and horrible. A compromise was required. And now, I believe I have found it.

ECCO ULTERRA

ECCO ULTERRA – CLICK TO ENLARGE

So, that’s a very nice picture, but let’s get down & dirty, and have a little dig around these babies. Are there any naughty little secrets that need airing? What company do they keep? Are there any kinky little foibles you just have to know about?

But let’s start by channelling good old John Major. He was a thoroughly decent fellow and rather partial to getting back to basics. The naked basics. Here’s a picture of my beautiful bare feet. I know; You’ve seen them before, but not, dear reader, with Edwina draped over them staring lasciviously right at you through the lens of my camera.

I HAD TO HAUL EDWINA AWAY TO TAKE THIS PICTURE

I HAD TO HAUL EDWINA AWAY TO TAKE THIS PICTURE

Yes. As I may have mentioned before, any review of shoes should start with reviewer’s feet. What’s the point of reading all about the fantastic fit of these babies, if your own feet bear no resemblance to those of the reviewer? It has been said (I think it was an ex-wife who said this) that your feet are an expression of your character. Perhaps. My feet are slim, elegant and, oh yes, shallow. I have slim ankles and a reasonably wide forefoot, when I stretch out and wiggle my toes ~ which all good hikers do when sitting on a hot day beside a tinkling stream. Your shoes should accommodate your feet. There’s no point at all in trying to pretend there’s a match made in heaven if you are slopping about in cavernous shoes or squeezing your tootsies into plimsolls that are way-too tight. It will end in tears; Trust me on this.

So. Why did I choose a pair of Ecco Ulterras?

I had been mightily impressed by the build quality and thoughtful design of my Ecco Biom Hikes. They were made of Yak leather and Ecco’s own sole unit. The Ulterras are also made with Yak leather but with a Gore-Tex liner. Yak leather is over twice as strong as normal boot leather, which means it’s robust and can be made from slightly thinner hide, giving you a more supple upper. (Try saying “supple upper” quickly a few times, after a few Taliskers) The Ulterras also have a wonderfully aggressive sole unit, that’s good on roads, grass and rough tracks. There’s a lot of rubber beneath your feet, and from my first month or so of wearing them, I’ve found them very grippy and they appear to be very hard wearing as well.

Let’s have a few more pictures so you can see for yourself:

BUILT-IN ROCKER SOLEBUILT-IN ROCKER SOLE – CLICK TO ENLARGE

The sole has a natural rocker to it, which makes walking less of an effort. This is necessary, as the sole unit is stiffer than most trail shoes I have tried in the past. This stiffness gives you excellent protection from hard pointy rocks.

P1020148

CLICK TO ENLARGE

Although the Ulterras look like they have a thick squidgy sole, they do not. If you look carefully you’ll realise that your foot is cradled within that exterior moulding. I can’t find any information on the Ecco website about the “drop” from heel to toe of the shoes, but I would estimate it to be middling – not flats, but there’s certainly not a lot of drop, which gives you a more natural stride. I like this. There’s not a great deal of soft cushioning, which means that you have a better ‘feel’ of the terrain and the shoe is more stable. More on that in a minute. The tongue is comfortable. It’s padded and is of the bellows variety ~ sewn in so that you don’t get water or grit inside your shoe. Standard fare, really.

GOOD RUBBER TOE BUMPER

GOOD RUBBER TOE BUMPER – CLICK TO ENLARGE

 

ROLLED HEEL FOR COMFORTABLE HEEL STRIKE

ROLLED HEEL FOR COMFORTABLE HEEL STRIKE

 

I SHOULD HAVE WASHED THESE BEFORE TAKING THEIR PICTURE

I SHOULD HAVE WASHED THESE BEFORE TAKING THEIR PICTURE – CLICK TO ENLARGE

 

GENEROUS TREAD DEPTH

GENEROUS TREAD DEPTH – CLICK TO ENLARGE

The picture above shows the aggressive sole unit off really well. (I waited until the evening to get this shot, for the slanting sunlight, I’ll have you know!)

