Travel Jottings

Celebrating the best bits and bobs to be found while exploring Britain, Ireland and beyond. Much is inspired by real outings, whether they were walking, cycling or photographic in nature, while virtual blundering in the name of planning them has turned up some gems too. Regardless of how they were found, I hope that they keep coming so I can continue to share new things with you.

A Spot of Portable Rural Inspiration

Baslow, Derbyshire, England

It was the prospect of bringing along compact magazines in a full rucksack for a read during dead time on hillwalking trips away from home that first inspired this article. Since then, it has moved onto those that could come along in a suitcase. Many of the titles are of the glossy variety and I somehow cannot abide thoughts of bending them at first reading, hence the categorisation.

All of these could of themselves provide ideas for trips away without ever needing to leave home in the first place. Of course, if they then inspired such an action, that would be even better.

Reading Matter to Bring Along in a Full Rucksack

The rucksack that accompanies me on many a hillwalking outing is an Osprey Atmos 50. It's Tardis-like capacity has come in very useful on a number of weekend escapades but its curved back system means that bringing reading material fulfilling the A4 sizing is out of the question unless you have no objection to getting it all crumpled and I tend to have more respect for any magazines that I read.

That leaves open the possibility of bring a book or two and, with a bit of care with the hurly burly of rucksack packing, that will work but another has presented itself in the last few months: bringing along a small and perfectly formed magazine that will fit within the confined recesses of a very full pack. To make myself more clear, I am talking about those that share the glories of the countryside in parts of mainland Britain and I have found that these offer a nice gentle way to while away a train or bus journey without taxing a brain tired after a day's walking. The point that you end up learning more about places that you visit is an added bonus. In fact, you may get introduced to ones that are new to you.

What started all of this was a visit to a dentist early one February when I encountered Cumbria magazine and had a flick through it while in the waiting room. Ironically, the issue that I picked up had a walking route description for Place Fell, somewhere where I had been the weekend before but there was other stuff in there too that attracted my interest sufficiently that I picked up a copy on a short trip home to Ireland to attend a family funeral.

The options for small format countryside magazines expanded quite a bit on a later trip into WHSmith's Macclesfield of a Sunday morning. From the the publisher of Cumbria, there also is (The Yorkshire) Dalesman and The Countryman. Admittedly, they had me tempted on the day but, perhaps with a little help from choice overload, it was resisted.

After those, there was The Scots Magazine on the shelves too (published by DC Thompson rather than Country Publications, despite any apparent similarities) to add to any conundrum and with equivalent content for Scotland too. A return journey from a weekend walking among the Cairngorm Mountains saw me pick up a copy of that periodical for shortening the journey home and weekend excursion to Wales had me bringing another issue along for sake of distraction.

Options for When a Suitcase Can Come

Returning to the aforementioned Cairngorms journey, because I was on the way home, I was free to pick a few A4-sized magazines because they didn't have to fit in a rucksack as they would if I was on an outbound journey. Curiosity led me to pick up a copy of Scottish Field (found the subscription-only Scots Heritage Magazine via this website too and it looks interesting though it appears to be geared towards the Scottish Diaspora rather than those nearer home) and the then enticing and sadly defunct Beautiful Britain. Though I buy calendars from the former every year, I think that it was the mention of the new South Downs National Park that had me perusing the latter.

The mention of Scottish Field brings me to a class of magazine that I admit to have bought occasionally in the past: lifestyle magazines. Cheshire Life is what I have in mind here but the sort of upmarket glossiness that pervades these is something that I find alien. There often are local interest articles in their but the glossy lifestyle feel cannot be ignored though Scottish Field is much less guilty on this score.

Out of curiosity, I did sample the BBC's Countryfile magazine while on a trip to the Isle of Man. The glossiness of the presentation certainly was and still is attractive but first impressions is that I was left yearning for a little more in the way of substance. Nevertheless, I have gone the way of a digital subscription via Zinio and horizons have been expanded as a result. So, bringing a laptop or a netbook along would facilitate the reading of one or more of these on an excursion away from home.

On the way back from a trip to Arran and Kintyre in June of 2010, I spotted the quarterly Scotland Outdoors too though not being minded to pick up anything new at the time must have caused me to leave it after me on the shelf like so many others. From the website, it seems that the focus is on the glories of Scotland's countryside, surrounding waters and environment with the occasional excursion mixed in there too. The content was of interest but there were other things in my mind at that time. Now, a £12 annual subscription for four issues sounds alluring.

Another similar counterpart to the above is Scottish Islands Explorer to which I have subscribed because the mix of sea, rustic hilly countryside and culture proved too tempting for me. Hopefully, what it brings to me will prove to be of interest and I haven't been on a Scottish island for a while. That absence needs addressing given the pleasure that they've given me in the past.

Final Thoughts

This survey is far from exhaustive but a line has to be drawn somewhere because there are many titles serving the same market segment filling the shelves of newsagents. It's a sight that makes you wonder who buys them. However, enough must sell or they wouldn't be there in the first place. Is it because everyone has an interest in their local patch? With the current economic climate, that may be more true than ever. For me though, it's always nice to know more about the places where I walk than what is depicted on a map or written in a route description in a guidebook or magazine. Learning a little more even may liven up those trip reports on the outdoors blog too.