One of the things that my discussions with various people about trolling have made me realise is that it is important to remember why you started writing.
I began this blog because I love walking and the countryside, which is where my walking started over 20 years ago. My aims now are more selfish as I need to focus on work and on self care. I also hope to rediscover my love of the outdoors without censoriousness from the little mob of hill trolls who seem to flourish on Twitter, and who believe they know best about everything. I can’t help noticing that the people who really do know best about the outdoors hardly ever behave like this.
Unlike them, I have struggled to name these hill trolls for some reason, so, in the interests of other women in the outdoor community, the ringleaders were Chrissie Crowther (ChrissieDixie) (Woofbags), “family man” Geoff Crowther (FarnotFast) and advocacy worker James Boulter (Backpackingbongos). Other names available on request.
I have always tried to involve readers in decisions about this blog, but the poll regarding which navigation app I should use was inconclusive. I will therefore try to continue using both Viewranger and Outdooractive for now.
Because I need to focus on work after a period of settling in to my new home in Scotland, I will be shifting back to the free wordpress plan, so you may notice some changes from the end of this month when my domain will revert to rucksackrosie.wordpress.com. All being well I hope to continue writing up my long distance walking here in this beautiful country.
As a digital immigrant, I didn’t really know much about online safety when I started Rucksack Rosie using a pseudonym in 2012. My aims were to celebrate the life of my late mother and to remind myself that beauty and kindness still existed in the world. I wanted to connect with outdoor people who are normally excluded from outdoor debates. Naively I thought that is what the internet was for.
Because of this, I didn’t know how to react or who to turn to when my sites were targeted by cyberstalkers, malware and organised trolling following a terrible trip out with a stranger on Twitter to Wideopen Hill in 2014.
For 5 years I made repeated attempts to refer the Twitter gang to my personal site for information and news, but the main thing I have learned is that trolls like them can’t, or won’t, read. After my studies in 2016, issues from the same people flared up again when I mentioned that my application had been accepted for the TGO challenge, and their sheer unpleasantness resulted in my withdrawal from the event.
This was soon followed by another outburst from a couple of people from the same group (without even knowing the circumstances) when I mentioned that I had made a call to Mountain Rescue for advice during a walk in memory of a relative.
This group seem to have nothing better to do with themselves than to wreak emotional devastation on Twitter. After haranguing me for over two years, they eventually pressured me into disclosing private information which was really off topic on this blog. All this finally culminated in a trip to the police and a solicitor in 2017.
All these experiences have changed my approach to blogging and social media, which is ironic on a blog intended to share beauty and kindness. As a result I have put Twitter on hold as I’m not sure it is the right platform for remembering people, beauty, kindness, survivors or fledgling businesses. When I try to balance out the positive contribution it has made to Rucksack Rosie against the emotional damage being caused by trolls, and the lax safety responses from the company involved, the option to come off Twitter became an increasingly tempting one.
Otherwise everything else will hopefully carry on with improved productivity in a less toxic environment. Thanks again to the people who have stopped by. It means a great deal to me.
Postscript: After taking advice from various people, I finally came off Twitter completely in February 2020, having ceased to enjoy the experience at all some time ago. For those who are not here for the outdoor content and are still sniffing around for personal info, I wrote a post about the backstory to this blog in December 2019. I am now hoping to rediscover the pleasure in walking which drew me to blog about it in the first place. Names of trolls available on request.
The answer is probably not, so I’m keeping it short. Like most years, 2017 has had its ups and downs for me. I have achieved many of the aims for Rucksack Rosie that I set out a year ago; updating all my sites, introducing a way to support me and producing more regular content, which includes ‘talkie’ videos and GPX links.
I celebrated the fifth birthday of this blog and passing the 100k views mark on both my YouTube channel and my blog. I am proud to say that views currently stand at 108k+ on YouTube and 107k+ on this blog.
In spite of these successes, responses to supporting me have been muted although I realise that competition is pretty fierce in this area. Thanks to the companies who have sent products for me to look at and try out and I hope it is onward and upwards for you in 2018.
My achievements over the last year included completing my first solo wild camp in January to Shillhope Law in Upper Coquetdale, Northumberland.
