The Long Walk 2017 – aka a 172 mile pub crawl

One of the most enjoyable adventures we had in 2016 was walking the Coast to Coast with our Border Terrier Archie.

Archie

Archie is 10 years old now but he’s pretty fit so we decided to do another long walk. C2C was great fun but there were bits of it we enjoyed more than others. We decided to plan our own route creating a long walk through challenging upland wilderness in the North of England.

The attractions of planning our own long distance walk.

  • Lots of planning with maps out!
  • Discovering new and interesting places.
  • Covering vast areas of the country.
  • Being autonomous.

The logistics can be challenging. Planning a walk over a two week period creates an organisational challenge – especially when a small dog is in the team. There are a limited number of accommodation providers who are willing to accept even a small, well behaved dog, so our route and distance between accommodations was largely dictated by where we could find to stay. We carry all our own stuff so camping is not an option. We carry as little as possible and wash stuff out at the end of each day. After a couple of weeks everything is getting quite riffy.

Pre-booking accommodation is essential given the limited options. The down side of this is pre-booking usually requires part payment in advance, so not getting there is not really an option.Wasting a deposit would not sit well with my northern roots.

We had a time window of 13 days. Two days were needed to travel to and from the walking area so we had 11 days to walk.  We have kind relatives living on the southern edge of the Yorkshire Dales who were willing to help us out with logistics. A rough plan emerged to walk North from Skipton taking in the Yorkshire 3 peaks and the Howgills.

The Dorset flag reaches Whernside the highest point in the Yorkshire Dales

The Howgills – rounded green hills. Fewer visitors than the Yorkshire Dales and Lake District. 

Then there would be a link day when we would walk west from Newbiggin on Lune to the Lake District. We then reckoned we could have a splendid 6 days walking around the highest bits of the Lakes. At the planning stage I tried to create a walking day of about 6 hours. As it turned out some were longer – none were shorter!

Our first night was with our relatives in Burley in Wharfedale and then they took us to the start of our walk which began at Skipton. At the end of the walk we were kindly scooped up at Windermere and returned to Burley.

Understanding relatives provided a taxi service and began our walk with us. 

Accommodation on the walk was at:
1. Beck Hall, Malham.
2. Middle Studfold Farm, near Horton in Ribbelsdale.
3. George and Dragon, Dent.
4. Brownber Hall, near Newbiggin on Lune.
5. Haweswater Hotel.
6. Lacet House, Ambleside.
7. Horse and Farrier Inn, Threlkeld.
8. Littletown guesthouse, Newlands near Keswick.
9. Wasdale Head Inn.
10. Britannia Inn, Elterwater.

The places we chose to stay were prioritised because they were dog friendly. However – they were predominantly pubs or were licensed. Brownber Hall was a return visit as we had voted it the top place to stay on our 2016 C2C.

The moor bewteen the Howgills and the Lake District. 

It was overall the winner this year too, although some of the others also warrant a return, most notably The Wasdale Head Inn, Littletown Guesthouse and Middle Studfold Farm. The only place we would definitely not return to, even if they paid us handsomely, is the Horse and Farrier at Threlkeld!

The stuff we carried was the same as C2C in 2016

We once again chose the hair shirt method – not using a company such as Sherpa to transfer our baggage. We carried the minimum amount of stuff to be safe and comfortable on the high mountains in the Lake District whatever the weather, so we had all the usual clothing and equipment required for that.

In addition we had a change of clothes to wear in the evening. A small amount of toiletries and some medication and first aid stuff. We started with 2 maps and 4 days food for Archie. We posted the remaining food for Archie to Brownber Hall along with the Lake District Maps.

Long distance walking is low intensity exercise and we seem to mange perfectly well on minimum fuel. We eat as much as we can manage at breakfast and then most days we don’t really eat anything else until the evening. I know this will not suit most people but it suits us and we didn’t lose any weight! This may be due to the attention we gave to liquid and solid refuelling every evening, of course.

Helvellyn

The weather was out of our control. When looking at the route options between accommodations I did bear in mind foul weather alternatives. Unfortunately we did experience a few unsettled days in the Lake District. On the walk to Wasdale Head the conditions were such that no amount of gortex could prevent us being completely soaked. There are no sun terraces with rows of deck chairs at the Wasdale Head Inn. Drying rooms a plenty though – says it all really.

