Morning morning morning and welcome to my first weekly blog of 2021. I actually had most of this written at the weekend but for some reason never managed to finish it and get it on Splodz Blogz, apologies!
How has the first week of 2021 been for you? Did you jump in with both feet, excited for the year ahead. Or did you crawl in, wondering why people are convinced things will be different when the clock struck midnight?! Yea, I’m the latter. It’s a bit cloudy in my mind at the moment.
In weekly blog episode 51 I do indeed start by lamenting the New Year, but don’t worry, I quickly move on to talking about walking on Cleeve Hill, my local hill and a beautiful part of the Cotswolds AONB. I’m definitely going to have to make a conscious effort to get outside often this month!
Failing at 2021
I wrote on Instagram on Saturday that if I paid too much attention to my social media feeds, I could be forgiven for believing, just one day in, that I have already failed at 2021.
My Instagram and twitter feeds were full of people who’ve done so much already. On the very first day of 2021 you got out for sunrise, climbed hills, went for long runs and bike rides, skied and skated (depending on the weather where you were), created beautiful things, started big challenges, set massive goals, and shared beautiful photos.
Whereas I spent my New Year’s Day doing some chores I should have done on New Year’s Eve (but ended up having to work), went for a walk around the block in the rain because I left it too late in the day, failed at doing any writing, watched a whole lot of YouTube, and spent several hours thinking about potential future adventures. And all while lamenting the fact that it’s looking likely the pandemic restrictions are here to stay for months yet (and yes, Boris has now announced a new national lock down, joy of joys).
Thankfully, though, I do my best not to pay too much attention to social media. Not in a comparative sense, anyway. I know what is shared on here are the highlights, the best bits. They are a snippet of real life, not the whole story. (Read this post on toxic positivity.)
I also genuinely love the fact that loads of you have made something of your New Year’s Day by getting out and doing your favourite things. I actually enjoyed scrolling through your amazing photographs, seeing the memories you have already created in 2021. And I hope that will continue as we move through the weeks.
It’s a funny feeling I have at the moment. I don’t think I’ve taken to 2021 very well at all really. I feel like I’ve crawled into it, like time is something happening to me rather than something I can do anything with or about. I say this not to make you worry for my mental health, I’m okay, but I want you to know that if you are also feeling overwhelmed by life at the moment, it’s not abnormal. 2020 really does have a lot to answer for, and I really do hope we can move on and up very soon, but in the meantime I won’t beat myself up too much when all I want to do is sit down.
Four Short Walks on Cleeve Hill
One thing I am very happy that I spent time doing over the last week is getting out and explore more of Cleeve Hill. Spending time outside isn’t particularly productive in the traditional sense, but it is hugely important – time spent walking is never wasted time.
Walking helps me in all kinds of ways including helping to clear my mind (which as you will have noted from the above section, it is a very cloudy place at the moment). I also thoroughly enjoy it, which is the main thing.
Cleeve Hill is my local hill, the highest point in the Cotswolds, and we had ALL the weathers up there this week! I mean, three of the four walks I did involved snow… actual snow fall… and I love the snow!
I’ve been up there four times since my last weekly blog. The first was on a beautiful blue sky, you know, one of those proper blue-sky days you only get in winter. The forecast was obvious about it too, and that it was likely to be the only day with sunshine for the week, so I went to redo a walk I’ve done a couple of times and actually shared here on Splodz Blogz last year (this route including Queen’s Wood).
It was utterly glorious – including the mud! And oh how muddy it was! We’ve had a lot of flooding in this area recently, and as a result, some of the route, especially through Queen’s Wood, was more bog snorkelling than walking. Of course, I didn’t wear my gaiters, and hadn’t thought to take my poles either. I very gingerly made my way through, managing to just about stay upright although still getting covered in the sticky gloopy stuff. I made the decision to avoid the woodland for a few weeks while the waters drain and the ground dries – roll on springtime.
Into the Abyss
The following morning, we had a lot of snow here in Gloucestershire and so, along with what seemed like the rest of the county, we headed back up Cleeve Hill for a snowy walk. In fairness the crowds seemed to stay close to the chaos of the parking areas, and so we simply didn’t join them, choosing to head all the way up to the summit and to wander through the abyss that was Cleeve Common rather than use the footpaths at the bottom.
I should say I don’t blame anyone for getting up there for some sledging, what an amazing way to spend a morning. We just don’t get a lot of snow here, and when we do it’s never timed for when we can actually get out and enjoy it. There were lots of families outside playing, plenty of space for everyone, lots of screams and giggles from children and adults alike. Fabulous. I just prefer my own walks more lonely, which is why we headed a different way, and it was very easy to get away from all that noise.
Back to our walk. At road level it was snowing heavily but visibility was reasonable, although up at the summit, which is a meagre 330m so not exactly the heights of mountains, it was non-existent. It was like walking into the abyss, and I loved it. If we were skiing, we’d have done couple of runs and sacked the rest of the day due to poor light and lack of depth of field (the perfect opportunity for hot chocolate and open fires). But in hiking boots it was fun to explore not really knowing what was ground and what was sky. We were safe, of course, we know the terrain and routes well up there, but it was easy to see how you could get lost.
Hunting for Pebbles with Adventure Queens
My local Adventure Queens group set up a fun orienteering course on Cleeve Hill for local members to take part in. Sal and the team hid 10 painted pebbles and provided us with grid references, which gave me a way to spend an hour in the evening to plot my route, and then a good five-ish-mile route on the hill to walk.
The weather was a bit strange; areas with more snow, areas where it had already melted (or never settled in the first place), and thick heavy snow falling at times. I reckon I know the hill quite well, but this took me down to one area I’d not made it to before, which in itself meant I had a great morning out.
I found seven of the ten all-important painted pebbles. Two of the missing ones I’m convinced I should have been able to see where I was but couldn’t (I reckon the bloke having a natter with his friend by a gate was stood on one and I was too chicken to ask him to move!), but one flummoxed me completely and I ended up doubting I was even looking in the right grid square.
It was genuinely a very happy couple of hours traipsing over the Common with a purpose other than just get my One Hour Outside and look at the view again.
Inspired to Find More New Routes
Inspired by discovering a new-to-me view on Cleeve Common thanks to those pebbles, I specifically chose a route on Saturday morning that would provide another new angle. This time, I walked up the hill via Prestbury, ending up at the pylons. It wasn’t quite as muddy as my walk-through Queen’s Wood earlier in the week, but I did need to give my boots a thorough clean inside and out once I was done… ah well!
I feel very fortunate to have such a great area of countryside on my doorstep. I wonder how many more new-to-me footpaths I can find? I’ve had the OS Map up on the screen and zoomed in, making plans for short and long routes to see if I can cover all of them given the right time and weather.
We’re all quite limited in where we can go for our outdoor exercise for the time being (read my post with an explanation of the restrictions here), and I know that being able to still get a view or two by walking from my own front door is going to be hugely important to my physical and mental health over the next few weeks. I hope you can find something similar to make your One Hour Outside as interesting as it can possibly be this month.
Buy Me a Cuppa?
I’ve been persuaded to sign up to Kofi, which means that if you fancy supporting me and my mini adventures, you can “buy me a coffee” (or a tea, naturally). If you want to, and only if you want to, head over to https://ko-fi.com/splodz to find out more.