Hello hello hello and welcome to another episode in my weekly blog series. I hope you are well, have had an excellent week (or at least a week that was more excellent than it was pants), and are feeling good. I think those three things are true for me.
A Busy Life
It’s been a busy one here. I’ve managed to do that thing where I fill my diary with stuff to try and curb the winter blues, and as a result I’ve ended up with a bunch of busy weekends in a row whilst also working full-time and agreeing to other things that take up my evenings. It happens every year. And it’s my own doing. You’d think I’d learn, but let’s face it, I’m never going to.
For example, over the last few weeks I’ve been working with my local church to produce a profile document needed to help recruit a new team vicar for the benefice, which has been lots of fun, something rather different, but also incredibly time consuming. It’s good to use my skills in this way, and I am enjoying learning about the strange world of recruiting clergy. I think the document is finished now, or at least I sent it off to those who need it earlier this week, and hope that it’s done! There’s still some stuff to be getting on with for the recruitment, but nothing on that scale now.
My Own Doing
Being busy is not a bad thing, and it’s my own doing, but I often end up in a position where I get so excited for fun adventures, new experiences, and the desire to dip my toes into every possible body of water going, I leave no thinking time let alone resting time. I pack in as much as possible because that feels like I’m making the most of life, and then I end up overtired and sometimes even overwhelmed.
I’m not at that point yet, don’t worry, but I’m certainly guilty of planning out my weekends months in advance – I’m not going to be bored any time soon. I’ve actually been through my diary and moved a couple of ideas to later in the year to spread things out a little more. With everything that’s going on with my iron and B12 levels (read Weekly Blog Episode 91) I am mindful that I must be a bit careful. I guess this is a warning to myself not to push it too far, not this early in 2022 anyway.
With that bit of personal therapy rambling over, I’ll get on with this weekly blog. It has genuinely been a good week; I had a lovely day shopping in Birmingham, had a quick visit for memory’s sake, went on a hill walk in the Forest of Dean, published a couple of blog posts, and watched a bit of telly.
Annual Shopping Trip
For years (and years), my mum, sister and I have taken to the post-Christmas sales in our annual shopping trip. I’ve mentioned before how when the £2 coin was first released, I started saving any received in change to spend on those annual trips. These days, when I’m pretty much cashless, I go along to spend time with my mum and sister, and to see what takes my fancy. I’m not a big shopper (not for clothing, anyway), but it’s always a fun day out.
We couldn’t meet just after Christmas this year but on Saturday headed to Birmingham for our annual catchup. I like Birmingham as a city; it’s got some lovely places to explore and wander, some interesting architecture, and there always feels like there is something going on. Of course, we were visiting for the shops in the main, and it has those in abundance, but it all feels nicely spread out and I could stretch my legs too.
Trying on Puffy Coats
There were two things on my list this time around. The first was a puffy coat (read Weekly Blog Episode 93), and while I wasn’t expecting to actually buy one, I wanted to use the opportunity to try as many on as I saw. Unfortunately, there just weren’t many around, even Cotswold Outdoor only had two women’s fit packable puffies on display. But I’ve at least managed to narrow it down.
The new fit of The North Face’s Thermoball (the puffy I am replacing) is the wrong shape for me, and the Rab one, which I had very high hopes for, was also very much the wrong cut. Actually, on the Rab one, I tried both the small (UK10) and medium (UK12) and they seemed exactly the same size. Oh well.
The one that I did very much like on was by Patagonia, which is typical, as it’s the most expensive one. But I also know it’s very highly rated and they are a great company to buy from. It felt well made, it fitted well, and it looked nice (always a bonus). I would very much like to try on a couple of others before I part with that much money, but it was a useful exercise.
I had an idea that I could do with some new jeans, something I haven’t bought for a very long time. Anyone else really hate buying jeans? They’re great to wear, when you find just the right ones, but it’s so easy to get the cut and fit wrong and end up with something uncomfortable. This is especially true when you don’t have a standard body shape. The one pair I have at the moment are Mantaray by Debenhams, bought in Lincoln, so I can’t just go back and buy another pair of those.
