Walk Wednesday route on the Gower – Pitton via Rhossili

Gower walk from Pitton via Rhossili - coast view to MewsladeThis weeks #walkwednesday route is a beautiful route taking in sea views and the inner countryside of the Gower. With gentle up and down across Rhossili downs plus countryside paths, it features some stiles returning via the cliff path towards Mewslade bay. The Gower is an area of outstanding natural beauty and after doing this walk it is not hard to see why. Getting the best of the sea views and the unspoilt interior you’ll leave this walk refreshed.

Although the map suggests a starting point down in the village of Pitton, you can just as easily start it from the parking for Mewslade Bay or at Rhossili beach itself. At just under nine miles it’s a perfect short days stroll – we reckon between easy and moderate. You can also get the route directly to your mobile if you have Viewranger as it is available FREE for anyone to download. Simply print or follow the route below and let us know how you got on in the comments below.

Read More

Social Hiking Interview

As promised folks, today we are interviewing Phil Sorrell, the man behind Social Hiking. Last week saw us look at Viewranger, and how their buddy beacon let’s you track friends and vice versa. Social hiking is a tool that lets you share your progress on a route by using the buddy beacon. You can then embed your tweets, photos, videos, audio and other media as you wander along. So yesterday just after Phil’s get up time of 10:30 (the life of a developer eh?), I caught up with him on Skype for a quick natter.

Webtogs: Hey Phil thanks for joining us!

Phil: Pleasure!

Webtogs: How did Social Hiking come about?

Phil: About 2 years ago I decided to walk Offa’s Dyke in aid of the MS Society which I completed last year. I was already using twitter, and thought wouldn’t it be brilliant if people could keep track of us to follow what we were doing, rather than come back and go “da da”, we have done it. I looked at a few solutions, Viewranger with their buddy beacon and Google Lattitude. It wasn’t possible using these on their own as they were, so I asked Viewranger if they would release an API for me to use (techy explanation of API – let’s computers to talk to one another!). After initially asking them, they came back after a couple of months and asked me “well this API, what do you want it to do?” I had the beginning of the site up in a week after Viewranger helped me, and my route was then posted live as I walked. Phil Turner then spotted what I had done on the web with my walk and persuaded me to release it to the world, so we went from there.

Webtogs: Does Social Hiking have any plans to work with any other mapping technologies?

Phil: Well the site already works with Instamapper which is a no frills location pinging app, we also support SPOT GPS Satellite units, which have much better battery life, and are not reliant on signal as it communicates directly with the satellites. Jilly is using it to cycle to China and Phil Turner used it for his recent TGO challenge. We are also having a chat with Yellow Brick who rent GPS units to large expeditions and charity events. Viewranger is however the only mapping app that is suitable for day to day hiking with their buddy beacon.

Webtogs: What additional features have you got planned for social hiking?

Phil: Support for more social media sites in the first instance as new services are released. Functionality wise, I really want to improve how people can browse walks that have previously been done. It’s less user friendly, and the experience in switching between all the media that people have shared is not as good as it could be. It would also be great to have a tab that would let you filter and browse through all the photos for that route, or tweets for that route for example.

Webtogs: What’s your favourite route that’s been showcased on Social Hiking?

Phil: My fav route has to be Jilly’s epic cycle to China for several reasons. Firstly it’s an awesome adventure, our tag line is share the adventure, and she’s really good at Tweeting and uploading photos. Secondly, although the name is social hiking, it’s not just about hiking, so it’s great to have a journey which is on two wheels. Thirdly, the sheer scale of what she is doing is incredible. If you look at her map now, she’s on 1680 beacons and as a result she’s forced me to improve map load times as she has so many, so everyone has benefited from her trip.


Webtogs: You did Offa’s dyke in aid of the MS Society, which is something you have. How much of an impact has your illness had in developing Social Hiking?

Phil: Social Hiking worked so well during Offa’s Dyke, because we interacted with people whilst we were doing it, and it definitely did help raise extra money. For me, it also helps inspire people to complete their challenge. On one day, we met a lady walking her dog who we then recognised as a friend of the person I was walking with. She had tracked us down using Social Hiking and walked with us for the rest of the day! It’s always at the forefront of my mind to have features for people doing Charity challenges.

