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 🙂 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….
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)
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.
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.
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.
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 – Whitehough) seem to appreciate the views across to North and West Yorkshire as well as Bowland to the North East.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Ghyll Scramble at Barbon Ghyll in the Yorkshire Dales with Sedbergh Preparatory School. Great kids on their way to a great afternoons adventure.
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!
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.
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!
I have been involved with WAVE Adventure for several years now. The brainchild of Graham Wood, WAVE is set up to get people outdoors doing active things who may otherwise not find their way into the great outdoors. They use a variety of activities and adventure sports to facilitate this. After what will be 20 years next year doing this they are a great organisation with many success stories behind them.
My role has been on the climbing & walking side, taking groups of children and adults out and about, usually around the Bolton area, some times further a field and giving those individuals a break from their regular life, the chance to learn a new skill, develop confidence and self belief. At its most basic level its all about a few hours fun in what otherwise could be a very tough existence. In short: I love it.
I enjoy it so much that when I got a call from Graham in late Spring asking me what I was doing over the August bank holiday weekend my reply was that I usually work it, or, we are on holiday. As it happens we had just planned our family break, so I said I was pretty much nailed on for working it… The call carried on a bit like this: “why?” I asked, “can you work for us at WAVE?”” uh, yeah I guess so – doing what?” “not sure yet, but probably a journey, may be a coast to coast” “okay, I could do support/logistics and that sort of thing – I’m not a bike leader as such…” “yeah but you can ride though, and we’ll need a support driver, camp setter upper and stuff”.
Being good at ‘stuff’, the decision was made. “I’m in.”
Over the coming weeks the plan was hatched, developed and finalised. Two of WAVE’s primary groups – the Young Mentors and Peak Connections were to set out on a sponsored Lancashire/Yorkshire Coast to Coast known as “The Way of the Roses“. Essentially Morecombe to Bridlington over the weekend, starting on the Saturday morning and finishing Monday tea time with a chippy tea on the sea front at Bridlington. Following the Sustrans cycle network and the route outlined in the Cicerone Press book “Cycling the Way of the Roses” Two camps along the way which I would be organising with support from some parent volunteers, grandparents and a young mentor or two. We would also put on a feed station on route each day as well as be the recovery team in the advent of any mechanicals, emergencies or other unexpected occurrences.
Now I love a project and couldn’t wait to get started!
Day One. Morecombe to Appletreewick and Masons Campsite. I was to meet the group in Morecombe on the Saturday morning, but on bike in order to support two of the younger Mentors, one of whom had only just learnt to ride a bike! In order that they could cycle some of the way on each day and be a part of the team supporting as well. Both knew they would be slower than the group so at the planning stage it was decided I could accompany them in order to not slow the group down. We would get to the Crook O’Lune picnic site where I had pre-parked the van as well as meet Debbie, the second van driver and mother to one of the mentors to then make our way to a feed station near Helwith Bridge in the Yorkshire Dales, just over half way in what would be a 55+mile day through some stunning scenery and some bloomin’ big hills! What a way to start the weekend, perfect weather, not to hot, dry and some stunning scenery on largely traffic free routes from Morecombe to the picnic site via Lancaster. I made sure I got there sharp so I didn’t have to rush, which was grand, I could take my time and of course go and pay my respects to Eric.
With the girls on board with Debbie, we set of in convoy with Graeme, another parent supporter in tow, Jackie and Terry, grandparents of another young rider through Bowland and onto the Dales. We wanted to move quickly so took the fast roads rather than using the C2C route on the quieter roads.
I have been a part of many races and events as a marshal, organiser, planner, first aider and general doer or stuff that this is all second nature now – The feed stations were to supplement the rations the group was taking with them. We were to provide lunch and afternoon snacks in bite size pieces to keep them going. Protein and carb heavy with some sweeter bits thrown in. Pork pies, Babybel cheeses, sausage rolls, sweets, nuts, malt loaf, flapjack (hand made by me a few days previous), chocolate bars etcetera with tea, coffee, cordial and water to boot.
I think we achieved our aim! The first riders in looked shell shocked and whacked. Once past the Lune it is essentially up hill all the way. At our station, approx 35 miles in, the biggest hills are still yet to come! the reality of what they were undertaking was well and truly rammed home. Now, it wouldn’t be right to type some of the language used, so I will para phrase: “gosh” and “golly” just about summed it up. Debbie and I were at pains to remind them that speed is not the issue, its all about keeping moving… one pedal turn, one step pushing the bike at a time… need another jelly baby?
We got to the camp site having driven through Burnsall on the day of the classic fell race – which I have yet to do as I am always working the bank holiday or we are away! One day… Anyway I digress. Masons is a great campsite. Well organised, great facilities, good location on the River Wharfe in the Dales and one to go back to for sure. BUT… NOT on a bank holiday weekend. Chocka would be one adjective. Stuffed another! The concern was noise from other (quite rightly) bank holidaying and relaxing campers. Our team were going to be goosed and would need to recover with a good nights sleep. We lay claim to a space and literally circled the wagons to give as much shelter from noise and playing children as we could and began to set up tents, the camp kitchen etc. The riders arrived about 15 minutes later!!! We sat them down, made brews, listened to the war stories (one crash), fed them cake from the ever illustrious Booths and generally “supported”. Some of the team were low in spirits. Having never done ANY kind of endurance event or journey before morale was ebbing… one lad had only ridden about 25 miles previous to today, but cake and a brew are truly magical things, along with showers and the promise of a pub meal and may be a beer for those who partook, morale began to claw its way back.
