Ah Sunday evening. The end of one week and the start of a new one. How has this week been for you? Fun and exciting? Just a bit bog standard?!
As has become the tradition this year, in my weekly blog today I want to share a few of the things I’ve been up to this week with you. My week has been more on the bog-standard side of adventurous, it has to be said, but with a few nice things thrown in too. It was Outdoor Bloggers twitter chat week, when we spent an hour delving into “this summer” as a topic, I had an actual in-person work meeting with colleagues in a coffee shop in town, I visited a friend and had a cup of tea and a chat in her lovely wild back garden, and did a spot of online shopping to get the finishing touches for our bedroom makeover in the form of some new white bed linen and a concrete table lamp (yet to arrive).
On the dinner table we’ve had slow cooked chilli to which I added two small courgette from my garden, sticky chicken fried rice, brisket with green veggies, and a very tasty homemade mushroom soup. I even made my own bread to go with said mushroom soup, thanks to this recipe from good friend Sarah. It’s a white loaf which takes less than an hour from start to finish – yes, including the prove! Honestly, if you’ve got a spare hour sometime this week (and you can get hold of yeast and strong white bread flour…), you have to try this for yourself, it was simple and quick and totally worth the effort.
While we’re on food… I wonder, what’s for supper in your house this evening? Is supper a thing you do? As soon as I’ve published this I’m reaching for the tub of Ben and Jerry’s I’ve got waiting in the freezer. Caramel Chew Chew, if you’re interested. Please can no-one mention that I also had ice cream earlier at Bradgate Park, that’s not important or relevant here…
Anyway, on with the weekly blog:
Winning at Photography
One very exciting thing that happened this week was that I won a competition! I used to “comp” a lot, enjoying a trickle of lovely wins throughout the year, but these days I rarely enter any at all. I spotted one being run by Visit Cheltenham, to win a night in the Queen’s Hotel in the centre of the town. To enter you had to share a photo with a “view from my window” theme, and I knew instantly I had one I could use… I had a photo of the Queen’s Hotel itself, taken from the window of the Cheltenham Observation Wheel back in February during Light Up Cheltenham (which I wrote about here). A bit cheeky maybe, but I thought it was worth a punt, and the judges agreed enough to choose my snap as the winning entry. How cool! Now I get to book a night away and play tourist in Cheltenham at some point this year, which I’m very excited about, because I’ve often looked at the outside of that very grant looking hotel and wondered what it was like inside!
A Walk and Natter with Mr Frostbite
We had our second visit to Bradgate Park near Leicester (outside the local lock down area!) this weekend, and it was good to go back and explore some of that particular countryside again. We drove over to meet up with fellow GetOutside Champion and good friend Nigel Vardy, known as Mr Frostbite, for a walk and a natter. It’s a pleasure to speak with Nigel, I’m constantly fascinated by his adventure stories, and find I always come away feeling inspired and motivated to have adventures of my own (which is probably one of the reasons this post continues as it does below).
Bradgate Park is a massive park on the edge of Charnwood Forest, originally enclosed as a deer park over 800 years ago, but now open to the public. It’s a beautiful place to walk; the landscape is surprisingly wild and rugged, with gnarly looking rock formations and plenty of beautifully old and twisted oak trees. Thankfully it wasn’t quite as busy as the last time we went (back in weekly blog episode 23), but even with that we were soon away from the crowds as we headed up the hills and around the edge of the park rather than sticking to the main route between the various parking areas.
We wandered without a plan around the inside edge of the park for a couple of hours, including along the horse track and up to Old John (the folly), around the underground reservoir, passed the deer park, and back to the start for a picnic. We chatted away, about adventure, life, hiking, travel, with plenty of putting the world to rights in the mix too. I’m so grateful that the rules mean we can meet up with friends more now, and I really hope to do more of this over the next few weeks. My phone tells me I did well over 12,000 steps, so around six-miles or there abouts, but it felt like no distance at all; it was such a good way to spend a Sunday morning.
