Monday, October 22, 2012

Learning to Paraglide - Day 1

As I mentioned in my introductory post to the blog, I paid for my intro paragliding day some time ok and then didn't bother to get on with it, so with my new found enthusiasm I checked their weather forecast and booked in a day.

When the morning came the weather looked foggy but as I drove to over the border and on into the welsh valleys it started to clear. I met the instructor Steve from Axis Paragliding and his assistant Ellis in Merthyr Tydfil's Asda carpark and then we headed up to the top of a gentle nursery slope (above)

Day 1 consists of : Learning how to fall and roll in-case you ever have a heavy landing, an intro to the equipment and how to check it over, pre-flight checks, an intro to the British Hang Gliding and Paragliding Association, some theory of weather and suitable flying sites. Hopefully once a bit of this has sunk in you are onto the actual paragliding action!

This latter part of the day begins with trying to run on the flat with the paraglider being inflated and rising above you in a kind of mock launch. Progressing to doing this on a downhill slope where you might get the odd 'hop' off the ground. To where with a hopeful head-on breeze and some serious running effort you should experience your first actual first flight! See the video below to see how it went!

The day costs £150 and overall I can't recommend this experience enough, it's an incredible sensation when you feel the paraglider first take your weight and you actually start to 'fly'. I think I'm going to get hooked on this new sport and am trying to book my second day already, I just can't wait to soar! To become trained up so you can fly on your own takes about 8 days. If anyone wants to come with me from the Worcester area to give it ago you are welcome to a lift.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

First visit to Tom's Wood

We had a great day today because I took Mum and Dad to show them the wood I'm about to purchase. As soon as we were there we just couldn't help ourselves but get stuck in on a great day of clearing and letting some light back in.

It has a big Rhodadendrum infestation problem but we think its a war we can win. And the rewards will be 4 acres of clear woodland with filled with just the native broad-leaf trees, many of which are huge and over 100 years old.

I plan to record this clearing process here on my blog and start to cover many other woodland activities and crafts as soon as I can.

Hopefully we will have some volunteer work party days as soon as I properly own it, so if anyone's interested in a great day clearing and bonfires in the woods in return for camp fire cooked food then stay tuned! After this it will be rope-swings, camping, woodland crafts and anything else we can think of as I want as many people as possible to enjoy my wood too.

Me and Dad get the fire started to see if green Rhodadendrum burns. As there are tons of it to clear, this fact could be a deal breaker

Great news! It burns very easily and I can now see many of these bonfires in the future.

Luckily there is one clearing in the middle of the 4 acres as you can see above, I have no idea why the Rhodadendrum haven't managed to take over this space, you can see how dense it is in the background. Anyway this clearing is now our base and you can see Mum and Dad found an old coppiced tree stump in it to eat their lunch.  

A few of the very large sweet chestnut are dead or dying from a worrying disease, I guess this could be my first problem as a new woodland owner that I need to find out more about, this one will come down soon to hopefully stop it spreading to the others, it will still make great firewood logs for my woodburner at home if nothing else.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Hiking and Photography in the Brecon Beacons

I thought I would go and climb a mountain today, it's something I haven't done for a long time and when I looked on the map I saw the Brecon Beacons are under 2 hours away. So it's very easy to jump in the car drive there have a good hike and drive home in time for tea!

The net is pretty well set up these days with walking routes websites, I grabbed the route from here put some food and a waterproof in a rucksack and headed off. On a simple route like this, besides some decent boots a hike like this is really that simple (when the weather forecast is very good and clear like it was me)

You start off on the road as in the above photos and you can clearly see the peaks you intend to climb in front of you and then about 2 hours later you are at the top of Pen y Fan which is the highest peak in South Wales at 2,905 feet

The mountains here are different to those in North Wales, which tend to be quite rocky, these are more smaller grassy sculpted lumps. If I remember from my GCSE geography what happened is a long time a go a big manly glacier trundles along and basically tears the back out of the curvy beauties, resulting in some stunning scenery and when you have the changing light like today, quite good for taking the following pictures too.

