Happy New Year! Wow, my first Weekly Blog of 2022. Doesn’t time fly?! I think everyone else has already commented that 2019 feels like yesterday, and it seems as though we’re all moving into this new year very quietly and gingerly, you know, just in case.

A new year is a funny thing. It might be a cliche, but it is indeed an excellent time to get rid of the old and start with the new, to stop and think, to set yourself challenges and to do things a little differently. Of course, I know that we don’t need a new year to make a new start, we can choose to do that on any day of any year. But if you need a little push or some encouragement, then now is probably the number one time to get it done.

Some Words on New Year

A couple of years I shared these words I wrote here on my blog, and I think they are worth re-sharing. If no-one has told you these things yet this year…

None of this is about being selfish or arrogant. It is about acknowledging that if we each start with ourselves, being positive people full of love, care and drive, then the world will become a much better place as a result. Our part can be small, as long as we mean it.

I genuinely hope you are looking forward to a truly great 2022 – whatever that means for you. I hope for lots of happy days and smiles, awesome experiences, cool adventures, and maybe one or two fewer twists and turns than we’ve come to expect over the last couple of years.

Whatever it is you have planned, or whatever the year throws at you, grab life with both hands, do plenty of what makes you happy, and pay attention to the little things that you can do to make the big things happen. Celebrate, love, laugh, smile. Change if you want to, dream your biggest dreams, be bold and have an adventure.

Here endeth the Weekly Blog lesson… back to my usual ramblings!

View from Cleeve Hill

Happy Birthday Splodz Blogz!

While I’m dishing out the happies… Happy 12th birthday to Splodz Blogz. Although I don’t have a cake. I forget every year that I should mark the date with at least some kind of icing covered sweet treat.

It might not be a teenager yet, but I think it’s fair to say that in the world of blogging, 12 is considered quite established. I’ve commented before, that by the time blogs reach double figures, they have generally gone one of two ways; they have either fizzled out because their owners have moved onto something new and different, or they are wage-earning beasts with big followings, sponsorship deals, spin-off e-books and events, cool merchandise, and at a couple of awards on their homepage.

I’m neither of those. Splodz Blogz has been a mainstay of my life for all this time, I am not about to abandon it (despite finding it harder and harder to find the time and headspace for my favourite hobby), and I certainly haven’t broken into the world of the big bloggers. I’m okay with that – Splodz Blogz is my little corner of the internet where I can write about things that please me and share them with anyone who fancies reading.

It’s bordering on mind blowing that what started out as a place to share my photo-a-day challenge when I turned 30, has grown and developed into an outdoors and experience focused blog with a big dose of normal life thrown in for good measure.

So thank you for clicking on this Weekly Blog to read my ramblings and help me celebrate this age-related milestone. I don’t want to say anything about wanting to make more of my online space in 2022, as that would be akin to making some kind of New Year’s resolution. But I will at least promise to keep writing, when I can, and I hope you find it interesting following along with the stories I tell.

The Boots are Back On

I am very pleased to say that, after giving my boots a thorough clean and nourishing wax after my Coast to Coast hike, and putting them in my gear cupboard for a few weeks (thanks to a super busy time at work followed by that B12 diagnosis – read Weekly Blog Episode 91), they have very much been back on my feet and I’ve been loving hiking in my local area again.

On Cleeve Hill

Since my last Weekly Blog, I’ve been walking on Cleeve Hill three times – three days in a row, in fact. It seemed only right to start the task of getting my fitness back on the hill I can see from my house. Local walks really are the best, and I’m very fortunate that my local set of hills provides so many route options that I could do three different walks on those three days, no chance of it getting boring.

Sunrise and Sunset

I had this idea that it would be cool to end 2021 with sunset on the hill, and then to start 2022 with sunrise on the hill. I could have travelled for a couple of bucket list hikes on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, but my fitness is really shocking at the moment, and so I opted instead for the philosophical idea of watching the light dip over my home patch one day, and watching it light up the same scene the following morning, whilst sleeping in my own bed in between.

The weather on New Year’s Eve looked so promising. In the afternoon we had mostly clear skies with a bit of cloud here and there, it was close to being the perfect conditions for an epic glowing sunset. I had so much hope of standing facing West at the highest point in the Cotswolds, watching the sky do its thing. Alas, it wasn’t to be. With about half an hour to go, the clouds rolled in and covered the whole sky, dulling any chance of a colourful end to the year. It was like nature was making some kind of comment on what kind of year it has been.

We still headed up onto the hill for our final One Hour Outside of the year, got blown around a bit by the strong winds and a bit damp by not-in-the-forecast drizzle. It might not have been the sunset I’d hoped for, but it was a pretty decent way to mark the closing of 2021.

Sunrise over Cleeve Hill

Thankfully my optimism was rewarded a little more the following morning, when I was up at the lower of the two trig pillars on Cleeve Hill (the one with the better view) for the sunrise on New Year’s Day. It might not have been a light show quite like I’ve had the pleasure of seeing up there before now, but it was warm toned and lovely to see. It’s never empty up there so I didn’t exactly have the place to myself, but it was a lovey calm yet active way to spend my first One Hour Outside of 2022.

A Challenge for January?

While I was up on the hill for that New Year’s Day sunrise, I made a little list of the things I’d like to do this month, or over the next two or three months. I wouldn’t call them resolutions, but rather a continuation, or spin off from, my monster bucket list. You know, hikes I’d like to do, places I’d like to visit, new experiences I’d like to have, things I want to make time for.

