Featured

Wild Women Escapes – Mountain

Let me drive you from Bristol, take you up a waterfall, across moors, up two peaks and around a lake. At the second peak I will cook fresh bacon butties washed down with G&T. This is a chance to challenge yourself to do something new, or maybe rekindle a love of the wild. We will go at a pace that suits everyone and all support each other. Come and escape for a day.

How to find your tribe

Being a woman adventurer requires a special kind of tenacity. My experience is that it takes years to find your tribe. These are a special group of peeps who can cover your ass in every possible eventuality when you find yourself up a creek, lost on a mountain or just laughing your head off on a beach having not brought a swim costume.

Here are the top seven personalities you find on an adventure. I bet you can recognise all your mates in this list, and if you don’t you need to fill that void.

#The Matriarch

This is the friend who you call when you are probably struggling with some life decisions. You know they have some great but gentle advice to help you sift through the rubble. You go on a walk, make sure there are regular pit stops, and accept that you are going to get some tough love but by the end you have put the world to rights.

#The philosopher

This is probably someone you have known for a VERY long time. They have an uncanny ability to turn their hand to everything and probably have multiple qualifications in everything known to humanity. You know that even when you are talking verbal diarrhoea, they will gently find a way to find zen and wisdom in the random rantings of a camping night. Nothing is bad, only good, as {add quote here} said. You bloody love their company.

#Partner in crime

AKA the one who always gets you in trouble. I distinctly remember calling said friend out of the blue saying “I am on my way to yours. I have a bottle of wine.” She took a long hard drag of her cigarette and replied “Bring two.” I remember one time waking up in a house I had no recollection of ever entering. Another time with one of my “partners” we broke into a party in central Paris, and broke out with hand fulls of Mangos from a kitchen window in the basement. There is a picture of her on a red vintage moped which neither of us have any idea why. We were tailed by men on that trip, but told them we had no time to mess about, we had an important photo shoot tomorrow!

#The dare devil

Oh the fun we’ve had! Sometimes I make sure there is someone else about just to make sure we don’t end up in A&E. My best story involves a fated trip to one of the best surfing beaches in Europe. I am not a very experience surfer. My friend is. She briefed me on the correct entry, explained how to ride the waves, and warned me of the hazards of this reef surf. In panic, I did none of the above, and appeared an hour later with both legs dripping in blood. One time we completed a 10k obstacle race. Another time an off road triathlon. I should probably be dead. Cheers for the good times!!

#The witchy one

You probably have a friend who grew up in the country and has an amazing amount of lost knowledge. This friend decorates my hair with wild flowers, pulls leaves out of waterfalls for me to eat and has a herbal remedy for every ailment. I have friends who are qualified doctors, but it is this friend I call when the kids are ill. She has a sixth sense.

#The starry eyed wanderer

This is probably someone you met while out on an adventure. She has probably lived in multiple countries, had multiple professions and has an incredibly calm nature. Nothing phases this friend. A favourite story of my Dad’s is him meeting up with his. They were on a beach. His friend had no phone, but he is pretty sure they go to this small festival every year, so he turns up in hope. One time, she had a disagreement with her partner, so she said “That’s it! I’m off. ” and waded out into the sea, fully clothed. She just stayed there until finally he roamed off having felt a little stupid.

#The eternal child

This one can be the most dangerous. For mine, we have till this day made sure that we have never been drunk at the same time. We just don’t trust ourselves. We have NO inhibitions. And that is while we are sober. We are loud, gregarious, hedonistic, spontaneous, and totally lack remorse. We love life. We love people. We love to laugh. You go out with this type of friend for a pint of milk and wake up in Mexico.

So forget the seven people you meet in heaven. It’s too late then. Make sure the seven people you share your piece of heaven with are worth the time spent. Here’s to the tribes! May yours be forever full of fun, laughter and magic.

How to lose ‘weight’ through adventure

Featured
Eat lunch in the park

I have lost 4-5 lbs this week but I have not changed how I eat nor how I drink. This is not a blog around women getting “beach ready”. This is a blog about women challenging why we need to be a certain way in order to have the right to be on a beach.

I was recently chatting to a really good friend about having put on weight over the last 5 years. I asked her what she thought were the psychological factors that were her downfall and I spoke openly about mine. For me, I find that it is around 4-7pm. I have taken kids to school, micro-managed 20 different daily things, cycled to work, dealt with my students worries, concerns, and problems, I have cycled home, picked up my children and then set about cooking three different meals. At this point I am physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually exhausted. Brain says “You lack energy, you need to refuel.” Body reaches for the cheese.

