Saturday, 15 May 2021

How many dogs do I really need?

Chrissie and I have two beautiful dogs; a red boxer and a chocolate labrador retriever. I also have another dog, who mostly lurks in the dark recesses of my  consciousness. This one's most definitely Black (with a capital B). Most of the time he remains hidden but, over the past few weeks he's been creeping out of his hiding place, nudging me. I'm known as a dog lover, but I can't say I love this one.

Four years ago I wrote this. It's perhaps best to give it a quick read to understand where I'm coming from here. I've had a long battle with depression and, in recent years, I've mostly won. But right now I feel I'm on the losing side. 

For some time now I've begun to notice unhappiness as my default mode. On the face of it I've nowt to be unhappy about. I have a loving wife, two gorgeous soppy dogs, a wonderful daughter and son-in-law and two beautiful grandchildren. But, that's not how depression works. It defies logic. It ignores all the positives in your life and builds any negatives into great, big, hulking monoliths which overshadow everything good. I wake in the morning feeling there's no reason to get up. I list problems in my head. I don't look forward to doing the things I should enjoy. I just can't be bothered, with anything. Life has become a chore. 

I feel low. I want to cry.

Having been here before, I recognise the problem. I know the signs. So, after much thought, I phoned my GP a couple of days ago. And after the briefest of telephone consultations I'm now on anti depressants again, for the first time in around seven years. I have every expectation that this will help realign the stuff that's going wrong in my brain. I can't pretend I really understand how it works but, in the past, it always has. The drug takes a couple of weeks to show its effect though.

It's not just me suffering either. Chrissie has to handle the effect of living with someone who's low and miserable all the time. She knows me so well but it's not easy for her.

Right now, I'm trying hard to fill my time. I have absolutely no doubt that the pandemic has a part to play in how I feel and I'm pleased to say that I'll be going over to see my Dad in Wetherby on Monday, and, since this coincides with the re-opening of restaurants, I have a booking for lunch in one of his favourite eateries. I've not seen him for months. Next Saturday, Abi, Dave and the children are coming for dinner, INSIDE! Again, the first time in months. It will be so lovely to have them all here.

As before, I write this in an effort to break the stigma of the concept of depression and anxiety. They are valid illnesses and can be as disabling as a broken leg, maybe even more so, being so difficult to understand. 

Ironically, its the end of mental health awareness week right now. So, if you too meet with the Black Dog, I wish you the strength to better understand what's happening to you. Go easy on yourself and talk about it to someone. Similarly, if you know anyone who suffers, treat them with kindness and compassion and do your best to understand.

I've added pics of the things in my life that still can make me smile.

Love and peace to you all.

Saturday, 1 May 2021

Wild camping in High Peak

I don't bother much with blogging these days but, with recent developments, I felt compelled to take to the keyboard. We're just back from a motorhome trip up north and, whilst we were away, some new legislation came to light, via Twitter.
Before I go further, if you're in any way interested in wild camping, it's perhaps best that you read this. Having read the page, which is short, click on the link to "Wildfires PSPO" and read that carefully. Again, it's only short.

You'll se that this order is primarily written in response to recent wildfires on the moors up here in the north of England. There was one on Kinder just last week. In an effort to avoid this happening again High peak Borough Council have put this order in place, referring in particular to the misuse of barbecues, fireworks and Chinese lanterns. Most of us would agree that this is laudable. There's no need to use such things out in the countryside, and, during the pandemic, there have been lots of instances of their inappropriate use, leading to some appalling fires. However, whoever drafted this law has taken it further and included in the prohibition, "Using any article or object which causes a naked flame and thereby poses a risk of fire without the prior written consent of the Borough Council." This description clearly covers the use of ANY kind of camping stove and even a match or lighter. This, in turn, effectively makes it illegal to cook using a stove whilst wild camping.

Remember, wild camping in the Peak District is not actually illegal. Rather it is a matter of civil trespass between the individual camper and the landowner. It is not an offence in itself. I shouldn't need to remind regular wild campers that, if one is asked to move on by an agent of the landowner, one should do so.