The Long Walk was a great success. All 3 of us enjoyed it enormously.  So for 2018 – how about the Southern Upland Way.  Another long distance coast to coast walk in the borders of Scotland?

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The Sport of Ageing

I suppose that being over 60 I can still be classified as being middle-aged, towards the end of middle age and heading towards old age. There is of course chronological age and biological age. That nice machine they have at the gym that tells me I’m only 45! A dexa scan tells me my bone density and % of body fat are average for a 20 year old.

As the body ages, muscle size and strength reduces, flexibility reduces, aerobic capacity reduces, bone structure and density changes – it’s all happening and it’s all a natural process. Ordinary people become more sedentary as they age. Older athletes reduce the rigour of their training. Metabolic function changes, my thyroid doesn’t produce any thyroxin for example and the synthetic substitute is a poor replacement. I am basically very healthy and fit. We live in a nice place and have an active outdoorsy lifestyle.

Kayaking near our home.

For better and for worse, your body never ceases to change through ageing. My approach to training and sport choices and level of activity will reflect that by evolving from year to year in appropriate ways.

The changes in my body have meant a dramatic reduction in running speed. To keep this in perspective I am still ‘good for age’ but it’s still very annoying! Also my body finds running very strenuous and complains more loudly and often than it used to when I was younger. This means I can run less as I don’t want to exacerbate injuries.

I spend more time these days on strength and conditioning than I used to. In practice this means weight training with dumbells and kinesis. It means regular Iyengar yoga classes.

Chair headstand at our yoga class.

At a simple accessible level it is a 2 minute daily plank! Some days even that is too hard!

I no longer feel the need to push myself to do things I don’t really enjoy. I no longer swim in the sea year round for example! I still swim regularly, but only in the pool when the sea temperature is in single figures.

Sea swimming

I did not take up my ‘Good for Age’ place at the London Marathon in 2017. I loved the 2016 event and ran well ensuring an automatic entry to all the big city marathons in the world in 2017 and 2018. But, for reasons I can’t really explain I just didn’t want to do it. Maybe it’s a case of been there done that and got a drawer full of T shirts.

Finishing London Marathon 2016

I have not entered any triathlons this season- yet. I am still training. I still swim, bike, run and I enjoy it. At present – that seems to be enough. Racing is not on the agenda at present.

My Ironman trophy

I still ride Audax events.

I keep up my AAARTY.

There are many inspirational people out there riding huge distances who are much older than I am – mainly men. I continually ask myself, ‘Am I having a nice time – is this fun?’ The effects of ageing on my body have made stuff that used to be fun, much less fun because it hurts and the results are poor. So evolve – focus on what is fun. Focus on what I can do now rather than what I used to do.

My attention has been diverted from training by normal family events earlier this year. My father was very ill for a while. He is 91 and lives close by so we were able to give him the care and support he needed to get well and regain his independence. We also had the great joy of the marriage of Kathryn our daughter.

Kathryn’s wedding

This focused our attention for a number of weeks.

A big change in my life that has affected the training I do is personal. My husband Ian who has never really been interested in doing much exercise himself whist being very supportive of everything I do. Last summer a change occurred and he decided we should get mountain bikes. Now Ian is normally one of those reactive people so when he becomes proactive I tend to sit up and take notice!

Since we got those bikes last June Mountain biking has gradually become a more important part of our lives. We now ride as much as 3 or 4 times a week TOGETHER and have a lot of fun.

Mountain biking

He has become (rather annoyingly) very good and much fitter. I now ride my mountain bike more than my road bike. As a further development he gradually succumbed to riding my old Dawes Galaxy with straight bars that I did LeJOG on and doing some gentle road riding.

Dawes Galaxy ready for the Grand Tour of the Highland and Islands

We have a tour of the West coast of Scotland and the Outer Hebrides planned for a tour in June. A distance of about 600 miles with enough hills to make the elevation the same as the height of Mount Everest!

I can feel my strength and speed just disappearing as time passes and I am determined not to let it mar my enjoyment. I can still do loads of stuff. There is still lots of stuff to do and lots of adventures to be had!

