Posts tagged #books

Tea Chronicles Pt.14 - Jerome K. Jerome

Three Men in a Boat

Three Men in a Boat

One of my favorite Victorian novels would have to be "Three Men in a Boat" by Jerome K. Jerome. Jerome was a great comedic writer, his prose are still laugh out loud funny. The book follows Jerome and his two friends, to say nothing of the dog, as they take a boat trip out of London on the Thames. One of my favorite parts outlines their approach to making tea, this is a top-tip still relevant today.

We put the kettle on to boil, up in the nose of the boat, and went down to the stern and pretended to take no notice of it, but set to work to get the other things out.

That is the only way to get a kettle to boil up the river. If it sees that you are waiting for it and are anxious, it will never even sing. You have to go away and begin your meal, as if you were not going to have any tea at all. You must not even look round at it. Then you will soon hear it sputtering away, mad to be made into tea.

It is a good plan, too, if you are in a great hurry, to talk very loudly to each other about how you don’t need any tea, and are not going to have any. You get near the kettle, so that it can overhear you, and then you shout out,“I don’t want any tea; do you, George?” to which George shouts back, “Oh, no, I don’t like tea; we’ll have lemonade instead—tea’s so indigestible.” Upon which the kettle boils over, and puts the stove out.

We adopted this harmless bit of trickery, and the result was that, by the time everything else was ready, the tea was waiting.

Posted on September 24, 2015 and filed under Tea.

River Cottage Handbooks

River Cottage Handbooks

River Cottage Handbooks

Field guides, cookbooks, gardeners manuals, forager's friends, sustainability source-books, fisherman's companions and ethical way markers – the River Cottage Handbooks form an ever expanding reference library; a set of contemporary, practical guidebooks; the culinary equivalent of the Audubom Field Guides.

River Cottage began as a small-holding project of chef and journalist Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, it was his attempt to live a simpler life, away from the trappings of a larger city, a way he could have a closer, more conscious relationship with the food he consumed. From simple beginnings River Cottage has now become a culinary empire and while it has grown exponentially it hasn't wavered in it's ethical, hands-on, back-to-basics philosophy. The River Cottage Handbooks are the embodiment of this. 

Building my collection

Building my collection

For those familiar with the River Cottage series, you may recognize some of the handbooks' authors – John Wright, Pam 'The Jam' Corbin, Gill Meller and Nick Fisher to name a few. It is this pedigree of authors that makes each handbooks truly invaluable, while each has recipes they are far more than cookbooks, they are a deep-dive into the authors specific specialty. You not only learn how to cook herbs you learn how to grow, cultivate, harvest and store the finished product. You don't just learn how to cook fish, you learn how and where to catch them and how to eat sustainably. The books are exquisitely presented, with colour photography and easy to follow instructions for all experience levels. They seem to operate slightly away from the TV goings-on, and have a timeless, practical quality.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is certainly a polarizing character, even within my family opinions are mixed. Some see him as a rich kid, backed by Channel 4 money, living in some kind of fantasy world, preaching to all about his virtues. For others he is a real pioneer; someone that cares deeply about how we feed ourselves and about the moral, ethical and environmental impact that we have on the world.

I find myself in the later camp – I've watched Hugh ever since 1995 when he presented "A cook on the Wildside" and have watched the entire "River Cottage" series many times. I find myself continually inspired by his escapades, and while he does bullishly preach the virtues of his lifestyle, at least he walks the walk with his activism, and as Yvon Chouinard said “To do good, you actually have to do something.”

For the last few Christmases and birthdays I have managed to acquire several of the handbooks and have started building the complete collection. They are now go-to's for inspiration as well as guidance. Hunt them out.

Alfred Wainwright

There is no other character in British hiking quite as celebrated as Alfred Wainwright; although he is little known outside of the UK, for many he is the godfather of recreational walking. His pictorial guides to the hills and fells have made much of the UK, and in particular the Lake District, accessible for all to enjoy.

