Last of the summer in the mountains

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What a summer it has been! I have managed to get long walks in almost every weekend! Having shin splints for almost a year and half now has been a big mental challenge for me but over time and partly in thanks to my plans to reach some nice long distance goals with very gradual progress over the past few months I have come to settle to what I think is a much healthier state if mind. The shin splints haven’t gone away, I am still not running but I have been able to do and see so much this summer without feeling much pain at all, have discovered that hiking poles are great and am looking forward to see what I can achieve next spring!

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I also used the bike a bit to travel further distances away from home. Almost all of the early journeys had a mountain pasture as the end destination though. I would eventually start making some mountain tops in the early autumn but the time spent exploring the old huts and surrounding landscape of these historic places was very interesting and inspiring. There are so many of them around in the uplands of this part of Sogn and I expect I will be drawn to explore more of them next season and perhaps even reach a few on skis this winter too!

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Now the hunting season has arrived and I am adapting my time outdoors to fit in with the new challenges this brings. It’s not something I have ever had to think about before! The forest around our home is particular suited for deer hunting. It has very good access for quads and tractors as well as many flat places the deer like to sleep in. Hunting is normal across the whole of Norway but this area is much more busy than is normal elsewhere. This makes it particular important to take care in these areas after 15:30 and it is usually best to avoid them altogether at this time.

So far I have started thinking about doing some uphill running in the middle of the day as well as the possibility of cycling further afield from the hunting, while carrying the gear to do a short mountain walk. This might be something I start considering for the season but I will just have to see how the weather plays out. I don’t really  enjoy cycling in persistent rain (compared to walking when I am quite happy if I have my rain gear on) and the last month has been so wet almost every day. I am very aware of how much I will be limited in my route choices once the snow falls proper so if the weather improves over the next week I will hopefully have good motivation to seize any free time and to do as much as I can now!

Evening cycle in Sogn

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Here are a few photos from a recent cycle I made up to a lovely spot by Sognefjorden in Norway! I was very happy to find that there is plenty of rustic farm inspiration to be found there as well as quite spots by the water to sit and reflect. With the pond there is almost a Hobbiton feeling there too!

Millican Travelogue Illustrations

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This year I had the pleasure of working with Millican bags on a number of very exciting projects. My favourite was producing the cover and map of the world for their new Travelogue publication!

I am really hoping to land some more map jobs this year so the timing for the project was perfect. There was also lots of research to be done for the different travel locations but this is always my favourite part of map illustrations!

Since doing some research into traditional Welsh quilt making at the beginning of the year I was really eager to use some of this inspiration in my Illustration work. The wonderful design team at Millican were amazing to work with and let me run with my ideas for the cover which definitely has some of these lovely pattern influences in it!

The travelogue is going to be sent out with Millican product orders and used at trade fairs and I am really excited to hear people’s reactions to it!

 

 

Ride Journal – Cycling up Lifjell

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At the start of summer I finally took my bike up to the top of Lifjell – the steep and rocky hill that I could see from the door of my flat in Stavanger and a summit from which I had dreamt of seeing the view back to the city and surrounding islands for too long!

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To get there I first had to pedal my way around the edge of Gandsfjorden to the start of the mountain track. This came to around 35km each way and had a few hills but nothing too steep. On the way I passed Vaulen my local swimming spot. It lies just beside a lovely shared-use bike path from which I happily took in the views and celebrated cheerfully the lack of busy traffic. This is just one of many amazing shared-use paths that run south of Stavanger and I can’t praise them highly enough!

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Then it was time for the steep gravel or “gris” climb to the summit of Lifjell at 282 moh. The track is for access to the radio mast but it also makes for great white knuckle downhill gravel riding too! I tried to wave home but unfortunately it appeared that I had chosen a day when fate had it that I was hidden inside a misty cloud on the top, so no mountain-to-city contact was made.

The initial road climb to the carpark and trackhead of Lifjell was more tough than I had imagined but all in all it was a very fun ride and I would recommend it to anyone who only has a few hours but is looking for something a bit more challenging in the close vicinity of Stavanger and Sandnes! (It is very flat to the south!)

