I want to preface this episode of my weekly blog by mentioning something very sad. Last weekend, very suddenly and unexpectedly, I lost a friend.
Just four days prior, as I was putting up my tent in Pembrokeshire, my lovely friend was diagnosed with an advanced cancer which had already spread around her body. This in itself was a shock, she’d had symptoms for just eight weeks.
But then on Sunday afternoon, as I was moaning about having to dry out afore mentioned tent after getting completely soaked breaking camp, I had a call to say she’d already passed. She didn’t last the weekend. There are no words for that.
I honestly can’t imagine what her family are going through right now if I, someone on the periphery, who knew her only a little, has been hit by deep grief. It was so sudden. So cruel.
Never the Full Story
I’m not going to use my weekly blog to lament on the death of my friend, that’s not appropriate, but I certainly couldn’t let it go unmentioned. While I might be able to write a weekly blog which will feature a genuinely lovely trip I had, probably includes notes on what I ate this week, and celebrates some things I received in the mail, it’s always important to remember that words and pictures shared in blogs (and elsewhere online) are only ever part of the story.
I choose to write about the joy I find in spending time outside, but there are often other things going on which make the bits in-between the stories shared a little less happy. For me, this evening, that is a sense of loss and sadness, and even a bit of anger, at a sudden passing. I and others will mourn the loss of our friend, and while life might go on, it is most certainly tinged with sadness.
As you read my blog today, as you view any photos that anyone posts on social media later, please think of my friend and her family, and remember that life is oh so fragile. We must do our best to make the most of what we have, always be kind, and love those we are with and what we do deeply.
Camping in Pembrokeshire
As mentioned in my last weekly blog, I took a few days off for a short camping trip to Pembrokeshire. I packed up the car with my Robens Green Cone and my hiking gear, and headed to South West Wales for two nights.
I have had my eyes on a short section of the Wales Coast Path for a little while. In fairness, I’ve had my eyes on the whole of the Wales Coast Path, but I’m not going to find time to walk the full 870 miles any time soon, so I’ve been looking at circular walks that take in sections of it instead. Inspired by Sarah Williams of Tough Girl Challenges, who has recently hiked the whole long-distance trail, I decided this would be a good opportunity to check the sea was still there.
I camped at Gupton Farm Campsite, a National Trust campsite which sits on the Wales Coast Path close to Freshwater West and Castle Martin. It cost me £14 per night to stay in the simple, rustic site – which actually had more in the way of facilities than I’d expected from the description online. I pitched up in the large Furzy Field with a handful of other tents and vans, and enjoyed the peace and quiet of countryside living for a couple of days.
If you’re not a fan of the Harry Potter films, you may not know that Freshwater West, aside from being a beautiful beach with stunning views and excellent surfing, is where Dobbie the Elf is buried. As visiting the graves of fictional characters seems to be something I talk about here on Splodz Blogz (Ebenezer Scrooge’s grave is in a church cemetery in Shrewsbury), I had to go and take a look.
I don’t know what I was expecting, but I’ve read about and seen pictures of a pile of stones with a cross marking the spot where Harry buried his friend. I’m also told that the local council (or similar) remove the installation regularly as it sits on the dunes, ruining the banks and attracting too many people to this particular spot.
But I have to admit I was a little shocked at just how big it was. Up in the dunes overlooking the sea, this is a massive pile of pebbles – some painted with Harry Potter-suitable pictures and words. Not only that, people have left other offerings here, including loads of single socks, apparently in a bid to acknowledge that Dobbie is a free elf.
I don’t know if I found it to be more bizarre or cute… or if I was more horrified at the sheer scale. It was hard to know what to make of it, really. It was certainly a curious thing, a nod to British eccentric tendencies, and for that it made me smile. I wonder how many people over the years have painted pebbles and made a pilgrimage to this site?
The local council regularly dismantle the “monument”, as such manmade piles of pebbles are harmful to the local wildlife; dunes are a particular habitat and stuff like this is a problem. I think this is why I was so surprised it was this large. I wouldn’t have gone to see it if I wasn’t in Freshwater West for another reason, but it was interesting to see, and wandering into the dunes (with or without this pile of pebbles) is a must if you’re visiting here.