It all began on 7th June 1930. Wainwright had saved enough money for a weeks holiday in the Lake District in North-West England. He took the bus from his Blackburn home and after arriving in Windermere he made for Orrest Head; it is a short walk but ends with breathtaking views over the town of Windermere, the lake of the same name and the surrounding fells.

I was totally transfixed, unable to believe my eyes. I had never seen anything like this. I saw mountain ranges, one after another, the nearer starkly etched, those beyond fading into the blue distance. Rich woodlands, emerald pastures and the shimmering water of the lake below added to a pageant of loveliness, a glorious panorama that held me enthralled.
— Alfred Wainwright
My trip to Orrest Head

My trip to Orrest Head

From then on he was hooked, he spent the following years making multiple trips to explore the Lake District – he even found ways to make the journey during the early years of World War II, when travel was heavily restricted. So keen was his love of the area, that in 1941 he took a pay cut and moved north to Kendal to work for the Kendal Treasurer's Department. The hills were now on his doorstep and he ventured out at every opportunity, building a personal relationship and deep knowledge of their many peaks.

Being a meticulous scribe, illustrator and artist, as well as a passionate walker, Wainwright began to document each of his trips. In 1951 he began work on a set of Lakeland Guides, he intended to climb and document every one of the 214 Lake District's Fells. He completed this in 13 years and compiled them into seven books, once published they became instant classics, inspiring millions to load up a pack and head to the hills. Wainwright went on to expand his range, creating guides for the Pennine Way, the Coast To Coast walk and eventually the Lake District's Outer Fells, these have also become indispensable walking guides.

Each Wainwright guide is exquisite. Every publication is a compilation of his illustration and writing; of factual practical knowledge as well as his whimsical musings. If you chance upon any be sure to pick them up, even if you have no intention of visiting the Lake District – they are real works of art and an amazing case study in information design. His guides are now part of UK folklore, so much so that the 214 peaks in the Lake District are now known as 'Wainwrights'. The guides are still widely available and have been recently updated by Chris Jesty (a friend of Wainwrights) for Frances Lincoln who now has the publishing rights for the guides.

Sadly Alfred Wainwright passed away in 1991. He may have been quiet and reclusive in life, but his legacy does, and will, continue to speak loudly of his love for the hills and fells for years to come, through the practical content of his guides and in the memories created by the generations of walkers they inspired. 

Posted on March 12, 2015 and filed under Hero.

The Tracker

The Tracker

The Tracker

I recently spent a couple of nights in Portland, Oregon. Upon arrival I instinctively headed straight for Powell's City of Books and did some serious damage to their outdoors section. During my spree I purchased a copy of "The Tracker" by Tom Brown Jr. To my shame I'd never heard of him before, but the cover looked awesome and there were three different re-prints of this one book so I figured it must be something special.

It turns out I was right - what a great read. It follows Brown and his friend Rick through their childhood as they learn to live with the woods and develop their skills in tracking and wilderness survival. They are guided by Rick's grandfather, a Native American called "Stalking Wolf,"  and as they unravel his cryptic challenges, each one created to hone their outdoor skills, they learn to become "one with the Spirit-That- Moves-Through- All-Things." 

This book is about learning to live in harmony with nature, Brown states that - "Stalking Wolf often told us that nature would never hurt us as long as we went with it and did not panic. As long as we were in tune with nature we were invulnerable." Following this seemingly simple rule Brown travels the country, living off the land and learning all he can as he grows into one of the countries most qualified trackers and outdoorsman.

"The Tracker" is vividly written and Browns stories are truly incredible and engrossing, I'm excited that he has an extensive list of publications for me to get stuck into. Brown has now helped track and find countless missing people, dangerous animals and fugitives of the law throughout the USA. He founded the Tracker School in 1978 from Pine Barrens in New Jersey where he teaches the skills he learned and developed.

Posted on October 20, 2013 and filed under Books.