FatFace was quiet and the changing rooms were open, so I took the opportunity to bite the bullet and try some of theirs on. They don’t have a massive range, and I knew I didn’t want any of the skinny ones, so I took a couple of styles in a couple of sizes and lengths into the changing rooms and got on with the job.
I was pleasantly surprised – I found both their Brooke bootcut jeans and the Elise wide leg jeans looked and felt good. I’m two sizes bigger than I was when I last bought jeans (or at least these ones are two sizes bigger than my old ones), but there are lots of reasons for that! In the end got the wide leg ones because they felt more my style, and I already know they’re going to be super comfortable.
At £55 they’re not cheap (hence not buying both styles!), but I don’t think that’s bad value. I do like FatFace stuff (especially their woolly jumpers), they have a decent ethos, and I think it’s worth spending a bit more on good quality. I’ll see how well they wash and wear, and how much I actually wear them, before maybe adding the other style to my wardrobe.
I took the opportunity to visit Alvechurch Marina for a bit of reminiscing, as it was on my route to Birmingham. A large village close to Reddich, the reason I wanted to stop by was to wander down to the marina, as it was from here we picked up our hired narrowboat for a couple of week-long canal holidays a few years ago.
I say a few years ago, the second of the two was in 2006, the first was a couple of years before that. Which in my 41-year-old brain seems like yesterday but it’s over 15 years ago – ridiculous.
Each time we took the boat from Alvechurch down to Stratford Upon Avon, where we turned around and came back. I look back at those holidays with real fondness. Narrow boating is the perfect combination of relaxing and being active – you are forced to travel slowly, see the world around you in great detail, but have to keep moving.
Have you been on a narrow boating holiday here in England? How did you find it? Hire boats are currently as popular as campervans thanks to the pandemic, so they’re expensive and it’s busy on the popular routes, but I would like to do it again some time. I went to a webinar last year about the Great West Way, which includes the Kennet and Avon Canal, and I fancy travelling along there sometime; I wrote about the Great West Way road trip route if you want to read more. Maybe one day.
The Devil’s Pulpit
Just like receiving the Great British Wildlife and Environment Map inspired me to head to the nature reserve at Coombe Hill (read my post about that here), this weekend I was inspired to climb a hill thanks to a gift from Cicerone. I received two of Cicerone’s walking guides, one for the Forest of Dean and one for the Wye Valley, and while they’ll be the subject of a dedicated post here on Splodz Blogz in the coming days, I couldn’t write my weekly blog without mentioning the lovely hike.
The one hill that straddles both the Forest of Dean and the Wye Valley, that appeared in both these walking guides, is the Devil’s Pulpit. It’s been on my to-hike list since I went to Hidden Valley Yurts on a press trip back in 2018 (read about that in this post). We walked a loop from Tintern, but the weather was a bit too harsh to be heading up onto the summit. I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to get up there really, I say that a lot.
I chose the walk from the Forest of Dean book, drove the hour or so over to Brockweir bridge (just up river from Tintern), and headed up. The route was about five miles, following bits of the Offa’s Dyke National Trail plus a few farm tracks and other footpaths, and it was a lovely couple of hours.
Exmoor Ponies in Gloucestershire
I took a short detour from the route in the book to visit the trig pillar in The Park, which took me along the most lovely footpath, it felt like I was in a cross between woodland and moorland. There was a sign on the gate saying there were Exmoor Ponies grazing, and there absolutely were – I came across three of them enjoying munching on the undergrowth by the trig pillar. Not a sight I was expecting in Gloucestershire on Sunday morning! It definitely made me want to go back to the Devon moors this year.
The view from the Devil’s Pulpit over the River Wye to Tintern is stunning. The legend is that the this is where the devil stood to preach to the monks in the Abbey below, luring them away from their holy life. You really do only get a glimpse of the view through the thick woodland, which makes it even more beautiful in my opinion – this isn’t a massive hilltop with 360 views, it’s a framed picture of the valley below from a rocky outcrop.
I particularly enjoyed the walk back from there to Brockweir, down on woodland tracks including a lovely narrow, steep and slightly bouldery path. I seemed to be the only person walking down this way rather than up, or maybe that was because I was completing my loop when most people were just starting theirs, it’s hard to tell.
