Little bro is a musician, and a rather good one too, just don’t tell him I said so please. He’s been with some chums called the Murder Barn recently making music that I think is the best thing he’s been involved in for a while. Have a listen below, the single is out in June but they have a free download from Feb which is a cracker too if you want something for home….. America is the one that’s got me hooked.
Rain, more rain and a side order of rain with extra rain has been the overwhelming memory of this April. With rivers in Gillingham getting friendly with the tops of bridges and fields resembling swamps, it’s not been a great month for getting out and about. Come the weekend though, it seemed to get worse. After some of our guttering blew down all hell appeared to be released outside, rain liberally sprinkling the windows so hard it sounded like stones. So what did Ifor want to do? Go for a walk.
Ellis wisely had hit the sack and Cath decided to stay in to finish a bit of crafty chinwagging so we got suited, booted and pootled on up to Mackintosh Davidson woods. Woods are strange things. Sunny outside, it will look a lot darker under the tree canopy. Today was the reverse however, a grey and cloudy day was replaced by a green luminescence as we moved in to the woods, Ifor acquainting himself with every puddle that crossed our path of which there were many. I’ve written about Mackintosh Davidson woods before, they are my favourite escape close to the house and Sunday was no exception. The bluebells were in full effect, sheltered from the wind and the rain, the moisture giving the woods a sheen that reflected what little light came in beautifully. Ifor was in his element, dancing in and out of puddles and giving excited hiccups at the streams gushing through the bottom of the woods where trickles had been weeks before.
We kicked mud from bridges in to the rivers below and played extreme poo sticks (that’s with a river in full spate for those of you who don’t know). We threw mud at each other and let the rain wash it off our jackets, we wondered at the banks of branches broken off the trees. Several times I stopped and savoured the feeling of being with my son, enjoying the moment. His total joy at being outside and my joy at seeing him explore and enjoy the woods left me with a feeling of a perfect time and a perfect moment.
This is my bike.
It takes me to work.
It brings me home.
It takes me through rain and sun.
It carries my son (even though it shouldn’t).
It pulls my other son when he is tired.
It goes through fields it’s not designed to.
It works me hard.
It gives me pleasure.
It saves me money.
This is my bike.
Get on yours.
My plan was to head up to Llanthony and park up by the priory there. The first day would be up and over Offas Dyke, before heading back down in to the Vale of Ewyas to camp. The Second day would be to head back over the Black Mountains grabbing a few peaks on the way. I was tentatively keeping my eyes on the weather, come Monday evening I packed swiftly as Tuesday & Wednesday looked the best bet with the chance of rain, clouds and sunshine in equal measure. Those of us who wander in the hills want to escape the hurly burly of ordinary life and the Brecons do seem to get passed over more often than not, whether that is because people feel they are too busy or too easy I’m not sure. I’ve done the Brecons many a time but surprisingly hadn’t been to the Black Mountains previously and after the disappointment that was my Christmas walking. I was fairly stoked about heading out in to the hills.
The road in to Llanthony is a single track road and the mountains soon grew steeply on either side. The weather also started to brighten up, and the green luminescence on either side grew stronger. I parked at Llanthony priory and experienced that rarity in the outdoors world these days – free parking. Doing a small yet subtle dance of joy in the car park, I still managed to draw stares from the other people there. It’s the small victories that make life pleasant however, so I refused to blush.
Llanthony Priory was a beautiful sight but I had one mission on my mind – hills. I set off at a brisk pace around the outside and made tracks for the Beacon Way, climbing steeply through fields, woods and then more fields before hitting moorland. I find the start of a trip before you settle in to a rhythm curiously unsatisfying, but as the cloud drifted and dispersed across the hill, the sunlight soon became more of a welcome companion and the pleasant stress of my body working hard to ascend soon settled me down.
Click on me to make me bigger.
I was so looking forward to a Christmas wander but after I found myself on my bum, I figured it was time to head home. It’s always seems to be the way, you have a rare glimpse of the outside world planned and the weather does it’s best to derail you. I had been looking forward to a wander when we were due to be up with Cath’s folks in the Peak District after boxing day. I had planned a wild camp up near Back Tor but come the day, the MWIS gave a delightfully red forecast with gusts of 65mph to 85mph. My route was along the edges, Burbage, Stanage and then Derwent.
End result was a day spent battling winds just to make headway, watching an old duffer fall over in front of me several times before catching up and suggesting he dropped down to a lower level path – oh and seeing the air ambulance come in for a lass who had broken her leg after getting blown over on Stanage. Then I actually got blown on to my backside at which point I decided to take a time out. Although I was bloody irrirtated at having to duck out, I’ve also had a spot of time to reflect on what happened and although I would have survived I’m sure, I’m also sure I wouldn’t have had the most comfortable of nights either. A good call considering the damage the wind did that day.
