So. Wales. It didn't go quite as planned. We usually make this trip a couple of times a year, to stay with Adrian’s mother, to visit his family. Over the years I have grown fond of Llandudno, a Victorian seaside resort, faded yet somehow bravely chivalrous. But it was pure love at first sight when I cast my eyes on surrounding Snowdonia. Mountains. Mountains. Craggy peaks. Wild tumbling rivers. Dark eerie lakes. Before James was born, we climbed so many of them; Moel Siabod probably my favourite. But – strangely - never Snowdon. Yr Wyddfa. The 'tumulus'. This time, I promised, we would.
Except…my mother-in-law fell ill. A bad bout of flu.
Just as I am fond of Llandudno, I'm also deeply fond of Doris. Okay, so at first she raised an eyebrow but then, who could blame her? I wasn’t a nice decent Welsh girl after all; I was an outlandish Londoner, a brash stroppy English woman. But she soon mellowed.
I just have endless admiration for her attitude to life. She brought up two boys singlehandedly and worked damn hard as a school secretary. Now she’s retired, she plays damn hard too. She gets out there, she does stuff: she belongs to countless societies; she has tons of friends; she does Pilates; she ‘has a go’ at whatever comes up, whatever’s on offer – whether it’s a talk on Bronze Age mining or The Inbetweeners at the cinema (okay, so she thought she was going to see One Day but hey…) She’s canny with her pension and goes off on all manner of trips and holidays. She reckons life’s for living and I take my hat off to her.
She has a weakness for fashion: she’s a devil for clothes and shoes. I fear that, in my uniform of skinny jeans and jumpers, I’m a sore disappointment. However, this time, I had a trump card.
‘I’ve got a pair of Hotter boots,’ I told her. I confess I hadn’t heard of Hotter until Doris started rhapsodising about them several years back. They come from Lancashire originally so I figured they were a ‘northern’ thing. Except, no, they’ve got shops all over the show. According to her they're the bee’s knees, the dog’s bollocks, the whatever of whatever of footwear (oh, alright, she didn’t really say dog’s bollocks).
|Keswick walking boots by Hotter|
I knew Doris was ill when she didn’t even raise her head at the magic password Hotter.
I tried again. ‘They’ve sent me a pair to try out.’ I paused for dramatic effect. ‘You know, Hotter...’
Nope, not even the slightest widening of the eyes. She didn’t even ask which style they were. She was really truly ill. Completely buggered. There was no way we could wander off up mountains all day. So the testing of the boots (called Keswick, by the way) would have to wait.
I’ve had the same pair of walking boots for, what? Ten years? Something like that. A pair of Brasher boots, bought on holiday in Connemara where my earlier pair had finally given up the ghost (yes, I tend to keep things until they fall apart in tatters). These, in comparison, felt unbelievably, unfeasibly light. Yet they came with the GORE-TEX® promise of complete waterproofability. Hmm. Back on Exmoor (Doris got better by the way; we didn't just drive off, leaving her forlornly coughing in her sick bed), I looked at them and they looked at me.
‘Okay, you two. Let’s see what you’re made of…’ I muttered, slipping them on. Jeez, they were light – it was like wearing slippers. Truth to tell, I felt a bit undressed marching out with the SP. It had rained solidly all night and there was a small river running down the road outside the house.
I raised an eyebrow at the Keswicks. ‘You’re gonna get wet, y’know,’ I said splashing through a puddle. They gleamed quietly in understated mahogany. A bit overconfident, you might say.
‘Okay. Let’s see how you handle the Chimney,’ I smiled evilly. I’d had a look at their soles and, frankly, they looked a bit lightweight, a bit wussyboot. The rain had washed away most of the mud, leaving the chimney more or less bare rock and, to my surprise, they handled it pretty damn well. Chwarae teg, as they say in Wales – fair play.
The path evened out to pure mud and through we sloshed, nearly up to the ankle. The Keswicks are lower cut than my Brashers and I did think I might get a soaking but nope.
By the time I tied the SP up outside the Co-op he was soaked but my feet were totally dry and toasty warm. Plus…just take a look at that pic below…the clever little sods had shrugged off an hour’s worth of thick Exmoor mud.
Verdict? I’m impressed. The Keswick (£95) really is a damn good little walking boot that can take reasonably tough terrain in its stride. Supremely comfortable, extremely light and 100 percent waterproof. Quibbles? Well, I’ve got very narrow feet and they didn’t tie up as snugly as my Brashers. I also didn’t feel I had quite the ankle protection I’d prefer if I were mountain climbing over very uneven terrain and the boot isn’t high enough to march through streams, as opposed to deep puddles. But that’s being very picky. For most hiking purposes they are just fine and dandy, plus they're lightweight enough for everyday trolloping around. Would I recommend them? Yup. I would.
*waves* to my SIL Deborah and Adrian's cousin Beth who I know read the blog - though the buggers never comment. Better not tell Doris about this though, eh? I might just undo twenty years' of good work. ;)