Sue and Martin in Mallorca 2019

Sue and Martin in Mallorca 2019
On the Archduke's Path in Mallorca

Thursday 20 January 2011

Run to the Sun

For our first ‘Run to the Sun’ trip of 2011, it looks as if we’ll have to make do with ‘Sunny  Intervals’.

The weather forecast for Ottawa - 20/1/11

Somehow I don’t think I’ll be wearing that Polartec® fleece outdoors very much!

This excellent website provides a pictorial flavour of conditions ‘on the ground’, so to speak.

Gear Review: The North Face – Men’s 100 Full Zip Fleece Top – an Excellent Piece of Kit

Modelling the North Face fleece on Shutlingsloe - 1/1/11 

[Note that on 5 September 2012, Webtogs Limited went into liquidation, but its business has legitimately been continued in the name of Dorset Mountain Sports Limited, t/a Webtogs, with whom I have had no contact whatsoever, nor did the liquidator of Webtogs Ltd respond to my enquiry as to whether any members of the public had lost money as a result of the liquidation.]

Webtogs recently sent me this item, for review by the end of the month.  After wearing it virtually constantly for a fortnight, here are my first impressions:

The North Face – Men’s 100 Full Zip Fleece Top
The manufacturer’s product details and specification is provided at the foot of this posting. I do not take issue with them.

First impressions:

This is a standard Polartec® 100 fleece top, currently retailing at £49.00, less 10% from retailers such as Webtogs.  Many readers will be familiar with the quick drying Polartec® 100 polyester fabric used in many lightweight fleeces.  This particular item, manufactured in the Philippines, is made to a very high standard
  • all the sewing is perfect
  • there’s a good solid baffle behind the front zip
  • the zipped handwarmer pockets are roomy and robust
  • the feel of the fabric is soft and velvety
  • the medium size fits my 38” chest with room to spare
  • the fleece is comfortable without being snug
  • the length is generous
  • there are some curious studs on the cuffs that may be useful to retain a compass or similar - I now understand this to be needed for attachment to other compatible layers from The North Face®
  • there is no drawcord, nor any elasticity to the cuffs, etc, so in time the stretchy fabric of the garment could become a little ‘loose’ 
  • the zip on my garment is left-handed, which (not being left-handed) I find a little strange, though not inconvenient - perhaps that is needed for the 'zip-in compatible with other layers from The North Face®' feature to work
  • at 275 gm out of the packet, this garment is about 40 gm heavier than the ‘smock’ style of fleece of the same material that I am used to wearing, so for lightweight summer backpacking when it may be carried for most of the time, the smock would be a little lighter to carry, but it’s really down to personal preference
Practical Use:
  • I’ve been using this fleece top as a casual top, indoors and outdoors, including several wintery walks.  The Polartec® 100 fabric should be fine in most UK conditions, over a wicking base layer
  • in cold weather an extra layer or a thicker fleece will be needed by most people
  • from my previous experience with this fabric, I have no reason to believe that this garment won’t last for years.  Indeed, whilst testing I’ve mentioned it to others who have unzipped their waterproofs to reveal an old model of the same top which has indeed lasted them for years
  • numerous manufacturers make similar products, with leading producers like RAB charging similar prices
  • there may be cheaper alternatives, but the price may reflect the finish, fit and durability
  • if you are looking for a lightweight full zip fleece top, I doubt you’ll find one better made than this one from TNF
  • the top is ideal for indoor casual use all year round, and for outdoor use between spring and autumn together with a base layer, and in winter with an extra outer layer
  • I could quite happily use this garment for UK backpacking trips from May to October, if I didn’t prefer the ‘smock’ style of fleece for that purpose
  • I’ll be using it for day walks, suitably layered, all year round
That’s it for now.  I’ll add to this review when I have been using the fleece for a longer term.

See foot of this posting for more.

The North Face’s own product details and specification are reiterated below.

The North Face – Men’s 100 Full Zip Fleece Top


Product Details and Specification:

Engineered for optimum thermal efficiency, the Polartec® fleece makes the Men’s 100 Full Zip a hiking essential. It’s a lightweight, warm and breathable fleece, able to retain crucial body heat in the cold while letting moisture escape through its lofted fibres. There’s durability too, making the fleece resistant to pilling, fading and shape distortion, plus soft-to-touch comfort courtesy of the brushed face. Pockets provide space to warm chilly hands or stow belongings, and a full-length zip runs up to the high neck for comprehensive insulation. Quick to dry, a cinch to care for and zip-in compatible with other layers from The North Face®, this will quickly become an essential part of your packing for outdoor adventures.


