A Mad March

Winter is a tough time in the outdoors world. Put simply, people don’t want to head outside. Its cold and wet invariably and as such opportunities to work are few and far between. Previous winters have seen me manage to secure regular work in Nursery Schools, however due to funding cuts those options are no longer available… but that’s a very political post for another time.

So the arrival of March and meteorological spring is a welcome one. March spells the return of Duke of Edinburgh Award season and its when the world starts to emerge from its winter slumber and wants to play outside.

My month started on March 1st getting ready for the Stan Bradshaw Pendle Round Fell Race, I’ve written about that before (here) suffice to say, this year was not weather afflicted and we could run the traditional route – which I publicly committed to changing to avoid difficulties with access on one particular farm. So that’s more work created for me then!

The race went well – 252 runners, a race record turnout with both mens and womens records being smashed by top three finishers in both categories! It really has been a dry winter….

The next day saw me joining a new (to me!) school, St Christophers, to support their DofE award efforts. As the qualified ML, I was supervising and training a Gold group over and around Pendle Hill. What a top bunch of lads they were. I hope to cross their paths again.

Week commencing the 4th took me to Outdoor Elements various primary schools and an Adult Employment Scheme undertaking some confidence building activities. I also worked for Climbing Services (Wall work, A-Level PE) and a rescheduled date at Taywood to zip line with some three and four year olds. The weekend came and I took my son bouldering and on the Sunday more St Christophers DofE, this time a silver practice day. Another great group, well drilled and keen to learn.

The 11th March began with some OE work in a Primary school in Rochdale – team challenges for the second day of two. Into McMillan Nursery in Nelson on Tuesday for the first of two and half days over two weeks – great to be back here after a three year hiatus! Although I have worked with them in in local centres since then, was lovely seeing and catching up with the staff of this great nursery. I was working with the McMillan team when my son was born and as such they remain close to me. We were tree climbing and basing a session around a core book the nursery use – “Shark in the Park” by Nick Sharratt. This happened!

More Climbing Services wall work and WAVE Adventure on Wednesday evening, with the first week of a new ten week block of activities with regular children and parents supported by BBC Children in Need. Thursday involved some site work at Whitehough, building some new facilities for groups this summer. Friday was a day off with Mrs Northcol, before heading to Warrington to spend the night on a trading estate awaiting a 5.30 am departure for London to work for Challenge Expeditions at a posh school in London – more DofE training. Home late Sunday night, back to McMillan Monday morning.

OE on the Tuesday. Wednesday will live long in the memory- the morning at McMillan, the afternoon the last Climbing Services A-Level session, Wednesday evening with WAVE… Thursday Friday off… pheww!

Saturday saw me doing some safety marshaling for Outdoor Angels and T2 Events. Good to see Tasha back in the game. Although out from early and out till late afternoon supporting a sportive it was a fairly quiet day, with one cut finger to mend and one mechanical issue to pick up. Being run from Mill Yard in Staveley allowed me to visit one of my favorite bakeries and breweries ūüôā on the way home

The Last week of the month began working for Outdoor Elements, Firstly on site and then on Tuesday off site climbing with a regular group of children with complex needs. Wednesday was off site again, this time to a Primary School in Manchester who book an archery day for the school. Years one to six all come an have a go and shoot 6 arrows! Thats 960 arrows plus staff and my demonstration arrows and a bit of shooting for fun. I estimate over 1000 arrows were shot that day. It doesn’t half make your hands sore!. Thursday was a drive down south to work the weekend for Sam Sykes Ltd (DofE) at a posh school in Maidenhead, which by happy chance is just up the road from some very good friends, so I arranged to see them Thursday evening and catch up. The weekends training and practice expeditions was brilliant – a really good group, keen and eager to learn and who were all capable. If only it could always be thus!

I got home Sunday evening after an uneventful drive home. Roll on April….

2018 Highlights

One of the advantages of always trying to generate content – for here and social media is I have become fairly snap happy, both with the phone on my camera and the little MUVI camera I take out from time to time (think poor mans GoPRo).

So here it is then, a moments reflection on the previous year and some highlights, for each month in pictures…. (click on them to expand)

January 2018

Taken on the 20th January this was an organised reconnoiter of The Stan Bradshaw Pendle Round. designed to get potential participants familiar with the route. Its a great race and one that novice to intermediate fell runners can get a lot out of and the top end experienced fellrunner can really race in – its “runnable”., unless the weather is atrocious – which it was for 2018. The race is in March – we had to manage the Beast from the East… this recce was in much more benign conditions.

February 2018

Outdoor Elements in the snow.  As a freelancer I work for all different types of organisation.  OE are definite favorites! its a charming site to work at all year round.

March 2018

Whilst Safety Marshaling for Outdoor Angels/High Terrain Events.  Their Buttermere Trail run took place on a stunning day. Luckily I had taken my running stuff up so I could get out for a trot once stood down.

April 2018

This view from the top of Pendle always gives people cause to stop and take it in.  Even the most reluctant of walkers (from the local Activity Centre  РWhitehough) seem to appreciate the views across to North and West Yorkshire as well as Bowland to the North East.

