Outdoor Discoveries

What originally was a news section for the rest of the website soon became a place for me to write about human-powered wanderings in the countryside. Photography inspires me to get out there, mostly on foot these days, though cycling got me started. Musings on the wider context of outdoor activity complete the picture, so I hope that there is something of interest in all that you find here. Thank you for coming!

Another pair of TNF Hedgehog shoes

14th November 2012

For the last four years, I have been well served by a pair of The North Face Hedgehog trail shoes. They may look more tatty these days but they have plenty of life left in them yet and I am not planning on retiring them prematurely either. Good service and durability has been what they have given so I have no complaints. In fact, they feel more like slippers than some footwear that I have and the shoes that I use for work come into this category.

The past two weekends have seen me head to Knutsford and Tatton Park on consecutive Saturdays. The first of these wasn’t so successful in that blundering in the name of finding another entrance to that park resulted in a misadventure involving barbed wire that ripped a coat and had me inadvertently find the source of Tatton Mere. In so doing, I submerged my TNF Hedgehogs in utterly sodden earth and left them both wetter and browner than they should be. Only for a wrong turn taken in innocence and some bloody-mindedness, I would have avoided annoyance at my foolishness.

By the time that I was along the track through Dog Wood with warning signs to keep to its course because of the bog of water that makes it a Site of Special Scientific Interest; there apparently aren’t that many sodden woodlands in Britain and I had to blunder about in one of them… As it happens, it isn’t so unsound away from that track but it’s best to stay near it in my experience.

The sunlit scenes for which I was hoping were stymied by advancing shower clouds but I rounded Tatton Mere regardless and pottered into a few of Knutsford’s shops too. There were those into which I didn’t venture and one was Rohan. Looking at the window display, I noted that they have DWR-coated down jackets on offer this winter and I was wondering if such items were available last winter. The fill is 800+ too so they should be toasty and I cannot say that I am not tempted. However, online investigations revealed that the price tag is a little hefty at around £245 for the Nightfall jacket so I’ll sit on the idea for a little longer.

As if to wash my shoes, a rain shower did make its appearance before I left again for home. On arriving there, the Hedgehogs got a good scrubbing to make them more presentable. Then, because of the deliberate and not so deliberate wettings, they took a few days to completely dry afterwards. Even with any mud that I failed to remove, they look more like their true colours again so they’re not getting hidden away just yet. In fact, there were a pair of Columbia trail shoes that came apart on me after crossing a wet Irish hillside so the way that the Hedgehogs survived the aberrant episode says a lot for their quality.

Nevertheless, I got to reckon that a more respectable pair might be a worthwhile acquisition and so around £100 got me newer ones by mail order from Ellis Brigham that look like the one you see above. The colours have changed since I last looked and the demure blue and grey scheme of the older specimens that I have is not available any more, hardly a surprise if truth be told. Still, the available colours left me indecisive as to which ones to pick. The black ones weren’t to my taste and I wasn’t too sure about the grey and khaki ones either, though subsequent inspection in the Macclesfield branch of Millets would have reassured me enough to get ones in that scheme if I had looked there earlier. Still, the blue ones look just fine and I’ll stick with them.

More importantly, the fit is good too and shoes from The North Face tend to suit my feet anyway. They feel stiffer than the older pair, but that could be down to years of using the latter. The same might apply to any little restrictions that my big toes feel in the new shoes. There will be a little more internal wearing in yet before they go out of doors, which, of course, is the whole point of having them.

The thread pattern is more chunky in the new Hedgehogs and that’s a good thing given how the smaller lugs were prone to breaking off on my older ones; both generations may have Vibram soles but they are very different items. Laces are flat now and not round as they once were so lacing should be more secure. The newer lacing may pick up more mud, but I have been known to wash laces and they enclosed in socks; it may sound strange, but that’s how I cleaned those (third-party replacements for the originals, as it happens) of the older shoes after that muddy dunking and they came out looking fine too.

In the main, I keep trail shoes for less taxing walks and it was my Meindl Burma boots that I took on my second more successful outing to Tatton Park. The previous day’s rain had softened the ground and not just in watersheds either. There was a muddy encounter when leaving the park, so my choice of footwear seemed better than my choice of trousers; it was nothing that a washing machine couldn’t sort. There was plenty of sun around before then and I made of the most of what it did to liven up the autumn colours. Dog Wood and Tatton were passed again and I moved on towards Tatton Old Hall before being lured across parkland alongside herds of deer. Antlers may have been on display, but there was more grazing than autumnal rutting and quiet than guttural roars, whenever there wasn’t a passing plane from Manchester Airport of course (the newer runaway is not that far away from Tatton). Though the second trip undid the nagging unfinished business after the first, it produced its own reasons for a reprise of some sort: a new vantage point for making a photo of Tatton Hall was found but only after light started declining for the day. After recent experiences, it may not act as a testing ground for those new shoes until we have had a longer dry spell of weather first. Lessons are there to be learned though being a less messy learner would better.

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