The Greeks apparently have seven different words for “love.” I think we need seven different words for “tired.” And this effect, I think, is particularly acute for women.

Ride a bike for no functional purpose

So what changed this week? Well, I have escaped a job which was causing me huge amounts of stress. I have had a job interview and got offered it. Spurred on by this success, I have written project proposals for two new clients and had an immediate positive response. Everything this week has energised me, rather than pulled me down. So many people have said “You seem so happy! I have never seen you so happy.” And I really am. My micro-adventures have led me to this path and given me energy.

So, here are my top 5 micro-adventures for being a woman. (And if anyone wants to chuck the equality card at me, I am happy to take it.) Until we have equality everywhere, we continue to need women only supportive networks.

#1 Go on a bike ride with a friend. You will both feel like you are 12 again. Take a picnic. Choose a goal to reach. Take a traffic free route and you will chat and laugh the whole way. I am meeting my extreme sports partner in crime tomorrow. I am soooo looking forward to it.

#2 Walk around your area at dusk. You can totally nose into people’s houses because it takes them a while to realise that they should have shut the curtains. I often invent a pint of milk or a loaf of bread I have to buy so that I can escape for half an hour.

#3 Take some cheese and biscuits and go and eat them with a great view.

#4 Involve your kids with some beach art (or on your own). Just collecting beach treasures and making a temporary instillation is really nice. Take a photo. Remind yourself during the week that you don’t just work and pay a mortgage.

#5 Choose not to eat cold flaccid sandwich at your desk. Go out and bathe in glorious sunshine in a local park. No one will thank you for sacrificing your 30 minute lunch break. You will come back refreshed and happier and most likely be more productive.

Enjoy a sunset

And just like me, you might magically find that actually it is not that you have bad genes that have given you hip dips, and cellulite and pendulous breasts and a stomach that somehow resembles a sad looking anus. It was that you were emotionally drained from a lack of fun in life and by taking control and making your own fun, the need for food and booze solved itself.

The subtle art of being skint

Featured

How to live life on the edge of your pants when you don’t have shed loads of money to throw at fancy trips.

Becoming a parent is absolutely humbling. That, and just about the most challenging thing any of us would ever have to contend with. Just imagine someone gave you a precious sports car and told you to drive it through the Namibian dessert at night. Not only that, you don’t get a map, you have never had a single driving lesson and you actually have gone temporarily mad due to 3 years of sleep deprivation and worry about said trip. Your body will feel like it has been battered with a hammer during said torture and you have forgotten what a hot meal is. It’s a winning combination for success. If we approached the work place with such a lack of preparation, it would be insane, but instead you have to study for years, get some experience, have a mentor check on you and a bi-annual review.

My children are constantly re-educating me on how to be a human. Hedonism is something which is slowly drilled out of us as we get older. My quest this year to complete 52 micro adventures has led me into all kinds of new and terrifying experiences. We also stop taking risks and I think as we do so, we progressively stop believing in ourselves. The biggest asset my new year’s resolution has given me is a massive confidence and happiness boost.

I am currently at adventure #41: Go on a cray fish hunt.

Here are some of our best family Micro adventures (with minimal cost)

#1 Go fossil hunting. My kids genuinely thought they had found a fossilised dinosaur poo. They were thrilled.

#2 Make art on a beach with found items. It never ceases to amaze me how children can only concentrate for 10 minutes in a classroom but hours on a beach.

#3 Breakfast picnic. Our favourite is to go to a bakery early (one of our kids wakes at 4am) and sit in the park on a sunny morning in complete solitude apart from us four, the birds and the flowers swaying in the breeze.

#4 Climb a mountain (or big hill). You may have to invent a creative game to entice them up, but the views are humbling to all. Seeing places you recognise gives you a humbling reminder of perspective in life.

#5 Go on a fungus hunt in a forest. My kids get points for each different type and bonus points for especially ugly, colourful or massive ones. It is amazing how attentive they are. They nearly always triple my score.

#6 Tell a shared story around a fire. Anyone can make a fire and we could all make up a tale, but google has replaced creativity and experimentation. Sometimes I long to not know the answer to a question, to ponder and consider. Some of the times my kids have absolutely laughed the hardest is about one of my ridiculous stories.

#7 Make dinner together. We have arrived at a really strange state of cultural climate where it can feel like our offspring are small princes with which we constantly serve. Kids these days don’t seem to do chores, partly because the likes of dishwashers, washing machines etc have made life easier, but I am constantly astounded at how the art of cooking, a basic human need, is one which we leave too late to teach. Kids bloody love cooking!