May 2018

EYFS outdoors is very important to me. The opportunities I create, most 3&4 year olds simply do not get these days.  Such as wandering along a river exploring and discovering a whole heap of new experiences. Taken at Outdoor Elements hosting a regular Nursery School of mine.

June 2018

I love this photo.  Proper concentration! A session for families, for WAVE Adventure, supported by BBC Children in Need.  A walk around Rivington in order to learn some basic map skills. here they are orientating the map and matching the paths to their current location.

July 2018

Yorkshire Three Peaks. One of my favorite days out. This day was guiding for another provider. Great group, great weather, beautiful views all day.  This pic, taken at about 7.45am I think really sums it up.

August 2018

Rock Climbing. Another WAVE Adventure/BBC Children in Need session for families.¬† These three are awaiting an abseil and were posing for the shot admirably…. I however wanted the silhouette rather than their characters. that said, the character of this picture is ace! I was lucky to meet and support some aspiring outdoors professionals running these WAVE sessions.

September 2018

Ghyll Scramble at Barbon Ghyll in the Yorkshire Dales with Sedbergh Preparatory School.  Great kids on their way to a great afternoons adventure.

October 2018

There have been some tough decisions in terms of highlights this year, but this month, October I really could have had five or six and in the end narrowed it down to these two.  Thistle Cave with Sedbergh School (again), I loved this session, one of my favourite for the year and has given me a new direction to pursue in 2019. The Pendle Hill pic taken as part of a personal group run. Every Tuesday throughout the winter I run with my club mates around the Pendle area. This was one of the first of the winter runs where you start in the light and finish in the dark. This one at sunset is probably my favourite picture of the year and has been shared amongst that group extensively!

November 2018

A WAVE Adventure young Mentor doing her thing without assistance getting ready to climb.  Taken at Bolton One, possibly the smallest climbing wall ever, but very group friendly and very accessible.

December 2018

I have wanted to make campfire pizza for ages. Normally one tests the idea, does it a few times to get the session slick and imprinted in ones mind. This one, nah off the cuff and made up as we went along! At Outdoor Elements with a regular school booking (PRU). Wow. Its amazing. The kids (13-15) loved it, we made the dough, sauce and toppings all selected by the group and made 3 pizzas.  A session to be repeated!

What a year its been. Bring on 2019!

Boulder UK

So I went bouldering again last week.¬† With Graham from WAVE.¬† You may recall the last time I went bouldering…. I wrote about it here.

I wont recap the finer points of my thoughts on said pursuit suffice to say my expectations of myself were low.¬† My expectations of the shiny new centre… were high, not least because the original Boulder UK in Blackburn was often mistaken for the ‘Black Hole of Calcutta‘ not just in decor but complete with over crowded sweaty bodies and woeful toilet facility (yes, singular).

So the newly relocated Boulder UK has been open a few months on the edge of Preston, just off the M65 in fact, making it ludicrously easy to get to for anyone in East Lancs, certainly easier than the Depot and possibly even the other Manchester walls, certainly for me anyway!

view from the car park

In an industrial estate near Bamber Bridge I found the place easily which was handy as I’d forgotten the directions I’d noted down from the website….

First impressions were good Рlight, bright, airy and open on two sides to provide a good through draft. The registration process was easy and brief, and the staff were friendly.  Although a Thursday afternoon, there were a dozen or so people inside working problems.  However there was ample space for many more to be kept busy.

With Cafe area and toilet facilities (note Рplural) it was instantly better than the old Boulder UK!  The question remained however was my bouldering worthy of such a location?

I decided to warm up gradually and I did think I would look at the kids/beginners area, but changed my mind when I realised the number of V0-V1 problems was pretty large – a dozen or more which I ticked off slowly and steadily over the next hour or so. Each problem is colour coded to indicate grade by little plastic dots, up to V8+ also indicating the starting position for each line.¬† I stepped up on to some V2’s and beasted in poor style my way up these.¬† Graeme and I resolved to spend more time climbing for ourselves this winter and less for groups! I was beaten off the V3’s I tried (both of them) and carried on for about 1 hour 45 in total, somewhere in the region of 19/20 or so problems and I have to say I was impressed. the routes were different in character and style – even at the same grade, meaning there was plenty to work on. Good music piped through out, good coffee, interesting mix of people and ages.¬† I am certainly resolved to head back again soon. God knows I need to do the training! There is a formal training area, although I did not visit that, but imagine its full of problem boards, campus cboards and various holds designed to torture¬† train you in to being a better climber!

a slice of the action.

So this is very much the style of the new Bouldering walls and one that can only add to the growing momentum around climbing as a whole that is building as we head toward the 2020 olympics, where climbing makes its debut….¬† I look forward to the interest that will bring our sport with eager anticipation.


