Autumn walking: walking in the shadow of summer….

Well, this completes my series of blogs set around the four seasons that we in Britain enjoy.

As I release this final of the four seasonal walking blogs, many of you will have enjoyed your summer holidays, some probably still waiting to go on your summer holidays.

Autumn is probably one of the most, if not the most, photogenic season of the year, particularly late autumn, which is often around late October into November, when the leaves are at their most colourful, with all those yellows, reds and browns.

It's not a time to put your camera away, or just use it for parties and family gatherings, there's still a lot to capture outside that nature still delivers to us.

Have look at the photos below, showing a tree lined avenue where the leaves have started to turn to yellow, and litter the ground as they fall. There are a lot of photographers who relish this time of year to capture such fantastic colours.

Not just yellows, but there are many trees that have lovely shades of red amid the yellows and browns, making quite a nice patchwork of colours. Have a look at the next photo below, showing the red leaves amid what were then still very green leaves, though there are some yellow ones that have fallen.

Ladybower Reservoir, along with its feeder reservoirs, Derwent and Howden
always give a splendid autumn colours display

A tree lined avenue in autumn glory, taken late October

Autumnal colours, make for a photogenic time of year
Not just the golden yellows and browns, but reds too.

How many of you have noticed, not just this year, but most years, the leaves start to change colour and fall already as early as the first week in August?

Yes, it is normal for the leaves to start to turn and fall, and we also start to experience that autumnal atmosphere as autumn slowly and quietly starts to creep its way n to our lives!

Sometimes, I feel that summer should start earlier in the year based on the longest day being the middle of summer, because the daylight hours start to shorten from here. But then September can offer some really good summery days, perhaps extending the summer season further and sometimes the weather we have can be better than the months of June, July and August!

This is no more apparent than late September, when autumn has just started, or close to just starting, when we have that rather hot spell called the Indian Summer.

"....many of you will have enjoyed your summer holidays...."

Our crazy and what appears at times to be a mixed up climate. Perhaps we should extend the summer period but leave a gap around early August for autumnal effects.....
Autumn, is just as fascinating a time of year as any of the other seasons, but, it’s in the shadow of the summer, so it harbours the hotter days, particularly for the first half of the season, while making you endure the colder days, and nights specially, towards and during the second half of the season!

Before I go any further, a disclaimer.

I cannot nor will I be held responsible for any incidents arising from this blogpost. All I am doing is sharing with you my personal views of the pleasures, challenges and dangers that springtime walking has.

I mentioned before in Winter walking, its pleasures and dangers! that we tend to think that summer is the safest, and spring and autumn being safer than winter, but they all harbour their dangers, however, I’ll cover here, just autumn.

Just as with winter walking, if you take the right precautions and the right training from fully qualified people, there is no reason why you shouldn’t enjoy walking at any time of the year, in relative safety.

I cannot emphasise strongly enough, not one of us is free from danger while walking, at any time of year. Therefore it is up you the individual to ensure you walk safely, and if you’re in a group, then it is a shared responsibility to walk safely and look out for each other.

Though it’s rare, even professionals have accidents at any time of year and need to be rescued, and that’s where the training comes in.

Hopefully after the nasty bit, you’ve not thought what a waste, summer isn’t dangerous, or even I’ve scared you off?

This blog will be no different to the others; I’ll leave a list of websites at the end where you can seek the latest information. However, probably one of the best central points of mountaineering information and also where courses are available, both at home and abroad is the British Mountaineering Council, often just called The BMC.

Fabulous autumnal colours, and tree lined avenues


In my first seasonal walking blog Winter walking, its pleasures and dangers! I made this very statement, “I love every season for walking, each has its own beauty and each has its own challenges and dangers.”

In my second season blog: Spring time walking, its pleasures and hidden dangers!, I opened with: “Spring can be a very diverse season weather wise!”

A quick recap of some items from my last blog: Summer walking, “Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.

I made the following statement:
“Well, summer is still quite a diverse season, but probably not quite so diverse, even though we have had snow in summer.

Yes, snow in the Midlands!