Focus on what you can do rather than what you can’t.

It’s All In The Planning

There are some of us who are proactive, who like to be in control and others who are reactive and are happy just to go along with whatever’s happening and be happy with that. I fall into the proactive category and I spend a lot of time dreaming up ideas for trips and adventures. I much prefer to organise, plan and book our own adventures rather than go on an organised trip. For me a lot of the fun is in the planning and I love eventually arriving at places that I have anticipated in the planning process months before.

Last year we very much enjoyed walking Coast to Coast with our dog Archie. Archie enjoyed it too.

Archie and his support staff

Archie is 10 years old now so we decided that this year we should do another long walk while he is still able to join us. None of the Long Distance Footpaths appealed very much so I decided to plan our own route. The bits of C2C which I enjoyed most were the moors and mountains: I did not enjoy the lowland parts on lanes and through endless fields. So after a lot of poring over maps I decided on a walk starting at Skipton in North Yorkshire. The route goes North through the Yorkshire Dales and Howgills as far as Newbiggin-on-Lune and then West following the C2C West as far Kidsty Pike in the Lake District. After that I have booked 6 nights’ accommodation in the Lake District and we have a circular walk planned. The route can be varied according to what the weather throws at us, but hopefully we will spend a lot of time on the tops.

Ian on the Langdale Pikes on New Year’s Day 2017

My husband Ian has become more tolerant of cycling in the last year to the point where he enjoys it mostly. In 1978 I bought some OS maps of Harris and Lewis and fully intended to get out there to explore. It never happened and I still haven’t been. I really enjoyed the touring aspect of LEJOG and the Scottish part of the route was fantastic.

Little Loch Broom in May 2013 on LEJOG

I was very sad that we didn’t make the extra effort to get out to Ardnamurchan Point which is the most Westerly point on the British Mainland on LEJOG.

To combine these elements in a tour with Ian seemed like a good plan for 2017. We are starting at Oban and have agreed on manageable distances for each day so we have plenty of time to enjoy the scenery. We will be visiting Mull, Ardnamurchan and Skye en route to Ullapool, where we get the ferry to Stornoway on Lewis. From there we cycle up to the Butt of Lewis in the North before riding all the way down the islands to Vatersay in the South.

I have promised Ian there will be no midges or big hills!

Both these trips have been planned over several weeks of poring over maps and websites. All the accommodation is booked for both. We are mostly staying in Hotels and Guest Houses.
Later on in the year we are off to San Francisco to visit our daughter Jenna and her fiancé Jay. At present the plan is just a line on a small-scale map. Initially we go North to Inverness  – that’s Inverness in California not Scotland – which is where their wedding is taking place in April 2018.

After that we are going on a HOT road rip taking in Joshua Tree, Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, Las Vegas, Utah, Nevada, Death Valley and back North to Yosemite and San Francisco.

Now is the time for doing rather than planning but I look forward to getting some detail on that trip soon. Now where are my walking boots?

MTB

In June my husband, Ian, suddenly decided that he would like to try mountain biking. I think he just got a bit fed up with being left behind while I was out cycling, yet didn’t fancy doing the long miles on tarmac. I love riding my bike so I assumed that I would also love mountain biking – especially with him.

We hired bikes from our local cycle shop, Bridport Cycles, and went out on a Bridport Cycling Club mountain bike ride.

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Nice wide flat trail with a good firm surface.

Our first club ride was for beginners and although we found it quite difficult and tiring we did enjoy it.

We then went off to our nearest trail centre at Haldon. Again we hired bikes and cycled around the green trail which was very pleasant. Then we tried the light blue trail – more interesting but manageable. We then tried the dark blue trail. Too interesting. I found the steep, stony descents really frightening and couldn’t stay on the bike. There was no point in looking at the red trail, that was way beyond our skill level. We did have a play in the skills park and although I avoided all the drops and stony paved areas, I did think that I had improved.

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Haldon Skills Park

We took advice from a couple of experienced MTB riders at BCC and Ian, being an impulsive sort of guy, just found a couple of good deals online and we bought a full suspension bike each.

The shiny new bikes were both blue and we were very pleased to be out riding in the beautiful countryside in West Dorset where we live.

