Muddy Mam

Adventures in everyday life


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Mountain biking the Gower peninsula

 

dsc00393This day route shows the rider much of what the Gower has to offer, and it’s not just beaches either. This route is a much underrated and unknown MTB route, however it is – in my opinion – deserving enough to be termed a ‘classic’ – well if you go on a fine day!

The morning started with breakfast with a glorious early morning view at the National Trust car park at Southgate . I was keen to start the ride early as I wasn’t sure what my fitness would be like plus we had to pick the kids up from after school club by 6pm a two hour bongo journey away.

To get to the start of the route that we were – for the most part – following from MBR  we needed to do a short stint along road, across a golf course and then down a wooded descent to get to Parkmill – a nice warm up!

The start of the ride from Parkmill was the lowlight of the whole day – a busy road climb for about 20 minutes. However once that was completed the rest of the ride was superb. A mixture of old school style XC with a couple of long fun descents – and those views!

I have been coming to the Gower peninsula since childhood and barely a summer has gone past when I haven’t camped there for at least one weekend, however it has always been about the beaches and coastal walks. So, riding up and over the Cefn Bryn ridge came as a surprise. The views are world class spectacular with a panaromic view of the entire peninsula including a photographer’s view of the three cliffs bay.

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We then dropped down for a mixture of country roads and bridleways until the third climb of the day – up to the ridgeline above Rhossili Down for a sweeping view of one of my all time favourite beaches –Rhossili beach.

The descent from here is (in true MTB speak) sick! What I actually mean is that it is steep, grassy, rocky descent – a-hanging-on-to-the-seat-of-your-pants-with-the-mantra-of-‘holy shit’-repeatedly-escaping-my-lips descent, made all the more exhilarating by riding a hardtail! If I wasn’t so ready for lunch I would have pushed up and done it all over again.

We had a quick lunch stop at the  Hill End campsite (decent food, but overpriced in my opinion), which is conveniently just over half way round, before jumping back on the bikes for the return. The climb up Llanmadoc Hill was hard, and made harder by the large fried egg and mushroom bap sitting in my gut! It was starting to get really hot, however the return ride showed me sections of the Gower that I had never seen, plus the ride back down the Bryn Cefn ridge is fun fun fun and a great way to end the day’s ride.

….and of course, no trip to the Gower would be complete without a quick stop at the World’s best ice-cream shop – Joe’s Ice-cream in Swansea!

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I would definitely do this route again, however I would tweak it slightly by starting and finishing at the fabulous Kings Head in Llangennith for the all important post-ride dissection with a pint of cider and the unique Penclawdd pizza.

Distance – 23 miles

Climb and descent – 2300ft

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Bivvying out in West Wales

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It’s such a simple concept. Park your vehicle, grab your rucksack, walk for a while. Stop. Get your sleeping bag out and spend the night. If it’s so easy, then why don’t we do it more often?

One reason is the weather, what if it rains? Another reason is fear. Fear of being ‘discovered’ in the middle of the night, fear of insects crawling into the sleeping bag or even worse, the ears, and if you are Fran (my long suffering hiking friend) fear of the nearby wild horses trampling over us!

It’s been a decade or so since I slept out sans tent, so decided it was way overdue to do it again. I had an Alpkit bivvy bag as a Christmas present, and was keen to try it out, so heading over to West Wales to watch the sunset at the (nearly) most western point on a forecasted lovely evening seemed the perfect opportunity.

Admittedly, we did it easy. Fran and I parked up at Whitesands Bay, Pembrokeshire, headed for a walk along the beach, cooked some pasta in the Bongo, then grabbed our rucksacks and headed along the coastal path for a few kilometres. The spot we chose wasn’t the actual most western point of Wales, but it was pretty close and was a better place to watch the sunset and to sleep.

The sun started to dip into the sea, so we decided to stop and choose our bedroom for the night. It was a sheltered spot with short, spongy grass, close to an old burial stone and with an uninterrupted view across the bay. The sun was just setting as we got there, so after oooh-ing at the pinky hues, we got out our sleeping and bivvy bags, cracked open the wine, sat back and watched the view as the night drew in.

It was a perfect night to sleep outside as the light pollution was really low and the stars were amazingly bright. There was an ever-so-slight breeze that felt lovely on my face as the rest of me was all toasty in my bivvy bag. I slept well that night. We didn’t get rained on, didn’t get insects nesting in our bags with us and we didn’t get trampled on by wild horses!

It was early when we woke, a lovely morning – calm and mild. So after packing our bags and walking back along the coastal path we felt inspired to go for a morning dip. Whitesands Bay is a popular beach (with families and surfers alike), however we had the place to ourselves as we played in the surf. There are not many things as invigorating as a dip in the Atlantic before breakfast, fresh!

 

We had breakfast in the local café ‘Whitesands Bay Café’, it was okay food, but a word of warning – everything is served on disposable plates with disposable cups, knives and forks – lazy and wasteful. Plus if you want to use the toilets, you need to use the public ones next door for 50p!

All in all this was one of my favourite mini-adventures to date and it’s such a wonderful way to spend an evening and morning. Although next time we will be more organised and take our dinner and breakfast with us, as well as more wine and chocolate.

If you know of a bivvy spot as idyllic as our location in West Wales then message me, as I am keen to use my bivvy bag again soon 🙂

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Adventures in a motorhome – Part One – Buddy

dsc00784 We had one week in August, childfree and an opportunity to use a friend’s motorhome. So with two mountain bikes, a fridge full of cider, Rorie the dog and a plan to do a mini-tour of Scotland, we set off North. Happy days.