The summer of 1975; Dickie Bird recalls when SNOW stopped play in Buxton

I also shared some weather readings taken early on Monday 4th July 2016 from a digital weather station I have located at my home, which is in an urban environment. Even in an urban environment overnight temperatures can drop below 10ºC. And I quote:

Daytime maximum temp for Sunday 3rd July 2016 = 22.2ºC

Overnight MINIMUM temp for Sunday 3rd July 2016 = 8.3ºC

Let's not become to disheartened, for autumn does deliver some magical colours as plants and trees start to shed their leaves. The sunsets are earlier at night, and deliver some enchanting colours, but also the daylight, as with spring, can deliver some absolutely fabulously clear days, with crystal clear views and great photo opportunities.

Autumn colours on the banks of the Derwent Reservoir

Blues skies, no haze, and clear views around

Something to remember:
Under normal atmospheric conditions, with altitude increase, the air temperature often drops between 1°C and 3°C for every 1,000ft (300m) height gained!
Continuing my recap, which still applies even to autumn, in fact, the equations are the same, it’s just the initial figure will vary with seasonal and climatic trends.

The height at my home location is 110 metres asl, so if you're on Snowdon, at 1085 metres asl, some 975 metres higher than my home, the temperature drop is most likely to be between 1ºC and 3ºC cooler.
That means the overnight temperature on Snowdon's summit could easily be as low as 5.3ºC!

Now, to open matters up more, out in the open countryside at the same altitude, without the warmth of the urban environment, the overnight minimum temperature could easily be two or more degrees cooler than it was at my home location, taking the open fields overnight minimum as low as 6.3ºC, or lower!

Based on the temperatures at home, purely for example purposes only, the summer overnight temperature on:
Snowdon's summit could easily be as low as 3ºC!

Now to look at the other end of the temperature scale....

Recap over, now to move on to autumn, which is just as enjoyable, and still with its hazards….

We’ve enjoyed the glorious colours of the spring, as nature awakes, then some of the hotter days, and now, we start to see the days get cooler, the nights are drawing in and getting colder, and by no means least, we enjoy yet another colourful season, with the reds, browns and yellows of the leaves on the trees.

My walking is still on hold, as I’m recovering from when a motorist knocked me down while on a pedestrian crossing and mangled my right leg, and at the moment, we have no idea when I’ll be back out walking the hills and moors again.

For those who need a recap, or even if you’re a new reader, you can read more about my situation via Peak Rambler’s Ramblings; another year ends and time to reflect, my annual review for 2015, and also via Unplanned walking interlude and Winter walking 2016/17 is only a dream!

Many of you will have noticed the early signs of autumn, as early as August!
According to the meteorological calendar, used by the Met Office, autumn starts the 1st September while the autumn equinox is around 20th/21st September.
For this write-up, the same as the other three, I’ll opt for the first day of autumn on the astronomical calendar, which is around 20th/21st September, also known as the Autumn Equinox, taking us through to the winter, which is around the 20th/21st December, which is also known as the shortest day.
You may be wondering why the Met Office uses the 1st of the month?

Basically its easier for the Met Office when it comes to admin and data collection, making it easier to use calendar months rather than splitting the month to collate the data.
Though sometimes, the seasons do appear either earlier or later than the specified dates. The seasons, like weather, don't follow a fixed pattern even though they do loosely follow a pattern.
Even during the autumn, you still need to wear clothing suitable for the conditions prevailing, to go out and experience nature at another wonderful time of year.
Nature is considered to be getting ready to go to sleep during the autumn, which for many animals, and plants, is the case. However, many animals and plants are, still very much alive, all year through and if you think about it, we see snowdrops in bloom during February?

Swifts, swallows and many other migratory birds have flown south, even as early as the beginning of August, but there are many birds flying in from the artic to take advantage of the warmer conditions!
Are we safer walking in autumn?
Well, not really.
I mentioned earlier in a recap from Summer walking, “Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun even in summer it’s not unusual for overnight temperatures in many parts to drop below 10ºC and lower, there is no reason why autumn should be any different, especially when you’re out in the open countryside or out on high exposed ground.
We still have the extremes where the temperature can be very hot, so hot that Heat Stroke and Hyperthermia can set in!

Autumn can get cold, day or night

Notice that hyperthermia and heat stroke are two separate things.

Also, do not confuse HYPERTHERMIA with HYPOTHERMIA!

So, how to do this all as safe as possible?
I mentioned in my Winter walking, its pleasures and dangers! write-up, and I’ve continued this through the blogs covering spring and summer, that I treat walking the hills and moors with the utmost respect, though winter walking probably more so. But that doesn’t mean I drop my guard during summer, or any other season.
If you have read my previous blogs in this series:Winter walking, its pleasures and dangers!