Yes London. Although I'm a country boy at heart, at times I find myself in the big smoke and to me, there is no other city I would rather be in. A long time ago, when I was fresh faced and bright eyed about the world I spent a few years working hard in London, and it still has a very special place in my heart. I thought I'd try and highlight a few of my absolute favorite destinations in London and prove that there is a ton of VHD fodder to be found in the city.

Rule's Restaurant

Rule's Restaurant Picture By Herry Lawford

Rule's Restaurant Picture By Herry Lawford

If I'm ever asked about places to eat in London my first suggestion is always Rules, London's oldest restaurant. Opened by Thomas Rule in 1798 it has served the finest British cuisine to a captive audience in London's Covent Garden ever since. Imagine, if you will, a wood paneled living room festooned with hunting trophies, oil painting and imperial memorabilia. An ever changing menu of seasonal game, sourced from its own country estate, is prepared by 35 chefs fronted by David Stafford. Dining here you join such prestigious alumni as Charles Dickens, William Makepeace Thackeray, John Galsworthy and H.G Wells. Nowhere else will you get such a distinct display of fine British cuisine. I highly recommend the venison cottage pie.

Parks and Trees

A great London Plane in Berkeley Square Gardens

A great London Plane in Berkeley Square Gardens

London is truly a city of parks; it has over 25,000 acres of green, all designed to be strolled through and enjoyed. This trip however I came armed, on mission if you will. I had picked up a copy of "Great Trees of London" (yes, there is such a book)  and this great book (published by "The Lonely Planet" in conjunction with "Trees for Cities") took me into new parts of London; to secret squares, nooks and crannies in the hunt for trees of note. There were some amazing specimens but also, unfortunately, one that is no longer there. The St James's Church Catalpa tree on Piccadilly was cut down in 2012 - I just missed it. After it was felled the pieces were carved by artist Clinton Chaloner into the church's nativity. So it still lives on in one form or another, although I would prefer if it still were alive.


The Grapes

The Grapes

There are over 7,000 pubs in London, of varying qualities I must admit, but the good ones are real gems. On this trip I naturally visited quite a few but my favorite was The Grapes in Limehouse. This wonderful pub was my lunch spot while I was walking the Thames Path between Greenwich and London Bridge and was well worth the stop. The Grapes opened its doors in 1583 and has played an important part in the history of Limehouse, an area frequented by the likes of Sir Humphrey Gilbert, Sir Walter Raleigh, Francis Bacon, Edward Wolfe and Charles Dickens. It is believed that Dickens even made mention of the pub in “Our Mutual Friend”

A tavern of dropsical appearance … long settled down into a state of hale infirmity. It had outlasted many a sprucer public house, indeed the whole house impended over the water but seemed to have got into the condition of a faint-hearted diver, who has paused so long on the brink that he will never go in at all.
— Charles Dickens - Our Mutual Friends, 1864–65

The pub has a friendly, local atmosphere, it smells of old wood and history and I'm glad to say it was bustling when I went in. The bangers and mash were delicious as well as the ales that washed them down, the co-lease holder, Sir Ian McKellen was not around but there was a rather cool Gandalph model in the back parlour overlooking the Thames, along with a complete set of Dickens' work. 


I'm pretty much in my element when surrounded by stacks of old, dusty books. One of my favorite London activities is to simply stroll down Charing Cross Road and duck into all of the amazing book shops. Some are real collector, antique type stores, some are bargain basement places but they all have a nostalgic atmosphere. They also pay heavy dividends if you are willing to put in a little work. Checkout "Quinto & Francis Edwards Bookshop", "Henry Pordes Books"," Any Amount of Books" and, of course, "Foyle's". Foyle's has been selling books for a long time. They stock mainly new books but also have a few second hand, either way they must have exceptional buyers as it's always stocked with a great selection. Their travel section is particularly spectacular.


