This week has gone fast! How has it been for you? Good, I hope. What has been your favourite thing about the last seven days? Eat something lovely? Go somewhere beautiful? Treat yourself to something new? I hope you’ll let me know in the comments below before you click off this page… In my weekly blog this week, episode 29, I’m going to concentrate on the second half of the last week, because that has been the best bit!
My week might have gone fast, but it has been great. I did a three-day week at work (well, working at home, but you know what I mean), which was very busy but productive. I signed off on Wednesday evening feeling reasonably organised… let’s hope that isn’t ruined when I get back to it this coming week. I’ve been deliberately concentrating on not feeling stressed out with the day job if at all possible, because that just makes my evenings a bit rubbish.
Anyway. Short working weeks rock, don’t you think? I would happily work three days a week if I could afford it. But that’s okay, it means that when I can do a short working week, I appreciate it even more (or something like that!). I definitely feel like I made the most of it, too. Let me tell you about it…
Popping my Pen y Fan Cherry
It turns out that writing my mini bucket list for summer 2020 last weekend (read it in weekly blog episode 28) did the trick. With a long weekend off work (that was supposed to be a motorcycling weekend with friends, but you know, pandemic life…), and with the mountain weather looking promising, I decided to get the big one done first and head into Wales to hike Pen y Fan. The most popular hill walk in the Brecon Beacons by far, it’s a busy one, so a Thursday morning seemed like a good day to try and avoid the biggest crowds. Happily, fellow GetOutside Champion and all round amazing lady Tracy (follow Tracy on Instagram), who lives in the National Park, was up for joining me and bringing one of her dogs too.
I knew I didn’t want to take the most popular routes up, and so we chose a quiet route from the north at Cwm Gwdi (this one if you fancy having a gander on OS Maps). We parked up, paid our £3 to the National Trust, and were almost immediately heading up hill. The route took us first onto Pen y Fan, then a short saddle over to Corn Du, down by Tommy Jones’ Obelisk, down to Cwm Llwch Llyn (the perfect spot to enjoy my flask of tea), along the river through farmland and woodland, and back to the cars via a quiet country lane. The 7.5 mile route was absolutely stunning; a horseshoe style route which front loaded the effort to get up and provided us with views all around the whole time. I would highly recommend this one if you’re looking for a quiet and beautiful route in the Brecon Beacons any time.
I Am Not Hill-Fit!
My fitness is bad, and I am ashamed to say that this hill-loving lady struggled more than a little bit. Having not done much hill walking recently I knew it would be an effort, and even in my best shape I pant going up hills, but it was worse than I thought – my heart and lungs and legs all moaned more than I had excuses for. I mean, it was hot, 21 degrees at 9am when we started, with no breeze until we were up on the summit, and it is a steep old hill reaching 886 metres above sea level with 2,000 feet of ascent on the route we chose (yes, mixing my measurements there). I definitely need to work on getting hill-fit over the coming weeks and months, to make those ups almost as enjoyable as the alongs and downs. Thankfully I made it with a smile still on my face, taking it slowly and stopping regularly to admire the view and take lots of photographs, and by the time I was at the summit my lungs had calmed down and I could happily bound along for the rest of the walk. It’s always the up-hill bit that makes me pant!
Even with my poor fitness, this was such a good morning out, and I am so glad I went and that Tracy and Logan were able to come too. We did the round-trip in just under four hours including stops, chatting away and enjoying the views along the route. We were certainly blessed by the weather; yes it was hot, but I’ve walked so many hills with boring flat skies or worse, complete cloud cover and/or sideways rain, and it was fabulous to be able to see such a way into the distance and get a feel for the real magnificence of this place. Pen y Fan is popular for a reason.
I do plan on writing up a blog post about this hike at some point, but the “to write” list is very long and I’ve got myself very behind so it might be a few weeks… I sometimes think I should use my days off to concentrate on writing and then I remember how much fun going out and doing is!
A (hot) Day Out in Cheltenham
I am thankful we can meet up with family now, and we made the most of that on Friday as we spent the day in Cheltenham with some of ours. My sister, brother-in-law, nephew and niece visited on their way home from holiday in the Forest of Dean, and we spent the day playing in the park, having a picnic in the shade of a large tree, eating ice cream sundaes at Kaspa’s (I rather like the After Eight Mint sundae they do), and wandering through town. I’ve heard people say it was the hottest day of the year, and it certainly was a warm one, we were thankful for the shade in Montpellier Gardens, and our water bottles that kept us hydrated! I also bought some strawberries from the market stall, which I’ve been munching my way through this weekend – I do love strawberry season!
Cheltenham’s Urban Trails
If you’re local to Cheltenham, or are coming this way on holiday this summer, have you seen that we have a couple of urban trails to help us explore the town and get our One Hour Outside? The two new free trails are being run by Cheltenham BID throughout the summer – there’s the Monster Hero Safari trail and an enhanced Augmented Reality (AR) version of the Hidden Cheltenham Trail. The Monster Hero Safari is a town centre experience where families are tasked with hunting down ten monster superheroes, displayed in public windows, and learning their names, origin stories and powers. Great for kids. And the enhanced version of the Hidden Cheltenham Trail can be followed by downloading an app and activating the AR at the 12 permanent trail points with a phone, participants will bring up historic information, fun facts, sounds and interactive challenges, creating a real-world experience in the palm of their hands. I’ve not done either yet, but they’re on my list, but in case I don’t get around it until the end of the month, here are the details over on the Visit Cheltenham website.
Lakes and Food at South Cerney
One of the other items on my summer bucket list (which you can read in last week’s weekly blog) was to do a handful more local walks here in the Cotswolds. Yesterday we headed down to South Cerney to do one of these, where there is a large collection of lakes known as Cotswold Water Park. The Water Park is an area of over 40 square miles and 170 lakes, with lots of activities, some beautiful homes (I could see myself living in one of the wooden waterfront properties here, for sure), and a whole host of bird and other wild life to see. Until this weekend I’d only visited Cotswold Country Park and Beach (which you can read about here), and it was about time we explored some of this area on foot.
We did a short five-mile circular route (this one if you fancy checking it out on OS Maps), starting and finishing at the free visitor’s centre car park. It was a lovely route, primarily along the disused canal, now a haven for wildlife, and through woodland. We did see others out walking and cycling, but it wasn’t overly busy by any means.
After our walk we had a lovely lunch in the Gateway Café, which was actually very good; the tables were nice and spaced out, we ordered and paid via their online system on my phone, and the food was delicious. We’ll certainly go back another time for more walking and food!
The Coming Week
I’ve got one more day of my long weekend, and I think I’m going to head to the water for a wander and a paddle. Then it’s back to work to gear up for what is likely to be a hugely busy time – let’s see if my determination not to get stressed out by work lasts the rest of August! I’m already looking forward to being off again at the end of the month for a week, when I hope to go out and play a bit more, but in the meantime I’ll be once again back to trying to make the most of my evenings and weekends.
That’s it for this weekly blog. Be sure to drop me a comment below telling me about your favourite thing about the past seven days…
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.