#8 Collect forest treasures. The world is full of wonder and awe when you are 5. I have rediscovered my inner child by finding pleasure in examining acorns, looking for four leafed clovers and singing Victorian songs long forgotten about nature.

#9 Draw an observational sketch of a found object. There is a great deal to be gained from slowing life down and disconnecting from screens. Children’s vocabulary is suffering in this digital age. The sheer act of using language to do art together is deeply wonderful. They will disclose all kinds of weird and wonderful thoughts about the universe.

#10 Watch clouds. Do you remember that? Being bored as a child and finding the mundane fabulous. Nebulous thoughts are so relaxing. Sharing this moment with your children is an act of bonding.

So let’s try to stop distracting our kids so we can “Get on with stuff” and realise that perhaps it is the stuff, which is distracting us from our kids. Because they are the most precious and important thing we have in our lives. Everything else is just glorified dust.

Tale of a tigress

A short story inspired by being in the wild.

A tigress strode through the jungle and as she did, snakes slithered away. Bees and butterflies buzzed like glitter, spiralling into the sun. With her head bobbing, steam bellowing with rhythmic sway, she pushed her way through long, lush green leaves till she arrived at the water.

Stopping briefly, she bent down and lapped the cool, cold pool below. The tigress looked up as the sky changed slowly, yellow to orange, orange to blue, till tiny, blinking stars gazed back at her. In the distance, a waterfall poured it’s heart into the pool and all while huge blooms exhaled powerful fragrance which brought a tear to her eye.

The feline padded around the pool till she approached the waterfall, it’s song growing deafening as it grew closer. With grace and power she leapt, three times and then disappeared behind the waterfall. In the cave, she paced in a circle, measuring, waiting. At the back of the cave she looked at the fast flowing water as it fell like diamonds and it was as though time stood still.

The tigress leant back on her hind legs, as though in child’s pose, and then suddenly bolted forward bounding faster and faster until she reached the ledge of the cave. She sprung into the curtain of diamonds like breaking glass and fell down, down plunging into the cool deep below.

Noise became silence. And clarity became a blur of bubbles. The bubbles were replaced by flashes of gold and silver as the tiger swam slowly from the drumming noise behind. Great shoals of panicked fish burst like fireworks as she moved through them and gradually faded. Finally her head broke the surface, nose just clearing as she treaded water. She reached the soft sandy edge, which cracked like cake with her weight and she collapsed on the carpet of grass.

The tiger looked at the twinkling stars and heard the waterfall sing and breathed in the perfume of a thousand flowers and she wished that all the world could see such beauty. For life is not lived through a screen, not felt through paper. It is living and breathing and right before your eyes.

Picture credit: Artist unknown.

Grow up!

I am definitely not going to be nominated for any parenting awards, any time soon. In fact, my older son said to me recently,

I was nearly sick finishing my food, but then I stopped myself.

Trip adviser for parenting 4 stars!
Adventure #40 Symmonds Yat

Yesterday I found myself uttering those immortal words “Grow up!”. I was exhausted, I have had three weeks on my own with the boys and we all need a break from each other. We were in the car and I pondered the phrase I had just yelled at them. It actually held a deep philosophical resonance with me.

When I started the Micro-adventure challenge on January the 1st, it had been because I had woken up and realised I was deeply unhappy, over weight, underchallenged and generally not enjoying life. I was exhausted all the time and felt I was failing at everything. Micro Adventures were an idea I conceived to empower myself to start loving life again. A micro challenge has 3 rules: It needs to be no more than 2 hours from home, it needs to be free, or very low cost and it should bring you new joy.

Adventure #1 was a Wild boar hunt in the Forest of Dean. We had all been stuck inside and kettled with family members for most of Christmas. Getting out with the breeze and the trees made us feel alive again. This week I took the boys on adventure #40: We scaled a summit and looked down on the world. It was breath taking. We stood in awe and watched people canoeing down below. We skipped along wooded paths, we played a fungus hunting game. We made up silly stories.

Children never hate the rain. Puddles and umbrellas are just another adventure.

52 Micro adventures has led me to start writing a blog, retrain to be a forest school teacher, have the courage to give in my notice in a comfortable job and be a bit more brave in my relationships. And all of this was possible, not because I grew up, that was in fact the source of the problems. It was possible because I started to view life like a child, with wonder and awe and noticing the beauty of small things around me. I stopped getting bogged down with thoughts of economic doom, and career progression and the creaking car, well I am trying. It is all a work in progress.