A little something picked up from Arcadia

A little something picked up from Arcadia

Whatever you're looking for London most likely has a market for it and this trip my destination this time was Spitalfields on a Thursday. In the main, old hall they have an excellent antiques and knick-knacks market. It might not be the biggest market but the quality and selection is exceptional. Be sure to swing by Andrews of Arcadia for all your fishing needs.

And there we have it, this is very much my own, very concise list and may not be for everyone. I have hardly scratched the surface of London itself, I'd love to talk about museums, galleries, monuments and go deeper into pubs, restaurants and history but this is already a monster post, so that might just have to wait for my next visit.

Posted on May 7, 2013 and filed under VHD.

Tips from the Archive #003

Dennis Look - Joy Of Backpacking, 1976 

Dennis Look - Joy Of Backpacking, 1976 

A great tip from Dennis Look's "Joy of Backpacking," this is a superb book written in 1976. Look is a passionate writer he cares deeply about the wilderness and everything in this book puts the environment first. The book is still as relevant as it was in the 70's.

Tip 003 – Your Parka Works as a Day Pack.

Have you ever been on a backpacking trip and wanted to take a short day hike? But where will you carry your gorp, water and rain or wind parka? If you didn’t carry a knapsack or hip pack (which most people don’t – too heavy), then it’s rather difficult to hold these items in your hands, or put them in your pocket. Here is one solution

First of all, some type of parka or jacket is required

Lay the parka out on the ground and start stuffing the items you wish to carry inside

When this is completed, zip up the parka, then close the draw cord on the bottom of the parka (this will prevent the items falling out). If your parka has a draw cord on the hood, then do the same

Roll the bottom of the parka over the items which you have placed inside. Make this roll as tight as possible and bind it with the draw cord from the bottom of the parka

Take the sleeves and wrap them around your waste then tie then with a square knot. If your parka is made of nylon this not will prevent it from slipping

Now you have a hip or fanny pack for your trip

One question: What do you do if you have to put your parka on? (stuff the items in the parka’s pockets)
— Dennis Look - Joy Of Backpacking, 1976
Posted on July 21, 2012 and filed under Tips from the Archive.


Cooking Bannock

Cooking Bannock

Living in a city (a small one none the less) I rarely get chance to have a fire and it just didn't feel right making my first bannock without one. Fortunately I was invited to New Hampshire to make maple syrup. This was the perfect excuse to try out my frying pan bread skills.

Bannock is an easy to make, no nonsense bread. Although it has Scottish roots it was also a favorite among native Americans as well as hikers, woodsmen and outdoors types. I came across a great number of recipes online and in various publications, they all have a similar base with other flourishes. The most detailed documentation was in Bradford Angier's "Home in Your Pack."

Angier's basic recipe and his method are as follows.

One cup flour
One teaspoon baking powder
One fourth teaspoon salt

Mix these dry ingredient if starting from scratch, taking all the time you need to do this thoroughly. Have the hands floured and everything ready to go before you add liquid. Make sure your frying pan is warm and greased.

Working quickly from now on, stir in enough water to make a firm dough. Shape this, with as little handling as possible, into a cake about an inch thick.

Lay the bannock in the warm frying pan. Hold it over the heat until the bottom crust forms, rotating the pan a little so the loaf will shift and not become stuck.

Once the dough has hardened enough to hold together, you can turn the bannock. This, if you’ve practiced a bit and have the confidence to flip strongly enough, can easily be accomplished with a slight swing of the arm and a snap of the wrist. Or you can use one of the plate from your cooking outfit, sliding the bannock onto this and reversing the frypan over the plate and turning both together.

When is the bannock done? After you’ve been cooking for them a while, you will be able to tap on one and gauge this by the hollowness of the sound. Meanwhile test by shoving in a clean straw or sliver. If any dough adheres, the loaf needs more heat. Cooking can be accomplished in about 15 minutes.
— Bradford Angier - Home in Your Pack, 1965

I made a double batch and also added: fresh blueberries, 3 tablespoons of butter and an extra pinch of baking powder. These are all Angier's recommendations for a tastier loaf.

