Our first Duke of Edinburgh Bronze expedition was upon us and, for many young people, it was their first time camping and having to look after themselves away from home. It’s always a huge learning curve for everyone involved, and the staff often end up feeling a bit like stand-in mums and dads for the weekend.
As we weren’t staying too far away from home, my husband and daughter joined us for the adventure. We stayed at one of my favourite campsites, which is Biblins Youth Campsite. This is a Foresty Commission campsite situated in the gorgeous Wye Valley, near Monmouth. It’s a beautiful area right on the banks of the River Wye, with no mobile phone signal or WiFi, and so it has a realistic feel of being isolated from everything.
Finding some fun, back-to-nature style.
The weather was beautiful and the sun was out, which always makes camping that little bit more special. After a day of walking, the groups started to drift into the campsite. They were all happy to reach the end of day one, and were looking forward to an evening of relaxing and fun.
After the tents were up and they’d cooked a variety of meals, (some a lot better than others!), a football appeared and many of the boys piled onto the large field, energy levels recharged. Of course, my little girl joined in, and “managed” to get a few goals in.
The great thing about Biblins is that it allows open fires on the site and, when everyone got a bit tired, we settled down to a roaring open fire and (of course) we toasted marshmallows.
Later, as the fire died down to just the pulsating glow of embers, we were able to gaze upward into the clear night-sky, seeing a speckled tapestry of brightly-sparkling stars, and even the occasional orbitting satellite.
It was the perfect night, watching the stars and enjoying tasty treats.
This early-morning picture reminds why I love waking up to a beautiful, crisp start to the day.
The second day started with a few moans about aches and pains, but knowing that they were walking to the finish-line gave them the boost they needed to set off. I had a lovely surprise at my checkpoint, as I was able to sit enjoying the scenery and watch Canadian canoeists paddle slowly by on the Wye.
Periodically, each group would pass through my checkpoint, and I’d make sure that they were refreshed, and then safely cross the bridge to continue on their way.
As each group finished, everyone was happy to see the mini buses at the end, throwing off their rucksacks and jumping on the buses ready to get home for cooked meals and clean clothes.
We were only out for one night, but the feeling and the atmosphere when camping at Biblins is just perfect. It’s a quiet and easy campsite, with no frills or fuss, but the setting is just amazing.
It always reminds me of why I love camping, and that it’s a great way of spending really great family-time together.
Here’s my little action-girl, waterproofs on, and walking underneath a waterfall.
It may not be the best quality of photograph but, when I saw it, I was reminded of how much I absolutely love my daughters’ spirit for adventure. She makes an adventure out of every day, and I love being a part of that.
I guess that’s why we always enjoy our outdoor adventures.
Enjoying toasted marshmallows at Caerphilly Mountain Ranch.
We discovered this new adventure park recently and loved the outdoor environment. There’s so much space to run, discover and explore, and there’s even a tumble hill for the children to roll down. It really was our type of place to visit for a great day out!
Cardiff International White Water Centre have recently added a new outdoor climbing tower, to complement the multitude of various outdoor activities that take place at the centre. As I supply support services at the centre, I was lucky enough to be included onto the taster session that they were running, in order to try out the tower with adults and children from the public.
My daughter loves climbing, and has tried out a few different places in Cardiff. The idea of climbing outside on a sunny afternoon was really exciting for her, and she couldn’t wait to have try. We joined six other volunteers, suited-up in our harnesses, and were off to the tower we went to test our climbing skills and have some fun.
After going through the safety talk, we were partnered-up and tried a bit of bouldering, so that everybody could get used to the wall and become familiar with the different holds and techniques required. The partners were encouraged to be spotters, and made sure everyone was safe in case of a fall off the wall.
It was then time for climbing.
My daughter jumped at the chance of being first, and quickly got ready with the ropes to be the first one to climb the wall. It was good that her partners belayed while she climbed, which meant that everyone was involved in the activity, and no-one was standing around. The instructors and volunteers all gave encouragement and help by shouting positive messages of encouragement, and spotting routes and holds that my daughter could reach.
She soon got to the top.
There were a few tricky bits, but she was able to swap feet to get to better holds, and began to stretch to reach further with each climb. It was great that everyone got involved as, in some climbing sessions, the focus of attention can be only on the climber. By having the group involved with the belaying and applying the safety elements of climbing, it meant that everyone had a role and everyone supported each other in achieving their climbs to the top.
Picking a route, and going for the top!
We all had four or five climbs each, which was enough for us, as arms and legs started getting a little tired. In total, the session lasted about an hour and a half, which is the usual duration of the session when it’s open to the public. I really think that’s plenty long enough, especially for children, as we all finished on a positive note without too much stress on our limbs, and the climbing becoming “top-hard” because we weren’t becoming too fatigued.
A climbing session of an hour and a half will cost £15 per person. I think it would be a great treat for a birthday party, as everyone is involved and the tower has climbs for all abilities. I find if my daughter really enjoys an outdoor activity, then a treat like this where she is outside, taking part in a physical activity and having fun can be worth the price once in a while.