An opportunity arose to borrow a friend’s motorhome (Buddy) for our forthcoming one-week Scotland trip. Initially, we were going to take our beloved Bongo, but the thought of having space to sleep, eat and sit around without constantly making/unmaking beds, seats etc. was too exciting to miss. This was adventuring in luxury!

 The motorhome

It was an old boy, with quirks and personality, no doubt about it, such as a temperamental fridge and lighting that we never figured out how to use with any consistency. However, if you love camping/campervanning and fancy a bit of ‘glamour’ whilst still experiencing the feeling of freedom and adventure, then I would definitely recommend giving it a go.

Like several of our camping/bongo friends – G and I – have discussed numerous times over the past few years what would be the best mode of holidaying for us as a family. Unable to decide between a small camper i.e. Bongo – with and without a trailer, a motorhome, trailer tent or even small caravan.

There are negatives when it comes to a motorhome:- They can be really expensive, you need somewhere to store it, it doesn’t make a great second vehicle, when you are on holiday then you don’t really want to drive it around every time you want a pint of milk

However the advantages of having one seems (to me) to outweigh the disadvantages:- you can ‘camp’ year round with kids, you get to sleep in a REALLY comfortable bed, you can have a wee in the middle of the night without putting your hiking boots and down jacket on, you can cook pizza and garlic bread easily (oven!), within reason – and with subtlety – you can camp anywhere and wake up in the most beautiful spots entirely alone.

But is it adventure? In my eyes and certainly in my 7 and 5 year olds eyes then it most certainly is. It’s just comfortable adventure! You still get to enjoy the outdoors but get a bit of luxury (and warmth) of a night.

So, to cut a long story to an end, we are converted! We have sold our beloved Bongo and pick up a third/fourth hand motorhome at the end of the month. It’s a six berth with a garage, so plenty of space for us, the kids, Rorie the dog, our bikes and all our other outdoor paraphernalia.

(Is it slightly sad to admit that I have dreamed of owning one since I was nine years old?)

 A soon-to-be new chapter of lives….to be continued!


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Family skiing in Trysil, Norway

But isn’t it really expensive in Norway?’ says Everyone.

Well, yes it is, but not as much as you think, plus it’s guaranteed snow the week before Christmas!

In the mildest December that I can remember, three generations of the family headed out to Trysil, a 2 ½ hour drive from Oslo, for a short skiing break. It was my first time skiing in over a decade (and since knee surgery), it was my 5 year olds’ first year, and my 7 year olds’ third year.

If heading to the slopes with young kids, it’s pretty much essential to be able to ski-in ski-out, and staying in a family friendly hotel is an added bonus, therefore the Radisson Blu Hotel in Trysil was a great choice for us.

It made holidaying with a family a simple affair:- half board option with an eat-as-much-as-you can (very impressive) buffet, a large pool with a climbing wall in it, a small children’s area that played films (and where my two fell in love with the 1961 classic film ‘101 Dalmations’), a bowling alley and Sports TV area – with lots of Premiership football, yawn!

For the more stylish (and adult) there is a gorgeous bar with a large central communal table and fire pit accompanied by the all important Scandi lighting. It’s a lovely place to hang out for après-ski if you have a bulging wallet!  In addition to this you have a French restaurant (included in the half board option), a spa, a Jacuzzi, sauna and surfing pool. An added bonus of the hotel is that you can literally ski-in ski-out, straight onto the piste from the boot room.

Even though we were there early season, the snow conditions were great (whilst friends of ours were mountain biking in Morzine as there was no snow there). The area has a varied choice of runs:- great beginner ski runs for brand new skiers, some fantastic blues and reds for the 7 year old (and the grandfather), and the blacks were smooth, steep, wide, empty and fun!

The whole area is family friendly, and children under the age of 7 go free on the ski lifts. The slopes were really not busy at all, and on some of our runs we were the only ones skiing. I can only imagine it’s because they have such a long ski season, the Norwegians wait a little later in the season to enjoy it.   Perhaps this was the reason for being upgraded to a family apartment with a great view!

Last time I skied only very small children were wearing helmets and I genuinely can’t recall seeing an adult wearing one, now you look like an idiot if you don’t have one. Skiing is very much going the way of mountain biking as I saw lots
of people wearing back protectors, with some skiers even wearing full face helmets, not a bad decision if you enjoy hurtling down a snowy mountain!

img_4682I have only ever skied as part of a group of friends before, with lots of après ski, so skiing as a family is a very different experience (note:- early morning wake up, on the slope for the first ski lift (9am), afternoon in the pool, dinner at 6 and bed by 9). Nonetheless, it was amazing to watch my 5 year-old grasp how to turn on the slope, and to see my 7 year-old hurtle passed me with no fear, it was even more amazing to see how much they could put away at the buffet in the evening! It was the best holiday we’ve ever had as a family, and we are already talking about going back again this year.

 

One of the most lasting memories of our trip was the winter light, it was simply gorgeous. Its soft golden colour allowed for the most wonderful sunrises and sunsets, and the snow with its translucent blue colour made the quiet slopes all the more special. I am slightly in love with all things Scandinavian, and this trip has made me even more in love.

So, No. It’s not cheap a holiday, but was it worth it? Yes Yes Yes! (but visit duty free on your way!)

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