More on this hike another time, when I will also launch a giveaway with Cicerone which I’m very happy to share with you. I hope to get out and hike some of the other suggested routes in these two Cicerone books in the not-too-distant future.
Inside the Factory – Dr Martens, BBC
These Inside the Factory programmes are super interesting. Easy weekday evening viewing with a hint of education thrown in for good measure. Sometimes I watch them and am horrified at the number of processes that goes into making the featured item, especially when it’s food related. But other times it’s genuinely a fascinating insight into something I own myself.
The episode I watched this week was all about Dr Martens (you’ll find it here on BBC iPlayer). My favourite non-outdoorsy footwear.
I lived in Wollaston for a while in the 80s, I started school there, which is unquestionably one of the reasons I like Dr Martens boots. It was so interesting to get a glimpse of factory where they have been making these boots for 120 years.
I probably should have known that the classic 1460 boot style is so called because the factory started making them on the 1st of the April (4) 1960 – did you know that?! It was also interesting to see just how much of the boot making process is still done by hand; Dr Martens are not cheap, but they will last years and years (and years if my first pair are anything to go by), and are well worth it in my opinion.
The only problem is now I want another pair! I replaced my patent black ones during lockdown, but I also wore through my favourite purple ones at a similar time so I have an opening for another pair. Maybe it’s time I got a pair of their Chelsea boots?! In brown, naturally.
Our Saturday night film of choice this weekend was the latest Ghostbusters movie. A sequel to the original, we used one of the free movie credits we received when we bought our new television to watch this 2021 release.
The film follows the family of original Ghostbuster Egon Spengler as they relocate to the remote farmhouse he left to them in his will. It just so happens to be located on top of a hotbed of supernatural activity, disturbed by quakes thought to be caused by fault lines – but of course, something altogether more sinister is at play.
It isn’t a spoiler to say that the original cast do get their cameos in this new version, and there are heaps of nods to the original. I don’t know how I feel about the late Harold Ramis (Egon Spengler) being included as a silent CGI character beyond the first scenes providing the background for the story, but it turns out that it was his passing that led to the creation of the movie, and was the reason for the underlying moral tone.
It was okay. I mean, the story was sound enough, and it was full to bursting with nostalgia. It was just a little bit slow paced for my liking. I’m glad we didn’t rush to the cinema to see this but it was a Saturday evening well spent. Watch it when it’s free.
Get Your Photography On
Do you fancy looking at the world around you a little differently each day in February? My annual daily photo challenge is back next month. #SplodzDPC – the Splodz Daily Photo Challenge – starts on Tuesday 1 February, and you are hereby cordially invited to join in.
Each day in February I give you a prompt – your job is to take and share a photo using that theme as your guide. The idea is part of my desire to encourage you to spend One Hour Outside every day, to provide you with a whole month of reasons to get out and explore wherever you happen to be, but there’s nothing to say that you couldn’t work with all the themes on an indoors-basis if that’s your preference.
I’ve put all the details in this dedicated blog post, and have shared the themes over on my twitter and Instagram feeds (the social media platforms I’m most active on). It’s just a bit of fun to help us look at the world a little differently for a few weeks. I hope you have fun with it.
Win a Map!
And while I’m linking out to stuff that’s going on elsewhere, I’m giving away the new Great British Wildlife and Environment Map from Marvellous Maps over on my Instagram this week.
I’m excited to give one of you this really fantastic map full of inspiration for nature-inspired adventures. And the odds are pretty good at the moment – get yourself over there to enter! The giveaway closes on Sunday evening.
I’ll end this episode of my weekly blog here; I should really get showered and dressed before I start my working day, so I’ll save any other thoughts for next week.
I’m getting close to 100 episodes in my weekly blog series now… how do you think I should celebrate that milestone? Naturally my first thought was cake, which is the obvious and inevitable answer. But should I do something else? How does one mark blogging highlights? Ideas on a postcard (or in the comments below!).
Buy Me a Cuppa?
If you enjoyed this blog and fancy supporting me and my mini adventures in 2022, you can “buy me a coffee” (well, tea, if that’s okay). If you enjoyed this post and would like to support what I’m doing, please head over to Ko-fi to find out more.