If not, then I recommend you do read them, or even just as a refresher on what I’ve said about those other seasons.
So, where are we at, winter walking has its dangers, so does spring and summer walking, and now, I’m putting autumn walking on the spot!

In fact, the whole year can be perilous, if you're not sensible and careful!

Am I’m being either a killjoy or boring?

It’s not my intention to be a killjoy, or boring; I want you to enjoy the outdoors, just as I do, as safely as possible, accept there is a risk out there, minimise the risk and enhance the enjoyment.
Walking is there to be enjoyed and carried out as safely as reasonably possible.

Generally autumnal walking is still warm, and can be very hot, particularly early to mid-autumn, so it’s wise to have clothing and kit suitable for all variations, especially as late autumn we are getting towards the winter, and will start to experience winter conditions, in many places, especially the further north you venture.

BUT! The daylight hours are getting shorter, the nights are drawing in!

By 19:00 hrs BST (7:00pm), the sun had well and truly set for the day!
So what do I do?

I always carry a headtorch, well, two headtorches if you read my What's in my pack?, all year through, so autumn is no different to winter, spring or summer. However, early September, every year, I always replace my headtorch batteries, whether they’ve been used of not, so that I’m ready for the early sunsets and dark nights. If I’ve used either my headtorches, then I automatically replace the batteries.
This may seem a waste, but safety is paramount, even though I do carry spare batteries in my pack. If like me, you opt for headtorches that utilise AA or AAA batteries, then if you’ve got a young family, the batteries can be often be used safely in children’s toys. If not, then often the batteries can be used in other applications.
I make sure I’ve got all the right gear, clothing and adequate water. I still carry a 3 litre hydration pack (water bottles are adequate enough), plus a reserve supply in a separate bottle of 500 millilitres.
Some of you are asking; “What’s a hydration pack?” A hydration pack (often called a bladder pack) is like a water bag that sits in your rucksack (or whatever suitable non-temperature controlled drink you choose) with a long tube to enable you to suck water in the same manner as you would use a drinking straw to drink a soft drink from a glass.
As I mentioned in Summer walking, “Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun”, there is a pitfall with the hydration pack; you cannot monitor how fast the pack is emptying! So I still carry a reserve bottle, so if I do empty my hydration pack, and I need to use my reserve, then I know I need to cut short my walk, or find additional water. For the hardened walkers among us, you can carry a water filter, where you can draw water from a stream, river or other suitable flowing water source, and filter it through a fine membrane to remove many, not all, of the bacteria and other harmful things that can make you seriously ill.
You may wonder why I use water and not a soft or fizzy drink?
We’ve all been there, you’ve gone to fill that vacuum flask or drinks bottle, only to find it still retains the odour from your last drink!

If you must use flavoured drinks, then avoid fizzy drinks. Not only are they at risk of spraying everywhere due to being pressurised, which is a waste, they’re not very good at replacing lost fluids.

That’s why I only use water and not flavoured drinks.
I also carry a 700ml flask of hot water and some drinks sachets or cuppa-soups, so if I become benighted and the night gets cold, I’ve something warm to drink.
Again, just like the hydration pack, my flask only ever has hot water in to avoid that unpleasant odour scenario.

We’ve looked briefly at hydration, which is extremely important, because if you don’t keep hydrated, then you risk not only becoming ill, but also not returning safely home.

However, clothing is also very important, and today, the outdoor world has a lot of suitable, lightweight clothing to protect and keep you comfortable.

Sweating is probably one of the most uncomfortable scenarios you can endure.
There is not a lot more uncomfortable than a sweat laden top or trousers, so we tend to wear short sleeves to reduce the effects of that horrible sweaty wet sensation.
But fear not, there are a lot of garments out there that will disperse the sweat away from the skin. There are synthetic materials and also natural materials, merino wool being one of the most notable natural materials that do keep the body feeling fresher, no matter how hot or cold the temperature is.

However, be wary of some cheaper lesser known merino wool garments. True merino wool should not irritate the skin, if it does irritate the skin, then it’s not a full true merino wool garment.

