Dawn ChorusCanoeing - Glynis Hill
What time did Paul say??!! And so it was, the alarm rang at 05.30 and after a scrabble to wake up, get togged up in warm clothes and de-ice the car (it was May for goodness sake!), we set off for our rendezvous at Ditchford Nature Reserve. 06.10 and the weather was amazingly beautiful, as was the scenery. We were guided on a short walk by two volunteers from Northamptonshire Wildlife Trust around Ditchford Lakes and Meadow who helped us to identify birds by their early morning call. I can confidently say that I have met a Reed warbler and Blackcap, watched coots, greater crested grebes, cormorants and swans and heard a cuckoo and a Woodpecker. We also witnessed a heated discussion between a mother duck and a heron who unwittingly landed on her nest and was seen off with squawks, pecks and pandemonium. But it was the low mist over the lake that made it just magical. I forgot my camera but I know that several took what must be great photos. The guides were brilliant - so enthusiastic and knowledgeable and lending us their telescopes and binoculars. A truly great experience - we're planning on persuading our children to go.
(Ed's note - wonder if the birds caught sight of the lesser spotted, multi-coloured 50 plussers?)
Then..... and still only 07.15; off we went to canoe! After a detailed safety and what to expect talk - avoid the banks, avoid the shallows, avoid the swans (and the vicious ducks methinks) we set off in our canoes with life jackets and paddles on yet another magical experience. There was, as you would expect with 50+ a bit of healthy competition, with a few heroic spurts to paddle past the canoe in front but actually everyone was very polite and even helped each other with manoeuvring the canoes past the locks. Each canoe had a very nifty set of wheels that looked like a Segway that had lost its upright handles and we had to lift the canoe onto this and then wheel it about 50 yards and then re-launch. There were, to be honest, a few iffy moments when we thought 'it's going in, no it's not, yes it is, oh, it's the wrong way round' but no one fell in! Bit disappointing really.
After about an hour and a half - by this time it was 10.00 and with the early start, our tummies thought it was lunch time, we turned a corner and there was the Canoe2 crew! They helped us out (bit of groaning and creaking here) and off we went for a cooked breakfast at the Frontier Centre - whose great idea was that?! Fortified with bacon, eggs, sausages, tomatoes, beans and toast we were ferried back to Canoe2 in a minibus.
Out of County Walk - Anne and Keith Drury
As the walk had to be rearranged due to awful weather the previous week only 11 of us were able to set out from the Ashridge Estate in Hertfordshire. It was the most glorious day and wearing just t-shirts, instead of fleeces and rain wear, we set off at a steady pace through the woods. Lots of birds singing but few could be spotted.
An easy flat start led us to the start of the long climb to the Ivinghoe Beacon where we were rewarded with magnificent 360 degree views of the Chilterns with the distinguished lion on the Dunstable Downs to our right.
As we enjoyed a leisurely picnic lunch we watched several gliders soaring in a cloudless sky. Below us we could just see dozens of would be archeologists searching the fields with their metal detectors. Also a Red Kite flying in time with a model glider just beside us.
Now fortified we retraced our steps, downhill at this point, until we started our walk up and along The Ridgeway - open countryside with great views wherever you looked. The sun shone all day and when we reached some more woods the shelter was welcome as we made our way to the chocolate box village of Aldbury and the pub.
After cooling refreshment we started the final leg, a steep climb - sheer cliff face more like - back towards the now visible Bridgewater Monument starting point.
All of us 50 plussers steadily moving, albeit slowly, upwards passing several groups of Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme youngsters resting. Some were tired, some were lost, some carrying rucksacks the size of a small house. All however were cheerful and happy to chat. Weary but content we arrived at the cafe and said our goodbyes.
Many thanks to Jane for a great day in the Chilterns.
Snowdonia Unzipped - Lyn Lewis-Nichol
Far overhead two red-suited figures flew into view, arms pinned down to their sides, legs outstretched, like twinned super heroes gliding to earth. The origin of the wires to which they were attached were just discernable on the slate hewn mountainside opposite, where dots of moving colour near a patch of green evidenced human activity.A group of girls from Wellingborough similarly attired clambered into a truck to be taken up the mountain to the launch pad. But the wind had been picking up all afternoon and in the booking office four disconsolate lads were listening to a girl earnestly explain to them the dangers of zip wiring in high winds. By check-in at 3.30pm, it had been confirmed - all further flights that day were to be cancelled. The Wellingborough girls returned by truck and the fifty plus group walked dejectedly back to their cars. It was not to be the day for Northamptonshire residents' aerial acrobatics. The shops in Betws y Coed, however, did a good trade that afternoon in hiking socks and fleeces and we returned to Bala lighter in pocket if not in spirit. You'll just have to keep it on the list for another year, Mick.
Snowdonia Hill Walk - Carol Robinson
This was my first weekend away with the 50+ and even though I have never been a fan of Wales I got dragged along. Much to my absolute amazement the sun was shining which has to be a first for Wales. Despite the radio telling us that every road on our route had accidents on it we managed to arrive on time. Jenny as usual had the route planned down to the finest detail with lots of added snippets of local information including the tale of mausoleum that had been built with someone's horse race betting winnings. We all kept a look out for the parrot and Ian won the chocolate which he then very kindly shared with everyone. The highlight for me had to be the bluebells, creating an absolutely spectacular carpet to the woodland dappled with golden sunlight. Thank you to Jenny for organising the walk and booking the sunshine and to everyone that went for being such lovely pleasant company.
