Chew Magna Lake

December


Chew Magna Lake – 10 miles
I looked at the sign, looked at the trail, and made a step froward. But no, I was on foot and twenty miles was just too much for one afternoon. But I would have my bike again soon and then I would be able to visit the lake.

January, February, March


I bent over the map from Sustrans and followed cycle route three with my finger, all the way to Chew Magna Lake. Only ten miles from home. On my next day off, I would go. But nothing happened.

April


Do you want to cycle to Chew Magna Lake?
Sure
I received the text with a smile on my face. I was finally going to make it to the lake I’d been dreaming about for so long.

On the first proper day of sunshine, we wheeled our bikes outside of Bristol, following the signs from Sustrans. Country roads wound their way between hedges, inclines dropping down to quiet villages where the occasional car would pass by. The trees were still bare but buds had began to appear and as the sun warmed the earth it felt like winter was finally at an end.

We arrived at the lake happy for a ride out of town. We parked the bikes and went to explore the trails around the water on foot. Streams and pools encircled the footpath providing freshness in this unexpected warm day. We followed the bittern trail, stopping at a viewing point to admire the view and listen to nature around us. There were bird calls we couldn’t identify, the gentle swaying of long grass, and in my imagination the fishing lines of fishermen in the small boats we could see.

We eventually walked away, back to the bicycle for a bite to eat. Our lunch over, we lingered by the lake, the sun warming our skin. I could feel it burn my skin but couldn’t find the resolve to cover my skin. After month of long sleeves and coat, this felt too good to pass.

The afternoon was drawing to a close and my friend had to get back to Bristol. So we unlocked the bicycles and rode away, following another route from Sustrans, another entry into the city, another landscape.

Pedalling Portugal – Photo report

In early March 2016, I found myself in a deserted coach station in Spain. At my feet lay my bike, wrapped in industrial size bin bags. Next to it, my four panniers rested in a line ready to be mounted on the racks. And I stood in front of them, the reality of my journey slowly sinking in. Eventually I hooked the panniers to their rightful place. I got on the bike and off I went. This is what I saw.
For 32 weeks, I will post a batch of photos every Monday morning.
Later words and sounds will come. But for now, I’m going to share what I experienced through the photos I took. If you miss a post, go to this page to find all the links.

I left Santiago on a coach as I needed to get to France quick so I could visit my dad. I got back on the bike in Irun and cycled along the Vélodyssée for a while, met up with my dad, cycled along the Loire à Vélo for a bit, met up with my mom and little sister, ditched the bike in favour of coaches and trains as I got reunited with my partner once more and we set to explore pockets of France. I couldn’t have wished for a better end to my journey.

An Outdoor Bloggers event with VARTA

‘Has someone arrived late,’ I asked distracted as I spotted a dark shape in the grass on the left of the path. I was walking back to my tent with Jason after leaving the pub but couldn’t spot it. It was night and my tent was smaller than a lot of the others, but I was certain I should have been able to see it from where we stood.

I directed my torch in the general direction of my tent on the other side of the path. Something caught the light. It was my longboard, dripping wet and standing still in the grass. I turned around, illuminating the unknown shape. ‘It’s my tent!’

Upside down, it was lying on a different field than the one I had pitched it in. I stared at it incredulous and laughed. My tent had flown away with everything in it.

We walked to it and turned it over. It looked fine, so we carried it back to where it was and I pitched it again over the longboard. We said our goodnight and I began to examine the content of my backpack. Everything was fine. I shook my head, not quite able to believe what had happened. My tent had flown away!

Woosh…

I ducked just as half the tent was folding over my face. ‘Okay… That’s how it flew away.’ I knew the wind was strong but I hadn’t thought it had such strength as to make my canvas home bend in half. I put my shoes back on and walked to Jason’s abode.

‘Are you awake?’
‘Yeah. You’re alright?’
‘Yes. I’m fine. It’s just… do you mind if I pitch my tent next to yours? To break the wind a bit.’
‘It’s fine. Do you need help?’
‘No, no. I’m fine. Thank you.’

With a sight of relief, I unpitched the tent one more time and carried it next to Jason’s bigger one. I made my bed, slid into the sleeping bag and laid wide awake waiting to see if the structure would fold on my face again. It didn’t, so I closed my eyes, rolled to my side and hoped the constant flapping of canvas would act as a lullaby.

Earlier that day, I’d arrived at the Royal Umpire Caravan Park to meet up with the Outdoor Bloggers and VARTA. VARTA and some of their friends at Spectrum Brands had invited us for the week-end to demonstrate their products, kindly paying for our upkeep.

It began with a dinner in the pub across the road from the campsite. A chef had been brought in to prepare a delicious meal for us, using Russell Hobbs equipment. I was glad for the food and the effort to cater to everyone. We saw the cookware in use but didn’t get to play with it ourselves. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the food and getting to know my fellow bloggers. Some of them I knew from previous events, while others I only knew as a blog name.

We chatted away, quickly bonding over our common love of the outdoors. Like previous Outdoor Bloggers event I had attended, we all had a different approach to the outdoors but it didn’t matter. There was something about it we all understood, and it didn’t matter if we were walkers, cyclists, mountaineers, or anything else. We were all kin of a kind, not the odd one out.