Bannock Ready To Eat

Bannock Ready To Eat

I cooked exactly as advised and the results were fantastic. Crusty and toasted on the outside, fluffy in the middle with small blueberry explosions. Awesome with a little butter and some maple syrup. Looking forward to experimenting with different flavors. Cheese and olive spring to mind.

Posted on February 28, 2012 and filed under Recipe.

Tea Chronicles Pt. 5 – Nessmuk



Nessmuck was the pen name of George W. Sears, born in Massachusetts in 1821 he became recognised as a contributor to "Forest and Stream" magazine where he helped popularize canoeing, canoe camping and the use of ultralight single person canoes. Not a large man he kept his kit to the bare minimum advising his reader to "Go light; the lighter the better, so that you have the simplest material for health, comfort and enjoyment.” He was also one of America's first conservationists, he actively protested against the Pennsylvania's lumber companies for their destruction of the pine forests.

In 1881 Sears authored the indispensable "Woodcraft and Camping" and it is in here that we find about his respect for tea.

Often, when too utterly tiered and beaten for further travel, I have often tried coffee, whisky or brandy, and a long experience convinces me that there is nothing so restful and refreshing as green tea. To make it as it should be made, bring the water to a high boil, and let it continue to boil for a further minute. Set it off the fire and it will cease boiling; put in a handful of tea, and it will simmer for a few minutes, when it will be ready for use. Buy the best green tea you can find, and use it freely on a hard tramp. Black, or Oolong tea, is excellent in camp. It should be put in the pot with cold water and brought to the boiling point.
— Nessmuk - Woodcraft and Camping, 1881

There are some great sites about  Sears and "Woodcraft and Camping" is still in print and available on amazon. You can find masses of information about his life here including transcripts of his "Forest and Stream" letters and also an excellent more detailed biography here.

Posted on February 21, 2012 and filed under Tea.

PATC 1960 Gear List

 PATC - Hiking, Camping and Mountaineering Equipment, 1960

 PATC - Hiking, Camping and Mountaineering Equipment, 1960

I came across this great guide in a dusty Portland bookstore. It is a truly exhaustive list of all the gear available to the hiker, climber and mountaineer in the early 60's. This is a real gem, it has details about the brands, the weight of the items as well as the details of which companies make them. Excuse the long post, but I love an gear list.

Their suggested gear list for hiking the Appalachian Trail is as follows:

On Person Handkerchief (Bean’s 24” bandana); Polythylene plastic bag 9” x 18” (Gerry#P62) for toilet paper Valuables, permits, keys, small note book and pencil stub, pocket knife with 2 blades, can opener Small compass induction damped (Gerry #K42 or Silva “Explorer” Stern Waterproof match box with small size strike-anywhere matches sprayed with laquer like Krylon Alarm Watch (Corcoran) Maps and proper guide book sheets in map case (PATC) — Carry in front of shirt Camera Equipment