A day of family fun for WAVE

WAVE is a charity run by volunteers who are passionate about the outdoors and introducing people to healthy new outdoors pursuits. WAVE organises events for individuals or groups of all ages and abilities. WAVE will take you kayaking across Lancashire’s dramatic landscape, or up it through climbing challenges, where you can enjoy the stunning views the North West has to offer. They do lots of other stuff too, my involvement has largely been taking groups climbing and walking over the years.

I first came in to contact with WAVE several years ago as I was pursuing my climbing qualifications. Graham, the founder, had posted on the UK Climbing Forums¬†¬†he was seeking experienced climbers to help run climbing sessions for his groups and would welcome voluntary assistance with this in return for that time being able to go in a log book – the essential tool for proving experience and competence prior to any assessment being undertaken as part of a Mountain Training Qualification. ¬†Rather than a “chat” and a¬†coffee, we decided the best way to get the measure of each other was to go climbing. So one spring morning we met in Tesco’s at Glossop before embarking on a great days climbing at Stanage Edge. ¬†Skip forward to a few weeks ago and Graham asked if I would be available to supervise the mobile climbing wall they were borrowing from Bolton Council as part of a family fun day they were putting on as a result of some funding they had won. ¬†It being a January weekend, I was only too happy to get involved.

So I pitched up ready to get stuck in to find just about all the graft had been done!  So with brew in hand and a catch up with some of the regular WAVE volunteers we awaited the arrival of the Climbing Wall.

Arrival of the Climbing Tower.







So with Tower erected, we had four routes, two on auto belays, two on human belay.  the wall came with a willing helper РGeoff and with the WAVE belay team РHelen and Aidy we braved the sub zero temperatures (yes that is ice on the picture) to give about 40 people, mostly children a bash at climbing.  On the whole they all loved it!

in between the two ropes….

The day was considered a success by Graham and team at WAVE, who were delighted with the turn out on what was a bitterly cold day.

All ages – this little lad had a go, followed by his Mum!






WAVE’s founder Graham and I working with a group of lads all recovering from various substance misuse challenges in 2013, when it was definitely warmer!


A link to a write up in the Bolton News – with more pictures.



The Depot Manchester (or, confessions of a self conscious boulderer)

So, I’ve never been a diligent, or good boulderer. I just don’t get it. Well I do, it just doesn’t float my boat…particularly. I understand the training benefits from a broader climbing perspective, the overall ‘challenge’ of it and to be frank, I am struggling to recall the last time I went. we are talking years! ¬†Its something to do I think with people standing around, posing, tops off and watching… I think!

So why today then?  Well a mate had suggested checking The Depot out, a posh new wall in Manchester a few weeks ago. I had read some press, seen some reviews it all sounded very positive, so said yes, lets do it.  However he then cried off sick, so I went for a long run instead.  Skip to the present and I thought, I have a few hours, why not head to The Depot.  So I did.

After an epic snow filled, roadwork infested trip round the M60 taking nearly twice as long as it should have, I walked in, clean lines, ‘new’ feel definitely, and SPACE. ¬†Lots of SPACE. ¬†For a Friday late morning session there were people about, but with loads of space between them, pairs, solos, three’s all ascending and largely descending a variety of well spaced lines. I liked that… its clear to see the problem you are facing, rather than trying to decide if that hold is a yellow or green under layers of chalk/rubber/grime, they are clearly laid out and well spaced. ¬†A good start. ¬†So after the usual safety registration piece (membership is a fiver) I was pointed in the direction of the circuit board and each coloured line was graded from V0 to V10 some encompassing a range. The Junior ones were green and a bit “squished together” which I thought was good – challenges with the young’uns in mind and they had left up the competition routes as well from a bash a few days previous. ¬†I scoffed and offered the fact I would be staying well away from those! To be told they start dead easy (they did too!) and get progressively harder… (they did that an all.)

So I started at the bottom (V0-V1) and thought I’ll bash through them all and then go on to some V1 to V2’s and maybe a comp line. ¬†there were loads! ¬†To be honest I lost count, but comfortably over a dozen – that is a good number for beginner lines and despite my discomfort “bouldering” ¬†(be assured my top was on and staying there) I was enjoying the fact that I had been there 45 minutes and wasn’t bored yet having blasted through the easy stuff and getting spanked on the moderate grades! ¬†I had a go at a few comp lines – I got to the third problem and two¬†blues, before grabbing some food (kind of pricey, ¬£1.50 for a coffee ¬£3.90 for a pannini -but nice). Feeling replenished and rested I went back to the white circuit and went again… but by the 6th or 7th line I was feeling it in the arms so decided with a big race tomorrow I didn’t want to injure myself or stretch too far, so time to retreat. ¬†So for ¬£5 membership for the year – I will be back.

It looks like they change routes regularly, host other events (a film screening coming up, the comp the weekend previous, do parties etc) and run ‘Yoga for climbers’ sessions. ¬†Location wise if you are Manchester based or west/south of Manchester, then its a no brainer. ¬†For me, with the road works on the motorway (and okay the weather didn’t help) it took me three and a half hours to get there and back… I was expecting two!

Still, here it is: http://www.theclimbingdepot.co.uk/manchester

A very small section of the Depot