Do you know of other “graves” for fictional characters? It could make an interesting excuse for a day out… Although I still haven’t done my find-the-best-fishfinger-sandwich road trip yet, so maybe I should plan that one first!
Walking for a Crab Sandwich
As I mentioned, the main reason for heading to Freshwater West, was to walk a couple of sections of the Wales Coast Path. As it happened, I only walked one – Saturday was a wash out and so I ended up exploring Tenby instead as that seemed a bit more wind and rain friendly. But on Friday I did a lovely 12-ish mile circular route around the Angle Peninsula.
Starting from my tent, as I always prefer to pitch up on or close to my route rather than having to drive anywhere for a day hike like this, I spent six hours taking a slow wander around this wild and rugged part of the coast. It really was a wonderful hike.
I will plot the route properly and write up my hike to share on here, but it wouldn’t be a weekly blog if I didn’t mention food. A quick google before I left home told me that I would be able to find a little crab shack along my route, and what a great place it was! Café Mor is a solar-powered street food “boat” serving locally caught crab and lobster with handpicked seaweed, along and the usual bacon and burgers.
I had the crab roll, which was utterly delicious, and exactly what I needed after an energetic hike on the coast path. There was a fabulous atmosphere, plenty of seating, and all by the sea close to RNLI Angle Lifeboat Station. You can get there by car (along a gravel road), but there is something perfect about street food when you have arrived on foot. I would highly recommend this place if you are in the area.
To Vlog or Not To Vlog
I took hundreds of photos over the three days, and even vlogged my hike on Friday (just on my phone though). Tell me; if I edit the vlog of the hike, would it be something you’d watch? I’ve not made a video for so long and they take a lot of time and effort, but this one seems like the sort of thing I’d enjoy watching which is why I filmed the clips. filmed the clips.
As I was filming bits and bobs, I kept thinking how it falls far short of the outdoorsy ladies I like to watch go hiking, including Fit for Adventure, Athena Mellor and Abbie Barnes. But it was such a nice hiking route, and a video would tell the story of my little Pembrokeshire adventure. Maybe I’ll find the time to edit it and then I can decide whether to share it or not!
Rain Rain Go Away
Of course, as always happens after a few days of sunshine here in the UK, it rained on Saturday morning – quite heavily. My tent went in the car sopping wet, and I sacked off my second Wales Coast Path route (which was due to be around Bosherston and Stackpole) for an urban wander instead.
Tenby was perfect though. Yes, it was wet and windy, but the little town is just a wonderful place to explore, the weather there didn’t matter as much as it would have done if I was stood on exposed cliffs and walking along slippery unmade paths. I spent a few hours wandering along the beach, heading up onto Castle Hill, and meandering through the narrow streets.
I even happened upon the Pembrokeshire Street Food Festival, which had taken over the carpark by Tenby South Beach. It was fenced off with ticketed entry, but those tickets were free, and it was easy to get one via Eventbrite and walk in straight away. After spending far too long deciding, I went for tacos from That Street Food Van, and churros from Vegan Filth. I reckon my rainy day outing was a real success!
Messing About on the River
After having my new inflatable kayak for a few weeks without getting it wet, thanks to a series of busy weekends (good weekends, but full), I realised I needed to make time to use it rather than just waiting for an opportunity to fall out of the sky.
Given that Tuesday was Summer Solstice – the longest day of the year and the official start of summer – I decided to head out for a post-work paddle. Now I’m all set with my buoyancy aid (more on that below) and British Canoeing membership (so I can paddle knowing I have my waterways licence), there really was no excuse.
I christened my new Aquaplanet inflatable kayak (which is gifted, read Weekly Blog Episode 107) on the River Avon. It was a successful maiden voyage – the boat is quick and easy to inflate (I did try this in my garden before I went so I knew what I was doing), it was very sturdy in the water, and it was a lovely way to spend One Hour Outside.
Quiet and Calm
It was unsurprisingly busy at the launch site I chose, but as I find with hiking, it didn’t take me long to get away from others and enjoy the peace and quiet of this calm river. The evening was absolutely gorgeous; sunny, warm, wonderful.
As someone who will normally choose hiking as her outdoor activity of choice, going for a paddle on the river was a lovely opportunity to see things from a slightly different perspective.