Pack and Contents A. For use while hiking Kelty “Mountaineer” Model Packboard of proper size used with waist strap and equiped with studs or loops at of vertical risers for easy lashing. Lashed to topbar — Ruck - or rucksask (Camp and Trail #300) with “Dee” ring hooked on stud secured to top of cross bar, shoulder straps of rucksack wrapped around cross-bar, then brought down and snapped into “dee” rings at base of rucksack. Kelty Packbag Model “B” if no side trips are planned (for side trips the first option permits leaving the pack frame in base camp and carrying out essentials in the rucksack). With the rucksack arrangement, items not required during the day are placed in a rubberized clothing bag which is lashed below the rucksack, heavy items at the top. Cup – miner’s cup with wire loop handle (Sierra Club or PATC — same manufacturer). Canteen – 1qt. aluminum fuel bottle (Camp & Trail #367) or 1 qt aluminum Army surplus in pocket of pack. Shoes – Pete Limmer Mountaineer Boot; for wet spring and fall, use Beans’s Maine Hunting shoe with Bean’s arched inner sole or felt insole, as preferred. Sock – Inner - light wool surplus. Outer - cushion sole 50-50 wool and cotton since no nylon cushion sole available. Also Wigwam #620 or Epsy all nylon. Trousers – Masland Mountain brier cloth in cold weather(surplus trouser, hell Field M-1951 is best but not too available). Sears 11 oz denim, not Levi — legs are too narrow — in warmer weather. Shirt – According to weather. Pandleton wool 10oz Woolrich 14oz. Two button-down flap pockets essential. Jacket – Full zip parka (Holubar) Underwear – In summer, Brynje top, regular shorts (not jockey shorts, which permit chaffing) In winter, wool and cotton, long drawers. In very cold weather, over Brynjes warm surplus pajama-style 50-50 wool and cotton, long drawers and long sleeved undershirt with 3-button front for ventilation. Hat or cap as desired; billed cap or felt hat. Rain garments – Superlight rubber coated nylon parka (Bean) with Horcolite rain chaps (Holubar). First Aid Kit. Insect repellent – OFF Anti sun-cream _ Glacier Red Label for lips and face; after tanning Sea and Ski.

B. For use in camp Sleeping bag. Summer: Ski Hut Meadow-S; Fall and Winter: Holubar’s Royalite; Ski Hut Meadow-C; Army Surplus. Use Summer and winter bags, nested, during coldest weather. Cook Set and Stove – Atenhofer with Primus 71 (Holubar), sizes to suit 1, 2, 3 men. Gasoline in aluminum gas bottles, 1 pt. or 1 qt. (Gerry to Camp & Trail). Axe – Not needed if cook on gasoline stove. Fire inspirator - 24” x ¼” inside diameter 1/16” wall pure gum tubing (any chemical supply house). Invaluable with cranky wood fires. Doubles as tourniquet. Salt and Pepper – plastic (Boy Scout cat. No. 1411). For larger amounts use polyethylene bottles. Spoon and Fork – nesting aluminum (Gerry #A45). Flashlight – 2-cell medium size. Extra bulk. Cellulose Impregnated Sea Salt Tablets (Morton’s) Sewing Kit - 2 needles, little thread, in first aid equipment. Reserve matches and reserve toilet paper in waterproof containers. Toilet articles – Toothbrush and small paste; powder in cold weather; hotel-sized soap in bobby pin plastic box; razor blades, brushless shave cream (if shave). Tent – Holubar Royalite, Gerry Yearound. Air Mattress – Nylon Rubber, full length (Camp & Trail #268); Stebco Backpacker 46” (Ski Hut).

C. Food - Use polyethylene bags except for canned meats which should be limited. Bag food on polyethylene and place in a cambric sack for protection from chaffing. Jam in wide-mouth polyethylene jar, screw top (Ski Hut). Oleo (higher melting point than butter) in aluminum screw-top jar with plastic liner. (Benjamin Edington).
— PATC - Hiking, Camping and Mountaineering Equipment, 1960
Posted on January 24, 2012 and filed under Gear List.

Treeless Maple Syrup - The Results

Treeless Maple Syrup Testing

Treeless Maple Syrup Testing

So the verdict is in. A few weeks ago I went about creating "Treeless Maple Syrup" - this was a recipe of Bradford Angier's that I found in “Taming the Wilds.”  As advised I left it to mature and this morning the frying pan went on and the secret pancake mix was made up.

The syrup had taken a strange turn, the sugar all sank and solidified leaving a strange coloured liquid on top. I gave it a good mix and it became thick and caramel like. Once on the pancakes it was actually surprisingly good. A little gritty and extremely sweet, without any hint of potato. My fellow diners both found it "passable, with a weird texture" I was very happy the results. It doesn't really shine a light on maple syrup but a servicable replacement if you cant get hold of the real stuff.

Maple syrup season is nearly upon us and we have been invited to a syrup cook-out in New Hampshire, so my maple syrup adventure continues.

Posted on December 5, 2011 and filed under Recipe.