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First outing on the new bikes

We found routes that were not very technical but managed to find some mud even in the dry summer.

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Mud!

Riding the MTB was really good fun after the serious stuff of the Exmoor 70.3 ironman in the summer. The sole reason for riding the MTB was to have fun.

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Having fun in the sun!

We enjoyed some lovely rides in the summer. We are fortunate to live in a very scenic area close to the sea. Scenic also means there are plenty of hills, of course.

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Scenic Dorset

We returned to Haldon quite regularly and gradually improved. Ian improved more quickly and was much braver on drops and stony descents. We no longer bothered with the green and light blue and were able to ride around the dark blue more quickly.

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Starting the red run.

We ventured onto the red trail. Ian could ride about 50% of it and I couldn’t really manage much of it at all. However I kept trying and pushed my limits in the skills park. We have returned to Haldon regularly and each time there is significant improvement. We can now enjoy riding the red trails. Some intensive sessions on the regulated trails at Haldon have really helped improve our skills and confidence. The next step is to travel to a different trail centre and frighten ourselves there!

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Pushing my limits in the Haldon skills park

Back in West Dorset we became more adventurous and challenged ourselves on more technical routes. At this stage, some of the time I was not having much fun.

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More technical routes

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Making progress on more technical routes

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The Colmers Shute Strava segment! (Ian doesn’t do Strava!)

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Sometimes it was a bit too challenging for me.

We continued to go out on BCC Club rides. Club rides tend to be challenging and hilly but take in some beautiful coastal scenery.

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On Eype Down – Golden Cap the next challenge on the horizon.

We took the bikes with us on a visit to the Gower Peninsular in Wales and found some good routes and had some fun times again.

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Gower Peninsular. Getting up there was a grunt but we had the best fun on the descent.

As the weather changed and the trails became wetter and muddier we faced new challenges. In the summer I would worry about the smallest patches of mud and puddles and really hated the back wheel squirming. I soon had to get used to puddles and lots of mud as well as wearing lots of gear in the cold, wet weather. We even venture out in the dark occasionally which adds another dimension to our riding. Often hilarious.

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Darkness is falling.

I’m pleased to say that I have improved a lot over the last few months and I am enjoying the MTB riding much more. I am much more confident on steep stony descents and am able to ‘stay on my bike’ most of the time. It’s still really hard work and very strenuous –especially with all the mud and puddles, but we usually have a lot of fun on our rides and it’s great that we can enjoy cycling together.

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Muddy winter riding

We are planning some cycling trips away this year as my focus moves away from competing in triathlon back to cycling just for the sheer enjoyment of being out on my bike. I love riding my bike – but riding my bike with my best buddy alongside me is the best!

Sardinia

Sardinia is part of Italy and is the second largest island in the Mediterranean (Sicily is the largest). It has an area of 9,000 square miles making it a little larger than Wales. However, the population of Sardinia is 1.5 million which is half that of Wales. Wales has plenty of open spaces – Sardinia is empty.

The coasts of Sardinia (1,849 kilometres long) are generally high and rocky, with long, relatively straight stretches of coastline, many outstanding headlands, a few wide, deep bays, rias, and many inlets. There are various smaller islands off the coast.

The Sardinian coast

The Sardinian coast

Sardinia, unlike mainland Italy, is not earthquake prone which we were pleased about as Italy has suffered an unusual amount of seismic activity in 2016. Away from the sea the island is quite mountainous. The highest peak is Punta La Marmora at 1834m. Sardinia has few major rivers. There are 54 artificial lakes and dams which supply water and electricity and there is just one natural fresh water lake.

The island has a Mediterranean climate along the coastal plains and lower hills and a continental climate in the mountainous interior.

The island has a long and intriguing history, and is dotted with interesting archaeological sites. In the Bronze Age the island was populated by an enigmatic people who built nuraghi – stone towers – across the island, along with palaces, sacred wells and other structures. Many remain, as ruins, and the importance of these sites is recognised with a UNESCO World Heritage listing.

A nuraghe

A nuraghe

As Sardinia is on Mediterranean trading routes, various subsequent civilisations colonised or conquered the coastal areas, including the Phoenicians, Romans and Byzantines. Later the island was for some time under Spanish domination. A version of Catalan is still spoken in Alghero. The mountains inland, difficult to conquer and offering little to invaders, have a reputation as untouched pockets of ancient culture and tradition.