Paddling after work was a rush and a faff, no denying that, but it was worth the effort, and I now know it won’t be the last time. Water-based adventures – any adventures – don’t have to be reserved for the weekends or days off, but it’s easy to fall into that trap. I hope I will have the time and energy for many more early evening, and maybe even early morning, paddles this summer.
In the Post
Hooray for deliveries! I know, I know, I should be moving even further away from material possessions in favour of experiences. But there is something so joyful about receiving lovely things in the post, and I love to share these bits and bobs in my weekly blog posts. This last week or so, the postie has brought me…
The Wild Year by Jen Benson
This book, The Wild Year, is the new title from Jen Benson, who you may know from previous weekly blogs and book review posts, as I’ve reviewed titles from Jen and Sim Benson including 100 Great Walks with Kids and The Adventurer’s Guide to Britain.
Subtitled “A story of homelessness, perseverance and hype”, this book tells the true story of a family who left their old life behind to spend a year living wild. Jen and Sim, together with their baby and toddler, moved out of their rented accommodation, sold everything, and lived in a tent for a year as nomads around rural Britain.
The idea of this sounds terrifying to me. But, at the same time, more than a little bit appealing. Imagine being outside, every day, in all seasons, all weathers, with no screens for entertainment, right in the middle of nature. Yes? No?
I’ve only read the first few pages so far, but already I’m enjoying how personal and honest it is. I’m looking forward to reading about the places they visit, and understanding what their year of living an alternative taught might teach me about my own way of life.
Rexing Workout Clothing
There is nothing like new gear to motivate you to do the associated thing, right?! I recently received a little package of (gifted) workout gear from a new-to-me company who reached out to see if I fancied trying their stuff.
Rexing make comfortable performance gear for indoor and outdoor exercise. I received the Sports Bra Criss-Cross Back in black, the Short Sleeve Technical Tee (the women’s isn’t listed, but this is the men’s version), and some leggings with an elasticated waist, pockets and slits in the lower leg, which I can’t find on the website.
I’ve been using this outfit for my at-home workouts over the last couple of weeks and they are well fitting, nice to wear, and are washing well. The sports bra keeps everything in place but is also pretty nice to look at, and the tee is a basic shape, which I like that about it – it’s nothing fancy, just easy-to-wear.
The leggings are comfortable, squat proof, and made from a almost-soft material – and are in a dark green colour I really like. I would prefer the style without a slit in the lower leg, it would make these a bit more multi-purpose for me (I’m not wearing these for anything other than exercise), but Rexing do have “normal” options, too. Worth a look if you’re in the market for some new workout gear.
Baltic Buoyancy Aid
Before I headed out in my kayak for the first time I wanted to get a buoyancy aid to help keep me safe, and after much searching, I ended up ordering the Baltic Aqua Pro from Marine Super Store (also available at Amazon and lots of other places, but Marine Super Store had it cheapest).
Described as a comfortable all-round buoyancy aid, it ticked the “basic but not bulky” requirement on my list, has a front zip fastening with added waistband, is pretty plain and simple, and was just £25. I would have preferred one with a pocket to hold my phone and car key while I’m out, but I’ll just have to cope carrying a little dry bag instead.
I admit I already have my eye on my upgraded buoyancy aid, the Palm Peyto, but at £130 it was a little beyond me straight away. It seemed sensible to get myself paddling with a basic bit of kit first, and get something a bit nicer later should I find myself getting lots of use out of my kayak.
I used this one this when I went paddling on the River Avon last week and I am pleased with my lot. It will do the job, at least for a little while.
I wrote most of this weekly blog episode last week, but didn’t quite get it finished before I headed out to the Adventure Bike Rider Festival on Thursday straight from work. To say it was a manic working week would be an understatement, and you already know I was away at the weekend and chose to spend my evenings doing fun outdoors things rather than sitting at my computer.
Next week, then, you’ll get a run-down of my experience at this new-to-me motorcycling festival, including something about test riding a little electric two-wheel-drive bike, and the Polaris RZR, along with a little report on our short visit to the Retro Americana Festival at Pittville Park in Cheltenham, and hopefully there will be some other fun things to update you on.
In the meantime, I hope you have a decent week, with lots of outdoors time in the sunshine. And remember, as I have been reminded in a big way in recent days, life is very fragile indeed. Please make extra effort do something that fills you with joy this week.
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