  • Brushed face for soft handfeel
  • Fabric resists pilling and fading and maintains shape
  • Full length center front zip
  • Quick drying
  • set-in sleeves
  • Soft, thermally efficient Polartec® Classic Micro
  • Zipper hand pockets
100% Polyester - Polartec® Classic Micro
S, M, L, XL, XXL

Note: Whilst the gear was provided by Webtogs, this review, over which I have total editorial control, is totally independent of that on-line retailer.

Further observations:
1.  [23/1/11]  James Boulter has reviewed the equivalent NF smock (or 'pullover') here.  Note that his NF fleece has no chest pocket, unlike its Rab equivalent.

2.  [14/2/11]  I've continued to wear my full zip fleece top for a number of day walks, and whereas the side pockets aren't easily accessible when wearing a rucksack, it's good to be able to unzip the 'Full Zip' to keep cooler on ascents, now the weather is warming up.  So - chest pocket vs full zip?  I suppose I'm easily pleased - happy with either.

3. [10/3/11]  After another month of fairly constant use, both in and out of doors, mainly over an Icebreaker 200 Men's Oasis Crewe (long-sleeved shirt), and several washes, the garment remains 'as new'.  It continues to be a delight to wear, and soon recovers from any condensation that forms inside waterproofs on wet days.  By my normal standards it looks quite smart as well!

Wednesday 19 January 2011

Tuesday 18 January 2011 – An Evening along the Towpath – and some Trips for 2011

A View from the Towpath - Bridgewater Canal, Altrincham

At last.  Sue and I got around to planning some trips for this year.

You can view them here, and by all means contact us if you’d like to come along.  We’ll be on lots more as well, organised by others.

You are of course welcome to just turn up for the evening walks, and slide shows, the next one being from the Midland Hotel, Marple Bridge, 7.30pm on Wednesday 16 February.

Tonight, due to the provision of insufficient notice, it was just the two of us on a beautiful moonlit evening.  The familiar route made for no navigational difficulties as we took the Bridgewater Canal towpath through Altrincham to Little Bollington and the warmth of The Swan with Two Nicks.

The canal was flat calm, hence the reflection (above) as we passed through Altrincham.  But there was a cold bite to the air.

Leaving the pub and entering the grounds of Dunham Massey, we felt the cold air that had descended in clouds of vapour to the lowest point of our walk.  We hastened on along this 11km route, chasing our own shadows in the moonlight, across the golf course, eventually joining the A56 near St Margarets.  9.30pm and the town centre was deserted.  A smattering of folk joined us on the short tram ride back home, a thin sheen of frost now covering everything.

A pot of tea and a hot bath brought the evening to a most satisfying conclusion.

Monday 17 January 2011

Sunday 16 January 2011 – Heather’s Amble

On the path between Far Arnside and Silverdale “Anyone up for a walk on 16th?” came the message from Heather, a couple of weeks ago.

Sue and I were up for a walk, despite a pretty dire weather forecast.  We’d have liked to go high, but post New Year Lassitude, not to mention the forecast, dictated a lower approach.

So it was that after some notable apologies Heather, Stu, Sue, JJ, Rick, Martin, Sue, Gayle and Mick, together with the canine trio of Trudy, Suzy and Molly, assembled for a leisurely coffee at Leighton Moss RSPB Centre.

Amazingly, it wasn’t raining, but we didn’t take any photos because “the weather will improve” someone quoted from a dodgy source – “BBC or MWIS?”

“Both” came the reply.

They were both wrong.  It started to drizzle.  The drizzle thickened.  Waterproofs were donned by the non-Paramo contingent.  Steady rain had been falling for a while before the cameras were finally brought out by the attractions of Gait Barrows (aspiring botanists should click that link), reached via Leighton Moss and a minor misplacement due to my poor navigation in Cringlebarrow Wood.  (“I’ve never been here before” observed Sue O, the ‘local’.)

First a group photo, sort of.

On the footpath at Gait Barrows

Next a snap of Gait Barrow’s most impressive and extensive limestone pavement.