Day two. Appletreewick to just outside York. the Lancs/Yorks C2C takes you through the heart of York. However, it being a bank holiday weekend, accommodation for such big numbers had proved a problem, until that is Nurseries Caravan and Campsite had offered pitches and facilities for free for the team. Brilliant. (and they were!). The challenge was the site was several miles south west of York and we were not sure what the best way in to the site would be for bikes and some young riders. Fortunately not cycling myself this day we had time to be well in advance after the feed station (location tbc at this point but some where around Boroughbridge) so we could do a recce. We would be setting off some of the young mentors from here (the feed station), so they didn’t have to contend with the last of the Dales hills (notably Greenhow in to Pately Bridge) so we as a support team were confident of being better prepared for them – especially as I was cooking for the team that night! (Well reheating a pasta sauce I had prepared and frozen a few days previous…) Due to the uncertain nature of the last few miles we had agreed a re group point, pick up point and general do not go past *here* until you have spoken to me type plan. The game was on!
The second day saw us driving much of the route the team would be cycling, which I have to say was STUNNING and very very inspiring. I see myself doing this route as soon as I can procure a non mountain bike bike! Lovely villages, quiet lanes, hardly any traffic, several cafes, pubs etcetera on route. It looks like a real gem. Looking back I kinda wished I had driven more of the actual C2C route, having said that – it will come as a nice surprise when I get round to cycling it.
Replenishing feed station stores (we’d taken a request for jam sandwiches), finding a suitable location for a feed station and trying to suss out the route to the campsite were today’s priorities. Oh and fresh cake.
The feed station was the key thing. the weather forecast was for a wet day. not cold as such, but when you are riding tired and hungry, cold is the next step! so we wanted somewhere low and ideally sheltered. I had a big tarp that Debbie and I knew we could string between the vans if need be and with clever parking we could sit the group down on camp chairs and in the vans under shelter, but that was reliant on space to park of course. Having seen this forecast a few days ahead I knew this feed station would be critical… Half way on day day two, so effectively half way over all was a make or break point. Get through there and you would finish, bailing out in rough weather is a thought process I expected some of the team might go through so I played my trump card. The feed station would feature hot tomato soup as well as the usual (and jam sandwiches!). Location wise we got it spot on for the team… under the A1. out of the wind and the rain totally! For us (the support team) it was horrendous, three hours of god awful noise, splashes and traffic smell. For the cyclists, they were made up! My only regret for the whole weekend was realised here – should have bought more soup.
From here the roads really quietened down and we were able to follow the C2C route that the team took. Again a corker! The Aldwark Toll Bridge will live long in the memory in two vans and one 4×4! We got to the outskirts of York and the re group point and then began to find away to the campsite. Just as well we did plan this in – it was dual carriage way for much of the way and to make matters worse their were road works. cycling this would have been a night mare. So employing full navigator mode and consulting various maps we were able to relay a route to the main cycle team which kept them, out of trouble and kept them moving.
Day three. York to Bridlington. Sore is the word that best summed up the morning of day three. Aches would be another. Resolute would be my third place word. The team were resolute and BUZZING that the end was in site. The night before had been made special by the Nurseries Caravan and camping site owners popping over to meet us all and offer kind words of support. They were brilliant. They had accommodated us for free in a quiet corner of the site – on a bank holiday weekend. I urge you all to consider staying there if visiting York. Day three was largely flat, but was the longest day over 62 miles! Again with plans over where to introduce the younger riders to the route, where to support the main group – who were by now very much a ‘peloton’ and getting to the finish we set out having stuck camp with the weather back on our side and a very pleasing feeling in the pit of our stomachs. We were able to drive most of the route again – up until Bridlington, which again was just seemingly perfect, barely any traffic for many parts of the route and quaint villages, scenic views, farm tracks and old Roman roads.
We set off for Bridlington with ear to ear grins. Yes they were tired. Yes they were sore in places many of them never knew they had. Yes they were never going to do this @8&% again, but by Jove they were going to finish. We had set the young riders off well ahead of the main group so the group could chase and catch them and then they all would ride in to Bridlington together. Unbeknownst to us whilst waiting on the sea front that happened, perfectly naturally with less than 10 miles to go. Our next view of them was along the sea front in Bridlington….
I have to say watching it back I feel such a wave of joy and pride. these people, the youngest being 11, did something that they couldn’t even have imagined just a few days before. There was no prior experience. Nothing to draw from in order to achieve the goal. They just did it. And they did it in style. This is what charity can do. It can empower. It can inspire. It can allow people to do the unthinkable and allow them to reveal parts of themselves they never knew existed. The memories created those three days will always remain in those cyclists. The determination, the camaraderie, the humour, the pride. The feeling: “I struggled – but I did it”. in short….I CAN.
If that isn’t a lesson worth facilitating and supporting I don’t know what is.
Needless to say I am booked for whatever WAVE do August Bank holiday 2019.
Several members of the cyclists (Peak Connections) have taken up cycling. WAVE has been able to cobble some bikes together for them and can now be responsible for the addition to the street of more middle aged men (and women) in lycra. One has even been heard to want to enter a Sportive…
Liam, the WAVE young mentor who completed the full Way of the Roses C2C at the age of 15 was recognised by The Bolton Active Sports Awards with nominations for Young Volunteer of the year and Changing Lifestyle Award. The Peak Connections group for Sports Initiative of the year and WAVE Adventure has been nominated Club of the year. Peak Connections went on to win Sports and Health Initiative of the year 2018.