First camp and swim of the year: Swelltor and Wellsfoot Island

Starting a new year is always a good opportunity to reflect on the previous year and make plans for the next. Last year certainly had some highlights, what with moving into our new house and getting married, but there was less outdoor adventure than I would prefer. This year, the plan is to get out and do more camping and swimming.

For January, we nearly failed at the first hurdle. Sarah had been nursing an injured foot which is stopping her running and the weather forecast for the only day in the entire month we could get out for a wild camp was looking atrocious – cold temperatures and heavy rain all afternoon and evening. In the end, we decided on an easy to access location on Dartmoor after a pub lunch allowing us to sulk damp in the tent with snacks rather than needing to cook anything on the stove in the rain.

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The long goodbye…

I remember it was bloody cold – minus 4 according to the car just before Alex (my very good friend @winkysmileyface), my dog and I bedded down for the night in a campsite just across the road from a pub somewhere in the North Downs. Despite the cold I was buzzing – hours before, whilst we sat in the warm pub over a pint and some dinner, I had pulled out my old net-book and loaded up a website that had the route we had walked that day, on a Google map, as well a few markers for some tweets and twitpics I had shared. It was 20th February 2010, and I had just shared the first Social Hiking map.

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Nocturnal Adventures on Dartmoor with the Ranger Ralph Club

Ranger Ralph Membership Pack

One of the benefits of moving to Taunton is that Dartmoor, previously far enough that visits needed to be overnight, is now near enough, not just for day trips, but to ‘pop to’ for a few hours. This has finally allowed me our 5-year old to join the Dartmoor Ranger Ralph Club, and on Wednesday in the late afternoon we headed to Hound Tor for her first session – ‘nocturnal adventures’.

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Review of Corrymoor Companion Mohair Socks

At some point over the last year, I have managed to end up on a bloggers list that gets flogged to marketing agencies and PR firms in the hope they can get some free advertising for whatever rubbish they are selling. Mostly this means spam emails but just occasionally something lands in my inbox that piqued my interest.

In this case comfortable, hard wearing, anti-bacterial, moisture-wicking socks….. Mohair socks.

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Making the outdoors accessible for people with different abilities

Disabled rambers on specially designed Mountain Trikes at Langsett reservoir

At the moment (touch wood) my Multiple Sclerosis does not really stop me getting out and enjoying the outdoors too much. Beyond the additional fatigue that follows a weekend outdoors, some balance issues as I tire during a hike and some interesting nerve buzzing when ascending a hill (and post river swims), the outdoors is still accessible to me. Positivity is really important when you have an degenerative disease, but it is sometimes really hard to shake the pangs of fear that my future MIGHT* involve significant reduced mobility and the impact the resulting loss of outdoor time would have to my physical and mental well-being. Because of this, the accessibility of the outdoors for people with different abilities (both as a place and the activities within it) is increasing a topic I am interested in (albeit with currently zero knowledge or experience).

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Plan B, retraced steps and a proper castle – continuing #CountyCastleCaper

Okehampton Castle, Dartmoor

Whilst I am sure the National Trust would disagree, Castle Drogo, the last castle built England, is not really a castle. Finished in 1930, this stately home, with mock medieval and Tudor castle features, was always a bit of a contentious choice as Devon’s representative in our County Castle Caper.  We only really choose it so we had an excuse to cross Dartmoor as part of our challenge! Having been forced back off Dartmoor earlier in the day, and after fire-side food, beer and good company in the Warren House Inn (near the bunkhouse we should have walked to rather than getting a lift to) a new plan was needed. Neither myself or Sarah had much inclination to re-attempt our planned Dartmoor crossing the following day – Dartmoor is our regular stomping ground anyway and logistically it would be challenging. There are a few decent castles south of Dartmoor but that would put us much further away from Exmoor – a requirement of our caper thanks to the ‘visit every National Park’ rule. Paul, a resident of Okehampton, suggested his local castle was a ‘proper castle’ – should we return to Lydford on foot then get back on our bikes and rejoin NCN 27 to Okehampton Castle?

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Outdoor First Aid at Powermills Bunkhouse on Dartmoor run by First Aid 4 Life

First aid scenarios on Dartmoor

Last weekend myself and Sarah once again made the (now very familiar) journey from Bristol to Dartmoor. Rather than the usual mix of hiking, camping, tor bagging and outdoor swimming (and beer) our trips to Dartmoor usually involved however, this trip was a little different – we were attending a two day course in Outdoor First Aid, run by First Aid 4 Life, at Powdermills near Princetown.

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Sun, sea, storm Katie and a mis-calculation – the start to #CountyCastleCaper

Myself, Sarah and Kate in front of Lydford Castle

Day 1 – Tintagel Castle, Cornwall to Lydford Castle, Devon (by cycle)

Considering the level of logistical planning required for the first leg of the #CountyCastleCaper, I could have made a bit more of an effort to check the tide tables! We arrived at Trebarwith Strand ready to get our Cornwall swim in before Tintagel Castle, just up the coast, opened, to be greeted by the sight of the sea smashing into the cliffs just below us. Trebarwith Strand is apparently an excellent swimming beach at low tide – sadly in a few hours time! Our plans already beginning to unravel, we retreated to Tintagel to enjoy a coffee and a second (light) breakfast in the unexpected sunshine as we killed time before the castle opened and the tide retreated.

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We have a responsibility in the language we use to describe the outdoors

To a greater or lesser extent, most people write clickbait (‘clickbaiting’ perhaps?) when posting content online. We want people to look at, like and interact with our stuff, so we are bound to write tweets, Instagram posts, Facebook statuses etc. in a way that will attract attention.

If you have a blog, run a small business, or work for a large corporate, you are probably also guilty of writing linkbait (or ‘linkbaiting’) (subconsciously or on purpose). This is content designed to be linked to by other websites. I will not bore you with the details, but the more your site is linked to, the better it probably ranks in Google (and the more people that will find the stuff you are trying to sell).

We do however have a responsibility in the language we use to describe the outdoors!

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