So, in short, for the three years commencing the 16th April 2021, it would certainly appear that using a stove in the hills of the High Peak area, has become illegal.

In light of the above I'd like to make a number of comments.

1. The area defined is, basically, open areas within the boundary of High Peak Borough Council (HPBC), NOT the whole of the Peak District National Park. For your information, here is a map showing the boundary of HPBC. I apologise for the quality of this image, it was the best I could find. But you may notice that the northern and north eastern edges mirror the boundary of Derbyshire. where it adjoins West and South Yorkshire respectively. So, at the moment, there are areas of the Peak District Park which aren't affected. Unfortunately, or fortunately (depending on your standpoint) Chrissie and I live in HPBC!

2. It is an offence, in the area covered, to be in possession of a barbecue, fireworks or a lantern using a naked flame, but, importantly NOT a stove. So, there'd be no problem passing through this area with your normal backpacking kit. It is an offence to use the stove though.

3. In my opinion, wild campers are not the intended target of this legislation, but we are hit by, if you will, the collateral damage. There have been instances reported recently of landowners' agents, seeking out wild campers and asking them to move. To my knowledge this has happened on Bamford Edge and, I believe, Stanage Edge. I believe Bamford Edge to be privately owned (I may be wrong) rather than National Trust. These areas are very close to roads, which makes them very easy targets for both campers and landowners' agents. In contrast, folk who are well out of the way, are unlikely to be bothered by anyone. It may well be that, once the foolish people using barbecues, fireworks etc have got the message, then life will calm down again. I'm not actually aware of any instance of a true wild camper starting a fire and I don't believe any agency has the resources to completely police and eradicate wild camping. However, there have been reports of people accessing moors via popular roadheads (eg by the reservoir gates from Hayfield) carrying backpacking kit being challenged by rangers, reminding them that wild camping is "not allowed". 

Finally, some general thoughts.

Given the spirit of this legislation, it's entirely possible it may also be applied by other council areas. Indeed, it wouldn't surprise me.

As regular wild campers, we have all played a part, perhaps, in influencing others to try the activity. There are huge numbers nowadays, whose main focus is to go out, purely for the sake of camping for the night, rather than as part of a linear or circular, multi-day journey, which was, arguably, the original purpose of wild camping. Many seek to find places as close as possible to a roadhead, bringing its own problems, as referred to in point 3 above and, often, leading to the overuse of some locations.

Chrissie and I have a real passion for longer backpacking adventures, but we do keep our camping skills honed by short, one or two night trips on our local patch.
Over the years we have found ourselves sharing camp spots, previously known only to us and it's startling how quickly this information spreads. I can think of one place, which I found in my local wandering a few years ago, where a recent visit revealed the remains of fire ring. When I first went there, I saw no evidence at all of it ever being used before. As a result of all the above, we've now decided to stop sharing information about camp spots, preferring instead to encourage others to find their own. Find places less frequented and you'll probably be unaffected by any of the above.

So far, I've avoided commenting on the legislation on social media. We already tread a precarious path as wild campers in the Peak District, so have no real weight to argue against this order. I did consider carefully before writing this, but I don't really think it will make our status as wild campers any worse. I still believe there aren't the resources to stop it completely. Folk reading this in Scotland, the Lake District and Dartmoor should remind them selves how lucky they are. Note that this order stays in place for three years but the legislation allows for it to be extended indefinitely. I'd long hoped I might live to see Scottish-type access here in England but, right now, I feel doubtful.

In conclusion, I'm publishing this because I don't think enough people are currently aware of the situation, so please feel free to share it. It's quite important to know where you stand with the law, if challenged. I was surprised when I first read it only a couple of days ago, especially when I noticed it came into effect around two weeks previously, with no local publicity that I'm aware of. My own take is, I won't be out camping in the affected area for a while, maybe until the end of the summer. I prefer to see how it goes for now.

I'd be interested to hear any constructive comments.

Take care all, and keep safe.