My husband popped into the shops earlier this week, and I waited for him in the car.
Listening to the radio and gazing outside, I was so lucky to see this beautiful, fiery sunset.
Luckily, I had my camera with me, so I quickly darted outside and was so lucky to capture the amazing display of vibtant colours in front of me.
Nature has always been my favourite artist.
A friend recently asked me if it was possible for anyone to walk the path to the top of Pen-Y-Fan.
She thought it was mainly for committed outdoor walkers, or people with lots of hill-walking experience. I explained that anyone can access the walk and, in fact, I see many people of differing abilities walking Pen-Y-Fan. However, there are some quite simple, yet essential things to consider, that will help to make your walk safer and more enjoyable.
Leading from our conversation, I thought I’d post some things that I hope will help to make a day-walking experience easier, and a bit kinder to any children on the walk.
Check the weather report.
The Met office website is really simple to access and understand, yet a comprehensive source of information. I always check the night before any trip, as well as on the morning of my walk. The weather can change quite suddenly, and you may need to adapt in order to be properly prepared. If you want a good view at the top, wait for the weather to be clear. There’s nothing worse than getting all the way to the top, and find that everything is shrouded in thick mist or fog! It also helps when deciding upon the correct clothes to wear for the day and, if the children are coming on the walk with you, good weather helps to make the whole experience more fun and engaging.
Always have breakfast!
It sounds like such a silly, common sense thing to advise but, on any normal day, you might usually be able to get away with just grabbing a quick breakfast bar, or missing breakfast altogether. Not if you want to have the energy to fulfil a happy days’ walking! By having breakfast, you’re giving your body the best possible start to get you up that mountain. Without that start-up boost, it won’t be long before your energy levels start to drop and pretty soon after, you’ll feel like giving up before you’ve even properly started.
Have a good pair of walking boots, or really sturdy footwear.
You don’t have to buy a very expensive pair of boots, as many outdoor shops have a wide selection, and at a range of reasonable prices. They can also give advice if you ask before buying. However, if you do buy a new pair, make sure you wear them before your walk to help them become supple, as I’ve seen many people get blisters because they’ve walked in stiff, brand new boots. Another good tip is to wear a thicker pair of socks. I wear a thin liner sock, and then a thicker walking sock over this. It helps to reduce blisters and makes for a more comfortable walk, but it really is down to personal choice. I’ve also seen many walkers trudging up the path of Pen-Y-Fan with completely inappropriate shoes and I really feel their pain. But if you take care of your feet, they’ll take care of you.
Take a rucksack and wear the straps on each shoulder.
I often see lots of people struggling up hills and mountains with handbags, carrier bags etc, and it looks as if it’s such an awkward pain. Again, you don’t have to spend a lot. Most children have a good school rucksack these days, and that’s all you need. You then have something decent to adequately carry your lunch, a spare jumper, bottle of water and maybe a hat and gloves depending on the time of year. I do tend to carry a small first aid kit, but that’s completely up to you. However, things like wet wipes and some hidden sweets or chocolates can make the day more comfortable, especially if you have children with you. Wearing one strap slung over a single shoulder promotes a lop-sided, slouching walk, which can become irritating and tiring. On a prolonged walk, you should wear both straps over your shoulders, as it helps with a more comfortable “even walk”.
Plan your route.
Proper planning prevents poor performance. You really ought to know where you’re going, how long the walk should take, and if it is suitable for the ability of your group. You want to enjoy yourself, so if this is a new experience for you, or if you want an easy, relaxing walk, don’t choose somewhere that takes all day or, for example, is continually up steep hills, as descending can be just as taxing as going up! A little light research can reap real rewards, as a good walk will make you want to go again, and each time possibly try something harder. It really is meant to be enjoyable and fun.
Go with friends!
This will make the day much more enjoyable, and you’ll have massive motivation to get to the top. You’ll help each other, share lunch, chat on the way and find it a lot happier and easier having friendly, familiar faces by your side.
Take it a pace that everyone is happy with.