If you have any ideas for micro adventures, please write them below. Maybe we can compose the ultimate list.

A beginners guide to star gazing

The night sky

This week I had the pleasure of spending time with two friends I have not really seen for years. In the meantime we have all had kids, hardcore jobs and life has just got in the way.

We took all the kids camping. For them (kids) it was an adventure, for us, a huge physical endurance act. I am injured. Don’t feel bad for me. It was an old injury, brought on by too much prosecco and arrogance. I rode my mountain bike home, in the pitch black, on a dew covered slope, while carrying a bag on each handle bar. My coccyx is smashed to pieces. Electric shocks of pain remind me what child birth was like.

The second night, we made a camp fire. For the younger kids, this was a new experience. As the embers died down, we started to put them to bed. As the stars came out, we opened the wine. Honest and emotional conversations always happen around a fire with friends, but when reduced to embers, when you can no longer see anyone’s facial reactions, it becomes more like a confession. You tell a story, knowing you cannot see a person’s reaction. It is a different type of conversation.

The day before we took all the kids to the swimming lake. Adults padded in apprehensively while the older kids (and toddlers) ran along the jetty and threw themselves in with gay abandon.

The third night, we were trying to be sensible. We had to sensible, we had to decamp, drive home, get food, wash clothe etc. As we tried to calmly tell each other it was time for sleep, we all grabbed each other….Did you se it?!?!?!?!? We all said. A fleeting shooting star!! How magical?! How exciting. Even as non-believers, we all silently made a wish, just in case.

I have never seen a meteor shower. I have seen them forecast, and then as it so much the case in the Uk, it was too cloudy to see anything.

We haved a posh telescope and it is really fun to see the actual surface of the moon in detail, but actually, just seeing a fleeting streak of light was enough to send us CRAZY. So, in conclusion, you need nothing. just remember that your night vision cannot kick in for 30 minutes. Like all the best things in life, you must be patient. x

Macro-adventure: Scotland

Once a year, we would all like to go on a big adventure. It is good for the soul and reminds us of our humanity before we created a society based on valuing only written language and staying in man made dwellings.

The Isle of Arran

The things we all do on holiday, are in fact things that bring us deep pleasure. Buying and cooking good food. Exploring a new location. Turning off the TV and playing games with our children. Reading a great book while milling about on a sandy beach. Having a glass of wine at 5pm with the love of your life. Going outside to look at the starry sky. Taking a boat ride. Having a picnic after a long bike ride.

The silly thing is that we could be doing these things on any weekend, but we tend not too. We probably tell ourselves that we don’t have the energy. But it is probably not physical energy that is lacking (unless you are one of the few people who do heavy manual labour these days) it is in fact, entirely mental energy that we lack. In an attempt to create a world where we have more leisure time, where computers allow us to work from home, and electronic devices reduce time spent on household chores, we have created an environment where we are totally unable to switch off from stress. Our workplace can contact us at any time of the night or day (I have received emails at 5am!), our banks send a text message to tell us we have no money, and social media bombards us with adverts 24/7 to our phones to remind us how fat/ugly/hairy/poor we are.

Our holiday to the Scottish highlands and Islands was absolute bliss. The cottage we rented was cheap compared to Cornwall or Pembrokeshire and it had no TV, no gas connection, and no mains water. The water was from a local spring. If you opened the windows you could hear the twin waterfalls which cascaded nearby. We had a log burner for heat and the nearest shop was 35 minutes drive. The journey was long, but the rewards were priceless. We had to improvise and re-adjust our expectations. The children did not even mention to TV and it was as though they had remembered how to be children again. The adults looked though the small library and forgot about Brexit.

Kilmory beach

Our nearest beach was a short drive away and when it was sunny, it was like the Bahamas. Beautiful clear water and white pure sand. On one day we took our bikes on the small ferry over to the Isle of Gigha. From the port we rode round the bay where you will find a small campsite with it’s own beach, pub and jetty. The pub served us bacon butties and fresh orange juice before we headed off to the twin beaches. On arrival, we were hot and sweaty and strode straight out into the sea. Below, by my foot was what looked like a pipe fish (native sea horse). “It can’t be?” I thought but as I put my hand into the cool water, it swam away from me. As we walked along, baby plaice scooted away from us. My older son dug in the sand to make a sand castle and pulled up live clams, big enough to eat. The sea was teeming with life. I had never seen anything like it. It was like a little Heaven on Earth, how I imagined the world was 100 years ago. The Mediterranean was pretty on the surface, but dead beneath. If you wanted confirmation that human impact was not killing everything on the planet, if you wanted hope that nature could recover, here was the evidence.