Today, some 7,000 Nuraghes dot the Sardinian landscape.

Nuraghe number 6,978

Nuraghe number 6,978

Taken as a whole, Sardinia’s economic conditions are such that the island is in the best position among Italian regions located south of Rome. The Sardinian economy is, however, constrained due to the high costs of the transportation of goods and electricity, which is twice that of the continental Italian regions, and triple that of the EU average.

The economy is centred on service industries such as hotels, restaurants, transport and telecommunications. The traditional industries of farming and fishing now make a relatively small contribution to the economy.

There are still a few goats and sheep around

There are still a few goats and sheep around

Today all Sardinia’s major urban centres are located near the coasts, because of seaside tourism, while the island’s interior is very sparsely populated. The main centre of population is Cagliari in the south where 25% of Sardes live.

The island has many beaches and stretches of coast which are largely unspoiled and plenty of down-to-earth towns and resorts. Lagoon, island and mountain habitats all feature among the region’s nature reserves.

One of the many beaches. This one had some low key development.

One of the many beaches. This one had some low key development.

It seems that Sardinia is a very popular destination for mainland Italians but they all come in August. Compared to other Mediterranean Islands, outside of August Sardinia is quiet.

We do not like crowds or cities so Sardinia seemed like a good choice for us. We decided to travel in September and planned a mix of mountain walks, sea kayaking, and some sightseeing. We avoided the cities and the glitzy Costa Smeralda.

There are no motorways on Sardinia but dual carriageways connect the main cities and the roads are quiet. However, once away from the main roads we had some interesting road trips especially on the steep, narrow, twisting mountain roads.

Some of the roads in the mountains were quite interesting!

Some of the roads in the mountains were quite interesting!

From Oblia airport we headed straight for the mountains. We spent a couple of days walking in the Ulassai area characterised by massive limestone cliffs. There were no other tourists here and in the 3 days we were out in the mountains the only people we met were two German tourists on mountain bikes.img_1493

Massive limestone cliffs around Ulassai

Massive limestone cliffs around Ulassai

We stopped off for a walk up Perda Liana as we travelled North to the Gennargentu.

A lovely walk around Perda Liana.

A lovely walk around Perda Liana.

In the Gennargentu area we stayed at Fonni for a few days. We experienced some cool weather there and some spectacular thunderstorms. We also quickly found out that there were no other tourists, no one speaks English and it is impossible to buy a postcard. The only food we could find was pizza.

Fonni is the highest town in Sardinia at 1000m. Surprisingly Fonni is a winter sports centre with a ski lift to Monte Spada and Bruncu Spina. There are also some paved access roads to the rather limited skiing infrastructure which we were able use.

Monte Spada 1595m

Monte Spada 1595m

We did not come across any other tourists while we were there and did not meet any other people walking in the mountains. Our B&B provided cake for breakfast and some local unleavened bread which we found inedible. They didn’t speak any English and our Italian is not up to much so we made no progress on what we would prefer to eat at breakfast. We resorted to fortifying ourselves with Birra Ichnusa, the popular Sardinian-made beer; at 70 cents a can we found no reason to limit our consumption. We had to get our calories from somewhere.

The highest peak is Punta La Marmora (Perdas Carpìas in Sardinian language) at 1834m was an obvious target. Unfortunately we had some mist when we were approaching the summit.

Mist on Punta La Marmora

Mist on Punta La Marmora

But it improved while we were up there…

The summit cross of Punta La Marmora

The summit cross of Punta La Marmora

…to give us far reaching views which clearly show the emptiness of inland Sardinia.

Thde view from Punta La Marmora

The view from Punta La Marmora

We left the mountains and drove to the North East of the Island close to Alghero and joined Sea Kayak Sardinia for a few days paddling.

Paddling with Sea Kayak Sardinia

Paddling with Sea Kayak Sardinia

The weather was very windy while we were there and we had joined a ‘no experience necessary’ group so although we were quite limited in where we could go we still enjoyed some excellent paddling on the spectacular coast.