If you’ve planned the whole day for the walk, take the whole day. I love taking the time to enjoy the environment, pacing myself to incorporate a few necessary rest breaks, and chat to any fellow walkers. I can then complete any walk without looking like a red tomato, and completely out of energy. Also, it may take a few reserves of determination and energy leftover, just to return from a good walk.
Never underestimate the importance of a hat, gloves, a waterproof coat and spare jumper.
Sometimes, I’ve left Cardiff when the sun is shining and the weather’s quite hot. By the time I’ve driven to Brecon, the sky is overcast and the cold has set in. Again, this is where checking the weather is essential, but Mother Nature seems to just love throwing a “curve-ball” now and then! Mountain summits can have completely different weather ststems from that at the bottom. Often, when you reach the top, the wind is quite invigoratingly strong, and you’ll be so happy that you packed a warm hat, gloves and a spare jumper. Equally, don’t forget that in warmer weather, you’ll need a sun hat, sun tan lotion and plenty of bottled water for hydration.
These are just a few tips that might help if you’re new to walking, especially if you’re keen to venture out into mountainous or even forestry areas. Over the years, I’ve followed and developed these simple tips when I prepare for a walk, and it’s always made my day safer and more enjoyable.
My last tip is to just have fun and enjoy yourself! Walking is a wonderful activity and can be tailored to suit everyone’s abilities. The health benefits are encouraging, too.
Regular walking strengthens your heart. It reduces your risk of heart disease and stroke. The Stroke Association estimates that a brisk, 30-minute walk every day helps to lower and control the high blood pressure that causes strokes, potentially reducing the risk by up to 27 percent.
So, what’s stopping you!
I love the early morning in work.
When you get there. before all the customers, it’s so quiet and peaceful.
It’s a great way to start the day,
just taking five minutes to enjoy the view first hazy views of the morning.
This is my daughter, kayaking for the first time on fast moving water.
I was an absolute bag of nerves watching her but, at the same time, I felt so proud at seeing her paddling and not letting her fear get the better of her.
This picture makes her look so scared, but she still carried on paddling through, and went on for another hour!
For the first time EVER, our little family spent the Christmas & New Year period on holiday.
It was amazing for us all to be together, spending a full 10 days just relaxing and enjoying our surroundings. After a busy year, it was a much-needed and well-deserved break. Those regular visitors to my little blogette will know that we love to go to Coombe Mill, in Cornwall. The tranquillity and the closeness to the natural outdoors appeals to us, and it made a great setting for us to enjoy Christmas even more.
The most memorable experience, however, was the day of New Years Eve. We decided to spend the day surfing in the sea at beautiful Polzeath Beach. Bonkers, I hear you mutter, given the time of year but, with the proper kit, we hardly noticed the cold and lasted over an hour in the surf, jumping and riding the waves.
We went to a surf shop located right on the beach, where we were able to hire a board, wetsuits, boots, gloves and hats, all of which were much needed in the chilly swell. We used the “privacy” of our car to writhe and wriggle into our wetsuits, and then we were ready to face the waves.
The first few steps into the ocean we sort-of OK, and surprisly not as cold as we anticipated it to be. Having the correct kit is essential, and I was able to slowly lower myself deeper into the water without too much of a cold-shock to the system, acclimatising as I went tentatively ever farther out into the surf.
My daughter caught her first wave and soon stood up straight away, making it look very easy and completely putting her Mum to shame! I don’t mind admitting that I’m not the best surfer, and I can probably count on one hand the amount of times I’ve been able to successfully stand up on a moving board, but I still love the whole experience.
After almost an hour, the wind started to chill our heads, and cheeks began to glow a nice shade of rosy red. We were ready for warm clothes and, as we waddled quickly back to the car, we all agreed that we should visit the nearest tea-rooms, where we enjoyed a steaming pot of tea, and a huge warm scone with extra clotted cream and large spoon of jam!
The ability to enjoy such a wild, fun day with my family was such a brilliant way to end the year and mark the end of a wonderful holiday.
At the moment, I’m providing a lovely Family Engagement project at two local primary schools in Cardiff. The aim of the project is to encourage parents and children to come together after school, and have an opportunity to play and be creative together.
