Waun Fach

The warmest weekend of the year was maybe not the best time to go climb Waun Fach – the highest point in the Black Mountains. My thinking was that beaches, lakes and rivers would be heaving. I am pretty certain that was the case from what I have heard. The walk starts with a long steep climb with only a couple of brief flat or downhill sections until you get to the top and walk along the ridge.

We packed loads of water, some sandwiches, layered on the SPF 50 and headed up. The walk was nice and quiet – only bumping into a few people in hours of climbing. Exactly what I was hoping for. The views were spectacular. Wild horses were grazing round pools of water. We watched gliders take off from the valley below then circling above making the most of the thermals.

It looked like it is often very boggy up there so summer is the best time to head up if you can stand the heat. There is not a lot of shade about. Good climb – and nice to visit one of the less popular spots in the Brecon Beacons National Park.

Cascade Sur Bayard

I have been to Chatel a lot. I have spent a good bit of time there in winter, but this spring it was really not very wintery down in the valley. Staying with Paul and Fi from the Rider Social in Chapelle d’Abondance I had time to kill so went for a hike to stretch the legs. I saw a sign for “La Cascade” so followed the signs and soon enough came across the waterfall. It was hard to miss. The walk goes up the steep hillside following the stream. There are a bunch of smaller waterfalls further up the hill. Once you get further up the trees thin out offering views across the valley.

Kayaking on the River Wye

After an early afternoon torrential downpour the forecast was for things to clear up and the sun to shine. I took my chances and headed down to the river. I have been wanting to test an inflatable kayak out for a while – I grabbed the BIC Kalyma – although not the top spec model it had a nice balance of features and performance. The ability to set it up for one person or two is a big plus. On top of that the inflatable floor keeps you from sitting in a puddle. Another neat feature is the built in drybag rear hatch – the perfect place to keep things dry. There is plenty of room to stash other drybags – especially when set up for just one person to paddle. It was really easy to set up and paddle. I didnt put the fin in as I was not sure how deep the water was – I reckon I will next time to improve tracking.

As well as the GoPro I brought my A7 along. I stuck it in a peli case to make sure it was all safe and dry. Once in the boat it was super stable and I was able to get it out to play without any worries. Hopefully the kayak will be a good platform to take more shots from in the future.

As I got out of the river I noticed dark clouds in the distance. Within minutes they were looking pretty menacing. It was time to hurry up – I chucked everything into the back of the van – grabbed a snap of the clouds and hit the road. Within minutes it was back to torrential downpour.

Dave paragliding in the Malverns

Despite living around here for years now I think today was only the third time I have walked up the Malvern hills. Dave Roberts was passing by and was hoping to find some thermals. I grabbed the camera and headed up after him. Conditions looked great on the internet but in reality it was a bit on the windy side so we waited around. When it dropped Dave launched and off he went!

It is pretty epic scenery by anyones standards up there, and it looked great seeing Dave fly high over the fields. Paragliding is such a big part of Ozone too – it was good to learn more about it!

Wakeboard Progression

The best thing about starting a new sport is the progression. The satisfying feeling you get from making geniune progress and improvement. With a handful of solid wakeboarding sessions under my belt now at WMSki near Cirencester I am feeling great progress. The first sessions are all about getting used to the board, bindings, cable etc. Now I feel confident that I am going to make it off the dock safely without worrying too much I can focus on bigger and better things. Last week was all about sorting out my stance and binding angles.

This week I had a major leap forward tackling obstacles. Each obstacle took some building up to but once conquered became great fun. I started on some wide boxes, then a narrow flat box. The taxi with a down section in through me off a few times but once I mastered getting slack in the rope it was easy. Next up came the kicker. This was a classic just needing to work up the guts to hit it then finding out it was really easy moment. With the confidence built up from conquering all the smaller features I went for the roof top. The first couple of tries I did not make it all the way up but managed to keep on riding. The third time I got to the top and then lost it backwards resulting in a yelp and a backflip. I got straight back on it and by the end of the day had managed to ride it out well once and a few not so bad attempts.

The scene is very friendly and welcoming down at WMSki. The guys working there are keen to help you progress and give little tips here and there. Looking forward to getting back down there!

Getting into wakeboarding

So now Brunotti have launched a wakeboard range I figured its time to get into wakeboarding! So far I have got all the gear but no idea! Hooked up with Marcus at WMski near Cirencester for my first wake session in years (even then I had only been a few times!). After a minor struggle with timing getting going (one faceplant) I managed to get going fairly confidently.

Riding in boots feels pretty locked in to start with – though after a week in snowboard boots and bindings I should be used to it. The board feels big and stiff compared to the kitesurf boards I am used to. All in all I am really looking forward to another session! I just need to get over the incredible stiffness in my arms and neck!

New friends for 2013

This has been on the cards for a while – but it took someone offering free chickens to make it happen. Lucy managed to get a coop and 8 9 chickens. 4 are Marans chickens, and the other 4 5 are rescued battery chickens.

The coop seems fine for the 8 9 of them, however the run left a lot to be desired in terms of space to roam. The aim of all this is to provide free range conditions allowing for great tasting eggs. After a brain trust meeting we designed a new run layout and in the first break in the rain we set out to make the vision a reality. Now to some this may look like little more than a pile of pallets covered in chicken wire – but if you look closer it is actually a state of the art chicken run. Complete with natural features such as the mound, and loads of bits for them to peck at and space to spread their wings.

At the moment we are dealing with a racial segregation / gang turf warfare / West Bank of Gaza type situation with the Marans doing the bullying. This new chicken run gives them a bit more space so they are not so on top of each other. Everyone needs a little space to do their thing otherwise feathers get rustled.

Hopefully now everything is set for optimum egg production, and the rescued hens will start to enjoy their new free range lifestyle. The Marans had better start being a bit more tolerant too – or else we will have to give them a bit of their own medicine!

Note: a week into having chickens, a head count revealed we had 9 and not the 8 we originally thought we had.

Caravan Palace Live in Bath

After finding out Caravan Palace were touring the UK and we had missed most of the dates of they were sold out Lucy booked tickets for the final date of the tour at the Komedia in Bath. The problem with good acts, especially foreign ones, is that the chance to see them is rare, so you need to jump on it when you get the chance.

Caravan Palace Live in Bath

Despite flood warnings and constant rain we set off on a smooth drive to Bath, found free parking and walked to the venue finding it easily enough. It was sold out as expected and the venue was rammed. The support act were local so got a better response than most support acts get. Finally Caravan Palace came on.

I was surprised by how much they did live. Every member had 2 or 3 instruments which they moved between whilst also taking the time to get the crowd going and doing some vocals. They were much more interactive and fun than I expected. Really talented musicians – well worth seeing. Electro swing is a great genre – even makes me want to dance.