Writing this is making me miss Rogaland quite a lot as I have some exciting news to share – I am moving back to Cornwall with my girlfriend! It is going to be lovely to be back where I studied and met so many nice people but I am going to miss Norway a lot too! So Cornish adventures coming up on the blog and maybe even some Celtic/Cornish themes finding their way in to my work soon!

Illustration for PNT Bicycle Magazine

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This month I am really excited that my work has been published in the Polish cycling and bikepacking magazine PNT! The whole publications is laid out and designed beautifully with some amazing photography!

As always, I am so pleased to be able to take part in spreading the word on the benefits and fun that can be had when exploring nature and the outdoors on two wheels! Dzięki PNT!

Ride Journal – Egersund to Stavanger

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A few weeks ago I took the train down to Egersund to explore a length of the North Sea Cycle Route on my bike. I had heard lots of nice things about it and knew that Nordsjørittet – one of the most popular gravel races in Rogaland is held along much of the route. I was excited to experience riding the entire length of the Jæren region for the first time, known for its farmland and fields of glacial boulders, as well as feeling slightly nervous to be doing my first long ride in a good while. An hour or so of comfortable train ride later and I was pedalling out of town.

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The route starts out on an old railway track of gravel at Egersund (it was about 30% gravel over the whole 80km route) winding its way to the amazing beaches at Ogna. I really wanted to stay by the beach for longer but decided to keep on as I had no idea how slow I would be along the route!

I was already pretty tired, as the gravel section veered inland just before the beaches of Ogna and headed up into the steep rocky hills. I didn’t mind getting off to push as it gave me an excuse to take a lot of photos! I was the only person around for miles! Just me, an empty track and sunshine!

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Then I was properly heading up into Jæren! I made use of the wee villages dotted along the route to pop into a supermarket for some lunch and then started along the coastal gravel section. There were so many nice things about this route that I would be hard pushed to pick a favourite. However, the company of the sparkling sea to my left and beautiful Lapwings calling to their young in the fields to my right made this section of the coast (Kongevegen ) particularly special!

Freewheeling down from the eerily silent uplands to the lush fields filled with birdsong was a little like cycling into spring. I was glad that it was finally here!

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Obrestad lighthouse provided a welcome (if very windy) stop to savour a few pieces of Swedish chocolate biscuit. From then on it was a case of winding my way up the many cycle paths that line most of the main roads in northern Jæren up to Sola and then Stavanger. However, I made a wee diversion out to Vigdel strand to dip my toes in the sea.

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Vigdel Strand has to be my favourite cove on the whole of Jæren so far! There was a perfect spot to bivvy up on the headland and I can just see myself getting up out of my sleeping bag and going for a swim in the calm morning sea as the sun rises!

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I am hopefully going to have the opportunity to explore the Jæren coast a bit more on my bike soon, (Hå Prestegård in particular!) but for now here is a map I drew up showing my route and of course – I had to paint some Lapwings!

Mountain running plans for the year

Last winter I had my first try at a hill race at the Kendal Mountain festival. I really enjoyed it but as the winter has gone on I have been pondering what direction to take my running next.

So far I have learnt that my favourite part of fell running has to be fun technical downhill running! However, I currently (and hope to continue!) only travel around by bike and public transport, (mainly with environmental concerns in mind) and realise that to compete in even just a few fell races each year would mean a lot of travelling for me.

However, a big inspiration for me is the idea that by running I can explore more mountainous/upland terrain in one go and connect routes that would have previously been a logistical nightmare to walk. Hiking Pádhraic would have had to attempt such areas section by section and to return by public transport, which in many cases is pretty much impossible.

So this is where this year’s plans come in.

I grew up looking up at Slemish. It’s a wee rocky mountain overlooking a broad valley and I couldn’t begin to count how many times I have climbed it! It is a very special place for me. It also lies at the end of a long distance footpath called the Antrim Hills way. I have yet to explore many parts of the route and have never walked the whole 35km. So this summer I am aiming to find a good dry spell,(roughly a third is pathless bog!) get up really early and run/fast walk all the way from my door to the end at Glenarm (maybe dip myself in the sea too!). An afternoon bus later and I will be home for tea!