My personal preference on a hot sunny day, spring, summer or autumn, is the synthetic long sleeve base layers, often aiming for a notable brand that I know, and I know others have used successfully, not only to disperse the sweat, but also providing protection against the sun. Especially when you’re out in the blazing sun for many hours….
Trousers, a lot of folk prefer to wear shorts, cut-offs or three quarter length trousers.
Personally I find three quarter length trousers annoying, because they always seem to rub just on the knee. However, I do like shorts, but I don’t wear them while walking, for two reasons:
  1. Sunburn
  2. Ticks

The first may not be as obvious, but autumn as I mentioned earlier is in the shadow of the summer, and the sun can and does often bear down on us.

The second, well, as I mentioned in my Summer walking, “Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun” blog, as I mentioned, ticks are nasty little critters, which lie in wait on foliage to then attach themselves to feed on the blood of its host. The host is usually a mammal, dogs, sheep, cattle, deer and humans among a great many.

Unfortunately many ticks carry bacteria that can make you, and other animals that it feeds from, extremely ill, in some cases leading to paralysis!

You wouldn’t think walking in Britain we are subjected to such debilitating creatures, but we are.

Two images of a tick
Left: insect stage Right: blood filled tick

Myself, I’m a victim of a nasty tick bite and as a result, now have facial palsy, facial paralysis, or as it used to be called, Bells Palsy. You can read about my story in Bells Palsy, The Flu and Lymes Disease.

Rest assured, it hasn’t stopped me getting out and about, but it has made me more careful and aware. 
With most foliage being at leg height, trousers, along with gaiters, long socks and other items to cover the legs, will go a long way to stop ticks attaching themselves to you.

So that is why I won’t generally wear shorts. But again, the sunburn issue is still a very real one, and again, just as with tops, there are trousers out there which are lightweight and dissipate sweat relatively well, keeping you comfortable most if not all day long.

Hats, I always wear a hat, summer, autumn, winter or spring. Not only will it help to keep your head warm in winter, but hats also help to keep the sun off your head.

Even in summer, I wear a hat, and long sleeves!

Again, just as with tops and trousers, there are many good hats out there, that are lightweight and brilliant for keeping the sun off your head.

Boots, a very important piece of your walking kit, and probably the one item you should spend as much as you can sensibly afford.

Your boots have to support not just you, but all your clothing and gear, including the rucksack (mentioned shortly), which will carry fluids, food, spare/extra clothing, maps, first aid kit and many other things.

Those poor boots will still get hot in autumn, wet, sweaty wet, muddy, covered in dust, scuffed by stones and boulders, and a whole host of other abuse in the duty of supporting you and your kit over many different variations of terrain and temperatures.

Rucksacks, there are many different arguments and ideas what type of rucksack you should have.

I still tend to use a summer pack for the autumn, typically around 30-35 litres though I do have a winter pack 40-50 litres.

Why the larger winter pack?
Well, I need to carry more clothing and gear, usually ice axe (which can often be strapped to your rucksack, like trekking poles) and crampons, all of which very easily take up an extra 10 litres capacity!

However, just as we have had snow in the summer of 1975, so autumn is no less of a risk, particularly late autumn!

It’s unlikely that we’ll have snow in autumn, except Scotland and further north, but, late autumn, particularly November and early December, are times when you need to seriously consider winter equipment, so have those items ready, along with a larger pack.

All these items are readily available from all good outdoor retailers and often at reasonable prices. There are many good budget brands out there, so you don’t have to spend a fortune on clothing and gear. However, you can spend wisely and as time progresses, if you feel you want to upgrade to the more expensive clothing and gear, then you can do it gradually, as many hardened hill and moorland walkers have done.

Our early walking days are always going to be fraught with challenges, cost of clothing, lack of hill and moorland skills and a lot more. I, no less than anyone else started in that same manner, as I explain in: Early walking days, time to reflect before we judge.

Just a reminder, you read about many of the items of kit I carry, and why, in; What's in my pack?

Now I’ve given you some ideas what to wear, let us have a look at some of the walks I’ve done and my experiences.

Monsal Head Camping, Bleaklow and the B29 Superfortress return visit
A walk, with a weekend camp, taking some walking buddies of the time on their first visit to Bleaklow and see the B29 Superfortress wreckage on Bleaklow. 

Weather watching, as I always do, on our approach to Bleaklow, it seemed almost close to calling the walk off due to the low cloud….

Bleaklow, being exposed and very much a featureless mountain, (yes, its peak, 633 metres, is over 600 metres making it a mountain) is not a place to mess around with the weather.