Snowdonia White Water Rafting - Chris and Frank Jenkins
The disappointment of the cancellation of the previous days zip wire activity was not to be repeated on Sunday 18th May. After a hearty breakfast, we arrived at The Bala National White Water Rafting Centre and were issued with wetsuits, boots, buoyancy aids and safety helmets. These gave the team the appearance of a slightly motley Jacques Cousteau film crew. We were split into three teams of seven and allocated an experienced member of staff (we called ours Aye Aye Capt'n). I cannot help but feel that they were experienced in water craft rather than coping with typical 50+ behaviours. After some land based safety training, like what to do if someone falls out, or is hit with a stray oar, or how to survive an upturned dinghy, we were drilled in techniques like all left, all right, row forwards, row backwards and my favourite...all down low (this seemed to be the safest option).
As we carried the craft to the water from the trailer of the minibus the adventure began! The first part of the journey was through a set of rapids called 'The Graveyard' (this was probably the easiest section of the course). Later we experienced 'surfing', which we all readily agreed to without really understanding what it involved.
SURFING: turning the boat to face upstream, manoeuvring it to create a crest of a wave which submerges the bow (apparently the front bit), the front row crew are subjected to the full force of the torrent entering the boat. All body parts encounter full submersion for the duration or until someone gurgles the word 'help' loud enough for the captain to hear.
The white water rafting experience allows time for 4 runs, each time allowing for moving the boat from the water to a trailer, a short wet sit on the minibus and then returning the boat to the water. Each run we swopped position in the boat to allow everyone an equal opportunity of bruising, falling out and drowning.
On the second run down our crew decided to attack another of the boats with excessive splashing. Unfortunately due to the Health and Safety requirement to remove contact lenses and spectacles prior to anyone entering the craft it was a while before we realised that we had picked on a boat full of 20+ rather than 50+, much to the embarrassment of both parties. However, it was noticeable that the younger craft appeared too well behaved to return the ensuing violence. Whereas, our craft just sniggered once the youngsters were safely out of range.
The 3rd run down had to be the final one due to one of our 50+ craft becoming grounded on a boulder in the centre of the rapids. Our 2 other craft captains abandoned their boats to support the rescue mission, we watched whilst bobbing from afar. No RNLI was available. The rescue involved ropes, pulleys and each crew member having to jump into the fast moving water and make their way to the bank, oh it was cold!!!! The other 2 boats were thoroughly entertained. Time was then against us and didn't allow the 4th run to take place.
Car Treasure Hunt RawKey Team - Stuart, Fred, Caron, Glenis
Assembled around the coffee shop at Riverside Northampton, was a clutch of excited motorists, looking forward to the start of a very pleasant Sunday lunchtime spin in the car.
Carol Pullen dished out the clipboards, clues and good luck wishes, ensuring that it was not a race!
Hmm, not so sure about that one!
Out from riverside, Fred our capable driver took Glenis, Caron & myself out on to the mystery tour, through Great and Little? I put Billing down but of course it was Houghton, on the A428 towards Bedford. That's why we are doing the write up, for not paying attention to the questions in hand!
After Little Houghton, Denton was the next stop and after getting out of the car in Denton High Street, it was littered with inquisitive 50+ members, answering the fiendish questions set by Carol earlier. Mooching into pathways, scrutinising buildings and wondering where Crusoe lived, we all wandered through pretty Denton, much to the amusement of village life, whilst afterwards at The Buttery in Castle Ashby enjoying coffee, some of us enjoyed the sunshine, whilst others actively pursued the answers in covert study groups! Ice creams at the ready.
Again, after winding our way through little country lanes, we arrived at Olney for some more clues, requiring sharp eyes to spot the necessary answers, such as: When was WFS built?
From Poet to Poultry and Hymns to Pancakes, we all strolled through Olney's busy little town, Newton Blossomville and all the other lovely hamlets and villages, gave us a nice little jaunt, finishing up in Bedfordshire at Turvey for lunch. It was here that we all learned our fate at the hands of the quizmaster, where Carol dished out the answers to much discussion.
Between 20-25 of us enjoyed the event and as usual, had a good natter as well. The rival groups were placed into position of first, joint second and last. Guess where we were!
Prizes were lovely, so thank you for everything.
Lunch was a bit slow in coming forward as they say but generally, we all had a very nice day.
Thank you Carol for organising it.
NOTE FROM THE ORGANISER: "Very sorry that there is no picture of the winning team - Les Carter, Keith Merrick, Janet and John Kemp. Congratulations!"
Cycle Ride - Valerie Flude
On a bright Sunday morning 10 cyclists met at Normanton car park on the south side of Rutland Water. I had not cycled for 14 years so I was a bit apprehensive.
The start of the ride was rather muddy and consisted of some fairly steep hills (most of the ladies struggled with the hills and resorted to walking).
I was quite relieved when we reached the Lyndon Nature Reserve where a gentleman told us about the Rutland Osprey Project. A camera had been set up to show an osprey's nest. While we were listening to the talk the osprey returned to the nest. We felt very privileged to see this. We then cycled for another half hour and we stopped at the Egleton Reserve.
After we had refuelled with a picnic lunch which we ate at the back of the shop with views out over the water, we decided that rather than turn round and cover the same ground in reverse, we would continue and cycle round the complete reservoir. This part of the ride seemed easier to me as some of it was on concrete paths and the ride along the dam was flat.
The last part of the ride was past the Normanton church which is partly in the reservoir. A wedding had taken place here and the guests were just leaving as we cycled past. Very picturesque.
Everyone completed the full circuit (about 17 miles) with only one mishap (one lady's cycle slipped and she landed in the mud).
We finished the day with teas and coffees at the cafe.
Thanks for Jenny for organising this.
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