Lunch break on the Sardinian coast

Lunch break on the Sardinian coast

After a few days near Alghero we travelled the length of the island and explored the South West Coast .

We visited the famous Cala Domestica – once a port built to export minerals from local mining. There is some spectacular cliff scenery here and some low key tourist infrastructure. In September there were very few tourists – and no other Brits.

Cala Domestica

Cala Domestica

We continued to the Island of San Antioco. We took the ferry to San Pietro and suffering from withdrawal symptoms we hired some bikes and took a spin around this remarkably unspoilt island.

Taking the hired bikes to San Pietro

Taking the hired bikes to San Pietro

San Antioco had other hidden joys including our very own cove. This beautiful rocky bay was a few minutes’ walk from our Hotel at which we enjoyed for a day.

'Our cove' on San Antioco

‘Our cove’ on San Antioco

Reluctant to leave this idyll and promising ourselves we will return we headed up the coast to Cala Gonone. Until recently this beautiful area was only accessible by boat. It has become quite a busy little resort and we were pleased to be staying up in the mountains.

Cala Gonone – not very busy by Mediterranean resort standards

Cala Gonone – not very busy by Mediterranean resort standards

Gola di Gorruppu, Sardinias most spectacular gorge, was close at hand so we decided to explore. We parked about 15km up the Rio Flumineddu from Dorgali. We then had a scenic two hour walk along a marked trail with interesting ever changing views. At the mouth of the gorge we were surprised to find an entrance booth and a rudimentary explanation about the gorge – in English. (We also had to pay 5 euro each). This was the biggest concentration of tourists we had seen in the three weeks we had been in Sardinia.

The gorge is flanked by limestone walls towering up to 400m in height. After 500m you reach the narrowest point, just 4m wide, and the formidable Hotel Supramonte, a tough 8b multipitch climb up a vertical 400m rock face.

This is me NOT on the Hotel Supramonte

This is me NOT on the Hotel Supramonte

The next day we were back at the airport, rather sad to leave after a very successful exploration of the Island. It is a wonderful place with so much to see and do. We loved the emptiness of it all and the lack of other tourists.

Sardinia...we will be back.

Sardinia…we will be back.

Up, up and away

My daughter Jenna gave Ian and I a hot air balloon ride voucher for Christmas. I was pretty horrified and put the voucher out of sight and the whole idea out of mind.

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I have rather an odd fear of heights. I am perfectly happy on natural structures like mountains and rocks. I am also good on ladders. However, I am irrationally fearful of man-made structures like piers and bridges. For example – walking across the Golden Gate Bridge defeated me once I got out above the water. Ian is no good on rocks or ladders but is fine on piers and bridges. So between us – this was going to be a challenge.

Towards the end of August and with a strong application of Rule 5 we went on the Aerosaurus website to book a flight.

Since a hot air balloon has no direct means of steerage or control the weather is an all important factor when deciding whether or not to fly. We were lucky on our 3rd attempt.

Our 3rd booking meant travelling from Dorset to Launceston, but we were so pleased that this happened as it meant that our pilot was Arthur Street who is an absolute legend in the ballooning world. Arthur counts his balloon flights in tens of thousands after 25 years of piloting.

We met at Homeleigh Garden Centre near Launceston at 06:30 along with 12 other passengers. The ground crew, Matt and Marianne (Little and Large) dealt with everything in a very professional manner, but also somehow very relaxed and reassuring. It was all very workaday and routine for them. There was obviously no reason for any anxiety.

We travelled in the Aerosaurus vehicles to the launch site near North Petherwin with the basket and envelope on a trailer.

Arriving at the launch site with the balloon (known as the envelope) and basket on the trailer

Arriving at the launch site with the balloon (known as the envelope) and basket on the trailer

The ‘envelope’ is huge – much larger than we expected. The passengers all help to get it inflated on the ground.

Inflating the envelope with cold air to begin with

Inflating the envelope with cold air to begin with

The fans blow cold air in. The scale of the envelope is clear if you can spot Marianne walking around inside!

The fans blow cold air in. The scale of the envelope is clear if you can spot Marianne walking around inside!