Cool sea Lochs mirroring the sky

This type of magical holiday experience cannot be had all the time. We were incredibly lucky with the weather and lack of midges. No one got ill and we made some fantastic memories. I called in to see an old friend who greeted me with “I know you like cheese, so I brought you this.” Local cheese. She knew me so well. She spoke of the new life she had created two years ago when she bought a house on a remote island. It had a different pace, with a close community. She said ‘hello’ to friends, as we sat and ate on ice-cream on the shore with a view to the mountain beyond.

But my absolute favourite day, was the one where we built a beach fire. We headed down around 3:30 when most others would be going home. We had purchased fresh herring fillets, venison sausages and scallops and cooked it on sticks over the heat. I am 39 years old, and this is something I have never done. You can keep your fine dining, this was the best food on planet Earth, with the most incredible view and we were all alone, save for one curious seal which cruised around the bay and a sailboat with a couple who had docked for the night.

Prosecco, scallops and loved ones. What more does one need?

Re-wilding a woman

Featured

A micro adventure is a journey you go on which is less than two hours from home, allows you to explore somewhere new and bring you joy. These three things are the core of my new career and it is about reconnecting people to nature. The other two things I feel passionately about are fuelling your body with food that has soul and building communities.

This week I took my first group of women on the first “wild women escape”. The idea of these events is to get women to have some time out of their busy and normally stressful lives and reconnect with an inspiring and often unknown stunning location. This trip was all about waterfalls, wild swimming and walking. I prepared 3 lobsters from my local fish mongers, packed two bottles of prosecco and a range of tasty tapas foods for the arrival. I had my 6 first volunteers to try out my business idea and was nervous as hell.

The concept was quite simple. I plan, drive, lead a walk, cook food and take you home again. You can just relax, enjoy the experience, eat the food make some new friends and talk, walk and laugh. On the way home, I am not going to be offended if you sleep on the drive home, having exerted yourself from the five mile hike and the wilds swim to the waterfall.

I could not tell you why, but for some reason I was really anxious. The weather had been absolutely glorious in the few weeks leading up to the trip. Then, a few days before, lightening storms were forecast. I was wracked with a crisis of confidence. “No one will come.” my internal monologue was telling me. “This whole thing was a ridiculous idea. You live in the UK, you idiot, where it rains for 80% of the year. You can’t run a business which is so seasonal. It’s not going to work.” I actuality, all of the participants came! I was so eternally grateful. “You have to be braver.” I told myself after.

I lit the BBQ and smeared the halved lobsters with garlic butter. The ladies enjoyed the prosecco and olives and bread and snacks which the lobster cooked. When I brought it over to the table, it looked like a sight to behold. We feasted and chatted. One of the ladies had just got engaged, one had just announced being pregnant and the next day was my birthday. We had so much positivity to share and so much to celebrate. We were uninterrupted by impetuous children, undistracted by the pull of house chores and unencumbered by workplace to do lists.

For two and a half miles, we walked along the Eidir trail to a glorious pub bathed in dappled sunshine. The path required you to watch your feet and was moderately challenging which warmed us up and required our focus and attention. All around us was ancient woodland filled with Oak and Hazel and Beech and the river flowed by sometimes in torrents which took your breath away and sometimes in calm, rippling pools.

There are about 6 waterfalls on this walk (depending on you definition), four of which are named on the map. Each one sings a different song, each has a different character. At one point, a lady pulled some medowsweet from the bank and a fern and decorated my hair for no reason. At many points, women talked about how they would love to come back and share this lovely place with their family. Your walking partner changed along the route and we all got to make new friends.

The last waterfall is probably the most spectacular, and has a deep lagoon below. This was the place I chose for our wild swim. We had seen very few people along the paths and we were alone for a quick change into swim gear. The water was icy! But it has been well documented in recent years as to the mental health and physical benefits of cold water swimming. The usual human reaction is the yelp, scream and laugh. Two of us decided to just go for it and I am sure our laughter could be heard for miles. I have a lasting image of one lady in my mind who waded round to the far side of the waterfall with a new found friend and she stood fully under the full force of the river cascading down. The look on her face was pure unadulterated joy! I knew that she had been having a difficult time of late, and just to see her let it all go and do something magical, was a pleasure like no other. I had achieved my aim.

And so to new beginnings. Be they scary, daring, challenging and emotional. Let’s take them on together.