Bloggings been lite as we hit our winter rush but here’s something that just left me saying wow with feeling. A murmuration of starlings
/merr’meuh ray”sheuhn/, n.
1. an act or instance of murmuring.
2. a flock of starlings.
Last weekend I was asked if I would like to go along to the very first Active Photographer Jolly, run by Giles (The Active Photographer) and Will (Whole Life Photography). It was designed for people passionate about the outdoors, who wanted to take better photos, or photographers with a keen interest in the outdoors. As this was the first one, Giles and Will were keen to simply see how things went and get feedback for possible future sessions.
I want to write about my experiences of last weekend, not as a review of what happened, but instead how I felt after the weekend as my mind has been buzzing for the last couple of days. I’ve promised Giles I will do a full review over on the Togblog which I will hopefully get done this weekend, but I hope you will forgive this interlude away from the usual outdoor related matters.
I came away after the weekend on a bit of a high, and I have been reflecting back this week on what was said over the weekend and how I felt. The key thing that made it special for me was the chance and time to learn something. This might sound blindly obvious to you but is it? Too often learning becomes a dirty word, reflecting back on my own experiences at school and being forced to learn certain subjects. It’s also something as we get older we perhaps lose the time to pursue.
For me, not enough focus is made on learning things for your own enjoyment. Having worked in a challenging educational environment in the past, my strength was always to find studies that people wanted to do. Straight away you have people who are committed, enjoying themselves, and engaged in what they are taking in.
Last weekend reminded me of this at a basic level, but it also ties in with what I have been reading about happiness – we need to continue learning to develop a sense of self worth and peace. It also leads on to the second major thing that gave me so much pleasure from the weekend, and that was the people that were involved.
I have not had the chance to learn a new skill from a teacher in a while. Along with the rest of society, I have been using the internet more and more to research and learn. It’s a total treasure trove on any subject that humankind has any knowledge on, and although we now have much more of a social experience on the internet with Facebook, Twitter, Forums, Comments and the like, I was reminded that the power of having a learning experience face to face is not to be underestimated.
You cannot see a perplexed face on the internet and check someone has learnt something, you cannot see someone at home doing what they have learnt and correct them when they go wrong, and you definitely cannot interact with fellow students as well as I have done this weekend. I make no bones that it was technology that was good enough to introduce me to the likes of Giles, Will and the rest of the gang. The actual workshop though was made so much more amazing as a result of being face to face. I could have learnt how to take photos from the internet, but every time I go out now to take a photo, I will remember the experiences and emotions of this weekend and I will be inspired.
There we go, some obvious stuff there mebe, but it still needed to be said. It probably helped as I mentioned that the people there this weekend were pretty special. Will & Giles, thanks for giving of yourselves so completely, you have a gift and warmth that mark you both out as two of life’s good guys. To Eleanor, Aaron, Nat & Alvin, thank you for sharing and being such great company, I was truly blessed to have had such a great weekend.
OK, I’m feeling a bit of a fraud after last nights post, but in my defence, stuff got cancelled tonight, so I have had a rare opportunity to sit down and blog. It’s been a funny old summer though, I’ve not had the chance to get out and about to do as much walking as I would ideally like to, but a couple of weeks ago, my friend Chris and I finally managed to head out for a stroll. We’ve got plans to do the Gritstone trail later in October, and Chris was worried about his fitness, so we decided to get a solid days walking on along the SW Coast path. Not only was it a good test of fitness, but Chris had not even heard of Durdle Dor, so I was quietly looking forward to seeing his reaction when we came to it.
Chris wanted a heavy rucksack to test the fitness thing, so I kindly offered to help out packing his rucksack. As a result, he ended up carrying a sack of potatoes, and several gas cartridges I had lying around the utility room. He didn’t realise that until the end, at which point he thanked me with a long, cold hard stare. “It’s OK” I told him, “It’s what friends are for.” He didn’t even thank me, I mean that’s just rude you know?
The day started out with a little drizzle and it was heads down to get up over the first hill, strolling on in silence. The rain seemed to keep some of the tourists at bay and it wasn’t long before Durdle Dor was in front of us, and Chris had a huge grin on his face. It’s a classic sight, and I will never tire of seeing it.
Forgive the lack of blogging again folks, but the reasons this time have been good ones, namely I have been out walking so much that I haven’t had the chance to write anything up about my latest jaunts. Two weekends saw me out along the South West coastal path with my good friend Chris, the weekend after saw me up at Monsal Head in the Peak District for a bloggers meet with Terry BND. I even managed to sneak in a wild camp with Phil Sorrell of Social Hiking. I was at it again this weekend camping with the family, and next weekend I am under canvas again with Giles Babbidge of the active photographer. It’s been an amazing summer and I promise I’ll start writing about it. Just as soon as I have stopped having fun.
Shoulder height has dropped noticeably and it’s been a lovely morning so far catching up on outdoor blogs. Bliss.
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Location:Butts View,Bakewell,United Kingdom