Gait Barrows - a limestone pavement

Then a poseur.  Beside a large cairn declaring ‘Gait Barrows – National Nature Reserve – declared in commemoration of the Silver Jubilee of QE2 – 1952-1977’.
 Gait Barrows - a National Nature Reserve since 1977

“The rain isn’t nearly as bad as yesterday” observed Sue O, who wanders these parts daily.

On exiting the Barrows a slightly more serious misplacement saw us walking up and down the road to Coldwell Farm, dodging a ‘boy racer’, and returning eventually to the relative safety of a footpath beside Leighton Beck, near Leighton House.

On the path by Leighton Beck

Our planned route being under water (did I mention, there’s been a bit of rain around here) we were tempted by a new footbridge over the beck.  That was fine, but soon afterwards my chosen route came to a dead end against a fence in a marsh; clearly not a path.  Here, Heather took over and led us over a broken wall, onto the track to Hazelslack.

Then I was in charge of route-finding again and we were soon confronted by some scary cows.  (Actually, I thought they were remarkably docile.)  With three dogs in our party, we skirted around the beasts.  The path turned out to be the wrong one, as tactfully pointed out by Gayle, who by now had realised that navigation in this area is not my forté, and yet another retracing exercise was undertaken, faffter which I concluded that our circumperambulation of the cows had been completely unnecessary.

A straight route through boggy fields led inexorably to Arnside, where we stumbled along a bit of tarmac before pausing at a cul de sac from which I’d hoped to find a path up Arnside Knott.  Sue O and Stu’s patience had been exhausted though, and they strode on up the lane from which I knew there was an easy route up the Knott.  The rest of us reluctantly followed them, uneventfully ascended into a cool breeze, retreated from that, and settled down for a hard earned lunch.  It was after all 1.30pm, and we’d been on the go since shortly after 10am.

Lunch below Arnside Knott

We admired the view, such as it was.  You can just see the splendid railway viaduct.

The view from Arnside Knott

Since returning home, I’ve noticed that Gayle and Mick have revisited this spot.  Here’s today’s view.  And here’s one I took earlier.

Anyway, we carried on in the mist to bag the HuMP known as Arnside Knott.

On Arnside Knott summit

The dogs got cold, so we rushed off down to Far Arnside, and in what seemed like just a jiffy we plunged into some deep Morecambe Bay mud.

“This is not a beach” observed Stu, “it’s quicksand”.

Heather and Trudy duly retreated.

Heather and Trudy

In fact we nearly all retreated, leaving Sue B and Mick to brave the quicksand route to Silverdale, whilst the rest of us trudged over grassy fields with views down to the mud flats below.

The beach at Far Arnside

Strolling into Silverdale

Reunited with the survivors of the beach diversion, we toured the ginnels of Silverdale, passing this house, which if my memory serves me once looked quite smart.

House renovations in Silverdale

Pleasant woodland…

Bottoms Wood

…led to Woodwell, once Silverdale’s main water supply, and a drovers’ watering spot.


The pace increased as we hastened to meet a 4pm deadline at the RSPB centre.  We rushed past Wolf House Gallery, shut for the month, and on along pleasant paths by Jack Scout, where the trees lean landwards – it’s clear where the wind prevails from here.

The sun came out as we rounded Jenny Brown’s Point!

Sunshine at Jenny Brown's Point

The old smelt mill chimney glistened in the late afternoon sun.

Smelt Mill Chimney near Jenny Brown's Point

Our party sloshed its was across and around the path that skirts the salt marsh as it heads back towards Leighton Moss.  We’d exchanged all our TGO Challenge plans by now (seven ‘Challengers’ were present), and the attractions of either a pot of tea or a sighting of the starling roost at the RSPB centre were foremost in our minds.

Gayle disappeared to recover a dropped map case.  Luckily, she found it.  We made it back just after 4pm.  The pot of tea was great, the starlings were not at their best – there had been 50,000 displaying their pre-roosting antics hereabouts last week; maybe many of them have now emigrated.

Returning to Leighton Moss via the salt marsh

Here’s our route – 21km (20 without the diversions), 380 metres ascent, taking 6 hours.

Our route - 21km, 380 metres ascent, 6 hours

That was an excellent day out.  Thanks go to Heather for organising it and to Rick for doing the driving for the Timperley contingent.  Just as well, as my keys disappeared during the course of the day, hence Gayle and Mick retracing our steps today.  £75 for a new car key!  Ouch!

Gayle’s take on the day, with some different images, is