Webtogs: What’s your favourite piece of outdoor kit?

Phil: I’ve got two? can I have two? (Webtogs : Yes laughs) First up has to be the Mountain Equipment Touchstone jacket. It’s not something I wear hiking or camping as it’s mainly a cold weather piece. I bought it as a thermal fleece camping in the North Down in february but I can’t take it off! I wear it around the house, whilst working, walking the dog. My most outdoorsy piece though has to be the Icebreaker Oasis baselayer, I wear base layers all day every day whether I am walking or not, and they are the most comfortable and practical pieces I own.

Webtogs: Right some quickfire questions here! Mountains or Hills?
Phil: Mountains!
Webtogs: Walking or Climbing?
Phil: Walking
Webtogs: Windshirt or Hardshell?
Phil: Hardshell
Webtogs Chocolate or Crisps?
Phil: Chocolate!
Webtogs: Thats it! Thanks for your time Phil, best of luck with Social Hiking and we look forward to the new developments.
Phil: You’re welcome!

 

Read More

Unlock the power of your phone outdoors.

Somewhere in your pocket is something that may well revolutionise your time out on the hill. It’s your phone. We’re taking a look today at Viewranger, an application for a lot of smartphones that we just wanted to rave about, as it has seriously increased the amount of fun we have outdoors. And that’s not a bad thing in our book.

Viewranger is an application you can download for the iPhone, Symbian and Android smartphone operating systems, that turns your phone in to a pretty darn cool GPS. As a result, you don’t have to shell out a fortune on a dedicated GPS itself. It already has a load of web maps on it, and you can download more detailed maps such as Ordnance Survey ones directly down to your phone. You don’t need to have any signal for it to work, and you can also download some pretty cool routes direct from people such as our friends at Walkhighlands & Trail.

Now talking about GPS’s for some outdoor folk will have them coughing and spluttering that nothing replaces a map or compass, and that red socks are compulsory when out walking. For the record, we would agree with the map and compass bit if you are heading up in to the hills. The red socks is a matter of choice though – unless you belong to the Ramblers :-) We think Viewranger is great for working alongside your map and compass, or on it’s own in non-critical situations. Now Viewranger can do lots of pretty cool things, so today isn’t about giving you a full lowdown – you can visit their homepage for that. We are simply going to tell you what makes it rock for us.

Viewranger on the go.

First up spare maps. Not sure about you, but I rarely have an occasion where we have a back up map with us, so Viewranger is rather handy as a spare. It has also got to be useful in some hairy situations. Imagine this, you’re in a whiteout somewhere on a Scottish hill, lost your way and no idea which way to go. Not sure about you, but I would be turning my phone on, seeing exactly where I am and working out where my emergency route off the hill is (haven’t already though of an escape route when planning your day? Tsk tsk!).

One natty feature that a GPS won’t have is the buddy beacon. Get your friends buddy beacon details and give them yours, you’ll be able to see exactly where they are on the hill in real time, and ensure that meeting for lunch on top of Ben Macdui goes swimmingly. Along the same lines, do you have a dog with a Retrieva collar? Similar to the buddy beacon, you can now see where Fido is wandering if he’s dashed off chasing rabbits! As we also discover living in the middle of deepest darkest Dorsetshire, we can’t always get to a shop that sells maps, or the shops are closed. If we want to explore a local area on a whim, Viewranger has stepped in to the breach on quite a few occasions, letting us download the map and go. Obviously you shouldn’t just have Viewranger for high level mountain routes, but if you just want to get a map for a wander in the local countryside, we think it’s fab.

Add in the ability to plan routes, download tracks, locate points of interest and all the other things you can do with a GPS, and you have a seriously handy piece of kit. Now obviously there are some things you need to be aware of, battery life on a lot of phones is poor, they can get wet, and they can break, but used alongside more traditional navigation, we reckon it’s a bloomin’ useful addition to our outdoor kit. Just don’t forget the red socks.

So what do you reckon folks? Do you have a GPS or Viewranger, and does it help you enjoy your time outside more? Post up your experiences in the comments below!

 

Keep an eye out soon for our interview with Phil Sorrell. He’s the developer behind Social Hiking which links up to the buddy beacon to share routes live, including your tweets, photos and more.

 

Read More