At the centre of that list is my intention to get better at moving both more and less. More in the sense that I want my hiking legs back. And less in that I want to deliberately rest and relax beyond my habit to keep busy normally allows. I know I’m a living juxtaposition at times, but this stems from my recent B12 and Iron issues, and the fact that I’ve probably been very bad at listening to and looking after my body.

The GetOutside campaign and my One Hour Outside project will absolutely be a part of this, as will aiming to get my average daily step count somewhere closer to the 10,000 steps a day it should be (let’s not talk about my December numbers). I’m not about to join a gym or take up running (although I know two people who are trying Couch to 5k this month and I think they’re both awesome), I’m just going to do more of what I love – getting outside and walking.

Llantwit Major Beach

And for the other side of it, I hope to make time for reading, drawing, journaling, crafting, and writing. Nothing revolutionary, but things I hope will help clear my mind and allow my body time to more properly get the ingredients it needs without me getting in its way.

You’ll be pleased to know that it’s so far so good on the challenge. It’s five days in and thanks to some boots-on walking over the long weekend my current average daily step count is something over 12,000. I’ve also finished a couple of audiobooks (reviews next time, I think), planned some future walking routes (maps are relaxing!), and watched a bunch of films including Ron’s Gone Wrong, which was so good. Not bad for 5 January.

Have you written any kind of list of things you want to do over the next month or two? Or set some intentions for the year ahead? I’d really love to hear from you if you’re making One Hour Outside your goal, let me know how you get on.

The Sea is Still There

On Monday, a bank holiday in lieu of New Year’s Day here in England, we headed over the bridge to Wales to check the sea is still there. This is something my Grandad would do daily, and that stuck. I mean, how do we know the sea is still there if we don’t go and make sure?

I’ve had “visit Nash Point” on my list since I saw it in a YouTube video sometime last summer, and I figured a grey, windy, probably damp Monday in January would be the ideal time to go and see whether it was as lovely in real life as it was in the video. It was also a great place to take my hiking boots now I was wanting to wear them more often.

Llantwit Major Beach

It was about a two-hour drive from home, we set off while it was still dark as I’ve heard the car park at Llantwit Major Beach can get very busy. When we arrived there were four or five other cars in the car park, and the café was still closed, so we got right on with the business at hand, a walk along the Wales Coast Path.

We didn’t follow a specific OS route this time around, that wasn’t really necessary. We simply got to the sea, turned right, and followed the Wales Coast Path until we reached the lighthouses at Nash Point. Then we turned around and came back to the car. Simple.

The route started off with some concrete and stone steps up to the cliff top, which turned into a lovely well-made gravel footpath for a short while. Then the mud started. It was inevitable, I guess. Walking along the Wales Coast Path in January, after a not particularly dry December, would mean there was going to be mud. And with this area being very popular with day trippers like us, well-trodden cliff-top footpaths are always muddy. Very muddy.

Nash Point Lighthouse

The Wales Coast Path here undulates like any cliff-top route would, but it’s never too steep. The only thing difficult about the walk was that the mud was thick, slippery, and a little swampy in places. As normal, my gaiters were nowhere to be seen, they weren’t even in the boot of the car this time, they didn’t make it out of my gear cupboard. Thankfully, I trust my Meindl Bhutan’s entirely, the grip and waterproofing is excellent, and the fact they are full-height boots with a super thick sole meant I was stable and comfortable even on the worst bits.

The steps down to Tresilian Bay were a little slippery, and I’m not a fan of walking across pebble beaches as they’re hard going and unstable, but we were soon back up on the cliff top again, with views of the crashing waves and layered cliffs. After another undulating section between farmland and the cliff edge, we came to St Donat’s Bay, which is less of a beach and more a raised tarmac slab in front of what used to be a Cavalry Barracks.

Since the 60s, this has been the home of Atlantic College, a private international sixth form built in and around a castle. They clearly didn’t want anyone stepping even one foot inside the grounds – so many “private property” signs and bright blue boundary rope putting paid to any idea of getting close to St Donat’s Castle, which is within the grounds (not that we would have, honest). I don’t know, it made the place look stuffy and expensive, even if they are one of the founders of the International Baccalaureate and have a decent reputation for education with a social conscience.

Walking on the Wales Coast Path

The short woodland section after St Donat’s Bay was probably my favourite on the route, even though that was the bit without a sea view. I know, I go all that way to see the sea, but choose the no-view bit as the best. Whatever.

Once we reached Nash Point, just under three miles from the car park at Llantwit Major Beach, we were ready for the tea and mini Toblerone (which my friend used instead of packing nuggets recently, what a great idea) we’d been carrying. I never hike without carrying tea or the promise of tea along the way, it’s quite simply part of the charm of hiking for me.

After our tea break it was simply a case of retracing our steps back to the car. We saw a lot more people on the way back than we did on the way, some with remarkably clean-looking footwear. We grabbed a sausage roll and slice of most excellent cake from the Beach Café for lunch before heading home.  

This part of South Wales really is rugged and beautiful, it was a most excellent way to spend bank holiday Monday morning. Despite the greyness, the sea and cliff views lived up to expectations, I got some salt in my hair, and the path was fun to walk, even with the mud. I reckon it’s one to return to again sometime, for a bit of a longer stint in the warmer weather.

“Sunset” from Cleeve Hill, taken on New Year’s Eve

I think I’ve rambled on about the New Year and hiking enough for one Weekly Blog, so I’ll finish this episode here and come back to a handful of reviews and other commentary on life next week. See you then.

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