Our bellies full, we headed to the marquee erected on the pub’s ground. There, VARTA spent some time presenting their various lights and letting us play with them. I had come to the event, unsure what to expect. I wasn’t confident in my ability to get overly excited about batteries and lights but that quickly changed as I found out the extent of VARTA’s lanterns and torches. As is often the case with me, I make do with what I have, usually finding odd ways to use my equipment to fit my purpose. But VARTA exposed me to a range of solution that night that got me excited like a kid in a sweet shop. There was a small campsite lantern that would make camping while cycle touring a little easier, a heavy-duty torch with a rotating head that could light the road while I am on the longboard at night, and reflective straps with red lights to enhance the visibility of my body while walking/cycling/longboarding.

After a night of broken sleep, most of us emerged from our dwellings with heavy eyes and a desperate need for tea or coffee. But a bad night at camp was nothing new for us, so we carried on. We gathered by VARTA’s caravan for breakfast, our body slowly waking up as we were fed bacon and eggs (or veggie sausages) sandwiches cooked with a George Foreman grill under a rain free sky.

Fuelled up we headed to the marquee once more. This time it wasn’t about VARTA but about Armor All. Their products being aimed at cars, I found it difficult to get excited. I do not have a driving licence nor am I thinking of getting one. But I listened nonetheless, thinking of friends with cars. The products seemed great for deep cleans and quick cleans of the car and I definitely could see a use for outdoors people. It looked easy to take care of a vehicle during and after a trip.

The rain had picked up again by this stage so we left the marquee to retreat in the pub where Bowland and Pennine Mountain Rescue Trust was waiting for us. VARTA has been sponsoring Mountain Rescue England and Wales for a while now, providing them with batteries and cash donation to help them save lives.

Spending a lot of times outdoors, I had heard of Mountain Rescue but I knew very little about them. For instance, I didn’t know you had to ask for the police and then mountain rescue if you need them, nor was I aware that so much of their funding comes from public donations. They are an amazing organisation, made up of 48 rescue teams throughout England and Wales, all charities in their own rights depending on us to fund them so that the volunteers can get the material they need to keep us safe.

Amazed and with a new found respect for Mountain Rescue England and Wales, we relaxed around lunch before VARTA took centre stage again but this time to demonstrate their portable chargers. I am old fashion. When outdoors, I don’t bother with my smartphone. Instead I opt for a dinosaur phone I can trust. I get almost a week worth of battery life with it and there is no risk of it breaking if dropped. But I’m also a blogger and increasingly I’m using my smartphone to document some parts of my activities. So a portable charger is something I’m interested in but know nothing about and it was great to learn about their capabilities and specifications.

And that was it. VARTA who had arranged the whole week-end for us, and not cancelled in spite of the grime weather, handed over goodie bags and wished us all the best. Having demonstrated so many of their products, they now wanted us to try them in real life situation and were very generous to us. Here’s what we got:

For the details of Armor All goodie bag, The Urban Wanderer video is a good watch:

We all retreated to our tents to rest before the evening. But being at an Outdoor Bloggers event, a lot of us decided to go for a walk instead. We explored nearby Croston, silent and deserted on a damp Saturday.

Back at the campsite, most of us decided to skip cooking dinner in our tents and we found ourselves at the pub again, ordering mud-free food and enjoying a drink or two before gathering for an outdoor quiz that Zoe had concocted. I lost, but the quiz was a great idea and I hope it will become a feature of Outdoor Bloggers events.

Conversations eventually slowed as we began to feel the weight of the previous sleepless night. So back to our beds we went, hoping for a quieter night.

In the morning it was time to go. We packed our tents, lingered at the site for a while, a little reticent at the idea of rejoining regular life in spite of all the wind, rain, and mud we had endured. The Urban Wanderer gave me a lift to Manchester and I hoped on a train, home-bound.

I will make reviews of most of the products we received from VARTA but they will not be shared on this blog. If you are interested, be sure to subscribe to my YouTube channel. Reviews and other outdoors videos are planned for the near future.

Thanks to VARTA, Spectrum Brands, Prova, Zoe and Jenni at Outdoor Bloggers for an excellent week-end.

Pedalling Portugal – Photo report

In early March 2016, I found myself in a deserted coach station in Spain. At my feet lay my bike, wrapped in industrial size bin bags. Next to it, my four panniers rested in a line ready to be mounted on the racks. And I stood in front of them, the reality of my journey slowly sinking in. Eventually I hooked the panniers to their rightful place. I got on the bike and off I went. This is what I saw.
For 32 weeks, I will post a batch of photos every Monday morning.
Later words and sounds will come. But for now, I’m going to share what I experienced through the photos I took. If you miss a post, go to this page to find all the links.

As I left Portugal, I found myself back on the Camino but this time I was with friends. I’d stumbled upon them on one of their breaks, got chatting and found out we were heading the same way. So I tagged along, the hardship of being alone on the road forgotten for a week.

Pedalling Portugal – Photo report

In early March 2016, I found myself in a deserted coach station in Spain. At my feet lay my bike, wrapped in industrial size bin bags. Next to it, my four panniers rested in a line ready to be mounted on the racks. And I stood in front of them, the reality of my journey slowly sinking in. Eventually I hooked the panniers to their rightful place. I got on the bike and off I went. This is what I saw.
For 32 weeks, I will post a batch of photos every Monday morning.
Later words and sounds will come. But for now, I’m going to share what I experienced through the photos I took. If you miss a post, go to this page to find all the links.

I left the mountains to get back to the coast, another Warm Showers host awaited me and I wanted to explore Porto, the last large Portuguese city before the border.