Sunday, 27 August 2017

Berghaus give a masterclass in brand reputation

Today's freebie? Taking part in Berghaus' #TrailTakover in the Goyt Valley, with a bit of the ViewRanger app and others thrown in

Thanks to? Berghaus, of course.


Yesterday was a delightful example of those wonderful times when you take part in an event that was completely free, thoroughly enjoyable with happy, friendly people and with bonus freebies thrown in. Berghaus showed that building a brand reputation by holding an inclusive event can be fun and rewarding without needing to give the hard sell every few minutes. I shall certainly be looking out for the next one and absolutely recommend everyone else to do the same.

It started a few weeks ago when I spotted the first references to Berghaus' #TrailTakeover - the chance of winning a holiday drew my attention of course. I duly registered my interest and waiting to find the location. On Thursday (2 days before) the email came out with a link to the route on the ViewRanger app (more on that later) and I was pleased to see it wasn't too far from home and a place I knew well and had walked often - I even blogged on it last summer.

I rolled up to the Berghaus marquee at the Errwood Car Park just after midday and was greeted by a lovely person who ticked my name off, gave me a wristband to show I was part of the event and then surprise number 1 - a carton of Vita Coco coconut water and a block of Romney's Kendal mint cake. She checked I had the ViewRanger app and the route loaded (I did) and off I went.

I've had the ViewRanger app for a while as a few sites (such as the Outdoor Guide) release free walks through it. This is the first time I've actually used it though and it was useful for the first half mile or so as there are a few ways to get to Pym's Chair from Errwood. Once at the top of the woodland walk I didn't bother as I knew where I was headed after that. Being used to using paper maps I confused myself with the app at the start as the lines of the route and the direction I was headed clashed, but it was accurate and once I understood what it was meant to do then it was fine. Of course the real downside of walking apps is battery drain - I left the app running in the background to map my route, speed and collect all the other data it can but together with taking and posting a few photos on Twitter it meant my iPhone 5s battery when from full to about 20% over the 2.5 hours of the walk. Those with a portable charger or charging backpack will probably be fine but walking and following it for the whole route wouldn't have worked. The app is probably most useful to people testing new walking routes as it gives lots of detail on speed, elevation etc. Plus, it's free! There are purchases that can be made  - walks I have looked at are priced at 99p and you can also pay for OS maps on top, but this freebie released by Berghaus for suited me just fine.
[edit - one of the Berghaus people contacted me after I published this to say that ViewRanger had given them a battery-saving tip. If you download the route and then switch your phone to airplane mode it saves your battery loads]

The start of the walk is steep and after decades of walking my body still hates hills, particularly at the start of the walk before I get my rhythm going. I wandered off the set track by a couple of hundred metres as I got used to the app, probably to the amusement of the 3 much younger lads following who soon found me following them 😳. I hit my pace, overtook them again and soon found my heart thumping, copper taste in my mouth and realising I'd hit this climb too fast (even though I've done it a dozen times!) so I sat back in the heather and ate my lunch as they overtook me
again. I need to grow up.

After polishing off my homemade tarka dall whilst watching the paragliders over the later part of the route I enjoyed more freebies thanks to nature's bounty. The Goyt Valley is the best place I know for bilberries. They are plentiful, unbelievably healthy and delicious yet nobody seems to bother with these fruits - maybe the effort required to get to them and pick them isn't enough as they are quite small and would take some picking to fill a pie. All the more for me and the birds I suppose.

Up the Street and on to Pym's Chair with its incredible views over the Peak District, the Cheshire Plain and towards Manchester. The walk along from here to Shining Tor via Cat's Tor is stunning and has to be seen to be believed. It's within view of Manchester but you can't comprehend the beauty unless you are on the edge and can see either side.