BEAUTIFUL HEEL CUP

BEAUTIFUL HEEL CUP – CLICK TO ENLARGE

This picture shows a feature that  every Inov-8 wearer will lust after! A perfectly formed, beautifully smooth heel cup, with no sign of any stitching to grab your socks and fall apart after a few weeks’ use! Ecco really do think things through and the craftsmanship here is first class.

However! (Oooh! there’s a “however!”)

P1020155

Like all shoe manufacturers, Ecco provide a textile and foam insert. Let’s be honest now. These are worse than useless. I expect every walking boot / trail shoe manufacturer knows that the first thing a hiker will do is tear out these useless bits of cosmetic nonsense and replace them with the insoles of their choice. They want an insole that will offer foot stability.

There are quite a few choices out there, but mine is, and always has been, Superfeet. I won’t bore you by banging on about these miracle insoles, apart from telling you that they hold your heel firmly in position, holding your fatty heel pad (yes, even I have a fatty heel pad!) so that it does not spread outwards on heel strike but retains it shape to give your bones natural protection, and stopping your foot sliding forward on long down-hills by providing a contoured arch support that holds your foot firmly at the back of your shoe. You’ll be able to see this clearly from the following pictures:

LOW PROFILE SUPERFEET

LOW PROFILE SUPERFEET – CLICK TO ENLARGE

 

LOW PROFILE SUPERFEET

LOW PROFILE SUPERFEET – CLICK TO ENLARGE

 

UNDERSIDE OF LOW PROFILE SUPERFEET

UNDERSIDE OF LOW PROFILE SUPERFEET – CLICK TO ENLARGE

Now then. (Sit up straight at the back – this bit needs careful attention!)

These babies have a Gore-Tex lining, and it cannot have escaped your attention that my low profile Superfeet have very sharp knobbly studs under the heel to cradle the heel cup and keep it in shape in your shoes. How, then, will these studs affect the Gore-Tex membrane?

I don’t believe it’s a problem, as I think the clever chaps at Ecco have thought this through: Lets take a close look at the inside of the Ulterras’ heel cup.

ULTERRA HEEL CUP

ULTERRA HEEL CUP – CLICK TO ENLARGE

You’ll see from this picture that the Gore-Tex booty does not extend to the heel cup. It has no need to be there, as you’ll have seen from the pictures, the heel cup is substantial, with no internal stitching. No water’s going to get in through the heel. This means that the studs of the Superfeet are sitting on the heel cup material itself, so it cannot puncture the membrane as it is further forward in the shoe.

For the gram counters in the congregation. These shoes, with the supplied insoles, weigh exactly 500 grams per Size 44 shoe. That’s not superlight, but they do feel like dancing shoes after a hefty pair of boots.

And finally, I was not too kind about the laces supplied with the Ecco Biom Hikes. These are lovely. Grippy and no stretch.

 

***

Now, to the price of these little beauties. Steady now. Hold on to something firm. On Ecco’s own web shop they retail at a cool £140.00  Yes. That’s a lot of money, whoever is paying for them (Look, it’s coming up to Christmas.) But I have found them elsewhere on the web in the UK for £119.95 HERE, for example.

There are quite a few trail shoes out there that profess to do the same as the Ulterras, but picking one randomly, say, an Inov-8 Roclite 282 GTX shoe (a good shoe but with a sole unit with less grip and a heel cup that will more than likely fall to pieces) found on offer at the moment HERE and you’ll see that that even this will set you back a hundred pounds.

My advice would be to get a much better designed & built product, the Ecco Ulterras, that will last you much longer for twenty pounds more.

***

In conclusion. I like these shoes. They are robust, comfortable, they have a fantastic sole unit and they come with all the care in design and manufacture from Ecco, using materials that will last and stand up to a good hammering.

ECCO ULTERRA

More info on these little darlings can be found HERE.