This walk was a tight squeeze, I wanted to cover new ground while sightseeing in the historically interesting plague and mining village of Eyam (pro 'eem').

Ring Cairns, that may have been dwellings

The Eyam Plague Museum, compact but full of information and exhibits, is most definitely worth a visit.

There really is a lot to see and take in, not just in the village, but around the surrounding countryside, with its rich mining and plague heritage.

Mompesson's Well

I really need to make a return visit to cover both the village and surrounding countryside in greater detail. I definitely require a weekend there, minimum, possibly a long weekend….

Alport Castles Alport Dale and River Alport
This is an exposed and featureless area, which required all my navigational and outdoor skills. A day that nearly went disastrously wrong!

Fog on the drive up slowed the journey down, my chosen parking, which fills up very fast, was not an option, so all route plans were thrown out of the window, to coin the phrase!

At ground level, a fog engulfed Ladybower Reservoir

Viewed from above the fog, a cloud inversion over Ladybower Reservoir

The weather turned out to be perfect, the views stunning, great photo opportunities, and then I took a tumble!

Alport Castles

This was a good example of how easy it is for things to go wrong and the need for proper kit, and skills.

Luckily, with the aid of trekking poles, I as able to get back to safety, in reasonable comfort.
I was staying with family in North Yorkshire, an area I’ve never walked properly before. So there was a need to rectify that.

Goathland (Aidensfield) Shops

I’ve enjoyed watching the Heartbeat series, loving the music and nostalgia from an era I grew up in, so what better subject material than Goathland and the North York Moors.

The walk had its moments, again, exhibiting the need for proper training and understanding of open moorland and how it can catch you out!
But the views were spectacular and rewarding.
Win Hill and its winning views!
This walk proves that you don’t need to conquer the big summits to get the views.

A fabulous day, superb weather, though it did get a little cloudy at times…..

Ladybower and Derwent Moor from Win Hill summit

This covered an old favourite walking area of mine, Stanton Moor, which I’ve walked in all weathers and at all times of the day, mainly solo.

Nine Ladies Stone Circle, at night...

A real challenge for a couple of the group I was walking with, who were extremely pleasantly surprised at what you could, and couldn't see, even in the dark of night. But they came away with the knowledge of how good their headtorches were and the experience of walking in the dark.

The walk was nicely topped off with a drink in a local pub.
Derwent Edge and Ladybower late autumn walk
This was a fabulous late autumn walk, on Derwent Edge, with its stunning rock formations and views. Derwent Edge: overlooking the Ladybower, Derwent (famous for the Dambusters) and Howden Reservoirs, along with the Derwent Valley.

Derwent Dam

 Autumn Walking Summary
To summarise, even in autumn, we still need to take care of ourselves and any people in our walking group. Remember, we’re all responsible for ourselves and each other. No one individual is to blame. 
We all need to ensure we are suitably kitted out with adequate hydration and food supplies, no matter what time of year.

That way, we can all enjoy our walk, enjoy the scenery and return home safe and happy.

I’ve also included the following link below for further reading:

Modern technology vs. traditional methods! here I look at map and compass verses GPS, mobile devices and a few other things we might and will use while out walking, looking at the positives and negatives of each, in a non-technical format.

Toughprint Waterproof Paper from Memory map an alternative to using large unwieldy maps by printing my own on waterproof paper, which really does work. However, I always keep a full map for backup.

Tuff Maps, laminated Ordnance Survey maps with a detached cover another type of easier to use mapping, with the full quality and detail of Ordnance Survey Maps.

Bells Palsy, The Flu and Lymes Disease something to be aware of, even during the autumnal months, ticks, which can and often are, still very active. Ticks are active in temperatures as low as 3.5ºC! They can carry nasty bacteria that could make you or others very unwell for a long time!

Trekking Poles, love ‘em or hate ‘em? I love them. Here I explain why I love trekking poles. Please, don’t limit this to trekking poles, you might find Pacer Poles just as good.

Naismith’s Rule including Tranters Correction an explanation of how to work out if a route you’re planning is achievable in the time you’ve allowed yourself.

Finally, happy rambling and thank you for reading,

Peak Rambler 

Twitter            @PeakRambler
Photo Album Peak Rambler Flickr Photo Album
YouTube       Peak Rambler on YouTube


No comments:

Post a Comment