More lovely Berghaus people at Cat's Tor who persuaded me to try and balance on a rope line (I struggle to balance on terra firma after a climb like that) and for the price of my email address a £20 voucher for Berghaus.com in a lanyard. Free walking socks, I reckon! A nice chat and onwards and upwards to Shining Tor. The Berghaus guy here was resplendent in waterproofs with hood up and seemed surprised I wasn't cold. He has no idea how much sweat was trickling down my back. I welcomed the chance of another stop and chat and posed for my pic next to the #TrailTakover post that is now posted on Facebook and will act as my entry to the competition to win a holiday. No. I'm not posting it here, it's bloody awful and looks like a fat middle aged fella who has just walked too quickly up too many hills. More fine conversation with this lovely fella was cut short before I started to chill and off I set for the last part of the walk - probably about a third of the walk but as most is downhill it went so quickly.

Just before the descent I cracked open the Vita Coco water. Refreshing and 99% coconut water not from concentrate so if you have drunk the water from one you've won at the fair you'll know it's not unpleasant but a bit bland.

Halfway down I got my last boost of energy from a square of mintcake. I love this stuff but am good enough to keep it aside for when I need it (unless the kids find it, then it goes in seconds and they run around like loons) and it lasts for months unless it gets wet.

So, 2 and a half hours after setting off I reach the end and that included stopping for chats and lunch. And what a welcome at the end it was! A handbell tolls and I'm invited to the TrailTakeover pub (another marquee) for a beer. It would have been so easy to bulk buy bottled lagers but no, I'm handed a bottle of Hesket Newmarket's Helvellyn Gold - this was the point I knew how much quality means to Berghaus! A lovely golden ale that was welcome and given with beautiful smiles by people who have spent all afternoon being eaten by midges while seeing sweaty tired people come off a hill.

What a wonderful afternoon and I can't wait to hear about the next in November. 

Saturday, 12 August 2017

History of wolves by Emily Fridlund - an observant debut

What's today's freebie? History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund

Where from? Another from the mighty Goodreads


This uncorrected bound proof copy for review was a lucky giveaway gain for me from the blessed Goodreads where my profile grows. My review is posted on there and is copied below. A bleak book, but thoroughly engrossing and recommended.


History of WolvesHistory of Wolves by Emily Fridlund
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a Goodreads win.
This is as remarkable a debut novel as any I have read for a number of years. It is quite beautiful, darkly mysterious and heartbreaking on many levels. Fridlund skilfully maps the Minnesota landscape with the human condition - bleak and dark in the winters of life, but warming and engaging at others.
This is a book of observation. Told entirely in the first person it is a story of a young girl's coming of age as recalled by her older self. Linda (also known as Maddie) develops a companionship with neighbours of her family in an old series of shacks near a lake. She becomes the babysitter for their 4 year old son and establishes bonds she is unable to forge with her own family.
This is a book about observation more than anything else. Events are related in a relatively factual manner, devoid of feeling. It is a story of disassociation - Linda doesn't fit in with anyone: school friends, family, neighbours. Even the core companionships with her neighbour, Patra, are lacking in closeness. Only young Paul seems to trigger any sort of emotion with Linda, maybe because he too is slightly odd and distant but is willing to learn and share with her.
Linda does blend well with the earth and land though and all non-human life. Trees, the lake, her dogs, insects and other pests are accepted, tolerated or even liked by Linda. She gets high; she even finds an enjoyment in chopping wood. She seems to understand anything which has no great thought of its own.
Although Linda lacks empathy she does seem to have an understanding of the human condition and an almost primeval instinct for life and self-preservation.
The second half of the book jumps in time to after the events of the first part of the book, recalling the circumstances they lead to but also jumping into the times leading up to them. The narrative moves from early childhood to the time of the main part of the story to adulthood and possibly ending in the present. It requires concentration and some effort of imagination - some things appear deliberately left to the reader to fill in the gaps.
The story, seen entirely through the eyes of a remarkably observant but unemotional narrator held me fascinated and broke my heart. The characters are not cruel; they have no hate or conscious cruelty, but each person's inability to understand the feelings of others can be a bleak read. The ending, unfortunately, needs some work. I have no problem with an open ending or things left unexplained, but I do get annoyed with them being confusing. This isn't as big a matter as it might be though. Whereas Maddie/Linda misses the bigger picture by concentrating on the detail, I enjoyed seeing the bigger picture where so many sub-plots are left unresolved. The style and language is mesmerising.


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