The light of unmediated experience, class and the outdoors, and what3words in emergencies

This week’s reads include pieces on the relationship between walking and thinking, how class remains a barrier to enjoyment of the outdoors, and recent woes with outdoor and mountain smartphone apps.

Recently published

I have quite a few new items to share since my last newsletter, so please forgive me for plugging my own stuff before other links of interest!

Outside In Podcast – back by popular demand, I return to the Outside In podcast for a chat about my latest projects with author John Burns.

Alex Roddie: Unmediated Experience Has a Light of Its Own – an interview with the Freedom Matters blog about intentional tech use, solitude, noticing more in nature, and the un-Instagrammed wild camp.

Nature, Adventures and the Place for Tech – Jenny Tough & Alex Roddie – the latest episode of the Freedom Matters podcast, featuring myself and adventurer Jenny Tough.

Wildlife photography highlights, May 2021 – last month through the lens. Not a great month for bird sightings, but fantastic for roe deer.

Sidetracked Volume 21 – the latest issue of Sidetracked, which has been occupying much of my time recently as I prepare it for print, is now available to pre-order. It’s a fantastic issue.

Pinnacle Reads

The Clarity of the Trail – Matt King writes about the relationship between long, purposeful walks and how he thinks. I found this very interesting as, for me, hiking and thinking have a similar relationship.

ViewRanger to OutdoorActive: navigating the transition – this is a very helpful and illuminating piece by Hanna Lindon at TGO. ViewRanger have made a number of mistakes during this transition phase, and I think they have treated their loyal users very poorly. Software like this isn’t just another app; we rely on it in the mountains for our safety. Reliability and functionality are absolutely critical. Outdooractive fails on both of these fronts at the moment. My recommendation for readers looking for a simple, reliable app for mountain navigation is to consider Topo GPS. It isn’t perfect, but it gets the basics right and is no more complicated than it needs to be.

Rescuers question what3words’ use in emergencies – my personal opinion of what3words is that while it has its place, it has been hyped well beyond the limits of its actual capabilities, and is now being seen by some as a suitable replacement for OS grid references. This is not the case. While human (and especially communication) errors can affect any tool, this app also has major technical shortcomings that ought to be addressed.

Why we need to talk about class and the outdoors – Phoebe Smith: ‘During the pandemic, in cities such as London, people were regularly shamed for enjoying parks – the main way less affluent people, without gardens, could enjoy nature. Scenes of crowds and litter on beaches was blamed on the “geographically and culturally diverse cohort” by the Lulworth Estate in Dorset.’

Country diary: a thunderstorm ushers in a new season infused with vitality – a Country Diary from Carey Davies with an unsettling and unexpected ending.

Highland estate owner breaching public access rights, say locals – an astonishing story. Access rights in Scotland may be relatively enlightened, but this kind of thing still happens from time to time.

Walking through grief after baby loss – Jess Hodkinson: ‘There are so many things that unravel whilst grieving for a loved one, and it’s probably the most complex and unstable journey that we have to go on in life.’

Book Review: The Earth Beneath my Feet by Andrew Terrill – a glowing initial review of Andrew Terrill’s first book, which I edited. The book is available to buy now. As Chris notes in his initial review, I’ve commented that this is one of the best books on long-distance walking I’ve read in recent years – in my opinion it’s a must-read for fans of the genre.

Until next time,


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