I did two shorter camping trips; Pitcarmick on the Cateran Trail in June, and Bealach Cumhang on the Rob Roy Way in August, both of which featured a lot of rain.
In between these trails and camping trips, I also managed some lovely day walks in North Northumberland and the Scottish Borders when I began experimenting with ‘talkie” videos. This featured some very loud wind drowning out my speech, until a friend suggested a microphone.
For those who like to keep count, I did a total of 11 wild camps this year before Lyme disease took hold. The second half of the year was quieter, as the prolonged symptoms required two courses of antibiotics.
In order to have some off-grid time, I did some outdoor conservation work at North Perthshire in October. During this rewarding trip, I learned a lot about the ecology, history and stewardship of the three sites where I worked, as well as meeting some great people.
Since then I have been focussing on writing, photography, editing, adding to and improving my GPX routes, various site improvements and spending less time on social media.
This year I have realised that my outdoor life is essentially a reflective place and a sanctuary in which to recover, recharge and renew. I therefore wish my supporters, followers and readers a happy and tranquil New Year filled only with positive people.
On 17th September this year it was 5 years since I began to create Rucksack Rosie on this blog and YouTube. For those who don’t know, Rucksack Rosie was originally dedicated to my mum, and was intended to share the good and simple things in the outdoor world such as beauty and kindness.
I had great plans for this fifth year but bullying by a small gang of Twitter trolls laid waste to some of them, which was a very sad moment for me and for this blog. Anyway, having taken advice, I am pressing on. Can I simply ask that if you don’t respect me, my content or my aims, you just unfollow. It’s really not that difficult is it?
To those who have stuck by me for all or some of the last five years for the right reasons, I would like to say a big thank you for over 101k YouTube views, 103k blog views, as well as your advice and inspiration. I genuinely appreciate all these things and I will continue to try and keep to the original intentions of the blog which are outlined in the About this Site section.
In May I walked the Speyside Way as a way to remember a relative who sadly passed away this year. During the walk I made a call to rescue services for navigational advice as there was a route discrepancy between my map and the signage. It was getting late and I was stuck in a seemingly endless rocky barbed wire corridor which wasn’t indicated on my map, and wasn’t wide enough to pitch my tent in. My tired reasoning was simply that a call for advice now might prevent a call for help later. Unfortunately the people I spoke to were unable to answer my query. When I mentioned this dilemma on Twitter after my return, James Boulter and the usual suspects began making unpleasant remarks about my decision to make a call, so this is just a quick response to them.
In the 20 years since I began hiking, I have once requested a call out from Mountain Rescue following an attack of vertigo, and have sought advice (usually regarding route diversions) two or possibly three times on solo long distance walks. On each of these occasions I made a donation to the relevant team.
I would just like to quote a DM I received from a professional rescue person (who shall remain anonymous) regarding my call for advice:
“I think if your call prevented you from getting into danger then it was worthwhile. The Mountain Rescue teams would rather you didn’t get hurt and so would I…I’ve met lots of people who should have done what you did”
I would also like to point out that, as I have a relative who was involved in mountain rescue, I realise how valuable their service is to the outdoor community. My relative sustained a permanent injury whilst carrying out a rescue with his team, so I am fully aware of the risks teams face while providing this service. I am also aware of my personal responsibilities to use their resources sparingly, to donate as and when I am able, and to provide the best outdoor advice I can.
I have always tried to be an ambassador for the outdoors as it has been a sanctuary for me during difficult times. However Twitter can sometimes be an aggressive place where people can become really unpleasant. If you find yourself on the receiving end of this kind of trolling or harassment, please don’t suffer in silence, but seek advice and report it.
It is important to remember that the majority of responsible people and organisations involved in the outdoors don’t want it to be diminished by the trolls or the bullies, and should have procedures in place to tackle the issue.
Blow the whistle to send a message that we all know who the trolls and bullies are.
Many of the endurance athletes I respect have managed to cover long distances by camping in farms and gardens or using bothies, rescue huts, hostels and bunkhouses. In spite of this, wild camping seems to have become a by-word for outdoor proficiency. Listening to discussions, I have realised that some women share my apprehension about wild camping. It has been a relief to hear this discussed by people with amazing achievements under their belts.