We’ve a had a few weeks together now and, as I get to know the group, I always like the idea of introducing a fire-building activity. It’s a great way of teaching the children about fire safety and the correct way of working with fire. It also shows the parents that a little bit of risk is a good thing and, actually, children are really good at recognizing and managing risk during play.
My fire-building activity is run over two sessions, the first being an introduction to fire. We talk about risks, how to use fire and be around fire safely. We look at the equipment and talk about how we use it, and this gives me an idea on how the children react around the subject. It’s good for me to know that I can trust the group; if I am in any doubt about safety issues, I’ll leave the actual fire building session to a later date or, with some groups, perhaps fires may not the best or safest activity for them.
So, sitting in the classroom, we spoke about using a flint and steel to get the fire going. I demonstrate the process and, at the start, you do see the fear in some children’s eyes, as they’ve been told to never play with fire because it’s dangerous. Of course, it is when used in the wrong way, but with correct teaching comes respect, and it stops becoming the scary forbidden thing that children are often warned about.
We then move outside to the open playground. Here, the children make a little table of sticks and a ball of cotton wool is placed on top. The children then get to have a go at lighting the cotton wool in a safe and controlled environment. We always have a bowl of water at the side, (just in case), and the children take it in turns to strike the spark, so that they learn to wait and to observe the rules of our fire session.
Luckily, I’ve never had any child go out of control, or act dangerously with this activity. They really understand how to behave around the fire, and always use the equipment correctly. It’s lovely to watch and to be a part of this discovery process.
I believe that, sadly, in the society that we currently live in, we can wrap our children up in cotton wool in an attempt to shield them from too many potential hazards and risks. Many of these things were simply play experiences to me and my peers and, as children we were allowed to explore, discover and evaluate the safest way to avoid risks in play.
The current trend seems to almost promote “safe, indoor, computerised” activities, by telling children not to climb the tree in case you fall and break your leg, don’t play outside when its rainy because you’ll get a cold, and don’t jump in the puddle as you’ll ruin your shoes. As parents, I think we’ve all said these things to our children at some time or another, but didn’t we do all of these things when we were kids, and didn’t love it.
I think that a little bit of risky play works well in a safe environment and the children know that if they act responsibly, behave well and enjoy the session, the following week they get to enjoy a huge mug of hot chocolate and toast marshmallows on the fire that they helped to make!
I’m so lucky that my daughter gets to come with me on my Forest Schools sessions.
It’s the perfect place for her to be.
Here she is enjoying a toasted marshmallow squashed between two chocolate biscuits.
What else would you do when you have a lovely open outdoor camp fire!
The Big Lunch was a nationwide event that was recently celebrated, and was intended to bring people together to meet each other, share food and celebrate the communities that people live in.
I was very lucky to be invited to the Grangetown (Cardiff) community Big Lunch, when the Friends of Pentre Gardens held their own Big Lunch celebration, which included a fabulous selection of play sessions for the younger people, as well.
My husband made a lovely picnic to get us started, including sandwiches, fresh vegetable crudites and dips, thick slices of sponge cake and, (of course), a huge plate of cheese and pineapple on sticks! This is a firm favourite at our picnics and they were eaten very quickly. We put up more tables and, as we did, more and more people trickled out from the neighbouring houses, bringing tasty cakes, drinks to share, more delicious sandwiches and lots of nibbles for children to enjoy.
The most wonderful thing was the variety of food that we were able to taste and enjoy from different cultural backgrounds. We had homemade spicy onion bahjis and pakoras, polish biscuits and cakes, middle-eastern cheese scones and sweet pastries. There was such a variety of tastes for everyone to sample and enjoy, and it was a great way for children to see what other cultures eat. This was such a positive aspect of the day.
With all the great play activities freely available, parents sat, chatted with friends and watched happily, as their children got messy with the paint wheel, played and created pieces of art with loose materials, played friendly team games with bats and balls, and then took turns to relax on the homemade swing and the hammock.
It really was a lovely afternoon. We counted about seventy families, all enjoying a shared lunch in the sunshine, and all the children of the community enjoyed the opportunity of playing together in the park. Food and play are great media for uniting people in equal harmony.
I really enjoyed being a part of this event, and I really hope that we get to do it again next year!
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.
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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