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I am also very lucky to be going on a wee holiday to Sognefjord for my Birthday next month! My bike can’t come with me unfortunately so I am planning to do loads of exploring on foot. I am not making many definite plans as the weather can still be quite wintery above 500m there in April but I do have one goal. To run up Storehaugfjellet!

The summit lies at 1173m and has beautiful views over Sogndal and across the fjord. I attempted to run it in December but ran out of daylight and turned back at around 900m. Once I left the tree line I did feel like some snow spikes (something I don’t own at the moment) would have been helpful but I think in similar conditions I will still be in a safe position as long as I give myself enough time to go very slowly and carefully on the steeper snow sections.

I have many more ideas but these are my main goals for this year. Keep an eye out on my twitter for updates or even just to have a wee chat. I would love to hear what running adventures people have planned for the coming year!

Norwegian Bikepacking Book – Villmarkssykling

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Last year I had the pleasure to work with Mikkel Soya Bølstad on his latest book about adventures by bike in the wilderness and nature of  Norway. I have been following his adventures and photography for a while on instagram so was really excited to work with him.

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I was initially just working on the maps of the bikepacking adventures he features in the book but at the end of the project I was asked to illustrate the cover as well! The designers did a really nice job on the cover so I was very happy with this surprise extra work!

I went to the book launch in Oslo and got my first look at the finished book and it was everything I had been dreaming of and more! In my second year of uni, just after I completed my first solo bike tour in the Hebrides, I searched all over the internet for beautiful photography showcasing adventure cycling. I was really hungry for visual inspiration but I hardly found anything at all!

Fortunately, there has been a lot of positive interest in bikepacking recently, and now websites like bikepacking.com are doing a great job at providing beautiful stories and photography to inspire you to get out there on your next adventure. I think Mikkel’s book perfectly embodies all those things I was looking for when I first started getting into travelling and camping with my bike. Now I just have to up my Norwegian translation skills so I can read it!

Cycling in Longsleddale, Cumbria

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Earlier this year, I met up with my good friend Bee in the Lake District, where she is working on lots of exciting steam bending and craft projects. As I am currently getting very excited for my next adventures in Cumbria when I travel to the Kendal Mountain Festival, I thought I would share some photos from a cycle ride we did together up the Longsleddale valley.

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It was a particular special trip for me, as lots of my ancestors lived and farmed in Longsleddale and as we rode our bikes down the narrow lane that takes you up to the end of the valley I tried to imagine what their lives must have been like working on those steep hillsides. I sometimes wish I knew more about farming and my family history and I think that maybe in future visits to the lakes I can try and explore more farms and try to gather some stories to inspire my illustrations.

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There were so many interesting things to see on the ride up to the valley as well. Bee showed me a great barn that housed an amazing collection of boats, tools and all sorts of unusual old things. It was hidden down a wee lane and I really felt like we were discovering something secret and special!

A birthday barbecue in the evening sun at the beautiful Witherslack finished off a great trip! I know that there are many beautiful landscapes out there but perhaps due to nostalgia or maybe just too much Arthur Ransome as a child, I always feel a little bit sad when I have to leave the Lake District.

Cycling across Bowland and Salter Fell

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Here are a few photos from a ride I made across the moors of Bowland, Lancashire. I rode my Raleigh Randonneur bicycle across a fantastic rough track of gravel, boulders and ancient Roman pavement. This was my first real off road ride of any distance and I learned later that my Uncle and Grandad made the exact same crossing on the Salter Fell track many years ago!

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The glorious feeling of paved road again as I finally made it off the moor and onwards to the Trough of Bowland for some excellent climbing and miles of beautiful descent by the Marshaw Wyre river.

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I had concerns about impending thunderstorms and had made a half way point of no return on the map. I didn’t quite reach it on time but I was too eager to continue and went on ahead anyway. On the way down the final section I met a couple riding the other way on a mountain bike tandem!

I am now doing much more offroad riding here in Norway, having just got my very own Cyclocross bike!

In the picture above you can see the view off to Three Peaks country and Ingleborough. This morning I discovered the Three Peaks CX race online and now I really want to ride a bike up around the mountains there. I didn’t quite make it into the Yorkshire Dales this year but who knows where my bike will take me next year!