I backpacked the Pennine Way in 2013, staying in some very small campsites, on farms and in gardens, and my first wild camp was with a group of people in the Peak District, shortly afterwards. On the whole this was a fairly good humoured introduction to wild camping. I learned a lot by simply watching what was going on around me and left feeling encouraged.
About 6 months later I was pleased to be invited out for a second wild camp by Chrissie Crowther, a retired woman from the Peak District on Twitter. This trip didn’t go so well. After a winter which was largely spent indoors supporting my father, I was a bit out of condition, but I didn’t regard it as a competition. I joined the other walker (and her partner Geoff Crowther briefly) at their motorhome at Jedburgh for a bright and sunny day of walking on the St Cuthbert’s Way, which I had walked once before using hostels and B&Bs.
Unfortunately by the time we pitched our tents, the invisible enemies of dehydration and heat exhaustion were causing me to feel very unwell. I had a throbbing headache, my head was spinning, I felt sick and a bit delirious. Whatever assessment Chrissie claims to have made of my condition was made from zipped inside her tent.
Most rescue people advise that if you don’t feel well you should turn back, and that is what I did. In retrospect I think this was the right decision.
I packed up and left Chrissie, who had refused (from inside her tent) to make a call out or come with me, but by the time I reached the road in the dark, I was feeling too sick to walk. I finally decided to call the hotel we had passed earlier in the day. The owner heroically came out in his car to pluck me up from the side of the road in the dark and take me back to the hotel where I was given tea and a much needed room for the night. The people at the hotel were critical of Chrissie’s decision not to come with me.
I mentioned some of this in an online review of the hotel made at the time in early 2014, and I have not seen either of the people involved since that time. A month or so later I discovered that I had been blocked by the couple on Twitter, so I emailed Chrissie again to apologise and reiterate that I had had too much sun.
I may be useless at some things, but I can recognise the symptoms of heat exhaustion and dehydration, having suffered from both before. Chrissie’s decision left me quite hurt but, because she had offered to take me out, I spared her blushes by not discussing what had happened on social media for over two years. Sadly I now realise that saying nothing has given this couple the opportunity to claim that they know me far better than they do and to spread malicious untruths about me within the outdoor community while I was doing my M.A.
I don’t tend to gossip and I didn’t know how to respond to any of this unpleasantness after my course. I have been advised to point out that I began writing this blog, which is dedicated to my mum, for pleasure, and at the time of writing this is still being marred by the online hate campaign which began after this trip. So reader beware of apparently kind offers from strangers on Twitter which can turn toxic.
My own appraisal of the day.
For what it’s worth, my own appraisal of that day is that I was affected by the sun because it was a bright & sunny day and I had been indoors all winter. I had not taken a sunhat as I thought it was too early in the year to need one, but this was the wrong decision. I had also recently abandoned my rucksack hydration system with a hose because several had leaked whilst I was camping. Instead I had put a 1.5L plastic bottle of water in the back pocket of my rucksack, which meant that I had to stop and take my rucksack off whenever I wanted a drink. During the course of that day I only did this once or twice at the most which caused me to become dehydrated.
I have since taken advice regarding the problems I have been having with this couple and reported them. When I tried to post a link to this post on Geoff’s blog, it was deleted and I was threatened with legal action for slander and libel. The advice I have been given is that something cannot be libellous or slanderous if it is true which it is, and so.
Anyway, to return to the much more interesting present, and to answer some questions, the main reasons that I haven’t wild camped again until recently are:
I have been completing an M.A. for the last year
I have been trying to support my father
I have no car
I am an assault survivor which still makes me afraid of some situations.
I was really put off wild camping after the trip I have just described
Apologies to my readers for having to use my blog to counter gossip rather than just write about the outdoors which is all I really want to do on here. Thanks very much to the people who have stopped by since I first published this post in December of 2016. It really does mean a huge amount to me.
NB In February 2020 I finally listened to advice and came off Twitter completely and have never looked back.