One of the advantages of going on your own is you definitely talk to more people, I hiked for a while with a German guy who often goes to the Alps, and I laughed at his jokes with him at how pathetic these little hills were whilst trying not to sound too out of breath. He told me all about ski touring where you stay in basic remote mountain cabins with only wood fires and you hike up the mountains with snow shoes and then ski or board back again, much cheaper than your usual commercial skiing holiday and more of an adventure too. Something to definitely add to the to-do list and it seems great that the more you do the more people you meet and new ideas you get.

On the way back down you head towards the little reservoir and as you can see in this photo it had a small strip wood on the left side.

When you reach this I think its Scots Pine and Beech and with the combination of autumn light, water, peaks etc, it's another great spot for some photos (see below) and a nice contrast to the steep hills to finish the walk which I would be happy to do again and guide anyone who wants to try it (but not great for mountain bikes really) Weekdays are great, I probably saw about 20 other hikers but I reckon it would be crowded on nice weekend days.

But the cream teas at the cafe are even better (if not a little posh for a grubby lone traveller)

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Longbow making course in Gloucestershire

My Mum recently booked myself and Dad onto this 4 day bow making course. We made a home guard style flat bow from a large ash tree that we felled on the first day, but you could have made traditional a longbow too (a little more tricky for the beginner).

The course (more details here) is held over 2 weekends which roughly breaks down as follows:

Day one:

  • Knife and axe techniques
  • Making simple wood tools such as wedges and pegs
  • Choosing and felling a large tree with axes
Day two:
  • Splitting the trunk
  • Marking and measuring the your split section with the bow dimensions
  • Rough shaping to end with a bow 'blank' which will now dry ready for the second weekend
Day three:
  • Making and using a draw knife type tool
  • Removing the bark layer
  • Carving and shaping the bow and starting to flex it by hand
Day four
  • Cutting the notches for the string
  • Fine tuning the bows shape and strength with tilling 
  • Making arrows
  • Making the string
  • Firing the bow and trying to hit a target!

Here's Dad busy carving away with the kettle boiling ready for a tea break

The instructor Nick Showing how to do the tilling

Overall it was a very enjoyable 4 days and very highly recommended at a cost of £360 (food included) and it books up very fast. I learned a lot of techniques that can be used to for lots of other projects and you come away with a great looking usable bow too, see mine below. Some people camped in the wood too and cooked dinner together on the fire etc, if you could do this I think it would really add to the experience too.

Welcome to my blog!

Welcome to by Blog!

The reason I have started this blog is mainly that I feel that I'm not making the most out of my time. I tend to procrastinate and say no to trying new things due to laziness, and so I thought I would try and cram in as many new experiences as I can and make a record of it to hopefully inspire others. If it all goes to plan I will be look back and think, wow my 1000 months were well spent! (ok well maybe 600, I have spent the first 400 already getting to this point!)

As you may have guessed 1000 months is a good lifetime, you would live to 83 in fact, so it looks like I better do some work and posts on healthy living too.

I am a publisher, we make beautiful books as you can see here and the business is now at the stage where I have more free time and resources, I intent to cover some topics such as entrepreneurship and running a successful business.

Other topics I am keen to cover are making crafts, especially from wood, here's some rustic shelves I saw on a recent woodland management course that I would like to have a go at for example.

Talking of woodlands, I am purchasing 4 acres of English broad-leaf woodland very soon and I want to document the management and fun you can have with this as a woodland owner, especially as it really needs saving from a huge rhododendrum invasion!

Extreme sports! (and other not so extreme outdoor activities) I have a paragliding induction day paid for but not booked in (a great example of me just sitting around watching the days drift buy) so I will get on and cover that very soon. Also one of the latest sports I want to try is paddle boarding, earlier in the year I saw more and more people trying it in the Cornish waves, and hopefully I would be able to try and make my own wooden paddle too.

And finally I want to do some charity work, I am now a signed up member of Giving What We Can and I also want to spend some time doing some marketing for them using the knowledge I have learned building up my own business.

Well that's the plan, lets see if I stick to it.