A UK Bucket List for Summer 2020
I think it’s fair to say that 2020 has been something of a ride. And, like a lot of people I know, my mind and cheerfulness has taken quite the beating. When speaking to a friend over the last week about feeling down in the dumps about the way life is at the moment, she asked me what little things I could do to help spark joy again. I’ve spoken about self-care on here before (read this post if you want more on that topic), and one of things I know works for me is having things – road trips, days out, mini-adventures – in the diary to look forward to. As I’m sure happened with yours, my diary emptied out in mid-March, and fun plans have continued to be postponed or cancelled completely still now. While the time at home has not been unhappy or unwelcome, the “nothing planned” bit has made me a bit sad inside.
This weekend I decided to write a list. You know I love a list, remember when Pepsi Max sent me a drawing of me as “The Listmaker”?! I’ll be honest, I’m already feeling that tingle of excitement for going and doing, even though I haven’t gone and done anything on it yet. It’s a very short and simple list, but it’s a nice one. I’ve even taken that list and put some of the things in my diary already, doing research on how and when. And that feels good.
My list includes a handful of things I want to do here in the UK this summer. It’s an attempt to salvage the summertime, and make something of what feels like super unsettled weather and do some things I know will make me smile. I’m calling it my UK Bucket List for Summer 2020, which sounds very grand and serious, but actually it’s a very basic list of things I would like to and have been meaning to do.
It’s the sort of thing families do with their kids; at the start of the School holidays, which is right about now, every member of the family adds a couple of things to a list of family activities they want to do before the Schools go back. These lists might include particular activities, days out, places to eat, that sort of thing. Worth a go if you’re looking for ways to fill a staycation this year.
I’m fully aware of the problem with bucket lists, I’ve had one for years and years and most of the time I love it but sometimes I do end up feeling like time is running out of that the list is impossible for other reasons. There are so many things on my “to try list” that it’s turned into quite the monster and I know I need to tame it a bit. A train of thought to write down another day, perhaps. This list, though, is much more basic than that. These are all things here in the UK, doable at the weekends or on days off I might have here and there, and not going to cost me a fortune. I thought this would be a nice little weekly blog project, too, and maybe even something to stop me watching quite as much vanlife on YouTube… I win on lots of levels!
By way of creating something to which I am accountable, here is my list. Just six short bullet points. Some more challenging to tick than others, but all doable in what’s left of the “summer”.
- Hike up Pen y Fan in the Brecon Beacons. It’s embarrassing that I’ve not done it yet.
- Do a few more short walks in the Cotswolds including Sapperton, South Cerney, Sherborne, and Bredon Hill, making the most of where I live.
- Go on a couple of short one-night motorbike or car camping trips to small but beautiful basic sites (site suggestions welcome). I’m thinking just a couple of hours from home, for nothing more than the road and relaxation.
- Hike up Helvellyn in the Lake District. This has been on my list for a good while and the snow hit the weekend I visited last year so I didn’t go up.
- Third time lucky on the Honister Via Ferrata Xtreme (read about attempt one here). Naturally, I would combine this with my Helvellyn trip.
- Swim (or just paddle…) in the sea. I’d specify “on the Devon coast”, but that might be a step too far. I would even take the Bristol Channel as success on this one if needed!
Of course, there are hundreds (and hundreds) more things to do here in the UK I could have included on my list, but this feels reasonable and doable, without taking up so much time that I can’t be spontaneous with other things that might come up. It should also be said that I know ticking off a couple of hikes and a paddle in the sea isn’t going to undo everything that 2020 has thrown at us, but at least this is a kind of a step towards reclaiming it in some weird way.
What do you think of my little list? A good idea? Have you written something like this for yourself this summer? I’d really love to hear what’s on it.
If you enjoyed reading this episode, if you think my weekly blog series is a fun thing to read regularly, and especially if you got to the end of this one(!), I’d love to hear from you in the comments below. Come on by next Sunday evening for the next in the series.