Two strong men were hanging onto a rope to stop the envelope rolling around

Two strong men were hanging onto a rope to stop the envelope rolling around

Eventually the envelope comes upright and the basket with it

Eventually the envelope comes upright and the basket with it

The air in the balloon must be heated now to allow it to be airborne. It is tethered to the landrover

The air in the balloon must be heated now to allow it to be airborne. It is tethered to the landrover

At this point I asked myself whether I would be disappointed if I was going to be a spectator rather than a passenger. The answer was yes. It was very exciting!

Arthur gave a comprehensive briefing – and informed us that the most difficult thing we would face would be climbing into the basket. (There is an option of being in the basket while it is on its side and being gently scooped up if physical disability prevents a passenger from clambering in). So that was alright then.

Clambering into the basket

Clambering into the basket while Arthur continues to heat the air in the envelope

The basket is actually a steel cage with rollbars and a solid floor. The wicker work is really just for aesthetics.

Once in the basket Arthur continued to heat up the air in the envelope using the burners powered by propane gas. We smiled bravely for the ‘on the ground’ photo opportunity!

Once in the basket Arthur continued to heat up the air in the envelope using the burners powered by propane gas. We smiled bravely for the ‘on the ground’ photo opportunity!

Once inflated and heated up (quite noisy) the tether from the land rover was released and we were off – up, up and away. We gained height extermely quickly.

We gained height very quickly. The land rover got very small very quickly

We gained height very quickly. The land rover got very small very quickly

There were a few moments of ‘wow this is quite high’ – but that was all. We just really enjoyed being up there. Arthur was fantastic and gave us 360 degree panoramic views and information about what we could see. We had total confidence in him.

Arthur opening the champagne

Arthur opening the champagne

Early on in the flight the champagne was opened which Jenna had thoughtfully included in our voucher. I’m sure this helped to contribute to the relaxed convivial atmosphere on board.

Cheers!

Cheers!

We went up to 3,200 feet and could see the North Cornwall Coast

We went up to 3,200 feet and could see the North Cornwall Coast

Arthur controlled the height of the envelope by heating up the air with the burners

Arthur controlled the height of the envelope by heating up the air with the burners

The main landmark was Roadford Lake

The main landmark was Roadford Lake

As we descended preparing to land we could see the ground crew who had been following our progress.

As we descended preparing to land we could see the ground crew who had been following our progress.

The A30

The A30

Arthur negotiated the obstacles of the A30 and Roadford Lake with great skill – but it did mean we had a few extra minutes up in the air. The landing was gentle with just a slight bump.

Marianne and Matt had tracked us from the ground and were there to help with packing up. The farmer was very cooperative and helped us all out of the slightly boggy field we had landed in.

The huge envelope gradually deflated as the air cooled down and we helped to guide it so that it could be folded up again.

Patrick – the youngest passenger tried to get the air out of the envelope

Patrick – the youngest passenger tried to get the air out of the envelope

But he needed help

But he needed help

It was amazing just how quickly that huge envelope was packed back into the bag and stowed back on the trailer with the basket.

The envelope was tucked back into its bag ready for the next flight.

The envelope was tucked back into its bag ready for the next flight.

We even got a certificate to prove we had done it!

We even got a certificate to prove we had done it!

Highly recommended. It is not at all scary and just a wonderful experience.

 

Sea Swimming

Most people in the UK will have been in the sea at some time in their lives. Many will have kept their feet firmly on the ground and exercised great caution – instinctively knowing that they are putting their lives in danger by getting in any further. Drowning is the third highest cause of accidental death for children in the UK. More than 400 people accidentally drown in the UK every year.

In 2013 fatalities at the sea, on the beach or shoreline accounted for nearly a third (115) of all UK deaths by drowning. A further 22 deaths happened at harbours, docks, marinas and inland or coastal ports.

It’s a very big sea. A dangerous environment that you cannot control

It’s a very big sea. A dangerous environment that you cannot control

‘There’s little to compare with the thrill of a stormy sea swim, diving and forging through teetering waves before bouncing in the swell behind the break.’ (Kate Rew – Wild Swim)

I have been swimming in the sea most of my life. I gained life guarding qualifications as a young adult. In the mid 1970’s – when we had those really amazing heat waves– I worked my summers as a beach lifeguard.
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