With the added bonus of being outdoors in the fresh air, (and right next to the rushing water events), it’s a climbing activity that my daughter wants to do again soon. Now that Summer’s on the way, this is sure to get us outside and enjoying loads of family fun!
Further details on some amazing outdoor activities and adventures Cardiff International White Water Centre offer can be found: www.ciww.com
I find that I spend a lot of time researching performance stats, when to comes to buying new outdoor kit and clothing. I talk to my colleagues and research online to find the right piece of equipment, and also relay on to others the knowledge and review results, as getting a good item of clothing is very important.
When I was asked to review a baselayer by Calm Leisure, I thought it was a fantastic opportunity to try a product directly from a company, and to expand my knowledge of outdoor clothing providers.
I was sent a baselayer to review. This is an item of outdoor clothing that is an important part of the layering system that most people wear when doing something outdoors. A baselayer starts next to the skin, and is designed to trap a thin layer of warm air against the body. It also works to pull sweat away from the skin, which is known as ‘wicking’. A good baselayer will keep you warm, and acts as the first step to correct clothing while in the outdoors.
The Calm Leisure company ethos is to deliver a range of products that are incredibly comfortable, innovative in design and also purposeful. Designed and manufactured in Great Britain, the baselayer is ideal for activewear in a multitude of outdoor activity environments.
I thought it would be a good idea to try the baselayer in a few different outdoor activities that I had going on. First, I used it while I was on a Duke of Edinburgh camping expedition in Brecon, Wales. The weather was due to be cold, so it was a good way to test out how warm the baselayer would keep me. While walking between checkpoints, I normally wear a baselayer, a thermal and my windproof coat. It seems like a lot, but this was March and we were in Brecon.
Initially, what I noticed was how the baselayer fitted. It was really lovely. Snug enough to have beneath clothing, but not too tight to the point of feeling uncomfortable, and an additional plus-value was how long the baselayer was. Sometimes, I find outdoor tops designed for ladies can be a bit small in length, and don’t fit at the back of your body. By the time you’ve moved about, sat down, fitted your rucksack, etc, the top has ridden up and you spend the day tugging it down to cover yourself. However, for me, the longer length of the baselayer was a real positive point. It was long and stayed well-fitted for the duration of my walk.
It was great for walking. It kept me warm and it wasn’t until I stopped, waiting for a group, that I got a bit cold and had to put another layer on, which is very normal when you’ve stopped moving. I was very happy how comfortably it felt, and very happy how warm it kept me through the day.
Starting the day with a Calm Leisure baselayer, under a long sleeved thermal top.
Next, I used it on a river paddling afternoon. I wore it under my cag, (which is like a waterproof paddling jacket that keeps the prevailing wind off the body), then on top of all this was my buoyancy aid. Again, I felt very warm throughout my paddling session, even though the baselayer was short-sleeved. It’s so off-putting in any outdoor activity to feel cold early on, but I was very comfortable. I was not too hot, but found that I felt the right level of comfort with the minimal amount of layers on. I really don’t like having lots of layers on while paddling, as I find that it doesn’t help with the physical mobility aspect of paddling, so to have a base layer that kept me warm enough throughout the day was really great.
I also tested the baselayer on a family walk up to the summit of Pen Y Fan, in Brecon. The weather was scheduled to be windy, with a slight chill in the air. So, I started the day with the baselayer and a long-sleeved thermal over the top. I was very warm and comfortable, and it wasn’t until I reached the bottom of Corn Ddu that I had to put another layer on. It was a really good test and proved that this particular base layer was a success in this environment.
In short, this base layer performed exceptionally well, and really did its’ job on a number of different outdoor activities.
Another good endurance test was how it retained integrity after washing. I always stick to the recommended washing instructions to ensure the quality of the product lasts well. After washing, the baselayer kept its shape, and there wasn’t any discolouring in the fabric. The best aspect was that there wasn’t any shrinkage of the material. This is where the old addage ” buy cheap – pay twice” came into its’ own. The total quality of this product is consolidated in performance, value and durability and, when you’ve invested a little bit more money in equipment, you really don’t want it to fail in any of these aspects. This Calm Leisure base layer doesn’t, and will not let you down.
Showing the length of baselayer, the rounded neck and the length of sleeve.
I would recommend this product and I’ve talked with, and shown, my colleagues this baselayer. I think that finding good outdoor clothing for women is such a positive thing, and it’s one of the biggest topics of any conversation when we get to discussing the various brands and styles.
To find a top-quality item of clothing that does its job, fits well, and also lasts after washing is fantastic. The Calm Leisure baselayer shows that if you pay a little extra, you will be rewarded in so many ways.
I was lucky to be offered a Calm Leisure base layer for the purposes of this review. My opinions are my own, and are un-biased.
For further information and to see the range of clothing offered by Calm Leisure please visit : www.calmleisure.co.uk/
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