ACCORDING to performance poet John Hegley, the difference between Blackburn and Preston is that Preston is more western; it’s also home of the parched pea “since 1773”, and has the UK’s unhealthiest high street.
The Lancashire city also house the headquarters of the Booths supermarket chain (think Waitrose and turn the dial to 11); Alstom Transport, which makes electrical traction equipment for railway stock; and Tetrad, manufacturers of hand-crafted sofas and chair.
On the other side of Preston from Tetrad, and on the site of the docks which closed in 1981, is True Mountain; a company with a similar ethos – hand-crafted, high-quality and flying the flag for Britain.
If you were to meet co-owner Tim Butcher, his elevator pitch would surely be that the company manufactures “performance outdoor clothing designed and manufactured right here in the UK”.
Part of True Mountain’s ethos is to use only use materials and components sourced in the EU, with as much as possible coming from within the UK; where UK pretty much means the cotton mills of Lancashire. (Yes there are still some around – although don’t think dark satanic mills but modern industrial sheds.)
The company also doesn’t go in for big production runs because they don’t believe that bigger is always better.
Mass volume manufacturing makes it harder to control quality, and if you’re putting the effort into carefully sourcing your materials and focusing on well thought-out designs, you don’t want to fall at the final hurdle by sending out a van load of badly stitched clothing – let alone a single item that could sour your relationship with a customer.
It’s that word “quality” cropping up once more; and if Tim or his business partner Jojo Burns aren’t happy, then the offending item ends up on the naughty step.
Small production runs also save on warehouse space, and allow more leeway for special orders to be slotted in.
True Mountain are certainly trying to not run with the herd with their designs; everything is stitched with flat seams and there’s no labels inside meaning there’s nothing to potentially irritate the skin (and if you’re obsessive about weight it also means you don’t have to go at your new garment with scissors).
Washing instruction come on a credit card-sized magnet which your put on your washing machine, there’s an external loop hanger (in patriotic red, white and blue), while top layer clothing has a silicon company logo and sections of retroflection.
Its product range focuses on running, cycling and climbing; and I do all three, although I prefer to call climbing, hiking; and they make base layers, underwear, windshell, waterproof, legwear, socks, headwear, T-shirts, drinking bottles and wrist warmers – yes, wrist warmers; they make a lot of sense and came out of a special order from a tall long distance athlete who found that normal clothing was a bit too short in the arms for him.
True Mountain is a company doing some very good things, but how does its clothing perform in the field? Time to take to the moors near Ilkley, in West Yorkshire, for a run.
I live in Otley, which is a few miles down the Wharfe Valley from Ilkley and normally I’d head into the Chevin, which is a 925 feet ridge overlooking the town but I wanted to go higher so I went to Burley Moor which is about twice the height and far more exposed.
The day started out wet and windy, but the rain had died away by the time I got to my start point, a road junction known locally as Burley Triangle. From there I would head uphill along Millennium Way past Lower Lanshaw Dam to 1,800 feet (according to my Garmin track), take a right to High Lanshaw Dam and then past Green Crag and Green Crag Slack down to Ebor Way and back to my start point.
The boxers are marketed as being for high-energy activities in spring, autumn and winter. Made from a meryl/elastane stretch fabric, they have a close athletic fit plus a deep elasticated waistband so they won’t dig into your waist.
The smock is made from AIRTECH 70gm/m2 polyamide/elastane fabric which is tightly woven to resist wind and water, and is treated with a PFC-free durable water repellent.
It has a 1/2 length YKK zip with a wind baffle and a silicon grip pull, and the arms are cut to allow the sleeves to be pushed up over the forearms for cooling, while there is a part-elasticated hem and fully-elasticated cuffs.
In addition to the True Mountain kit I was also wearing a technical T-shirt, Karrimor shorts, a pair of Salomon Speedcross shoes plus socks, and I took a Buff along just in case the temperature dropped a bit too much on the tops (which it did).
According to my Garmin watch it had been around 9 degrees celsius (and even colder on the top), while the wind speed was 13 mph and the humidity was at 93 per cent.
In truth it was probably a bit too warm for me to be wearing boxer shorts, but despite the 93 per cent humidity they did keep me dry and, very importantly, they didn’t ride up which can be an real issue with some manufacturers.
The smock passed the test as well; keeping me at a comfortable temperature in the blustery wind; it was just a shame that I’d been too late for the rain. Ah, the life of a gear tester!
On the top of the moor near High Lanshaw Dam, a pair of curlews were so impressed with my kit that they kept swooping low towards me for a better look; it was absolutely nothing to do with me getting too close to their nest.